Time: How skillful a horseman were you when you decided to make this journey?
Stewart: I'd ridden once before on a ranch trip in Wyoming. As it went on, I became a lot more accomplished and wanted more-and-more-eager horses. I actually rode up at each new camp in a grand styleógalloped up and leapt off my horseóto let them know that I could handle their horses.
Time: Your understanding of the nomadic culture changed as your journey progressed.
Stewart: I went with the traditional idea of nomads as a free-wheeling, liberating force. But in fact, they are extremely conservative. I brought a saddle of my own, which shocked people because this was not a Mongol saddle. This was not the way things were done in Mongolia. It's a very non-experimental society. Very little had changed in 750 years.
Time: Are they a satisfied people?
Stewart: Yes and no. They are more satisfied because they are more in control of their affairs now that the Russians are gone. But the economic mess they're in is a matter of great regret to them.
Time: What about Mongolia stands out in your memory?
Stewart: The size of it, the scale of it. It's like what the American West once was. There are no roads, no fences, no ditches, no houses. It's just an elemental landscape, a stripped landscape, a landscape of shape and form and size and sweep. That's what lingers with me, the romance of it.