Har Us Noor
Until a few days ago I had not been any farther from the Center
than what I could run or walk in the part of an afternoon that I could sneak away from work—the top of Goat Red
, a few miles south on the river, or six kilometers east (and uphill) on the road that goes all the way to Ulaanbaator. So it was a treat for us that five of my third year students organized a trip to the nearest national park. Har Us Noor
(Black Water Lake) lies a forty minute drive east from downtown Khovd, over an unmarked dirt track. The road is paved until the pass, after which it drops off toward the lake and across land that I could be fooled into believing is Utah or Arizona—although it is higher and drier.
Although we brought money to buy post cards or maybe a book, what we found was pretty much like everything else we have come across in Mongolia—unexpected. Our first stop was an abandoned herder's house. Har Us Noor
was frozen solid and the wind was calm, so that the only sound (aside from that of impatient students as I crawled around on the ice with my recorder) was that of ice cracking. It is a large lake, and ice is a wonderful conductor of sound, so that what you hear at any point is the accumulation of cracking across the entire surface. (I also heard my first plane since arriving in Khovd.)
Farther down the road, my students saw a ger that looked inhabited, so our driver simply left the road and headed across snow and the sparse vegetation to give us a look at the process of herding goats and evaluating them for the market. While my students automatically pitched in to help with the herding, I photographed. And photographed. And eventually, was lead to understand that my students did not bring me here just for my pleasure, but that they wanted to talk. And through this negotiation, which started at the goat herd and found resolution as we struggled to understand each other in a van that barreled across the desert, we stopped the van and agreed to meet the driver down the road a way as we walked along the frozen lake shore. For several reasons, it was a good decision.
Along with these still images, I'm including this video
that combines three processed versions of the audio I captured by laying my recorder directly on the ice. I have more work to do on it, so for now you will do best to listen to it with headphones. The audio track is duplicated and layered twice, and filtered to enhance four separate frequencies that predominate the audible range.