Golden Eagle in Mongolia

This item appears on page 72 of the May 2011 issue.
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Rod Smith holding a golden eagle.

My wife, Karen, and I visited Mongolia on an eight-day optional pre-trip in July 2010 prior to taking Overseas Adventure Travel’s 22-day “Imperial China” tour. On the site of the ancient Mongolian capital of Karakorum, our group of six visited the Erdene Zuu Monastery. Its walls contain 108 stupas. A stone turtle marks one edge of the former capital. As I recall, there was no charge to enter the monastery walls, but just inside is a gift shop where you pay about $2 each in order to visit the actual monastery buildings.

When we first arrived, I noticed three golden eagles tethered to wooden stakes planted in the ground across the road from the monastery. They were in front of a series of small tourist gift shops. A handwritten sign said, “1,000 tugriks.” That’s all it read and all it took. I put two and two together and realized we could hold the eagles for about 75¢ US.

Just HOLDING the eagle was breathtaking, but then the woman keeper said, “Move arm.” I did so ever so gently, so she took my arm and pushed it up a couple of feet, which caused the eagle to spread its wings in order to keep its balance, as shown in the photo. As the feathers grazed my head, I moved my arm up and down in total wonder. There was no mention of how long I could stand there, but a golden eagle in Mongolia is heavy — 15 to 20 pounds — and I could feel my muscles flex in order to hold it. There was no one else experiencing this when we arrived, nor was there anyone waiting when we were done. It was a singularly special memory — and the best 1,000 tugriks that I spent. — ROD SMITH, Oskaloosa, KS

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Rod Smith holding a golden eagle.

My wife, Karen, and I visited Mongolia on an eight-day optional pre-trip in July 2010 prior to taking Overseas Adventure Travel’s 22-day “Imperial China” tour. On the site of the ancient Mongolian capital of Karakorum, our group of six visited the Erdene Zuu Monastery. Its walls contain 108 stupas. A stone turtle marks one edge of the former capital. As I recall, there was no charge to enter the monastery walls, but just inside is a gift shop where you pay about $2 each in order to visit the actual monastery buildings.

When we first arrived, I noticed three golden eagles tethered to wooden stakes planted in the ground across the road from the monastery. They were in front of a series of small tourist gift shops. A handwritten sign said, “1,000 tugriks.” That’s all it read and all it took. I put two and two together and realized we could hold the eagles for about 75¢ US.

Just HOLDING the eagle was breathtaking, but then the woman keeper said, “Move arm.” I did so ever so gently, so she took my arm and pushed it up a couple of feet, which caused the eagle to spread its wings in order to keep its balance, as shown in the photo. As the feathers grazed my head, I moved my arm up and down in total wonder. There was no mention of how long I could stand there, but a golden eagle in Mongolia is heavy — 15 to 20 pounds — and I could feel my muscles flex in order to hold it. There was no one else experiencing this when we arrived, nor was there anyone waiting when we were done. It was a singularly special memory — and the best 1,000 tugriks that I spent. — ROD SMITH, Oskaloosa, KS