The Horse Stations
This is no guided tour, or pony trek. There is no marked course, no packed lunches, no shower block, no stabling. That’s the whole point. It's just you, your team of horses and a thousand kilometres of Mongolian wilderness. And possibly a GPS. The course consists of 25 Urtuus, or horse-stations where you swap horse and refuel. You must change horses at every station and deliver your mounts to their destination in mint condition. But how you navigate between them is where your adventure begins.
We spend many months designing and testing the Mongol Derby un-route, making sure there is enough water available for the horses, enough goosebumps for the riders, and that it will deliver the greatest equine adventure in the world.
The exact course changes each year and is kept secret until shortly before the launch. It is likely to encompass the following variety of terrain; High passes, green open valleys, wooded hills, river crossings, wetland and floodplains, sandy semi-arid dunes, rolling hills, dry riverbeds and of course open steppe.
In 1224 man of the millennium Chinggis Khaan set up the world's first long-distance postal transmission system. Using a massive network of horse stations - morin urtuus in Mongolian - his hardy messengers could gallop from Kharkhorin to the Caspian sea in a number of days.
For ten days each August, the Mongol Derby recreates this legendary system, building a network of urtuus at 40km intervals along the entire thousand kilometre course.
Each urtuu will consist of a small collection of gers (canvas and felt tents which the herders live in), a supply of fresh horses, a vet team and a few herders. While you don't by any means have to stay at the urtuus each night, this is a chance, should you want to take it, to get some rest, hang out with the herders, imbibe some airag (mare's milk) and eat an awful lot of mutton.
If you want to streak ahead and sleep wherever you find yourself at moonrise, then the steppe is your oyster and you and your horse can enjoy a romantic night out under the diamond-studded vault.