Wednesday, October 27, 2010

African Hoof Prints are off again

Travelling you meet all sorts of people but in Africa where there isn’t so much of a Gringo trail you meet adventurous, strange, weird and fantastic people. For example the Danish guy we met in Sinai who was riding a bicycle from Cairo to Beijing or the Spaniard who travelled overland from China to Jerusalem to buy a traditional Jewish hat but found out the hats were made in Seville Spain a neighbouring city to where he is from. Then there was the Canadian dive instructor and his German girlfriend who we shared information on the best koshary, ½ chicken deal or cheapest accommodation in Egypt with.

Most people traveling in Africa that we met were not on a one week holiday or a gap year; people travelling in Africa were staying for months doing long overland expeditions. My boyfriend at the time and I bussed it all over but sometimes came across groups travelling in overland jeeps on tours. There weren’t many travellers along our way, especially because we left the popular Cairo, Luxor, Aswan route in Egypt and checked out off the beaten path locations. Mersa Matrouh, Egypt was one of these places we went to where there were no tourists and no other travellers. The small city sits on one of the most beautiful Mediterranean beaches and in the summer is packed with Egyptians on holidays. It was off season and the place was empty and shut down. It was the ideal place for us to relax and unwind from a busy summer season working in Greece. We read books, took walks, watched premiership football while drinking coffee and smoking sheesha.
One day we stumbled upon some scouts playing and they told us we should meet Billy. They took us to the scout camp and that was when we were introduced to the South African couple Billy and Christy. They were the only white people we had seen in over a month it was bizarre.

We soon heard Billy and Christy’s story and became fast friends. Billy from South Africa and Christy originally from Zimbabwe had spent a long time planning their African expedition. They had planned to travel on horseback from the most Northern point of Africa, Cap Blanc in Tunisia to the most Southern point of Africa, Cape Agulhas in South Africa. The thing that is different about Christy and Billy is their love for horses. Their horses are as much part of their expedition team as any human member. Billy a Ferrier by trade and Christy a riding instructor in South Africa who has worked for many riding stables and for an Olympic gold medalist in England are both strong examples of hard work, persistence, compassion and striving for a dream. We met them in November of 2006 after they rode east out of Tunisia through Libya and into Egypt. They had not started their ride south at that point towards their goal. They had been in Mersa Matrouh for quite a while rehabilitating their horses. I believe at that point one had fallen sick. Reading in my journal from my time there I remember being so excited to have met them and even more excited to have someone to share my birthday with, Christy’s birthday is November 25th and mine November 23rd and the dates were soon approaching. We had Billy and Christy over to our place for dinner for our birthdays. They brought me a birthday card with a horse on it and two chocolate bars. They also brought juice, a bag of chips and sweets for dessert. Because they needed to bulk up for their journey ahead they ate a lot of sweets which we noticed at the many meals and picnics we had with them. We soon coined a term “A Billy and Christy meal” which consisted of the best confectionery Egypt had to offer.

December of 2006 Billy and Christy were preparing to continue their journey; their horses were ready and so were they. It was sad to say goodbye to our new friends. We hung out with them as much as we could before they left and they even let us ride a horse. On the day they left they woke us up and we opened our bedroom shutters to see them on the street on their horses waving goodbye. We kept tabs on them as we continued travelling through Egypt seeing if we could meet up again.We were never able to but as we travelled then to Jordan and Israel and onto to live in England we would check up on them on their website and hear from them by e-mail updates here and there.

I moved onto to Mexico myself and have stayed mostly travelling in Latin America. Through the years every now and again I think of Egypt and wonder what Billy and Christy had gotten up to. Had they finished their journey? Had they given up? Were they still together? With the help of facebook I was able to reconnect with them and just recently I started getting new e-mail updates after years of wondering.

Billy and Christy are at it again. They never gave up; they are still together and riding towards their dream. Christy had spent the last three years in Sudan turning around the Khartoum International Community School's (KICS) riding stable and doing fantastic work for the community. They have now decided to continue their journey and are now entering some of the most dangerous terrain on their expedition. This trip may be taking them a lot longer than expected but isn’t it true that; “It's not the destination but the journey that counts” They probably don’t realize how many lives they have touched along the way from working in a riding school in Sudan to just a simple wave to a child as they ride by on their horses. I wish them all the best on the rest of their journey and I am just happy to have met them during their time in Egypt. I encourage anyone to check out their blog to see where the hoof prints have taken them at

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