Mongolia – The Land of Blue Sky
After hitch hiking across the China, Mongolia border we caught an overnight train arriving in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia refreshed and ready for adventure.
Mongolia was on both our bucket lists and was also the first country on this trip that neither of us had been before which made it more exciting. As an extra bonus, my brother, Yuin and his girlfriend Dawn were arriving from the UK and would be spending the next three weeks exploring with us.
We were quickly impressed by how modern Ulaanbaatar was and surprised that the selection of foods in the supermarket was actual superior to what we found in China.
In case you weren’t aware, Silvia and I were living in Singapore and have climbed and travelled overland through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China and now Mongolia which has taken about four months. This slow method of travelling has been really interesting watching the faces of the people change across such a large mass of land. Now here in Mongolia we were seeing the fusion of Chinese and Mongolian but also blue eyed locals with Turkish heritage.
The other changing aspect was the food. Especially in the less touristy areas you could see the cross over of the way food was cooked, with dumplings and buns we know from China and bread and jam or cabbage with sheep meat from Eastern Europe.
As Yuin and Dawn were visiting we wanted to pack in as much as possible so had booked two tours with a recommended guide called Urnaa who had recently set up her own guiding company, Wind Horse Tours.
The plan was to go North and complete a loop by horse through the Khoridol Saridag mountains, over a pass and back along Khovsgol Nuur, the largest fresh water lake in Mongolia. The whole trip would take 12 days and Urnaa reassured us that we would be well looked after as she was sending a translator, two horsemen and her brother!
The only one of us with any real riding experience was Dawn, the rest of us were keen but a bit wary as we had read that Mongolian horses, although small, can easily be spooked and also like to run. Our other concern was saddle sores from so many days consecutive riding.
Mongolian has a rich history with their horses and they considered a national treasure. They are extremely hardy and live outside all year round, grazing and searching for their own food. The Mongolians drink their milk and eat the meat, so they are really looked at as a working animal rather than a pet.
After a 15 hr bumpy bus ride from Ulaanbaatar we arrived at the horse man’s house on the Southern tip of Khosvgol Nuur and were quickly introduced to our horses. We were happy that they all looked very healthy and strong! As two of the mares had recently given birth, their two foals would be joining us on the trek. We were taught that the horses respond to ‘Ousk’ for stop and ‘Choo’ for go and not with pressure from the heels like in the UK.
The first day we started climbing through the hills and forests which was great until after midday when the heavens opened and everybody got soaked. Horseriding in the rain isn’t pleasant and we took turns over lunch to dry ourselves over the fire.
Luckily after a few hours the rain passed and the blue skies returned. Mongolia was living up to its nickname and we were fortunate that this was the only rain during the whole trek.
Overall the trek was incredible, watching the scenery change through the mountains and then skirting along the edge of the lake for the final few days. Often we followed dried up river beds and paths through the forest and the horses were incredibly sure footed over any terrain.
As the days passed on, the personalities of the horses became clear, Silvia and Dawn had horses that loved to run and Yuin and I had lazier horses that liked to eat everything and anything.
We had an amazing time, camping and cooking over open fires and catching up with Yuin and Dawn. To add to all this, the night skies were incredible, completely clear and full of stars. The saddle sores weren’t too bad and Khovsgol Lake was immense.
Sorry for all the photos below, we got a bit snap happy.