Marie-Emmanuelle Tugler and Marc Witz are riding from Brazil to Peru!
|Marie-Emmanuelle, Marc and their dog Max (the MMMs) are shown on a training ride in the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe.|
Marie-Emmanuelle (Marie) and Marc are following their dream, which is leading them from the luxuriant sub-tropical forests of Southern Brazil to the mythical Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in faraway Peru.
Both are experienced world travelers, having visited a host of exotic climes including Indonesia, Morocco and Japan. However, this is their first long-distance equestrian journey.
Marie-Emmanuelle sent The Long Riders' Guild an email in which she summed up their philosophy regarding equestrian travel. "When a person love horses and is a nomad at heart, then horseback travel is the most beautiful, the most authentic, and the most motivating of enterprises."
13th February 2003
The Long Riders' Guild has received the following email from Marie:
"Our entry into Santa Cruz was peaceful.
In spite of the traffic, the horses remained very calm.
We went almost to the middle of town, and asked a policeman where the
equestrian centre was. We were unlucky – he misdirected us and we wasted three
hours, going all around the town and riding right through the market at its
busiest time! We were even
interviewed by Channel 33, and everyone was taking our photographs because they
were all amazed by what we were doing. The
Lomita Club welcomed us with open arms. Unfortunately,
our horses were condemned to stay tied to some trees until the riding lessons
were over, whereupon they were released into the ring.
A sad fate for our gentle travelling companions who had just covered 650
kilometres (400 miles) in torrid heat. So
we had to hurry to get them shod, take more blood samples, and do a little
shopping. Good news – the horses
are no longer pyroplasmosis carriers and are therefore among the 30% of horses
on which the treatment works. At
Lomita, we were not the only equestrian travellers:
Alejandro, an Argentinean pilgrim, is also travelling in the direction of
Mexico. Unfortunately he had been
turned away by Peru because of the quarantine and because of the exorbitant tip
demanded at the border.
We had to decide whether to go to Cochabamba by the new northern route
– flatter, but hot and with heavy traffic – or by the southern route –
steeper and more winding, but more picturesque – we moved the horses and left
by bus to see the Inca ruins of Samaipata 120 kilometres (75 miles) along the
southern route. The place and the
road were enchanting, so the decision was easy.
At Samaipata we met someone who had crossed the Amazon in a cargo
boat. His stories made our mouths
water. Instead of spending a month
freezing in the Andes up to La Paz and risking being turned back at the Peruvian
border, we considered selling the horses at Cochabamba. We would then be able to cross the Altiplano in a bus; which
would mean we could see more things, before doing down the Amazon in a boat as
far as the North-East coast of Brazil. We
were delighted with this idea. Marc
would really have liked to defy the Andes on horseback, but I am relieved
because I was worried about the cold and the lack of food for the horses.
At Mairana we were welcomed by an old grandfather.
Small, and bent with his life of toil, his face covered in beautiful
wrinkles, he cried, “Of course, come and stay with me!
We will be able to chat all night.”
In his youth, Juan-Luis had often crossed from La Paz to Santa Cruz with
pack mules. At that time, there
were no trucks or lorries and this was how goods were transported. “The mules carried anything up to 140 kilos (about 300
pounds) and we walked all day until 11 p.m. for a whole month.
We hung a large bell around their necks to keep the jaguars away and a
large lantern to be able to see clearly.”
For about 200 kilometres (125 miles), the countryside alongside Amboro
Park changed frequently, from semi-tropical forests to fertile plains by way of
About 100 kilometres (62 miles) further on, at Comarapa, we decided to
stop for a few days before tackling the “Siberian Sierra” feared for its
peaks of over 3,500 meters (10,000 feet) and its humid, cold and foggy climate
which hampers visibility.
The following day, as we were having breakfast at the communal table in
the market, three Bolivians who made a programme about Amboro Park suggested that we accompany them to the
Inca ruins 40 kilometres (25 miles) away, while the horses rested.
Together with the forest ranger, we penetrated into the savage universe
of the park. Before we did anything else, we had to cross the river, which
was no easy task. We made a human
chain so that nobody would be swept away; the
water was right up to our thighs. We
entered the thick forest where everything was covered in lichen.
We lifted up our eyes – surprise!
Over our heads were half a dozen monkey watching us.
We were more amazed by the giant trees, the orchids, the wild tomatoes
and the magnificent mushrooms than we were by the Inca ruins.
That evening we went to give grain and vitamins to the horses but….
they weren’t there! Somebody
must have left the door open and they had escaped.
We looked for them in vain that night, and it was only the following day
that we found them in a freshly-ploughed field.
So it was not until 10 o’clock that we attacked the famous Siberia by
climbing 15 kilometres (nearly 10 miles) up to the first village.
We made slow progress and got off and walked frequently to help the
horses. At times we were literally
halted by the strength of the gale, which forced us to crouch down and let the
horses put their backs to the wind. In
the village we were given a choice spot, slightly protected from the wind, to
put the horses and to set up our tent, but we had a magnificent view of the
majestic peaks of the Andes. Feeling
very happy, we crawled under a blanket looking at the panorama and waited for
the sunset, which was absolutely splendid.
We left under a huge sun and headed for Siberia, the town nestling in
the clouds where, they say, it is always cold.
Up until midday, everything was fine, but suddenly, as we turned the
corner, the coolness of the approaching clouds could be felt.
The vegetation was terribly humid and the lichen-encrusted forest seemed
to be haunted. Hardly visible in
the mist, a herd of loose horses followed us.
The mist gradually became a shower.
After the hat, the poncho and then the rain trousers had to be taken out
and put on. The wind made us so
cold that we could not even smile at all the people in the trucks and lorries
who waved at us.
Early the following morning we emerged from the school house we had
stayed in, brilliant sunshine blinded us and lit up the mountains.
Yet again the view was magnificent and fascinating!
What a privilege to be here, 3,600 metres (11,000 feet) up under such a
open sky… We did not suffer
noticeably from the altitude. On
the contrary, we were very cheerful as we went back down to the valley where the
temperature was rather more clement.
At 5 a.m. the next day it started raining again.
We decided to stay dry in the tent and wait for the shower to pass.
In the end we spent the whole day playing chess and resting.
The following day, with 4 biscuits in our stomachs, we left under a
completely grey sky. We had run out
of food for ourselves and for the horses, so we just had to leave!
It was very cold on this crested road.
Depending on the state of the river, the valleys are either completely
dry and desert-like, or fertile and cultivated with ox-drawn ploughs.
The little houses blended perfectly into the landscape.
At about 10 a.m. Marc went off looking for food.
A plump woman with long brown hair, who only spoke Quechua, indicated we
should enter her house. She offered us (and the dog) a plate of beautifully hot soup.
When we left, her children – who hadn’t dared speak to us – called
to us from the top of the mountain. We
replied until the last turn of the track when they disappeared from view.
This little episode warmed our bodies and our hearts.
After visiting the Inkallarta ruins, we carried on through the
mountains towards Vacas. Nobody
knew exactly how far it was – 20 kilometres?
45 kilometres? But they all
told us that it was a good road and not too steep.
It wasn’t long, however, before we had to dismount for the sake of the
horses. It was a hot, steep climb
– the worst we had done! We
struggled up to the top, pausing frequently for breath in the rariefied air,
getting vertigo when we looked down. After
ascending 900 metres (1200 feet) we had a long pause at the summit.
The descent was easier, but we now found entire families along the track,
coming back from the market with their donkeys fully laden with a week’s worth
of goods. They all wore an Awayo,
the typical Bolivian brilliantly-coloured shawl in which they carry their baby,
their goods, or indeed straw for the animals.
It was almost night when we got down into the valley, to find that
everyone in the village was drunk, presumably because of the market.
It was impossible to find any straw!
Chicha, drink based on fermented corn, was causing a lot of problems.
We put the tent up in the dark and went in search for something for
the horses to eat, as well as ourselves. Chicha,
chicha, nothing but chicha! In
order not to offend, we ended up accepting one bowl, then two, three, five….
The custom of throwing a little of one’s glass onto the ground in
honour of Pachamama – the Earth Mother – was very handy!
In the end we managed to escape. Marc
went off looking for straw, while I took refuge in the tent.
After an hour, a band of drunkards came up.
“Wakt up, we want to see your papers!”
Without leaving the tent, I suggest we deal with it in the morning – I
was afraid I would never get rid of them…
Worse, they might steal our passports.
After a while they got tired of it and left.
Two hours later, Marc descended from the mountain with a meagre pittance
for the horses. I had hardly had
time to tell him what had happened when the drunks returned.
Now they wanted to see our “authority to stay in the community”!
They can surely never have met a tourist in their lives….
We stood firm against their threats – and in the end they went away.
But Marc saw red when he realised they had taken Tipi!
Marc ran after them trying to catch them up, and eventually he crossed
the village and found Tipi who was whinnying from a courtyard trying to call his
mates. Marc, furious, tore away the
blanks which were barring the way, and grabbed his horse while the drunks ran
away giggling. We slept with one
eye open that night. A few hours
later, a loud bang on the tent had us leaping out of bed.
Marc rushed outside yelling, “Ven aqui” (come here) but there was
nobody there. He found a hole in
the double roof of the tent, probably from a stone thrown with a catapult, so we
decided to leave…..
Our journey continued without incident until we got to Arani on the
Cochabamba plateau. We quickly
found somewhere to put the horses, with straw.
We were offered a room for the night, so we bought a large bouquet of
flowers at the market to thank the woman for her hospitality.
I had stomach cramps – was it the water or the prospect of selling the
After a week, on 24th December, we found what seemed like
good homes for the horses. Tipi and
Coco went quietly off to a large ecological farm 30 kilometres away.
There they will take tourists for weekend rides.
As for Brioza, she is joining a large herd of mules, and twice a month
she will carry goods to the nearest village.
Sad but reassured, we left our travelling companions.
Those companions with whom we have been so happy, so serene, so confiding
for 6 months and 3,200 kilometres. Thank
you Coco, thank you Tipi, thank you Brioza for this fabulous journey through
nature, meeting men, women and children. Thank
you for those unique and unforgettable moments, river-crossings by ferry, the
sunrises in Pantanal, the long swims we enjoyed.
Thank you also for your sure-footedness on dark nights, and for the
gallops we had behind the cattle in Brazil….
This is a difficult page to turn.
With our saddles under our arms, we got on the bus and set our faces in
the direction of Cochabamba. But a
new journey is now beginning, on foot, by truck, by bus, by boat….
[Translated from the French by Basha O'Reilly]
here to read the MMMs earlier emails.
We will update this page as and when we received news from this adventurous couple.
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