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Most of you will have heard of Indiana Jones? Did you know that Steven Spielberg apparently based his character on 20th-century explorer-scientist Roy Chapman Andrews? Roy Chapman Andrews led the Central Asiatic Expeditions to  Mongolia’s Gobi in the 1920s?

Roy Chapman Andrews 1928, being made aware of an approaching caravan. Image Source – www.amnh.org

Mongolia has been attracting explorers and those with wanderlust for centuries.  The country continues to provide a genuine challenge that takes adventurers through some of the most remote and challenging routes through some of the most stunning regions to be found anywhere on earth. 

Mildred Cable was a missionary who travelled extensively in western and northwestern China in the 1920s. She was a  prolific writer, chronicling not just her missionary work, but her travels as well.  A number of her books (co-authored by her colleague Fransesca French) are considered ‘classics’  because of their descriptions of life in western and northwestern China in the first half of the twentieth century.

Back in 2015 we were proud to be assist Jack Toulson with his epic 3-month trek to eastern Mongolia – a planned solo expedition to cross Mongolia. On horseback. Two horses actually (as Jack writes on his expedition page):

‘With the world in a seemingly endless rush to get its hands on a Black Friday Asda telly, what better time to embark on a nostalgic adventure harking back to the good old days of equine exploration. Forget doing it fast or furthest. Just enjoy doing it. Ever since I could speak, I spoke of horses. Now I have the time and energy to do something few people would think of, or it turns out, care to do. Ride across Mongolia and visit one of the last nomadic horse cultures left. Really visit. Learn what it means to live or die by your horsemanship.’

 Jack’s planned expedition was recognised by The Long Riders Guild. The what? The Long Riders’ Guild is the world’s first international association of equestrian explorers and is an invitation-only organisation. It was formed in 1994 to represent men and women of all nations who have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey.

Tim Cope  was awarded National Geographic Adventure Honoree 2007 and Australian Adventurer of the year 2006.  His most renowned journey was a three and a half year odyssey from Mongolia to Hungary by horse on the trail of Genghis Khan and in the spirit of the nomads of the steppe. Image Source – www.timcopejourneys.com

 ‘The Long Riders Guild marks the first time in modern equestrian history that like-minded men and women are combining efforts to preserve a hitherto unmarked heritage and provide an international forum to discuss our mutual love of horses and travel. We believe the only valid definition of a Long Rider should be courage in the face of danger, resolve in the presence of hardship, and continual compassion for our horses.’

Born in Denmark, Henning Haslund originally travelled to Mongolia in 1923, ostensibly to help run an experimental agricultural project.  Henning, who was an excellent horseman, had already explored far afield by the time the farm failed. Henning was introduced to Swedish Sven Hedin, another  Central Asian explorer in whose company he spent several years exploring the Gobi desert and learning the basics of scientific research.

Of course, the whole success of such an expedition depends on the generosity, help and time of Mongolia’s nomadic herding communities – he relied on their local knowledge as the best place to access water and fodder for his horses. Also, they warned him of imminent bad weather and provided him with shelter when needed.

Through the expedition, Jack raised funds for CAMDA  – the Cambridge Mongolia Development Appeal. CAMDA (although now closed as a charity) was dedicated to supporting and bringing resources to Mongolia’s herders – not just by focusing on just financial aid, but real practical help, the sort that made a long term difference. This is one of the projects that we supported and their essential work included the restoration and replacement of fresh-water wells in addition to providing machinery to aid in crop harvesting during the short harvest period.

Rob Lilwall and Leon McCarron spent 6 months on their  5,000 km Walking Home From Mongolia expedition. From the Gobi Desert down to Hong Kong their route included following the Great Wall of China, paddling a stretch of the Yellow River, and trekking through the mountains of central China. Image Source – http://www.roblilwall.com

As Jack says:

‘The money raised continued to do good work long after I returned, and perhaps will go someway to repaying the kindness of people that have very little to give, but give it freely and without expectation. People who live in a harmonious battle with nature.’

In the summer of 2014, Ash Dykes walked across Mongolia, solo, and set a new world record in the process.  From the Altai Mountains, across the Gobi Desert to the Mongolian steppe, Ash covered more than 1500 miles alone on foot, pulling a 120kg cart of provisions behind him. During this epic test of endurance and stamina, Ash battled sandstorms, heat exhaustion and dehydration and became known to the natives as ‘the lonely snow leopard’. Image Source – www.ashdykes.com

Jack used a quote by Sir Francis Richard Burton on his website:

’Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks is the departure upon a distant journey to unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the Slavery of Home, man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood….afresh dawns the morn of life…’

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