Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
The initial purpose of our trip was to experience riding in Mongolia - our time in Beijing, at the ger, in Seoul were all add-ons. In the spirit of "a picture" speaks a thousand words, I'll keep the words to a minimum for this post.
But, first, a few key words:
Horses - Mongolian horses are truly amazing creatures and define the cliche "small but mighty". Roughly 13 hands, these little guys hauled us humans and packs up and down mountains for hours at a time, mostly at trot. They took us through rivers, sometimes deeper than their bellies and over terrain that would cause my dressagey friends and me to cringe in horror over back in Canada. Rocks, stones, holes. Nothing seems to phase the Mongolian horse.
Food - The food was, in one word, incredible. How Sabine, our guide and cook, could whip up gourmet meal after gourmet meal for nine days, in a tent, on a camp stove, with food packed in was nothing short of gobsmackingly fantastic.
Camping - Neither Cilla nor I were campers going into this adventure, and we still aren't. However, with a bit of pride, I've got to say that we mastered setting up our tent, sleeping in sleeping bags, exiting the tent to pee in the night amidst a layer of heavy frost, and, yes, shitting in the woods (only after digging a hole with the trusty camp shovel!) So, while we are both adamant that this new skill set is one that neither of us intends to ever use again, we did it. And by doing so, we saw absolutely stunning scenery that was only accessible by horseback.
Scenery - Stunning, spectacular, breathtaking. There really are no adjectives that do it justice.
Friends - Our riding group consisted of seven ladies: Cilla & me from Canada, 3 Americans and 2 Aussies. What a fantastic group of women - couldn't have been better! I'm sure that the group of us are going to remain lifelong friends.
Roughly half way through our ride, we stayed one night at a ger camp, the Princess Lodge. Complete with showers and flush toilets, It felt like an absolute oasis. As there were only 2 showers, we proceeded to queue up to each take a turn. As we were waiting (and indulging in a cold beer while we waited), we heard a whirring - and then, out of the sky comes a helicopter - full of Buddhist monks.
That evening, another one of those surreal moments. Our group, a small group of German tourists, and the Buddhist monks sat around a campfire listening to a mix of traditional Mongolian music, Bollywood and ... wait for it ... the Eagles. Truly weird, truly a night to remember.
Then back to riding. Not far from the camp, we visited Gunjim Sum, the Temple of the Peaceful Princess.
Then back on the trail. A little rain - and lunch under a tarp. And more camping - but what a view in the morning upon opening the tent doors.
Finally, a pic of me and my steed for the week. As I never could grasp his Mongolian name, I called him Smiley because of the smile shaped brand he sported. A sweet guy.
And so our ride came to an end - next, back to UB for Naadam Festival.