The Long Riders' Guild

Magali Pavin - Four years from France to China!

Magali Pavin has set off on horseback, accompanied by a pack-mule, to meet other peoples.  She is using the horse "as a link between the traveller and the natives, as the key which allows her to discover other cultures, to penetrate to the heart of the villages, to make contact, to unlock smiles, and thus to communicate. "

In 1998 Magali rode off with Cysko and Catala – an old pack-mule – to ride around the south-west of France.  Sometimes sleeping in a tent, often welcomed into the homes of locals, she fed her horses on grass and oats.  They covered 2,500 kilometres and returned home, all three, after five months’ travel, fit and ready to set off again!

In January 2002 Magali returned to Besançon in Montelimar with Cysko and Aramis in order to check some of the fabrics and to test the unity of this new team.  This mission was accomplished after 25 days of travel.

The “Terres et Cultures" (Lands and Culture) project

This journey has no sporting objective, its aim is not to go to any particular spot, to arrive on a predetermined date.  Magali is giving herself the freedom to modify her itinerary and her timing to make this a successful voyage, with a time limit of four years.  Her goal is to encounter other cultures, while respecting her horses, at peace with herself.

Magali Pavin is engineer for agricultural techniques, Equestrian Tour Guide, inquisitive about people and things, keen horseback traveller, dreamer, determined, 27 years old.

carte © Magali Pavin France to China 2002-2006
The solid red line shows Magali's route on horseback, while the dotted red line indicates the return journey from the Ukraine to France in a trailer.
Click on map to enlarge it

Magali Pavin is setting off to encounter other cultures

"I want to observe the interaction between the earth and cultures, in other words between the world in which mankind lives – with its benefits and its constraints – rural life, and the developed world’s agricultural techniques.  Rural life, that is man, his culture, his environment, his relatives, his land, his beasts, his techniques, his knowledge, his dependence on the elements.

By daily encounters with the local population, I want to observe, understand, learn, exchange and pass on information, share.  Expand my agricultural knowledge into other fields to use in my professional life later on……”

4 June 2003

The Long Riders' Guild has not heard from Magali, or her team, for five months!  There is nothing new on her website, either.  We have written to ask for news, but have had no response.  We hope that Magali is well and that nothing has happened to her.

2 July 2003

The Long Riders' Guild has had a reassuring email from Magali's base in France.

"I am sorry it has taken us so long to get back to you.  We are having technical problems with Magali's website, which we hope will be resolved within a week or two.
Magali telephoned at the beginning of the week - she was on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.  It seems she is having some problems with the horses' documents, but she seemed optimistic.
The journey across Romania had some problems, but the welcome she received in Bulgaria has restored her faith in human nature.  It seems all is going well.  Thank you for your message."

4 October 2003

At last The Long Riders' Guild has had a message from Magali's team!

"Well, it’s exactly a year since Magali left Vivier to ride towards other horizons. 


Magali’s trials and tribulations


How can one talk about a whole year of travel?  It is often the petty annoyances and the daily hassles which tend to take precedence over the happy encounters, warm welcomes, a bowl of hot soup, or the beauty of the countryside.


Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey:

Magali stuck to the overall itinerary in spite of mountains, the wettest Italian autumn for years, the coldest winter that Slovenia and Hungary have seen for ages, not to mention Romania, where people could hardly remember such heavy snowfalls!

These difficult conditions did not prevent the team from pressing on, indeed they just reinforced their bond.

Cysko:  There was no need to prove Magali’s relationship with Cysco, but the beautiful mule, Aramis, became more and more friendly... while never forgetting she was a mule, who has her pride, after all!

The expedition dog:  Nick is a young Romanian sheep dog who is still learning.  For the moment he is just an agreeable travelling companion rather than a real guard-dog, but in a few months time, watch out!


Wounds and sores:  There have been quite a few small saddle sores which were soon sorted out after much refitting of the harness.  It took almost three months before Magali found a system which was comfortable for everyone!  Cysco was lame a few times, but in the end, after more or less happy encounters with local veterinaries and a few telephone calls to France, lots of coming and going to the pharmacies, and rest for the horses, they are moving on fine with all eight legs!

During this time, Magali’s ability to deal with lameness improved, as did her farrier skills.  This skill has enabled her to be self-sufficient and brings her admiration and respect from the local people.

Meetings:   These have been rich, varied, warm, sometimes disappointing, but always different. 

As it would be impossible to mention everybody, I would just like to mention here the extraordinary welcome from the Lovrenc Association in Slovenia, which most of Magali’s team were able to enjoy when they went to pass a week with Magali in the New Year.

Magali has enjoyed hospitality, visits to the regions, technical support and multiple invitations.  We were all enchanted by this country and its welcoming horsemen, and will never forget a Santa Claus feast, where the Terres et Cultures team were able to show off their new-found knowledge of Slovenian culture and ways!


Some of the problems:

Finding horse-food:  Throughout the winter, this became a real obsession and occasionally became a real Calvary.  It also led to some great meetings with kind people who went to a lot of trouble to help Magali and her team.

Bureaucracy:  The pile of essential papers grew heavier at each border crossing.  It took two weeks to get into Turkey!  The Turkish veterinarian who thought that if he insisted on impossible documents, the “little French woman” would give up...  He didn’t know Magali Pavin!  Thanks to Mrs. Pavin, who was in charge of embassy relations, all the necessary papers were obtained.

A meeting with an ill-intentioned Romanian nearly turned out really badly.  While Magali was sleeping in her tent a few hundred yards from a village, a man broke into her tent with obvious intentions.  Magali defended herself as best she could, wounding her aggressor who responded by nearly knocking her out with an iron bar.  This could have been a disaster had Magali not made use of a moment’s respite to grab Cysko and fly into the village on his back.

Result:  1 broken nose and a few stitches... and a terrible fright!

The moral to this story is always keep at hand something to defend yourself with.  Magali had her knife, which is what saved her, but not her stun gun, which was being repaired in France.

The mule’s temperament: sometimes she did not want to be caught when it was cold, when it was snowing and they had to get going straight away!


And the funniest!

Theft of Magali’s distress beacon by some Romanians who thought it was... a radio set!  It was while trying to make this strange radio work that they set off the distress signal, causing complete pandemonium.  At least it proved the speed and efficiency of the system.

In Romania, it is still the Russians who are in charge of this kind of operation and who were about to send a rescue party.  Luckily Magali was able to let them know before the rescuers set off.


Italian policemen:  who made Magali move her camp from a sports field to a monastery where “she would be less of a danger to the population.”  This migration of less than a kilometre was escorted by all the locals, who had placed Magali under their protection.

The Association “Terres et Cultures.”

In the year since the association was created, everyone has contributed something, and we are making progress...  The latest posting on the Internet was made in mid-July and tells Magali’s adventures up to April.  It takes time for the letters to be written posted, read, and put on line.  The latter has caused plenty of problems for our little amateur team.  So we are very sorry for those times when the site is not accessible.  We can’t promise that it will not happen again, but we are doing everything we can!

Right now the association has about twenty members and about ten non-paying “sympathisers” who we hope will join our ranks with the new free subscription:  each one can give what he likes, the important thing is to participate!

Another important event in the association has been the loss of the main sponsor of Magali’s adventure after that company went out of business.  The financial loss is important, but its consequences will not become apparent until the end of the journey, when the treasury will be empty!  We have three years, therefore, in which to find one or more sponsors."


9th October 2003


Magali herself has found an Internet Café in Turkey and took the time to write to The Long Riders' Guild. 


"A thousand thanks for your interest in my journey, about which I have been kept up to date by my team.  Yes, I am still fine and Cysco and Aramis keep going valiantly, accompanied by Kopec, my new dog (Nic was stolen, unfortunately), and Gyna, a mare which has been lent my mother so she can travel with me for a month.  I am in Erzincan and battling to get an Iranian visa.  Winter is approaching and we have had the first frosts.  Our morale is high," wrote Magali.


15th June 2004


After a worryingly long silence, The Long Riders' Guild was relieved to receive another email from Magali.


"I am stuck at the Turkmenistan border.  For 12 days I was the bete noire of the police at Bajgiran, 24 miles south of Ashgabat.  The locals adopted me, my dog and my horses.  So I had time to re-shoe Cysco, repair the tack, do some washing and try to find a solution to allow me to circumvent the President's decree that there shall be no foreign horses in Turkmenistan.  But to no avail.

I could go via Afghanistan, if I really wanted to.  But the idea of returning is attractive.  I have been travelling for 21 months with my companions:  they have given enough.  I think that in about ten days I will start heading for home via the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Russia and the Ukraine.  It was worth the detour, just to prove that Slovenia, Bulgaria and Iran are not the barbarian countries which people had warned me they were.

And in any case, one has to keep a dream.  So my next journey will be a tour of Asia, on horseback of course.  But don't panic, it will take me about 20 months to get back... 20 months of happiness and complete freedom."


June 2005


After another year's silence, Magali has written to confirm the end of her journey.  "I am at the frontier between the Ukraine and Hungary.  A few more days in quarantine and the team will be able to enter Europe.  The customs officers were a little taken aback when, at night and in the pouring rain, a horsewoman, a mule and a French horse returning from Asia, and a Turkish dog with a Ukranian passport..."

Congratulations, Magali, on getting your team safely back home again.

Click here for more.

The Long Riders' Guild wishes Magali good luck in her adventure!

French-speaking visitors can read more at World Trail Rides, or at Magali's website.

Click here to read earlier emails from Magali   

Back to Current Expeditions        Home        Top