Last year I wrote to you explaining that I had been picked to participate in Bohunt's Big Expedition to Mongolia and you very kindly donated to my fundraising campaign. The 3 week trip took place this July and I would like to take this opportunity to tell you what we did to prepare, and all about the trip itself.
We were told that the trip would cost £3,500 but the reality was it was far more! The specialised kit we had to buy, alongside the vaccinations and horse-riding training we were required to have, made the total rise to £4,500! When I last wrote to you, I updated you on the success of our race night fundraiser and since then I have been babysitting for neighbours and friends, doing cake sales and odd jobs. The babysitting has been the most lucrative. All of the activities that I did to raise the large total helped me to better understand the value of money, which is something that I'm now very grateful for. As well as this, I have made great relationships with people and formed important connections and continue to regularly babysit now I am home.
In preparation for the trip, we had two training weekends; the first was a tough camping and trekking weekend in the Lake District on a freezing weekend in November and the second, closer to home, where we learnt how to pack our kit, use our equipment and plan our itineraries. We then had regular get-togethers with the team and a final information evening for parents where we all prepared a short presentation on various aspects of Mongolian life, culture, history etc.
Finally, the day we had been waiting for arrived. We arrived at school in the morning with our backpacks, said goodbye to weeping mums and had a full day discussing plans and doing last minute checks to make sure the kit was appropriate and that we weren't taking too much (or too little..!). We left for Heathrow airport at 3 pm for our 8pm flight to Ulaanbaatar flying Air China via Beijing.
For the first few days we stayed in a hostel, whilst we acclimatised and shopped for all the food we would need for the next 3 weeks. That was one big challenge! We then ventured off on a bumpy 16 hour coach ride into Outer Mongolia, where the real expedition would begin.
We first did a 4 day 130km canoe trip down the River Eg. This was absolutely stunning and completely out of my comfort zone. I was probably the most anxious about this phase as I've not had much experience with canoeing but I was delighted to find I loved it! We saw some amazing wildlife and were regularly accompanied by Yaks and Naks (the females!).
The next phase was the teaching English phase, and this I was looking forward to! I love working with children and would like to train to be a teacher so it was perfect for me. I was with the youngest group (4-10 years old) and was slightly shocked to find that they knew not a word of English between them, as we were told otherwise! Despite the setback, we had an amazing time teaching them and I learnt a great deal from them. I even learnt to say a few phrases myself. In the picture below, are three of my teammates and two of the delightful children whom we taught. We used methods such as memory games, pictures and speech repetition and it really worked.
The third and final phase was also one I hadn't had much experience with, horse riding. I can safely say that all but one member of our team were actually confident with being on a horse. As soon as I got on my horse all my fears faded, as I soon found out it's not actually that difficult. In Mongolia they don't use British riding techniques such as rising trot so we basically had to figure it out for ourselves. It was absolutely amazing and I had the best time during this phase. Surprisingly it was my favourite out of the three! We spent four days on our lovely horses (some more lovely than the rest...) and roughly about 6 hours a day with breaks.
Whilst we were away we stayed in combination of Ger camps (similar to yurts) our own tents and hostels. We had to cook for ourselves each night, take responsibility for our kit and manage our budgets. It was hard work and I will not miss the toilet facilities (basically a hole in the ground).
The time then came to return home. I was sad to leave but equally excited to see my family and friends again and to get back to some home comforts. Adjusting to life back at home was more than just dealing with the jet lag; I missed the team and the buzz of doing something exciting and worthwhile each day and found life in Liphook a little bit dull!
This whole experience from start to finish has taught me such a lot and I have grown up considerably during the process. It has inspired a love of travel, an appreciation that you need to work hard to achieve your goals, teamwork and the value of money.
I am extremely grateful that you took the time to respond so favourably to the letter I wrote to you last year. You have helped me on such an amazing journey and provided so many life long memories.