Derby Diary #6
December 1, 2020
Category: Mongol Derby
Sometimes riders hit the Mongolian version of the adventure jackpot and get to witness the unique juxtaposition that is Mongolian life: fresh meat for dinner, a multi-generation family sleep-over, and a mobile ice cream vendor in the middle of nowhere. Add in a timely “holy visitation” and you have Margreete’s story:
Margreete Voermans ~ “After losing Jesse as our navigator (his horse ran away in the night) Sara and I set off together. We decided to continue sleeping at local gers and not at horse stations, as we thought we could make more distance. That night we left the horse station with 45 mins to spare, but with 10 mins until curfew we still didn’t see a ger. Finally, at five mins left before curfew, we found a kind of ger. There were dogs trying to attack us, but there was no other option than to stop there and pray the dogs didn’t bite.
When we arrived the family was all out butchering a bunch of goats. As a veterinarian, I was very impressed and interested in how they separated the organs, but Sara, as a vegetarian, was close to vomiting. After last night’s experience and Jesse losing his horse, we decided to put our horses in a small paddock so they couldn’t escape. We put our saddles in the family’s truck, played with the children, and gave them small presents. The lovely family gave us food and we got a place to sleep. They were living in a sort of gypsy-like wagon on wheels, and we all fit inside, including the 4 children and grandfather.
At 3:00 am, Sara woke me up and shouted “The truck is leaving with our saddles!” I jumped out of my sleeping bag and we ran outside in our thermo underwear trying to stop the truck. “Our saddles!” we yelled. Then we saw they had put the saddles under the wagon. “Mama mia….” we said , and returned back to our big bed, next to grandfather, for another hour of sleeping.
The next morning we took off on our horses. It was a hot day, but we had just a couple of stations to go until the finish line. After the second horse station, we walked our horses as it was too hot to gallop. We were exhausted. We were passing a village when a car stopped. The driver was selling ice cream, so we got an ice cream. It was like going to a five star restaurant. Eventually, we reached the next horse station, cleared the vet check and changed horses.
By then it was so hot. I probably didn’t drink enough and we were both exhausted, but we were in second place so we wanted to keep going. We left the station bound for the nearby mountain valley, wondering if Jesse would catch up to us. Somehow we ended up lost in the mountains with a dead GPS. We really didn’t know what to do, and started looking around for a herder to help us. All of a sudden we saw a guy galloping towards us in the distance. I shouted to Sara: “Sara! Jesus is arriving!” to which she responded “Margreet I think you have heat stroke.” I shouted again “No look, he is coming to save us!” As the rider got closer Sara and I could see that it was Jesse. He caught up to us and asked what we girls were doing in the middle of the mountains. “Just lost, what else?” we replied. I was totally exhausted, but Jesse said “Hold on Margreet, we will make it together. It took me two days to catch up with you girls.” He took my horse by the lead rope rope and we galloped together to the next horse station.”