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Endurance.Net Home 2007 Al Andalus: Day 2

Day 9 (19/05/07) - Lynne Glazer

I caught a ride over to the Hotel Guadalquivir (named after the river) to meet the video crew. It was a leisurely start to the day, their hotel had a better breakfast than ours and I availed myself of it. I had dumped my luggage in Michael's room in order to be free and easy: it was Beach Day! Something I'd looked forward to: it began with a ferry ride across the straits of Sanlúcar. They loaded all of the horses along the edges with their riders, then loaded the vehicles in the middle?it was not a scenario for an unseasoned horse, and only one was snorty about it all. Of course, it was the 8th day, and most had a been there, done that attitude. A couple of photos of me in there, el Roja, not too many redheads in Spain, in fact I saw no other. It made it easy for ride management to know where I was!

Upon disembarking, riders began to warm up their horses along the strand. Nothing harder on equipment than humidity and sand, and I snapped away enthusiastically with both cameras, wide angle on one, tele on the other. Some satisfying photo ops, for sure, including silhouettes. Today I shared the back of the pickup with Frank the videographer and Angel the freelance Reuters stringer as well. He had my backup long lens mounted.

It was a gas to shoot while the pickup hurtled down the beach, accompanied by park rangers?we were on protected Doñana parkland. What a treat; my idea of a good time! We passed fishermen, tourists, tourist buses, dunes, and enjoyed shooting the riders from besides them.

And then it happened?the primary camera's shutter failed. Well, that is why the backup was along, slung bandolero style, so I switched the long lens to it and kept on trucking. I figured out later that it's had 50,000 actuations, rated for 100,000 but that's how it goes in the horseworld?dust and now sand, tough environments always. Later, Angel would return my backup lens?with sand inside, as the barrel was rotated. It was new but no longer under warranty, but he took responsibility.

There were two assistance points right on the beach, at 10 and 20 km. After the second, we got stuck in the sand. Alex had to keep going once unstuck, and we had a long hike to some asphalt, good exercise. It was a short highway ride from there to the vet check, adjacent to another park down a lane with horse facilities on both sides. It felt comfortably tropical and resort-like. Today was one of the shorter days, and the horses looked strong and happy.

Very quickly after the vet check it was evident that today's was a three horse race, between brother and sister Francisco and Roció, and Otto Vélez. The riders' trail was adjacent to the highway, next to the Doñana National Park, and went through water a few times. The highway was crowded, and the assistance point added to the traffic.

I could spot mares and foals turned out on those huge grasslands, as the riders raced alongside. What a sportsman?when Otto found out that the duo was from the day's destination El Rocío itself, he yielded graciously, and they came across the finish line together. Otto won the tandem for the day.

The race ended in the town of El Rocío?a horse town like no other. I mean that, and my horses were boarded in one of America's top horsetowns for a dozen years, Norco, California with 30,000 horses and 30,000 humans. This entire town was unpaved, with sand footing, and hitching rails outside the western-styled buildings. Driving here was a complete adventure without 4x4! Population normally is around 100 but swells to as much as a million during Romería Del Rocío, the festival of the Virgen del Rocío which would occur a couple weeks after today. People come to camp with their horses year-round, and all sorts of riders and rigs were visible?horses ridden, mules driven to cart, and later that night a four-in-hand of Andalusians that made me gasp?it's a round-the-clock party here, with horses.

I shot the finishers for a while, hung with the video heli crew while rehydrating in a massive way. They rolled up the side of the large tent across the plaza from the historic church, and the mood was jolly as riders and crews got their horses situated and headed in for refreshments. I toured the church, and then wandered around town a little. The Spaniards that settled our west came from this area, and the architecture that we call Wild West actually originated here.

The day's awards would be given during the wrap up ceremony and dinner that night, it seemed, so everyone just enjoyed the paella. The fancy pouring style in one of the photos is of Asturian (hard) cider?and there's a prescribed way of taking a drink, too, which I made sure to follow. It's poured from above the head to a glass held down around knee level. That aerates the brew, and it's drunk community style, and if you're the last drinker you slosh a little around at the bottom and pour it out before returning the glass.

Riders' kids were wandering around the town on the horses who had just completed the ride, bareback, sometimes double.

This was a place I wish I'd spent more time in?the sunset over the wetlands was terrific, and despite shooting 1,200 photos that day, it wasn't enough. Of course a lot of those were clinkers due to failing shutter and the concept of shooting from a moving vehicle over uneven terrain.

Tonight was to be the wrap-up and overall award ceremony. I'll report on that separately along with my departure day's explorations in Córdoba.


1 ? Francisco Chavero - Rociera - 2:49:12 #26 (trio)
2 ? Rocío Chavero ? Don Gorrión - 2:49:12  #22 (pairs)
3 ? Otto Vélez ? Quina ? 2:49:15  #45 (trio)
4 - Juan Carlos Cuevas - Angliru - 3:14:45  #16 (pairs)
5 ? Oriol Llorens - Crosscat - 3:17:48 #12 (trio)


1 ? Otto Vélez ? Quina ? 2:49:15  #45
2 ? Francisco López ? Red Express ? 3:44:20 #37
3 ? Carmen Campos ? Capri CP - 4:09:36 #43