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Pain like never before

Day 4:  Birthplace of the Great Ghengis to Camp Spot #1 middle of nowhere

First day of our three day horse trek! The good news is, the horses are very small. The bad news is, our horse guide Tseren-dash tells us, is that they are half wild and haven’t been ridden much. Our horses are brothers. Mine is 11 and Ricks is 8.

I am so excited – it’s been five minutes and I haven’t fallen off.

Oh jeez. Thirty minutes in and the pain starts. For those that haven’t ridden a horse there are four stages of pain…I mean gait. Walking, trotting, cantering, and galloping. Trotting is the most painful phase and involves a sadistic horse bouncing up and down with the intent of putting as much bone jarring impact between saddle and butt as it possibly can. Imagine a really, really strong, angry dude on steroids and PCP taking a slab of concrete and with full force whacking it against your bottom and all nearby bones, as hard and fast as possible. Speaking of, to my dismay and amazement I realize there are more bones in my body than other people’s! Bones I didn’t know existed. They are situated somewhere between the top of my legs and the bottom of my pelvis, and are exactly positioned to meet the saddle on the downward phase of the trot. These bones start to jut through my skin so I shift position, leaning slightly backwards. All this leads to agony in my butt and is killing my back, so I try standing up. My left knee clicks out of place so I over compensate and stand on my right leg. Bad move on a horse – they tend to tip over. Now I’m supported by my ankles, which are at an inwards angle and quickly creating a new form of searing pain. The darn animal (I see now why they don’t name them, it’s not possible to love them) won’t walk and won’t canter but is thoughtful enough to offer up different kinds of trot. The fast trot (unbelievable pain), the middling trot (debilitating pain), and the slow trot (excruciating, please-let-me-die, North-Korean-torture-chamber, oh-God-what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this pain). Bambam’s favorite was the latter. I move through the 5 stages of horse riding – dismay, resignation, anger, hatred, and murderous thoughts. I ask Rick “Is it bad to wish that my horse will die so that I don’t have to ride it anymore?” (Apparently the answer is yes).

Rick is having his own set of problems. For various reasons he forgot to put on underwear that morning. This baffles me and is not a common event, but has something to do with wearing long johns the night before and forgetting to change out of them in the hurry to get to the horse guide on time. This means with every hateful bounce his man-parts are slapping up and down with no resistance besides his abrasive thermal undergarments. Over and over and over again, for hours. At about eleven we run into the van, that has taken a different route. Because there is no privacy Rick has to shamefacedly ask “Chinzo, I need to change my underwear.” God knows how Chinzo interpreted this, especially in light of later events. I ask Rick if he could have maybe used a better choice of words. The damage is done though, later that night Rick sees he’s been given a free manzillion and is bleeding in a place no man should ever bleed

At some point I guess I should say something positive about Mongolia so we put our heads together and came up with this:

“The landscape has moved from brownish-green to greenish-brown with a semi-impressive range of windflowers dusting the fenceless fields. There are thistles of dark, vibrant purple; tiny white blossoms; mauve daisies; red tea stalks topped with cotton-candy puffs; wild rhubarb, and weeds that starts from brown at the root, moving through gold, yellow, pale lime, and deep green at the top.

“Crossing rivers is mildly interesting. The horses all bend to drink and then plod their way across. They are sure footed and never make the slightest misstep. Sometimes we drudge through swamps, knee deep in muck; sometimes we have to duck to avoid tree branches (horses don’t think of anyone but themselves).

“The sunsets are amazing. A fantasy world in brilliant purple like I’ve never seen before.”

That’s all I’ve got.

We give up on keeping up with Chinzo and Tseren-dash and manage to get the horses to crawl. Horses do not like this (horses do not like anything, except causing me pain), so my biceps are dying constantly reigning Bambam back. Chinzo and Tzeren-dash find it impossible to go as slowly as us (it would be impossible to walk as slowly as us) so they go on ahead. They tell us the van will meet us for lunch, about 20 minutes from here.

An hour and a half later we make it to the lunch spot. Rick has been hit by the Mongolian Horse Flu, falls off his horse, and maintains the fetal position. I decline mutton pasta and tend to Rick, who alternates between convulsively shivering and sweating. We have to call uncle and give up on the rest of the day, another five hours ride. Rick’s romantic ideal of riding off into the sunset has been forever shattered (I have that effect on many of his dreams) and he has finally agreed that there is no value in suffering. For some reason we have a misguided belief that we are tougher than we are, leading us to go on long adventures we regret two days in.

The guides take it in stride (get it?) and adjust the route, packing us into the van and leading the horses the rest of the way.

The camp spot is arbitrary and when squinting, picturesque. Besides the fact that we are fed up constantly being around other humans it is pleasing enough. A major plus is that we don’t have to set up our own tent.

Chinzo, who is the boss guide, is starting to make me want to hit him. On and on about the superiority of Mongolians. Apparently Mongolia conquered 53 countries, which they call Old Mongolia. Chinzo has expanded his contempt from Russians and Chinese, to Americans, the British, all other Europeans except the French (who were the first to recognize Mongolia as part of the UN), and after talking to me, New Zealanders. He insists that Canada and America are the same country, and after telling him that that might be offensive to a lot of people, goes on to explain how we are wrong and details exactly why they in fact are the same country. He insists on calling George W. Bush Junior “our” George W. Bush Junior and believes that Rick and I are the sole reason Donald Trump is a presidential nominee. At this point I stand and walk out of the conversation, but not after suffering a 15 minute reprimand for pronouncing “Chinggis” as “Ghengis”, which is a western conspiracy to alter the history books.

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