Blog: How to be a tour guide in Mongolia

14

Aug 2013

How to be a tour guide in Mongolia

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Jacqueline Wigglesworth is currently in Mongolia leading our horse riding trip with the British Horse Society but can most often be found leading VentureCo tours in South America. In the past she has led our 15 week Inca & Amazon Venture through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina as well as Inca Summer Venture in Peru and the 12 week Patagonia Venture. She helped set up The Book Bus and later worked on running it in Zambia, Malawi and Ecuador.  Jackie is also the person behind our Inti World Yoga adventure trips. We caught up with her before her latest adventure to find out what life’s like on the move…
Jacqueline Wigglesworth

How long have you been riding horses and how did you first get into it?

I’ve always loved horses and did have some lessons during my school years although it wasn’t until later when I got to experience the wild freedom of galloping along beaches or through fields in various beautiful places in different countries that I really fell in love with horse riding.

I think when I was young I dreamed of having a horse someday. Good job I never got one or I wouldn’t have done the travelling I’ve done. Having said that, that might end up being the way I finally settle in one place! I have my eye on a beautiful Palomino horse here that I’ve been riding a lot recently…

What made you want to be a tour guide?

Well, I like to joke that I fell into it by chance but of course nothing is really by chance in the sense that I’d always loved travelling, I speak Spanish and good French, I like adventure and giving back, and am fascinated in anthropology, so really, when the opportunity arose I had unwittingly been preparing myself for it my whole life.

It really kicked off when I was living and working in Tulum, Mexico in 2007 and got a phone call from VentureCo asking if I’d like to lead a trip for them in Peru. At that point I wasn’t sure if I was qualified to do so, but to David Gordon’s credit, he assured me that having seen me travel in Peru before he’d observed how I kept calm in a crisis, respected the locals, spoke the lingo, had a good positive attitude and knew my way around. He had faith in me, which made me go for it.
The rest, as they say, is history!

What’s the most amazing trip you’ve ever guided, and why?

I’d say the Patagonia Venture, because it’s such a great itinerary and turned into a real adventure with a wonderful group.

It began with Spanish school in Cusco whilst the group lived with local families to practice speaking and getting to know the culture. Then we camped in a very remote village called Cuncani in the Sacred Valley, where the locals speak mainly Quechua and wear their traditional red ponchos daily. We built them a weaving workshop so that they could make a living from their incredible skills and we got very close to them and even joined in with their annual festival, which included horse races, running races, beer (chicha) drinking contests and carrot peeling contests!

After that we set up and painted a ‘comedor’ in Yucay where children from the mountains got fed breakfast after their two hour trek down to school and some more food before the hike back up. (Previously they’d been falling asleep in class due to exhaustion and hunger, or not showing up at all.)

Finally we set off for some fun adventures like doing the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu and heading across the mesmerizing salt flats in Bolivia in 4x4s into the heat of the Atacama Desert.

Jacqueline Wigglesworth and David Gordon, VentureCo

If you only had two weeks to explore South America, what would you include?

I’d probably stick with Peru and do it justice as there’s so much to see there including the Nazca lines, Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, the sacred valley, Cusco, Machu Picchu and other Inca sacred sites, and so much more in the North like Chan Chan and pre-Inca pyramids.

But if you were willing to rush a bit then you could include Ecuador too and see Quito, a bit of the Amazon and maybe even the Galapagos!

What do you love most about travel?

Unity in diversity.

So many different, fascinating places, people, cultures, beliefs and animals yet all on this one planet that we all call home. It gives perspective and hones a desire to protect Mother Earth and respect all peoples. Also, I’ve just encountered so much goodness, beauty, kindness and wonder. If you judged this world based on the news you’d never leave the house but I encourage people to go and see for themselves. Obviously common sense is necessary and there’s much that needs improving, but travel is a great education.

Jacqueline Wigglesworth on the Book BusWhy Mongolia?

I am very drawn to that country for its vast, remote open spaces, its nomadic culture (and the Yurts or Gers that they live in.)

Also for the fact that Tibetan Buddhism is still somewhat intact there, along with the more ancient shamanic beliefs and of course it has a remarkable history with Gengis Khan and his exploits, which led to the largest empire the world had seen back in the 1200s.

Did you know that women ruled the various territories there with huge success? I’m reading about it at the moment in: ‘The secret history of the Mongol Queens.’ They even rode out on horseback whilst pregnant, bow and arrow in hand to fight, and were victorious! (I can confide to you secretly that the cuisine is not my main reason for going. It’s all about survival there rather than taste. I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

What are you particularly looking forward to on this Mongolia riding trip?

Mainly just being out there in the middle of nowhere in the Gobi desert on horseback, knowing that horses actually originate from that part of the world and we’ll be with some of the world’s most competent horse people.

I can’t wait to stay in a yurt and spend a little time with the Nomadic people. Oddly enough I always tend to feel very much at home with such people and surrounded by nature. That is, after all how things used to be, and some would argue how things should be. As Thoreau said: “Simplify, simplify.” I’m also looking forward to being with the British Horse Society (BHS) group of intrepid riders.

What challenge do you have lined up next?

Well, if no one else is running VentureCo’s next riding trip on the beaches of Essaouira- Morocco next year, I’d love to do that!

Someday I’d like to go and see the Book Bus in action in India. Also we’re working on two new Inti World Yoga trips: one in Kerala and the other in Spain for the near future.

How do you split your time between the UK / abroad, where are you mostly based?

At one point I had a bag of things at a friend’s house in LA, another bag in Tulum, Mexico and one in Cusco, Peru, whilst the rest of my belongings were back in my parents’ loft in Hertfordshire!

I am not really based anywhere officially as I like to think of the world as home but I’m currently living in Ealing with a friend and really enjoying it. It has a communal pool and tennis court so I lucked out moving here for this hot summer. If I do settle, I’ll probably end up in the Languedoc region of France or California or Hawaii or some crazy remote spot on the planet eventually but for now I’m happy being a nomad with a foot in England and a head full of dreams and ideas!

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