Mongolian Long Ride.
Kindly recognised by The Long Riders Guild and with their huge wealth of knowledge and expertise in equine based exploration as a resource, I have put the plans in place for a three month Expedition across the Steppe.
Tough logistically and physically, the romantic notions of riding off into the sunset were something I was keen to avoid. Long riders are a tough breed but never have I come across a group of people more willing to impart knowledge, often hard fought on the trail, than these quiet heroes. If you haven't read Tim Cope's new book On the Trail of Genghis Khan, you should. In it he details his odyssey across Mongolia to the shores of the Danube. Some 10,000km away in Hungary. It took him three and a half years. He had never ridden a horse before.
Expeditions are often arduous and difficult, perhaps more so when the typical hierarchy of needs such as a warm place to sleep for the night, are superseded by thoughts for your horses well being. This is the Long Riders code. The journey, not for glory or recognition, but more as a sharing experience between two different species. To me, the very essence of adventure.
The success of such a unique adventure depends on the generosity of a unique group of people. The Mongolian Nomads that live in this startling wilderness. Whilst I, a happy tourist, pass through with a smile and a wave, the hardships that nature dishes out on an almost daily basis continue to threaten the livestock and livelihoods of the indigenous population and remain long after I have trotted over the horizon. Mongolia has a climate that can scarcely be imagined, winters where snow blankets the landscape for months and average temperatures plummet to -45c. Surviving becomes a real throw of the dice. If your one source of income is livestock, a bad winter is the difference between your family living or dying.
The job of CAMDA is to ensure nature has a run for its money and continue to support hard working nomadic communities through the bitter winters. Not just financial aid, but real practical help, the sort that makes a long term difference. Digging wells, teaching farmers how to innoculate their horses, and providing machinery to aid in crop harvesting during the short harvest period.
Whilst I can give something back once I'm there, that isn't enough. I can't fit a tractor in my saddlebags. The money raised here will continue to do good work long after I return, and perhaps will go someway to repaying the kindness of people that have very little to give, but give it freely and without expectation. People who live in a harmonious battle with nature.
Give what you can, it will help more than you think
Good luck with all the other adventures going on out there, there are still many more to be found.