FOUR falls, six stitches and a wolf could be the start of a bad joke.

But instead they are the injuries sustained and the foe encountered by Paul Chew when he took part in the world’s toughest horse race.

The intrepid adventurer is recovering at his home in Southfield Road, Shortlands, after coming fourth in the Mongol Derby.

Over the eight days it took him to complete the 1,000km race across Mongolia he kept a diary of his experiences.

Day 1: The Start

After the initial weigh where I officially became the heaviest person in the race at 84.5kgs.

Breakfast then off to saddle up for the start of the race. There were Buddhist monks to wish us well. So after a delay at 10am 26 riders set off across the steppe for 1,000km race. A straight run for the first 6km and then hilly terrain.

I had decided to take a wait and see approach to the first couple of days, so I very happy when I came across Richard Dunwoody having trouble with his horse and rode passed him. I was riding with a South African, Charles van Wyk who is an endurance horse rider, we had decided to attempt to reach the third horse station that evening, and stay overnight which we successfully completed.

It was decided by the race committee that it was too dangerous for people to sleep outside of the horse station perimeter due to wolves in the area. Most people had brought tents which they erected outside the main Geer but for the few of us who had not there was little space to lay out the sleeping bags.

So after some mutton soup it was to bed at the end of a long day. But not to a good nights sleep. As there was a disturbance during the night, an animal had got loses within the tents, nobody actually saw what it was but we all knew it had to be a wolf!

Day 2: Marmot Holes

Up at 6am to cold and fresh morning, a cup of warm milky tea and to our steeds. Four of us set off together and sue to some great navigating from Sas, another South African we arrived at the next station first with only one unofficial dismount by myself. Crossing a stream my horse decided he didn’t want to cross and stopped unfortunately I carried on, straight over his head.

We arrived at the next horse station, set off unfortunately my horse had a sore on his back I didn’t see and after 5km I decided to return back to the station and find a new horse. This put me an hour behind Charles but with a good horse I thought I could catch him up.

I chased after him riding hard until I came across Sas and Holly Budge who were having saddle bag problems and knowing that I would only reach the next horse station that evening I walked in with them. Unbeknown to me the race had been halted as one of the riders had fallen badly and the medics were taking him to hospital and therefore the race was halted until they returned. But that put me 4hrs behind the race leaders.

News Shopper: Paul Chew completed the Mongolian Derby in eight days. Picture courtesy of The Adventurists

Day 3: Sun and more sun

Up at 8am, a lay in, we weren’t allowed to continue until 1pm which meant we could only make two horse stations that day. I was riding with Holly, Sas and Sabrina, unfortunately Sabrina’s horse became lame, so I stayed with her until help arrived and she went back to the horse station to get a new horse.

I rode on until the next horse station and waited until she got there knowing that she would want to continue. When she arrived we only had an hour of daylight left but decided to continue and request accommodation at a local Geer.

When it was getting too dark we approached a Geer and after calling off the dogs we were shown a Geer to leave and saddles in. Then taken to another Geer where we were offered food and drink.

There were approximately 40 people in there celebrating – it dawned on me we had just crashed a Mongolian wedding where the two aunties began to teach me words in Mongolian much to the whole tents amusement, but the vodka was flowing and it seemed childish not to go along after the great hospitality we were been shown. Songs were sung and I had to make a toast to the happy couple then to bed.

Day 4: Lost horses

5.30am, still dark and in need of sleep Sabrina and I set off to find our horse gone. We had hobbled them together as we only had one hobble. As it was still dark we waited until the sun came up on the top of a hill with the hope of spotting them on the steppe. There was no movement from the wedding party it looked like it had gone on far into the morning by the look of the mountain of vodka bottles out side the party Geer.

Once light Sabrina and I set off in different directions looking for our horses. I found them down by a river a couple of km away. By the time I had caught them and got them back to the geer to saddle up we had lost 2hrs. We thanked our hosts who were just getting up and provided them with the shirt off my back as we had no other way of saying thank you.

Today’s ride took us across a valley through a mountain range and then through gold mines and finally an abandoned Russian artillery range. As we approached the valley vultures were gathering to await the thermals to glide over the steppe. We rode through them but some of them were massive there head height came to the mid section of the horse I was riding.

Through some good navigation we made a lot of ground on the people ahead in the morning. In the afternoon Sabrina’s couldn’t control her new horse and I lost touch and rode with another group for the afternoon.

Sabrina’s horse when eventually slowed down was lame and she had to call the vets in and the horse was taken back where she was given a lift to the next horse station where we met up again. This time unfortunately I had the lame horse and had to take it back , but was then given a race horse that set off at a gallop and didn’t stop until I had caught up with Sabrina and the other group.

The other group decided to make camp at 7.30 we continued until dark where once again we stopped at a geer knocked on the door and request a bed for the night. Food was then provided and more vodka was consumed.

Day 5: Wet and Cold

5.30am and the man of the house got up with us saddled our horses and his own and took us to the next horse station which was not 4km away. We thanked him and went on. The terrain was mountainous and the weather had closed in.

Unfortunately during the race I had lost my rain coat and pullover and was riding in a t-shirt. It would have been suicidal to continue in such conditions but due to the nature of the race I was considering continuing. At the last moment one of the vets said she had a spare coat and I could borrow it. I think she may well have saved my life.

It is amazing what you think you are capable of when you are tired cold and wet. Wrong decisions could have cost me my life.

So on we went, freezing cold rain into the mountains. Hour after hour, upon arriving at a horse station there was no point in getting dry, it would have just made it harder to go on. So we had quick change a rounds and continued on our way.

As the weather was so bad other racers were hiding out of the rain and not continuing as far as they could. At the end of the day we had caught up with another group, which left one other group and the leaders to catch.

As I arrived at the last horse station of the day there was 30mins day light left, Sabrina wanted to carry on but I need to get dry so we parted ways.

Again I made a wrong decision. I ate and sat in wet clothes, this made my core warm dissipate and I started to started to shiver uncontrollably.

I had to get warm very quickly, nothing for it but to strip naked and take my face cloth of a towel and dry myself. Unfortunately for others the Geer was full. A film crew in one corner the other group which were mainly girls and some Mongolian herders.

I managed to dry myself and put on the only change of underwear I had – which was damp – however the real bad news was my sleeping bad was sopping wet.

Fortunately one of the Mongolian lads gave me his then I was wrapped in a dell (a Mongolian riding over coat from one of the other Mongolians) and slowly I became warm and stopped shivering. To this day I still have missing feeling in three of my toes.

News Shopper: Mr Chew with some of the other riders. Picture courtesy of The Adventurists

Day 6: Riding on my Own

5.30 am and the geer started to move I got up and put on wet trousers and started to shiver again. I had to get them dry. I got back into the sleeping bag and waited for my body warmth to dry the trousers.

Unfortunately that meant all the other racers left while I was still drying to get warm. I set off gone 7.30am once the sun was up and had some warmth.

Unfortunately for the others they had taken the scenic route and by the next horse station I had an hour and a halves lead over them.

I picked up my new horse and set off at a good pace, then I was passing through a small town and it shop was open. I had been eating a diet of noodles and mutton for the last 6 days. I rode up to the shop hitched my horse to the fence and walked in. Orange juice and a snickers bar sitting on a step, luxury is not the words to describe what I felt.

The village children were beginning to gather, so in I went again more orange juice and another snickers bar, this time a hand full of sweet as well for the children. Back to my horse and off into the sun set.

Then came trouble, the stop had made my horse lazy and he would just not go no matter what I tried. He stood his ground when I eventually hit him he started to buck, which was fine but he still would not move.

I checked his girth for sores, I checked to see if he was lame, I also checked under the saddle for any sores or pins in him, but could find nothing. I called for help, all riders have to wear a positioning device which lets the organisers know where you are at all times. Should you have an accident and you are still awake you can press a button and the medics will rush to you.

The race had two medics for the 26 riders, however if your horse became lame you could also press another button and any of the 20 vets who were there to look after the horse would come racing to the welfare of the horses.

I pressed the vet button and waited. An hour later a vet was travelling past and stopped, looked the horse over, then the Mongolian owner rode the horse while it was bucking and decared the horse lazy. Got back in their 4x4s and drove off leaving me with a bucking horse and 8km from the next horse station. It took me six hrs.

I was tired sweat was pouring off me, I was dehydrated and I was hungry two Snickers bars was not enough, when I reached the next horse station. It was getting late and I was not sure of going on. Souk a local horse owner took pity, he explained through am interpreter, he would give me a horse that would take me to the next horse station and get me there before dark. He was true to his word, he chose a great horse which ran to the next horse station, on the way Souk passed me on a motorbike laughing. He had given me a horse which was going home which made all the difference. At Souks horse station we ate together before I slept.

Day 7: The Longest Day

5.30am after a warm night on a carpet in a Geer all to myself I arose to find a horse. Souk had got up and was standing waiting for me. He chose another great horse for me, and said his friend Icamera would find me a good horse at the next station.

So started the first of four legs which covered over 170km in one day, the farther any rider would cover in one day.

To say this day was epic would be an understatement, as I approached a horse station the Mongolians would be waiting I would hand out cigarettes to the men and sweets to the children and my only Mongolian “Mini mer han bag?” “Where my horse?”

The cheers from the men and the children were heartening, it was a scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc. The mile just disappeared under the feet of the horses I was riding. I soon caught up with the only group left in front of me, and by mid afternoon there was only three people ahead of me.

My final horse of the day, I had 35km to catch the leaders, but I only had 2hrs to do this I would need the best horse of the day, I would also need to concentrate hard as I was now very tired. I was given a race horse, he galloped for 20km and was not out of breath, he only stopped to walk across a bridge, once over a brief walk and he cantered the rest of the way.

I walked into the geer to find Charles and Sabrina being interviewed, Charles with a happy look on his face, Sabrina her mouth wide open.

Day 8: The finish Line

As we only had 80km to do on the final day we had decided to set off together. First was to ford a high river which meant I had wet feet for the remainder of the day. Once over the river I went off on my own, but the day before had taken it out of me, and I was continually making bad decisions, but at the final horse station the others had to wait as one of the organisers 4x4s had turned over, thankfully a broken collar bone and one of the vets had gone off to patch them up.

'Not bad for a fat old bloke'

So the four of us set off together on the final 22km leg of a 1,000km race, we roughly knew what penalties we had incurred so the order of finish was agreed prior to leaving the lat station. We galloped the whole way arriving at the finish line. Interviews, back slapping, and cold beer.

I had just completed the longest horse race in the world, not only that I was the heaviest and one of the oldest and I came in 4th. Not bad for a fat old bloke.