The Long Riders' Guild

Magali Pavin - Four years from France to China!  

September 2002

One month on the road, and Magali is in Italy.

Here are some extracts from her journal, edited and translated from the French by Basha O'Reilly.

"6 August.  I spend the morning scraping Aramis’s pack and putting felt wedges on it, so as to improve its contact with the mule’s back.  This evening, when I see what improvements have been made, I’ll fine-tune the results.  Taking off at midday, I ride along a superb road.  A stiff climb, a difficult descent, and here I am at Dieulefit.  But where am I to sleep? 

I cross the town on the main road – the mule in one hand, the horse in another, and my nose in the map…  when a car stopped.  “You’re not that horsewoman riding around the world, are you?”  “No, I’m going to China.”  “Oh yes. I read about you in the newspaper, come to my place, I’ve got feed, a park and water for the horses.”

There was more than that:  a park, feed, shelter and a mattress to sleep on, supper, breakfast and a lot of kindness…  everyone around put themselves out to welcome me.

10 August  The altitude dropped 3,000 feet in one stretch – these are real mountains.  The horse is tireless.    I must have climbed more than 2,000 feet while still in the saddle, and I didn’t feel guilty because he was so keen.  The mule tries to follow and, while climbing, I have to hold the horse back.  After climbing, the descent…

12 August  Good weather at last.  Finally I can pack away a dry tent.  The countryside sparkles, I can hear a church bell, dogs bark, a donkey brays, and far off I can hear some cars.  After a large breakfast, I repair the pack – the ropes which hold the padding in place had loosened – then I break camp and take the road for Lus la Croix Haute. 

I am astonished at the way the horses manage to follow a small track, struggling upwards towards the Lus Pass on a narrow, stony river-bed, and over the period of an hour Cysko and Aramis discover the difficulties of travelling in the mountains – and learn rapidly.  OK, it’s time to find a good track, as the effort of concentrating is tiring for us all.  A forest trail leads us to the Pavier farm, 5,000 feet up.  This was a working farm until about 20 years ago, and is now open to travellers, with lots of grass and perfectly ripe cherries at this time of the year. 

The equines behaved so well during the hard climb that I rather overestimated their abilities.  We set off among some rocky slabs, sliding down the 45 degree slope.  We had to get down a six-foot drop to get across the river.  The horse fell, but did not hurt himself.  Before I could stop her, the mule went too, too sure of herself.  She too fell, and wounded herself on the thigh, just enough to make her limp.  I carried on, only to find the path totally blocked by a tree – I had to return to the river.  I tied the horse up so as to lead the mule across.  He got excited, tore away from the tree to which he was tied, and fell down onto his back six feet down in a ravine.  He was more afraid than hurt – suddenly he was well-behaved… for half an hour.

20 August  No problems today.  I followed the Drac river as far as Orcičres, then attacked the mountain, firstly among the trees and then beneath the ski lifts.  The mule is still a bit obstinate, but she’s better.  We slept, as planned, 6,000 feet up.  The view over the mountains is spectacular. 

It is 8 p.m., the sky is blue, the horses are eating, and I am in the tent writing my notes.  I sip appreciatively the tea I had made with such care.  The sun is going to bed, and so am I."

January 2003

The Long Riders' Guild had not heard from Magali for a while, but recently received the following message from her support team, who went out to join Magali for the New Year.

"We, Magali’s support team, have just returned from Slovenia where we spent a few days with her.

Magali is at the top of her form, sparkling with hope and in perfect health, she has even succeeded in putting on a few pounds, which she blames on Italian cooking!  As for her morale, it is as lofty as the Slovenian mountains – very high!  Regardless of rain, cold, snow, growling bears, howling wolves, the journey will continue, there is no question of turning back.

I found the horses in excellent form too.  Cysko has really changed, he is slimmer (I hasten to add he has only lost some superficial fat, and there was some to spare) and has become very muscular, although not quite the Silvester Stalone of the Balkans, I’m glad to say, although he seems to be wider in the chest! 

As for the mule, she is much less wild – she will even allow her owner (but only her owner, I can confirm this!) to scratch her ears – and is a willing creature.  In short, Magali is very pleased with her.

The pack is now working well (the balance of the weight and an end to sores) and so Magali does not have to worry about that.  The mule is carrying 70 kilos (about 140 pounds), which is the weight Magali considers to be the maximum in view of the size of the animal and the work she is expected to do, particularly in the mountains.

We had a wonderful week with Magali in a magnificent country:  mountains, fir trees, lakes and rivers, limestone rocks, chasms and grottos, to say nothing of the wildlife, which is numerous and varied (even bears, which we were aware of around our campsite;  luckily the Slovenian bears seem quite gentle…).  Our welcome was extraordinary, too, as we were put up by a Slovenian horse association, Lovenc, who are horse-lovers and fans of the Far West!  The president really put himself out for us – he not only opened up his house to us but also took us around to see the region – wonderful!  We saw in the New Year with our hosts in the “Saloon” in an amazing cowboy atmosphere, which was also a time of relaxation and exchanges….in spite of our respective limitations in the English language!

In short, everything is going well!  We have all had our batteries recharged, having come back with some new articles about Magali Pavin’s fabulous journey! 

More to follow…..

Kind regards
Aurore, Terres et Cultures"

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