Tag Archives: Welfare

Volcanoes, open plains and rock wielding ladies

Heading on with real maps for the first time courtesy of a very generous friend we have been making good ground through incredible countryside, Ecuador truly is one of the most beautiful countries I have been lucky enough to visit, and the people so welcoming – except for the rock wielding old ladies ….. more to come on that.

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8 days ago we left Latacunga and the amazing hospitality of an incredible family. I got the chance to rest, this time was more for me than for Red as have been struggling with health issues the last 2 months, 8 months on the road and poor diet can take its toll on the body! I must say a huge thank you to all at El Picadero.

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Back in the saddle again and felt great, getting toward the end of the second day riding through a village of no more than 20 houses I hear somebody calling me “mister, mister” Normally would just ride on but stopped to see what the man wanted “are you the man riding to Peru?” he asks, little taken aback I spent some time talking to him, somehow word had got to this little village, I ended up spending the night with his family before heading on early. Over the last 8 nights have slept in the hammock, derelict buildings in run down areas on outskirts of towns, playgrounds, empty shacks 3700m up in the Andes and several fields, waking with Red led down sleeping next to me on more than one occasion, biting my beard, my hair and once with him stood on both of my feet – another 3 broken toes but if honest have never slept better.

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I am now riding the western side of the Andes, passing snow-capped volcanoes, thermal pools and nobody in sight. Feeling confident and with good maps I pushed further into the paramour. Riding though open plains I stop to soak it in, with a contentedness I have never before experienced, this journey is way more than I could have ever hoped for. Riding dirt tracks, no tracks and train tracks, everything but tarmac. Pulling up to a bakery in the mornings to the smell of fresh bread and getting served on the back of your horse is something else. Arriving in a small community I stopped to ask directions, I could not hear what the people were saying so rode a little closer, this seemed to upset them as the only Spanish-speaking member of the group shouted that I should leave now, that I need to be carefull as strangers are not welcome here, we argued for a little, pointing out that I purely wanted directions however when I noticed the crowd building and the little old ladies armed with rocks in their hands decided I would be ok without directions and galloped out of there. This would never change the way I feel about this beautiful country, in a way I can understand and respect them wanting to preserve their privacy. Just 24hrs before this I was invited into a stranger’s home, fed lunch and when I tried to leave was told would be rude to leave before dinner and should spend the night, should have skipped the dinner as was heart omelette but the sentiment was wonderful!

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I am now entering the final few weeks of the trip and with it facing the reality of parting ways with what has become my best friend. Am sure by now you would have figured out there is no way I could let Red go to anything but the perfect home and have been lucky enough to find that in the good people at El Picadero. We have been through a lot together, injuries, tough roads, amazing highs, formed a bond that I can draw no comparison to. He has saved my skin several times and like to think have given him the best possible care. So proud of what that skinny little horse from Medellin has turned into. And so I am appealing for a little help in getting him to his retirement home, it will take around $500 to transport him to a well deserved rest and also a place where he gets to continue what he is so good at, working with children. If you can support in any way through the buy a bale link I would be forever grateful, and anybody that is good enough to help us out gets riding rights ….. if you are ever in Ecuador! (which I would highly recommend!) I have been hoping for a long time I could find the right home for him whist I return to the UK and feel extremely fortunate to have found the perfect place,

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Now we head back into the Andes for the final push through Ecuador and onto the finish line, hard to believe we are now over 5000kms and 8 months into the journey with just a few weeks left.

Thank you for reading,

Marc

Cautious optimism

Without tempting fate Red seems to be on the mend and we can eye up the trail ahead. Getting away from it all again as we plan to head further towards Peru.

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My time volunteering is coming to an end and although as always it is hard to leave another group of amazing children am extremely happy and proud to be associated with such an awesome project. Also feeling privileged to have had the opportunity to get to know them and to know that the money raised through fundraising has found another deserving home. The time here has had it highs and lows, the experience teaching incredible, the injuries to Red tough.

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Watching as a young man with use of only one hand has a bow strapped on before beautifully playing the violin, being part of helping the first generation in a family learn to read. This is exactly the kind of project I had hoped to encounter when organising this trip back in 2009. Projects making a real impact on lives through education and care.

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Red’s recovery was being hindered by the intense cold, something to do with the start of winter 4000m up in the Andes! After a lot of sleepless nights, round the clock care, even the kind family who run the volunteer project helping out by relieving me for enough time to shower and eat, we are seeing some progress. Once strong enough I took the decision 2 days ago to transport him to a lower altitude to complete his treatment. Only 34kms west and dropping down 5000ft the difference is incredible. Riding in the back of the truck to support him could see the life come back into the eyes as felt sunshine for the first time in weeks. Knowing what lays ahead I am making sure he is 100% before heading off as the next section will have very limited opportunities for help.

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All being well we shall be moving by the weekend. The already minimal equipment has been further reduced, now down to just a few pounds in order to allow more food supplies as we head through the mountains.

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As before a HUGE thank you for reading, your support of the volunteer projects, keeping us moving with the “buy a bale” donations which were invaluable help with recent medicine costs, and your messages. I hope to be writing to you again sometime in the next few weeks.

Marc

Harsh reality, injuries and an amazing group of children

So happy to reach volunteer location Ecuador but the first week has been marred with an injury to Red and an attempted murder

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Arriving into El Tambo and after making a connection with a wonderful American family running a school that offers education in a rural part of Ecuador I began volunteering here over a week ago. My days are spent teaching English and Maths in the morning and I use the afternoon to renovate the dilapidated boys bathroom.

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The children here are fantastic, a real eagerness to learn, arriving half an hour early to school and have to be forced to leave at the end of the day. The cost per child is $10 per month, this covered by donations that also pay for the staff and upkeep of this awesome facility. From what I have seen the level of education provided here is among the best of any volunteer project I have worked with, active for 10 years now, also played a huge part in helping the first person from this small village achieve a university degree.

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On Wednesday we went into the capital Quito, there I tutored English to several students, a great day but with sad news at the end as we learnt one of the students had been stabbed in a gang related incident, a reminder of the reality. This part is unbelievable, the man was presumed dead, taken to the morgue with 15 stab wounds but somehow was found alive by staff prior to processing.

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Thursday we were back into it and made some real progress with the renovations only to return to a very sad looking Red that would not come to my call. Making my way over I was told he had trampled the water supply to the home of the people with whom we are staying. Red had managed not only to demolish the water supply but had lacerated his chest and cut his legs badly in the process. Getting him to shelter I cleaned him up as best was possible and spent the night with him doing what possible to ease the pain. First thing in the morning hitching a ride to the nearest town I was able to pick up supplies from a veterinary store. We are way up in the Andes, no chance of getting a vet to my location without hundreds of dollars and so was forced to administer the antibiotic, anti inflammatory and pain killing injections myself, first time and remembering my training from Rancho Chilamate in Nicaragua all went well. Soon after Red returned to his favorite pass time of eating but still unable to walk. 3 days later now and there is a big improvement, 3 times daily treatment, lots of care and the wounds are slowly healing. The kind family even agreed to build a shelter in which to let him recover.

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And so it looks like another week or two of recovery before we can hit the trail but just happy the recovery is possible! Really was touch and go and reinforced how much this clumsy old horse means to me, there is nothing that will stop us completing this journey together. The extra time spent here means the opportunity to finish the bathroom project and help with the children in the lead up to exam week so making the most of the time and hoping for a fast recovery!

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A big thank you for the support through “buy a bale” was a huge help when needing medication and also for the support of this and all the great charities involved in this trip through the gofundme page.

Thank you for reading,

Marc

Fearing the worst at 3800m

Arriving at the entrance to the valley of volcanoes, a volcano lined corridor, thousands of miles of Inca trail ahead, leading to Peru and beyond disaster struck as Red pulled up unable to walk any further. I, in all honesty was inconsolable. Finding the first field in which to let him rest, massaging and applying heat to the injured leg I feared the worst. The land owner agreed to let us have use of the field for a fee, over the odds but he knew we had no choice. IMG_9638small

We are currently at 3800m above sea level, roughly 12kms south of the equator, where with the altitude when new to the area you get out of breath brushing your teeth…… Its cold!  Camping out with Red sleeping beside me after listening to some sound advice we rested, things can look a little better after 24hrs.

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The following morning Red seemed a lot better, walking, eating his way around the field (will take a lot to keep him from food!) Still I wanted a second opinion and so went to the nearest town to contact a few of my peers in the hope of a diagnosis. Vets are pretty much non existent where I am. After talking to both the team I spent time with preparing for this trip in Nicaragua and the Long Riders Guild the only real option was to rest a few days and, hope for best case scenario – a slightly twisted ankle. I figured with some free time whilst Red recovered I would take a look at a local school I heard about and see if maybe I could help out.

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After meeting with the schools founders, finding out a little about the project and with their permission I am now volunteering with a fantastic project in El Tambo, a small village in the Eastern Andes. After just one day could see was a great project, not very often you see children running to school and waiting for the doors to open. This is a fantastic programme, some of the children involved are the first generation in their family to learn how to read or write in either Spanish or their native Quichua. It respects tradition and provides an opportunity that would be otherwise out of reach.

Monday I start with the school proper and cannot wait. I look forward to giving some more information! And the big question, Red, somehow has made what seems to be a miraculous recovery, walking fine I am still massaging and applying heat daily but confident a week long rest and time to acclimatize and he should be fit for the road ahead. Hoping for the best.

Thank you for reading, update on my time volunteering coming soon!

Volunteering in Colombia

Finally I have reached the volunteer destination in Colombia! Has been long overdue but worth the wait. I am now in Pereira, Colombia – a town that lies at the most northerly point of what was once a busy INCA trade route.

I began volunteering here with Corporacion Crisol three weeks ago. This fantastic organisation founded by Cesar Valencia has been in operation since January 2009 with the aim of offering support and education to the community of Las Colonias, a small suburb of Pereira. The project is a one hour ride from my other volunteer placement in Pereira – Finca Apopori. Here I work 5hrs a day, 5 days a week in return for unbelievable accommodation and 3 healthy, filling meals a day. This place is luxury for me, an actual bed and best of all a space for the horse.

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RED MEETING SOME OF THE CHILDREN AT THE PROJECT FOR THE FIRST TIME

“Todo evento, produce una enseñanza” – Every event produces an education. This quote from the mission statement of Corporacion Crisol rings true. Corporacion Crisol is a great experience and would highly recommend it for anyone looking to volunteer in Colombia. There is a huge emphasis on open learning and it’s refreshing to see a project that embraces different teaching methods. One thing that I have been extremely lucky with in all my volunteer locations throughout Central and South America is they all respect and value local culture, operating to provide support and create opportunities, and this project is no different.

Cesar has created a wonderful resource for the people of Las Colonias and it is clear his work is appreciated with over 60 children involved in the program. My time is spent working with 5 children at a time, which is great as it gives a chance to offer individual attention. Teaching not only how to ride a horse but care for animals, art classes and a little bit of South American geography. Get asked on a daily basis “and you really ride to Peru?!” The support provided here is well managed and given with the right intention. I am extremely proud to be associated with this and all the programs I have worked with so far.

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Here in Pereira I have been fortunate enough to find a way to cover living costs by volunteering at Finca Apopori. The Finca is a pristine hotel that also doubles as an event centre. Work consists of painting, building an earth-bag house (picture below), electrical work, assisting with clients and anything else that is needed. The opportunity is greatly appreciated as there is absolutely no chance this kind of luxury was ever on the cards! The hotel itself is stunning and extremely peaceful, lined with orange, mango and star fruit trees which will make it hard to leave. Allowing me to fit my time here around the school, the owner is a true gent and a pleasure to work for, again Colombian hospitality is incredible.

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I now have just a short time left before I take the long ride from here to the border of Ecuador. My horse is resting well and thanks to the generous donations through Buy a Bale is in great health. A huge thank you to all that have supported us, so far we have received $140 here and it really does help! Below you can see the difference from when I first picked up Red and the condition he is in now.

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To anybody wishing to know more about the charities involved in this trip or maybe wanting to get involved I would love to hear from you – take a look at the How you can get involved page. Thank you for reading.

Marc