BLUE SKY WALKABOUT: mongolia
150 years ago everyone knew how to ride a horse. In today’s world of fast paced car, truck and plane travel Nic and Donna aimed to recapture the beauty, romance and eco-functionality of long distance horseback travel by riding alone and unassisted across one of the world’s largest and least populated open expanses.
800 years ago, Genghis Khan founded the largest empire in history when his armies set out on horse to eventually conquer much of the Asian and European continents. Still raised on horseback, modern Mongolians retain to this day a nomadic tradition that sees many of its population move between summer pastures and winter shelter. Wild, untamed and situated on the vast Eurasian Steppe, Mongolia represents all things spectacular, hard fought and demanding that make for an adventure of truly epic proportions.
Mission complete: In October 2015 Nic and Donna successfully completed a daring four month, 2,000km unsupported crossing of Mongolia by horseback. Setting off in early June from the towering Altai Mountains bordering Russia the expedition saw Nic and Donna cross landlocked Mongolia from West to East. During the expedition which transversed some of the world’s most remote and least populated areas they and their four horses faced numerous challenges including vast desert crossings, gruelling high altitudes and wind swept, snow capped mountain passes. Nic and Donna traveled through the incredible heat of Mongolia’s dry summer and in recent weeks the frigid cold of the country's notorious winter often pitching their tent amongst hungry wolves. Nic and Donna also became privy to the culture and customs of one of the world’s last truly nomadic peoples by living a traditional horse based existence amongst its tribes. In one incident they even had one of their horses stolen by bandits during a midnight raid on their camp, an age old practice on the Mongolian steppe.
Colloquially known as the “Land of the Blue Sky” Mongolia receives on average 250 sunny days throughout each year. The country does however have the world’s most extreme diurnal temperatures with 24-hour changes in the Gobi desert of up to 35 degrees. September temperatures in the Gobi can be as low as -10°C and up to +50°C! Ulaanbaatar has the world’s coldest capital city with an annual average sub zero temperature and lows of up to -40°C.
Under Shamanism, which grew popular under the Mongol Empire, the central act in the relationship between human and nature is worship of the “Eternal Blue Sky”. The empire was famously tolerant of all religions and marked the fascinating first steps to secular society. Genghis Khan believed that like the life of nomads, people’s lives are difficult enough and subject to the pressures of nature and therefore shortcomings and different religions or customs should be tolerated. As a central pillar to his empire, Genghis Khan embraced diversity and decreed religious freedom for everyone.
For thousands of years Australia’s first peoples have been intricately connected to the land. They are custodians with spiritual and environmental obligations and see the land as a living entity. Travelling their respective country and understanding every aspect of the landscape is a uniquely Australian Aboriginal tradition.
An Australian Aboriginal person who is on ‘walkabout’ connects with their spiritual obligations by tracing the paths formed by their ancestors at the beginning of time. In the process important information is encrypted in songs and ceremony that have led to the concept of Songlines. These paths or Songlines crisscross Australia, connecting important waterholes, food sources and landmarks.
By going ‘walkabout’ Indigenous Australians enhance their cultural and spiritual connection with the land and their ancestors. Individuals on ‘walkabout’ appreciate the spiritual interconnectedness of all living things. They return with a sense of oneness within themselves and with the world in which they live.
“Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself”