After four unusual days in Khakassia, on the fifth day we jumped into Viktor’s (Svetlana’s son) car „Niva” to the south-east passing through Kyzyl to Chadan, to the Ustuu Huree Festival. The road was long but pleasant as we could stop by a nice waterfall to take a cold shower and see an overwhelming view by sacred Sayan Mountains. We have been impressed by the landscape, rocks and clouds where you can see thousand animal forms in it. When you see the clouds, you may have an understanding of why Tuvan people believe in Tengri (Sky God).
More or less around the evening we got to the festival and after installing the tent that was given us by our savior Viktor, we found ourselves in front of the stage, surrounded by people asking where we are coming from or taking photos with us. Eventually we have been interviewed three times by the local journalists, TV channels and radio programs. The music was more oriented to blues and young pop bands. We had a big expectation to see some traditional bands as we both are big fans of Huun Huur Tu and Yat-Kha, but it didn’t happen until the next day. The night came and we ended up improvising music with percussion and khomus with a hippie community to the sounds of the crackling woods at the fireplace.
The second day started with a little bit of back pain due to sleeping under a long night rain in a leaking tent with only one mattress for both of us. Shamans tried to send away the clouds by doing a ritual all night but of course, the rain started the moment they went to sleep. Not sure if their spirits take a sleep too?
When we arrived to Chadan's stadium, Khuresh (Tuvan wrestling) was just starting. Heroic strong guys with their traditional sodak (jacket of the khuresh fighters), leather boots and blue or red pants were trying to throw each other on the ground till one's back touches the floor and loses. The winner goes proudly for an eagle dance in front of the audience. After the dance, the winner takes candies from a big cup and gives them to the kids and elders. While the Khuresh was going on, the traditional food has been cooked at one side of the stadium. When we got there by our instinct of hunger, we have been surrounded by women who fed us and make us try the very typical Tuvan food made from milk, сlarified butter and kama. We have also tried the stone cheese which was used by Genghis Khan’s army during long trips to conquer other countries as it could survive for a very long period of time. The women have explained us that they could still find the cheese in the Kurgans (old graves) and it’s still eatable. People were nice and friendly to us, fed us and showed us how the food is done.
When the Khuresh was over, we went back to hear some traditional bands and this time we were lucky. There was this one man (his name we couldn't find) playing a string khomus and singing Khoomei (Tuvan throat singing) in an astonishing way. He brought us to some dreamy hypnotic state. After his performance we also had a chance to hear traditional fusion music by famous Tuvan singer Albert Kuvezin and his band Hartyga. Meeting Albert again this time at the Ustuu Huree Festival was a nice experience. When the band left the stage for the Tuvan Blues Orchestra, we went to meet our dear shaman Ljudmila.
At the festival we met Valeriy who works for the Rescue Team of Tuva. When we mentioned our project, he told us an interesting story about a helicopter accident close by the Sayan Mountains in the year 2014. They needed one year to find the helicopter. Even the satelite photos couldn't help. According to Veleriy, 60 million rubles (about 120000 Euros) were spent on the fuel during the search. Valeriy and the rest of the team are people of practice and not that much into esotericism. But anyway the rescue team decided to ask shamans for their help just in case. Fifty shamans were trying to find the helicopter, but all their efforts were useless.
At the end of the year 2014 one girl named Nastya, who worked as a secretary in the police office of Chadan, had a vision about the position of the helicopter. She and the rescue team went to the Sayan Mountains for her to show the place. Nastya showed the place by pointing on one of the Sayans Mountains and also by showing it on the map. But she said, that the rescue team will not find it in this year. They have to wait till the next year, when nature will give back the crashed helicopter by itself. Of course the rescue team didn't want to wait till the next year, so they tried to find it in that place that Nastya showed on the map. Unfortunately their search was not successful.
At the same time when Nastya had her vision, a 10 years old boy, a relative of one of the helicopter's passenger, had a strange dream. In his dream the boy saw how the helicopter crashed and could adequately draw his vision on the paper.
In spring 2015 the fire started in the forests of the Sayans Mountains. the rescue helicopters went there to fight against the fire. Suddenly they saw some strange sun reflection on the ground. When they went closer they found the crashed helicopter that the rescue team was looking for so long. The helicopter was exactly in that place that Nastya pointed out. But the rescue team couldn't find it before because it was covered by thick snow. Also the way the helicopter crashed and position in which it was found was alsmost exactly the same as on the drawings of the 10 years old boy.
We tried to find any information about that boy and the girl Nastya, but nobody could help us. If you have any information about them, please, share it with us.
Before the day was over, Ljudmila took her dress and the tambourine for the closing of the festival. Her mission was to call the good spirits for everybody. A big fire started by Nikolay Nachin-ool (another shaman that we met there). Together with Ljudmila they sang their prayers spinning around the fire. The fire got bigger, and so the crowd. People went into somekind of meditative trance. Everybody started to sing or play their instruments. Gifts were offered to the spirits. During the ritual Nikolay whipped people with his kamchi (shaman's whip) to send away the evil spirits. We were not sure about if people liked to be whipped or not until we saw the queue after the ritual by people who wanted to be whipped. Some people also had private conversation with Nikolay next to the dying fire. That fire was one of the biggest camp fire we have ever seen and thanks to the spirits we had it, because Chadan was so freezing that night. Locals told us that sometimes during summer it snows in the Taiga (Siberian biome) and brings the temperature low. When the fire burnt down everybody left to their tents. We also needed rest before our long journey to Kyzyl.
On the 17th of July we took the road back to Kyzyl with three young guys we have met at the festival. On the way they showed us nice parts of Tuva. We visited the buddhist monastery Ustuu Huree. In front of the monastery you can see a huge photo (even bigger than the Dalai Lama's photo there) of Sergey Shoygu. Sergey Shoygu serves the Russian government as Minister of Defence since 2012. As he was born in Chadan, Tuvans and especially the inhabitants of Chadan respect him much and are proud of him. So you can see photos of Sergey Shoygu almost everywhere.
After long 5 hours trip in the car we have arrived to Kyzyl where we would spend the next 7 days of our journey and meet the mighty leader of Tuvan shamans Dopchyun Karaool Tyulyushevich.
Photos by Yuriy Ogarkov
Text by Emre Akan
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