Mongolian horseI once walked 3,000 miles through Mongolia, from the icy upland margins of Siberia, where I acquired a string of horses and a slightly drunken horseman, Kermit, who didn't speak a word of English. Then it was on with him through the dry grassland steppe, acquiring camels to carry baggage. After several months padding along under those great blue skies, with skylarks apparently forever overhead, came the great test: six weeks alone across the Gobi desert with just my three camels – no phone, no contact with the outside world, no one to know even if I was still alive. Sometimes I would hear wolf cubs playing; or I'd come across a snake, and feel that it was a sort of companion – on my side, the side of the living.
But what made the trip so enriching was my accumulation of knowledge from the nomads I encountered over the almost half a year on foot or horseback. They, too, appreciated the fact that their great hero, Genghis Khan, would have used my form of transport. Things hadn't changed, in that respect, for 800-odd years.
Benedict Allen is an explorer and author
Discover Mongolia (discovermongolia.mn) has an eight-day camel trek through the Gobi desert from $1,829, excluding flights and visa.

The Gobi desert in Mongolia – Benedict Allen spent six weeks crossing it alone (except for his camels).
Photograph: Alamy

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