The horse was young, Bana my guide consoled me it would be alright with a smile. My little Lonely Planet pocket dictionary clinging onto my back trousers like an annoying band-groupie as I climbed onto her. She shifted with an air of indignation. I realigned myself on the saddle, boots in the stirrups. The scent of her fur is a mixture of sand, sun, salt and flesh. I wonder what she smells of me. ‘‘Chut!’’ said Bana to his horse and off he lead us with a gentle trot to circle our way up the volcano crater.
Enveloped in the quiet landscape I looked around me. The steady breath of my horse, and the hooves broke sound. In front was Khorgo, coniferous trees dancing their way up and around towards the top of the crater. 6000 thousand years of extinction and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. It didn’t look old, in fact it looked new, but it felt old, ancient. Was the life around me indifferent to my being there? We made our way up slowly from the foot of the crater. A mound of protruded Earth which once spouted lava transformed into a hollow shell. Is it like an in-grown hair? A popped pimple? Would it feel like one?
Bana got off his horse, gesturing that I do the same. I was to walk up to the top now while he waited with the horses. I clambered my way awkwardly, losing footing on the loose soil. Clumsy being. Thirty minutes later I reached the top. I spun around at the kilometers of land expanding out around me. Not a person in sight. I glanced down at the pit of the crater, the intense red, orange, yellow, brown hues spilling over and pulling me in. Down there at the bottom was a black shiny pool, passively looking. I took my boots and socks off and dug my feet into the soil. Jurassic. I pulled my pants, shirt, sweater, and lastly my coat off and threw it to the side next to me. A lump of textures. I laid down, palms pressed into the earth, unmoving, unstirring.
Laying there at the top I shut my eyes. Everything started to spin. My mind began to wonder, reaching into the depths of things that I had let slip away into a string of incoherent words. Vivid colours in my imagination began to shape-shift into a whirling dervish of unrecognisable memories. I was meant to care, though I didn’t know how and I didn’t know why. This feeling, it reminded me of the time Sarah and I camped in Nebraska, both of us too lazy to set tent, so we slept with the nightsky looming over our faces. It was spinning as I slowly fell asleep. The unrelenting beating of the sun forced my eyes back open. A blanket of blue. I sat up, got dressed, and made my way back down. Bana was standing right where I left him, between the horses, whittling away at a piece of wood with a knife.
Back down on the eight kilometer stretch of basalt in front of us, something stirred in the horse I was on. The distant horizon line turned itself into an invitation to run and she took off. My reluctant tug on the reins made no difference, she persisted on speeding up her gallop. The scenery around began to blur. My heart began to pound, palms began to sweat, stomach began churning away like a machine in a laundromat. I can’t tell where one thing begins and another ends. Exhiliration and fear hit me at the same time, some strange intermingling of both fight and flight. Now I pulled, hard, at the reins and still no signs of slowing. I glanced back and Bana was breaking into gallop trying to catch up. Another memory popped into my mind of when Sarah and I were going through the midwest, the desert falling onto us from both sides. It might have been chasing us at the same time we were chasing it. That was in a metal box careening it’s way over the paved roads.
A tree stood where my left eye could see, I couldn’t stop her but I could steer. With all my force I pulled at the reins toward the direction of the tree. The horse stubbornly shifted her trajectory, and she began to slow. Bana caught up and we looked at each other, he grabbed her lead and we made our way back toward the others.
He was standing next to the lake when I got back. ‘‘How d’you go?’’ he asked. I paused for a moment. ‘‘It was incredible. The colours were something else. I can’t quite describe it...but I started to feel self-conscious.’’ ‘‘Ah yeah? I think I know what you mean. A bit of awe, a bit of accomplishment?’’‘‘Yeah maybe. But something else happened, something else stirred. I can’t quite explain it. I was remembering things, particular smells, and particular moments...’’‘‘Don’t think about it too much, sometimes things shape-shift and we lose track of where we are meant to be.’’ he responded. He pulled me into the sweater that loosely rested around him, the all permeating smell of yak hit my nostrils. Instantly, my thoughts were engulfed into yet another distant spinning memory that I can’t wake from.
©2016 Deborah Tchoudjinoff