French photographer talks about his journey across Mongolia
Born in Carcassonne, France, in 1989 Pehuen Grotti is a self taught Photographer. His work is focused on the relationship between Human and Nature through documentary photography while traveling. In September 2017, his adventurous instinct led him to the steppes of Mongolia, where he bought a horse in Murun and traveled along Khuvsgul Lake. His journey continued through the mountains to Tsagaan Nuur. He then returned to Murun, and spent his last week walking through the Gobi Desert.
…The best experiences happen when you don’t expect anything to happen and you are totally open to leave life how it is. It is one of the best lessons I’ve learned during many travels and adventures. Don’t expect anything, everything will come to you in time. I’m so grateful with what the Mongolian people gave me. I’m so grateful for what the journey taught me…
You seem to go to a lot of amazing places. Why did you choose to travel to Mongolia this time?
I’ve chosen Mongolia because of the magnitude of the Mongolian landscape. Also, because I haven’t heard so much about Mongolia before, and for me, it was like a real exploration of the culture, the people, the life, and landscape.
Everything was so new for me and it sounded like I would have to start everything with a new understanding of what “society” is. I mean, every country has its own understanding of what defines the society , what is wrong or correct to do between people, what is important in life, or what people are looking for in life.
Every culture is different and I’m really aware about those differences. Mongolia was far enough and also mysterious in a way to make me feel totally lost in translation and put in the effort to understand what the meaning of life is for them.
You traveled by horse the whole time? Was it inconvenient at any point of the journey?
Yes, I’ve traveled by horse the whole time. It was the best way to meet people and to travel slow. Going by horse you have time to see the landscape, hear the birds and the wind, to feel as a part of the world surrounding you. That was really important to me.
Also, the horse is a big part of the Mongolian culture and for me it was an opportunity to meet Mongols and share with them in the same way they would do with any other nomad.
The only inconvenience I can think about is the character of the Mongolians horses. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Also, it was my first time riding a horse so it was already a big adventure to learn how to ride and more on a Mongol horse. Sometimes, my horse would let me seat him. He sure had a strong character!
What were the difficulties that you faced during your travel?
The only difficulty that I faced has been the language. I would have loved to share a lot more with the people I’ve met. Even if the most universal language is the smile and the body language, I feel like I’ve missed a lot of things just because I wasn’t able to speak correctly with them.
Sometimes I would laugh at myself just because of the situation. Sometimes I thought I understood but I was completely wrong!
What was the main purpose of your journey? Dou you feel like you found what you were looking for?
The main purpose of the journey was the journey itself. I’m sure I found what I was looking for because in a way I wasn’t really looking for anything. I strongly believe that the best experiences happen when you don’t expect anything to happen and you are totally open to leave life how it is. It is one of the best lessons I’ve learned during many travels and adventures. Don’t expect anything, everything will come to you in time. I’m so grateful with what the Mongolian people gave me. I’m so grateful for what the journey taught me.
How did you prepare for your journey?
I did plan to go to Mongolia two weeks before heading there. Just after doing a vipassana meditation retreat, I really wanted to practice everything I’ve learned during the course and Mongolia was like a disclosure. I had a plan of how to get to the Tsaatan people, but then once I was in Mongolia, everything occurred in different ways. I really think the best journeys are the ones you plan less.
How did your friends and family react when you told them you were going to Mongolia?
They’re used to it now. One day, I am in Chamonix, my home in the French Alpes, and the day after I am somewhere different. I need that in my life. It helps me explore myself in a way nothing else can do.
What surprised you about Mongolia and its people?
The first feeling with Mongol people was weird. At first, they can be “cold” like they look at you in a very weird way, but then when you start to speak with them, they can be the most beautiful and welcoming people on earth. I’ve always met very welcoming people along the way. Especially in Tsagaan Nuur. I used to stay for a few days in the house of Chine and Bulgan and their three children. They were so welcoming and helpful. They made me feel like I was at home and that was an incredible feeling. Now I think of them like my Mongolian family!
The negative part is the amount of alcoholic people I’ve met on my journey use. I have to say that it was not always the best moments but then you forget really fast about it as very nice people are always around.
What is the most precious memory you have? What did you take home from this journey?
Staying in Chine and Bulgan’s house in Tsagan Nuur. I helped them to paint the house and with a few other things, and they allowed me to stay with their family. I love them so much and I really hope to go back next winter to visit them.
What are your plans for the future? Do you also think about coming back to Mongolia?
I’m now in Nepal for a documentary for a French TV. We’re going to cross the Great Himalayan Trail from Kangchenjunga to Simikot by bike. It’s around 2,000 km and 90,000 meters up hill.
I’m thinking about going back to Mongolia next winter as I want to do a photographic report about the life in winter near the Khuvsgul Lake.
Pehuen Grotti finished his journey in Mongolia on October 27, 2017. He has captured his experience in amazing photographs which can all be viewed at his website: