So…what are our days really like?
Well, we wake up at 6:30 am, usually giggling about something silly like the raunchy farts emanating from our sleeping bags due to the food that our digestive systems are not used to. Then we start getting dressed in clothes that haven;t seen a washing machine in a few weeks. There’s no point wearing clean clothes as they’ll just get dirty, plus we each have specific clothes that are working for us and most of us only have one set.
As part of our daily riding preparations, many of us use a multitude of creams, lotions and pharmaceuticals. For some these include: body glide to prevent saddle rubs, cream between the butt cheeks to prevent chafing, vaginal lubricant to prevent sandpaper dryness in the ladies’ privates, ointment for sores that have already appeared, CBD cream for heat rash, herbal remedies (echinacea, ginseng) to clear up a cold, antihistamine to prevent snotty nose, ibuprofen to help with joint pain, lip balm to help chapped lips, sunscreen to prevent sun burn…. the list goes on.
Then we pack up our overnight bags (some riders have 2 bags – one that they use each night and another that has extra clothes etc) and sleeping bags and deposit them on a tarp for the crew to load into the big truck and haul to our next camp. Gear for our saddle bags are placed on the tarp near our tack. Then we remove the large , soft sleeping pads from the tent and pile them on the tarp, plus take down the tent.
Next we wash our hands and sit down to breakfast at 7:30 am, which generally includes mint tea, coffee, bread, butter and jam, plus occasionally pancakes, fried bread, or eggs. Breakfast takes about 30 minutes, then we fill our water bottles for the day.
While we’re packing up and eating breakfast the crew feeds and waters the horses plus eats their own breakfast and packs up camp.
After breakfast, we all start brushing and tacking up our horses. They each have labelled english saddles (mostly good quality french close contact or all purpose styles), plus a snaffle bridle and breastplate/running martingale. Most of us brought our own stirrups and these were put on our saddles on the first day. A wool saddle blanket that looks like half of an ex-military blanket goes on first, then a square saddle pad which has saddle bags velcroed to it.
Some horses have minor girth galls and these are treated before the girths are tightened.
As horses are tacked and saddle bags loaded, the crew continues dismantling camp, until only the portable toilet remains in its pyramid tent.
Some days the trucks leave before the riders and other days the riders leave first.
Before we head out, the horses are offered a bucket of water, then we bridle them, tie their halter ropes around their necks, and start hand-walking after Abdel sings out ‘yella, we go’. It’s usually 9-ish when we walk out of camp.
We hand walk for about 15 minutes, then stop and those that have to pee hide behind bushes or rocks for that, and everyone mounts. We start the day with about an hours walk, then, if the footing is suitable, have a short trot with maybe some canter, then back to walk.
The majority of our day is walking. If it’s rocky (which is often), we dismount and hand-walk. If a riders’ butt, knees or feet get sore, they simply dismount to hand-walk for awhile.
The morning ride extends until 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 pm, depending how our route finding goes. But a 2 pm lunch is typical.
When we see the Toyota truck and pyramid of the loo, we dismount, loosen the girth, run up the stirrups, take the reins over the head and hand-walk into camp. The morning ride usually covers about 20-ish km.
We then tie our horses to acacia trees, palm trees, bushes or steel pegs that the crew have driven into the ground, and untack the horses. Then we let them roll, water them, and give them grain.
Once all that’s done, we settle into chairs around a low table and drink mint tea while waiting for two large platters of lunch to appear. Lunch is almost the same every day, and it’s mighty good.
One platter is chopped salad vegetables (tomatoes, grated carrots and beets, green peppers, cucumber and onions, plus chunks of cheese) while the other is rice or pasta topped with a bean and spice sauce. There’s also usually a plate of canned fish and 2 baskets of bread. Abdel serves us all a plateful, and we chow down. Lunchtime desert of whole apples, oranges or bananas, follows.
Provided our morning was reasonable and we don’t have a monster distance to cover, we then have a nap for about 45 minutes before tacking up the horses and riding off. Meanwhile, the crew has washed the dishes, packed up and continued to the evening camp.
The afternoon is about the same as the morning. Lots of walking, occasional trots and canters, with a bunch of hand-walking too.
Getting into camp goes the same as getting to the lunch spot. Horse are untacked, they roll, are tied up, watered and then hayed. Bits are soaked and washed, and wool saddle blankets are placed over saddles to dry. All the tack is placed on a large tarp, and we unload our saddle bags, too. If the crew has made it to camp in good time, then camp and our tents are all set up waiting for us. If not, then we split the chores – doing horses and setting up tents.
Once the horses are done, we snag our bags from the pile unloaded from the big truck, find a tent and throw our bags in. Then it’s time for hand washing followed by mint tea, nuts, dates and cookies, with occasional donuts / fried bread. About then, riders start having showers – getting a bucket of hot water from the crew and having a bucket shower in one of two pyramid tents.
Then we chill out, chat, play cards, drink, carouse, play on devices and generally relax until dinner is served at about 9:30 pm. If we’re lucky, we get to bed by about 10:30, and start the same rigmarole all over again at 6:30 am.
We are riding for 24 days and have 3 rest days at riads in small towns. So it’s a fairly challenging schedule for riders and horses. But nobody said riding across a country was easy.