Dog sledding offers a wintry adrenaline rush
(26 Dec 2016) LEAD IN:
Extreme winter sports such as dog sledding are getting more popular in Mongolia.
The adventure activity involves people being pulled along frozen rivers and snowy slopes by teams of dogs, reaching speeds of up to 50 km an hour.
Fancy a wintry adrenaline rush ?
Tourists in Mongolia are hitching a lift from some canine friends and trying their hand at dog sledding.
As temperatures plunge to as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius, Mongol Dog Sledding is doing brisk business along the frozen Tuul river, about an hour outside the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Tuvshinjargal Khurelsukh started the adventure tour company seven years ago with his wife, Enkhmaa Bilegt.
"There is a movie called Eight Below. I think I got inspired to train my dogs as sled dogs from that film," he says.
Marketing the less-known sport became easier with social media.
"Slowly friends started coming, the friends of friends. Then we got the Facebook page and even more people started coming," Bilegt says.
"We started receiving our first foreign tourists six years ago," she adds.
A growing number of expats are taking to the sleighs and snow on weekends. Lee Jones, a Teacher at the British School of Ulaanbaatar, took his young daughter.
"One of the reasons why we wanted to move out here was to do things like this," Jones says.
"My daughter Eloise and I have come out here to have a go for the first time today. I found it scary having her in with me. I don't think I'd have been scared without her," he adds.
The sport is not without risks, particularly if the sleighs get too close.
"First the dogs go and after that we need to make one line," says 31-year old Expat Mongolia Guide, Bold Purevdelger.
"Otherwise if they come same level two sleighs, dogs will bite each other, sometimes, because of different attitudes from different families."
Going slower reduces the risk of collision, with riders and other obstacles, Purevdelger says. They also check the river daily to ensure it is frozen through at all key points before beginning.
Khurelsukh raises every dog from birth and knows which dogs get along well together.
"We have 80 dogs now, including different breeds such as Siberian huskies, metises (mixed breeds) – which descend from traditional Mongolian dogs – whippets, metises from hunting breeds, metises from wolves. We are trying out many breeds."
For some, racing across the river pulled by the large, loud and excitable hounds can take getting used to.
"I was scared at the beginning, in the middle it got better, but still I couldn't let go of that alarming feeling," says Ariuntsetseg Saintsogt.
"When I saw the finish line, I just let myself go and it felt amazing! I wasn't afraid anymore, just a rush of adrenaline! Great fun," she adds.
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