PictureFilming on horseback (photo © Richard Dunwoody)
Well, that happened.

1000 kilometers on 30 different horses in 8 days. 12 hours in the saddle every day at a trot or a gallop, filming most of the time. 5 hours of usable footage, 4 kilos of lost body weight, and 1 very happy (and very exhausted) camper. I did collapse after crossing the finish line though and didn't surface for about 18 hours.
My subject Monde Kanyana and I stayed together most of the time, until I fell seriously ill and had to take an afternoon off.

PictureHelping the herder
I had to ride hell for leather for two days on my own to catch up with him again. Those two days, staying with nomad families, helping to herd their horses and livestock and live with them, I will never forget. It always goes to show, life is at its most memorable when you're way out of your comfort zone. And the hospitality of the people is simply breathtaking. I was still on antibiotics due to what we dubbed Mongol Belly so I felt 'safe' eating unidentifiable lumps of something or other handed to me in the dimly flickering light of the dung burner, washed down with Chenggis vodka and airag (fermented mare's milk – the national drink of Mongolia).

PictureAll pile in for a group shot
The race went down without any serious incident for the two of us — not so for some of the other competitors. We chose our horses carefully and managed to stay on, not quite sure how. We rode through deserts, swamps, mountains, wolf and bear country. We saw foals that had been attacked the night before. The nomads we encountered had never seen a black person before, let alone someone who could ride with the best of them – so a lot of group photos were taken. Mongolians are world-reknowned for their horsemanship and will judge you by the way you can deal with their wild horses. If you can't, then you're in trouble. Well, Monde can.

PictureMonde and the gelding
As his reputation started to precede us, he was often asked to look at a particularly unridable horse as we pulled into a horse station. This was as much a way of testing him as it was out of curiosity to see how the Black Man would do it. At the penultimate station he was asked to see what he could do with this 2-year–old gelding that had never been ridden before, and that wouldn't let anyone ride it. Obviously he took the challenge and half an hour later he sat on that wild beauty, now tame as a little lamb. This unfortunately meant that we slipped two places as other competitors passed us.

When the zulu warrior at last barrelled down the final furlong I had a hard time keeping the camera steady, moved to tears and elation as I was. This race takes it out on you to be sure, and a lot of elemental emotions come boiling up and often catch you off-guard. Monde didn't win the race, but he did win the prize for best horsemanship, an accolade that was created especially for him.

So now it's back to the edit, to weave together all the storylines for our epic adventure film. Sit tight.

In the meantime, watch the trailer here. Repeatedly.
 


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