We had to be up extra early on day 8, because we had to get to finish camp and help set up the finish line before Sam got there, and she was moving so fast, we risked her passing the finish with nobody to cheer her on!
We sped off in the van, skipping the last horse station. We did stop at the wishing rock, where we spun the gold spinners and walked around it. Generally you leave a piece of food as an offering at the rock, I didn’t have any food on me, but I did leave a saddle-charm piece of jewellery that my friend Sarah had made me before the Derby. I thought it was appropriate. I wont say what I wished for (not sure if its bad luck to tell in Mongolia, but I will stick to North American wish laws here!), but I am sure you can guess what my wish was.
Tess kept us excited for our drive to the finish with the promise of a real western breakfast when we got there. Thank goodness! Despite me starting the trip loving the mutton and noodles, mutton and rice, mutton dumplings and mutton soup and mutton soup and mutton soup that we were being served, I had fallen out of love with it a day or two before. I am not sure WHAT happened, whether I just hit the wall of mutton enjoyment, or if it was a particularly “sheepy” piece I struggled to choke down for one meal that ruined it for me, but a real breakfast sounded wonderful and I was hungry from mutton abstinence for at least 24 hours.
We sat down for breakfast at quarter to ten, and what was placed in front of us? It was mutton soup! Not even regular mutton soup, no this was fancy! It was if you took mutton soup, and blended it until it was creamy. I’m sure if it was day 1, it would have been well received, but GAG ME NOW! YOU CANT HIDE THE FACT ITS MUTTON SOUP BY BLENDING IT! We ate as much as we could stomach to try and be polite, and went off still hungry.
However, our gers were fantastic. Real beds with mattresses, pillows, a light bulb, and even little face towels. Over our breakfast, we met Erik Cooper who was filling in as Derby Chief for the time being and he asked “what are you guys going to do until Sam comes in?” I had no hesitation when I said “I’m going to go climb those mountains! Seriously, one can not just leave those mountains unclimbed, look how wonderful they are! Plus, I had 6 days of stall rest… enough to make me batty.
Luke decided to join me for the trek up the mountain, and we did our best to estimate how long it would take. He thought all day, I think I said 2 hours (I was much closer). It was getting to be the hot part of the day, but we brought water and lollipops, and stopped in the shade of one of the very few trees, and even found a trickle of stream to cool us off.
I had been leading eagerly the whole time, but halfway up the mountain, I felt something on my (bare) thigh that felt something like a gloved hand gripping around it. I looked down and saw THE BIGGEST SPIDER I have ever seen. Seriously, it was the size of my hand! I batted it off with some sort of “blearghhha!” utterance, and all of a sudden, I was 50 metres up the mountain, with Luke struggling way down below. He saw the spider too, and can vouch for its size. If you don’t know me personally, I should mention that spiders are my biggest fear.
After that, I made Luke lead the adventure and with a stick he kept the other large (but not THAT large) spiders out of my way. I got to enjoy being Princess Sarah with my very own Royal Guard.
We reached the top (or at least as far as we could get without climbing equipment) shortly after, and paused for a while to play in the rocks and take photos. I don’t know what the mountain is actually called, but I decided to call it Marmot Mountain and did my best Marmot impression.
Of course, after we came back, we got to enjoy cheering on Sam, then Chris, Robert and Jamie at the finish line, and had a SHOWER back at finish camp. The food was much improved for lunch and dinner – some sort of pot roast with mashed potatoes and salads. We also treated ourselves to Beer and potato chip and chocolate which were available at the restaurant (PS if you are thinking about doing the Derby, bring plenty of money to the finish line to pay for snacks, and also we had to pay for our own water – which were at least available in bottles, bring enough $ for several days in case you win!). Of course, we had a lovely sleep that night in our comfy beds.