Photo courtesy of Robin Baire
Robin Baire, Lorah Super and Jil Wickander with their guide in Mongolia.

By Joanna Bastian

Three wild horsewomen would like to share their recent Mongolian experience by bringing their Mongolian guide to the Methow Valley.

Robin Baire, Lorah Super and Jil Wickander recently completed a two-week guided horseback tour through the UNESCO world heritage sites and national parks of Mongolia. Impressed with the experience, they asked their guide, Dagva Jambatseren, to come to the Methow Valley to share the experience with the community. Dagva enthusiastically accepted the invitation, and is hoping to visit sometime in September or October and give a cultural presentation to people here in the Methow Valley.

Robin learned about the horseback guided tour through a page on Facebook titled, “Wild Women Expeditions:  Orkhon Valley Horseback Adventure — Mongolia.”

“Every one of those words appealed to me,” Robin thought, and she began inquiring if other horsewomen would like to join. Lorah was the first to pony up: “I read the trip descriptions of riding all day through these sites and then ending the day by soaking in hot springs. I’m a busy mom, hot springs after a day of riding sounded good!” Jil soon joined the trio and the Methow Valley horsewomen planned their early summer expedition.

The trip was for 16 days in the beginning of June. “It was a short time to be there, but a long time to be away from here,” Robin said. Preparation for the trip included long hours in the garden — as any Methow Valley gardener can empathize during the beginning of garden season.

Their expedition started in Ulannbaatar, the capital of Mongolia in the Tuul River valley. The women toured the National History Museum with their guide, Dagva, who provided knowledgeable insights into the rich history of the region from prehistory to Genghis Khan to the Soviet period. In the evening, the women enjoyed traditional performances including folk dances and singing.

The second day started with a two-hour ride into Khustai National Park. The park is home to the world’s only wild herd of Przewalski’s horse, an ancient breed that was saved from extinction by the Mongolian horse people.

The next morning, the women began their seven-day ride through the Orkhon Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site that reflects thousands of years of nomadic pastoralism, and significant events in human history as the center of the Mongolian Empire. The riders found the scenery to be much like the Methow Valley. They rode along the river through basalt fields and gradually ascended into larch forests full of wild peonies, the full robust blossoms taking everyone’s breath away. Daily, the women rode through large herds of yaks, sheep, goats and horses, passing by nomadic camps. “It was amazing how calm the animals were,” Robin noted, “and everyone was so friendly. We’d ride around the camps to give them privacy, and people would wave.”

At the end of the first week, the women arrived at the Tovkhon Monastery built into a cliff rising 2,312 meters above sea level, affording them a view of the whole Khangai mountain range. The women would visit many monasteries on their trip, home to cultural artifacts hidden away during the Stalinist purges in the late 1930s.  “No photos were allowed inside,” Lorah said, “just what you can carry with you” in memories.

The second week of the expedition was spent exploring Naiman Nuur National Park, followed by the Mini-Gobi. The lakes within Naiman Nuur are accessible only by foot or hoof. Rolling hills, waterfalls and extensive larch forests led the horsewomen over mountain passes and to quiet mountain lakes.

Evenings were spent with nomadic families, sleeping in gers (yurts) or teepees. “It felt like ‘glamping,’” Robin said, noting the luxury level of some of the gers. The visitors were welcomed with food, warm salted milk, which was, “surprisingly refreshing,” and slices of sweet butter made from yak’s milk.

The travelers found themselves connecting with the guides, finding a commonality in gardening, living off the land, and in their relationships with their horses.

Wanting to share this incredible experience with others, Robin is working to bring Dagva to the Methow Valley to present Mongolia’s rich past and ongoing culture. Dagva is a guide with Horseback Adventure Company, an enterprise that works with nomadic families to give them a source of income. Dagva is very knowledgeable in Mongolia’s history, culture and natural landscape. Dagva needs assistance with travel expenses. If you would like to help, please email Robin Baire at 3baires@gmail.com.

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