Saturday June 18 Trek to Chebin Hill
Sometimes I wish that I could reach out and stop the hands of time. Some moments are too precious to relinquish. I’m sitting on a hillside overlooking a valley that will remain in my memory as one of the most beautiful I have ever seen: broad, green and huge, tapering at both ends where the winding river enters and exits. Widely separated gers, their white tops gleaming in the evening light, dot the plain. Grazing peacefully in circular clusters, large herds of mixed livestock wander beneath the gentle, larch-covered hills that rim the valley, unaware of the jagged peaks looming up river. From time to time a lone horseman canters across the grass; an occasional dog trots to a destination only it knows. As if on signal, the various herds move off, forming long lines, some going towards a ger, others disappearing over a hill. I assume that they are going home for the night, but a little later they are back.
Our yellow Tusker tents almost seem like an intrusion into this bucolic scene, but we are on a hill, not occupying the valley – as distant from the lives below as the massive clouds and scattered rain showers that share the vast blue sky.
Today’s trek was short and flat, open at first, then a bit narrower as we turned up a valley.
Surprisingly, the walkers are as fast as the horses and even reached the lunch stop ahead of us.
Lunch was spread out on a long cloth on the ground: salad, meat, cheese, pumpernickel, pickles, juice and more.
We had our first deep river crossing today, and everyone had to ride. The more agile riders took off their shoes while still astride their mounts. Others managed to raise their feet out of the water. Stiff old me had boots filled with the water that rose halfway to my knees. I found the current alarming as Pun’kin really struggled against it. Some of our wranglers, however, had gone ahead and were crossing and re-crossing with shouts of glee.
At the end we climbed to Chebin Hill. The name means “mosquito”, but Eddie admitted that this is simply his name for Amy. Once in camp we spread out on a multi-level site. We have to put up our own tents, a 2-person job I accomplished today with Amy’s help. I’m not used to these huge Eureka tents that would easily sleep 3 (outfitters seem to think that we need such monsters). The Eurekas are extremely well ventilated, with front and rear doors, a large vestibule and large interior panels that unzip, one on each side and 2 at the top. If I used all the pockets I would never find my gear, so I prefer to stow everything compactly in plastic bags.
Dinner was served on a long table with 3-legged stools – our good weather set up. We have 2 large tents for rain and a tarp for variable conditions. Alex, our Tanzanian cook, has had lots of experience on Kilimanjaro. Eddie is convinced that Mongolian food will not be to the liking of his clients, so he brought his own cook and we eat western.
The above photo, taken at Khotan Nur, shows our standard camp setup.