A gutsy story from a very gutsy rider, Kendall Moore, Australia.

"You may have what it takes, but it will take everything you have!"

I Have A Story To Tell. I won't start from the beginning, let's just go with chapter Mongolia. I am not going to give you a day to day account of the ride as it happened because we were so lucky to have with us, all the way, a very talented photographer and adventurer herself. Deb Wylde captured the grind and the ups and downs in her images more skillfully than I could ever put down in words so I shall leave that part to her!
What I would like to tell you about is the shift of mindset that only an extreme challenge like this can bring about. It didn't happen instantly but crept up on me a little more with each passing day. It wasn't until the last day that I felt completely content and proud of what we had achieved. In fact it was only towards the end of Day 3 that I started to realise I could not control my position in the race and it was time to start enjoying the ride.
It's times like these I would suddenly have my breath taken away by something surreal and fleeting like the mobs of white gazelle that glide across the desert as quickly as you saw them they are gone! How is that possible when you are surrounded by a flat horizon as far as the eye can see? Or the majestic eagle soaring above, or the giant two humped ships of the desert that seem always in slow motion but somehow still cover more ground than you would think possible.
My reward, apart from the friendships forged and completing the race was actually the quietening of my mind, the silencing of whirring thoughts that I honestly cannot remember feeling since...well I don't know. I guess since I was a little girl playing tiger in the grass with my sister, the earthy smell of the dirt, the quiet rustling of the tall dry grass and the warm sun on my skin. This is the last time I remember such stillness and simplicity, no other thoughts... just soaking in your surroundings.
What started out as a rash decision made in the depths of my grief and less than a month before our departure to Mongolia, turned into one of the most amazing adventures of our lives! Ever since I lost my friend Rana to a brain aneurysm I have struggled with accepting it. More hurt and anger than I knew what to do with at times and as the one year anniversary of her death approached it only became harder. It was at this time that I noticed the Gobi Desert Cup popping up on my news feed and decided to get in touch with them as maybe that's what I needed to do to find some peace and closure. Rana herself was a talented horsewoman and also the strongest woman I have ever known so I knew she would appreciate the challenge. I didn't know at first, whether I would be accepted. Especially as during my first phone conversation with the inspirational ride organiser Camille, I was a blubbering mess. I was barely able to string the words together to explain my motive for wanting to ride. Anyway Camille must have recognised something in me that at the time I couldn't and just like that I was one of the lucky 16! So I set up a gofundme page to raise money for the brain foundation, and got on with last minute training and preparations. The page will be accepting donations until the end of the month and I sincerely thank all the donors so far. It means so much!
I am very lucky to have such amazing and devoted family and friends that did not hesitate to look after our 3 children, Piper 7, Bridie 6 and Darby 5 which allowed my partner, my best mate Mick to come with me for support. He took his job very seriously and I don't know how I would have done it without him. I also couldn't have done it without the unwavering friendship of Bronwen Taylor who somehow managed to man the ranch and the business and the kids as well. Wow she deserves a medal! I don't know how but somehow the stars aligned and our passports and visas arrived at 4pm on the Friday afternoon before we flew out in the wee hours of Monday morning, which was in fact the one year anniversary of Rana's death.
Although the Gobi Desert cup was gruelling and very humbling at times, the sheer beauty of the landscape, the comraderie between competitors, and support of the organisers and people behind the scenes made this trip unforgettable! We also couldn't have done it on foot so thankyou to the herders who were so loyal to their stock, tending them continuously, especially in the wolf country where they kept watch all night. Camille,The Doctor, the Vets, the chief, so many hands that deserve a huge thankyou.
I think all the riders would agree with me when I say, this ride was one of discovery, not only of this enchanting country with its rich cultural heritage, strong people and mysterious wildlife but a discovery of ones own inner strengths and unfortunately at times also our weaknesses. I have never felt so blissfully happy despite the six consecutive days of gastro, swollen and blistered lips from exposure and no hot showers or creature comforts to speak of. It is amazing what true mateship and copious amounts of Chinggis Khan Vodka can conquer!
It truly is the most character building challenge I have ever faced and overcome and I could not have done it alone. I am so grateful for this opportunity and hope that many others will draw the same strength as I have from the Gobi and its people. I hope they can feel with gravity their own strength and courage when travelling through the birth lands of the great Chinggis Khan on the very descendants of the mighty warrior horses that bravely carried him across these vast lands. The Gobi Desert Cup mantra was spot on, "You may have what it takes, but it will take everything you have!"
It's a harrowing feeling, riding alone into that valley of abandoned monasteries and grave upon grave of the tens of thousands of monks who were mercilessly slaughtered in the name of a religious purging, so many years ago. It really does take ones soul back to an ancient place of horror but also puts everything today into perspective and shows how resilient these beautiful people are to have carried on. Mongolia and its people hold many secrets that we who live in a consumerist world have long since forgotten. Words can't describe the feeling of togetherness this adventure will bring to anyone willing and capable to give it a go.
I dedicate my ride to Rana and I achieved what I set out to do! I feel a weight has been lifted and I can now close this chapter.
End of Chapter Mongolia...for now.

Camille Champagne