Oh yes. Mongolia. Summer 2012. Given that a certain amount of time has passed since my last efforts on this blog I will ease myself back into things by copying from the notebook I kept during the trip.
13/07/12 – Day 23
I’m sitting at the table in an idyllic camping spot by a slow, flat, meandering river on a wide open stretch of the steppe. Blue hills in the background. The sun is setting.
Chris and I woke up early today. Chris went off for a run, and I went for a walk up to the top of the valley, as everyone said it was worth a look. The grass was tall and lush, dotted with beautiful wild flowers – blue spikes, yellow buttercup-like things, tiny white & red flowers. Grasshoppers jumping out of the way as I went. The view from the top of the hill was stunning. Wide open land stretching away as far as you could see, rising and falling in close-cropped green hills without a hint of a road or a house or even another camp site.
After a leisurely breakfast we set off on horseback again, up and down hills, across gentle valleys. Sinatra, my horse, was reasonably biddable, though he made it plain through snorts, sidelong glances and impatient flicks of his ears that he thought very little of my skills as a rider. Having hardly ever ridden before I was quite happy that Sinatra was on a lead, attached to Bayanmunhbat’s horse who I called Farty for loud and smelly reasons. Sinatra adores Farty and tries to stay in close contact with him as much as possible, which meant my knee was frequently wedged up Farty’s arse. But other than that I felt I was getting the hang of things a bit.
It got hotter and hotter. We rode on across the steppe, hearing no other sounds apart from squeaking saddles, clinking stirrups, and the snorting, clomping horses. You say ‘tchoo!’ to get them to go faster, although Sinatra mainly chose to ignore my feeble urgings.
We had lunch in a wide open valley in the searing heat. Apparently it was nearing forty degrees, but the heat was so dry it wasn’t particularly oppressive, and there was a bit of a breeze. After lunch we got back on the horses. Sinatra was now in a very grumpy and stubborn mood. He kept dropping back, ignoring my tchooings, or else walking so close to Farty my knee was constantly driven into his arse. It was like trying to steer a particularly awful shopping trolley across the steppe. Eventually I gave up and just left him in charge; that way I could concentrate on the scenery.
The hills receded, and we found ourselves crossing a wide, stony plain. I was chatting to Margaret and Amaraa when suddenly Sinatra rocked hard. I stood up in the stirrups automatically, and Margaret told me Sinatra had aimed a kick at her horse Blondie. A little further down the road he tried it again a few times. He was clearly fed up, and it made it difficult to relax, to say the least. In the end Margaret, Ruby and I hitched a ride in the back of the van to our current campsite.
As soon as we had put up the tent and grabbed our bags Chris & I went for a dip in the river. I haven’t had a proper shower since Beijing, three days, one incredibly dusty overnight train and several horse rides ago. It was very shallow, cold and fast moving, but very clear. My enjoyment was only slightly dented when Chris pointed out that there was a small herd of sheep upstream, around a bend in the river. Still, I think I came out marginally cleaner.