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  • Writer's pictureEmmelia Potts

The Mongol Derby Day 5: Catching Up With The Pack.

Updated: Apr 28

All Photographs by Kathy Gabrielle, Shari Thompson and Bayarsaihan Ochiroo

The last related blog post from day 4 of the Mongol Derby can be found here.


Two girls at a horse station on the Mongol Derby
Erin and I setting off from a horse station on day 5. Gleeful to have reached the halfway day.
HS11 – HS12

I awoke to a firm kick in the ribs from riders preparing to leave for the day. The small patch of ground I had squashed myself into the night previous was now a vast expanse of empty floor displaying packed-up kit bags and Liz putting on her boots.


“Morning girl. How are you feeling?” She asked with a soft smile.

“Dog rough" I laughed “How are you?! What the hell happened to you!?”

Erin started to stir and we piled on for a group hug, exchanging stories of the past four days. It turned out that Liz was the rider who got kicked in the head, how she was still standing let alone happy to get back on a horse I had no idea.


“I’ve missed you guys so much”

“We’ve missed you too! We’ve been so worried about you! It’s a shame we’ve got a penalty really or we could have ridden together” Erin said with sadness in her eyes.


However, Liz was keen to crack on and mount her first horse since the hospital. Waiting for us was a non-starter. She packed up her gear and we followed her outside to watch the horse selection process and reassure her that everything would be fine. I must confess, reassuring anyone, at any point during this race was a lie. There was no way of knowing if anything would be okay at all.


Three girls hugging on the floor in a Mongolian Ger
Liz, Erin and I having our morning hugs and catching up

Liz plucked her number from the tiny timber pot containing the slices of paper that held our fates. The crew member shouted the number to a herder as another rider, Jock’s, horse tried to run him into the horse line at full speed. We all cheered and willed Jock on as he managed to sit his bucking bronco and dodge the low-hanging horse line multiple times. As he vanished into the distance laughing we turned to Liz’s Steed being brought over, hoping he would be a gentle first ride back. A kind-eyed, stocky bay horse was handed to her. He looked as though he would take her anywhere in the world with ease and haste without danger. The three of us breathed a sigh of relief. After Liz's horse was tacked up and another group hug had, Liz mounted and was back on her way.


“She is a hell of a woman to get kicked in the head and then carry on like nothing happened!” Erin grinned in disbelief as we watched Liz canter out of the station.

She certainly is " I chuckled, hoping that our friend had now lived out her Derby perils and could enjoy the rest of the ride. “Hopefully we will catch her up.”


With all the riders leaving the horse station before us, Erin and I had an hour to kill before we could start our day. We sat and planned out routes, ate all the food, stocked up on boiled sweets and adorned ourselves in warm layers and waterproofs, the weather did not look to be kind today. We were beyond content at having caught up with the main pack of riders. However, there is only so much prep and snoozing you can do when you know you have well over 500 miles still to ride. The adrenaline and anticipation would not let us rest. We began to get twitchy and eager to start the day.


Women waking up in the Mongol Derby
Me looking my best after waking up on the morning of day 5

9am rolled around and we marched over to the station steward to dip our hands into the number pot of destiny. By this point, we were not too fussed about whether the horses were wild on the horse line. We seemed to have adopted a razor-focus routine and would mount anything. Number, horse, tack up, sign out, mount, ride, repeat. Don’t overthink it, don’t worry if your horse seems a bit nuts, it will all be fine. Blind, unwavering optimism was still at the heart of my superpowers.


A stocky bay horse (Bruce) was handed to me, he was stunning, he was relaxed, and he was a sign of good things to come. Erin mounted her Dun horse with a black, go-faster stripe down its shorn mane and off he flew. I gave Bruce a nudge to follow suit, and that was it, we were back racing. This leg was, for once, uneventful. We bolted out of the horse station on these two amazing horses, and once they had simmered down they cantered the entire way to the next stop. I had Bruce on the buckle end of my reins, enjoying every minute.

“Should we rest them” Erin and I would suggest every 15 minutes or so. We would bring them back to a trot, only for the horses to become restless and canter off again. A unanimous decision was made that these horses were best to just be left to get on with the task at hand. Bruce’s durable, tree trunk legs consumed the ground over and over again but in such a calm manner, it was as if I was in a rocking chair. His steady, persistent canter never faltered, my pain medicine however had.



Six tablets left before I had to start thinking about other measures. Fortunately, the route was a simple leg of following a dirt track alongside the valley river, the horse station was on the dirt track, and there was limited navigation required. Compared to the previous day this day was shaping up to be sublime and simple.

After a couple of hours of blissful riding, we rolled into Horse Station 12 as the sun was beginning to burn off the morning cloud, with huge grins on our faces. As we pulled up, other riders were leaving the station, we were well and truly back with everyone now and it was a massive morale boost.


The vet check was cleared easily by our two incredible horses and we gave them a loving pat before riding our wave of happiness to select our next horses as soon as possible. The one thing you learn on the Derby is that if you are in a good mood, you harness the energy that comes with it and crack on!

 

HS12- HS13

This particular leg looked to be similar to the last leg on the maps. It involved following a dirt track and then taking a right off the track to go up a valley for 10km to the horse station. There was another route that involved a road pass up the hills, the hills however looked mammoth in the flesh and with the mid day sun looming we figured it best to stay low and near potential water sources. This was a learning curve, you can plan a route on paper all you like, however, you need to take in your surroundings as you approach them. If something is not what you expect or you think there might be a better route do not be afraid to alter and adapt. The maps are, after all, ancient.


My next little horse for riding was brought over by a teenage herder wearing a snap-back cap, black t-shirt and stone-washed jeans. I was so amazed by the boy's modern look in a sea of traditional aesthetics that I had not registered the horse. I received the horse from the lad and my stomach did a little hop, this horse looked just like my Dillon back home! He was short, dark, dumpy and had a thick set, handsome face with a little white mark on his forehead.

“Oh my God, Mongolian Dillon” I thought “You are a little beauty!” I instantly fell in love.


Once tacked up and signed out Erin hopped on her liver chestnut horse and I went to hop on little Dillon. The boy in the snap back shouted at me and waved to stop. He came running over and gave Little Dillon a huge hug.

“This is his horse and this is his first year doing the Derby” The translator explained.

“Tell him I will take good care of him and that he looks just like my horse back home please” I grinned.

I nodded to the boy and he smiled giving little Dillon a last pat.

“So much for these horses not being pets!” I thought.

However, in hindsight even though they are not pets in the way we are used to, they are still very much loved, treasured, valued creatures.  


Erin and I shouted goodbye and waved to the boy in the cap as we calmly trotted out of the station. This leg was straightforward, stiflingly hot, but straightforward. We meandered down the dirt tracks enjoying the scenery of the oasis-like river to our left-hand side. In such a barren landscape the scene of water with surrounding trees in a deep gorge below was a wonder to behold. It looked like something out of National Geographic. Wild horses and cattle grazed on the banks, eagles soared above our heads and Erin and my painkillers well and truly wore off. Groans and grunts began to enter the atmosphere in amongst or chatting.



“We need to peel off this road in a bit and start our valley portion of the leg” I shouted up ahead to Erin. “It should be in a few hundred meters”

Sure enough, over a smallish climb and carved into a bowl of hills, the valley presented itself to us. Its gaping mouth calling us into its unshaded, blanket of green expanse.

“We ride to the end of this valley pretty much, I will shout when we get close and need to climb into the hills” I smiled at Erin. “Lets keep chucking”


Our happy chatting eventually faded to silence and it became clear that we were struggling with our pain medication no longer working and the ever-increasing heat of the day. The hot weather was proving great for drying our wet knickers on top of our saddle bags from the previous days storm. However, it was not useful for fatigue. A searing pain in my hip flexor accompanied by a grinding, erosive pain on my knees took its hold and Erin was struggling with her extensively damaged back. I could see that morale was beginning to dwindle in our team of two and the rule in a team of two is that you can not both have low points at the same time or it will all fall apart. As we trundled up the valley the horses began to slow, the smothering heat crawling over their bodies, drenching them in sweat.


“Drink!” I would shout to Erin as I poured water over Little Dillon from above hoping it would help him carry on. The various bodies of water on the 50-year-old maps were not where they should have been. Just as I thought we might grind to a halt there was a puddle up ahead.


“Lets give the horses a drink, it might cheer them up a bit” I suggested.

Erin nodded firmly, determined not to let pain and fatigue set in. The horses drank as Erin and I sat in silence absorbing the majestic scenery around us, sucking on our water bladder tubes, drinking in the stillness of the Mongolian steppe.


SWWWOOOOOSHHHHHHHH. A gust of wind ran through my hair, causing me to shudder from the sudden breeze down my neck.

“What the hell was that!?” Erin exclaimed.

We looked at each other, alarmed and then down to the floor. Sat only a few feet away from us was an enormous Eagle with a rodent in its clutches. Before we could fully take in the moment the bird took off into the air clutching its lunch.


“I thought that was an aeroplane it was so loud” I uttered in disbelief to Erin. “And the wind! It nearly blew me off the horse!”

“Mate, that was a moment” Erin said with her eyes like saucers staring into the sky at the majestic bird now soaring above our heads.

After the eagle had left, our mouths had closed and the horses were done drinking in the puddle, silence resumed.

“You could hear a pin drop now,” I said, the steppe never falling to amaze me.

We turned from the puddle stop, riding on a high from the Eagle and trotted to the end of the valley where the horse stop waited for us.


At the end of the valley I checked the trusty GPS arrow to check we were on course.

“It should be just up this hill” I smiled at Erin, pointing to the left “Not long and we can pop some more pain killers”

We hopped off our horses and started to walk uphill, aware that a steep climb and searing heat did not bode well for a vet check. We walked up and up and up. Little Dillon started to struggle he would stop and put his head down. After my dilemma on day two with Min I took caution and would let him have frequent graze stops.

“1km!” I shouted up ahead to Erin who was walking with haste towards her next bought of drugs.


“Come on little chap” I turned to my horse, “You really are not far, I promise”

I suddenly had a flash back of the boy at the previous horse station asking me to look after Little Dillon as he was his pet and it was his first Derby. I looked at a very hot, tired little horse and figured I had some energy left and could carry his saddle for him. So off came the saddle, up the hills we marched and up went my heart rate as we pushed on to the horse station.


By the top of the hill I was drenched in sweat, a shade of lobster and quite frankly stank.

“Wow not many riders carry the saddles for the horses!” The vet said shocked as I arrived at camp, ready to cough up a lung.

“Not sure I have it in me to do it again!” I spluttered through the sweat pouring down my face. She smiled at me and took Little Dillons heart rate reading, he was well below 56. He had been pulling my leg, he was not tired at all.

“I bet I am well over 56” I mused as the vet allowed me to take Little Dillon to the water station for a wash down and to be released back into the Steppe.


Both horses passed the check with flying colours as Erin and I overdosed on more painkillers.

“No harm in being safe with the heart rate though right?” Erin said chuckling at my puce face. “Are we riding out? I just need some water and we can go”

“Yes lets try and make the next station” I replied “We need to be covering three legs a day really to be in good time for finishing”


To, once again, try and make up any lost ground we decided to cut it close to the cut-off times and attempt to reach the next horse station before 7pm. You would have thought I had learnt by now that camping does not always mean you make up time.


We rushed to the food Ger to target a quick turnaround at this station.

“Liz!” We exclaimed in unison as we slid to a halt in the Ger door entrance. Our American chum was sitting on a bed with another rider.

“Are you okay!?” We called in unison to Liz, fearful of another accident.

“I am fine we are just going to wait here for a bit whilst Sam recovers and decides if she wants to ride out”

Another injury to the field, this time Sam's ankle, quite an important part of the human body for riding that one!


Erin and I pondered with waiting and staying with Liz and Sam for the night but Liz deterred us, willing us to carry on in the competitive category. She was a welcome sight again and although torn between stay and ride out, Liz was right we needed to try and catch the horde of riders up, we had made really good ground today but were still a bit behind. The fact was, we were not going catch people up by sitting on our laurels. Hugs all round, Erin and I dragged ourselves out of the Ger shade and back into the heat of the afternoon. We had 3 hours to do this leg, it could be done, provided nothing went wrong…

 

HS13 – camping (again)

As soon as we mounted our horses we knew we wouldn’t make it to the next horse station. Horse Station 13 had a reputation for having the fastest Naadam racing horses in the area, unfortunately, Erin and I were not lucky enough to have racers. We acquired a leggy bay with white socks and my smaller bay equine who I called Smidge because he was a Smidge the size of Erins gangly creature. 


We slowly loped away from the horse station on two horses that did not have much gusto about them, especially when the immediate climb up a hillside presented itself. Once we were a couple of kilometres away from the horse station the horses stopped trying to go home and cracked on with the task at hand, albeit in a pretty slow and chill manner. In hindsight these horses likely were not sluggish, we were just stressed with timings and probably made them feel slower.


two girls riding uphill in the Mongol Derby
Attempting to get our horses to gallop away from horse station 13

Smidge trotted and cantered off obediently down the winding valleys, valleys that were a lot narrower than previous open expanses. Whilst it was nice to have a slightly different type of scenery to ride through, the narrow passes did make for trickier navigation and I had to rely on the GPS a lot more. It also made for difficult storm tracking until the weather was on top of you. We had been in such as rush to get to the next station that we had not put on our waterproofs. We also did not have a third set of clothes, what we were wearing after yesterdays storm mishap was the only dry clothes we had left.


Winding up the narrow gorge towards what looked like an opening on the maps, we stopped the horses at around halfway up for a map and GPS check.

“I think we carry on up this valley, get to the marshland opening and then looking at the time try and find somewhere to stay” I suggested.

Erin nodded enthusiastically. “We are not going to reach the next station it's actually quite a long leg on these two horses”


It was here in the reprieve of riding and navigating that we turned our attention to the skies behind us. Skies that moments ago were crystal blue. Skies that were now a dark grey with jet black cloud sweeping in. Fearful of a similar outcome to the previous day we kicked on and galloped the horses up the valley, trying in vain to outrun the incoming storm. We did not have any spare dry kit after being caught out in the downpour yesterday and could not risk getting our spare set of clothes wet.


We urged the unenthusiastic horses onto the top of the valley pass and slowed to a halt for contemplation and to look out onto the beautiful marshland basin in front of us. A long river ran in front of us in the distance with a few small dots of white around the river banks and in the hills further afield.

“Gers!” Erin said “We have somewhere to stay!”

We trotted off in the direction of the Gers that were on our track, whilst being pursued by the rolling black clouds. Soft spots of rain started to fall on our faces.


“Hang on Erin, we are not going to outride this storm and it is slightly off our course. If we stand here and let the horses have a graze for a bit we might miss it. The clouds are moving over the path in front of us. Lets sit tight for a few minutes and then follow it so we do not get too wet”


We watched a dot of a rider in the distance, gallop past the Gers and over the hills on the other side of the marshland basin. They were in the storm’s path and being hunted by the relenting clouds. Sheets of rain began to pour from the skies around a kilometre away over the river and the lighting began to crack ahead in the distance. Two mesmerised riders watched the fork lightening against a black sky crack down onto the landscape over and over again as the horses peacefully munched on the ground below. Soft appreciations escaped our lips as the show overhead raged on. We had made the right decision, trusting our gut had finally prevailed.


Once the storm had passed a beautiful evening sun danced along the skies, lighting up the mountain basin in all its evening glory. We had 45 minutes to find somewhere to stay, yet again we were against the clock with potential penalties. The cluster of Gers were still a way off in the distance so with haste, we headed towards the closest white spec on the top of a small hill crest in the distance.


Once over the river and up our targeted hillside we were greeted with a large Ger and a huge family gathering around a table with a dead sheep and lots of guts over the floor. It appeared to be two families having an Al Fresco dinner as there was one Ger, two cars, a lot of children and two women. There was also a large horse pen.

“Bingo” I said to Erin as we approached “this looks like a winner”.


One of the ladies cautiously stood up and greeted us, smiling at the strangers seeking refuge. We read our explanation of the situation off our now sorry-looking pieces of paper. The women smiled, nodded and waved us to come closer to the Ger, welcoming us into her home. We dismounted to a horde of excited screaming children who were eager to help us with the horses.


“Lets put the horses in the pen, make sure we are welcome and then give them a graze and relax” I suggested as a message was sent to HQ to let them know we had found a place to stay for the night.


As we wandered over to the horse pen, the children followed us desperate to help, trailing a sheep’s intestines behind them as if were a party streamer.

Horses watered and safe in the pen, we trudged back to the Ger full of peace having finally found a camping spot with no drama. The younger of the women popped her head out of the Ger door beckoning us into her home.


On entering the Ger we were ushered over to a small table with tea and biscuits whilst the older lady sat with the children on the floor playing games. One of the children, in particular, was highly strung, running around with no clothes on, screaming at the women and hanging upside down from the Ger door frame with the sheep’s intestines in hand. The ladies, seemingly used to this child's antics, ignored her and watched Erin and I nibble on the treats provided.


We double-checked we could stay, now with the help of Google translate. The woman continued to nod at the translations and told us that her husband was away for the night so there was room for us. Thrilled, Erin gifted each of the children a bracelet to say thank you and after a couple of shots of Mongolia Vodka I played tag with the children, taught them rock, paper, scissors and introduced them to various high five games. We had hit gold, this family was lovely.


The sun was beginning to set as we went outside to graze the horses for an hour whilst we waited for the crew to come and do their compulsory end-of-the-day checks on us. The horses softly crunched through the lush grass and Erin and I watched the sun sink over the valley basin from where we had ridden earlier that day. After ten minutes or so the older lady shouted to some of the children and packed them into one of the cars. The contents of the car smiled and waved to us, bidding us a fond farewell. Off they drove leaving the young women, the sheep intestine child and two other youngsters.


“Derby jeep” Erin nodded in the direction of the route we would be taking the next day.

Surely enough a red flag was speeding down the dirt tracks below towards our small, isolated hilltop.

“Hi Girls!” Ness the medic grinned once the Jeep ground to a halt outside the Ger. “This is a nice spot!”

Erin and I blurted out how nice the family was, how amazing the views and food were, how we had found a diamond of a camping spot and how it was amazing to finally have an easy camping experience.

Ness grinned and laughed “We were told to keep track of your camping after last nights antics!”


As we were having this conversation the translator had vanished to the Ger to talk to the lady of the house to make sure we had communicated properly.  

“We have checked with the lady and it is all okay, we even double-checked with Google translate in case we needed to ride off and get a penalty. She had said we can stay twice” I assured Ness. “Her husband is away so there is plenty of room”


After a few minutes and the sky growing darker, the translator returned to the jeep with a solum expression as a man pulled up in a white car outside the Ger.

“The woman needs to check with her husband that you can stay. He has come home after hearing you are here”

My gut flipped from euphoric and confident to a gut-wrenching stomach drop.

“He surely is not going to say no after his wife said yes?” I exclaimed to Erin.

She grimaced at me, looking panicked towards the young women and man now talking inside the Ger. Time ticked on and eventually, the man sauntered over to us and addressed us all. Erin and I looked back and forth from the man to our translator, praying that it was okay. There were after all no Gers in sight and it was nearly dark now.


“If you stay you need to pay him” The translator concluded after telling us how much.

“We do not have that kind of money on us” I explained crestfallen, so what is option B”

“You find somewhere else to stay…” She replied.


It was now almost pitch black outside, well past 8 pm and we had no idea how far another Ger would be. The man of the house was standing by the door waiting for a decision and the lady who had welcomed us in was now standing behind him in the shadows looking quite sad.

“Why don’t we drive up ahead and see if there are any Gers whilst you pack up your kit and tack up the horses?” Ness suggested. “You cannot ride out alone after 7:30 but I do not see why you cannot follow our jeep if we check its safe” Plan B was in force.


Downcast at plan A falling through and having to be rescued again Erin and I gathered our kit from inside the Ger slowly, a shift in mood from an hour ago. The lady said goodbye and other things that we could not understand as we left the Ger, she looked genuinely sad. With our goodbye and thank yous to the lady we were ushered outside by her husband and marched to the horses. We tacked them up as quickly as possible, aware that we were no longer welcome. Just as we tipsily re-mounted and turned on our headlamps the Derby jeep returned with Ness.


“There Is a Ger about two kilometres in that direction on that hill in the distance. We have asked if you can stay and they have said yes. It is a family again, a husband, wife and three boys, there is also a pen for the horses” Ness explained. “We will be driving to the next horse station which is over there so just follow our general route and peel off when you get to that hill”


We nodded and thanked the crew.


“You are welcome, but might I suggest that you do not camp out again? I am not sure HQ are going to be too happy if you have a third camping problem!” Ness chuckled but we could tell she meant it. Had we been banned from camping due to our total incompetence?


The Jeep sped off into the night, weaving through the valley ahead, headlights lighting up our route. We squeezed the horses on as the children waved and shouted goodbye to us, the Dads gruff calls to them muffled by the evening breeze.


“Welllllllll, maybe we are just no good at camping after all!” I exclaimed as the horses trotted down the hillside. “I really thought we nailed that!”

“Same!” Erin replied “Perhaps he was staying away but as soon as she told him foreigners were staying he thought he could make some money and came home?”

“Perhaps, we can’t blame him I guess! I would have likely done similar in their shoes” Was my reasonable response but I secretly was a bit miffed.


As the Derby Jeep grew further and further away in the distance we were navigating through the darkness with our little headtorches, scouring the shadows for the Ger on top of the next hill.


“That must be it up there?” I pointed to a white shape upon a hill that we could barely see, just as the Derby Jeeps dot vanished over the mountains in the far distance. Erin nodded and we wandered over to a single Ger and a horse line.


“Sain uu!” We shouted. No one answered. We tried again, and again no response.

“Well, just when you think things can't get worse!” I sighed “Are we homeless again?”


Just as hope seemed lost and our voices grew hoarse a young boy on a dirt bike sped up behind us with his headlight blinding us as if we were on a heist show having been caught robbing a bank. He shouted and waved for us to follow him. Clean out of options we trotted after the boy into the dark abyss, hoping he was the saviour we were looking for.


He led us out to the front of a Ger with a warm glow ebbing from an open front door. Muffled voices, clanging of pots and the sound of a TV channel were coming from the opening. The boy shouted towards the door, we stayed mounted, sceptic that this was going to work.


A large smiling Mongolian man boomed his way through the front door followed by his wife and two other boys. They all waved, smiled and ushered for us to dismount. Looking at each other for confidence Erin and I nodded at each other and crashed our feet down to the ground yet again for what we hoped was the last time of the day.


The Dad shouted something to the boys, pointing to our horses and then the nearby pen. They immediately swarmed around our horses taking the lead ropes from our hands, leading Smidge and Erin’s horse to a circular pen with fairly high timber walls and a lockable gate. The Dad sporadically shouted commands at the boys and the lads diligently carried them out. They untacked the horses, led them into the pen, tied them up with the most spectacular knots I have ever seen and then ushered us away from the horses smiling and skipping. The smallest of the boys must have been around five years old and continued to catch a glimpse of us both when he thought we were not looking, unsure of who these Western creatures were that had gate-crashed family night.


Once the horses were safe and secure the tiredness set in and the Vodka from the previous Ger worse off. The wife was cooking dinner for us and the Dad was laughing away at a programme on a small, fuzzy-screened TV.

“We are so so spoilt back home” I thought to myself, almost embarrassed at the sheer extravagance we have in our lives for no reason.

 

Erin and I sat on the floor watching TV with the father who had positioned a small stool next to us. The three young boys took residence on the bed over to the other side of the Ger but watched kit preparations for the next day rather than the TV. Occasionally they would talk to each other, nod at something we had pulled from our bags and laugh or ask a question to their parents. Each person in the Ger was warm, welcoming and curious, it was the cosiest night I had during the entire race. The Ger was warm with a dim hue of light from the small lanterns, a fresh cooking smell floated into every crack of the house, cheerful conversation from the family cut through the cheers on the TV and the evening breeze drifted in through the front door to remind us that we were safe from the elements.


Eventually, the entire family huddled around the TV to watch local horse racing. Erin and I gasped at the child jockeys riding the racehorses, the tenacity of the horses and the sheer chaos of the event. It was a real bonding moment with this family, as we all shared a passion for spectating one sport. We all loved horses and Erin and I happened to love horse racing from back home. It was perfect. People say that TV is the death of social interaction, but in that moment I had never felt more connected with humans that I could not communicate verbally with. We all cheered as a small boy in red colours on the TV crossed the finish line first on his small, dark bay racehorse. It was a really special evening and in a way I was finally glad of being ousted from the last Ger.


After the excitement of the race the family retired to their two beds and Erin and I cocooned ourselves up with a quick reminisce about the day.


"Emmelia?" I heard as I began to drift off to sleep.

"Yes Erin?"

"We can not camp again or we are going to be chucked out of the race" She half worried and half-joked.

I burst out laughing and we snickered about how useless we had been at camping and how unlucky we had been so far.

"No more camping" I agreed "Lets make that the new plan A"


We fell asleep with full tummies, warm hearts and thanks for a tricky evening being saved by the amazing Derby crew.

 

Day 5 Derby Lessons:
  • When you are in a good mood crack on and harness that energy to make up time!

  • If your horses just want to canter the entire way, let them. Especially if it's going to be more hassle trying to slow them down. A lot of these horses find cantering 30km easy, especially if they are racehorses. Listen to your horse, they will tell you when they have had enough.

  • A short, shorn mane is usually a sign of a racehorse. Long mane is a stallion, anything in between is a lucky dip!

  • Not all the horses are feral, some are family pets and are so so loved. You should look after all the horses but if you see a young person or family worried about you leaving on their horse reassure them with the translator's help.

  • If there are a couple of routes to a horse station and one is more likely to have natural water sources (consult your maps) use that route on a hot day, it makes life easier in terms of keeping the horses going.

  • Take in what is around you, absorb the silence, the wildlife and the scenery. Yes it is technically a race but some of the best moments I had were not when I was tearing around the steppe on a bolter but experiencing something I never thought I would, like a massive eagle skimming the top of my head

  • If there is a storm coming in across you, stay put and wait it out for ten minutes or so if the horse will allow. It is worth it just to not get wet.

  • Don’t assume you are okay to stay somewhere overnight until the translators and crew sign it off with the family. You might find yourself having to tack back up and leave.

  • Sheep intestines are perfectly acceptable forms of toys for children. Be ready to see things you have never seen before! Accept it, do not be rude, it is not your country.

  • Two shots of vodka on a nearly empty stomach and after exercising all day will hit you hard.

  • If you get camping out wrong too many times HQ will give you a not so subtle warning that you are not to do it again.

  • Head torches will be required!

  • The crew are there to help you if you get into problems, do not be stubborn or a hero. Let them help. if it comes with time penalties then suck it up and wait out the penalty.


The next related blog post The Mongol Derby Day 6: Back In The Race can be found here.

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