In August I rode for 10 days with Stone Horse Tours across the steppes and rivers of Gorkii Terelj National Park and the taiga forest and mountains of Han Khentii Wilderness Area. I worked in Mongolia between 2002 and 2008, but didn’t had the chance to immerse myself in Mongolia’s glorious landscape without trucks and endless driving.
I highly, highly recommend Stone Horse Tours. There’s no other horse riding outfit like them in Mongolia. The trip leaders are the owners of the company, Sabine and Keith, who live in Mongolia, are very experienced wilderness guides, and are active conservationists in Mongolia. They own the horses and Sabine even handcrafts some of the saddles. They have explored this region for 10-15 years and know the terrain. Two Mongol horsemen, Buyainaa and Byambaa, who were attentive to my needs, manage the packing, packhorses, and set up the campsites. I enjoyed their occasional quiet singing as we rode. Meals were delicious and satisfying. At my request, meals were vegetarian.
There were essentially two parts to the trip – trotting up the wide river valleys in Terelj National Park past herders and their gers and livestock. Nothing beats trotting up the steppe in tight formation. You really do feel like you can conquer the world!
From the steppe, after one of our many river crossings, we entered the boreal larch and pine forest of Han Khentii wilderness area where we spied wolverine tracks and later grizzly bear scat in the muddy trail. Pushing through alder bogs, we reached the headwaters of Tuul River (“Mother of the Tuul”), a distant wild place known to very few Mongolians, then headed south past mountain ponds and lakes, over mountain passes, with more river crossings over the Tuul, Terelj and Khongor Rivers.
This summer was rainy so many paths were boggy and very challenging, but the horses were adept at negotiating the difficult terrain. I can’t say enough about how great the horses were. They showed great “heart”, stamina, agility, and patience with a semi-experienced rider such as myself.
I would say that this is a horse trip for people with some riding experience, but, more importantly, who have a spirit of adventure, love of the outdoors, and are physically fit. Stone Horse Tours takes you way, way off the standard routes offered by other tour companies. This exceptional steppe and wilderness trip was just what I was looking for.
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