Two years ago Galdan was in a serious car accident. His car rolled 25 meters and he flew through the windsheild. His tailbone shattered. The doctors couldn't even put steel rods in to stabilize him because of the numerous fractures. He spent $10,000 and a year the hospital to heal. I said he was lucky to be alive. He said, "Lucky? I'll live to be 100!"
He lost his driver license as a result of the accident, but he can still ride a horse. This is how he makes his living. Last night he found us a place to make camp, and this morning started a large warm fire in the chill of the mountain shadow. The sun was peeking over the mountain tops and mist was rising. The distant valley was full of fog. But the sky was clear and it was going to be a beautiful day.
I wasn't as sore this morning as I had anticipated. We rode off up the mountain through the pine forest. We were barely an hour into the ride when my left knee was in excruciating pain. The old skiing injury left it vulnerable and this was a more inopportune time to happen. The angle of the leg when riding a horse is such that my knee feels as though it is twisted. So I couldn't trot with the horse without more pain. We rested at the top of the mountains where I could take some Tylenol and gave some to Galdan for his back, which still can bother him as a result of the accident.
But what a view. It was the best view of the trek. On the mountaintop we stood, overlooking the valley with the river running through, and forested mountain peaks as far as we could see, perhaps a 100 miles. Gers dotted the landscape and horses grazed below us. Fay and I twirled like Maria VonTrapp. She picked wildflowers and we laid them atop a pile of rocks where other travelers had passed.
We walked the horses down the mountainside and headed for the river which was another hour's ride. Flies were abundant and the horses were feisty with itchiness. They were tough to control and it made for a challenging ride. The sky was blue and the sun shining warm on our shoulders. We couldn't have asked for a better day. Lunch was a welcome relief by the riverside.
It was the final stretch home. Or Geldan's home, that is. Another hour ahead of us, and we broke into song... Oldies, goodies, Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, BeeGees, on we went, delirious. Wind in our hair and song in our hearts. Okay, a bit sappy, but we were happy. Tonight we would be spending the night in the ger from two evenings ago. And so here we are... Our final night. We made it. Tomorrow we have a couple sights to see in the morning then we end at the hotel in the afternoon.
Once we made it back to the ger, Fay, Eku, and I walked into town. I was craving a cold Coke. The mini market only had cold beer, but room temperature Coke and bottled water would do just fine. We crossed some makeshift bridges and made a stop to soak our feet in the river. I couldn't resist rinsing my arms. We were sweaty and hot from hours in the sun, and the cold clear mountain water was a welcome relief. Cold water on my feet... Which surprisingly didn't hurt after the 5 days of activity we've had. This is my ode to my Merrill trekking shoes. I learned a lesson from the book Wild (I hear Reese Witherspoon is starring in the upcoming movie). Buy hiking shoes a half or full size larger. It was necessary. And blessed... Mud, water, rocks, tall grass, heat, you name it, my feet stayed comfortable, dry, and free of blisters. Yay! Along with my backpack, I love these two purchases.
Randomly, did you know that horses lay down when they sleep? I didn't.
Fay's horse took the lead again today, she was merely the passenger. Her horse was grey with a black mane. She was wearing a grey sweatshirt and has black hair. They matched. Poor Fay, though, kept trying to make her horse go faster and catch up with the group but it preferred to lag behind. Tchoo! Tchoo! (Go! Go!) she repeated and finally resorted to slapping the horse's ass to make it move. By the end of the day her right hand was filthy from spanking a dirty horse. Take that as you will. We had some good laughs over it.
At any rate, tonight we rest. Eku is making our final meal and I can't wait to start up a fire and relax. We've been talking about where to eat in UB when we get back. After a shower and some relaxation, of course. Tse Pub, perhaps, a cold drink and some pub grub sounds delightful.