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Racing the Mongol Derby: A Thousand Kilometers of History

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<Getting my horse back—my third mount of the day—cost me an hour and my alarm clock, a fancy Timex Ironman watch. Considering the day I’d had, it was a bargain. That morning I had crashed with the first horse I’d been issued; he had stepped into a marmot burrow at full gallop, and we did a synchronized somersault that would have been impressive to observe but hurt like hell. A few hours later, I sank my second horse to his chest in quicksand and then swam him across a furious river.

Now this nag was too tired to make the next checkpoint, which, according to my GPS, lay eight miles ahead. It was mid-August, the sun would set in about an hour, and temperatures would start dropping into the forties. I needed to find a place to camp and to somehow make a fire in this treeless landscape. I was about halfway through the Mongol Derby, and it was shaping up to be a long day.>

Nice weekend read.

I had never heard of this before: " The Mongol Derby is a loose re-creation of Genghis Khan’s 13th-century communication system—a fast-horse mail relay, a precursor to our Pony Express of 600 years later. Unlike the Khan’s riders, we had no time-sensitive communiqués. But, like them, we did get issued a new horse every 25 miles, riding from urtuu (horse station) to urtuu. We would start approximately 60 miles south of Ulan Bator, ride in a clockwise arc to the west and north and, 24urtuus, three mountain passes, countless rivers and creeks, and one surreal dune field later, finish at the foot of a dormant volcano about 250 miles northwest of where we began. The route would entail some 650 miles of riding; organizers figured the first rider would finish in about eight days."

Thank you for sharing. Fascinating!

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