The best of the rest.
If you have a day or two spare after the trip, we can arrange a visit to Khustai National Park to see the world's only true wild horse. The park is only two hours from UB, but staying over-night is best so you can see the horses as they come down to water holes to drink at dusk.
There is a good chance of seeing some of Mongolia's other increasingly rare wildlife such as wolves, elk and gazelle.
You might be thinking that using a support vehicle, rather than pack horses, detracts from the idea of the trip as a true adventure. There are several reasons why we use a support vehicle. Leading a packhorse is no easy matter, even for an experienced rider (think what happens when it makes a sudden unscheduled pee stop…), and does slow things down considerably. The vehicle allows us to take more gear and better food (we’re adventurers not martyrs!), and is our backup in the event of an accident. Perhaps the best thing about it is that if you just want to rest for a day, you can travel with the driver as he stops and visits the families of his friends and relatives and partake of their legendary hospitality.
Sometimes we arrange to meet the vehicle for lunch, but usually we don't see them until we meet up at the end of the day. If you would like to try a trip with pack horses (and/or camels), see our Altai Expedition.
It depends whether you go early in the season or later, and how high up you are. In July the mosquitoes and other bugs can be a bit annoying, but the reason they’re there is because of the profusion of wild flowers. As the weather cools off, the bugs decrease, but then so do the flowers. Take some insect repellent and you will be fine.
A traditional Mongolian remedy is to burn small piles of dry horse dung around the camp - it works well. A traditional Kiwi remedy is to eat a lot of vegemite...
Mongolian! If you know Russian, you may find someone who understands you, particularly older people. It is rare to find a Chinese-speaker, and best not to try it out on a stranger. Not everyone looks favourably on the giant neighbour to the south. Russia on the other hand is often viewed more like an old friend. In the Altai region where we ride, the local people also speak Kazakh.
It is extremely rare to find English-speakers in the countryside, but in Ulaanbaatar there are young people keen to practice their English with you. Learning a few key words and phrases in Mongolia is useful, and sure to get a laugh out of the locals. We provide you with a small card for your pocket listing important words, especially horse-related ones.
All our trips in 2010 will be lead by either John from New Zealand, or Jen from the US. Eventually we hope to have well-trained local people who can lead trips. We are working toward this, but are not yet ready to unleash them on you (or you on them?). So far we have found that our mix of foreign trip leader, Mongolian translator, and local wranglers working together as a team is ideal.
There is a secure lock-up at the hotel where you can leave any items you don't think you will be needing. It's not a bad idea to leave a set of clothes at the hotel to change in to after the trip, perhaps those you wore while flying to Mongolia.
Yes, we will be there whenever you arrive, even if it's an unsociably early hour of the morning. The same goes for dropping you off after the trip if you decide to stay on for a few days. We provide extra information, once you have booked, about what to do if you don't find someone waiting with a friendly smile waving a 'Zavkhan Trekking' sign.
In general, the price of the trip covers everything (see here for what is included). There is no 'local payment' required. Once we are riding, you will not see a shop or any other place to spend money. That's what we mean when we say it's remote.
The only things which you may need to spend money on after the trip starts are:
- Over-weight luggage – there is an allowance of 15kg per person on domestic flights, including hand luggage; you can pay an airline baggage fee if necessary (about $4USD/kg). If you have more than 20kgs, you have more gear than you need.
- Tipping – see below for this vexatious issue.
We will advise on how much money to take with you, 'just in case', and the likely costs if you are staying in UB before or after the trip.
We pay our local staff well, and they do not rely on tipping to supplement their income, in order to make a living. We say tip if you would like to, as a way for you to say thanks to the staff if you think they did a great job, but most definitely do not feel like you need to. All tips are pooled, so if you don't wish to tip, no one is any the wiser. We will advise you on a suitable amount.
Do you have a question that we haven't answered above?
If so, please don't hesitate to contact us.