Because honestly – what could go wrong?
Failing to rouse likewise enthusiasm amongst my fellow travellers, I was greeted with frowning faces, cautiously inquiring “Do you think the horse will understand English still when you try to talk to it?”. I dismissed their frivolous worries with a breezy wave of my hand. Sure, it had been possibly 10 years since I’d seen myself in the saddle, but not much could have changed it that time, surely?
Arriving at the stables, and greeted in very broken English by the owner, I was introduced to my trusty steed. And by steed I should clarify it was a slightly docile Bay horse that barely seemed to note I was standing right before him. He went by the moniker Elvis and as I slung myself up into the saddle with ease, the young girls who would be my guide (they couldn’t have been older than 8 and 12!) gave me a brief run down which involved a lot of gesticulating and lost in translation instructions. Eventually we all smiled and shrugged in mutual confusion and acceptance, me opting to follow as they bounced effortlessly in their saddles, no doubt riding since before they could walk!
|My “noble” steed|
Now, Elvis didn’t seem so chuffed to have left the warm sanctuary of his Graceland stable as it was a monumental effort to get him to break into even a fast walk. And, considering I was keen for an adrenaline rush no amount of prodding and kicking on my part would get this old mare moving at any decent pace in his blue suede horse shoes. After casting a helpless look to the girls in front we dawdled along the road waiting in anticipation for some energy to filter through his horse veins.
This idleness, as it turned out, was a blessing in disguise as we had not gone far when Elvis took it upon himself to shy away much too nervously for my naive liking from a green rubber hose that stretched menacingly (in his eyes!) across the road. Backing up he whinnied loudly and turned abruptly away. The others, oblivious to this moment of panic, kept on riding ahead… Here is when I’d have been grateful for a Czech pocket dictionary, to grab the attention of my guides and shout “Uh, a little help here please before I’m taken back to the stables already?”
Finally they heard my plea and together we tried to get Elvis dancing over that hose, but he certainly was not in the mood to limbo. Finally, unceremoniously, he was dragged over by the reigns by the littlest (and less than impressed) guide.
So I’ll admit this unnerved me a little, but, squaring my shoulders, think to myself, “its okay, he is just a cautious horse and therefore catching sight of freedom and green rolling hills wont make him into a closet brumby”
We ambled along then until a grassy hillside greeted us. The older girl turned to me, a hopeful smile spreading across her face, uttering the word “trot”. Pushing aside the gnawing fear, I smile boldly and nod, and Elvis and I are off, me thrashing around in the saddle with all the grace of a frog in a blender, trying to co-ordinate holding the reigns in the right place while keeping my feet securely in the stirrups and aiming to somehow stay up-right! Elvis, typically, and thankfully, tired quickly of this overdose of exertion and slowed to a safe stroll once we were 3/4 of the way to the top. I gave the girls a brave smile which I hoped detracted from the terror now creeping across my face and meandered through the countryside along until they were game enough to make the trotting motion again. I nodded grimly, bracing myself for the uncoordinated onslaught that was about to ensue from by perch on top of old Elvis. Off we went again, me still more epileptic than elegant, when all of a sudden my foot came flying out of the stirrup. Flailing helplessly, I managed to get Elvis to halt as I readjusted my now shaking self. Again my guides sauntered on ahead, either unimpressed or unaware (or possibly both!)
But then all fears vanished instantly. Sweeping out below me was the most breathtaking view of the medieval World Heritage listed township of Ceske Krumlov imaginable. It was like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson book from my childhood, forests of pine sloping downwards to the prettiest city I’d seen so far in all of Europe. The red roofed buildings, pointing majestically towards heaven, the swollen Vltava river winding its way through, and the fusion of the old and the new… As we stopped and drank in the picture perfect scenery I was suddenly so glad I chose to get outside my comfort zone. Grappling with Elvis (and my non-existent riding skills) was very worthwhile when you are treated to such exquisiteness. So much so that by the time came for the third chant to trot, I was finally able to exert a little more grace whilst riding, and found myself smugly thinking I would show these girls yet I was no silly amateur…!
Frantically, (and all thoughts of being a graceful princess vanishing in a plume of fear) I tugged on the reigns, hoping that Elvis’s reaction time would differ dramatically from his current tortoise timespan and we would veer left. But, sadly, and typically, he was true to form and walked straight into it. Vanity struck, and I realised in an instant I didn’t much fancy spending the next 6 weeks of Summer Travels sporting one large ugly purple cut and bruised face, so my gut instinct was to lean back and hope I could limbo under it somehow…
Seems my dancing skills were as on par with my riding skills, because all of a sudden I found myself tangled in the furry undergrowth that spurted out from the limbs of the tree I was trying to sneak under. Poor ol Elvis became just as disorientated as I flailed about on his back, struggling to stay on when he jerked harshly and I lost hold of the reigns, falling, falling, falling…. hurtling front first straight into one over sized puddle, filled murky water and oozing mud. Oh yes, Elvis had left the building – that building namely being me!
And while it was not quite the charming horseback adventure in Ceske Krumlov I’d anticipated, I can luckily proclaim the only thing broken was my pride, and along with it one massively bruised ego. I was quite a sight as I strolled on back to my hostel, caked in dry mud and looking quite a bit more harassed and haphazard than when I left earlier in the day, full of naïve hope.
The moral to the travel story? That is what you get for being so energetic and adventurous when nursing a hangover… Or perhaps, it was just one of those golden travel tales that, even 9 years on, still make you shake your head and smile. I like to think I was just “living while I was alive”…