The hiking was amazing and my sore hip turned out to be a blessing as I had to walk more slowly and Temujin, one of our guides, stayed with me at the back of the group telling me about the flowers and wild animals in the countryside. We trekked through fields of Edelweiss, which in German is known as the Noble flower. A nice coincidence? We talked about wolves, snow leopards, marmots, and other animals he couldn't name in English. We met people harvesting pine nuts and spent some time with them, sharing tea around their camp fire. We all understood why they are so expensive to buy – they are very labour intensive and the working conditions are basic. The men were happy to have their photos taken but when I asked the sole woman if I could take her photo she didn't want me to. I asked Timur, another guide, if I had offended her, but he said “No, she has no make-up on and doesn't want her photo put up on Facebook!” Not the answer I was expecting!!!!
The horse riding was another thing altogether. I named my horse Swiper as he couldn't resist grabbing any leaves from the bushes we passed by.
We'd been warned not to let them drink from the rivers as they would die the following March. This was a serious issue and we were all terrified that our horses would keel over a few months later and that it would be our fault. So when Swiper planted himself in the middle of the river, put his head down and Sluurrpp began to drink and drink I nearly had a fit. Nothing I did to move him on made the slightest difference as he knew I was a total amateur. He was having a long cool drink and there was no way I was going to stop him.
One of our team had to come back and haul us out of the river which was a bit embarrassing. He grabbed my reins and wanted us to run to catch up but my leg was stuck between the two horses and I was getting a bit freaked out.
He laughed but did stop and we finally caught up with the others. That evening I was struggling as I was too tired to be able to hold on for another day.
Loads of the others had found their groove and were having a whale of a time, but I wasn't one of them! Then Paul said he was going to go back on the bike and I decided to go with him.
When the horse gang caught up with us, Timur told us about Gers and how they function etc. It was so interesting, especially as we were all huddled inside one sheltering from the rain. They had a children's ger, and several ones for adults.
As we left there for the final leg home, we had mixed feelings, delighted and sad.
Throughout it all we were thoroughly looked after. Our food was delicious and there was plenty of it. There were cereals, porridge, bread, cheese, meats, yogurt for breakfast, for lunch we had salads, meats (lamb, mutton, roast chicken), rice, soups, bread rolls, fruit and then similar for dinner. There was as much as we could eat and we built up big appetites. We'd fill our water bottles in the mornings and again after lunch and if anyone showed the slightest sign of being peckish on our journeys the food would be whipped out for us. I never saw the kitchen tents being put up or taken down as they were down after we left and before we got to our destinations. All we had to do was sort out our own tents which didn't take long. Our crew was amazing, as well as providing all of the above, they were so friendly and great fun. I think they thought we were slightly deranged, but they supported us all the way.
On our last night we stayed in a tourist ger camp where we had showers and a meal indoors.
Next Week Part 4 - Meeting the Children