originally posted by Katherine at 23rd August 2012 at 18:46
Race Day 4:
The second half of the leg we had begun the night before flashed by in a hurry. We had rested, our horses were good to go, and we found ourselves riding beside cultivated crops for the first time. “Must tell Viterra that they need some good kochia control in this part of the world” I thought, while at the same time experiencing a firm wave of homesickness for the first time. Who’da thought the sight of wheat growing beside a horse track would affect me so much? No time to dwell however, as we neared HS7, passed a soum with its requisite mad snapping dogs; and I picked up speed as my horse seemed as eager to move as I was. What incredible scenery! I cantered up a beautiful mountainside with interesting rock formations, turned a corner (the gers are usually hidden, remember) and there was HS7 like a beautiful mirage.
HS7 welcomes us in
For the first time I brought in a horse with an elevated heart rate, and walked to cool him down after my first reading of 80bpm. It didn’t take long, as I had not ridden the bejeezus out of him, but only picked up some speed coming up the hill. I was soon inside the ger, grabbing a snack and finding Alya who had decided this was enough for her and was on her way out of the race. We were sad to see her go, but respected her decision; but once invited, fell upon her pack of nuts, cookies and chewing gum like the mad ravenous road dogs that we had become. We were shameless scavengers at this point – can you imagine – cashews!! It was like manna from heaven. Bless you Alya, wherever you are right now.
Maybe this is why we were constantly behind - stopping to help whenever we could
Ronald helps push the truck that got stuck
The next leg of our race took us to the river bed, and we found ourselves coming into the next horse station a little bit off course. Crap! I thought, as suddenly we were into some amazing yet daunting sand dunes. “Those Dubai girls must have loved this” I thought, as I dismounted and trudged with my poor little horse, up and down sand dunes some 30 feet high, Anne in my wake and Ronald trailing in the distance. Once past them, we spotted the ger camp way off in the distance – not the closest one of course – remounted and rode into HS8 with time and energy to spare, even though we had been sand dune bashing for the better part of an hour.
Choosing our next mounts, Ronald, Anne and I got explicit directions from Unenburen on riding down the river. Our course was not the most direct, but would take us most of the way on flatter ground, allowing us to make up some time. An impending thunderstorm had made good on its promise to entertain us, and while the skies opened up with hail and rain, the thunder crashed and lightning lit up the gloom, we crossed the river a couple of times, then found the track and gave it all we had, with the intention of reaching HS9 before 9pm. Around bends and through brush…up and down and around, all at a pretty fast canter for the most part.
Being back on navigation duty, I directed us where Unenburen had directed me – most of the way down the river valley, then to where we were to turn off and head up into the mountains. “What do you reckon?” I asked as we passed a couple of “roads”. The problem was deciding which of the dirt tracks actually constituted a road according to our map, and which ones were only tracks leading to another ger camp. “Well, let’s just pick one and go with it” was the general consensus.
So it was that we found ourselves on top of a mountain, slogging our way up the steep slope, expecting to see a nice track on the other side leading the rest of the way to HS9…but seeing another mountain in the way instead. And while these horses were very willing to run up the mountains, they had a considerable reluctance to move with any speed going downhill. Sometimes they didn’t want to move at all. At this point, my stubborn “put your head down and just keep moving” side kicked in. I dismounted, grabbed my horse’s lead rope and coerced him down the rocky slope.
Anne, notably unimpressed (she didn’t seem to like mountains much, and I felt bad that we were on yet another one) followed Ronald and I at a much slower pace. I found a dry riverbed, jumped down a few feet with my horse still trailing me, made my way down the valley to where we could finally remount and continue on. Anne’s horse was lagging further and further behind – she would later recount this episode as one of those “You know when you have a nightmare or see a scary movie? Where everything’s black and blue and grey and deserted?” types of experiences. We were only 8km from HS9 with night moving in fast; Ronald and I pointed Anne in the right direction, and then rode hell bent for leather to make it before the 9pm curfew.
Ronald and I rode into HS9 on a cool rainy evening; I dismounted and told one of the vets they should probably go pick up Anne as I didn’t think she would be making it anytime too soon on her slower horse. However, she had already pressed her “Help” button on her spot tracker, so was in the process of being rescued. She later told us she had wandered into a ger camp, the people were incredibly indifferent to her, and to top it all off, they slaughtered the evening’s goat while she was waiting for her ride into camp! As she is a vegetarian, this was the crowning glory in one wretched leg of racing for her.
Dr. Duct Tape made the rounds that night
Erik's taped-up wound