Blog written by Lucas, Constantin and Martin.
Our day started at 7.30am when everybody woke up excited to meet our horses for the first time in the Gobi. Once we had all packed our bags and loaded them into the jeeps, we embarked on our journey out of the foothills of the Altai Mountain range and in to the desert plains.
We began the horse trek at the top of the Yol Valley before heading over the mountain range towards our lunch spot in the Dungenee Valley. We climbed to a maximum altitude of approximately 2500m where the views were absolutely incredible. We hadn`t yet experienced such a panoramic view of the range and were lucky enough to witness wild mountain goats, sheep and eagles.
From here we descended in to the valley which progressively got narrower and narrower towards our lunch spot. It was quite unique to observe the cliff formation and how this developed as the stream formed and the gorge became narrower. Everyone was however starting to feel the pain of the Mongolian saddles and were relieved to have an hour or so without the horse underneath them. We must also commend the cooks on all the effort they are putting in to our meals; it is truly fantastic and we are all enjoying the Mongolian experience.
Approximately 2km after we had lunch we burst out of the valley into the vast desert plains of the Gobi which gave us views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Hongoryn Els. At this point there were ruins of 17th century Buddhist temples destroyed by the Soviets in 1938. Unfortunately the weather came in which slightly disrupted the views but we were all still able to gain perspective on the vastness and grandeur of the desert landscape. Being on the flats of the desert steppe, we were able to unleash the horses and gallop towards our camp in the distance. It is amazing how much we struggle with perspective and distance estimation when we can see so far – everything is so much further away than what it seems.
We arrived at our campsite at approximately 7:30pm after a very long day on the horses. We have just finished a great dinner and had a good chat with Mike about things we can do to build the Pangaea network in our respective nations upon our return. It has just begun to rain which is quite contrary to the usual perception of desert climate; however we are currently in the season of most precipitation for the Gobi region. The photo competition today was to be of vegetation – we are still awaiting the decision of the winner but have no doubt everybody will keep themselves informed.
It is quite surreal being out here in the middle of the plains and being able to see so far – a truly breathtaking experience.
Goats, sheep, cattle (including yaks), camels and horses, these are the five animals the Mongolian normads are mainly herding. The horse is the most important of the five animals. It is even part of Mongolia's national emblem. Horse racing is the second most popular event in Mongolia, after traditional wrestling.
Maybe this is due to history the Mongolian horse was the main 'weapon' that allowed th Genghis Kahn to conquer the half of the world in 13th century and create theMongolian Empire. There is a traditional saying in Mongolian: "A Mongol without a horse is like a Bird without the wings". Genghis Khan himself once said: "It is easy to conquer the world from the back of a horse". A horse is a traditional gift to male children when they turn 3 years old. It is said that children are taught to ride before walking.
However as our young explorers have experienced already the Mongolian style of riding is different to that in the west. Mongolians carry the reins in one hand and stand up in their short stirrups. The tack is also different. The saddle is wooden and has changed little over centuries. It has a high pommel and cantle which allowed Genghis Khan's warriors to shoot with a bow and arrow from any direction without falling from their horse.