Mongolia by horseback
A listing in the Sierra Club magazine caught my attention.
The thought of riding a horse across the plains of Mongolia was an
experience that had to be realized. Boojum Expeditions was our guide
for the trip.
Mongolia represents a culture with a long and colorful history.
Many people still live a nomadic life, in harmony with their
environment. As they move their herds of livestock, the grasslands
are renewed and preserved for future grazing. Mongolia is a
democratic republic located between Russia and China.
Our trip began with a flight from the capital of Ulaan Baator to
Khatgal on the southern tip of Lake Huvsgol (see box on map) at about
5,500 feet elevation. The lake is 136 km long and 30 km wide.
Ninety-six rivers flow into the lake, but only one flows out. The
Egiin River flows to the Selenge River, which flows north to Lake
Baikal in Siberia.
We lodged at a ger camp on the lake. Each ger accomodates three
people with comfortable beds containing sheets and blankets. A wood
burning stove in the center keeps the ger dry and warm. Gers have
wood frames covered with felt and canvas and have been used for
We travelled northwest for two days by vehicle over a muddy track
on the plains. Vehicles are the most uncomfortable way to travel in
Mongolia, and we dreamed of riding horses soon. Even a camel would be
an improvement. We stopped to visit this family. They were as
entertained by our visit as we were to see their environment. They
had a large number of livestock, including camel, horse, sheep, goat,
and probably yak. Milk curd is drying on the top of the ger, and they
were generously offered to us. They are hard to chew, and the flavor
is mild and tasty. We pitched our tents on the steppe that
Still on the road (?!) to Renchinlhumbe.
Note the flock of sheep and goats on the hillside below the
These grasslands are covered with wildflowers, many of
This is a typical scene of where we were riding on most days,
in the Darhat Valley with the Saridag mountains in the
Yak remind me of a poodle with a bad hair day.
In the background is the Boojum compound at Renchinlhumbe
where we stayed in gers for three days of the Naadam
Horse racing is the most popular sport, but only young
They ride bareback and barefoot.
This was my sweet buttermilk horse for eight consecutive
We met up with the Tsaatan, a Tuvan-speaking group of
people not far from the Russian border. They live in canvas teepees
and herd reindeer for their milk. Our tents are in the background.
This is at about 8,000 feet elevation, above the tree
Reindeer grunt like pigs.
Their antlers are warm to the touch, as blood is circulating through
End of day 4 on the trail, at a log cabin in Hogrog. Mishig is
carving the mutton bones for us, while nearby is a bowl full of
delicious fresh yogurt. He was governor of the aimag (province)
during the socialist period and claims he knows every resident over
the age of 18 by name. This is a family's sleeping quarters,
temporarily serving as a dining room for some tired riders. We will
sleep in tents nearby.
A typical rest or lunch stop.
The Mongolian wrangler would sit down and borrow Carolyn's music
player and headphones.
Wildflowers were at their peak of color. There were
dozens of different flowers and colors.