I woke up on the final day completely gutted. This was it, the final day of riding, and I was not given the opportunity to ride the last leg. This means officially, that I had run out of chances to ride the incredible Mongolian horses, and there was no more hope for an offer. It was done. Over. Gone.
I snuck out early, and headed up the mountain that I had not yet climbed. A few riders had mentioned the night before that they would be interested in joining me, but I just needed the time to myself (and I am sure they needed their rest anyway!). I set my sights on a peak, followed it down with my eyes and laid my path. Despite it being early, the rocks were already beginning to heat up. I made it to my peak, and sat there for a while, eating my breakfast of potato chips purchased from the concession stand, and crying over my disappointment. It was pretty refreshing, and exactly what I needed. From there, I saw a few more riders cross the finish line.
After having time to settle, i moved on. Still not quite ready to be with other people, I set my sights on another peak that I had not yet climbed, and made my way down and up again. My music was blaring in my ears, and confident that only those nasty spiders could hear me, I sang along. Perhaps my poor vocals were enough to scare off the spiders, because this time I did not have one try to tag along. I felt lifted.
I reached peak number 2, found more wildflowers, new ones I had only seen here at the top of the mountain. What a privilege, it was likely I was the only derby rider who could be able to appreciate them. I continued to soften. From this peak, I was able to see the neighboring camp – a teepee camp! I have to say, it was NOT an easy peak to get up, there were some straight up cliffs that I had to climb, and the best handholds were being blocked by the spiders in their homesteads… the webs these things were so large and strong, I was best just to risk life and limb on a different route.
The descent, of course proved to be much more difficult, so I took the liberty of filming the view at a particularly difficult spot that I climbed both up and down.
Thankfully, all the training I had been doing through the program devised by Heather Sansom of Equifitt meant that I was strong and capable of climbing the mountain easily. Only a few slips and a few bruises to take home with me. I guess one could consider the ability to climb mountains as the upside of my early withdrawal.
I came back feeling a new sense of accomplishment, and although I was still disappointed that I wasn’t riding across the finish line, I could cheer on the finishers with a smile. Much to my surprise, Luke was also there – not riding. I guess one of his teammates had lost a horse not once, but twice, and Luke gave up his last opportunity to ride so his friend could finish. Very proud of him, I admitted and apologized for my jealousy.
The ceremonies that night were less heartbreaking than before. We weren’t left on the steps this time, all us party vanners were invited up to receive the ceremonial Deel and share a bonfire and recovery beers with our friends, reunited.