Last summer, we met two « free-lance » graphic designers from Paris…. Nothing really special so far, but if we tell you that Morgane and Noé are presently in the deepest of Patagonia with for sole companionship their horses and Parisian dog, that would raise your Pilot curiosity a little, wouldn’t it? How did they move from a daily Parisian life to becoming budding Gauchos? Half way through, what is this epic equestrian adventure all about, what have they gone through?
This interview is the first of a set of three articles which will end, as their trip will, in February!
Who? Why? How?
Morgane and Noé are both Paris born. They met during their graphic designer studies. Morgane comes from a horse riding family, and introduced Noé into that sport, with something in mind…. As a small girl already, she had travelled through France with her parents on horse and was dreaming of going farther. As for Noé, he has been traveling since his early years. Can you see it coming? Going together on a horse trip is the objective our two adventurers had set their mind on, as soon as they started working. 2 years later and some money set aside for it, they embarked for Bariloche with their dog Lucha. By the way, why Patagonia? And how have they prepared for this?
“We had 2 destinations in mind: horse countries, Argentina or Mongolia. But Noé had already been in Mongolia and we both spoke a little Spanish. So we had a look at some similar trips to the one we intended to do. We met several people in order to have a first feeling. Of course we bought the horseback travels bible, Emile Brager’s book, which helped us enormously. We looked for sponsors to help us financially and we spread out our expenses over the 2 years of preparation. As for the physical preparation side of things, we did a lot of horse-riding treks with our own horses in Britany. While in Paris, we also went running a couple of times per week. We decided to bring along our dog which has been trained to work with other animals.”
“In the days before departing, we didn’t really have much time to get stressed because we had so many things to do. On the actual day, we got a little worried about our dog Lucha taking the plane for the first time. We were also a bit anxious about our luggage, as we had a lot of equipment to take with us, but everything went fine, no bad surprise at the arrival. When we got to Bariloche (our starting point), we were helped by a friend (met online) who is doing a similar horse trek (@Stevieanna). In fact she is at this very moment 10 days ahead of us, we hope to see her at the end of our trip so we can ride together for a few days!”
A well-planned trek turning into an unexpected journey. When the weather meddles in.
“Everything we had planned shattered pretty fast!!!! Distances are not the same and weather conditions are really harsh. We are in the Andes and they won’t let us forget it! We started our trek at the end of October in order to move toward the summer season, but this winter was the hardest in the last 10 years and it wouldn’t end!! We had to re-schedule our journey right from the start to adapt to the climate. Now we feel better prepared and we are able to plan our logistics much better, the only unpredictable parameter remains the weather. There is so much wind that we can have Sun, Rain, Hail or even Snow in the same day. We also thought there would be more horse tracks but stony roads are what we see the most.”
Living through the best and the worst
“What makes us really happy is to have met our horses and managed to build a real and trusting relationship with them. We now know their personalities, they have become our travel companions; not just a means to travel! We listen to them a lot. They can go absolutely everywhere but if they refuse to go we understand there is a good reason for it. They also warn us when an animal comes towards us. It’s a real exchange….. That is why our worst memory will be the day we lost Noé’s horse, Marucho. One day we saw Marucho lying (our horses don’t mind sleeping lying down), so we were not too surprised but then he wouldn’t get up…
We walked to the nearest village and we saw 3 different vets, several times. We talked to the whole village (about 100 inhabitants) in order to find home remedies. We were with Marucho the whole day, we massaged him, we applied some of the remedies recommended by the villagers, we warmed him up in blankets, but nothing worked, not even the vets medicine. After 13 days, Marucho sadly left us. We were really sad but we decided to continue our adventure to the end. We had to find a new horse and that was another ordeal. Although Patagonia is a Horse homeland, it is very difficult to find a good horse. We saw 14 horses before we could find one which was in good health (once we were offered a 30 year old horse with an open wound at the saddle strap level, full of maggots!!!). In the end we decided to move on with only 2 horses. So one of us had to walk while Marucho’s load was dispatched on both horses. We couldn’t find any suitable horse anywhere around. After about 100 kilometres on foot (taking turns) we found Boscavo, our new horse, which wasn’t totally broken in. He accepted to be saddled but was really scared of humans. We had to go step by step, little by little, but luckily Boscavo learnt and changed very quickly. Within a few days Noé was able to trot and gallop on him without any problem, even grab his horseshoes. That too was a great challenge.”
When doubt takes over
“For my part (Morgane) it was the first week that I really doubted about the whole trek thing. When we not only had to get used to the trip and had to carry out some big harnessing adjustments but also went through some really bad weather conditions which made me fear for our lives. We got caught in a snow storm in the heart of the mountains at about one horse riding week of any living soul. We were wearing our 2 Horse Pilot down jackets (Soflight + storm 2016 hped) to keep warm and our Element coats to stay dry. It was absolutely vital to have them under these conditions, when the only shelter was the tent. We couldn’t even make a fire because of the famous Patagon wind. It was terribly hard and I wanted to turn back but Noé was braver and managed to encourage me to go on, even if it meant doing a long detour (one week) to avoid going across the mountain…”
At the end of their first week, Morgane and Noé make an unexpected encounter which will impress them and give them the strength to continue their adventure at all costs. We will tell you more about it in the next episode! In the meantime, wherever you may be, #BeAPilot!
Many thanks to Morgane and Noé for trusting us.