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MONGOLIA

expedition handbook

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Cultural Immersion Secret Compass expedition to Mongolia.

Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on this expedition team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.

Key facts

  • Arrive: in Ulaanbaatar by 1600 on 30 August 2020.
  • Depart: from Ulaanbaater any time on 15 September 2020 onwards.
  • Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure on 1 June 2020.
  • Find FAQ and Testimonials online.

Aim

Taking a twist on the classic Mongolian road trip, this expedition will be completed with a different sort of horsepower. Using nimble steeds to head away from roads, you’ll enter the foothills of the Altai mountains deep in the heart of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park in Far-Western Mongolia. Experiencing a traditional way of life on this horse-back, wilderness journey through challenging terrain, long days in the saddle will be rewarded with rustic wild camps under the stars or stays at nomad encampments. In addition to your Secret Compass leader and local support team, you will also be joined during the ride by Kazakh Eagle Hunters who are keeping centuries of tradition alive, throughout the expedition they will share their skills, stories and history with the team and teach some of the traditional Kazakh horse games which will be on display during the festival. The expedition culminates at the Sagsai Eagle Festival to celebrate over 6000 years of Kazakh culture and eagle hunting skills.

Highlights

  • Vast scenery and stark beauty of Mongolia’s National Parks
  • Unique Mongolian horses, perfectly adapted to the local environment
  • Ride with the locals – horse breeders and Kazakh Eagle Hunters
  • Diverse riding terrain through meadows, woods, open steppe and alpine passes
  • Traditional nomadic culture and hospitality
  • Learn key skills from your hosts and guides, passed down for generations
  • Try your hand at local horse-back games
  • Fascinating Eagle Festival

Flights

You need to organise your own international flights.

It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.

You need to be at the team hotel in Ulaanbaatar for the expedition briefing at 1600 on the 30 August 2020 and the expedition officially ends after breakfast on the 15 September 2020 with team members free to depart anytime that day.

Insurance

Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

  • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
  • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
  • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
  • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
  • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

You must bring a copy of your insurance policy, showing that you are covered for horse riding, with you on this expedition.

Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance page on our website.

Visas

Visas are your responsibility. Many nationalities require a visa in advance of travel to Mongolia, please check with your nearest Embassy or Consulate for the latest information as the details provided here are a guide only. British nationals can apply for a tourist visa at the Embassy in London in person, through a nominated party or via an approved visa assistance company, postal applications are not accepted. Applications are accepted between 1000 and 1200 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with collection available the same day (expedited service) or in 2-3 working days. To apply for  Mongolian visa you will require your passport (see below), a completed visa application form, one passport-style photo, proof of your travel arrangements eg. flight confirmation and trip itinerary, proof of payment of visa fee.

Passports

All expedition members should have valid passports with six months remaining from the planed date of departure from Mongolia. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.

Day 1: Aug 30 – Ulaanbaatar

The expedition officially begins at the team hotel in Ulaanbaatar with an expedition briefing and dinner at 1600 today. The hotel has luggage storage facilities if you are arriving in ahead of time and would like to explore the city and extra nights can be booked direct if required. Transfers to/from the airport/team hotel are not included, but local taxis are easily available.

Day 2: Aug 31 – Olgii

Departing Ulaanbaatar this morning, the team will fly west to Olgii where you will be met by your local guide and support team for the road transfer into the National Park. On arrival, the team will be introduced to the most important members of their support crew – the Mongolian horses! There will be time allocated to pairing up riders and mounts ahead of the next days on expedition.

Day 3-13: Sep 1-11 – Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Heading out into the National Park, the team will explore the border region in the shadow of Mongolia’s highest peaks on horseback. The diverse terrain ensures that every day will provide a new moment of wonder or a new story to share around the fire at your evening’s wild camp as you recover from the day’s horse-back exertions. In the company of your Secret Compass leader, your local team will introduce you to their homeland and share the folklore and traditional skills which have been passed down for generations and kept alive by the nomadic groups you’ll meet en route. Several of the regions Eagle Hunters have been invited to ride with the team and teach their traditional games to the group ahead of the Eagle Festival.

Day 14-15: Sep 12-13 – Sagsai Eagle Festival

In the company of your guides, join the festivities at one of Mongolia’s famous Eagle Festivals. Unlike the larger Olgii festival later in the year, Sagsai is much smaller, offering more opportunities to get up close to the action over the two days of celebrations. As events wind down, bid farewell to the competitors and your guides and drive the short distance to Olgii and a comfortable guesthouse.

Day 16: Sep 14 – Ulaanbaatar

Fly back to Ulaanbaatar this morning and check-in to the team hotel. Spend the afternoon relaxing, sightseeing or souvenir hunting before a celebratory final meal.

Day 17: Sep 15 – Expedition ends

Officially the expedition ends this morning after breakfast however you are free to depart anytime today with some flights leaving in the early hours, when arranging onwards travel please bear in mind that domestic flights in Mongolia are often delayed. The hotel can assist you with airport transfers or you can extend your stay to discover more in the city and beyond.

About Secret Compass itineraries

Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on the numerous frictions you may encounter along the way. Please see our full Terms and Conditions for more details.

Fitness

All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is a physically demanding expedition, especially if you are unaccustomed to long days in the saddle – at times you will be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go (see our Expedition Training Guide). You will be required to be fit enough for the following.

  • Expedition Grade: 180°
  • Daily activity: varies but up to approx. 8 hours per day
  • Ride: up to seven hours a day for multiple days, with breaks to stretch your legs
  • Terrain: mixed terrain from forest trails to open steppe and alpine passes, river crossings
  • Climate: in an exposed climate with temperatures varying between 20C and 0C
  • Altitude: in the foothills of the Altai Mountains with elevations around 2500m
  • Weight: please make Secret Compass aware when applying if you weigh over 100kg

Previous experience

Secret Compass expeditions are achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness. Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together throughout this expedition and bring a positive mindset and an adventurous, robust spirit. At a basic level, you should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and ideally riding confidently at canter in an outside environment – complete beginners with a very positive attitude are welcome to apply for this expedition but we strongly suggest booking a lesson or two to determine that you’ll enjoy the expedition experience! We have access to a range of horses to suit different experience and confidence levels so please detail these on your application form. The biggest challenge on this expedition will be multiple days spent in the saddle if you’re not used to regular riding, to offset the impact of this we suggest getting as much camping experience as possible before the expedition so you are comfortable with your nightly routine and able to get a good night’s sleep.

Once you have booked, please send us an email describing your riding experience including comfort level at a walk, trot, canter, or gallop; mounting and dismounting, handling horses on the ground, and anything else that may help us match you to your ideal horse. Note if you just enter ‘experienced’ you will be given a beginner’s horse!

Medical

Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful.

Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.

Money

The official currency is the Mongolian Tögrög, you can change currency to MNT in Ulaanbaatar or at the airport. Credit cards are widely accepted in large shops or hotels in the capital but rural areas are still cash-based. Travelers checks are not accepted in Mongolia.

Apart from alcohol and costs of a personal nature (eg. alcoholic drinks, souvenirs, laundry, excess baggage on flights, discretionary but appreciated tips) the expedition is all-inclusive from dinner on day 1 through to breakfast on day 17 so you won’t need to carry much money. Secret Compass always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash in addition to your planned spending.

The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2020 expedition to Mongolia. Please read carefully and contact Secret Compass with any questions. Secret Compass will provide all of the group equipment and tents.

This expedition includes a domestic flight in Mongolia which has a very limited luggage allowance of 15kg including carry-on, whilst extra baggage may be purchased at the airport this is not guaranteed so we recommend packing warmly but lightly – your pack horses will thank you!

Discounts

Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.

Baggage and sleeping

  • RUCKSACK OR DUFFLE: 50-70ltr, all personal kit needs to fit in one soft bag for loading on pack animals and in vehicles
  • DAYPACK: A small pack (around 25 ltr) for use at the festival and as hand luggage. Secret Compass will supply saddle bags for the riding phase.
  • WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb etc
  • SMALLER DRY BAGS: As above, but smaller bags to put essential items in. The large rucksack liners sometimes leak so anything important needs to be waterproofed individually
  • SLEEPING BAG: Rated to 0°C comfort, the temperature can drop at night
  • SLEEPING BAG LINER (Optional): Silk or cotton, to protect your sleeping bag and provide flexibility
  • SLEEPING MAT: Thermarest or equivalent. Bring repair kit.

Riding Specific Clothing & Equipment

  • RIDING HELMET – COMPULSORY: We are not able to provide riding helmets for this expedition, you will be required to bring your own with you and failure to do so may result in you being unable to join the expedition team. Your helmet must conform to at least one of the international standards of safety.
  • RIDING GLOVES (Optional): Full finger gloves, usually with grippy palms and fingers, especially advised if you have soft hands or suffer from cold extremities.
  • RIDING CHAPS: Secret Compass provide half-chaps but if you prefer to use your own please bring them with you.
  • 2 X RIDING TROUSERS: Jodhpurs are ideal as they have a patch covering the inner seam to avoid friction with the saddle. Shorts, baggy trousers and zip off trousers will not be comfortable.
  • 1 x RIDING/WALKING BOOTS: Whilst riding boots are great when on horseback they offer limited versatility if you decide to stretch your legs when grip may be vital, so it may be worth considering a lightweight walking boot instead or in addition. Either way you must have one pair of boots which have ankle support and minimal grip with a defined heel for whilst riding.

Clothing

  • 2 x LONG SLEEVE TOPS: Thin trekking shirts or equivalent that dry quickly. Long sleeves to provide insect and sun protection.
  • 2 X THERMAL BASE LAYER: Long sleeved thermal top. Helly Hansen or equivalent, particularly useful for the evenings or for cooler nights in the mountains. If you feel the cold consider thermal leggings in addition.
  • 1 X LONG TREKKING TROUSERS: Thin trekking trousers or shorts/zip off trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable for use around camp in the evenings and whilst at the festival.
  • 1 x MID LAYER: Fleece or equivalent.
  • 1 x INSULATED JACKET: Down or synthetic that packs down small, bring a dry bag for down jackets – evenings will be cool with temperatures potentially down to 0C.
  • 1 x WATERPROOF JACKET AND TROUSERS: Gore-tex or equivalent, lightweight and packable. Do not bring a poncho as these scare the horses!
  • 4 x HIKING SOCKS: To fit with your chosen boots.
  • SANDLES: Around camp, river crossings and in the evenings. Flip flops are not advised and trekking sandals with toe protection can be useful.
  • WIDE BRIMMED SUN HAT
  • WARM HAT
  • GLOVES: Bring a warm pair of gloves for the evenings.
  • 4 x UNDERWEAR: Sport or low-friction to reduce chafing.
  • SWIMWEAR
  • NIGHTWEAR: For in shared accommodation or use your thermal base layers.

Eating

  • WATER BOTTLE OR BLADDER: Water bottles may be easier to use with saddlebags. You need to carry at least 1 litre of water with you.

Health and Hygiene

  • WASHBAG: Essentials (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, deodorant etc.) packed in a small bag.
  • SOAP (Optional): Anti-bacterial and biodegradable. Consider Lifeventure All-Purpose Soap concentrate which is also PH balanced.
  • TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG (Optional): Fast-drying.
  • WET WIPES/BABY WIPES (Optional): Please bring biodegradeable options and plastic bags etc to carry them out of wilderness areas.
  • ANTIBACTERIAL HANDGEL: Enough for the whole trip
  • TOILET PAPER (Optional): Travel tissues
  • SANITARY PRODUCTS (Optional): Bring nappy sacks and zip-lock bags as you will not be able to dispose of these on the riding trip.
  • LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION
  • INSECT REPELLENT
  • AFTER SUN/MOISTURISER (Optional)
  • FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM

Small First Aid Kit

A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.

  • WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
  • PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen and paracetamol.
  • ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS
  • COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that Compeed produce several similar-looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard / original item.
  • SUDOCREM: Great product for preventing/treating saddles sores/chafing.
  • DIAHORREA TABLETS: Immodium
  • REHYDRATION PACKS: Dioralyte sachets only make up small volumes of rehydration concentrate. Consider (non-caffeinated) Nuun or Zero tablets instead.
  • ANTISEPTIC WIPES
  • ANTISEPTIC CREAM
  • PIRITON TABLETS: For allergies
  • EURAX CREAM: For bites
  • ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: Find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You MUST make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel.

Other

  • HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka head torch or equivalent. Please bring plenty of spare batteries as there are no charging facilities.
  • SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FILTER LENSES
  • PENKNIFE (Optional)
  • GAFFA TAPE (Optional): For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit, another generally useful item to have.
  • 1 x KARABINER: For securing your rucksack to vehicles, clipping your boots together, generally useful!
  • SPARE BOOT LACES
  • SMALL SEWING KIT (Optional)
  • RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS (Optional): For dirty washing, wrappings, etc.

Our approach

Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.

Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.

Local partners and bureaucracy

Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.

Infrastructure and natural events

The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.

Food

In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs).

Typical teammates

There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates look out for each other, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.

Part of a team

Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.

Teammate mentality

You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.

Risk management

Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.

  1. Risk assessment.
    We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
  2. Safety plan.
    As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
  3. Delivery.
    The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.

Key risks.

Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include accidents whilst horseriding or other medical emergencies whilst in an remote environment. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email info@secretcompass.com

Incident management and medical

As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.

Informed consent

It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 48 hours) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.

Testimonials

Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.

Cultural

Mongolia sees relatively little tourism, so there’s a unique, authentic opportunity  to experience one of the last truly nomadic cultures. In order to avoid problems occurring in future with children begging for sweets or hawkers arriving at camp, your leaders will explain best practice. As we are travelling through the homeland of your local guides and wranglers (horse-breeders) there may be the opportunity to meet local people and be invited in to their homes. Don’t worry, your leaders will be on hand to explain how to navigate the cultural minefield, such as always giving and receiving with the right hand whilst your left hand supports your right elbow…Luckily the culture is quite ‘relaxed’ and transgressions are more a source of amusement than offence. Mongolians are very proud of their culture and like to share it with outsiders, as evidenced by the popularity of the Kasakh Eagle Hunters Festivals which are promoting sustainable tourism as a way of keeping these traditions alive.

Terrain

This expedition will explore the vast Altai Tavan Bogd National Park which encompasses a variety of terrain from forest trails to open steppe and high alpine passes. The route may require river crossings and although the average altitude is around 2500m there are opportunities for higher passes and look out points to be incorporated into the itinerary.

Weather

Weather in Mongolia is notoriously variable from blue skies and 20+C to near freezing temperatures and rain.  September is the end of summer so temperatures are starting to cool down and much of the expedition will be among the mountains of the National Park so we recommend coming prepared with layering options so you’ll be comfortable in all conditions from sunshine to hail!

Transport

Road: Vehicles will be used for group airport transfers and to reach the start of the riding expedition. For some sections of the trip, vehicle support will also be used to transfer equipment between camps – despite the remote areas the route travels through, Mongolian’s are determined drivers! Please bear in mind that the condition of vehicles and roads in Mongolia will not be up to all international standards.

Domestic flight: This expedition includes a domestic flight between Ulaanbaatar and Olgii. There is a limit of 10kg for checked luggage, and 5kg for carry-on bags. Excess baggage can be purchased at the airport (at additional cost) although this is limited to 15kg and may not always be possible.

Horseback: The best way to experience Mongolian scenery and the traditional way of life is aboard one of the three million horses roaming the steppe. Your experienced leaders will match you to a suitable mount for your expedition into the National Park. Whilst part of the trip will be vehicle supported to transport tents, food etc, there will be some sections where the trip will rely on pack animals. Pack animals are very restricted on the amount of weight they can carry so please bear this in mind when packing.

Accommodation

Ulaanbaatar: Twin-share rooms in a comfortable hotel will be booked for the start and end of the expedition. The hotel can store a small amount of luggage if required (at your own risk) and extra nights outside of the Secret Compass itinerary can be booked directly.

Expedition: Tents will be provided on a twin-share basis to reduce the weight carried by pack animals.

Ger Camps: At several points during the expedition there may be the opportunity to stay in ger camps with local families, here accommodation will be on a group basis.

Olgii: Ahead of the return flight from Olgii to Ulaanbaatar the group will stay at a fixed (permanent) Ger camp on the edge of Olgii, with Gers shared on a dorm basis.

Reality of living rough for days: Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for camping for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health if you do not look after yourself and increase fatigue if you are not used to living rough. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly, even if you are stiff after a day in the saddle.

Food

In Ulaanbaatar, the team will eat at the hotel or head into town for meals. Once on the expedition, food will be simple meals which the team will help to prepare. The local diet is very basic (boiled mutton and dairy products) however we will add variety with fresh ingredients and more western-style recipes. There is little opportunity to re-provision en route so please make Secret Compass aware of any dietary requirements when applying for this expedition.

Leader

You will have an experienced Secret Compass leader with you throughout this expedition who has extensive experience of leading groups in remote locations. They will be supported on the ground by a local guide/translator and a support crew of horse wranglers and drivers.

Communications

Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.
Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news!

If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.

Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in Ulaanbaatar and possibly in Olgii however it is unlikely to have signal once on the expedition and this is a great opportunity to unplug and switch off.

Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab.

I don’t have a lot of riding experience, is this expedition right for me?

We’d always suggest team members have a riding lesson or two before signing up for this expedition to ensure they enjoy the experience however you don’t need to be a seasoned pro. There are a wide range of horses available and time is allocated at the start of the expedition to correctly matching riders and mounts to cater for all experience levels. The daily route planning will offer options for faster, longer or more challenging riding but ultimately the distances covered will be constrained by the slowest/least confident team member and everyone signing up needs to be aware that this is a team expedition and approach the trip accordingly.

Can experienced riders join?

Absolutely. There are different types of mount available for different skill levels or confidence levels and the expedition route offers a variety of terrain and opportunities for more experienced riders to cover larger distances or open up for a gallop whilst maintaining the team feel of the expedition. In the company of Kazakh Eagle Hunters, there’ll be plenty to learn for even experienced riders!

What kind of riding set up should I expect?

We’ll be riding like the locals on this expedition using comfortable ‘pad’ style saddles (not the ornate wooden ones you may have seen in photos from Mongolia!) – these are eminently suited to long days in the saddle and surprisingly forgiving! Standard bridles are used and the horses are trained for western-style neck reining. Don’t worry if this all seems to be a foreign language, your expedition leader and local team will talk you through the basics and you’re encouraged to pitch in with the wranglers to learn about tacking up your own mounts. Horses are the lifeblood of the region and families have bred them for generations specifically for the varied terrain that Mongolia offers – our wranglers are understandably proud of their herds and excited to show them off to visitors.

Will we meet Kazakh Eagle Hunters?

Not only is this expedition planned to culminate at the Sagsai Eagle Festival, but we have also invited several local Eagle Hunters to ride with our team into the Altai National Park. This gives our expedition a privileged insight into the history and lifestyle of this unique culture as well as providing opportunities to learn new skills and try your hand at traditional Kazakh riding games.

Can I arrive a day late?

As The Plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates out to the start of the ride and back to Ulaanbaatar so start and end dates are not flexible. You’re welcome to extend your trip ahead of, or after, the Secret Compass itinerary.

Can I charge all my electricals?

This will be very challenging with limited access to power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration. We suggest embracing the opportunity to unplug and disconnect during this expedition.

Do I need specialist riding clothing/equipment?

Boots: If you have them bring them but these are not necessary and actually a lightweight pair of walking boots may be more versatile. The stirrups on Mongolian saddles are wide enough to take most walking boots but they must have minimum tread and a defined heel.

Jodhpurs: Again, if you have them, great, bring them. If not then certain types of trousers will do instead – things to remember are that any seams will rub, and loose-fitting trousers aren’t great either as there’ll be movement and creases and therefore friction. Stick with tighter fitting trousers (on no account shorts!) and the fewer seams the better. You don’t need padded trousers.

Helmet: We are not able to provide riding helmets for this expedition, you will be required to bring your own with you and failure to do so may result in you being unable to join the expedition team and will likely find that your travel insurance is invalid. Your helmet must conform to at least one of the international standards of safety.

Do you provide further advice?

You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.

How can I apply?

Use the buttons below to contact Secret Compass with your questions or to complete our no-obligation Application Form to join this team. Someone will get back to you promptly.

The Journal