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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

3 July 2011

Caballeros

1st July 2011

Still can’t walk straight.

It was good to go on a horse ride and see the desert from a different perspective, we’ve spent so many hours driving around the Atacama in tour buses, public buses or our hire car. And we haven’t really done any serious hiking, which is a shame and something I’d have to blame on… hmm… probably on rushing around too much trying to see everything. So anyway, four hours on horseback was a good alternative.

I like horse rides, and I’m really surprised this is the first one we’ve done on our year of travelling, as there’s certainly been other places we could have. I like the sense of being up high, on top of a real animal, and knowing that he can take you through almost any terrain. In the Pantanal of Brazil we were riding through water that would have been thigh deep on me, with big caiman crocodiles moving lazily out of our horses’ way.

Here in the Atacama we were riding through a dry and barren landscape of gully-scored hills and then later along the thin ribbon of greenery marking the valley of the San Pedro river. It’s not much different from the desert hills below Putre, although perhaps more picturesque. In a few panting minutes our horses trudged us up to a wonderful viewpoint over the whole valley, a spot that would have needed a half-hour sweaty trek to reach on foot.

But if I’m honest what I like most about riding is breaking into a trot or, even better, a canter and feeling the world fly by on either side. It’s more thrilling than driving a car at speed precisely because you’re a rider, not a driver; you are telling the horse what you want, but essentially it does the cantering and you’re along for the ride. The car by contrast is just an extension of you, via the steering wheel.

We did some cantering today. Maureen’s horse weaved all over the place and I almost fell off and I lost my lens cap. Still, cantering across the Atacama desert on horseback – cool.


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