Once again Will and I were playing catch-up to those who left Urtuu 2 before we managed to get organized and on the trail. This was our third set of horses and they were good steady mounts. This time I had the slower horse, but not significantly slower than Will’s horse. We caught up to Hanna, who was riding alone and letting her horse drink at a creek crossing. Hanna joined up with us again and we were happy to have her company. We crossed about three more creeks and were heading up a path when a vehicle starting honking at us. We thought it might be one of the organizers saying we were headed off in the wrong direction so we turned around to see who was in the vehicle. As it turned out it was just some locals wanting to wave “hello”.
We could see on the other side of the bog Venetia, Tatiana and Tim Finley riding at a quick pace. Hanna mentioned that we were off the track according to her GPS, but we didn’t want to cross the bog at that point and decided to carry on as we were still headed in the correct direction. The organizers had loaded GPS coordinates into our GPS, which also gave us the “preferred” path to follow. However, it was easy to stray from the preferred path depending on the terrain we wanted to avoid or how often we looked at our GPS.
The horses were fairly lively so we were able to trot and canter for quite a bit of the time. We were all feeling pretty good and enjoying the ever changing landscape. We came upon another flock of goats and sheep and tried not to scatter the flock as we could see a herder trying to move them in a particular direction. Whichever direction we pointed our horses, we could ride for hours and days without opening a fence, or riding through a town or even crossing a road. This must have been how our ancestors felt when they rode across North America, looking for land to call their own.
Eventually our paths crossed with Tim, Venetia and Tatiana and the six of us rode together. Every single one of us had the biggest smile on our faces as we picked up the pace. The bigger the group of horses running together the more competitive the horses became. Each one tried to get in front of the other as we galloped across the steppe. However, as Will passed me I noticed that something flew out of his pocket. I think it was lollies. Will checked his pockets and all was in order, but then he checked his saddle bag and realized one of the zippers had opened and he had lost some batteries and other items. This was not a good on just Day 1 of the race. Hopefully it was not essential camping gear that he lost, but there was no time to go back and look.
It had been quite some time since we had watered our horses and Will saw a stream out of the corner of his eye so we turned abruptly to the left and let the rest of the group continue in the direction they were going. Even though we were once again off the preferred path, it seemed to be the right choice as it gave our horses a chance to drink and luckily the third urtuu was about 2km directly in front of us. We dismounted and checked our horses’ pulses. They were both up in the 70s so we just walked the horses all the way to the urtuu for their vet checks. It took about 20 minutes for our horses’ pulses to come down to the required 56 bpm, but we passed the vet check and went to choosing our horses.
Since we knew that we would be spending the night camping, we didn’t want to pick any horses that were too wild to handle. Will jumped on the back of this black horse that looked like a rocket. That horse leaped into the air and was ready to bolt. Will quickly jumped off and determine this would not be a good horse for camping. He would be extremely fast, but too dangerous to hobble overnight. Will picked my horse for me as it happened to be tied next to the one he chose and they both looked the same. Nice and calm and easy to handle.
We were actually the first to leave Urtuu 3 on our fourth set of horses. But after a km or two Will realized he dropped his glove somewhere along the way. We backtracked for a bit, but it was taking too much time so we decided that Will would have only one glove until we were able to borrow or purchase another hopefully from a herder.
As we were laughing about Will’s capabilities to hang onto his supplies, Tim came thundering past us on the big black rocket that Will put back on the tether line. Tim yelled out to us that this horse was not slowing down and he would see us later. We watched as he galloped out of sight and wondered when we would see Tim next.