Thursday 16th August - Day 8
We woke to rain for what would be our last 30km stretch of the derby.
We were still keen to try and beat Valeria who had joined us the night before, knowing all too well that it would be difficult for all 6 of us to beat her to the finish.
As the 6.30 riding time started, it was obvious that she was intent on racing us all the way to the finish line also! We flew the final leg and in just over an hour we were within 5km of the finish line.
The 6 of us were still riding together, and after playing cat and mouse for the first hour, we were in a group with Valeria.
With 5km to go, all 7 of us made a sprint for the finish line. The 6 of us hoping that Valeria’s horse would tire, and no doubt Valeria spurred on by the chance to jump up 6 places in the race by getting past our group.
With 3km to go, Bot’s horse ran out of gas and dropped off the pace, closely followed by Ed. As the remaining group continued.
We had not spoken of crossing the finish line as a 6, but it was about now that Ed and Bots had wished they had bought it up.
Jos, Rob, Jack and Henry were all still powering along racing Valeria. As they got closer and closer to the finish line Ed was still hopeful that the boys would wait to cross together and sure enough, as they were almost out of sight, Rob slowed, followed closely by the other 3 to wait for Ed and Bots and to ensure the full complement of riders, having ridden together for just over 5 days, would cross the line together.
We had lost a place to Valeria who had ridden exceptionally through the derby and had our most enjoyable leg of the 8 days in the race to the finish.
At 8.15 am on the 8th morning of riding, all 6 riders, completed the 2018 Mongol Derby in 9th position.
We had managed to ride the entire race as a group of 4 (aside from a brief stint on day 1), and as a 6 from the morning on day 3, something we were told would be impossible.
Day 8 Stations Travelled: 1
Day 8 Km travelled: 29
It was a relief to make it. As we unsaddled and final vet check cleared, we were given showers and fresh clothes we had sent from start camp. We were greeted by the winners, and by those who finished ahead of us. It was fantastic to hear their own stories of the derb, and to hear of their adventures, sights, experiences and their own challenges along the way, before celebrating with all the competitors at the finish line.
After thinking for 7 days, “if only we had had more luck”, at the finish line you realise that every competitor is in the same boat. Each riding having their own stories of bad horses, of falling off and of being sick along the way.
The next few days were spent cheering in the remaining competitors and hearing their adventures. As the last competitors rode into camp on the final evening of day 9, it bought to a close, an unforgettable 10 days. on successful completion we found out that 2 of the competitors would be getting married that evening which was an amazing surprise.
Our time at the finish line gave us a chance to again reflect on what we had just achieved. We had ridden 29 different horses over 1000km. We had not passed through a single gate and we had seen less that 5km of fencing over the whole journey.
We have been blown away by the nomadic way of life, the Mongolian culture, their horses (apart from a few) and most amazingly, their generosity towards us. They have nothing, give endlessly with no expectation, yet are content and happy. They are an amazing people and we can only hope that this is not lost in the future.