Morocco Ride – Kiddy Goats

And there we were, having to find a new campsite apparently.

Or rather our back up truck had to find the new campsite.

Which did not impress our lead guide,

(who of course, did the least of the work – just between you and I)037e79b2fb52127537be79110891ae3f

I on the other hand thought it an imminently sensible decision.

Once I learnt we were not the only madmen horse riding in the Sahara.

There was another group, and they were indeed mad and men.

Or at least their horses were, a group of stallions.

And considering all our horses were mares.

Well you see why I thought it an imminently sensible decision.

giphy.gif

Apart from anything else, I personally thought it was one of our loveliest campsites.

Nope. that does not mean it had any amenities,

but it did have

a hill!!!

DSCN1505
The hill alongside our campsite

Which served multiple purposes as you shall see.

The first and most significant one is

we could walk behind the hill and not be seen

– a very big plus in a desert with no toilets (or bushes).  21-emoji-tears

But be that as it may.

It was the spot where we saw, or let me rephrase that,

others saw

The Most Amazing Something flash across the sky.

(see Morocco Ride – the next days)

And it invited us all to explore.

It was enough of a hill to offer views, but not so much of a hill that it was daunting

so despite a whole day in the saddle,

3 of us raced off to see what we could see.

And no sooner had we begun to clamber up the rocks

 

DSC05817

DSC05816

Than we heard the strangest sounds and looked back to see these kids

(little goats, not children, although we saw them too)

come running towards us as though their lives depending on reaching us.

DSC05826
The ‘Hill”
DSC05819
They clambered up the rocks like
DSC05821
proverbial mountain goats
DSC05822
bleating all the time and leaving us wondering
DSC05823
what was going to happen when they reached us already at the top.

And what happened is that they stopped,

looked at us, looked around and

then scampered down with equal haste.

DSC05818

DSC05824
Rushing back to ‘mumma’

Leaving us very bemused and feeling quite ungainly as

we clambered down the same rocks they had jumped and leapt down.

DSC05829

DSC05826
The ‘Hill” with us clambering down – not quite like the goats 🙂

Through a conversation with ‘Da Mohammed’ my ‘go to’ on this trip

I believe I worked out the following:

The adult goats are taken by the shepherd to find feed while the

youngsters remain at the Bedouin camp.

For some mysterious reason, they (the youngsters)

thought we were their mothers

and they came running across

bleating to greet us and I presume seeking milk.

Imagine their disappointment!!!!

 

As the women from the camp came to call them and take them back ‘home’

It was such a fun interlude and surprise and

no sooner had we arrived back in camp than another group went up

to see the setting of the sun.

Without the goats this time.

DSC05833
view from
DSC05850
the top
DSC05834
looking at our camp
DSC05867
and at the camera
DSC05830
Miles of not very much…
DSC05875
Lovely Jo, whom I thank for all these photos – waving as she reminds us – life is good…

Silhouettes against ……

a setting sun.

A appropriate way to end.

An amazing adventure.

Morocco Ride – the next days…

(To be read after Morocco Ride – day one )

And just like that, the horses and riders worked together.

The first day was,

for everyone, a surprise,

requiring much energy, patience and self control.

But here, on day two,

it felt as though we all knew what was required

and were confident we could survive

and even enjoy the seven day ride.

DSCN1507.jpg

It is true they were long days in the saddle.

It is true it was hot.

It is true we had tiny tents and no ablution facilities.

And it is also true that I loved every moment.

48367640_501170037039070_5412631001757122560_n
Long hours in the saddle

DSCN0037

with a hot sun most of the day

DSCN0078
and thankfully a cooling in the evening

48375184_498247614000429_1737334109685940224_n

our very tiny ‘homes’

DSCN0292

Someone made these barriers – miles and miles of them.

The long stretches of silence as I absorbed the vastness around me

The companionable times I rode alongside someone and we shared our thoughts

The kindness of “D”‘ Mohammed, the guide who ‘adopted’ me

The responsiveness of my amazing horse, Zeina,

her kindness, generosity, strength and endurance.

DSCN0367-1

the guide “Da” Mohammed who took such care of me “Da” old lady                                      (da apparently meaning ‘old/wise’ 🙂

Perhaps these photos will illustrate  where words cannot,

what was a most remarkable experience.

48379003_261796737824619_4676536528493608960_n
We passed a Bedouin Family. I did not go in, but some did.
48386853_367673047319053_6810447371168645120_n
The miles and miles of ‘nothing’ – with it’s own kind of beauty
48407756_2245853865433706_3616783305602498560_n
And so much room to gallop, canter and have fun
DSCN0073
The only ‘fresh’ water on the trip
DSCN0140
It was hot and dusty
DSCN0117
and sometimes it felt like a looooong day
DSCN0141
Once we rode under a ‘shield’ of shade for about 5 minutes – I remember it was heaven and I thought of the cowboy movies where they always found shade. 🙂  Perhaps the heat had made me hallucinate – who knows, but I clearly remember thinking about cowboy movies!!!!!
DSCN0104
Biblical in its symbolism – like so much of this trip
DSCN0105
pulling up water bucket by bucket

 

DSCN0102
to give to our horses

 

DSC05650
no words,
DSC05648
just vistas
DSCN0232
of a land
DSCN0350
both harsh
DSC05734
and beautiful
DSCN0297
whichever way I
DSCN0301
looked

 

DSC05793
Feeding our horses was a daily ritual
DSC05794
required everyone’s help – even the little travellers who joined us and gave us so much joy
DSC05805
as well as giving our lovely horses food

DSCN0310

Some played while others watched…..

DSCN0391
and the men hauled water
DSCN1636
bucket by bucket at the wells along the way (there were not many of them I might add – those horses were remarkable)

DSC05710

‘Da Mohammed’  Whose kindness gave me courage. Whenever I looked around, there he was, keeping pace, watching out for me – and it wasn’t just me he cared for     He loved the horses passionately and was always working. – I shall forever remember him with fondness

And of course there was the necessity of feeding ourselves as well…..

 

DSCN0225
whether it was buying an orange from the locals (loved the clothes!)
DSCN0185
or trying to buy something to drink…
DSCN1554
and our daily delicious lunch – fresh salads, tinned tuna and bread pockets that were fresh on day one, not so fresh day seven 🙂
DSCN0347
but always prepared with such love by our amazing guides
DSCN0346
while we were left to search for ‘the proverbial’ ablutionary bush…… and may I add, it took some searching – good ablution bushes were few and far between.
DSCN0204
Our campsite was always a welcome sight – table and chairs a real treat and many happy hours we spent round that chatting and sharing

DSC05764

One night we slept in luxury,

a Bedouin camp with

‘stand up tents’

and sit down toilets,

even if they didn’t actually flush

and real warm water dripping out of a shower – of sorts.

How easily we were pleased.

How quickly we learnt to appreciate what a week before we would have despised.

DSC05739
A “Stand up” tent – didn’t matter that four of us slept in it – it was LUXURY – Fully lined with the most beautiful rugs
54256041_1039282436279843_6142783224557862912_n
Some even did washing!!!! Drying was not a problem

Our neighbours

DSC05765
That bizarre time warp
DSC05763
the juxtaposition of the modern
DSC05768
and the ancient
54519286_315176839170407_4444506478014889984_n
They munched
54278007_401230870671440_6887066903374725120_n
and sat and pondered
DSC05645
as a herder sat and munched
DSC05646
and pondered

There was a particular evening which perhaps sums up how amazing this place is.

DSC05879
look carefully you will see the light of our camp

We were seated at our table – 8 one side and the rest of us on this side,

it was dark, the sky ablaze with trillions of stars.

(In fact someone had counted

28 shooting stars in less than 29 minutes one night)

Shooting-Stars

Conversation and laughter was alive with energy when

out of nowhere those 8 faces opposite us

 froze for a few seconds,

then there was a collective cry of amazement.

They had all, at the same time seen something in the sky –

we are yet to define it precisely.

Suffice to say, this meteor, comet, or something else flashed across the sky,

so vividly and for such a long time

that they were stunned into silent awe

while those of us who had our backs to this wonder

were left amazed

at their amazement.

They were speechless at first

and then

could not stop speaking – all at once,

trying to explain what they had just seen,

clearly frustrated

that no words could adequate describe their collective vision.

This is in many ways

an ‘other worldly place’

20181215_074609.jpg

DSC05838
a speck in the sky
DSC05839
grew larger
DSC05840
to reveal an Air Morocco plane – how appropriate!!!

54410175_2241398479444810_4551443814996246528_n

a night of singing with drums and a fire – our guides leading the way, as usual

DSCN1524

One day,

We went over a mountain pass .

I write it so casually,

but it was anything but a casual passing through a pass

(I seem to remember another pass that was less casual then casual 🙂

Always read the fine print. Really? )

DSCN1602

We went over on foot

DSCN1593
It was steep
DSCN1590
It was hot

We lead our horses, always hoping they did  not step on our heels 🙂

DSCN1601
it was Up and Up

 

DSCN1594
taking a break whenever we could…
DSCN1568 (1).jpg
leaning on each other while we took a breather….
DSCN1599
or some photographs
DSCN1601
it felt like there was no end…
DSCN1584
… to the slog.
DSCN1575
and the heat.
20181214_160638
and then we were
20181214_160419
at the top – recovering and

 

20181214_160505
and contemplating the
DSCN1609
amazing vastness ahead.

It was a very real and yet at the same time very surreal experience.

And as I sat there, catching by breathe and looking

at the land before me,

I was drawn to The Book and the Promised Land.

And the time warp took me there –

53803703_579161432603968_6609254966831874048_n

I couldn’t help but think of Moses (Deuteronomy 34),

who was allowed to see the that promised land

but was not allowed to cross over into it.

Craziness, Heat, Weariness?

Or perhaps this place truly is something different.

Of course I wasn’t looking at The Promised land.

For one thing I was in the wrong country.

For another thing,

there was nothing attractive about what lay in front of me.

Stones, sand

and no milk or honey.

And yet that is where my mind kept taking me.

DSCN1626
Promised land?

And then began the descent….

Mercifully in the shade of the mountains for a short while.

DSCN1619
Coaxing our horses we began the descent
DSCN1620
Down and
DSCN1618
down.. careful step…

 

DSCN1623
by careful step
DSCN1628
Until finally we could ride again.

Welcome shade, for a short while,

and then the sun again.

As I said.

49043481_2262864540399305_7463765536736804864_n

It was a very real and yet at the same time very surreal experience.

Trudging along, with my horse, with the heat, with no idea of what was ahead,

and in my head a picture of

Mary and Jesus going to Egypt as refugees,

trudging along, with their donkey, with the heat, with no idea of what was ahead

and once again this amazing country

took me into a time warp.

DSC05697

Images along the way……

From shopping and eating…

To sights and views

DSCN0050
Jan, who gave this ride a miss and was always waiting to welcome us with Such a Lovely Smile…..
DSCN0117
That sun and dusk was something to behold
DSCN0140
and so we pretended to be masked bandits 🙂
DSCN0173
The most precious commodity in the desert
DSCN0199
alone in an almost alien world
DSCN0236
with the occasional sign of habitation
DSCN0338
and then again signs of absolutely
DSCN0383
absolutely nothing……..
DSCN0423
but miles of stone and sand
DSCN1531
and occasional ‘hills’
DSCN1558
follow my leader for 7 days.

A truly remarkable experience.

 

Thank you Jo, for all your lovely photographs. 

54518980_363796620893030_3623869567849201664_n

Morocco Ride – day one…..

The thought of ‘thundering’ through the plains of Mongolia

was what got me on a horse in the first place;

and here I was,

about to ‘thunder’ across the plains of  Morocco, on a horse!

Who would have thought!

And while I am still to see the Mongolian plains,

I have seen miles and miles of the Sahara desert,

some 100 something kilometers I believe.

Nor I am complaining.

After all they both show up on the world map,

both begin with an M, 

and both are exotic sounding.     

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 6.50.39 PM

 

And so after some adventures along the way Always read the fine print. Really? 

which reminded me this was an exploratory trip,

I was relieved to find that we were not going to Tombouctou

appealing as the name is….

21-emoji-tears

(although I always thought it was Tim Buck Too)

DSC05603
Because 52 days of travel was not appealing at all – again I suggest you ‘read the fine print’ to find out more 🙂
DSC05607
some of the crew – full of anticipation….

Screen-Shot-2019-01-01-at-4.52.22-PM

Instead,

we found ourselves in Zagora

where we needed to stop,

regroup,

shop,

stock up

and meet our horses.

 

DSC05617

Not one of our horses, but certainly ‘the stables’ where we found our horses 🙂

Did I mention this ride began on my birthday?

No, I don’t believe I did – but there you have it.

To celebrate my 65th birthday I was about to ride a horse for 7 days in the Sahara.

Tells you something about what has happened to my mind in my old age!!!!!

And so the first night, spent at the ‘stables’ as shown above was round a table with delicious food and celebratory musicians.

49895561_275284649823224_3084265519050653696_n
delicious food
49898459_341024316720794_2396681052128018432_n
enthusiastic musicians

Sadly I do not have any of the promised Professional photographs yet but these lovely ones are largely thanks to Jo – so very much appreciated.

Where they fail, use your imagination.

We had two belly dancers and a group of male musicians all of whom wanted to party long after we were all ready to retire!

50115454_366519417259555_5485888283240038400_n
Beginning to wish they were as ready for bed as we were !!!!

 

So far so good,

We had all had much fun,

survived the drive from (or was it too?) hell to get here

and  were about to begin a different ride bright and early

the day after the night before.

 

So how do I explain our first morning?

Maybe refer to my rough notes which I show below.

53324229_335836350394214_607738228866285568_n

They say:

“WOW!!!!!!  CHAOS

Barb & Arab horses.   

Good riders and still chaotic.   

What am I doing here

Fractured wrist and all

Stomach churning,

Ready to bail 

 But do what? 

Sit in the truck with no one speaking English?

Stayed – so nervous couldn’t even see the views”

DSCN0012

Really difficult to explain how hectic this morning was.

18 riders, more than I have ridden with before.

All of them much better riders than I am and still they had their hands full.

Of course these photos hastily taken by someone show tranquility –

that is because when there wasn’t (tranquility) which was most of the time that morning,

no one Could take photos 🙂

DSCN0002-1
Waiting as they saddled
DSCN0003-1
our horses, which took
DSCN0005-1
a looong time

Luckily for me I had Not done my homework on the Barb horse (or Berber)

because they are described as :

” generally possessing a fiery temperament and an atypical sport-horse conformation,

but nevertheless has influenced modern breeds”.   

It would appear even the Andalusian was bred through the Barb.   

 I certainly saw some of that fiery temperament on that morning.

istockphoto-626502106-612x612

I did learn that they had been fed oats for a few days prior,

with no work,

in anticipation of the 7 day ride ahead.

Oats apparently makes them ‘full of energy’.

 

And so I was here – for better or for worse.

Finally I was allocated a mount, Zeina, a flea bitten gray (again)

although this time a Barb Arab cross and happily for me,

the kindest, most willing, even tempered friend I could ever ask to spend 7 days with.

Fortunately too, I was the last to be saddled up

so I did not have to keep her tranquil for ages waiting for the others.

DSCN0322
My flea bitten gray – Zeina and I. The sweetest soul in the Sahara…

So what were the views I according to my notes not see thanks to my nerves?

Well we left the ‘stables’ and found ourselves in the streets of Zagora.

Narrow lanes really,

where the sound of horses feet on the ground brought people rushing out from

every nook and cranny (of which there were many)

DSCN0007
people appeared
DSCN0092
from everywhere…..
DSCN0096
and apparently nowhere to….
DSCN0010
watch and even try to touch
DSCN0023-1
observing us as we
DSCN0024-1
passed through – and not just people stared at us!!!!!

Finally and thankfully we were out of the ‘crowds’ and could settle our horses and ourselves.

For what lay ahead……

DSCN0029-1
Finally “Far from
DSCN0032
The Madding Crowd”
DSCN0033
we became the mad crowd  🙂

Which was fascinating.

The Draa Valley to begin with.

(the Draa river when it flows is Morocco’s longest river, 1 100 km)

DSC05596
a river valley filled with palm trees
DSCN0026
with occasional ‘farms’
DSC05595-1
The Draa Valley
DSC05748
those ‘farms’
DSCN0018
silent walking…
DSCN0048-1
and sometimes talking
DSCN0049-1
but always observing the scenery

It was an incredibly long day,

both in terms of hours in the saddle,

and emotionally as we settled with our horses

and worked through the Adrenalin of our start.

And my notes remind me we arrived at camp well past dusk,

weary, grateful for an AMAZING meal, and our tiny tents.

I for one, didn’t care that I wasn’t going to shower or wash,

I was just pleased to crawl into a warm sleeping bag, with a nourished body.

DSC05876
The mobile ‘kitchen’…
DSC05877
from which amazing meals were created
DSC05641
our mobile ‘homes’
DSC05690-1
Our Amazing support crew – 1 truck. All our gear, tents, food & horse food etc
DSC05684-1
Time to put our heads down for the night

Portugal – Dolphin Trail

 

I am used to travelling alone and often find myself ‘the odd one out’ in a group.   But never more so than when I joined a group of horse riders in Portugal.

  The group  had been riding together for several months and were

winding down towards the end of their epic adventure.

I had just arrived, all enthusiastic and

wound up at the beginning of my epic adventure.

47088144_374256333330438_309596219246641152_n

They had long ago worked out where they ‘fitted’ in the group and their conversation flowed quickly and with a familiarity that left me ‘out on a limb’ for the entire evening.

That first dinner I felt like I was on one of the wobbly things you use in the gym.70275_1_Something designed to keep you on your toes; fully engaged and concentrating and wriggling this way and that to keep your balance!!!

 

But ‘find my balance’ I  did,

46662676_2211107475575012_5498341201612374016_o-1

And the first morning of riding was filled with sunshine, smiles and a natural order….. me at the back, comfortable on my horse, Epico, by name,

following the straight backs and confident body language of the riders in front.

Now I know I don’t know much about much,

but this time I had done my homework.

I knew I was riding a Lusitano,

whose ancestors were found on the Iberian peninsula as long ago as 25 000BC.

Not that my Epico was that old  you understand,

but his father’s father’s father etc….. was there once.

   In fact, apparently this is his father,

which is hard to believe when you realise

47215017_2216513785034381_45438743946985472_n

that This is Epico. (on a good day)

24059340_720371061489207_7415586502296931118_o

But I digress (again).

Lusinatos and Andalusians were only recognised as separate lines in 1960.  Apparently the Andalusian has a straighter head profile and carriage and used for dressage and the Lusitano a rounder head and stronger athletic body for herding cattle and those bulls.

I also knew that the Iberian Peninsula was where Portugal ‘found’ itself, and the use of the word Iberian dates back to 500BC!!!

It is the second largest European peninsula (after the Scandinavian peninsula) with indications of habitation more than 1.2 million years ago.

The truth is the history of the Lusitano and the Iberian Peninsula is actually quite interesting, but something tells me it would bore you, so I shall remain interested without sharing 🙂 🙂 🙂

What I Will share, though is that I was on an ‘exploratory ride’ which meant we had a vague idea of what lay ahead, but only a vague one.

Which suited me.

I was on a 5 day trail in the  Costa Azul (blue coast) of Portugal,

with our guides, Miguel, Dennis and Vladimir

and waiting to see what unfolded.

23826278_720372721489041_702331275510126903_o
Vladimir – so helpful
47208195_10216182234695844_4119295217968873472_n
Miguel – so amusing
38013934_856589847867327_5025139765276573696_n
Dennis – so good at creating a feast

 

We had amazing weather considering it was mid November.

We had wonderful riding, through villages where the horses hooves clanked on the roads, conjuring up memories of bygone days in books of those times.

And where Epico lurched and lunged when a bus or truck came rumbling past –

I was too busy staying on to see what vehicle it was 🙂

But I certainly learnt to hang on tight, breathe and expect the unexpected!

47155895_354074888718860_5978221329273323520_n
The sound of horses hooves on bitumen is such an ’emotive’ one – at least for me….
46934368_398362490903340_1382817738023501824_n
that sound
47398321_267313650645652_3072683345168039936_n
mirrors to avoid traffic!

And what an unexpected morning it was.

A lost shoe meant a halt for running repairs.  Well actually not running at all, it was standing repairs so that we could go running later 🙂

47178815_370190373718328_196381310820810752_n
That’s my Epico
47213035_460322374491768_6119111404931776512_n-1
while the others took a leg stretch.
52702727_606296896487144_7538918140042805248_n
and still others grabbed a bottle…….
52665238_841249736230046_2089596740209475584_n
which was shared all round – such a delicious port – at 11 am!!!!!!
53292303_630227577431130_7533227248246063104_n
and which obviously intrigued the locals 🙂

Our days were spent riding through stunning cork forests

46966537_2215231715162588_226950762024927232_o

 

50640948_348547069317445_6191772467644596224_n
so beautifully old
47036282_2217926644893095_5262079014914228224_n
images of the countryside
47226213_2217926634893096_7293859349221343232_n
beautiful in their neglect
52082305_329696777659141_222018297028149248_n
Epico and me….
47170945_10216200600794985_5456147593220325376_n
gazing across…
47421777_2217928078226285_5251613944845434880_n
at our reflection
47682321_348590312643892_1207693092228956160_n
drinks time

 

And the most wonderful lunches, outdoors, with smiles, drinks and such fresh salads

(well mixed in Miguel’s big tub 🙂 )

 

47225202_10216200605235096_7666912859862859776_n
even our
46919172_2213627435323016_2157633506123972608_n
4 legged friends
47354949_10216200606555129_1345299351857004544_n
had a siesta
47298299_10216200605155094_191331077820776448_n
and savoured the aroma of our lunch

Cork is ‘harvested’ manually and the art of this is not to damage the tree.

IMG_4084This is how it is done.  – Each tree is debarked every 10 years

 

(Portugal uses cork in so many fascinating ways, shoes, bags, hats – really beautifully made. )

47104186_266148657337290_3650255570583158784_n
cork stacked and ‘ready to go’

We had stunning canters, and a wonderful day on the beach.

Full of adventure – the photos will ‘speak’ for themselves.

IMG_4297
I love the light….
IMG_4313
shadows and
IMG_4314
sky
47352467_290707674902429_1339538138560724992_n
The team
47378528_258438371489807_8595607590962987008_n
solitude of a stunning beach

Which inevitably meant we just had to canter and race and have So much fun.

IMG_4271
miles of nothing
IMG_4288
sea and light
IMG_4289
to take your breathe away
IMG_4315
even though it was not warm

Until, one of the waves washed up some green netting just in front of my Epico.

Dear strong and brave friend that he is,

he needed to save me from this monster

and so swerved (suddenly) away, without warning, and left me behind!!!!

IMG_4320
and that was me, 20 seconds after falling
IMG_4316
not sure exactly how I feel
IMG_4317
but better laugh – just in case
IMG_4319
while I have my glasses
IMG_4318
cleaned and returned – Note the green netting – Such a Monster!!!
47203030_2220668661285560_5994390562587803648_n
and there I was back on Epico!!!!

But it wasn’t all riding, there was laughter, drinks and a wonderful day out on the bay with the dolphins.

 

 

47128671_2218560911496335_5708538958367948800_n

 

 

46987293_2217928321559594_7234615051376656384_n
views
47122145_10216200598114918_4974342843469398016_n
pools
47154225_10216200641716008_4700796350617354240_n
skies early
47191578_290579621593935_6158334343358971904_n
and
47376668_10216200641756009_189053632757366784_n
late
IMG_4125
images……
47175986_2215688425116917_698926479118958592_o
and always food….. 🙂

and the black pigs.

A fun day out looking for, finding and watching the Bottlenose Dolphins in Setubal.

These are totally ‘wild’ and seem to be very happy playing around our boat for hours.

46979485_2215222981830128_6406298439038009344_n
No complaints
47032990_2215222975163462_6936804926764875776_n
Bottle-nosed friends
46951626_2215218585163901_7358824801202339840_n
each with their thoughts……
IMG_4133
Setubal
IMG_4140
as smooth as glass today
IMG_E4157
where friends converged
IMG_E4136
to chat
IMG_4307
and salute
IMG_4277
LIFE

47007583_196239501264747_4983062438829096960_n

53152838_2077928035578263_6628658353469915136_n

And suddenly it was all over.

47192619_2219298268089266_2396529066120314880_n

I didn’t feel like I was trying to find my balance anymore..

I had found it.

But then again perhaps not

since I clearly lost it on the beach –

with a fractured wrist as a reminder.

47360964_2219157041436722_2236106797754613760_n

47230135_346050196219848_4894587267877699584_n
moments
unnamed
in time
47113519_10216182227015652_4314245187988619264_n
always the sky
47322835_10216200603635056_7443873554619170816_n
and water…

 

I had made some new friends, knew where I ‘fitted in’ and was no longer out on a limb

(although I had a limb which was ‘out of order’ :-))

and was looking forward to our next exploratory ride in Morocco.

 

47008228_2216357871716639_7711284158407901184_n
Farewell Miguel – till another time

 

Photos thanks to ‘the team’

for more on Portugal see Long day in Lisbon, or rather Portugal 🇵🇹Breakfast – Lisbon style 😉 ; Lazy in Lisbon;  and Sintra – Dreamy Castles

Saturday Breakaway ……

Not to be confused with Weekend Getaway (click the link) but to be read alongside.

 

“Come with me” she said.

“It will be fun.

You can escape Melbourne ,

the weather looks good

and it is sooo close”

And so I did.

Go with her, that is,

to escape Melbourne and

because it is sooo close.

Off I went, to visit Jacqui,

who put Banjo in his float, while I put myself in my bathers.

A short drive took us to a secluded beach

where she  jumped nimbly onto

her horse’s back.

53208722_10158359053602846_516425145389154304_n

I emphasise the word nimbly.

Because I now had to mount Banjo;

without stirrups,

without a mounting block,

with no reins or a mane to pull on.

There was nothing nimble about my mounting.

There was a great deal of pushing and shoving to my mounting….

By Chris, from below and behind.

Chris who is not interested in horses, does not ride and

wasn’t really going to come to beach.

I will be forever grateful she did come along –

If she had not,

I would still be trying to get onto Banjo’s back……

Which in hindsight, may not have been such a bad idea 🙂 🙂 🙂

But mount him I did.

And for sometime we savoured the delights of bareback riding

with the water warm on our legs and the sun on our backs.

52592623_10158359053462846_854297732800577536_n
and we had such fun….

Until, who knows why, but ‘we’ thought it a good idea to trot in the water.

Because, of course, Banjo could see exactly where he was putting his feet….

1
trotting away, pushing Banjo….
2
who loved every minute

Until he couldn’t see, but only feel,

as his feet sunk into a crater in the ocean bed

and his head went down…..

3
until the sand disappeared and so did he

and guess what?

So did we,

go down that is.

Down onto the ocean bed – full of sand,

But definitely with less after we visited it,

as we took an awful lot of sand home with us, clinging our bathers 🙂

4
which left us up in the air
6
with only one way to go
5
however we liked
52786759_10158360716727846_5817214387009617920_n
although still hanging on … to someone ….. or something until
7
somewhere under the water… was yours truely

We have attempted to show snippets from a video Chris was taking of us – but the video is SO much more fun.

Happily, all’s well that ends well.

Banjo didn’t go far and he had a far more sedate swim with Chris and Jacqui.

That is of course, the Chris who  is not interested in horses, does not ride and

wasn’t really going to come to beach. 🙂

sedate

Back home we hosed down Banjo  the dogs, and  ourselves.

And then sat down to some serious drinking and laughter

as we watched that fall

over and over again.

 

“Come with me”, she said, “it will be fun.”

And so I did.

And it was.

Such Fun.

52541571_10158359343842846_41977408328302592_n
Thank you all for Such a fun time x

 

 

 

Weekend Getaway

“Come with me” I said.

“It will be fun.

We will escape Melbourne, the weather looks good

and it is sooo close”

And so she did.

Come with me, that is,

to escape Melbourne and because it is close.

Well to be precise,

I went with her since she has a very flash ‘ute’ –

with heated seats and all.

51683554_2240015506051084_6743993498271219712_n

Off we went on Friday,

two ‘gals’ on an adventure to visit the

Victorian High Country.

Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 10.11.54 PM

We stopped for drinks at Bonnie Doon – seen the movie The Castle?

If not, why not, a great film and if you have, you know why we stopped here.

51413975_10158313904727846_9097803999326765056_n
Boonie Doon Pub

Mansfield was our next stop.

Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 10.13.15 PM

It is a charming town, gateway from Melbourne to The High Country and always busy; with people –

riders like ourselves,

cyclists with their paraphernalia,

runners proving their worth to themselves, or someone else,

tourists browsing the shops,

locals doing their shopping and

everyone stopping at the many coffee shops.

51486714_2318419084843850_7899670563700867072_n
always a good excuse to stop

 The hospitality of ‘country folk’ the world over, knows no bounds and so it was here too.

Nelda and Greg opened their absolutely beautiful home to us for the night.

and what a night it was……

Four women from completely different backgrounds

sat round the table and laughed and talked as only women can.

moment
a moment captured
nelda 2
a view captured
special
a hug savoured

 

That we finished a bottle and a half of gin probably helped. 🙂 🙂

When we finally trundled off to bed wondering why we had lingered so long

when we had a full day of riding ahead of us –

we were tempted

not to,

ride that is, but just linger longer……..

joy
‘no words’ required

cheers

claire d

ah the joys of ‘geselsskap’  (English words don’t cut it)

nelda am 2
The morning …
nelda am 3
after the night before….
nelda am
brought a hazy beauty, perhaps not just because of the light 🙂

Saturday arrived bright and early, and so did we.

Arrive at Telephone Phone Box Junction to be precise, at 9am –

where we were met by old friends –

I had ridden with Christian and Laura before (

in case you are curious: Hidden Trails…… (click on the link….)

and quite a few ‘strangers’.

It is interesting how the dynamics of a group changes depending on the length of time one is going to be together.

In this case, only one night and so both the guides and guests seemed ‘more insular’ as though the energy required for introductions wasn’t  warranted for just 24 hours.

What can I say?

1f914

What I CAN say, though ,

is that there is something about growing up in this country,

and even more so if horses have always been your love,

and the story of The Man from Snowy River.

download

It carries an almost mystical attraction

so that to ride up to Craig’s Hut becomes

for many a sort of pilgrimage, or so  it seems to me.

I have now been lucky enough to ride there 4 times,

on on each occasion with different people

and each time I sensed they had a link to the place that I did not feel.

I am sure because I came to this place, horses and the story relatively recently.

For me, it is the ride, the mountains, the trees, the birds, the magnificence of the vistas.   Breathtaking.

IMG_3658

IMG_3659

IMG_3661

IMG_3662

IMG_4142

IMG_6025

I was ‘moved up the ladder’ so to speak and my horse this time, ‘Billy’ was ‘more forward’ (for my non horsey friends – quicker, eager, needs more skill!)  and allowed to ride with the front group.

A huge step up for this wanna be rider you must understand –

kind of like wearing my ‘big pants’ now.

So off I went with the ‘real riders’  through rivers, up hills and across dales,

(although I think I may have the wrong country – dales? Australia?)

IMG_6032

IMG_6030

 

We all know about mountain weather, and how unpredictable it can be.

new-piktochart_30214532-copy

We also know that is has been over 35’C for weeks and weeks and weeks and the weather forecast showed a narrow band of rain, about 30% showers.
Nothing too alarming, but just to be sure we all strapped a ‘dry as a bone jacket’ onto our saddle and confidently set off for a day of pleasure.

And pleasure it was for the first hour or so,

and then, it would appear,

we rode straight into the tiny blue band we had seen on the weather app –

that small 30% chance of rain?

Well, we found it –

and suddenly the temperature dropped to about 9’C,

the wind arrived

and the rain bucketed down.

There we were, astride our horses, committed and gradually getting colder and colder

and wetter and wetter.

I was fortunate I had gloves, which although so wet I could squeeze handfuls of water from them, they kept my hands protected from the wind.

The others were less fortunate and I noticed hands being clenched in pain against the cold.

Finally we arrived  at our lunch spot – the sight of a fire and hot food.

We were more fortunate than our poor horses who were not fed, but rather tied up to weather the storm as best they could.

And of course we had our famous ‘dry as a bone’ jackets, which were in fact not dry at all and most of us were wet to our bones, but who am I to argue with an iconic name?

wet
our smiles, the horses heads down
wet1
3 musketeers
wet2
finding a hot drink
wet3
and SO much smoke
wet4
and rain
wet6
while some burnt their pants drying to dry them

Finally, the rain eased and we tried to bridle our horses again.

My poor Billy was so cold he could not keep his head still and it was with great difficulty and much coaxing that he was finally all set to go.

I could feel his body shaking with cold as I mounted; it was a really awful feeling.   Thankfully he warmed up quite quickly once we started down towards our camp.

cold.jpg

IMG_2208
Does that look wet & cold? Hope so, because it WAS

And it wasn’t long before everyone felt a little better;

the rain had stopped, the wind felt less brutal and the temperature was

a little higher as we went lower.

We left our horses at Razorback Camp, unsaddled, blanketed and fed.

Some of us meet ‘the locals’, shared their fire and drinks until it was our turn to be taken to our camp, ‘unsaddled’ of our wet gear, blanketed in warm clothes and fed a deliciously hot meal.

IMG_6022
Our horses rugged and settled….
IMG_6017
so welcome
IMG_6023
a hut to dry our clothes
IMG_6027
aptly named camp site

 

warm 2

And so to Sunday.

Which thankfully started bright and sunny.

Nonetheless I was not going to be caught wrong footed again, so when we were warned that it would be cold and windy ‘on the summit’ and we should dress warmly,  I took them at their word and did.

For the first time ever, I wore two pairs of pants, thermals and riding pants, and because it would be cold, I wore TWO thermal tops, yes I know, overkill?   But hey, you weren’t with me yesterday !!!!!  My cotton shirt, my down vest and again because I knew what Cold meant now, my down puffer jacket And my purple Aldi rain jacket.  Not to forget my thermal neck warmer and the ‘dry as a bone’ jacket strapped to my saddle, just in case.

I explained to Billy and asked his forgiveness for having to carry this

Michelin woman

michelin

because the look he gave me clearly said, “and now?”

And now……..

Of course.

Sun and warmth and despite the predictions, not a breathe of wind.

In fact a perfect day.

Unless you are kitted out like a Michelin woman –

which of course I was as you can see by the shape 🙂

IMG_2275
Michelin woman

For about the first hour or so both Billy and I ‘steamed’ as the sun warmed us.

In Billy’s case the steam was literal and quite funny to watch.

In my case, not quite literal and certainly less comical.

He and the other horses stopped steaming.
I was less fortunate and for the rest of the day  remained insulated in my private steam bath, unable to take anything off as there was nowhere to tie anything else on.

I did after all still have my ‘dry as a bone’  jacket, which interestingly was still very wet and heavy from yesterday, strapped to my saddle.

Nonetheless we had a magnificent day of riding to the summit of Mount Stirling, to Craig’s hut and back down to Telephone Box Junction –

A glorious end to an interesting two days of riding.

IMG_4153
Snow Gums, Mountains, Sky, Beauty

 

IMG_2290
We
IMG_2291
finally all
IMG_2286
got there together 🙂

 

3 mu
Those Musketeers!

 

IMG_2283
Playing is
IMG_2282
such fun
G0150877
My partner in crime sure knows how to ride
IMG_4127
The iconic Craig’s Hut
IMG_4057
Bucket list stuff
IMG_4251
And just as quickly
IMG_6094
as it began it was
IMG_6095
over….
IMG_4286
And it Was Fun

Thanks for coming for me, Jacqui.

It Was fun.

We Did escape Melbourne

The weather Was good (some of the time)

and it was sooo close……

…… to perfection, we may have to do it again

037e79b2fb52127537be79110891ae3f

Feb 2019

Always read the fine print. Really?

If you have a legal brain,

 if you are naturally suspicious.

or if you don’t want any surprises.

 

smiley-face-982981

 

I, of course, do not have a legal brain,

and am,

some would say,

naively trusting

and since my life has been one surprise after another,

I am somewhat inured to the unpleasant ones and the good ones give me

no cause to complain.

Cute heart emoji. Smiling face icon

So I have No reason to worry about the fine print.

I usually scan read whatever it is,

decide if it is interesting enough to read more than every fifth word

and if it is still interesting,

I sign the dotted line.

 

And so it was that I signed up to do a horse ride in Morocco.

I read all about the exploratory nature of the ride,

the Barb/Arab horses, the camping, the sand dunes, the Daar Valley

and what I read ticked all ‘my boxes’ so I ticked all their boxes and signed on the dotted line.

‘Somewhat lazy’ must stand alongside ‘naively trusting’

so I said,

“whatever you decide,

I’ll go along with”

…….

And go along I did.

On a long trip,

which had nothing to do with horses,

(that was still to come, all 7 days of it.)

Rather this had much to do with a vehicle

and a road,

Over the Atlas Mountains,

from Marrakech to Ouarzazate

which as you can see, ‘Google’ says will take 3 hours and 51 minutes.

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 5.10.27 pm

And so it was that we happily jumped into our vehicle.

Oblivious of what lay ahead,

confident in our Google map information and

full of energy in anticipation of our horse riding adventure soon to begin.

Twelve of us squeezed into our van,

 every seat occupied, off we went.

Blue van full of children illustration

We went over the Atlas Mountains,

using the Tichka Pass.

dsc05519 atlas
The Atlas Mountains – ethereal, like a mirage

If only we spoke or even understood Berber,

we would have known that Tichka meant ‘difficult’ and

this pass is listed amongst the

ten most dangerous mountain passes in the world!

Although even if we had spoken Berber,

we did not discover the name of the pass until we reached the top

and saw a sign the first sign marking the Tichka Pass.

But we didn’t speak Berber so it didn’t mean anything to us.

I jump ahead of myself –

forgive me, for we were not there yet.

We were leaving Marrakech, looking at the scenery,

ooing and aahing at this and that and

taking snapshots through the windows.

And then the ascent.

dsc05517 atlas 2

As we left the lowlands,

those on one side of the vehicle looked downwards to a bottomless space

while the others side looked out at a dark wall of rock that blocked the light and stretched I presume to heaven, we could not tell.

As we left the lowlands,

conversation slowed, windows were opened, photography ceased and

slowly it dawned on me that we were in for a long day.

A long day

of winding roads, sick passengers and no way of preventing either.

And so it was.

We stopped when we could,

everyone descended to gasp for air,

empty our stomachs,

(again and again and again)

decide who would be best at which window,

fill water bottles and those who could, at any time,

take a photograph or two.

dsc05529 break

dsc05534 view 1

48355220_10216312278026846_3249158766767112192_nchild

 

But for the majority of the team,

this was a road to and/or from hell.

It seemed pointless to discuss this objectively since it was clear

that as far as they were concerned, death would be a welcome relief

from the hell of this road.

This road, which Google confidently forecast would take us 3 hours 51 minutes

actually took us close to 6 hours.

Which made me wonder if Google knew that there was traffic, an ascent and more bends and turns than in a game of snakes and ladders

followed of course

by a steep descent,

with another game of snakes and ladders!!!!!!

img_5155 (1)
Shadows of our former selves !

And I feel confident when I say that for many,

those 6 hours felt longer than the entire 7 days on horseback.

After the event,

hindsight being a wonderful thing – don’t we all know that,

I discovered the following tips:788eaad4-8c20-4a46-92ff-f6df41d4813d-drunkemoji3110

1) Hire a driver with an air conditioned vehicle who will stop every hour or more.

2) Take plenty of water to avoid dehydration – you are travelling to the Sahara desert and the temperatures and altitudes will be extreme

3) Take travel sickness tablets before travelling

4) Avoid eating too much – it may not stay down!!!!!

And the final line was a challenge :

What about you, are you brave enough to see the Atlas Mountains via the Tichka Pass?

21-emoji-tears

 

If only we had read the fine print !!!!!

 

img_5169
Keeping our spirits up at a stop along the way

 

Epilogue

Some of our team refused to do the return trip,

wisely finding an aeroplane to take them back from Zagora to Marakech.

Others elected to be passengers again,

but going back,

better prepared,

we seemed to fare better.

Perhaps reading the fine print isn’t such a bad idea?

Just a thought.

 

Thanks to Jo for many of the photos.

Tassie Tigers…..

It would appear I begin every riding blog

with the imaginative but repetitive statement

there are no words

Which is odd,

for as anyone who knows me knows,

words ‘are my thing’ 🙄

I love the sound of them

(don’t we know! I hear you say )

although I will point out that loving the sound of them is different from loving the sound of my own voice using them 😂

I love how you can play with them;

saying one thing while meaning something completely different 🙃

I love the the way they dance, black and white, across a page

the way they ‘mean’ something – as if they were musical notes.

And yet, there are times when there

Really Are No Words.

When your heart is filled to bursting,

When your eyes are mesmerised by the beauty around you

When your body is filled with such a sense of well being and energy

When your soul is at peace

(and for a short time you can imagine

‘all is well with the world’)

Our Tassie Tiger Trail was just such a time.

Across the Ditch…..


A time when eight strangers came together to the most beautiful Tasmania.

All trusting that our faith would not be misplaced,

our money not wasted;

our souls fed with the joy of riding great horses;

our bellies fed with the best of the Apple Isle and

our minds filled with joyful memories.

It goes without saying that our faith was not at all misplaced.

This was a Wonderful adventure.

Day One: New Friends……
Learning to communicate……..
…..and trust one another

It may be worth clarifying how we ‘find our horse for the week.’ Well the truth is we don’t, they kind of find us. When you go on a trail you are ‘matched’ with a horse based on –

not sure what; 😉 weight, height and temperament.


And so my horse Basheer and the ‘blurb’ in his profile?

“Every family has a gifted child. Basheer is ours.

Suffering small horse syndrome this little steed is both insecure and courageous, bold and embarrassed.

His antics are mind boggling.

He is in your face, in your space and eager to be part of everything that is going on”

Jen & Jeremy our hosts for the week had never met me, but there were some smiles about whose profile they had captured 🙄

And so to ‘what was going on’

as we set out on our 5 day adventure.

to explore the hills

 

Melaleuca everywhere

A time to reflect

There were views to absorb, canters to enjoy, laughter to share.

words? really?
patience – always……
and faithful togetherness
The “crew” day 2
no longer strangers
with a little
help from
our friends 🙂

There was wildlife to see, snakes, eagles, sugar glider, wallabies, echidnas, platypus, black cockatoos.

New friends
Still a little prickly
and old friends who had worked out the prickly bits 🙂

And there was food – home made biscuits for morning tea,

delicious salmon at the salmon farm,

fresh raspberries at the raspberry farm,

roast lamb and all the veges at our B&B

and dinners out.

 

with a laugh whether …..

At the Raspberry farm…..

Or the Salmon Farm
One of many lovely words of advice from Theresa –


Our hostess at Bonney’s Inn

Served us
such great food
and fun
with ‘heaven on earth’ offered

in her lovely home….

(as well as her philosophy 😊)
This was Them: Roland & Theresa making Bonney’s Inn beautiful
Friendships created….

And for a week, we were suspended in time;

neither wives, nor women,

nor mothers, grandmothers,

fathers or husbands,

but friends

with no agendas, no concerns, no judgements.

Open to the sun, the sky, the feel of the horses and each other.

joy

Vulnerable and Invincible at the same time.

 

The tall and short of it……
The smile …..
The exhilaration
The conversation
which didn’t always need words
down time…..
even for Daisy
The colours ……
of the sky…..
as we meandered down
along the Meander River

We laughed till we cried.

And we cried till we could laugh again.

We encouraged and learnt from each other.

We talked into the night,

we shared;

thoughts, ideas, experiences

and even clothes

as for a time I felt like I was on school camp again

but this time able to enjoy it – secure in my age (and of course no rules!!!)

Me and my other friend
did I say we were crazy? No, we were just happy.
As was Sage
Learning….
to trust….

And just when we thought it could get no better,

A day on the beach.

And honestly, truely, believe me, unless you have done this,

you will not understand

THERE ARE NO WORDS……




 

A Hammam – Spot the difference☺️ (not to be confused with A Hammam but to be read alongside it!)

One of the joys of travelling, after exposing myself to new ideas and challenging my perception of how one ‘should’ live,

is returning home.

And so it was that I found myself happily (and sadly at the same time)

back home after riding a Stunning Arab cross

(horse🐴that is, not anything other😉)

for 5 days in beautiful Tasmania;  

not camping but definitely ‘making like the locals’ in terms of

food and wine (plenty of it) 😍

Our little band of riders were closely observed by many of those around us who thought we must be mad, maybe not dogs, (as in Englishmen and that midday sun☀️) but clearly crazy with an enviable giddy kind of joy.

Because that ride was a wonderful exhilarating experience.  

However it is not t