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Tsetserleg to Tariat…fermented mare’s milk and long hours in the ...

Its one in the morning and I write as bugs patter the tent like rain. The light from this computer must be attracting all the bugs from a kilometre radius! In three hours I have to get up and begin to prepare the horses for another day. The past week has run somewhat smoothly. Having left the roads all together Kathrin and I have been following the map, choosing different mountain passes and valleys every day. To get to this camp we had a fantastic 40km day rising from a lush river valley over a high pass from where the mountains looked more like islands stranded on the open steppe. A thunderstorm rushed across the land and soon we were being pelted with raindrops that felt the size of buckets. Later as the rain cleared we waded through herds of yaks, goats, sheep and horses. Ahead the only sign of inhabitants the familiar white spec- a ger. Late in the evening we arrived at a canyon where the last rays of golden light were just catching the cliffs, steppe and mountains beyond. Unfortunately the grass was not good however so we followed a couple of herders returning from hunting back to their camp. For two days we have been resting the horses and entertaining the local families. At 9am they arrive at the tent and we do not have a second to ourselves until midnight. The boomerang and my platypus hydration bladder are favourite toys! We were almost out of food and so bought some fermented mare’s milk, yoghurt, dried yoghurt, yak butter and flour. At the moment my head is heavy and I need to sleep. We are adjusting well to the horses and are currently near Tariat. We have covered about 330km and hope that we can improve on our pace during the next week. The biggest problem in the past week has just been too many invitations into gers for Vodka and fermented mare’s milk (Airag). We have also come up with names for our three horses: the packhorse is ‘Pupser’ which means ‘farter’ in German (he tends to break wind as often as we break the trail), my horse is ‘Corolla’ (because it is white like my 1984 pride and joy, is efficient, responsive, low maintenance and pretty cheap as far as horses go), and Kathrin’s horse is ‘Schnecke’ (snail) because it has possibly the slowest walk of any horse on this earth. Distance is hard to gauge here with such long, wide horizons with nothing to give it a sense of scale. Every now and then when I see Kathrin in the distance inching her way along I get a sense that Hungary is still a bloody long way…..and the exciting thing is that I don’t really know what is going to happen between here and there.