Euronews Travel’s video series, Women Beyond Borders, brings us first-person stories of women around the world who are living brave, adventurous lives, and conquering their own personal challenges on the road.
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Since she was a young child, Krystal Kelly – or the Equestrian Adventuress – has had two great passions: horses and travel. She has since dedicated her life to both, working with horses in over 20 countries, and travelling to over 60.
During her travels, she has set up the first ever horse riding program in Bhutan, as well as being one of just 22 riders to complete the Mongolian Derby in the year that she entered. No mean feat, as the Derby is a gruelling 1000km,10-day ride, which offers some of the best horseback views in the world.
Walking makes us inherently vulnerable; to the elements, our own weaknesses, and the whims of the road. But it also forces us to be open to everything. There’s no escaping every sight, sound and smell. It also encourages strangers to welcome you—for some reason, seeing someone on foot and carrying their life (in that moment, at least) on their back, seems to generate the most amazing acts of kindness.
Over a Mongolian winter, I was brought into a nomadic tent, a ger, in the Gobi Desert and handed a bowl of warm camel’s milk to warm me up. Dinner was prepared and vodka was shared. The unspoken message from my host was, “You’re clearly insane, but I’ll happily help you out.”
In the Middle East, often perceived as the most dangerous part of our planet, I’ve conversely found the people to be among the friendliest anywhere. On a hike from Jerusalem to Mount Sinai, I moved north through the West Bank, each day punctuated by offers of tea, or food, or with places to stay each night.
Our last hike was through Altai Tavan Bogd national park to Malchin Uul, a sacred mountain. Tavan Bogd means Five Saints and refers to the highest peaks there: a tantalising curtain of rock behind the huge and graceful Potanin glacier, on the border with Russia and China. At 4,050 metres, Malchin is the baby of the five; the only one that can be climbed without specialist equipment, its bewitching curves covered in scree from the fracturing of the weather.
Traditionally in Mongolia, mountain guides are male but as our trip progressed Oyunaa became determined to climb. Especially when told by guides we met along the way that the mountain didn’t want her because she was a girl; that she would bring bad luck. Oyunaa was having none of it.
Near the end of last year I travelled to Mongolia for three weeks filming for a documentary focusing on the changing climate and how it is affecting the way of life for the Mongolian people. While I was there we visited some of the most incredible places I’ve been and had some amazing experiences, meeting the local people and getting a glimpse into their lives.