2 men per square kilometer.
It is human density in Mongolia, a country as big as 2.5 times France, for 3 million inhabitants. The horizon is dizzying, the steppes endless.
Once out of Ulan Bator, sprawling and ultra polluted capital, it is no longer the men who are in the majority, it is the animals. The steppes are the territory of eagles, horses, sheep and other yaks. In that landscapes of perpetual world birth, herds graze the green grass, evolve, mix in a daily ballet.
Everybody is born a horseman, and horses are the most precious goods.
It is also the land of smells, the one of the flowers of the fields which line the ground, the other one of the milk, or the strong and catchy sheep smell which is basically eaten at every meal.
In winter, at -60C, life stops. In the summer, people prepare the winter, the herds fatten, they store the hay and take advantage of the beautiful days. In the yurts installed for the season, children spend their summer holidays with immensity as a playground.
The conditions are rough, but nothing is missing.
People are satisfied with little, by humility and necessity. Man lives there with nature, and everything has to be deserved ... in this "about nowhere".
Karakorum Region. Men practice shooting. They mainly hunt marmots, fat and numerous in the region, which will brighten next days meals.
Monastery of Gandantegchinlin, Ulaanbaatar.
Smiles, prayers ... Mongolians are mostly Buddhists, and fervent.
Monastery of Gandantegchinlin, Ulaanbaatar.
It's wedding day in the capital center... The bridesmaids are preparing for the ceremony.
Training a wild horse. Horses are present by the hundreds in the steppe. They all have an owner, marked on their thighs, but not all are trained. The first sessions are very delicate, and succeed in taming the horse is not an easy test. Our companion, Ulree, will succeed in making one. As a reward, the generous owner offered him the horse.
Formerly Karakorum, the capital of Genghis Khan, is nowadays an average town of 10,000 inhabitants. After an 7 hours drive from the capital, it arises from the steppe, mixing on its streets horses and cars.
Eagles and other predators plane over the steppe, terrorizing prairie dogs. Around the yurts, the remains of meals are also quickly ‟cleaned‟ .
Urlee is an outstanding horseman. Summer guide, as right now, he lives in Kharkhorin with his wife and 2 children.
Children spend the summer holidays in the mountains, with their families. Smart and handy, they take care of horses, milk and feed the goats, fetch water ...
The family leaves for its second camp, in the mountain. It's forage season: they cut and store hay for weeks, in anticipation of winter.
Such a vast playground...
Every morning, it's necessary to find and gather the horses, which are left free at night.
Mongols never cut their children's hair before their 3 years, or even later. The first cut ceremony is an important family celebration, which symbolizes the wished child's future: beauty for girls, and strength for boys.
The sun sets, the bikes take off in the valley to gather the scattered sheep and goats, honking loudly under the nonchalant eyes of horses.
In the middle of the steppe, children do not have network ... but they have idols.
Ulaanbaatar. A seed seller, to feed the pigeons.
Morning shave for Ulree, elegant in all circumstances.
Ulree's brother came to greet him, as he is away for a week. In Mongolia, each trip must be greeted, celebrated ... in summary: watered (with vodka).
Basketball court, and pasture for yaks at the same time.
Monastère de Gandantegchinlin, Oulan-Bator.
On the way to Kharkhorin, along the only road in the region, there are little restaurants for hungry travelers. In the smell of mutton, there are buses, coming and going to Ulan-Bator. But there are too some damaged and lost people.
In the yurt, the solar powered television fascinates the children. On the walls, the multiple medals won at the traditional Mongolian contest: the Naadam. Horse races are very prestigious, but there is also archery, Mongolian wrestling, or ossicles.
Monastery of Gandantegchinlin, Ulan-Bator.
On the square in front of the monastery, the inhabitants feed hundreds of pigeons, with great caution. Pigeons must not fly away. And it works: they are literally covering the place.
Halfway a 7 hours travel between Ulaanbaatar and Kharkhorin, at 3 hours from the capital, and in the middle of nowhere, it is one of the only possible stops to refuel in the area.
Mongolians eat meat, a lot of meat. And nothing is wasted. Heads are popular, especially sheep ones, for their tasty eyes, or ears.
The city is saturated with vehicles, it is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Constantly, all the streets are clogged, and cars in line. And in winter, the coal stoves of the yurt quarters add to the picture. It is not uncommon for the falling snow to be gray or black.
The city center is globalizing, buildings, skyscrapers, grow here and there. The architecture is doubtful. Around the center, neighborhoods of yurts, poorer, without running water. And a stone's throw from the capital, two coal-fired power plants dominate the plain, spewing their black smoke.