Horse trekking in Mongolia
Horse trekking in Mongolia
Horse trekking in Mongolia: Trekking on Horseback
We set off the next morning. As we set off the 'road' got fainter and fainter. My horse was a very quiet, small animal. Choka's horse seemed a little more hot headed. After about three hours, time for our first break. Choka pulled from inside his Dell (traditional Mongolian long coat) a plastic bottle half full of some pink liquid: 'Ruski Vodka' he said. After he had finished that with his host, it was time to move on. First though we each had to drink a bowl of airag to send us on our way. To get into the valley, we had to trek for about four hours over a forested mountain. The poor little horse was really struggling under me, but never refused the task at hand. After seven hours on the horse, I arrived at destination. Considering I had never been on a horse before, the fact that he had trotted and galloped when asked nicely was a miracle.
We got to the top of the valley, and pulled up to one of the two families that live in the valley. The two wild kids provided entertainment for the night. Unusual to get to my most isolated ger yet in Mongolia and find a satellite dish parked outside with a large solar panel. For the night, the children watched a DVD in Korean, I assume not understanding a word. they couldn't get any reception for the tv stations. I'm sure they'll have something to say the next time tv liacence reneway comes along!
Next day was a leisurely stroll around the golden valley. With the arrival of the freezing night time temperatures, the trees were almost all a beautiful golden colour. It really was biting cold when we got to the lakes. The wind swept across the water and considering I had left most of my stuff at the ger, I wasn't going to be hanging about for long. Back to the wild kids for a second night. Like most gers, you certainly won't be going hungry. As strong as they look, it's hard to see where they get any balance in their diet. The food is straightforward: dairy, meat, rice, pasta. And vodka, of course. The 'man of the ger' was a brute. It turned out that he is a wrestler. I certainly wasn't going to mess with him.
The trip from there back to Choka's ger was certainly an interseting one. We crossed the mountain, and just at the bottom met one of the sons from the valley who was riding to Bat Oltzii. We galloped along. Choka had a cheap Chinese bag on his back, and when one if the straps broke, his horse bolted. He took off like a flash, trying to control his animal. He crossed the road track, and with the dip in the ground (one of the tyre tracks) his horse stumbled at full speed and Choka came off. My horse took off full speed as well, but stopped once I got him turned. Choka wasn't moving on the ground. When I got back to him, I could see that he was half sitting up.
He was really in agony and couldn't stand. His first request: vodka. The guy that was riding with us went to a local ger and got a bottle of vodka, along with finding a 'machine' to take him home. We were lucky that we were right at the start of the track that was pretending to be a road, and that we were just back in the populated area. Within minutes a jeep was coming along the road. IT was somehow full of people, in an area that it would seem like you would have to transport people into to fill a car. I made it back to the ger on my horse, where Choka was preparing to go to the hospital in Bat Oltzii. He came back later with a big strap around his waist. Not sure what was fractured, but almost sure something was.
The next morning was
interesting. News had spread of Choka's fall. Neighbours streamed in to see how he was. Two old ladies trotted in on horseback. One was barely able to walk, let alone ride a horse. The story was overed. The Chinese bag (if there was any doubt about China in their minds, this had sealed it), the horse bolting and hitting the ground. Choka's brother brought me to Bat Oltzii on the fourth day to complete my horse safari.
Back to the Big City
I stayed the night in the Bat Oltzii 'hotel'. The rate for the room depended on whether you actually wanted to sleep for the night, or listen to the music from the bar blaring into the room. I chose to get a room to sleep in! Next day I set off out the 'road' to Khujert trying to hitch. The first car going my way passed five hours later. He was going to Khjert the next morning, but I could sleep in his ger for the night. We agreed a price for the transport and off we went.
He had a few chores to do. The first was to bring one of his neighbours gers into the town, their migration spot for the winter. Instead of heading back to Bat Oltzii, I was dropped off at their ger. Sometimes you see a track leading into a lonely valley when travelling along the 'main' road. This family lived in just one of these valleys, about 5km into nothing-ness. A cluster of three gers were well hidden away. The rest of the family were amazed to see me. One older man sat beside me. He really couldn't believe that there was someone from 'Irland' sitting beside him. It seemed like he was trying to somehow get it straight in his head why I would be sitting beside him in their ger. He just sat there for about ten minutes shaking his head.
The next morning, my driver had a few more tasks to complete before our departure. First he went off to get one of his friends, returning with a goat tied in the back of the pick-up truck. Within a few minutes, his butcher friend had snipped the main vain to the goats heart, and he was breathing his last. The goat was swiftly cut up and the insides were passed to the women of the family for 'processing'. They washed out the stomach and guts and eventually filled them with the goats blood, a feast would be had that evening! Just one more thing before heading to town. Heading to the forest to cut some trees. The job of a wood stealer is a tricky one. Cutting a tree transports the spirits that are contained within. Many are nervous of even being near this wood, as they could be invaded by any lurking negative spirits. I assume that this is why, just as we were entering town, my driver got out to make sure that the covers were well down on his cargo before driving into the back yard of one of his friends to deliver his loot.
Stuck in Khujert for the night, I was thankful to find a little ger camp by a hot mineral spring. A luxury of a shower seemed extravagent, but since it would be mineral water from a hot spring I gave in! Next morning I was lucky in getting a lift to Kharakorin with a family that was on there way to prey at the holy Erdine Zuu Monastery. I got to Kharakorin in time to catch the micro bus bound for Ulaanbaater. Noon was the scheduled departure time. I got very suspicous when it moved off five minutes early. It turned out that it certainly wasn't going to UB. It circled the small town for over three hours picking up random people with their cargo, almost without exception a 25 liter container of airag. The top of the van was drums of airag plus my backpack. I got back to the capital at about eleven that night after a great adventure in the countryside.