Monday, 29 May 2017

Living it

The horses are beginning to accept this life, they know to eat when they can - and drink when given. Oh yes and you can lead a horse to water and... Well, sometimes!
Rayo has accepted the route ahead rather than wanting to turn around, they are all keeping weight on and muscling up.
Leaving paradise 4 wasn't easy especially because Mark dropped a scoot boot and we had to go back for it!
Still there seemed plenty of time to arrive in Benamaural to watch football.
Yes, the F.A.cup final cannot be missed.
It was clear that Marks last few days route planning and timing had more to do with the match than anything else!
We arrived at a bar on the edge of town in plenty of time, it was about 4pm..Mark immediately​ with his mobile on the wifi, swearing away!
There was a children's party there so the horses got loads of attention.
After a beer I decided I'd go for a walk about to sus out a night spot,  footy would end at 8.30 leaving us little time to set up camp etc, so off I went in the direction of the riverbed..A 20 minute amble found a couple of good possibilities so I headed back to the bar.
Mark was head down in the FA cup final, as usual commenting and directing the match in his loud northern accent he only uses for football - wierd.
Meanwhile the horses were eating tree bark and the rustic fencing they were tied to..
Thankfully Arsenal were winning and when the other team went down to 10 men,  Mark conceded to give up the poor quality viewing and we left to set up camp.
Very careful now not to take the slightest risk of grazing used land,  we settled for 3 small terraces near to the river that were obviously neglected.
I tethered Rayo and Lorna and made Tio a small paddock, collected water enough for them to have their fill and by then Mark had the tent up and the dinner cooking!
We are becoming a well oiled machine in these respects.
We tend to arrange the tack and supplies into a semi-circle around the tent giving us a sort of living area and keeping things tidy, and on occasions that we both leave camp, or at night, we cover the semi-circle with our horse rugs.
Dinner was lush, camping food is always yummy, even if basic, probably because we're always starving!
We had a good nights sleep as this night the bed I'd say was airbubble level.
(Though our last camp was heavenly,  the bed was going downhill sideways - in Marks favour i.e. he likes it when Im all over him in the morning)
The one night stops are hard work, rush to set up. Eat. Sleep. Rush to get up. Pack up. Tack up,  sometimes without breakfast or coffee and we haven't managed it yet in less than 3 hours.
Lorna has come to accept her loading these days very well, considering her inexperience, she is brilliant, she has good common sense and doesn't think about moving around while we load her up.
The 'Chiara Caligari Super Saddlebags' have proved wonderful!!
Loading only happens once all the bags are weighed.
Then Mark has to lift and I have to fix the clasp, leave one side hanging on that, then do the same on the other side. Then the rear and centre velcro and clips are secured over the saddle. Next the top bag goes on which is then tied, pulled tighter, tied, pulled tighter until the whole 3 bag banana shaped bundle is high and centred.
Any move on her part during those precarious stages would be disastrous, she knows that, and she stands.
Our two steeds are tacked up before Lorna, so she doesn't have to wait long.
When the pack is well balanced, we cover a good distance, if its not, it can be very slow going. I must dismount and remount umpteen times, moving items to alter weight or/and tying up one side or the other, its rarely correctable, first fix precision is the key.
We had a good days riding, sadly at the moment, mainly on C roads, but the horses like the tarmac surface.
Of course we mostly walk, but if the pack is stable, we all enjoy moving on in a jolly trot.
The scenery is almost always beautiful, Spain is a beautiful country. Unless you are on a long wide plain, generally the sights vary keeping you happily quietly entertained, or prompting conversation about the lives and times of the local communities,  history is before your eyes in Spain,  ruins, old caminos, roads, terracing, asequias, all still there even if long abandoned.
We can't stop at every bar! But there are so many friendly looking groups of locals sitting outside with kids marvelling at the "Caballos", that it's hard not to.
The men always know their horses (or like to think they do), always with the "muy noble" but no shoes???
Invariably after my shoes v barefoot explanation, they start telling me what I've just told them and how much better horses are with no shoes!!!
Talking of equipment, horse comfort etc. The saddlepads purchased from "Tienda de raid" based in Orgiva, have proven to be invaluable.
Not a rub or mark on their backs to worry about, the thickness and size of the pads give you complete confidence in spreading weight evenly and keeping any of the bags etc from touching the horses bodies. Sweat is minimal and they are simple to clean and dry in minutes.
The scoot boots fit really well and the horses get comfort from them, especially on the typical 'pistas' here that are compacted by cars but have a loose stoney surface which can really hurt the horses soles.
Also on such a long journey they will reduce the chance of over wearing,  plus we use cornicrecine liberally to promote growth.
The bar we do finally stop at in the mid afternoon (on a sunday) has a very handy shop in the back room.
A cold beer and tapas is perfect.
The horses have a little sleep.
They get their refreshment stops too, we never pass a good bit of grass without letting them have a snack.
The friendly landlady tells us of an alternative and scenic track route to Castillar, our next destination.
Oh happy days! = Chiara

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Over the hill and far away..

I feel like I'm in another country! For no reason other than having passed through 'La puerta de la Ragua'.
Fortunately, our friend (& would be 2nd night host) Antonio, found us in the bar in Laroles and at the last minute, on his advice, we changed our route up to the pass, the planned route is apparently impossible for horses.
The ride was pretty,  the horses going well, though Rayo, leading, constantly veered left hoping for the path home :(..
As we actually passed through the door of the 'Ragua' (means?) We were being persued at high speed by a herd of horses, desperate to avoid a stallion attemping to mount our Lorna and our pack! We went into panic mode, Lorna didn't want to flee, all the horses wanted to do was play! The wild ones snorting and bucking beside us, we made our escape thankfully as the herd realised they were beyond their safety zone.
As we descended the grass was scarce,  as has become habitual at this time of day, from 5pm onwards we're on the lookout for a good stop, by this time we have made sure all our water bottles are full and we have enough food for an evening meal.
Grass is the one thing we must find.
Herds of cows live on these high slopes keeping the grass short and they terrify Rayo, though he's not scared of much else.
All feeling tired and hungry now, on a distant slope we see a ruined cortijo which seems to have plenty of green around it and no cows.
On arrival it seems ok so we quickly un tack the horses and set up camp.
Rayo walks straight through the electric fence! It's not on because the panel had no sun..So thats it, Rayo on a tether.
It was a cold night.
In the morning we packed up quickly, the horses were clearly not quite satisfied with the nights grazing and were inpatient to move on.
So far we have managed to carry their usual sugarbeat and grain mix which we soak at night & they have for breakfast.
The path ahead was lovely,  narrowing into a barranco as we continued,  it was a relief to hear water down in the ravine & we filled up at the first opportunity.
We had a slight problem at one point fitting Lorna through a narrow gap and though she tried hard to judge her new width accurately,  a stub on a trew tore a side pocket - Nooo!
(Sorry Chiara!! - Promptly sewn up at the next stop).
A glorious few days rest followed.

Extremes of hardship and heaven..
Sitting on my blow up sofa chair, feet up (on Mark's tripod seat), the sound of the river rushing by, the horses heads invisible in long lush grass, birds singing, all sorts of winged insects buzzing,  we have beers and bubbly cooling in the rivers waterfall, plus Mark's foot is there being massaged by the torrent attached to Mark sitting at the riverside amounst the trees..
I can hear his music playing behind the sounds of nature and now and again Marks dulcet tones break out as he sings along.
My legs are tanning from the ankles up as the sun moves over the toldo.

My contented mood isn't least because I have just been on a shop run to the beautiful village of Ferreira, with Rayo un encumbered with the usual saddlebags.
Rayo is one who knows and he goes. Other horses may not do what he does.
Happy and free, on the way back we indulged in a gallop, though bottles were clanking and fruit was squishing.
Our connection is magical.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

A small miracle

Whilst we have been in radio silence I have been curing my foot in the healing melt water from the sierra (high mountains).Not quite alpujarran agua but the next best thing, same water just the other side of the Sierra. And as if I'd been bathing in eau de Lourdes I have been miraculously(almost) cured .I can now walk with the aid of a walking stick (courtesy of Barney)without my big silly surgical boot(courtesy of Craigs skip diving) and can get on the horse solo.So as I sit drinking my estrella galicia I feel like a normal person again and I've got a big smile on my face....
And that's the hard bit done , getting out of the valley is always the longest mile, lots of stress and a few harsh words but the 3 day stop has done all of us the world of good. The horses had a super feed up , me and nix had some quality time , and our 'sister' Debbie bought us my coffee rocket(how I've missed you) and the Scoot boots which the Spanish customs have finally released (for an arm and a leg) and which fit a treat .All the horses are booted today and all seem very well suited.
So northwards we go, huge love to all friends and family who have made this possible, give someone a big cuddle today, love m(Ferreira, Andalucia)

Here's a photo of Tio doing the Camel mount, now obselete!

Friday, 19 May 2017

The 6 P's

Our departure from home was momentarily sad only because there was no time for tears.

Even so, the moments I spent with our old dog Jessy are forever imprinted in my I made her stay on her bed, she was crying, she had known it was coming for days,  her eyes were flickering as she could hardly look at me, close as a dog can get to tears, I made sure she could feel my love but was unable to assure her we'll be back..

Our first stretch to Cadiar simmered and boiled over with stress..The pack kept listing to one side or the other which meant we had to stop frustratingly several times, (Im eager to point out that the bags are great but I hadn't weighed the top one properly).

We arrived late but the San Isidro (our farewell) procession in Cadiar was fitting, joined by close friends on their horses and downing a few beers with everyone else was great fun if also quite emotional. .

After all that pandemonium, as we peeled off the procession dusk was upon us and we were suddenly alone. . It was wonderful!
Head torches on hats, walking easily together, just the crunch of riverbed stones beneath twelve hooves & some funky R & B keeping time..
We arrived at our first nights stop in Yator disgracefully late at 11pm.. But our hosts Mark & Pat were unflustered and after helping us untack and settle the horses, we had a delicious home made snack  - & I really mean home made! - & then sat in their conservatory just loving the comfort, relaxation and chatter.
We had a good - if not shortish - nights sleep, were incredibly slow to pack and left the following day at 2pm!

This time Lorna's pack stayed straight, the ride up past Montenegro was steep and it was hot..
There were some great grass and water stops for the horses but we we're starving!
We stopped in Yegen for a welcome tostada, generously made by Loranne at bar El Tinao even though it wasn't food hours. .
Also thanks to Loranne I have a little compact mirror! Can't believe I forgot to bring one!?

As was so rightly pointed out by one if our followers, Mr Kelly, one must prepare thoroughly..How does it go? Proper preparation prevents p*** poor performance!
Mmmmm, well I'd still like to say we did prepare well & infact so many things we thought about and did bring have already been invaluable.  But just a small thing I didn't prepare well for was our 2nd nights stop, which we completely missed as I didn't make sure if its location & the big trouble was, we only discovered this at about 8.30 pm!
So I am in tears (especially because it was my fault) as we rode away from Mairena towards Laroles.
I needn't have felt such despair as we did have Deb & Steve's place on standby. .and what should we find just around the corner but a half built abandoned cortijo with knee high grass and a water tap!
We settled the horses quickly and easily,  there was a super veranda at the back if the house where we put up the tent and set about cooking our dinner in the conveniently built seating and table area..

Coming up next - over the hill and out of 'Las Alpujarras!

P.s. The two pics, on the road & Rayo looking back at Lujar from our 2nd nights stop..
(Photos will improve as soon as my new mobile is configured.)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Waking thoughts

Early morning, two days to go..
Actually scared !!!
Some of the most important papers/items that I have been working on getting for months, may just arrive tomorrow.
On Saturday Im going to leave my beautiful home I love, the security I often need to come back to..and the dogs that love us sooo much and have no idea that we will come back in 4 months.
Can I cope with life on the road again? Daily home searching and making, un-making and repacking..
Negative things don't always come to mind unless they're pointed out to me.
How will I manage with the extra work load especially with my back?
- and inspite of the wonderful help from Gofundme and Jamie giving Mark a sitting down days work,  we are still setting off with minimal money.
Mark can ride but he can't walk! It seems ludicrous to think about leaving now!
But if we don't, we will miss the grass for the horses and the summer heat will become impossible.
Ommmmm comes to mind, best not to precieve ( my phone tells me that's not a word, but I beg to differ! )
Stay naive, up in the clouds, riding the wave, living in the now!
Positive things to note :
Mark will get better.
The hours in the saddle will be the easiest hours for us in the current circumstances, so keep on movin'...
Neurotic Niki and Hop along Cassidy T minus 48 hours and counting. .

Friday, 5 May 2017

Heroic or Stupid?!

He actually did it! Got on his horse and rode!

Tio pranced around our "short ride" like he was about to race in the Lobrasan Stakes! - Hardly walked a step & mostly sideways, ran Mark under trees and nearly backed off the cliff, infact he tried every trick in his book to go faster than a jog..
It was terrifying to watch,  but alls well that ends well..phew!
I think Tio could sense Marks fragility & bubbled up a bit under the unusually tense reins..oh plus! It was really windy!

Rayo was a dream, he's so well and fit now, as usual full of beans but I have noticed how much easier he is for me when I'm leading Lorna too.

So, big smiles on our faces (but a slightly puffy foot), bodes well for our departure a week tomorrow..fingers crossed.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

How not to prepare for a 2000mile horse trek ..

 The intended here putting my best foot forward, but alas still with the aid of crutches... as a good friend of mine's grandad used to say "you can't always sometimes tell whats least expected most!"

 Its now almost 3 weeks since I fractured my heel in 3 places when i decided to dismount from a moving horse , whilst wearing cheap boot trainers that not only got stuck in the stirrup , causing me to land with all my weight on one foot , but also whose sole seems to be designed to increase the chances of said injury .

  So its been a time of pills n potions , and foot up , and today marks the first day i can stand up without crutches and I'm hoping to get on Tio tomorrow and be walking with one stick at the weekend . Then hit the trail the following weekend possibly via the fiesta de San Isidro in Cadiar , and get a wig on to get through Andalucia and Murcia (about 400km) before it gets any hotter (and drier) . I've been praying for rain obviously  but we've only had one days worth throughout my convalescence .

   The horses all look great and are on grass all day every day . Iris and Emil , the young adults of Lobrasan have been taking Tio out for me so he's still really fit and ready to go at the drop of a hat ...

    The Scoot Boots (boots for barefoot horses) are still stuck in Spanish customs, bearing in mind that Scoot Boots (from Australia) are sponsoring us, hence the boots aren't costing us anything, customs and excise are charging us import tax and VAT which in total means we've got to pay 50% tax on the retail value of the boots which were actually a gift. Big thanks to Scoot Boots and vice versa to the authorities.

     Now the good news, Luis and Melinda, part of the Spanish go fund me team, like our story so much that they have donated 1000€ to our go fund me account, so a huge thanks to you both and to our guardian angel.

      The saddle bags are finished and fantastic, Chiara Calegari has done us and Lorna (and herself) proud. Big thanks Chiara seamstress extraordinaire !
      So in effect we are still waiting for the Scoot Boots before we can go, meaning me and my left foot aren't holding us up; the System is. As Brother Culture would say "the only good system is a sound system" peace and love M.

       Heres a picture of my foot as of today , not bad eh .