Day 15, August 2nd – Galloping!

Today has been very tiring. We packed up as usual, and managed to get away be ten past eleven.

Today, our riding would be different – today, we had the opportunity to gallop! We’d always kept to trotting before, especially since we would carry items on saddle bags, and if we went into a canter the movement of the bags would frighten the horses. Wearing back packs would also alarm the horses. Everything alarms the horses. We live by their whims. Now, the bags were off and stored in the van, and we were ready.

Well. Everyone else was ready. I was too nervous to attempt it during the first hour,but after a rest break I, and everyone else who been worried, grew bolder. We shed our saddle bags and urged our horses into something far better than a sometimes painful canter.

If you have never galloped across the Monoglian plains, rising up and down in your saddle with loping jolts, your stomach undecided where to go, grasping your reins in one hand, hanging grimly onto the front of the saddle with the other, the wind blowing your shirt out behind you and whipping your face, you haven’t lived.

It chafed. A lot. But it was worth it.

As the horses slowed down and we headed towards out camp site, the clouds grew more dark threatening. Aloysius seemed quite tired from the run, and fell further and further behind, no matter how I dug my heels in or ordered him forwards. I didn’t dare be more forceful, for fear he’d buck me off and hurt me, or just leave me behind. Soon I was very much alone, with everyone else just blips on the horizon. I anticipated being stuck in the middle of a plain when it started pouring.

Then one of the wranglers came back from where he was leading Georgie’s horse, and smacked Aloysius on the flank with his whip. Aloysius sped up again. Aloysius began to run. I began to slide sideways. The rain was just beginning and was splattering my sun glasses. I could barely see. I could barely hang on. I was slipping further, until I was nearly hanging off Aloysius’s side. I could just tell we were now on rocky ground as Aloysius ran up into the hills. I could see rocks flashing past, when I could see at all.

I remember thinking “I’m going to fall off and smash face first into a rock and the helmet’s not going to do any good.” I was very calm about it. There was no room for fear, only for holding on.

But then I could see the camp where everyone was pulling rucksacks out of the van and setting up tents,  and then Aloysius was slowing down and slowing down until at last I could jump off and hold myself and breathe for a moment and be surprised I was still alive.

Working together, we all managed to get our tents set up. We pulled on waterproof trousers and jackets and crammed into the ‘porches’ of our tents. We huddled together and watched the lightning. There was very little in the way, and we were able to see so much of it. We felt very alone and vulnerable, afraid that we’d draw the current down from the sky, with only canvas to protect us.

Once the rain stopped and the sky cleared, we managed to get a fire started and cooked supper. We had one last vodka party with the wranglers, as this was our last night of horse trekking. The vodka tasted like communion wafer gone mad. I only had a small glass; other members of the group drank far more, and were disturbing me long after I went to bed at half eleven.

Georgie later woke me up to ask me for some of my water. I directed her to where it was stored, then actually got up to see what was going on. Georgie had to pour about a litre of my carefully iodized water down Emma’s barely conscious throat, so that she didn’t need a stomach pump or choke on her own vomit in the night. I had to start the iodization process again with my now empty water bottle, prepping the iodine solution to dilute and slogging to the water tanks to get more, then returning to my sleeping bag – where a drunk Emma then proceeded to shove her feet in my face all night long.

Just say no to vodka. It’s not worth it.

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