A Traveller on Horseback
Hodder & Stoughton
From a Greek Easter, Christina Dodwell moves into a chilly Eastern Turkish spring, not improved for the cold and hungry traveller by the fairly strict observance of Ramadan. Retreating west, she visits the buried cities and rock-hewn churches of Cappadocia on the first of a number of hired, borrowed or bought horses, the ideal liberating companions for her unconventional style of travel.
While the snow still clothes the eastern mountains, she moves further east over the border into Iran, to a ranch breeding miniature Caspian horses near the Russian frontier, to the salt desert villages of the south-east, and on into Pakistan for a visa renewal, the unity of her journey maintained by the fact that she is still within the confines of the Persian empire, as she celebrates the end of Ramadan in a festive village near the Afghan border.
Back in Iran, she visits the crumbling grandiloquence of lost empires at Pasargad, Naksh-i-Rustam and Persepolis, as well as the trouble spots of yesterday and today in the valleys of the Assassins and Kurdistan. But her journey reaches its happiest fulfilment back in Eastern Turkey when she buys a fine grey Arab stallion called Keyif — the name aptly means high-spirited. Together they ride among snow caps, salt lakes, nomadic summer camps and lowland rice paddies, across mountain country from Erzurum to Lake Van, up the Russian border to Mount Ararat, and discover the unexpected pleasures and hazards of remote mountain village life.
Christina Dodwell has the gift to communicate the zest of adventure, and even the occasional night in an Iranian police cell cannot dim her sheer delight in travel to remote and challenging places.
Christina Dodwell's first journey on horseback was in 1975 at the start of three years of travelling in Africa, which she has described in her first book. Travels with Fortune. Other horse journeys followed, and are recounted in In Papua New Guinea and An Explorer's Handbook. After being thrown by a bucking bronco which cracked three of her ribs. Christina turned to river travel, becoming the first foreigner to paddle Papua New Guinea's largest river, the Sepik, a solo four-month voyage; and in 1983 she returned with a team making the first descent of one of the wildest rivers in the world, the Wahgi, or Eater of Men. This was filmed by BBC Television as part of their River Journeys series which has won several international film awards.
Rivers were again a theme in her last book. A Traveller in China. Reviewing this in the Sunday Telegraph Linda O Callaghan described Christina Dodwell as a ‘natural nomad’ and wrote of ‘her courage and an insatiable wanderlust’. Both qualities are amply demonstrated when she returns to her first love — travel on horseback — in her latest journeys in Turkey and Iran.