With this new guest post, I bring you horses, Iceland and yoga! Guest poster Mary is a good friend of mine and passionate about travel. She (and her husband) have often provided me with inspiration for destinations to visit and the list of places that she has been lucky enough to travel to makes me green with envy! Jokes aside, Mary is a traveller on a mission; taking a different approach to the traditional two weeks in the sun or the winding backpacking trail many of us tend to opt for. Mary likes an activity adventure…
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The typical holiday may be about lazing on a beach or looking suave in the city, but some of the best trips I have been on involve getting up at 6am everyday and doing hours of exercise! “Ahh!” I hear you say, “but you must enjoy skiing!” And, although this is sometimes the case, my tastes are much broader than zipping down the slopes in a lurid coloured ski suit. Dear readers, I am a fan of activity holidays!
At home I horse ride, practice Iyengar Yoga, walk and have been known to occasionally hurl myself down hills on a mountain bike (mostly thanks to my hubby’s influence)! Working full time and juggling a busy life means when I go on holidays I want to do more of the things I love and hopefully improve my skills at these things. In addition to this, as a plus side, by taking these kinds of trips I have seen some fabulous bits of the world from a unique perspective.
My last big trip was a horse riding safari in Botswana. Imagine cantering for kilometres across open scrub land, occasionally startling an antelope, dodging inch long acacia thorns or slowing down to pass elephants safely. This coupled with the adrenaline rush of the guide ‘shouting’ in a whisper, “keep the horses in a walk”, “don’t panic” and “just to your right is a huge male leopard”. Gulp! Faced with a predator, with me a sitting duck on a juicy piece of prey and trying to keep calm so as not to trigger a flight reaction! As you may have gathered, it is not a trip for the faint-hearted and a high level of riding competence is required (covering approximately 25 miles a day in 30c+ heat and with the aforementioned predators). Despite these hardships, the sheer joy of riding in an open space, the wonderful people and animals you meet and the connection with the land is amazing!
I booked my trip with Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris (www.limpopohorsesafaris.com) and chose a tour where you rode from camp to camp. One of the things I love about activity trips is that you can confidently travel alone knowing that you will have something in common with the people you meet! I met the group of women at Johannesburg Airport and a bond was quickly formed.
We were all blown away by the scenery on the drive to the base and by the friendliness of all the Motswana people we each met. After a gorgeous meal we all changed into riding gear and set off for a riding assessment and to meet our steeds. I wasn’t disappointed and was given a fabulous Boeperd cross to ride. He was small, sure-footed, nifty and jumped like a gazelle!
Everyday had a pattern, up before Sunrise to eat, saddling up at first light to catch some of the nocturnal animals who were off to bed and riding until morning break (normally we had to stop earlier so I could pee, 2 cups of tea will do that to a girl, but there was no subtle slinking off. Oh no. A guide also had to dismount, check behind your desired hiding spot…) More riding, spotting amazing animals in the wild. I saw all the major game apart from rhino and cheetah. Lunch. More riding. Arrive at camp. The amazing support staff have everything set up, including an afternoon tea. Bush shower. Nap. Picking a drink for sundowners! Going somewhere gorgeous for a walk or evening safari drive. Watching the sunset. Back to camp for dinner, drinks and turning in early after chatting around the fire. Repeat. Absolute bliss!
Highlights were the animal spotting, the riding (cantering, crossing dried up rivers and tackling cross country jumps), the food and sleeping under the stars at the Kgotla. It was an amazing trip and I came back a stronger rider with some amazing memories!
Activity trips are also a good way to learn a new skill; with skiing being the obvious choice, but continuing on the riding theme…Iceland is the place to go if you want flavour of the above (well sans safari animals). Tough, amazingly friendly horses and a lunar landscape. Because of their small stature, good nature and their extra gait called Tolt, Icey’s are a fab way for new riders to explore on horseback and day trips from the capital, Reykjavik are easily accessible! I must warn you…this trip inspired me to buy my own Icey!
Whilst in Iceland the landscape calls to you, encouraging you to explore and the range of activities on offer is mind blowing! We also sampled some fabulous Mountain Biking (with Iceland Activities – http://icelandactivities.wordpress.com/). Precariously gliding down single track avoiding the sheer drops and bubbling mud! We got to swim in a thermally heated river and boil eggs for snacks in a hot spring! The scenery was simply jaw dropping.
For those that are exhausted just from reading the above, a slower tempo of activity can also be enjoyed when you travel. A week long yoga escape to Casperia in Italy (www.sunflowerretreats.com/casperia.htm) was the perfect way to recharge! Twice daily yoga, Italian food, a car free village and fabulous like-minded folk made this an amazing trip. Did I mention the massage treatments on offer?! Whilst I used the trip to master headstands, we all worked at our own levels and felt energised by the therapeutic classes. Other guests enjoyed cooking and painting classes, while I filled my free time sketching.
So my only advice is think about what you love doing. Then find somewhere you can do it that will blow your mind! You won’t regret it.
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