Horse riding in Karakorum

On Sunday the 15th, I first thought of buying a ticket to Mörön and spent my last week close to the Khövsgöl’s lake, but the 20 hours bus drive to get in (and back) made me think twice: too much time in the bus for just 4-5 days there. I wake up too late anyway to ensure a ticket on the same day: I came in the bus terminal at 13:45. As Chimedee‘s place is very close to the bus terminal, I met her and Hanna there. Chimedee helped me to book my ticket to Karakorum for the Monday; all buses to Mörön on the day were full anyway. Nicolas, another French (and even Breton) guy got a ticket to Karakorum as well: Chimedee booked for both of us.

I spent pretty much of my Monday in this bus, from 11am to 6pm.

While in the bus, I could finally write this blog, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes during the drive when it stopped raining: plenty of huge grassland with goats and horses, some mountains areas, and even a small desert area with some sand dunes and camels, probably the Batkhaan natural reserve.

Arrived in Karakorum, Nicolas had to go to Morin Jim restaurant and guest house since it is the meeting point of Horsetrails (horsetrails.mn) where he booked a 10 days horse tour. I joined him in this guest house, where I met plenty of other French people starting their tour the day after. Horsetrails is leaded by Olivier and Xavier who are also French. Nicolas was supposed to start his tour a few days later, but finally join the one starting this Tuesday, so they were 9: 8 Frenchies and an Australian woman who might have to learn some French…

The tour starts where the horses are staying, about 5km from the town. I went with them there and met again Manon who stayed there with her own horses. She and Sarah came for 2 months or more in Mongolia and decided to buy 3 horses, one each plus one for the luggage. Unfortunately, they lost their 3rd horse in an improbable accident the week before. Sarah made a break with a touristic tour over 2 days. This Tuesday was the 2nd day and her horse was free, so Manon proposed me to ride it for a tour. So we spent more than 4 hours in the sunny afternoon for a marvelous journey between the valleys and the top of the mountains. Down in the valley, we pushed the horses to gallop:  fantastic!

Without their 3rd horse to carry everything, Manon and Sarah chose to stay close to the family taking care of the horses of Horsetrails. When we arrived, we had interesting discussions with Olivier and Xavier who could explain me more about their business: they both live half of the year (Winter and Spring) in France having their jobs there: part time for Xavier, freelance in web development for Olivier. They live the other half in Mongolia managing Horsetrails. They live from their French income in France and from Horsetrails in the summer. The tours organized by the Mongolian company give also salary or income to many Mongols. The ca. 70 horses belong to the company, 40 to 45 can be ride in a tour. Racing horses (for Naadam), one stallion and 2 candidates are the few males who can reproduce. Some females and their kids ensure the long term of the company. Xavier and Olivier started the company in 2004 when it was possible to start with some thousands of US $. Now, the Mongolian government ask for $100 000 as minimum contribution to start a company, making such adventure much more difficult!

I walked back to the town in the Sunset, lovely! At 10pm, the restaurant was supposed to close, but the group of Sarah just came back so I could meet them: Isabelle, Julien, Nicolas, Eve and Sarah. These five French speaking guys visited a Buddhist temple in the mountain and saw a waterfall within their two days. Isabelle is actually from Barcelona, and also and a world trip. Interestingly, she had visited similar countries as I did: Egypt and Iran before Mongolia! It was a surprise to meet Julien again; I meet this photograph working only with films 2 weeks earlier in Gobi: one night, his group and mine stayed in close gers in the same family.

The day after, the sunny weather encouraged Nicolas, Eve Sarah and I walk back to the horses to camp one night nearby. Xavier was kind enough to borrow me a (very) small tent. Once we arrived there, Sarah got the idea to share a goat for dinner with the family. The weather became very rainy the whole afternoon and night so we couldn’t go hiking anymore. We stayed with the family astonished how they prepare the goat they just bought from a neighbor (100 000 T, ca. 60€ or $75). Manon and the 4 of us shared the cost. Manon rode to the town to get some beer and potatoes, just in time to cook them with the meat. We could enjoy with the whole family and Xavier the nice taste of goat meat. What an amazing experience!

Sleeping in the tent under a continuous rain is quite noisy, but it was somehow better than the young dogs in Morin Jim!

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