Travels with Mr. Ed

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Travels with Mr. Ed

On Horseback through mountains, plains, and rainforest
By Ann Jones

Cling on tight to this tough little mountain pony bedecked with oriental carpets and brass bells — this is your ride across the roof of the world. Here on the Tibetan Plateau the Himalayan ranges are so high, the valleys so wide and barren, that even when you're picking your way over the stones at a pretty good clip, you'll seem to move in slow motion, inching toward a village within view that's still a day's ride away. Within the expanses of the Zanskar Range is an ancient world of monasteries, saffron-robed monks, and nomadic herders milking Pashmina goats. The 16-day trip ($2,360 per person, airfare extra) includes a long, slow drive from Delhi to Ladakh so you can acclimatize before heading to an elevation of 16,000-plus feet; then you'll descend to 14,200 feet for six days of riding and tent camping. Call Equitour at 800-545-0019.

Think of the thousands of Kenya safari tourists who trail after wildlife in pop-top minivans. You can get even closer to the animals by riding one yourself. On the Endurance Riding Safari, you'll spend 11 days in the saddle on a first-rate Thoroughbred/Somali Arab-cross horse, riding from the forested Loita Hills near the Tanzanian border across the Mara plains to the Soit Oloololo Escarpment. Covering some 200 miles, you'll sometimes match wildebeest and zebras stride for stride, learning to give a wide berth to Cape buffalo and testy elephants. At day's end, the crew has a cushy camp waiting: tents, hot bucket showers, and a three-course dinner. The 14-day trip costs $4,900 plus airfare, and it's for experienced riders only. You can reach Offbeat Safaris in Kenya at 011-254-362-32005 (they're also represented by Equitour in the United States, 800-545-0019); E-mail at [email protected]

The Epona Equestrian Centre is a 350-year-old country estate reincarnated as a riding school — the only one in Spain approved by the British Horse Society. Set in the rolling Andalusian countryside between Carmona and Sevilla, Epona consists of a restored hacienda with a swimming pool, and a stable and riding arenas. Instruction ranges from the basics to dressage and stadium jumping. After class, you can hit the trail to explore fields, forests, olive groves, and the broad Mediterranean beaches of Cape Trafalgar. Ask in advance and you can do it on a purebred Andalusian. The six-night/five-day program, including all meals, costs $1,250 plus airfare. Call Cross Country International at 800-828-8768.

Scramble up a rocky slope in the Glasshouse Mountains and plunge down the other side, clutching your Akubra (the Aussie version of a Stetson) like The Man from Snowy River. Eat up the valley at a gallop, then cool out in green canyons of tropical rainforest. Here in Queensland in northeast Australia you'll spend six or seven fast-paced hours in the saddle each day, finding out whether you're anywhere near as fit as your horse. That's the challenge of riding with Bob Sample, a champion endurance rider. A comfortable bedroom at a host farm in Dealbata — not far from Brisbane — is your base. The eight-day trip, with five-and-a-half days of riding, costs $1,000 plus airfare. Call Equitour at 800-545-0019.

Isla de Margarita, off the Caribbean coast, is famous for its rip-roaring windsurfing conditions, but its swaths of sand also are ideal for a beach-to-beach camping trip on horseback. Boojum Expeditions, the pioneers of horseback-riding trips in outbacks like Mongolia, have suddenly gone soft: This seven-day trip includes four days of beach camping between desert and sea on the island's remote western end. It's as casual as a vacation can get — you ride awhile, swim, have some lunch, maybe take a siesta. The package costs $1,750, including airfare from Miami. Call Boojum at 800-287-0125.

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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