Trail of the Ancients
Tusker’s horse carried brigade travels through the tundra valley on a Mongolia trek, back through time. It’s roadless, and they travel accompanied by the artistic ghosts who chiseled the pictographs of the last four thousand years, “Following ancient trails that the nomads and herds have traversed since millennia,” narrates Will Lyman.
WATCH: Trek Mongolia – Episode Two
Tusker founder Eddie Frank’s excitement is palpable. High adventure is physical, but it’s also cerebral and Eddie enjoys its educational aspects. They arrive at Sheveed Uul, a sacred mountain for the Tuva people and “this will be in our sacred presence for the next three days,” Eddie says. Hiking up the mountain they soon find evidence of former travelers. The rock etchings depict large animals some with long snouts. Horses and horned animals are scraped into the black rock façade framed with orange lichen, a living art museum, seen by just a few intrepid adventurers.
“These go back to the bronze age, which dates back 3,800 years ago. They don’t know much about the people, but were able to date these based on the style that’s found in the surrounding areas. The sites that have the most art tend to be those with the longest and widest views.” Troy Paff’s camera spans the almost endless horizon that is framed by a long ridgeline.
Eternal Blue Sky? Not Quite
True adventure travel is unpredictable; there are surprises both good and bad. Mongolian weather is always an adventure. “It is said in the land of the eternal blue sky, you can experience four seasons of weather in a day. Tusker’s waterproof tents and sleeping bags will insulate you from bright sun, soft mist, possibly rain and in the mountains, even snow,” Lyman narrates. The bright yellow tents glisten in the sun as they are lined up on the tundra.
But today it mists and then it rains. The Tusker tribe is covered by their rain ponchos as they ride through the valley. The valley floor has creeks and ponding water. “We started around 9:30 and it was raining quite a bit, but now the sun has broken out and it’s quite incredible, “says Avi, from Ho Chi Minh City. “I don’t think any amount of pictures is going to do justice to this place.” He finds a dry rock baking in the sun and lays out his wet clothes. He looks a little damp, but exhilarated.
Doctors on Duty
Ravi has fallen in a mud hole and is in pain. Eddie’s assessment is a dislocated shoulder and he and Mel Kaida, a veteran Tusker guide and coordinator, go into action. Eddie checks in with Ripcord, an evacuation service to see what the options are if he can stabilize the injury. He and Mel work as a team with Mel on the satellite phone getting specific treatment details while Eddie works on Ravi. Eddie describes the dislocation as “stepped,” and gingerly works the arm back into place. After 3 hours, Ravi is smiling and his arm is in a sling. Ravi thanks Eddie and Mel and is happy to be going forward. “He is probably the easiest guy to deal with because he had faith in us as healers,” Eddie says.
The group has advanced into the Altai Mountains and there is snow in the peaks and the pace quickens. For Eddie these are some of the most beautiful mountains he has ever traveled through, especially on horseback. He discovered them on his honeymoon with Amy a decade ago and now shares this again with the group.
After several days on the trail, the group is emboldened as they arrive at the next campsite.
They have risen to the challenge and have trekked the trail of the ancients. They have experienced adventure.