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A travel company that specializes in women-only wilderness adventures vows that pairing women with one country’s icon – the horse – will yield epiphanies attributable to the raw landscape of Mongolia where small groups of women will saddle-up and ride.
Wild Women Expeditions, already topping the list with more active travel departures for women only than any other tour company in the world, also has more women-only adventures on horseback. In 2018 there are five departures of Mongolia’s Orkhon Valley Horseback Adventure.
“Wild Women Expeditions is all about women and wilderness and wild. Our horseback riding program in Mongolia, where we ride 12km to 40km daily for up to six hours, encapsulates our vision that women can move from their own comfort zones, take risks and begin to direct themselves in new and liberated ways – in just a few days,” said Jennifer Haddow, Owner of Wild Women Expeditions. “Our Mongolia programs, in addition to making this country accessible, are affordable in an expensive country that many women only dream of visiting – until now.”
In the 12th and 13th centuries, Genghis Kahn reigned supreme here, gathering horses and men sufficient to create the Mongol empire that extended far beyond the borders of present-day Mongolia. A violent world was punctuated by the silence and peace of Tibetan temples, a dichotomy still to be sensed while visiting national parks and settling into yurts in the Orkhon Valley, the summer camp of nomads and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A homestay family shares the life of nomadic breeders: milking the animals, preparing dairy products, cutting wood, playing with children and living in yurts. As most honored guests, visitors assist in preparing a Mongolian barbecue that features a goat or sheep slaughtered for the occasion.
As landscapes shift from forests to grassy plains to desert and sand dunes, riders explore assorted ecologies of the lush Orkhon Valley, mountains, steppes and waterfalls, as well as the mini Gobi Desert.
“Here where wild meets wild, you feel the contradictions of this place taking root within you. It brings to life the quiet, contemplative space in your heart – the glorious scenery, and sacred temples inviting you to seek inward. But what you find inside isn’t still, but rather vibrant and loud. As you cross large swaths of black lava, you feel your own inner rumblings, as alive as the volcanic earth upon which you ride. Someone has come upon their trusty steed to save you. And it is you,” added Haddow.
In advance of venturing on horseback into the wilderness, guests spend arrival day and evening in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, visiting the country’s most important museum and listening to khoomi (also known as Tuvan throat singing), a vocal technique that elevates the human voice to an other-worldly instrument unique to this region.
For horse lovers, Mongolia is a dream, noted Haddow. “We visit Khustai National Park, where conservation efforts include the reintegration of the Przewalski’s horse, Takhi (spirit or spiritual in Mongolian), a symbol of Mongolian national heritage and considered the world’s only genuine wild horse. These beasts also protect the forest steppe ecosystem. In 1945 there were only 12 breeding takhi in the world.“
She said that Wild Women Expeditions tours also offers a window into “some inspiring community development initiatives, such as visiting the Mongolian Quilting Centre. This is a non-profit association, whose purpose is to give unemployed and poor women, originally taken away from prostitution, and instead learn sewing skills to generate income for their families.”
Another Wild Women Expeditions trip in Mongolia, Marvels of Mongolia, mixes trekking with camel and horseback riding across grasslands and villages that may well owe their existence to the comings and goings of the fearless Genghis Kahn as he carved out what we know today as the Silk Road.
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