Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Dan, my friend from California, came up to the ranch Friday night and stayed for two days.

The first day, he, Jonathan, and I took a long horse ride to the north. The four dogs from the ranch came along, and this provided us some additional activity in the form of keeping the dogs from chasing the grazing cattle and horses that we encountered.

It was a very good ride, including great views, a steep descent, some interesting terrain, and several good gallops. We met one old herder with a flock of sheep on top of the ridge, and I talked with him a bit. He was from Orkhon.

In the last leg of the ride, when we were almost home, Jonathan and Dan began complaining about their sore butts. I later reported to Martin that one was “winging” (because he’s Australian), and the other was “whining” (because he’s American).

That was the second time in his life that Dan had ever been on a horse. The first was the night before, after we had arrived on the train and Mongon and Martin had met us at the station with mounts to ride back to the ranch.

Dan came into Martin and Minjee’s ger in the morning while we were still sleeping and said, “Where’s my breakfast?” Later, we attested that “Get it yourself!” is the only appropriate response to such a question.

Dan really enjoyed playing with Zaya. The rest of us concurred that he was probably going to go home and get his wife pregnant.


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email message from Dan to friends:


I've now been in Mongolia for five days. It's Monday morning here in Ulaanbaatar; our train back from the ranch dropped us here at about 7AM, and I'm going to finally attempt to write something interesting for you.

I'm starting to figure out Radigan's definition of "ecstasy." I think it involves a tremendous degree of personal freedom, horses, and a dawning realization that we're not as weak as we're taught to believe we are. For example: our train up on Friday evening arrived at Orkhon at 3 in the morning, and the means of transportation from the station to the ranch was horse. Never having ridden a horse before, the instructions given to me were: "get on."

The horse was led by Martin, a man I can't begin to describe in this format, but suffice it to say he's a good guy. So in fact I didn't really need to know anything. But the next day, when we took the horses out after lunch, the instructions given to me -- this time without anybody leading -- were still "get on." It turns out, that's pretty much all you need to know about riding a horse.

It was a beautiful ride. From the ranch, three of us rode across the steppe a short way to the thawing Orkhon river... up a hill, yielding beautiful panoramic views of the landscape which I took no pictures of whatsoever... down the other side, through a frozen bog, then along the train tracks coming back... On the way we saw sheep, cows, wild horses... The dogs that followed us from the ranch kept trying to play games with the livestock we passed by. It was a long ride, at least for my first ride. The GPS showed us being a bit over four miles away as the crow flies, at what I think was our furthest point away from the ranch, but I figure we actually rode over ten miles in total, across what would have been very taxing terrain for a person to hike. Anyway, the point is: there I was, on my own horse, literally galloping across the steppe in Outer Mongolia.

Ass, legs and lower back were pretty sore after that, so I spent all of Sunday taking photos around the ranch and relaxing.

Alcohol has also played a role here. I've had my share of Altai, a drink made with some kind of berry. We also broke out the baijou I picked up in Beijing, but after maybe half a shot each, it was determined to be undrinkable.

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