This is no holiday, but if you want to see Mongolia as the Mongolians do, you have to do it from a horse, and travel independently, staying and eating with nomadic families or kipping under the stars. The Adventurists have made this possible, having reinstated the 'pony express' postal network initiated by Ghenghis Khan in the 13th century, and created a very ambitious equine adventure race. You navigate using a GPS, changing onto a fresh horse at horse stations posted every 40kms, travelling 1000kms in around ten days. As well as allowing you to maintain a swift pace, this brings you into contact with a series of Mongolian herding families, an unforgettable experience. I crossed virgin steppe, pristine rivers, forest, flood plain, mountainous and even desert sections, braved storms and sunstroke, made friends for life and found an even deeper respect for horses than a lifetime around them had kindled. It was the journey of a lifetime and I would have ridden all the way home again if I could have! It's a completely inspired event, totally unique.
Mongolia is a notoriously tough place to get your 5-a-day and wholefoods, but if you're craving fresh produce while visiting Ulaanbaatar you no longer need rely on those suspiciously glossy looking imports in the State Department Store. There's now a single row of stalls in the square outside the former Museum of the Revolution every Saturday selling home-grown berries, vegetables caked in the soil of the steppes, honey, fungi, an array of sour but sumptuous cheeses and other intriguing commestibles. The atmosphere is typically friendly and down to earth, and you can sample the cheese and honey. Best of all, you can duck into the guanz (cafeteria ger) at the end of the row and hunker down with the locals to quaff bowl after bowl of fermented mare's milk while chewing a plateful of horsemeat (the Mongolian equivalent of mother and child reunion) boiled up with jacket potatoes.
About a kilometre west of the Natural History Museum on Khuvsgalchdyn Orgon Toroo, the street north of and parallel to Peace Avenue.
Horseback riding tour in Mongolia. Genuine meeting with locals far from the tourist spot, great service and friendly staff, great materials, included European trekking saddles and amazing food served duing the trip (yes, in Mongolia !)
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