Tuesday 14th August - Day 6
We were again back at it right on 6.30am and the ride to station 20 flew by.
With the finish line now somewhat in sight our spirits were pretty good, still managing to enjoy the ride, and continuing to laugh. The path into 21 was through a valley floor so the riding was fast and flat. The horses handle the flat ground significantly better than the undulating terrain, so it allows you to keep moving, especially in the times outside the heat of the day, to cover a lot of ground.
Out of station 21 Bots had a slow horse but by riding together we managed to keep it moving along.
We took turns to lead the slow horse and hunt it along to keep it moving and minimise time lost. At one point, we looked to see Bots, no hands on the reins being led and hunted from behind, trying to light a cigarette as we moved along.
Buoyed by the lure of the finish line, we moved along the steppe well and at station 22 we met up with Tom (owner of the Adventurist) who was waiting on his riding gear and promised to catch us up to ride with us for a few hours. He did just that within half an hour and we moved along well to station 23. It had been a long and hot day, but with an hour to ride we decided to make a dash for a camp with water 20km away. Exhausted, Jos had asked the herders for a relatively quiet horse as she didn’t think she would have the energy to hold onto a fast one.
We had now ridden as a 6 for nearly 4 full days and again, we made our target and managed to find a family near water that would have us for the night. They were a young couple with small daughter and after sending Bots to negotiate on the group’s behalf, he called out from on top of the hill for the 7 of us (Tom still riding) to come up and stay with them. They offered us a corral to house the horses, which we used and hobbled the horses inside.
The Wife sent husband into town to shop for food to feed us for dinner. Throughout the night, we had steady influx of visitors from their extended family to check us out and say hello. Much of this was entertaining for us, when the father of our host rolled in for a cup of tea after a long day herding and drinking alcoholic mares milk.
The wife prepared us an amazing spaghetti bol for dinner, and at the end of the night offered us their Gur to sleep in, and said that they were going to sleep, along with their 2-year-old child, in the car.
After insisting that we sleep outside, we went to bed under the stars, horses watered, fed and locked in a corral for the night, humbled yet again by the Mongolians’ willingness to give us everything they had, and to make us a priority. These people largely have nothing, yet they leave you with no doubt they would give you the shirt off their back if they thought you needed it.
It was our longest day of riding for the race and we found out that night that there were 5 other riders just in front of us, the closest of which was only 15km up the road at camp at camp 24.
Day 6 Stations Travelled: 4.5
Day 6 Km travelled: 168