Drink of the Gods
Sometimes you have to go to the ends of the earth to see what it looked like in the beginning.
Western Mongolia is that primal corner of the planet, a pristine place, National Geographic narrator Will Lyman describes as the land of eternal blue sky. “A blue sky that crowns a breathtaking patchwork of lakes surrounded by glacial peaks, their melting snows feeding rivers light with silt— the drink of the gods.”
For us mortals to drink with the gods and the ghosts of conquering Mongols past, we need to journey off the beaten adventure travel trail, where Tusker has established a remote camp. It takes Tusker crew three days of off road driving in Russian four wheel drives to reach the first encampment. The video’s rapid fire guitar music with quick shots of Tusker clients dancing, shaving along the river and horses kicking each other puts us on their silk road journey during one of our Mongolia Horse Treks through a land of tundra and steppe, glacially carved valleys and snow laced mountains.
WATCH: Mongolia – Episode 1
Riders on the Steppe
A map of Mongolia highlights the western pocket that brushes against Russia and China. An image of a large rock carving of perhaps Genghis Khan’s craggy face illustrates how nature and man have shaped this Pleistocene glacial valley. Lyman describes it as, “a lost world hidden by nature and distance, called by some the last true wilderness on earth. A land unchanged since the rule of Genghis Khan.” Travelers have come through here for 12,000 years by horse and it was Khan on horseback that became the world’s unofficial king a mere eight centuries ago.
Tusker’s group first arrives in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia’s hustle-bustle capital where money still flows at the ancient marketplace. A three hour flight finds them on the shores of Khoton Nuur, a huge glacially excavated lake; and it’s time to find the tents and saddle up.
Eddie Frank, Tusker’s founder and head wrangler, takes special care to match saddles and horses with each of his 17 clients. A tight shot of the hand tooled leather saddles are lined up with each client’s name on each saddle. Their weight and pant size is all taken into account to fit rider with saddle.
“We also match people’s personalities to each horse,” Eddie says before giving a riding demo. “You should have tension with the reigns and tension in the stirrup at all times, and I have just one piece of advice—don’t fall off. You won’t hurt yourself, as its soft ground – and I asked Dosjan to bring horses that are more relaxed.” The group is in a good spirits and nervously laughs off Eddie’s joke.
Eddie’s horse looks something out of the Mongol horde stable with a long mangy mane, bred to breeze through the tundra. He cautions that long hauls in the saddle can cause thigh pain, but gives the Tusker tribe more options than Genghis gave his crew. “If you want to get off and walk that’s okay too. We designed the Mongolia trek to either ride horseback or hike – or even better, you can do both.”
Kings of the World
The diverse group is all saddled and wearing helmets. T.M. Ravi from Portola Valley, California, had never been on a horse but smiles into the camera and says he is, “having the time of my life.” Geeta from Abu Dhabi has a smile as bright as the blue Mongolian sky and she appears fearless. “We are in the wilderness; there are four thousand year old burial sites and we get to experience all of it.” She gives her horse a kick and off they go towards the edge of the world. ”We have wings; I’m the king of the world.”
She is now part of Genghis’ world too.