The one thing probably most associated with Mongolia is horses, the Mongolians even invented the stirrup after all as they needed to used both their hands to shoot their bows while riding. In my opinion the tv adaption of game of thrones should have made the Dothraki more like the Mongols as they are nomadic horse people, but that is beside the point.
We couldn’t visit Mongolia without riding horses and on top of that we couldn’t visit the Gobi desert without riding camels, so we did both.
We actually got the opportunity to visit the Gobi earlier on in our tour so the camel riding came first. We were riding camels with two humps, which I believe are called Bactrian. I was slightly aprehensious about riding the camels as they are quite tall and I have a fear of falling.
The camel herders allocated us camels, I am guessing based on our size, and I was in a different group of camels than my husband. The camels were in groups of three each with a herder leading that group. My husband got on his camel before me, giving me a chance to take some photos of him and also being able to observe how they got up.
Then it was my turn and our driver was kind enough to take some photos of me as my camel was getting up as well. He then gave the camera back to me but our guide was kind enough to take some more photos from the ground during our ride.
Because we were on the Bactrian we sat between the humps, which is why I think it wasn’t actually that scary to ride them or even as they got up and down. We had a saddle and stirrups but no reins we just held the front hump (obviously not too tightly as you don’t want to hurt the camel).
The camels walked at a nice sedate pace and apart from my knee starting to get sore towards the end I found the ride relatively comfortable. The camels did smell as you may expect and there was more than one occasion when my foot had a narrow escape from being covered in camel excrement from the one in front. I was at the back of our group of three and so I managed to escape the camel breath and the fear of being spat at. My husband’s camel somehow managed to spit on its own head.
We made our way slowly from the sand dunes (which I will talk about in the next blog) to the camel herders gers, where they invited us in to try some camel milk, curd and goat’s curd. We were also shown a few souvenirs they had made. Overall I enjoyed the experience.
Unfortunately the horse riding was another matter. I mentioned my fear of falling, the height doesn’t have to be big for the fear to appear, and it has a tendency to apear when riding horses, so I was nervous going into the horse riding as well. This is what influenced me to make the mistake of asking to be led on the horse rather than controlling my own horse.
We had already been split into two groups who would ride at different times, one of experienced riders who would gallop and one of those less experienced who would walk. My husband actually ended up in both groups as he is an experienced rider and wanted to have some fun on the horse but also wanted to ride with me for moral support. He may potentially do a second guest blog about his riding experience.
Again we were put on horses depending on our size and so far it seemed ok, my horse seemed fairly sedate, but when they allocated me that horse they hadn’t realised I wanted to be lead, so they changed me to a different horse. In terms of the saddle it was probably a blessing as I ended up in one of the proper Mongolian wooden saddle (with a tartan lining which is appropriate) which having talked to other members of the group was probably one of the most comfortable saddles. In terms of the horse, I don’t think it was quite so good.
Two of us on horses were led by a herder on a horse as well, but I was surprised how little lead there was between the horses, we were so close that my foot and leg kept bashing of the herder’s horse or leg or sometimes stirrup which was quite painful.
Despite having been told our group would be walking our horses spent the whole time in a half trot state and seemed to enjoy clumping together, I guess because they were herded. I feel that if I could have controlled my own horses speed instead of having to keep up with the herder’s horse I would have been less scared.
I was starting to come to terms with the whole experience when we turned around and started going downhill much faster and my horse started stumbling, this made me nervous all over again. To add to this my horse started trying to bite the horse the herder was riding as well. Thankfully the other person being led saw I was struggling and asked the herder to slow down slightly, I would not have spoken up for myself because I don’t like making a fuss.
On the whole I was just glad to be on my own two feet again.