Down By The River: Horse Packing, George Michael and Mongolian Moonshine

Jul 4

River crossings on wild Mongolian ponies

We have been amazed at how things always work out here. In the most improbable, impossible situations things just work out over and over again. Mongolians don’t really use maps, landmarks, GPS coordinates, or directions… even when they are in the middle of nowhere. They navigate by what they call “Holboo”. It translates roughly to intuition or connection to self.

We’d be romping through the middle of the Mongolian steppe for 12 hours on a dirt road in a 1970’s Russian minivan, in what seemed like circles, and our driver wouldn’t even know the cardinal direction. Yet some how we always made it to our destination—half a day later than planned, of course. Finding our way required an extremely beat up road, a lot of swerving back and forth, and a bunch of random stops at nomadic Gers (traditional nomad yurts) to ask which direction we should go. Even our horsepackers didn’t remember which valley we needed to follow when we started that part of the trip—super comforting as you head out into one of the most remote corners of Mongolia. Our journey has been such an incredible lesson in trusting intuition and letting things unfold with out so much controlling and intervening.

Sketchy mongolian bridge as we drive to Batshireet, our meeting point with the horse packers.

Sketchy Mongolian bridge as we drive to Batshireet, our meeting point with the horse packers.

But we settled in quickly to the Mongolian style of travel and really enjoyed the ridiculous rides we ended up on. The horsepack in was stunning, occasionally terrifying (think lightning and spooky ponies) and a lot of fun. We rode for three days through deep marshes, countless creeks, storms, howling wind and brief moments of beautiful sunshine. We took the most amazing meadow nap of our lives, taught some nomads to do headstands in their traditional dress and even had a few epic meadow dance parties with them. They didn’t like any of my favorite dance songs, but they couldn’t stop dancing when I put on techno. Classic.

Sabra and her pony—George Michael.

Sabra and her pony—George Michael.

We rode our wild-eyed Mongolian ponies, which we lovingly named after the worn out pop stars we thought they looked like—Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, George Michael and David Bowie. We rode on the rickety wooden saddles until we learned the true meaning of the words “saddle sore” and “chafe”. It hurts just thinking about it. And we definitely made some amazing friends without even speaking the same language. We just laughed, gestured, sang and spoke our own languages like the other crew understood. And somehow we all did.

Then all at once we were on the river we had been dreaming of for years! And she was as stunning as we imagined… the locals call her Mother Onon. And she definitely had a nourishing, motherly vibe. The upper section of the river was so wild and stunning—double rainbows, bear prints everywhere, vast expanses of untouched forests, and this perfect, beautiful river that flowed through it all. And tons of wood—massive trees that sometimes blocked the whole river—that always kept us on our toes. The place was absolute magic—the soul-shaking kind.


We have lived lifetimes out here in such a short time. It’s amazing to think the journey goes on still. More coming soon… until then, thank you for the continued love and support. We feel it, and we’re sending you big, fat, double rainbows of love from our remote corner of the world.


  • JennyJen

    spectacular! i am looking forward to hearing more the next time you get a chance. Sending lots of love for a wonderful, adventurous and safe journey. XOO

  • Susan LeVeque

    Dance is truly an international language and may I suggest singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” to your local hosts? Great fun and those animal sounds translate well!
    Safe and spectacular travels ladies!

  • Shannon Linton

    I am transported by your wonderful writing and stunning photos! Vicariously enjoying your adventure from such a great distance! Stay safe girls and bring your inspiring story home.

  • Melissa C

    George Michael is such a great name for a pony! Loved the update :) Safe Journey!