I’m admitting to a severe case of envy. A bestie school friend and high plains horse riding buddy Beeb, escaped from an Aussie winter that’s been a long time going, to venture to Sicily to be sundrenched aboard a strong Sicilian steed.
Instead of letting age, not envy, draw wrinkles on my cheeks* I decided to ask her about the six day trek from Cefalu on the north coast of Sicily to the southern slopes of Mt Etna, a 240km horse riding adventure organised by Sicily Horse Tours (SCH):
How many riders were on the tour beside SCH’s Luciano and Selene? There were two others, both Germans, a 49-year-old man who has ridden many trail rides around the world and a woman in her mid 40s who trains two horses and gives dressage lessons. I had heaps of fun with them and lots of mad laughing.
Preparation for the ride included: weekly riding lessons for the past 18 months to help build confidence and gain skills. I’ve a lifelong love of riding – from stock work on a farm, pony club, adult riding club as well as trail rides in Australia. I have a reasonable level of fitness through gym work and spin classes.
Each day we were in the saddle for: six to eight hours covering from 35 to 50km. As it was very hot and dry, around 35 to 40o, we’d start at nine each morning and ride for four to five hours before stopping for lunch and a siesta. We’d get back in the saddle around 3 or 4pm.
The different terrain: of the Val Demone in North East Sicily was a real highlight riding uphill and down dale through three mountainous national parks passing beautiful beech, ash and cork trees.
The greatest challenge was: riding through eerie moonlike terrain of black lava on the southern slope of Mt Etna volcano which they assured me was happy burping, puffing and frothing. An extremely steep path led up onto a narrower ledge with deep drops into lava cone holes – craters from the last great eruption in 2002. I’m scared of heights and during all of this, Kirsten the rider in front, wanted to stop and take photos! I had to rely on the confidence I had in my beautiful horse Mario, and my guides.
Each night we stayed at: different bed and breakfast Agriturismo (home stays) who showcased their regional Sicilian food. Dinners started with an antipasti (mixed delicious), primo piatto ( a typical Sicilian pasta dish), secondo piatto (the meat dish) then fruit and dessert if you had any room! I love Italian food because it’s so seasonal, tasty, light and simple. I was a little like Mario my horse, ‘sempre mangiare’, always eating!
My advice to anyone thinking about going on the ride is: to have a good level of general fitness and be prepared to “go with the flow.”
I always travel with: lip balm, but I wish I hadn’t taken my rain coat, thermal underwear and fleece top. My ski bum bag would have been useful to carry my camera for speedier phototaking.
I chose to go to Sicily and ride because: it was somewhere different and followed a week at Babilonia language school in Taormina, cooking school for a week at Modica and it tied in with plans to visit friends in Orvieto in Umbria afterwards”.
Frankly Beeb I’m feeling relieved…my envy’s vanished and in its place, admiration for your skill, fitness and endurance. Well done!
*apologies to Thomas Browne