Last Day in Camp–Photos of Snow Leopards

Orjan is a Swedish PhD student who bought a one-way ticket to Mongolia to work at the base camp of our long-term research project.  These are his adventures…

We have built the winter camp, it looks pretty nice. Though it is a much smaller ger than the one I live in now and it is very isolated. Midji and Oyuna will stay in the base camp so it will be bit lonely at times I guess. Or maybe not. There is a family living in the beginning of the big valley (called South Valley) that our trap line likely will run along and it seems as if there 15-16 years old daughter fancies me. Great. Really great.

We have stopped a couple of times when we have driven by and at one time Nadia told them that I liked the camels, so the next day the daughter had saddled one of the camels and was standing by it waiting. I didn’t understand that she was hoping that we should go riding until later. As I came down a mountain two days ago I saw her driving a motorbike towards our camp, since I was alone and my Mongolian isn’t much to brag about I sat down and had a cup of tea until she came back from our camp. I have no idea what she has in mind but I can’t speak to her and find the whole thing quite awkward. Oyuna on the other hand finds it hysterically funny.

I checked seven of our trap cameras yesterday to make sure that there wasn’t any vegetation blowing in front of them and that all of them are aimed correct. Three of them had been out for five days, three for three days and one for one day, all in all 27 “camera-days (number of cameras times number of days) and we had five visits of snow leopards!!

We photographed Aztai once, Bummer (the cat who walked around our funneling rocks and likely stepped in two snares without getting caught) three times. The last camera was aimed wrong and we can’t identify the leopard.

Oh, Nadia collected a camera from Mt Chris and we had pictures of Inquisitive on that, at least we think that its him/her. The cat was photographed in daylight and I wasn’t counting on this when I put it out so the camera was positioned wrong in relation to the sun, making the pictures a little over-exposed. Mt. Chris is not far from our trap line so Inquisitive might just pop by one day.

It feels weird to go home. I have eaten canned food or dried sheep and goat for a long time now. Nadia says that when we get to UB I will notice how much I smell of smoke, she is probably right. Besides I haven’t showered in maybe 50 days, just washed up in the basin.

It will be so nice to get back to civilization but still, I will miss this place. The camp is my home now and even if it is basic I have grown fond of it. I will be back in January and likely stay here for seven months. It will be a lot harder to take care of everything by myself (no cook or caretaker) but I’m here to catch leopards, the more the better. This has been a good “warm-up”, soon the real work will begin.

At eight o’clock we will head for UB, hopefully we will be there within 40 hours.

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