And we’re reminded – warning, irresistible play on words up ahead – never to judge a book by its cover.
I caught up with Anna before she set off on her latest adventure.
Could you tell me what your mission to Mongolia is all about, Anna?
Colonel John Blashford-Snell, OBE, is leading a three-week expedition to Western Mongolia with 20 people, all paid up volunteers from different walks of life and with varied skill sets. We’ll all offer assistance and be assigned specific tasks in the field: monitoring wildlife with Mongolian scientists and academics, providing community aid such as distribution of reading glasses and school books and offering medical help. We have two female UK surgeons on the trip, a physio and psychologist. We also have botanists, an environmental expert, and former army personnel. I shall be assisting the Mongolian zoologists and teaching/community aid.
Each of us will make our own way to Ulaanbaatar from where we’ll all set off by internal plane to Khovd, a sprawling desert town serving as a junction between the Gobi and Altai Mountains. We’ll move around on horseback taking in the famed Naadam hunting festival and Khustain National Park where the famed Przewalski horses roam. The Altai is also the place where Big Foot is supposed to hide out! Be an adventure to run into one!
What sort of conditions do you expect to encounter?
Temperatures will be around 35 by day but frosty and very cold in the tents at night. We’ll be camping out in different zones each night. Conditions will be very basic! Animals we’ll monitor hopefully will include bears, wolves, antelope, small mammals such as marmots and so on. We’ll set traps with night vision glasses by night to study them, then release them back into the wild.
What has your training involved?
I have had to learn to ride a horse from scratch as we will be riding in many areas of wild terrain throughout the region. I have participated in many tough global expeditions before so always try to get as fit as possible before I go! I have lost a stone gradually this year and increased my daily exercise routines to include running, pilates, horseriding, mountain climbing and swimming, as well as body strengthening.
How have you found the training to be?
A bit challenging, in truth! All the same I convince myself that it’s good for me and I try my best. Besides, it’s always a good excuse to eat more chocolate!
Why did you decide to go horse-riding in Mongolia?
I have always wanted to go to Mongolia and I loved the idea of being of use in the field. However, John Blashford-Snell told me I could participate providing I learnt to ride a horse! So I had no choice. But I’m glad I agreed because the whole experience has been fantastic, and I’ve learnt a new skill.
Will there be a book about your adventures?
Ha! I’m not sure about a book but I will certainly include the trip in my next Mallorca travel title and I’ll be writing it up for one or two magazines probably.
What compels you to go on these journeys?
I’m not that mad on conventional time away from my desk and lying on beaches bores me to death. I love challenges, adventure and travel to weird and wonderful faraway places as well as helping people. These expeditions fulfil all those aims.
What are you currently working on bookwise?
My first crime novel, the first in a series set in rural Mallorca will be launched in January 2019. Its title is The Devil’s Horn. The seventh in my current Mallorcan travel series is called Peacocks in Paradise and will be published June 2019.
Good luck, Anna, and I look forward to hearing about your adventures when you get back.
Order Anna’s books and find out more about her at www.anna-nicholas.com.