If it is your ambition in life to ride across the wild open spaces of Outer Mongolia in the valleys once travelled by Genghis Khan during the days of the Great Mongol Empire, this is your chance now. Genghis Khan established his military headquarters in the Orkhon Valley, a part of Mongolia where all preceding central Asian empires had also located their capital, and this is the part of the country where we take you.
Horsemen from this area travel with us, loaning their horses as well as their skill and humour. They have little opportunity to earn money during the year, so this trip is an excellent way for them to make enough to support their families for some time. Even though nomadic people are largely self-sufficient, they still need to buy school books for their children, medicines, flour and other basic essentials.
We travel in the mountains and valleys of Ovorkhangai province, on rough jeep tracks and horse trails. On one afternoon we will also show you the terrible destruction caused by the gold mining industry – an ecological tragedy of huge significance to the people of Mongolia. It is important that people from outside know what is happening here. It is such a remote place, hidden from the world, that these activities have gone largely unnoticed by the international community for several years already.
During the horse riding trip we camp in Western-style tents as there is no other choice of accommodation in this remote area. Our staff understand the need to leave no trace behind them and all rubbish is carried until we can dispose of it properly. Local people are interested – and pleased – to see that we take the effort to carry rubbish so far to avoid spoiling their beautiful environment. Our tourists tend to show a very good example to the locals, whose experience of non-biodegradable-rubbish is very limited. Also tourists are instructed before arrival in Mongolia of the requirement for biodegradable soap, shampoo, etc. because washing is often in rivers.
Accommodation on two nights will be at a ger camp where authentic ger tents have been set up for tourists and furnished with beds and a stove, with toilet and washing facilities on the site. The ger camp is owned by a local entrepreneur and the staff are all people from the Kharkhorin area, who benefit greatly from the opportunity to get a modest cash income during the short tourist season. Each ger has a wood-burning stove which staff will light if requested. We discourage our clients from using this facility if it is not very cold because the fuel used is trees cut down in the nearby forests.
Visits to local families are spontaneous, not artificially created experiences packaged for tourism. This is a nomadic population and we do not know beforehand where families will be. It is most likely that we would be invited to visit the relatives of one of the horsemen who is travelling with us as there are many families who have set up their gers not far from the Orkhon river beside which we ride. The tradition of hospitality and sharing of news by passing travellers is such that a visit like this is quite normal within the culture and not viewed by the hosts as an imposition.
We suggest to our clients that they bring photographs of their own homes to show and small gifts such as souvenirs from their own town. According to the situation, we may give a suitable amount of money to the host family. This would be done by the tour leader only and is taken to be a gift rather than payment for services given.
The ger camp where we stay at Kharkhorin has a small shop where they sell paintings, traditional clothing, carvings and other crafts, made during the winter months by people in the area. Our tourists are encouraged to buy souvenirs here as they are genuine mementos of the holiday and will certainly help to support the families of the shop owner and the craftsman.
Because we ride near to the Orkhon Waterfall and surrounding volcanic gorge, we are obliged to pay a “Protected Areas Service Fee” on behalf of each tourist (already included in price of tour). The fee contributes towards the following services: (i) introduction of the activities of the information centre (in Ulaanbaatar) and eco-ger and provision of information on legislation and security activities of the protected areas, (ii) regulation of camping places (iii) to provide tourists with information, brochures, booklets and warnings, (iv) garbage disposal.
The company is owned and run by Mongolians with small offices in Mongolia, UK and Germany. The itinerary for this trip, and indeed the whole brochure, can be downloaded from our website, reducing the need for printing in most cases. Upon booking a tour, clients are given a Tour Dossier which includes a section on attitudes and behaviour. We explain some of the most important issues so that tourists will not be embarrassed nor locals offended. During the tour, the leader or interpreter will educate the group on the more important points of Mongolian etiquette so that everyone feels more comfortable when we enter a local home or temple.