I got an email from my cousin Anne-Marie a few days ago. No big surprise there – she drops me a line from time to time, even though she’s 25 years younger than I. What caught me off guard was the fact that she was writing from Beijing. About a trek she’d just finished. On horseback. In Mongolia. Wow!
Anne-Marie is a green-eyed, red-headed beauty, with a quiet assurance rarely found in a woman her age. Her delightfully adventurous spirit, which began to blossom relatively recently, is now in full bloom.
She visited New Zealand in 2007. This year she's spent mostly in Milan pursuing her university studies. (Going back to university in her mid-twenties has been a great, she says. She feels her maturity and real-life work experience help her to make the most of the academic opportunity.)
The stunning photographs she attached to her Beijing email left me breathless. The words that accompanied them fired my imagination and whetted my own appetite for adventure.
Translated from French, here’s the gist of what she said:
How are things with you? Give some news I want to know everything!
I just arrived in Beijing from Mongolia, I was pretty sad to leave but visas and train schedules just made it work out better this way. Mongolia was absolutely amazing, another one of my favorite countries… I went on a 2-week horse trek, just as I was dreaming of… We camped by our horses at night or we were hosted by very welcoming families in their "yurts."
We had a guide that spoke English very well so I was able to ask almost all the questions that were haunting my curious mind even if I was deeply troubled by some of the things I learned…
My horse was a great teammate, well disciplined, strong and confident, the best I have ever ridden! Families opened their hearts and their homes to us and we got involved in their day-to-day activities – I was told I was a good cattle herder with my horse, wasn't as talented milking cows, but I managed to help the guys catch lambs, which impressed them because it is a lot harder that it can seem – the friend I was traveling with was really ashamed that he wasn't able to catch a single one!
I tasted so many variations of dairy products from camel, sheep, goat, and yak milk to yoghurt, kurd, butter, and cheese to all kinds of other recipes and mixes.
Life is hard for people in the countryside but it is even worse for so many people and children in UB, the capital. Corruption runs as high as poverty it seems. I was lucky enough to be traveling with the now retired head of the department of conservation of British Columbia. She was an astonishing source of knowledge and inspiration.
The countryside is stunning, so many wide-open spaces, so little development it even makes traveling in the country quite a challenge! The latest problems that followed the elections didn’t touch me directly – I was not in UB at the time.
Beijing is in full Olympic mode, workers are everywhere, the discipline and energy of the workforce is quite astounding. I believe it now more than ever that China will be the next world power…
That said I was quite shocked and frustrated to have all my books meticulously examined by customs agents before crossing the border and I won't even talk about how they pushed me to the edge with their visa requirements…
It still feels weird to know I am slowly on my way home but I am getting used to the idea and starting to think about all the great things and people that are waiting for me… plus it is really too hot here! In the Mongolian mountains it was comfortable not to say cold especially at night – it hailed on us about 3 times!
See you soon,