Day 17 – The Biggest Horse Statue in the World

I was up at 7am to get ready for an 8am ride to the Chinggis Khan Statue Complex.  This is the largest horse statue in the entire world.  It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records.

We toured the museum (four of us horse riders were on this excursion) and then made our way up to the observation platform.  The statue is impressive, but there’s nothing else to do there so we headed back to town.

We were dropped off at The State Department Store.  The first thing to do is eat.  I go for mutton dumplings.  I’m running out of time for Mongolian food and it turns out I like it.  After lunch I try to do some souvenir shopping.  I run into some friends from the horse riding and we finalize plans for dinner.  I head back to the hotel to rest a bit and then it’s off for my last dinner in Mongolia.  We eat at a really good Mongolian restaurant.  Again I have mutton dumplings and a salad.

After dinner I head back to the hotel to finish sorting my luggage.  It’s hard to get to sleep.  I’m nervous about flying and nervous about what’s to come, but I finally fall asleep at 1am after setting two alarms fro 5am.

Day 16 -Back to the Big City

Woke up at 6:45a.  We ate breakfast and broke camp.  We needed to be on the road by 10am to be sure we got to the airport on time.

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Group photo just before our drive to the airport

The drive took us over passes and through valleys.  For a long time there was not a road to be seen.

We arrived at the airport about 2:30p.  Our flight was at 5:30p.  It was the only flight for the day which meant the airport was pretty much empty.  So we wait for the employees to arrive.  Once they do, we weigh our luggage and carry ons to be sure we are under our allotment.  We are.  We also become aware of how much we stink.  It’s time to board which means it’s time to say goodbye to the drivers and the translators.  They will make it back to Ulaanbaatar in the vans.

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Boarding for our return to Ullaanbaatar

We arrive in UB about 7p and head to dinner.  We have a great Indian meal and then head to the hotel.

At the hotel I say goodbye to Jenn, our trip leader.  I won’t see her again before I fly out.  Once I get settled in my room the only thing I want to do is hear from my family.  It takes a while to get connected to wifi, but once I do I send messages to everyone and then I hop on a hot shower.  A hot shower is amazing!

It’s difficult to sleep, the room is hot and there is a lot of street noise.  I keep checking for messages on Facebook and finally hear back from Michael and Aly.  I fall asleep about 2am.

Day 14 – Happy Trails

Woke up at 7am this morning.  I was really, really tired.  I think last night’s evening ride wore me out.  I had a dream last night that I was waiting on my horse for everyone else to catch up and I waited and I waited.  Then I realized I wasn’t sleeping, or at least not totally.  I was kind of in between sleep and wake.  I happened to brush the side of my tent and got my bearing and went back to sleep.  Breakfast was at 8am and by 9am we were on the trail for our last morning ride.

Today we only had a two hour ride.  We were riding the horses so they would be close to the rest of the horses so when we released them they could easily return to the rest of the herd.  After our ride, we let the horses rest, then we removed their saddles, bridles and leads and let them go.  They didn’t even look back.

Once we watched the horses reclaim their wildness we took off for town.  Our first stop was Tsooj’s house for lunch and a little sniff of something.

It was time to say goodbye to the wranglers.  Their job of wrangling horses and us was over and they have just a few days until it’s time to start preparations for the next trip.

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Adya, me, Dondov and Tsooj

After our farewell, it was time to drive to the night’s camp and make dinner.  We said goodbye to Nara when we said goodbye to the wranglers so we were left to fend for ourselves.

We spent the evening chatting around the fire and didn’t make it to bed until after midnight.  Good thing there’s no early morning expectations tomorrow.

Day 13 – In the Toilet and Across the Steppe

Up early at 6:15.  Wandered over to the toilet – because it’s what you do – and fell in.   With both feet.  Kind of sunk in to the mess.  This meant an early morning bath in the cold river was necessary.  Not the best start to my day, but things could only get better, right?

The rest of the morning went as usual – sleeping bag fight and all.  There was one difference – my allergies were so much better.  My eyes weren’t gritty and itchy.  Nara’s sunglasses plus my regular schedule or drugs seem to have done the trick.  (fingers crossed they keep on working.)  For the rest of the trip I’ll be borrowing a pair from Pat & Larry.  They aren’t quite as fancy, but they will do.

Today’s ride started on a forest path then we went over some hills and through some valleys.  Eventually we came to a place where we could canter and gallop ending headed up a hill.  I managed what I’m certain was some pretty awesome trick riding – accidentally, of course.  My right foot came out of my stirrup and I came out of my saddle.  It felt like I was doing the splits, with my right foot pointed straight up at the sky.  Adya, the wrangler who was supervising us, saw what was going on.  He didn’t look so impressed, he looked a bit more worried.  But I pulled myself back into my saddle and got a big thumbs up and a smile form Adya – which I’m pretty sure translates to “job well done.”

No one else saw this amazing feat and there are no pictures, but I did draw a picture in my journal that I can share.

trickriding

head not to scale

We made it to camp around 1p and luckily it was a bright sunshiny day.  I needed to wash my pajamas, because of falling in the toilet fully dressed.

We had dinner at 7p followed by an evening ride for all who were interested.  This was probably one of my favorite rides of the trip.  We got to do a bit of everything and there was a lot of different terrain.

When we got back in we were ready for a bit of beer, luckily someone had remembered to put a 2 liter in the fridge.

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11:10p bedtime and almost dark.

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Day 12 – Going Glam

Up at 6:40a this morning.  Did all the usual and was on the trail by 9am.

Nara, the cook, loaned me a pair of sunglasses today.  Super fancy glasses with gold and rubies.  I didn’t get a picture of them and I didn’t see myself in them (no mirrors), but I am certain I was looking good.

We got in from the ride and had a restful evening around camp.  The sunglasses worked like magic pollen barriers.  My eyes were so much better tonight.

I didn’t journal very much this day and the pictures are few, but I did get a pic of the afternoon rainbow.

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Day 11 – Reality Hits

Up at 6:45a feeling a little lonely and a little sad and a lot uncertain.

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6:45a. the sky looks brighter than I do.

We were off on the horses around 9am.  Today I rode Spike, Roy John is still healing, but should be ready tomorrow.   Started the day off bringing up the rear.  That was okay with me and seemed to be okay with Spike.  Pretty sure I could have been in some kind of sappy country and western music video – sitting on my horse and crying.  That could be a good title for a song.  I was missing my family, missing Thailand, thinking about all the goodbyes I’d said recently, and worrying about the uncertainty headed my way.

We stopped for a snack and my mood lifted.  During the rest of the ride we had several river crossings and did lots of trotting and cantering.  My hip wasn’t very happy at the end of the ride – had many pops and some pain while riding.  It could have been the fact that my stirrups were shorter than usual, it could have been the volume of riding.  Things seemed to be returning to normal after resting at camp.

I went to bed at 7:45p.  I wasn’t really tired, but I needed relief from the fresh air.  Not that a tent is a huge barrier to the fresh air, but it was better than sitting in the pollen filled out doors.  I’m currently taking any and every medication that is offered to me.  It’s a cocktail that is barely keeping things under control.

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why does the air hate me?

 

Day 10 – Briefly Bareback

Was up at 6:50a.  Breakfast was oatmeal.  Oatmeal was for breakfast everyday.

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Good morning!

Today was a rest day, we could choose to go for a ride or we could hang out at camp and just chill.  I debated taking a rest, but decided I’d paid to ride horses so ride horses I would.  I was on a different horse today – Twitter.  Roy John was recovering from a saddle sore on his back.

We stopped to visit a ger and had all the usual plus some fried cheese.  When we stepped out of the ger we found a volleyball and played a short game.

 

While we were away from camp another sheep had been acquired and dispatched.  We arrived just in time to get in on sampling some of the delicacies.  Today I had some blood pudding, liver and lungs.  Then it was time for a nap.

During the evening we gave bareback riding a try (these horses have some boney backs) and we tried out the Mongolian saddle (an acquired taste I think).

Dinner and bedtime followed soon after.

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10pm time for sleep