|Monday April 7 2008|
This was Andalucía: a musical, passionate land, with fiestas, romerias, bullfights, and celebrations.
This was Tierras de Al-Andalus 2008: on horseback or in vehicles following horses across rugged mountain trails by day, flamenco disco by night; wonderful new friends, Spanish tapas, manzanilla wine; old Roman roads, 6th century castles, the Rock of Gibraltar, the dusty streets of an equestrian city. Getting little sleep, getting lost, getting stuck; listening to a classical cellist, listening to José Soto sing, listening to horseshoes on the cobblestone streets of an old Andalucían village, listening to the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean as horses canter by, listening to goats deep in the Andalucían countryside.
It's not a vacation, and it's not easy, on you or your horse. You need a fit horse to come here, and a good knowledge of your horse and management of your horse over a multi-day ride to finish. You need to take a good deal of time off work: the Germans who came took 4 days to get here, spent 9 days at the ride, and will take 5 days to return home. You need a good crew and driver(s). You need an appreciation of things good - food, wine, company, scenery, history - because that is what you will get here. Don't come without a sense of humor, and don't come if you can't do without a lot of sleep for a week.
The following will sound kind of like those Acadamy Award speeches where the winners try to cram in thanks to everybody on the planet who had a hand in their success; there's no way I could mention and thank everybody with Al-Andalus who helped me and gave me a smile or "Hola!" every day. But I must mention, at the least, Inés de Albert and Luis Gil-Delgado López, who were two of the main cogs in Al-Andalus wheel that kept things moving smoothly along, and if they were not moving smoothly, Inés and Luis did not let it get in the way of anything. If Steph and I needed a ride, or had one more question, or wanted to get in front of a pack of horses, or needed our lost passports, they took care of it. Most of all, they most often lugged Steph's and my stupidly heavy suitcases without complaints : ) .
Javier Gutiérrez Jerez and Nacho Peña were two of my drivers with a great sense of adventure and always a ready laugh. Carmen González Martín-Moré and Dr. Luís Herrero Mateo helped me with my Spanish on the many days I rode with them (I promised I'd know more next year).
And there's José Soto - who came up with the idea to put this ride on. Oh, and he's not such a bad singer either.
El año siguiente - see you here next year.