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We Are Flying Solo

September 12, 2010

The Big Tease

I am home!  I have not seen Solo yet, sigh.  But reports note that he is fine, if a bit sad.  I have downloaded the pictures from the past nine days.  Now to work on sorting & editing & recounting!  To keep you salivating until then....  (I shouldn't post my favourite picture first, but I love it too much not to)

This is me & Sam in Cotopaxi National Park, south of Quito.  Cotopaxi is the jaw-dropping volcano you see behind us.  Yes, it is real, & yes, it is active.  We were not far from the lower slopes, my little camera just sucked at metering in contrast situations. 

You can climb the volcano if you want.  Except you have to start at midnight & summit by sunrise so you are off the ice by 10 am.  Because then the ice bridges start to get brittle in the sun & you die.

But other than that...oh, & the fact that the summit is at 5,897 m (19,347 ft) & I couldn't even walk uphill for ten steps at 4000 m after a week of's easy as pie!

September 11, 2010

Time´s Up Already ¨´imagine question mark here because I can´t find one on this keyboard´´

We are back in Quito.  I am itching to run down the street & go find the horses again.  The riding was beyond incredible.  There are many pictures tucked into my camera & we will also get a DVD of photos from the outfitter that she & a professional photographer took while we rode.  So, I will warn you now -- many posts of stories &pictures are to come as I drag entertain you with the trip. 

But none of the pictures will be able to truly capture the magnitude & scale of the neverending rows of hazy volcanos & wide high plains watched by hawks and condors.  I think I pulled a muscle in my neck trying to look at everything at once. 

And the horses....amazing.  Name a horse you know that can trek all day & canter along ridges at 4,200 meters above sea level (about 13,800 feet).  Whenever I tried to walk up a hill, I was about to collapse after five steps, even after a week of acclimatization.

So, back to Miami in the morning, then home to NC tomorrow.  I am sad to go, but twitching to see Solo.  Who will feel like a giant after these tough South American ponies.  Once I am back, I can begin the laborious process of sorting 600 pictures & uploading!  Till then, go hug a horse & enjoy the ride!

September 5, 2010

I Am In A Parallel Universe

And in said universe, I am typing on a Spanish keyboard, so forgive me in advance for strange characters & typos, should they appear.

At present, I am sitting in an exquisite 300 year old Spanish colonial hacienda that sprawls in acres of long, low stucco through breathtaking gardens of bouganvillea, datura, & spanish moss.  Deep blue doors are locked with keys that look as if they would unlock someone´s dungeon.  Century-old art & furniture that smells of history surprise us around every corner.  I am sure the porters go off to giggle every time I walk into our bedroom & go Holy crap!

This does NOT bear any resemblance to my actual life, so I have obviously been sucked into someone else´s.

I can´t possibly encapsulate even the last two days here, so I will stick with summary:

Everywhere we go, we are ringed with green volcanos sheathed in clouds at their summits.  The indigenous people trudge at the roadsides with the long braids & swaying skirts catching the air as they carry huge bundles or haul reluctant pigs to market.

And the horses (because that´s what we all really care about, right?) -- mine is a little dark bay Criollo with some Spanish blood thown in and with his little fuzzy ears, he reminds me very much of riding lifeshighway´s horse, Pete.  I am still trying to reliably remember the little booger´s name, but I think it is Capuli (you put emphasis on every syllable of names in Ecuador). 

He is only five, so he is still learning the ropes, but he has a good mind & a sweet face that I can´t resist petting.  He is best friends with our guide´s horse, Tostado, who is a striking bay roan Appaloosa/Criollo/Columbian horse, & as a result, I am constantly reminding Capuli that he is not to stick his nose right under Tostado´s tail.

We are off today for about a six hour ride traversing the side of a volcano (Imbabura) to reach our next hacienda.  If it is as mind-blowingly incredible as this one, I may simply pass out from sheer sensory overload.

If there is more free (although shudderingly slow) internet, perhaps I will be able to share more later in the week!  For now, I must go fill many water bottles & stock snacks into my packs so I can keep the blood sugar up all day!

September 1, 2010

Run Away, Run Away!

It's T-36 hours-ish until Ecuador Adventure 2010 begins!  Which means Flying Solo will be, uh, not so flying for a whole week.

I could be like a real blogger & write several posts & then set them on timers so it looks like I'm really blogging. But let's face it, ain't gonna happen.

I'm checking & re-checking the passport, looking up the weather for Otavalo (where the ride starts) for the 37th time -- like Weather Underground will accurately be able to predict equatorial weather at 10,000 feet above sea level. *snort*

I'll have two enormous memory cards in the camera, so if the gods are kind, I hope to have many exciting things to show you when I get back.  I left Solo in good hands, although I shall miss him TERRIBLY & I will be wishing every step that I was riding him instead.  The bad part about owning your own horse is that other horses then never quite measure up....

Everyone stay out of trouble until mid-September, at which point I expect you will all have new & exciting horse tales to share that I missed out on! Till then, get out there, hug a pony, & enjoy the music of hoofbeats on dirt; there is surely no better note in the symphony of days.

August 31, 2010

A Peaceful Mountain Weekend. Now With Less Peace.

We had a lovely evening Friday.  Camp was set up along the edge of National Forest, burgers were grilled, horses settled in their pens, and beer cans duly emptied.  I fell asleep watching fireflies compete with constellations for the right to bejewel the trees. Saturday morning dawned clear and sunrise brought birdsong with a chance of omelets (yum!). Lifeshighway and I studied maps, checked our stored waypoints in the GPS (we may or may not have a history of misdirection) and stuffed our saddlebags with beet pulp, apples, and beef jerky in preparation for a day of mountain exploration. Pete and Solo fueled their tanks with clover. Lifeshighway has generously shared her endurance expertise (and supplies!) with us; we have learned the value of bringing along pickmeups for the horses. Just like people, they burn up their calories and run out of steam, but a bag of beet pulp at lunchtime gives you a whole new horse to continue your day with!


The ride itself was fantastic; five hours of streams and ridges, valleys and rock outcrops winding through the Uwharrie Mountains. Both our boys picked their way calmly through the rock-strewn trails with patience and confidence no matter how steep the challenge.

That's when it happened: I made the deadly error of speaking (it happens to the best of us). "Wow, we actually had a riding trip with no disasters such as getting lost or hurt!"

Then we got back. My first discovery was that my dressage saddle had created two huge pressure welts behind Solo's withers (horror!! shock!! anger!!). Apparently it is time to move on to saddle fitter number four. Sigh. A much more pleasant discovery was that his SI region, which was historically a trouble area, was NOT sore at all (cheers! glee! excitement!).

Second discovery, we got to spend all Sat night in the emergency room with someone who shall not be named (no horse riders or horses got hurt, everyone is completely fine now). By the time we got everyone back to the campsite, it was 2 AM and all were bleary-eyed. So instead of riding on Sunday (which I wasn't going to do now anyway due to aforementioned saddle issues), we headed home.

Aside from our foray into emergency medicine, I can happily say mission accomplished -- we completed a nice long ride I was hoping for in prep for next weeks tackling of Ecuador and I ended up with very little soreness. Solo did very well considering the humidity; I made sure to give him plenty of breathers and a good spongebath in a cold stream midway. And of course, there is nothing better for the mind and heart than this: