after my stint in the gobi i was thrilled to be in a hostel again. when checking in i met a girl from belgium, sarah.we checked in together. i was in a ten bed mixed dorm, and sarah was in a private double with an ensuite. well ooo-la-la sarah. she headed upstairs to her kingdom, and i dumped my bag amoungst a stinky heap in the ten bed dorm. now there really was a stinky heap. it was right beside my bunk.the heap consisted of duffle bags, dirty clothes, car cables, foot spray,well used sleeping bags and vegemite...aussies! the owners of this heap were ted, simon and bill. they had just completed the mongol rally. i told them of my love for the adventurists expeditions, and how i had friends doing the derby as well.
out we go
and it was this connection to the derby...and some suggesting from a friend, that persuaded me to try horse riding. cause apparently it is THE thing to do in mongolia. and luckily i had bumped into a guy from the states the day before who recommended one outfit that was great at catering to first timers horse riding needs. so we called up the number he gave us, and within an hour a man named mindee came and picked us up at our hostel and started to drive us out into the steppe. halfway to the camp mindee pulled over and told us someone else would pick us up soon and take us the rest of the way. right as he was finishing explaining the change of plan, a large blue van pulled up. sarah and i hopped in. there were six guys in the van already. four brits, and two belgians. all of them had just finished the mongol rally!
the camp is just an hour outside of the city. but it is over a cluster of mountainy hill things so you feel like you are in the middle of nothing. or as a friend described it..."it looks like we are riding through the PC background"
just rolling green hills in every direction.
we pulled up to the camp and there were about twelve white gers clumped together. we got out, were outfitted with chaps and helmets, and then lead up to the horses. mongolian horses are all short and thick. not built for speed so much as endurance. they are the horses that helped chingis khan conquer nations.
our 'lesson' consisted of them explaining the 'choo' meant go, and to always approach the horse, get on and off from the left.
'what means stop?'
'there is no word for stop'
the horses were dealt out. i was given one of the tame ones. i named him henry.
henry was grey and not too short. he started off slow, but when he heard our guide yell CHOO, well jesus did henry ever choo. i talked to him constantly.
slow down henry!!!
watch out for the marmut holes henry, you could break an ankle!
s-s-s-llll-o-o-W-W D-D-D-OWN HENRY!!!!
henry kept up with the guide the whole time. our guide would have to turn around and round up some of the horses that weren't being the most coopertive.
when we returned back to the camp about an hour later, we found one of the belgians who had turned back after just getting down the trail head.
'didnt like your horse jean?'
'well i say to him - lets go, and he say no, he turn round, i say okay - he da one walking'
this same belgian introduced sarah and i to some of the others.
'emily, dis is mattieu from england'
'hi mattieu im emily'
i learned three days later when talking to mattieu that his name is matthew. i had been calling him mattieu because a french belgian intoduced us. i felt like an idiot.the boys left that afternoon. but sarah and i were staying overnight in one of the gers, so we went on another ride that night with the same guide. only this time instead of an innocent hour long jaunt, we went on a five hour trek. over mountains, through rivers. well maybe over hills and through a brook...but still. it was the most beautiful thing i've done. i kept thinking while i was bopping along on henry that i couldnt believe i was actually there, on a horse, in mongolia. i couldnt stop smiling to myself.
after that crash course in riding mongolian horses, i felt like i had a better appreciation for my friends in the rally. my butt was sore, my thighs were rashy and red, and my back hurt. and every meal we ate at the horse camp revolved around flour, dairy and mutton.i never want to eat mutton again. mutton in soup, mutton on bread, mutton in bread, mutton boiled in the one pot the family had, so the water that is boiling for drinking water the next morning tastes like...MUTTON! but my hatred for it is nothing compared to that of my derby friends. who now cringe at the word. mutton and mountain are both curse words for the derby folk. who despise both equally.
oh! and during the five hour ride, our guide got our horses to stop outside of a nomadic families ger. he tied them up and we went inside. the man of the house sat at a raised bed at the back of the ger, and we all sat to his right. his wife came in soon after and went to a tall and large blue plastic drum beside the entrance to the ger. she stirred the wooden pole that was inside of it. then dipped in a laddle and poured a huge portion of white liquid into decorative blue and white bowls. it was arag. my time had finally come to drink what i had been reading about in blogs and guidebooks. arag is fermneted horse milk. it is roughly 3% alcohol, depending on how long its been sitting about in the drum. it tastes like thin plain yogurt that is kind of sour, room temperature, and carbonated...and alcoholic.i knew if i drank the whole thing i would explode or vomit. so i politely raised the bowl to my lips. brought it back down and then licked my lips. not too bad. so i raised the bowl again, as the wife looked at me intently. ready to read my expressions. this time i took a gulp. smiled and set my bowl on the table in front of me. sarah finished her whole bowl...and lets just say it was a rough ride home for her.
we headed back to our hostel in UB the next day. sarah was leaving the next morning and i was waiting to hear back from a potential cs host.but when i called her she told me she was hosting a french couple, so it couldn't work out. but then she asked what id be doing for my last couple days in UB. i told her that i didnt really have any plans. but that night i was meeting friends at the mongol rally party.she told me she was going there with her boyfriend. he is australian and would be wearing a green shirt.i told her i would be with three aussies and i would wear a white shirt.so that was that.
the rally party started at the finish line, where the cars are brought when they arrive to UB.at the finish line there was a bar. so we stayed for a while before it moved to a club that the organizers had booked for the party. we made our way over there with a guy who had just completed the rally in a wheelchair! i was imediately impressed when we were leaving the finish line bar, which is on the fourth floor, and he (several beers deep) made his way flawlessly down so many flights of stairs in a wheelchair!
me and henry
the club was really really nice. and it made for a hilarious contrast when it became filled with hords of people who had just finished driving from england to mongolian in beat up cars. there were people in complete outdoor include northface pants and tilly hats, a bunch of british boys in matching leopard print tights and neon muscle shirts, and just a general stink of traveler grunge. the evening opened with a tradition mongolian band playing. it was so awesome to see these girls and guys dressed in elaborate traditional dress playing insane looking instruments. oh! and there was throat singing too.
at around eleven i spotted an asian girl kissing a white guy who was wearing a green shirt. i walked over, inturupted the moment.
lots of hugging and laughing followed.
"emily, meet me at the finish line tomorrow at noon and ill come get you and you can stay with me"
and that is exactly what i did.
it was great to cs again. meg and ben were amazing hosts and
on my first night at megs place i had gotten a msg from the aussie boys inviting us to dinner. so i told them i would meet them at 5 at the town square. meg was going to grab a quick shower and meet us there at 530.
at around 520 i see meg walking towards me and the aussie boys. she was holding a black puppy. meg had walked by someone who was selling puppies out of a cardboard box and bought one.
'what did you do?!'
'i bought a puppy, but i told them i would walk around with it for a bit before i made a decision. so i still can return it'
soon later ben, her boyfriend arrived. not at all shocked when i explained.
'what did i do?!' meg asked, now fully realizing the stupidity of the situation.
'well i impulse bought a chocolate bar today, you impulse bought a dog.'
by bedtime, the puppy (who i named jack) had been returned.
and i was tucked into my sleeping bag, wondering what took me so long to return to couchsurfing.
the next day i said goodbye to my aussie boys as they all headed off in different directions.
but luckily one of the three (ted), was heading south like me. we exchanged emails and made a plan. we would meet again in china.