Snapshots of a life I would have happily lived forever. Memories of a friendship celebrated by adventure and discovery. Capturing moments of Mongolia in black and white.
Before I had even visited the country, my heart was caught with the idea of Mongolia. The nomadic culture that is still greatly in existence outside of the main cities and towns. The great wilderness, the rolling steppes. The different alphabet and the unusual sounds of the language. The land of blue skies. I couldn’t wait to begin my journey.
We began planning our adventure in October. Just me and my best friend Beth. She and her long-term boyfriend were beginning to discuss marriage, and we both knew that once she was married we would lose our chance to go on holiday as just the two of us. We had been friends since we were about two, and we owed it to our friendship to go on an adventure together. We did the research, and in the end, we decided that Mongolia was to be our destination. It almost fell through at one point when she thought she wouldn’t be able to get the time off from work, but it was sorted, and we were going!
With only one mishap along the way (the leaving of my Beth’s hand luggage at home, almost resulting in her not actually having her passport with her!) we found ourselves on the plane. And then on another plane. And then we were touching down. And I felt like I was home. But it was so different from anywhere I had ever known.
We had booked on to a tour with Imaginative Traveller, and over our time there we came to know the group we were traveling with, the drivers, the interpreter, and the tour leader. We discovered the hook that pulls people to the country, and leaves so many with a deep longing to go back that could well last for the rest of their lives.
We discovered the amazing ability of the drivers to maneuver across desert and plain with no roads and no map, and a two-day journey ahead, and still end up in precisely the right place. An ability I may never be able to get my head around.
We watched eagles fly (I even watched one flying off in to the sunset with a snake hanging from its beak, a beautiful silhouette against the burning orange sky – I will always wish I had taken a photo at that moment). We met nomadic children whose amazing level of English put our attempt at Mongolian much to shame. I managed to single-handedly arrange a stampede of yaks into our camp, and spent a whole morning trying to cross a river (because of course the grass on the other side is always greener, and, if the yaks could do it, why couldn’t I?) – the result being, I then spent half an hour following my floating flip-flop downstream in the hope I may eventually catch up with it.
We discovered the bizarre illusion of distance. As someone who had grown up in the city, in my experience, if you can see something, you can walk to it within five minutes. Is it the same in Mongolia? Oh no, no, no. We decided to take a walk to the woods nearby our camp. Three hours later, we arrived. But I had removed my watch, and I grew to love living life no longer encumbered by schedules and deadlines. Time didn’t mean anything anymore (something which I remember reminding my friend constantly whenever she tried to look at her watch!).
I truly fell in love with Mongolia. I’ve been back once since, and I hope I will have the chance to go again. I want to take my husband, my parents, and when we have them, my kids. And I really treasure the photos I took there, using my Nikon FM loaded with Ilford XP2. Although I did take some color images while I was there, there was something in the black-and-white photos that would never be there in the color ones. The grain, the shadows, the light. They all captured an essence of something. A feeling, something that is not just about a picture or an image. A moment, a way of life, the soul of a country and its people. Snapshots of a life I would have happily lived forever. Memories of a friendship celebrated by adventure and discovery.