Mongolia Rainbow Horse Caravan (1 Viewer)

Wawa

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Two months in; Dirty, skinny, battered and bruised. Updates coming soon.
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Wawa

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Early on the morning of May 26th, we shoved our mighty pile of gear outside, lured in a pair of taxis, and loaded up in the icy cold before the sun rose.

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Coffee and go.

The bus station was chaos. Umi was immidiately pickpocketed. He kept the money and returned the wallet before melting into the crowd. With an armfull of wallets and passports, I guarded our gear pile while others unloaded taxis and found our bus.

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Learning about the shitty logistics of having too much stuff but needing all of it.

The Arkhaveer bus was stuffed, but the driver packed and repacked, stuffed the aisles with tires, cases of soda and suitcases. I was on edge, worried we'd be split up, left behind at the station with an immobile pile and no where to take it. When we finally all got on, the disgruntled driver demanded an extra 5000MNT(about 2.50USD) and I was stoked to pay up and go.

The bus trundled along the pitted, desolate highways of central Mongolia for eight hours, disgorging people and supplies at clusters of Gers along the way. We cut through a corner of Gobi desert, where two-humped, long haired camels crouched alongside the pavement, then north again into Arkhaveer.

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Beer run in Arkhaveer.

Tamir and Tamor, our contacts in the area, came to pick us up. We met up with Indre and Ishtar at Tamor's house in town, where a big pickup truck waited to take us on the two hour cross country drive to the family we'd buy horses from. We made a quick trip to the street market to buy snacks, beer, and vodka, settled into the truck, and were off.

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Finally a vehicle with enough space!

It was warm, dry, sunny. We broke out the town goodies, took a lot of pictures of eachother, all pointed and admired the huge longhaired yaks, the dogs running alongside the truck, the many-colored horse herds, eagles, giant bald-headed lammergeiers.

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The whole ride was one long awesome photoshoot
.

We came to our destination late in the afternoon, and met Buch, looking like a cold-eyed smiling horselord. He had us checking out horses before we even got the tent up - most of this first bunch we ended up keeping. Mandalin, Indre, and Alan's riding horses, plus two of our packhorses came from day one.

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Buch, lounging.

Buch gave instructions and Tamir translated: The horses need water at dawn and dusk. We need to get our own halters on them and stake them in the better grass over the hill. Since they live here, they'll run off in a pinch and need to be hobbled. We got the horses settled, and set up our camp.

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Our home on the steppe.
 
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Wawa

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Our life in Buch-Land....

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Dragging horses to water...

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Where the hell is the water again?

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Moving horses from this grass to that grass...

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Coaxing saddles onto horses.


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Sewing.

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Sewing....

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SEWING.


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Here's the daily goat invasion.



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Cooking in the dark...
 

Wawa

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We spent ten days at Buch's. Three days in I got my horse and wrecked my shoulder - I wrote about that in this other thread: https://squattheplanet.com/threads/polvo-the-mongolian-horse.28395/#post-207149.

Not quite seed camp....

The last seven days were the hardest of the trip for me. After my fall, I was locked up and swollen from my jaw to elbow. I probably cracked some ribs. When I got back to the tent, my ears were plugged with dirt from hitting the ground so hard and rolling. For two days I couldn't raise my arm, and it took two weeks to be able to hold it over my head.

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Our camp, next door to Buch's family.

Every moment of the day there was work to be done. I got irritated at being told to "just rest", there was too much to do and no one to do it for me. The horses needed watering, we needed to haul in water for ourselves, gather dung, cook food, fix-adjust-modify gear, make plans, start training horses, catch runaways, administer parasite meds, fix broken hobbles. There was always always sewing to be done.

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Tinkering with saddles.

All around me, the others were getting used to their animals. People with no riding experiance were getting it. They'd ride off to the river, swim and explore caves. They'd visit nomadic families and come back with milk, yoghurt and stories. Ishtar, Indre and Doudou would run their fast horses over the rolling hills; Alan, John and Marshall all fell off the same wild little pony but got up ready for another go.

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One of Buch's gers, with solar panels and a yak stomach of yoghurt.

When I wasn't struggling with simple tasks, I took the form of a bitter, complaining lump by the door of the tent. I couldn't saddle my horse alone. I could just barely pull out his stake and move him, pounding it back in took fifteen minutes one morning. I cried more, in vulnerability and frustration, than in any period of my life.

Tension rose in the camp. Tamir was still with us, as a friend and translator, but the man is an alcoholic and whenever he had cash, he'd go to Zuunbayan-Ulaan and come back trashed. Sometimes other area men would join in. They'd manhandle our horses, go through our gear looking for more vodka, harass Doudou for being chinese. Umi, Mandalin and I began to avoid these scenes by keeping to the tent in the evenings, earning us a reputation as "never up for fun clique".

Before we even had all our horses, Buch started to want us gone. He expected more skill and competence from us, and was worried we'd shame him by getting killed or maimed while under his protection - plus he wasnt getting much work done, chasing our runaways and arranging sales every day. He put word out in town, and horses started coming in fast, some from 50km away, sweaty and panting after being towed by motorbike. He offered to jeep our gear to a likely spot in the Orkhan valley, were we could stay until we had the packhorses under control.
 

Wawa

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We become a caravan....
With no packhorses.

Mongolian feelings on the concept of time run something like "It'll happen when it needs to, but be ready now", so we prepared to leave in the morning, but actually left at 3pm. I rode the jeep with Buch, loaded with our gear and a freshly slaughtered goat.

Pretty much right away, the jeep broke down. Buch got under it, hit and moved and hammered on some things, and drove it back home for more work. I sat on my thumbs in the shade with the dogs, watching his sister and little brother milk goats until he fired the thing up again to go find the others.

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Looks legit.

We caught up with Doudou and Saya, fallen behind the group. Saya's hadn't finished resizing her saddle girths before we left, and Doudou's horse was afraid of his saddlebags. We watched a Mongolian lady lead his horse back to him on a motorbike. Saya joined me in the jeep, Doudou unloaded his bags and galloped off to catch up.

We pulled ahead of the caravan, and sat in the shade of the jeep eating dried curd until they arrived. Umi was in bad shape, redfaced, sick and dizzy with the heat. The only thing for it was for me to switch with her. I was pretty much terrified that I'd wreck my shoulder worse, but I insisted on it anyway.

Riding that day turned out to be a great idea. I don't much get along with Umi's horse or fit well in her saddle, but the few hours until we stopped for the night gave me back some confidence.

We spent the night in a beautiful, flowery nook between forested mountains and a rocky stream. Buch and Tamir brought out the pot of goat organs and blood-stuffed intestines. They charred the head and scraped it clean. They boiled a pot of water, and we shared liver, lungs and blood sausage soaked in green tea. Buch picked out the asshole end of the sausage and ate it with relish, hairy butthole and all.

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When the Mongolians let the fire die down to coals, John did an amazing job of slow roasting a leg. Most all us meat eaters, stuffed, went to sleep.

I stayed up until 3am. Away from the relative safety of Buch's, we decided to start keeping watch in two shifts overnight, to protect the herd from wolves, thieves, mean wild horses and getting tangled up in their ropes. So, I stared at the fire and listened to munching horses for a few hours, then woke up Ishtar and passed out.
 
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Wawa

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After one hellishly long day, a heat-stroke hospitalization, and a night mostly spent lost and separated from our gear, we settled into a nice patch of forest about 10km from the colorful little town of Bat-Ulgii. Buch and Tamir stuck around for one last night of drunken debauchery, then left us to our own devices.

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We hung around for nearly three weeks.

I can't exactly explain why it took three weeks. Stuff happened. People left and came back and left again. Forest service guys bothered us. Horses ran away. Gear broke. Umi became allergic to the sun. No one went hungry, at least; as a group, we're pretty good at eating.

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Playing music,

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Picking nettles,

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Eating goats.

About two weeks in, we started to pull our shit together. Ishtar, Alan, and Indre had left to go explore for a few days(it ended up being eight), and took the wild little pony, Gota, that everyone had been falling off of, to train as a packhorse. That left the rest of us at the camp with Buckwheat; camel-faced, kickhappy, lazy as fuck. Fortunately, he treated being loaded up with packbags something like getting a special message. Unfortunately, he'd sometimes lay down during the procedure and refuse to get back up.

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Introducing Buckwheat....

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Buckwheat is training to be our indispensable packhorse.

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But, there is some skepticism from the peanut gallery.

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Buckwheat crumples under the pressure.

Our other potential packhorse, Kasha, had panicked on the first attempt, broke his rope, ripped open the packbag, ran 30km away and lost our packsaddle. No one wanted him.

As we prepared to go mobile, Umi's sunsickness worsened until she was pretty much in a state of constant miserable nausea and weakness. She decided to leave, and Buch and Tamir came out to buy back her horse, drive her to UB, fend off the troublesome forest service people, trade Kasha for a riding horse for John, and get fucked up around the fire.

Doudou and Saya also had to go to UB for visa extensions - Saya decided not to return. So, on June 23rd, when we finally became a real, movable horse caravan, we were down two members and missing four more(Alan, Ishtar and Indre were pretty much gone without a trace).

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Polvo, ready to bounce.

We made it one and a half kilometers. Then, Buckwheat started a fight with Sunny(Saya's horse, now potential packhorse. Kind of an asshole), Sunny spooked Tonto(Marshall's horse), and the two of them ran back to the old camp. By the time Mandalin and Marshall caught them, it was too late to move on. Bummer.

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Pretty horses at the new camp.

The next day, Indre, Ishtar and Allen returned. This brought us up to two packhorses, likely to poor Buckwheat's great relief. It rained, and rained, and we did final town runs, and on the 27th , in a cold and heavy rain, left for real. We made a good solid day, 20+ kms, a celebratory stop at a tourist restaurant while the newly emerged sun dried our socks on the fence; and a new camp alongside the wide, white-foaming Orkhon river.

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Covering new ground.
 
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Wawa

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For our long stay in the region, Bat-Ulgii was our supply and entertainment stop. Colorful, ramshackle, with mud-maze streets, full of sleepy cows, mean dogs, and motorbikes. Shops with snacks, snickers, cokes, rice, flour, potatoes behind a counter you wait your turn to point at. Khuushuur and milk tea joints.

Later on I discovered that this describes every small Mongolian town I'll ever see.

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rusty

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<33333 thanks for sharing! i missed the who's, who of the story. if you don't already have one posted, a pic of the caravan & former caravan with names in the caption would be a great addition. i'm trying to picture who's going through what as the story unfolds.
 

Wawa

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It's been a while, but I mean to finish this story, and maybe clean it up for a blog post or something.... For most of the next part I'm going back through letters I wrote while in Mongolia and pulling details from em, hence maybe a change in tone.
 

TheWindAndRain

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Wa-wa-WOW I remember hearing about Y'all doing this and it's hard to believe it was a year ago already. Thank you very, much for sharing so much detail of this adventure. What a way for us to glimpse life in Mongolia. You're a talented writer and adventurist @Wawa. Filling us in on the gritty frustration and triumphs, or whatever other tones you can share will make this story that much more engrossing, though it's already good. Always preciated your contributions.
 

Wawa

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As of JULY 6TH:

A week ago I had a fairly major falling out with the caravan group.

Polvo and I got along fine on our first day of travel with the group. We can deal with eachother. My shoulder hurts a lot, but I can use it. I went to town recently, and I have a personal food stash ready to go.... So I left.

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The morning after the trouble, I woke up in the grass with a goat nibbling on my head and nearly laughed at the absurdity of it. Then I remembered the night before, and made my decision - packed up, saddled Polvo, and just left. He did not want to be taken away from the herd, and it was a hard thing to do. I think if the horse had carried on being scared and miserable, I would have changed my mind. He turned cooperative as soon as the others were out of sight, so we kept walking.

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That first night, I camped in a river valley pinewood thick with columbine, geum, ferns and nettle. I sat alone by a small fire, cozy warm with embers, and made flat bread on a hot rock. No one threw trash in the fire, left junk and clutter around the camp, or fought over what to eat or where to go. Just me, and Polvo munching and buttscratching. In the morning, I could get up and do anything. I decided at this point not to wait up for the caravan.

With my bag of food, in addition to saddlebags full of basic gear, riding wasn't much of an option. No problem. For five days, I only walked. Polvo tagged along gamely, scratching his face on my back and sneaking mouthfuls of flowers and tallgrass. Now, as my food supply depleats, I ride occasionally.

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I have a photo on my phone of a topographic map, and a simplistic highway gps map with all blank spaces. My boots never dry. The valleys are full of mud, the passes thick with flies. Nearly every day, it storms at some point. Twice I took shelter under Polvos belly as he squared off against the wind and hail.

At night I keep Polvo close to my tent. My main fear is of predators, or thieves after the horse. His main concern is eating. He chews off the tender grass tips, then wakes me up to move him. He doesn't seem to sleep much.

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The hose is good company. He plods along next to me, or behind me. We drink from streams together. He grazes while I pick wild greens and mushrooms. Yesterday, he watched with great interest as I carefully harvested stinging nettle. After much consideration he dipped his head to try a taste, but it didn't go well for him.

Sometimes he catches me peeing, and makes a point to take a long piss nearby.

I'm feeling ready to return to the caravan, but I'm several days out from town and potential cell phone service. They could be anywhere. I've starting leaving notes like breadcrumbs along the way, my name and date on a fence post or snowbank... So if you ever see a suspiciously trainrider-like tag in a valley in Arkhangai, that's me!

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Wawa

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Okay, sorry I'm always messing up my posts, but I did it again and waited too long so now I can't edit it, and all the photos are broken...if anyone with modpowz could delete my last post, and remove this explaination, would be appreciated.

As of JULY 6TH:

A week ago I had a fairly major falling out with the caravan group.

Polvo and I got along fine on our first day of travel with the group. We can deal with eachother. My shoulder hurts a lot, but I can use it. I went to town recently, and I have a personal food stash ready to go.... So I left.

mcara01.jpg


The morning after the trouble, I woke up in the grass with a goat nibbling on my head and nearly laughed at the absurdity of it. Then I remembered the night before, and made my decision - packed up, saddled Polvo, and just left. He did not want to be taken away from the herd, and it was a hard thing to do. I think if the horse had carried on being scared and miserable, I would have changed my mind. He turned cooperative as soon as the others were out of sight, so we kept walking.

2017-06-25_08-42-22.jpg

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That first night, I camped in a river valley pinewood thick with columbine, geum, ferns and nettle. I sat alone by a small fire, cozy warm with embers, and made flat bread on a hot rock. No one threw trash in the fire, left junk and clutter around the camp, or fought over what to eat or where to go. Just me, and Polvo munching and buttscratching. In the morning, I could get up and do anything. I decided at this point not to wait up for the caravan.

With my bag of food, in addition to saddlebags full of basic gear, riding wasn't much of an option. No problem. For five days, I only walked. Polvo tagged along gamely, scratching his face on my back and sneaking mouthfuls of flowers and tallgrass. Now, as my food supply depleats, I ride occasionally.

2017-06-25_08-41-14.jpg


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I have a photo on my phone of a topographic map, and a simplistic highway gps map with all blank spaces. My boots never dry. The valleys are full of mud, the passes thick with flies. Nearly every day, it storms at some point. Twice I took shelter under Polvos belly as he squared off against the wind and hail.

At night I keep Polvo close to my tent. My main fear is of predators, or thieves after the horse. His main concern is eating. He chews off the tender grass tips, then wakes me up to move him. He doesn't seem to sleep much.

The hose is good company. He plods along next to me, or behind me. We drink from streams together. He grazes while I pick wild greens and mushrooms. Yesterday, he watched with great interest as I carefully harvested stinging nettle. After much consideration he dipped his head to try a taste, but it didn't go well for him.

Sometimes he catches me peeing, and makes a point to take a long piss nearby.

I'm feeling ready to return to the caravan, but I'm several days out from town and potential cell phone service. They could be anywhere. I've starting leaving notes like breadcrumbs along the way, my name and date on a fence post or snowbank...

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Matt Derrick

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The formatting was a little different for me so I didn't see everything. I knew they had purchased the horse but I was just hoping to start a general conversation about this persons amazing trip.

I'm just saying, the answer to your question is in the OP. You should try reading it before posting.
 

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