Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The PHANTASMAGORICAL colours of Autumn!

A traditional Mongolian proverb says:
 "When Naadam ends, autumn begins."

Well, we've just had our own mini Naadam celebrating the one year anniversary of our horse riding club so I guess this proverb rings true! Not many things can be as spectacular as a Mongolian autumn. It caught me by surprise as it seemed a day earlier the landscape was fairly green. Or was it that I was having too much fun to notice? I took these pictures last week while visiting the countryside with my friends. The colours were so vibrant and rich that as the sun shone down it seemed it was trying to draw attention to the last blasts of colour the steppes will see for a very long time . There were vivid golds and yellows mixed with russet earthy tones and sometimes  splashes of pink.  Sadly, it wont be long before it all gives way to Mongolia's favourite/predominant colour, white!

Vivid gold trees- a contrast to the fading grasslands 

Interesting fence holding back the vegetation :D

  Azure skies provide a stunning background to the granite hills and the russet and orange shrubs dotted around add interest to the yellowing grass.
Note the tablets: I mentioned these in the previous blog (they line the path as you walk up to the Buddhist monastery).

You can see more of the Buddhist tablets.
Love the dotted colors all over.

Haven't featured a fence in a while

A man rests in the sun. His bull was saddled. I 'd have loved to see him riding it.

This was taken from the car-a stunning palette of autumnal 

Turtle Rock given a face lift by the surrounding landscape.
Almost looks like the foreground was photoshopped into a black & white pic!

I'm going to miss you Autumn xx

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Two Day Horse Trek: Day 2

One of the hundreds of Buddhist tablets I mentioned in the previous post...

We visited before setting off over the mountain..

It wasn't the most comfortable night as we fought to "hold our ground" on a diagonal campsite!  Some of our horses had worked themselves free and needed to be located and caught. (Not by us thankfully)  I'm amazed how "easily" you can find a trio of fugitive horses in such open spaces.  (Looking back, they probably knew the challenges awaiting them-perhaps I might have absconded too had I known!!!).  It's true what they say about one step at a time because its the only way I managed to climb up over the mountain and back down the other side. 
The course was very steep going, both up and down. I found it more of a challenge to descend, feeling I might careen over the horses head at any moment! It wasn't too far fetched to think/feel that maybe nobody had ever been that way before. A few times we found our intended route impassable and had to go back down or climb back up and find another way.  A few times I was thinking, maybe we shouldn't have attempted the shortcut home! :D
It was a real trail blazing adventure!

At times those damn trees were so closely spaced there was no room for hanging limbs either side of the horse's belly. For the most part you could shove the trunk aside to avoid impact but every now and then there were long "animated" outbursts as someones knees /shins connected with an unyielding tree. 
Slowly getting higher...

The terrain required some serious bushwhacking at times.
Half way up! But still high

Finally we reach the top and we seem to be higher than surrounding mountains.
Glorious view with a wonderful carpet of wild flowers.

Once on top it was time to enjoy the view, rest the horses and take the obligatory photo.
Sure is a long way down. We were thwarted a few times, once by a sheer drop. Eek!
Saddles need to be adjusted for downhill trek

It was a steep descent. Baggi was constantly casting a watchful eye :D

At times it was simply stunning...
sometimes lush and green...

other times flanked by rock walls.
This place was so steep we had to get off and walk the horses down.
I found this challenging and was grateful we only had to do it once.
I know you're thinking that doesnt even look steep-very deceiving picture!

Almost down. 
Looking back.

Back where we started - river crossing.
Baira (driver of the support car) and friends are there to greet us and take snaps. 

What an extraordinary experience and a great accomplishment.
I can't wait to do it again!

Hope the horses enjoyed it too!
Here they are having a much deserved roll in the grass as soon as they got home.
(Much better than a roll in the river which my horse was setting to do with me on it!!)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Two Day Horse Trek: Day 1

I have just spent two unforgettable, exciting days exploring the Mongolian countryside. Venturing far off the beaten track, we climbed up through high wooded mountain passes, down through river valleys and traversed fast flowing waters  and camped the night (on a steep slope!) in what I believe to be some of the most beautiful, unspoiled countryside in the world. The scenery was spectacular and ever changeing and although the ride on day 2 challenged my limited riding skills, I can now honestly attest to being capable of riding anywhere that may require the sure-footedness of a mountain goat!
I never imagined riding would be such an enriching experience -it has certainly given me a wonderful perspective and understanding of what makes Mongolia such a special place and just why its culture and history is so tightly linked to the horse.

Here are some of my favourite scenes/memories...

One of many challenges: Stay dry-Fail.
Not long into the trek Baggi, our unflappable and fearless guide for the trip, tests the waters and guides our back-up horse across the river before coming back to get us (hopefully with a better idea of the shallowest route!). 

...while we contemplate getting wet!

Just to get some perspective on how wide the river was due to heavy rains a few days before.
 As Baggie's silhouette gets smaller, I begin to wonder if the horses are still in fact walking or swimming!

To cover most contingencies, I travelled with  a guide, 3 friends, a spare horse and a support vehicle (which carried our food, camping gear and liquid "refreshments").  The car was supposed to accompany us on the first day provided it made it across the river. Unfortunately the Land Cruiser proved not as robust as our sturdy horses!!  
Didn't quite pull out the camera in time to catch the car being set adrift but you'll get a good idea of just how fast flowing the river was (and  how lucky it wasn't all over before it had even began!)

The water is drained from the car and at which point Julie decides it's prudent to make the crossing in a state of "undress".  I followed suit and went barefoot! The Toyota took to the road and met us at Turtle Rock.

Sue being suited up with a back-pack, Mongolian style.
Thanks for carrying my boots! :D
Barely able to keep my feet above the water (me in front) but I'm not sure why I bothered,
I still got pretty wet.

Further on, grassy green meadows -perfect for a long gallop.

This pic is a snapshot of the valley the International Equestrian Club of Outer Mongolia (IECOOM)
resides in... the first cluster of gers beside the river at the base of the hill is our home/club house.
Beautiful right?! We get to come here most weeks.( Approximately an hour and a half out of town)

Girls pull in for refreshments after a long gallop

Turtle Rock

Beautiful granite rock formations

This downslope was our campsite for the night. 
Trying to sleep on this was like trying to stay put on the deck of the Titanic-impossible! 
I'm still clueless as to why this place was chosen as our campsite.

My friends: Sue, Julie and Robyn. 
Challenge 2: Get a good nights sleep.  Fail!

Trying to gather enough wood before dark.  
The wood was extremely dry so nothing a good foot stomp couldn't chop!

View from our patch- a scree fall

A quaint buddhist monastery nestled into a granite hill. We visited the next morning. 200 plus steps, each with words of wisdom written on a plaque-some food for thought while ascending (and descending).
In the early morning Baggi returns with the overnight absconders!
Although fettered for the night the horses still managed to go AWOL!!
Just another reminder that they are still wild horses and when not being ridden they are free to roam.

Stay tuned for Day 2 now that the horses have been caught! :D w
e'll be leaving the steppes and taking the short cut home, OVER the hills.