Back when I was a person who owned both a car and a horse, I used to get a catalog from an equestrian-themed travel agency. They could hook you up with a fox hunt in Ireland that would be glad to have you ride along with the hounds, or a Dutch dressage trainer with no objection to having you work his Grand Prix horses for a week or so.
But I wasn’t interested in that. There were only two trips that seemed worth the time and money. One was a tour of Iceland’s volcanic inland on that country’s native ponies, and the other was a trip across the Mongolian steppes, retracing the route of Genghis Khan.
People laughed at me when I mentioned this. Both trips, the catalog warned, were not for those fearful of roughing it. The diet on the Iceland trip would be mostly mutton, and this after an average of 25 miles in the saddle each day. (But! We would soothe our saddlesores in volcanic hot springs, stay with the locals and cover those miles at a gait only Icelandic ponies do, called the “tolt.”) The Mongolian trip would be similarly grueling, with lodging in yurts and a diet consisting mostly of yogurt.
I should have done at least one of these. Now I probably never will. (I’m certainly not in shape for a 25-mile day horseback, which would have been tough at the top of my game.) But my fascination with both countries remains, although now I mostly live it out through newspaper stories like this.
Seems someone thinks he’s found Genghis Khan’s tomb:
Finding the spot where the great Mongolian conqueror was laid to rest in 1227 by his famed horseback warriors would fill in a blank that has fascinated historians for centuries. Although he and his descendants galloped out of Mongolia to subdue most of the known world, Genghis Khan was buried without a monument or even a headstone, in keeping with Mongol belief that the dead should not be disturbed. Legend has it that the soldiers who carried out the mission were slaughtered to make sure the secret was safe for all time.
You can have your Roman empire. I mean, it’s interesting and foundational to western civ and all, but there’s something about Genghis and his homies that has always fascinated me. When I was pregnant, my amnio was done by a geneticist in a one-woman office. I noticed a photo on her office wall of a yurt with a bunch of Mongols standing outside waving at the camera. So tell me all about your trip to Mongolia, I said — a question I don’t think she’d been asked since she hung it on the wall.
She explained the trip was part of her postgrad research, sampling DNA of Mongols and comparing it to the DNA of native Americans, thought to be their descendants, via the Bering land bridge, etc. etc. She said the genetic evidence in humans was strong but imperfect, but they had a much closer link between another species — dogs. The canine companions of Mongols today are closely related to skeletons found in the desert southwest. It was the best time I’ve had talking to a doctor since my family practitioner told me about going to Woodstock when he was 16.
Anyway, I have a date with the Gobi Desert. One of these days.
Whoever said women over 40 are better off carrying a little extra weight than a little less must have been thinking about Madonna.
Someone in the comments linked to this fine, year-old blog posting by Tom Watson on Jenna Jameson, and it’s good enough to throw back out front as food for thought.
And now I must change to my sweatpants, wash the mascara down the drain, take up my laptop in a place where the wireless signal is good and…go to work. Have a swell weekend.