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Dec 2016

What’s a saucepan lid got to do with it?

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

The hidden bonus of a Spanish Riding holiday


Riding in the Pyrennes

There are lots of reasons to go riding in Spain, but the eateries and wine bars aren’t usually top of most riders’ “Wish List”. You tend to think of the outstanding horses, riding for hours without crossing a tarmac road and opportunities to swim with your horse in lakes and the sea. But each evening you are in for a treat: the hostess will produce tapas accompanied by the local wine, which combine superbly.

Taps, which literally translates as “saucepan lid”, comes from the days when most travellers couldn’t read and most inn-keepers couldn’t write. This made a menu redundant. So an inn-keeper would present samples of the meals available, displayed on a saucepan lid, for the traveller to try and chose their evening meal.

People like to graze and besides, if you’re sharing a selection of small dishes, the focus turns to the conversation and camaraderie rather than tackling a serious meal. And the notion is flourishing!

Andalusian grey and red-head rider

Spanish PRE or “Andalusian”

Combine the “saucepan lid” with the local wine, a day in the saddle, and you have a marriage made in heaven. No matter where you are in the country you’ll be close to an outstanding wine ‘label’ – and it’s true that Spanish wine tastes even better in its place of origin. Our Pyrenees to Mediterranean ride  is close Cava and Rioja country; and in the Sierra Nevada you’re close to all the wonderful sherries. And imagine how well that combines with the local tapas …



Journey’s End: the Mediterranean coast


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Dec 2016

Countries That Don’t Exist

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Tavistock Travel Agents /


Hidden worlds

Desert - full moon rise
3 ‘Countries’ that Don’t Actually Exist
… but you can still visit.

Here are 3 countries to add to your Bucket List; they have flags, functioning governments and an independent spirit, but the world hasn’t acknowledged them, and they haven’t secured a seat at the United Nations General Assembly, so they don’t officially exist!

1. Greenland
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark travelled to Greenland in 2009 to give it self-rule; she even wore national dress for the occasion: knee-high sealskin boots and a hoodless anorak. She delivered the self-governance law to Greenland’s parliament, so ending 300 years of Danish authority. She remains Greenland’s head of state, but the world’s largest island gained control of its police force and justice system, and Greenlandic became the official language. Nearly there, but not fully independent.

But should I visit?  Definitely. Access the icy isle by air or expedition cruise; sail the fjord-serrated coast, trek to the Arctic Circle and see the Northern Lights.


Glaciers by day, Northern Lights by night!

2. Somaliland
In 1960, former British Somaliland became independent for five days before joining Italian Somaliland (the southern part of the country) to create the Somali Republic. Not a happy marriage so British Somaliland seceded and reverted to “independent” in 1991 complete with its own parliament, currency, car registrations, even biometric passports. But it remains unrecognised by any other state. The rest of the world prefers to pretend the Somali Republic is a viable country.

But should I visit?  Not really; bit of a war zone still.

3. Barotseland
Every year the Zambezi River floods creating a great show at Victoria Falls, but serious inconvenience for people who dwell on the floodplain. Floodplain residents, such as the Barotseland people, are obliged to move to higher ground, leaving their waterlogged villages behind. Barotseland has a history stretching back five centuries; during the colonial period Barotseland was a British protectorate, governed alongside Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) but with greater autonomy. Barotseland has always been a mobile kingdom. When Zambia gained independence, Barotseland was supposed to maintain that element of self-rule, but successive Zambian governments have eroded the agreement. In 2012, the royal household announced a peaceful disengagement from Zambia.

But should I visit?  Yes. The far west of Zambia is magical. The magnificent Liuwa Plains; wonderful Kafue N.P. and only a handful of intrepid visitors to share it with.


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Nov 2016

Yak Festival

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

The First Ever Yak Festival: Mongolia 2016

The first ever “Annual Yak Festival” took place in Bat-Ulzii district, Mongolia in July this year. The aim is to promote the benefits yaks bring to local communities thus helping to preserve yak-based nomadic culture. Yaks have rich milk, fine wool, require least care of all domestic animals and can graze in remote mountain tops while surviving Mongolia’s harsh winters.


A saddle-yak waiting for the game to begin; also a contender for “most beautiful yak”

Over 400 local people gathered at Bat-Ulzii and competed in rodeos including yak bucking, yak lassoing, yak polo and yak races. A team of three judges, along with two local yak herders, judged the ‘Beautiful Yak’ category.


Yak Polo – not for the faint-hearted!

During the festival, local herders exhibited yak products including clotted cream crust, cheese, curd, dried curd from yak milk and leather goods such as lassos, horse saddles, belts and ropes made of yak hair.
Mongolia’s renowned ‘airag’, fermented mare’s milk, and ‘khuushuur’, fried pasty made from yak meat, were real winners during the festival.

Plans for Yak Festival 2017 are well in-hand.


Riding a bucking rodeo yak

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