What comes of a five hour conversation in a van

I am aware that some people feign car-sickness susceptibility because they want to bag the front seat on a bumpy ride.
A ruse I admittedly employed to gain Abdel’s undivided attention for a few hours driving back to Ouarzazate.
It was the one place this trusty guide and friend could not run off to feed a hungry horse, elegantly pour mint tea for thirsty riders, rein in a horse and rider that looked like they were heading for a neighboring country, hammer the umpteenth peg into the ground, haul water from a thousand-year old well or any of the other multitude of things he does each day.

It was February 2019. I had just come off another jaw-dropping Saharan ride with a group of gutsy riders and I just didn’t want it to stop. How could I make it not stop?
Cut to Abdel, who had unwittingly planted a seed in my mind over breakfast a few mornings before.
He had quipped that we should just all ride from the desert to the sea one day. The Atlantic? Across the desert? Over the mountains ?
How far is that? This is not something you say around me while passing the olive oil. It would have consequences.

So there we were, our first opportunity to talk in a confined space while bouncing along a desert track. Corny as it may sound, it was a meeting of minds. A meeting of adventurous minds. By the time we stepped out of the vehicle several hours later each of us vowed to do their part and ‘make it happen. Naturally each exclamation was punctuated by an enthusiastic ‘In’shallah’. Nothing happens if you don’t in’shallah it.

A few weeks later, back over the Atlantic, I furrowed my brow, wondering whether I could possibly entice anyone to take leave of their life for an entire month and embark on this mad-cap adventure with me. Looking out over my desk at the falling snow, it all felt far away and far-fetched.
All I did know was that I had the most capable and kind-hearted team, the finest and fittest of horses and the most magnificent and fence-free of countries to do this in.
Was any ingredient missing?

I knew that giving this journey a good chance of succeeding required riders truly up for the challenge — whiners need not apply. I sent out a few tenuous test balloons to trusted fellow long distance riders. Emails floated into space. But, dispiritingly, they elicited little definitive interest.
I had surely been a litte too impatient.
A few months later, however, a message from Michael in Sweden landed in my inbox – he was ‘IN’.
Well, what, if anything, next?
When a short while later further ‘yes’s” trickled in… fast forward to a very happy day in June when I rather victoriously sent Abdel a text: ‘we are doing it’! … ‘In’shallah’ I duly added!

In my excitement, I forgot for a moment that we did not have a route. I knew others had ridden to the sea before. But they had basically followed the road. We did not want to do that. We wanted to ride deep into the desert wherever we could.
During a break in September, Abdel set out on a reconnaissance trip in a 4×4 with 2 companions on a mission to carefully work out our path.
After ten days of driving in the blazing late summer heat, a delighted text message let it be known that a route had been found, and so had reliable water sources for the horses and humans along the way. We were good to go!

So now, after a year of dreaming, thinking and preparing we have the team, we have the horses, we have the riders, and most importantly we have a route!
All that is left is for the Sunday to roll on when we all meet up at Hotel Le Fint and set about our big adventure.
The what, where and when is documented. Everything else will reveal itself on the journey. I trust it will be a revelation.

Susan Wirth

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