The Long Riders' Guild

Georges Baudraz and Sylviane Gold are riding from France to Spain

Frustrated by the endless delays in getting the necessary paperwork from the authorities in Havana, Georges Baudraz and Sylviane Gold decided very reluctantly to postpone their journey across Cuba until January 2003.

But the lust for travel was not to be denied, so the Swiss couple, who live in France,  decided to ride out of their own back yard!

"We decided to go for a long journey, to discover the nearby horizons which we did not know because we had only travelled through them at speed and, above all, without poetry... in a car, a motorbike, or a train.  Three months, that will give us time to see...

We will go via Seyssel, St Etienne de St. Geoirs, cross the Rhone there on the motorway (we will close our eyes and our ears) to go to the market in St. Agrève.  We will drink water from the Loire at Gerbier-de-Jonc and shake hands with friends at Lozère, the birthplace of Prince, our first horse.    We will arrive at the foot of the walls of Carcassone before crossing the Pyrenees."

Georges and Sylviane left on 8 May 2002.  The mayor and half the  town turned out - tears, emotion, and above all a sense of DEPARTURE. 

"So we turned around and patted our mounts and set off for ... for what?  Flight?  The unknown?  A dream?  We'll find out later.  The important thing is to go."

The Swiss couple went to stay with Long Rider Gérard Barré, webmaster of World Trail Rides, The Long Riders' Guild's sister website, and his wife Gisèle.

"The worry of those who wait.... Gisèle and Gérard became friends the moment we set eyes on each other."

20th May 2002

OK, we got lost.
Then the horses fled into the black night!  It would be hopeless to flip the pages of any handbook…  The only thing you can do is hope you find them safe and sound.  And hope has a capital H when the couple who found them on their land liked them, and offered us a drink to calm us down.
Knowing how modest they are, we will not speak here of the wonderful help we received from Gisèle and Gérard Barré.  We will never forget the woman in the only lit house who, at midnight, lent us her car and her telephone, and offered us two glasses of champagne left over from a party she had given.
After 12 days we are integrated and have sunk into the track the journey carves.  Daily life is transformed, habits changed.  Now they are part of necessities:  to saddle one’s horse correctly is essential if you are to complete the day’s ride without problems.  To find a park, some grain, means we can leave, sure of our travelling companions.
To leave on this journey is not always easy.  For example, when the campsite is a nice one.  When we have enjoyed a wonderful evening with kind people.  Equestrian Travel forces you to rediscover Time – it takes you 12 days to travel the same distance which we could cover in one day in this 21st century. 
We rediscover the weather – what it is now, what it will be tomorrow.  Our horses find out about horseflies, which have returned with the hot weather.  Now, when we are asked how many miles we travel in a day, we answer in time:  “Six hours per day.”   

25th June 2002

The Long Riders' Guild has received an update from Georges and Sylviane, who are now in Carcassonne.

Horseback travel is marked out by meetings

These meetings come about because of the need to feed and lodge the horses as well as the people.   Sometimes they cause problems – like the peasant who refused to let us have a corner of his park for our horses, although rain threatened.  Worse, like the shop-keeper of commercial stables who, under the pretext of having to prepare a meal for 50 bikers, refused to rent us any land, at 5 p.m. and in torrential rain.
We thought longingly of our friends the Mongols, who would never refuse hospitality, knowing full well that they might need it themselves when they in turn ventured into other pastures…  But it is true that on the Steppes food, accommodation, and even the land is shared, while here everything is for sale… for some, at any rate.  For there are others like Francis Barnezet de Vernosc-en-Annonay who got down off his bulldozer with a huge smile, gave us two large buckets of barley and refused any payment, saying ‘For us farmers who have never left our country, travellers like you make us travel.  It’s well worth the 65 cents that the barley cost us.”
Thanks to the horses, or rather, because of them, we feel a little as though we are the final defenders of the adventure of a lifetime taking place out of context.  Arpad, Conchita and their brothers and sisters chain us to their Worlds of Land, Grass, Water, Rocks, nestling in the forests or swept by the wind.
A world which we frequently wonder if we will ever be able to leave…."

July 2002

The Long Riders' Guild has received a final, sad email from George and Sylviane:

A Spanish guitar with broken strings!

It was hot, even though we had set off early.  The muddy waters of the canal du Midi threw off golden reflections which the sun’s rays, already piercing the leaves on the trees, combed onto the unsilvered mirror.  We had crossed the wooden bridge and, a good kilometer further on, we got back into the saddle.  The packs were firmly in place, and Arpad’s saddle hadn’t moved when I swung my 160 lbs. over the bedroll, the tent and the cultural saddle-bag.  The day before, I had cut out parts of Cuba’s saddlepad to aerate his wound.  On foot, I noticed this morning that Arpad was, nevertheless, crossing his forelegs a little.  Riding Conchita, Sylviane was extremely happy, we were going to the races at Trebes, and rejoin the main road (GR 36) at Monze. 

The lock-keeper waved at us, and the first few German barges greeted us cordially.  One woman called out from her house beside the canal, “Cuckoo…” and added “…God that’s beautiful!”  

By 10 a.m. we were blocking the traffic behind us as we crossed the Trèbes bridge.  I was pleased to see that Arpad was now walking well.  My fears regarding his wound were blurring our dreams of sunny and rocky trails at the foot of the ruined castles of the area.  But it was hot.  Before we got to Frontiès village, we chose to rest for the hottest hours on a little track which wound through cypress-bordered vineyards.  Relieved of their packs, Conchita and Arpad threw themselves on the delicious grass, in the shade of large trees.  That was a good omen:  “a horse which eats is healthy and not tired.”  

After our snack, we were still a little anxious, and lifted up the Arab’s saddle to make sure we put the saddlepad in the right place.  And there we saw that our journey was over.  It was impossible to carry on under these conditions.

We could never have even contemplated continuing if it meant that one of our two companions would have to suffer.

Amongst the baggage spread out on the grass beside the trail, the Spanish guitar’s strings were broken.  Our sadness brought a lump to the throat, and tears clung to the edge of a melancholy that our journey had finished too abruptly.

You may have noticed that we have mentioned everyone who has been so kind to us over the previous 50 days of our trip.  All of you who had a table, some advice, a touch, a smile while we travelled, it is you who, in these difficult moments, have contributed to making this journey a success story as well.  Whenever you were there for us, you made the day new and rich.

Love to you all,
Georges and Sylviane
2nd July 2002

Sadly, another ride has been brought to an unexpected halt because of saddle-sores.  We at The Long Riders' Guild salute Georges and Sylviane for making the only decision possible under the circumstances.

Our French-speaking visitors can also read about Georges and Sylviane's journey on Gérard's site,

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