Woody Packard

Words + Pictures

Over Mongolia

Unlike that of the United States or China, the view of Mongolia from the air is not one whose concern is of land use by humans. Although Mongolia is less than a quarter the size, its 2.8 million population is less than one percent that of the United States—making its population density the second lowest of any country on earth. (It has only recently given up the lowest position to Greenland.)Start in the middle of Ulaanbaator, its largest city, and walk in any direction for an hour and you will be at the outside edge of town. Do the same from Khovd and in most directions, if you had brought a tent and some water and the weather did not discourage you, you could spend the night without anyone noticing.

From the air, the visual effect of these statistics is that it's a challenge to find any signs of civilization at all during the two hour flight from Ulaanbaator to Khovd. It's easier without snow, when the tiny white dot of a ger stands out against the brown of the surrounding dry land, the lighter dust of a braided freelance road crosses a uniform expanse. Today, I'm looking for the threads left by four tires across snow-covered sand or rock, or the pastel brush strokes of herds trampling light snow.

Close Story—Back to Pictures

Over Mongolia

Buyant River, Khovd

~ 2130115-047

View of the Buyant River beside Khovd. The river level has flooded the area between the two branches, freezing into an almost solid mass. Water continues to percolate through cracks, changing the course of the ice's flow daily.