Monthly Archives: July 2016

Uganda – Gorillas

For many, a key reason to visit Uganda is the opportunity to see the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are only about 800 of these amazing creatures left in the wild (they don’t survive in captivity) and about half of them are in Bwindi. After riding along the Nile for a week, we have flown from Jinja to Bwindi.

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We stay at the comfortable Mahogany Springs Lodge which is just a short drive from the Park Headquarters. The briefing for the gorilla tracking is at 8am. We’re excited and kitted out. Because of fire ants and thorns etc, we’re recommended to wear long trousers, long sleeves, sturdy boots and of course having come from a riding holiday, our half chaps provide perfect support for lower leg.

Each habituated group is visited every day of the year, for exactly one hour and we find out at the briefing that we’re going to see the Rushegura Group. DSC01191

We drive for 25 minutes to where we meet the armed guards who will accompany us. It’s a 1.5 hour hike uphill in strong sun and so we are glad of our water.

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As the tracks get narrower and steeper we’re also glad of the porters we’ve hired. You are strongly recommended to hire at least one (you pay him or her USD 20 directly) to carry your water, lunch and rain coat and many hire two porters. This is an important source of income to the community. Our porter tells us that they can work as porters for one day a month and the money he makes can pay for his eldest daughter to go to school.

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We climb and climb – past tiny fields where a family ekes out a crop to survive.

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Eventually we arrive at the forest and appreciate it’s shade. Soon we meet the rangers who have been tracking the gorillas for us. They start from where they saw them yesterday and 95% of the time are able to find them again. As we get close our porters have to stay back (with our walking sticks) and we are just 8 people, approaching the gorillas with our guide and rangers. It is incredibly exciting and at first we cannot believe what we are seeing amongst the leaves and trees.

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But the gorillas are incredibly relaxed and we soon realise that they are quite happy for the rangers to move branches for us to see them more clearly. A zoom lens is barely needed because we are very close.

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Our hour quickly goes by – and in fact we seem to sense the gorillas telling us “time’s up – you have enough photos now – off you go!”.

On our way back we stop for our packed lunch (which the hotel has provided) and then quickly descend from the mountains. It’s almost as tough going down, the track is narrow with loose stones and our rangers don’t hang around – I think they want to get home. But the porters take their jobs very seriously and help us up and over tricky bits.

What a day – we relive it over dinner that night and all agree that it has been a spectacular end to this amazing journey in Uganda. Tomorrow we fly back to Entebbe and home.

To read about earlier days on the trip, click below.

Arriving in Entebbe

Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria

Schools, sugar and tea

It’s wet in a rainforest

Wild waters of the Nile

If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.

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Wild waters of the Nile

The Nile can be smooth and calm or raging & wild. We’ve ridden along the banks of the Nile and seen people going about their business. We’ve also enjoyed the water itself. A big treat of the Nile Horseback Safari is the change to swim with your horse in the Nile. We kept the saddles on (although without stirrups) for extra security.

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A quiet bay is chosen which has a deeper channel running through it so that for a couple of strides you can feel the immense power of your horse swimming underneath you. It’s just a short hack from our lodge and we choose to do it early one morning before breakfast.

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Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!

One day on the itinerary is free to join a white water rafting trip. Even if you have done it before, this is such a fun day on the river. There are options depending on how brave or cautious you are. Everyone journeys together down the Nile (for about 2-3 hours) and encounters 8 rapids with lovely leisurely sections in between where you can paddle and enjoy the view.

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The pilots are very skillful and so you can join a boat which is going to give you lots of excitement but 95% chance will not chuck you into the river.

Lots of fun and water, but we did not tip up.

Lots of fun and water, but we did not tip up.

Or you can join a boat which will take the challenging route at each rapid and you might just be in the water a lot! You could even come down in a tandem kayek.

Some had lots more thrills & spills

Some had lots more thrills & spills

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But an even more leisurely option was a sunset boat trip.

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On the trip we stayed at four different lodges. One was in the rain forest, but the other three were alongside the Nile in stunning locations.

The calm waters of the Nile at Holland Park

The calm waters of the Nile at Holland Park

Stunning view from our cottage at The Haven.

Stunning view from our cottage at The Haven

But one of the most amazing places I’ve ever stayed at is Wild Waters Lodge, which is actually on an island in the middle of the Nile. You and your luggage travel out by boat and the lodge and rooms all overlook fantastically noisy rapids.

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Photos don’t do it justice at all, so you will just have to visit for yourself!

From the Nile we continue onto visit the Mountain Gorillas at Bwindi.

To read about other days on this trip, click below.

Arriving in Entebbe

Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria

Schools, sugar and tea

It’s wet in a rainforest

Mountain Gorillas

If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.

 

 

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Dressage in the Alentejo

In May In The Saddle guest Frances Meier travelled out to Portugal to stay at the beautiful Monte Velho. In this post, she tells us a little about her stay and explains why Monte Velho is the place to go to improve your dressage skills.

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João working Don Quixote in the outdoor arena

“At the beginning of my stay I was introduced to my first horse ‘Estello’, a beautiful grey stallion and Coralie, one of the instructors. I’d just got on and was walking around on a long rein when a tacked-up riderless 3 year old mare came galloping past the arena hotly pursued by her rider…’oh no’ I thought, a near death experience already? But no Estello only looked up and then carried on without batting an eyelid! These horses have the most fantastic temperaments and are incredibly well behaved.

I found it a little difficult to get the feel of both the horses I rode on the first day, keeping the shoulders upright, so had some steering issues and it was tricky getting into canter initially, also ‘blocking’ in the hand, but on Alfonso eventually I did a bit of passage into extended trot and a few changes, but have to admit that I found it rather hard work.

Both of the instructors, Coralie and João, were very clear when teaching us and quickly spotted my many faults and set about correcting them. It was interesting also watching the others ride when time allowed.

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João and the super-talented Ecuador

The next day I had ‘Triunfo’, a beautiful 16 year old stallion who has competed at Grand Prix and was a champion of Portugal a few years ago. I found him a little hard to ride to start with, not off my leg and very wriggly, but gradually Coralie helped me and got on Triunfo herself. This made a big difference and made me feel better as I had been struggling with him. A short break, before my next session on Alfonso again…only to be completely pathetic and getting off after 20 minutes….. It turned out I was very dehydrated. So off I went to bed with a large bottle of salt/sugar water solution.

Manager/Owner Diogo very kindly changed the schedule round the next day so that I had a private lesson on Thursday morning and a trail ride in the evening. I also booked myself in for a lunge lesson, something I would strongly recommend and should have done earlier!

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João and Triunfo in the indoor arena

Strength and positivity regained, I really enjoyed my lesson on Triunfo. Coralie had me sitting better and releasing my seat. We did lots of forward and back in trot and canter and ended up doing walk pirouettes into canter pirouettes and passage into piaffe into passage again, all by myself. Absolutely great!

In the evening the sun came out and I had the most glorious trail ride on ‘Altar’ with Diogo on Don Quixote (aka ‘Donkey Shot’). The best behaved trail horses ever. We rode out onto beautiful flower meadows and by lakes through the many scattered boulders and cork oaks that are everywhere. We did the slowest collected canter ever on my delightful horse, so quiet and peaceful. The only noise was the clonking of the bell on the dog who came with us – he was charming, making sure we came to no harm. It was so interesting learning about the breeding programme and the training plans for the future as well as the expansion of Monte Velho next winter from Diogo himself. He said it was the best part of his day, I was thrilled!

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Enjoying a trail ride through the pretty spring flowers

My last day and I had a lunge lesson on the gorgeous bay gelding ‘Bemposto’ in the indoor school. No reins or stirrups and João really worked on my seat and core strength, doing canter/trot/canter transitions on a circle just from my seat. It was a very useful 40 minutes.

My last lesson was on back on Triunfo. I felt really strong and was sitting well at long last. I was able to do straight lines, leg yield, half pass into canter with changes, followed by changes on the diagonal down to two-time changes….YEAH! Then into piaffe passage and trot passage, trying to stay in the same rhythm. Such a clever boy, the feeling was fantastic and I was thrilled to finish on a really good note.

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Frances and Triunfo being put through their paces by Coralie

Monte Vehlo is in the most beautiful location; very peaceful and comfortable. My room was spotlessly clean and luckily had a very efficient towel rail to dry my hat and clothes (after the rain showers). There is a homely bar and seating area for everyone to chat and catch up with the day’s activities and the dining room is opposite where we ate our meals with a verandah overlooks the main arena.

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João teaching, with the dining room in the background

The food is plentiful and delicious; Alices’ puddings were divine and we all exceeded our wine quota! Diogo and the staff were very helpful and friendly and the horses are amazing. I learnt such a lot in just 4 days and would love to go back one day.

It is a very good place to stay if you are travelling alone, we had some hilarious lunches and evenings. Bad luck though if you had a 2 pm lesson and couldn’t linger over lunch….!

Should you wish to go on a holiday to improve your dressage, Monte Velho is certainly the place to go. The teaching was excellent and the horses are amazing, so well behaved, fit and they all look so well.”

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Frances and Altar by the lake

A huge thank you to Frances for taking the time to tell us about her trip.

If you’d like to learn more about Monte Velho then please call us on +44 1299 272 997 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com

 

 

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