Riding by Faith across Southern Europe - Review by Devon Life Magazine
Review by Devon Life Magazine:
“The narrative and photography in this book I found totally captivating. I felt as it I was travelling right there with Tracey in all her challenges. She is so real and honest, but also so extraordinarily courageous and immensely resolute – an extremely unusual lady indeed!” Louise Brown Oxfordshire “Catch this reading and visual opportunity to travel with Tracey in the spirit and style of the most respected great travellers of the ancient world. Tracey I really loved your book, including your brilliant selection of quotes, please keep up the good work on your higher levels of conscienceness!” Edmund Marriage, Herefordshire Western Morning News by Annabel Groom “Faith in God – and two nimble ponies – got Tracey across Europe’s mountains.”
Anyone with a sense of adventure will be enthralled by Tracey Elliott-Reep’s latest journey across Southern Europe. Although Dartmoor’s very own female version of Crocodile Dundee has completed many extraordinary treks on horseback, she admits that her latest was the toughest.Her new book – Riding By Faith Across Southern Europe – colourfully depicts a journey of extreme contrasts. Travelling from the scorching summer heat of Greece to the windswept pilgrim trail of Northern Spain with her two Greek ponies, Ermis and Yoana, she passes through the historic culture and stunning scenery of Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France and Spain.
“I didn’t even know I was going to travel through Europe until about two months before,” Tracey says with a huge carefree smile. Her faith in God, and her love of horses, adventure and photography have taken her all over the world and it was while she was on her way home from New Zealand that she bumped into a woman from Nebraska who suggested she get in touch with Lord Bates – the former MP Michael Bates – who was soon to begin a ‘peace walk’ from Olympia in Greece to Westminster, London.
Back home on Dartmoor she got in touch and agreed to take photos of him on some sections of his walk. “I just took it for granted that I’d travel with horses – I didn’t intend to walk all the way,” she laughed. “I asked God that if I was meant to be doing another ride then I would need a genuine contact in Greece.” Sure enough, three weeks before the off, while doing a charity talk in the Channel Islands, she met a Greek woman whose cousin bred racehorses. “Okay, so I knew I was meant to go this way,” said Tracey who admits this is how she manages her life.
She recalls: “I got the ponies but never caught up with Lord Bates – he went to Albania but I’d already had enough of the main roads and city, so we never met up.” Tracey points out that all her trips are by faith. “I wanted to go to Italy rather than Albania. I’ve always followed my heart – I do not do something if I don’t have peace about it.”
And so she headed to the West coast of Greece with her two faithful companions, grateful that they were dark in colour – despite asking for light coloured ponies as they make for better photos – as they were much better camouflaged when camping rough. “I had to get off the road at night and these two I could hide,” she says with some determination. She hit a “load of bureaucracy” when the Greek ministry vets said it was impossible to take the horses to Italy. “I said nothing is impossible with God.” Yet it still took nine long days, with the help of vets, before she finally got her papers.
“We left the hot dry heat of Greece for the hot humidity of Italy which brought it’s own problems so we were glad to head north and be in the mountains and the cool,” says Tracey who was about to face one of her toughest moments. “We climbed over from the vale of Aosta and it became really mountainous in Switzerland. If had known how bad it was going to be I wouldn’t have done it,” she exclaimed.
“It was so steep and there were really big boulders too, but I had no option. It took seven hours to get up one side of the mountain – I had to unload the pack off the ponies and drag it up myself and then go back for the ponies one by one.” She adds: “At one point Yoana got her foot caught and started slipping backwards. We just had to get through it and I prayed for both ponies and that none of our legs would get broken.” After a note of seriousness, Tracey then roars with laughter, “It was good to get to the top!”
The ponies were rested at Geneva while Tracey had to head back home on business for a month – she is well known on Dartmoor for her cards and calendars – before embarking on their next long journey. “I was going to head north to the Channel and then home but in my heart I thought I should be going south, even though logically it did not makes sense,” explains Tracey. “I then found out about the old Camino trail and headed south west through France.” “It was lovely to get off the roads and it was a beautiful trail,” she recalls. “I met so many different nationalities including some French cowboys. We got to know each other quite well and from then on I was known as Crocodile Dundee Woman!” she quips.
Tracey says that in all her books she tries to encourage people to live their dreams and to do what is in their hearts, “as I believe we are only here for a short time”. She quotes a favourite of hers, from an unknown: “The human spirit once stretched by an adventure of faith will never return to its original size.” She moves on to when she camped near the top of the Pyrenees and then points to the front cover of her book.
“I knew Monte Bianco was going to be my front cover. I usually camped where I could find grass for the ponies and the night before I’d come up the valley but the grass was not so good, however I had said to a gite owner I was coming so I had to go. It was freezing but I suddenly knew why I was destined to be here – as dawn broke residents said to me it was the first time they had seen Monte Bianco in two weeks. There was an Italian guy there and I said you’ve got to take this picture of me with the ponies – this is what I want!” Tracey says after a hundred or so shots, he retorted, “I’m sure one will be all right!” He is duly acknowledged as Remy Bois in the back of her book.
Talking about her ponies, Tracey says they were incredibly tough, and fortunately good “doers” as getting grain was a big problem throughout her journey and good grass was hard to come by. “They were very good in traffic too. They were slow but that was good in some ways as sometimes I’d have several lanes of traffic either side of me.”
Both Ermis and Yoana live in Devon now. “I brought them back from Northern Spain. The Spanish ministry vets said the papers were wrong but I said I’m not leaving them in Spain even if I have to ride them back! – I will get over the Channel somehow,” said Tracey. Ermis is now pony clubbing up at Tiverton with a teenager, while Yoana has gone on winter loan with her Highland pony to Kingswear. Tracey says that her ride across Southern Europe is undoubtedly her toughest. “It was by far the most varied with its culture, people, nationalities and history but the bureaucracy was almost crippling,” she says, and it was more dangerous too. “In Italy there is no way around the tunnels – I would rely on my flashing head light and hope and pray that no logging trucks would come through at the same time; going up over the Alps was a real challenge with the steepness and the boulders. Then she smiles: “What is so exciting about these trips is that you never know who you are going to meet around the corner.” Link to Devon Life Magazine review