The Long Riders' Guild

Voices of Exploration



Russian Long Rider Vladimir Fissenko (above) rode from the bottom of the world, Patagonia, to the top of the world, Alaska. The journey began in Ushuaia, Argentina and concluded in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, covered 30,000 kilometres (19,000 miles) and took five years to complete. This photo shows Vladimir riding through the notorious Darien Gap jungle that separates Columbia and Panama.

Regardless of where we were born, mankind’s urge to explore transcends all differences of nationality and faith. It remains an emblem of universality deserving of a wider global study.

Ironically, though the public has long yearned for fresh voices who could share their hard-won wisdom, in the corporate-dominated world, where finances always come first, meaningful dialogue with the world’s leading explorers and Long Riders has been passed over in preference to slick ads and predictable yearly awards.

The Voices of Exploration project is designed to be an ever-expanding data bank of interviews and wisdom.

A Fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, Basha O'Reilly has launched a programme entitled “Voices of Exploration,” wherein she will be interviewing the elder statesmen, the rising stars, the famous, the obscure, the forgotten, the knowledgeable and the deserving voices of exploration. 

This programme features interviews hosted by the LRG.  The majority of the questions will remain the same, though each interview will focus on that Long Rider/explorer’s speciality.  All of the interviews will be publicly available on this website, so as to ensure that this valuable open-source collection of exploration oral history is preserved for future generations.

Click on any image to go to the story.

An Interview with Desert Traveller Arita Baaijens
Long time Desert Explorer, Arita was the first Western woman to explore the Sudanese desert solo and on camel and the first Western woman to travel the Forty Days Road twice. Most recently Arita has exchanged camels for horses, and
made the first modern circumnavigation of the entire Altai Mountain range in Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and Russia.  

An Interview with Expedition Leader John Blashford-Snell
Colonel John Blashford-Snell started his remarkable exploration career on underwater expeditions and in the Sahara; then in 1968 he led the first descent of the Blue Nile .  JBS, as he is always known, went on to lead the first vehicle crossing of the complete Darien Gap jungle - which is one of only two expeditions which used horses through that infamous swamp.  (See also interview with Vladimir Fissenko.)  In 1974/75 his team navigated almost all the Congo River.  Since then he has organized and led more than 100 expeditions.


An Explorer in Asia
Tim Cope -National Geographic Adventure Honoree 2007, Australian Adventurer of the year 2006 - is a Long Rider from Gippsland, Victoria (Australia), who is pursuing a life of adventure, writing, and film. Tim, who speaks fluent Russian, has spent the best part of a decade travelling Russia, Mongolia, and Central Asia by bicycle, row boat, skis, horse, camel and many other means. Most of all Tim enjoys coming to know people in their home environments by travelling in traditional and local ways. His most renowned journey was a three and a half year odyssey from Mongolia to Hungary by horse on the trail of Genghis Khan and in the spirit of the nomads of the steppe.
An Interview with Evelyne Coquet - Living Legend
France can be justifiably proud of being the mother of two of the most influential Long Riders in the modern era.  Gabriel Bonvalot’s amazing equestrian journey from Paris to Hanoi via Tibet astonished nineteenth-century France. But courage is not restricted to one sex.  In the twentieth century, France witnessed the rise of her greatest female Long Rider, Evelyne Coquet.
An Interview with the Remarkable Christina Dodwell
Christina's life of adventure began by chance in 1975, when she made a 20,000-mile journey round Africa by horse, camel and dug-out canoe.   She followed that up with solo journeys in Papua New Guinea, China, Siberia, Madagascar, Turkey and Iran. Christina demonstrates enormous courage, a keen eye for detail, an insatiable curiosity about the local people and great respect for their culture. As the famous mountaineer Chris Bonington wrote, "Christina Dodwell continues the tradition of many renowned travellers, of Gertrude Bell, Annie Taylor, Isabella Bird, Freya Stark and Ella Maillart." 


Riding to the Top of the World - A Rare Interview with Vladimir Fissenko
Many people travel on horseback. But one journey stands alone because of its incredible historical significance; the ride that took Russian Long Rider Vladimir Fissenko from the bottom of the world, Ushuaia in Patagonia, to the top of the world, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, starting in 1988. The journey of 30,000 kilometres (19,000 miles) took five years to complete. Vladimir rode through the terrible Darien Gap jungle that separates Columbia from Panama. This jungle is considered so dangerous that Long Rider Aimé Tschiffely avoided it in 1926 and the French Long Rider Jean-Francois Ballereau went around it in 1987.  (See also interview with John Blashford-Snell who took a party of vehicles and horses through in 1972.)

Riding with the Eagle Hunters in Mongolia

Beginning in 2008, Canadian Long Rider Bonnie Folkins’ mission was to use her horse and camera to arrive at a deeper understanding of Central Asia’s remaining nomads. Though she has travelled and photographed in Italy, India, Australia and Latin America, the impassioned Long Rider has been repeatedly drawn back to the land of horses and free riders.  In this interview, Bonnie explains her quest to understand nomadic culture.


An Interview with Robin Hanbury-Tenison, Master Explorer
Robin Hanbury-Tenison, explorer and equestrian traveller par excellence, was hailed by London’s Sunday Times as "the greatest explorer of the past twenty years." He made the first land crossing of South America at its widest point, led twenty-four expeditions and was awarded the Patron's Gold Medal by the Royal Geographical Society. Robin is one of the few remaining British explorers who know all the wild corners of the world.

Lost Sea Expedition Documents a Changing America
Bernie Harberts and his mule, Polly, set off in 2009 to travel 2,500 miles with a tiny wagon from Neptune, Saskatchewan to Fort Hancock, Texas. During an in-depth Question & Answer interview with the Guild, Bernie discussed his journey, the film he made single-handed, and the unexpected discoveries he made along the way.

An Interview with John Hare, Bactrian Camel Defender
John Hare worked in Kenya for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). During this time he undertook a number of expeditions into remote parts of northern Kenya, frequently on horseback and with camels and often alone. In 1993, he accepted an offer from a Russian scientific team to research the status of the wild Bactrian camel in Mongolia – the 8th most endangered large mammal in the world. In 1997, John founded the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF), a UK registered charity of which Dr. Jane Goodall DBE is the Life Patron.

A Frenchman in Afghanistan
Louis Meunier, after graduating from business school, decided to go on an adventure rather than follow a career mapped out in advance. He joined an NGO in Afghanistan, just as the country was in the midst of reconstruction after the war. He is dazzled by the country's beauty and dignity of its people. But above all, fascinated by the book by the French author Joseph Kessel, The Horseman, he dreamed of attending a buzkashi, a tournament where riders are entitled to go to any lengths to drop the carcass of a goat in the halal circle of justice. These formidable horsemen are named Tschopendoz.

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An Interview with Basha O'Reilly, the only person to ride out of the Soviet Union in the 20th century

Basha O’Reilly was born in Switzerland and has the blood of most of Europe running in her veins – as a result of which she has no nationalistic tendencies.  She attended school in Belgium and speaks five languages.

In 1995 the life-long horsewoman bought a Cossack stallion, Count Pompeii, and rode him 2500 miles from Russia back to England, becoming the only person to complete an equestrian expedition out of the former Soviet Union.

An Interview with CuChullaine O'Reilly - Founder of the LRG, Author and Researcher

Explorers’ Web described CuChullaine O'Reilly as “a living legend” and praised his adventure travel book, Khyber Knights, as “magical.” After completing the longest recorded horseback ride in Pakistan's history, as described in that book, CuChullaine specialized in equestrian exploration and historical research. A Founder of the Long Riders Guild and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers’ Club, CuChullaine has published hundreds of travel books in five languages and advised more than a hundred equestrian expeditions on every continent except Antarctica. He is also the author of The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration and The Horse Travel Handbook.

An Interview with George Patterson - "Patterson of Tibet"
There was nothing in his early life to indicate that this son of a Scottish minister would go on to lead a life of adventure, travel and intrigue. Yet George turned his back on all that he knew and journeyed into remote Tibet at the conclusion of the Second World War. He not only underwent a great spiritual awakening there, but George also became involved with the Tibetan resistance to the invading Chinese Communist army.  The Scottish Long Rider's equestrian journey across the Himalayas in the winter of 1949 to deliver a plea for help from Tibet to the outside world is now the stuff of legend.


Exploring Siberia’s Equestrian Culture
Yakutia, a vast, sparsely populated part of Siberia contains the infamous “Pole of Cold.” The coldest temperature in the northern hemisphere was recorded there, a bone-breaking minus 97 degrees Fahrenheit. New Zealand Long Rider Ian Robinson is the first foreign equestrian explorer to venture into Yakutia in 125 years. His remarkable interview provides an eyewitness account that reveals how he rode through a landscape so vast and uninhabited in 2016 that he did not see another human being for seventeen days.  But this is not only a tale of survival. Ian returned with evidence of an incredible equestrian culture which defies belief.

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