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Spain - The Alpujarra Challenge

See Spain like never before

Next ride dates: 22-30 July 2017

Twelve  riders have recently returned from Spain where they completed the BHS Alpujarra Challenge Ride in aid of BHS Welfare. The BHS would like to say well done to all twelve of the Challengers – Julie Barnicott, Linda Beaton, Diana Byrne, Lynn Zhuming Chen, Fiona Kearton, Maria Lewis, Marion Macritchie, Zoe Priestner, Sara Sawdy, Kirsty Spear, Diana The and Janine Wimhurst. Thanks to them and their generous sponsors for collectively raising an amazing £11,000 for BHS Welfare.

This was a brand new ride in Spain where you will have an opportunity not only to discover spectacular landscapes and inspiring scenery, but to experience a culture where tradition remains very much part of everyday life. The real bonus is that it’s all done aboard a well-mannered, forward-going Andalusian horse!

What is the Alpujarra Challenge?

Las Alpujarras is the name of the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Spain.  The flora and fauna of Las Alpujarras is spectacular, the mountain views fantastic and the riding experience is out of the top draw. This ride follows old Moorish mule paths and valleys where the horse, mule and oxen still pull the plough and harvest the land.  Each day the ride passes through different terrain; pine forests and alpine meadows, wooded valleys, gorges and groves of almonds, olives and oranges. This trip lasts for nine days with seven days spent in the saddle, five nights in Spanish farmhouses and three nights camping.

Which horses will I ride?

The stable has 25 horses: mostly purebred Andalusians but some Arab x Andalusian, some Cob Percheron/Breton x Andalusian, one large 17.1hh purebred Appaloosa, one purebred Breton, one purebred Asturcon, one purebred Arab and one purebred Hungarian mare.

The total riding distance is 240km and the average time spent in the saddle is five-and-a-half hours per day. The trails are mostly well-established but uneven in places. The route is mountainous with some steep slopes which may unnerve or exhilarate! There are plenty of opportunities to canter or gallop, but occasionally you will have to lead your horse downhill when the terrain is too steep and you will experience some river crossings.

The saddle styles are mainly English with a couple of Westerns. The bits are mainly snaffles with some pelhams. 

Riders can get involved with the grooming and tacking up as much as they like and help and advice will always be close at hand. Maximum rider weight is 85kg.

What's included?

Trail riding in Las Alpujarras on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, with:
• International flights and transfers
• Accommodation throughout
• All meals  
• English speaking tour guides, giving a wealth of historical and cultural information 
• Local horses fit and familiar with the terrain- mostly purebred Andalusians 
• Mainly English saddles with a couple of Western and appropriate tack and saddle bags
• Back-up support vehicle and mobile phone access. 

What will I do on the Challenge?

Day 1: Saturday
The flight departs from London City airport in the morning and goes directly to Malaga. On arrival we will transfer to the tiny spa town of Lanjaron, 'the gateway' to Alpujarras, where we will be met by our guides, Sarah and Jane. Dinner will be prepared by the farm’s cook, Ann, at the unpretentious Spanish Farmhouse ‘La Casa del Viento’. 

Day 2: Sunday
Today we will meet our horses.  La Casa del Viento is 10 minutes’ drive from the Ranch near the market town of Lanjaron, 700 m above sea level (asl).  We start our trek by heading north, climbing up above the Lanjaron River gorge.  Our ride takes us through ancient oak forests towards the summit of the Pico del Caballo, reaching over 2,000m asl, before descending via logging trails of the pine forests to Puente Palo for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon head east to an idyllic spot high on the slopes of the Poqueria valley, where we will camp in the mountain pastures with dinner in the main Cortijo of the remote mountain cottage retreat.  Views extend across the Poqueria valley to the white-washed mountain villages of Capileira, Bubion and Pampaniera. 

Day 3: Monday
We will start today riding up the Poqueria valley along a little known path through cattle pasture and farmland, climbing steadily to towards the peak of Mulhacen - at 3,479m, the highest peak in Spain.  The views are spectacular with Mulhacen forming the backdrop, this valley is truly stunning!  After lunch at the remote refugio we will take the Acequia trail back to our camp in the alpine meadow.

Day 4: Tuesday
Today we will head south descending through mountain meadows on old mule tracks that were once the main route to Greece! There’s plenty of time to pause along the way at Los Llanos, a mountain pub, for a sharpener or bracing shot of coffee!  We will then make our way through the olive groves of Padre Eterno for a picnic lunch. Our camp tonight is a short ride away above the tiny town of Tijola, below the tiny chapel on the hillside overlooking el Rio Guadalfeo.  Here we have a feast and a chance for a cool reservoir dip! 

Day 5: Wednesday
This morning we follow the valley via ancient olive groves through an area that translates as the 'Olives of hundreds of years'.  We pass through Las Barreras and La Estrella where the oranges, lemons and almonds are ripening and cross the wide river of the Rio Guadalfeo to reach Bayacas.  There will be plenty of chance to enjoy the super swimming pool at Los Castanos, a family run Spanish farmhouse just outside Bayacas at the end of the day.

Day 6: Thursday
Today’s ride tracks along the riverbed of the Rio Guadalfeo, joining the Rio Chico and heading to Orgiva, the main market-town in Las Alpujarras, where we explore the local market. There’s a wide range of local produce and artisan products as well as clothes and souvenirs are on offer.  Leaving the town behind we follow the valley and stop for a picnic on the hillside overlooking Mt Lujar and the impressive mountains of the Sierra de la Contraviesa, before heading back to our Spanish farmhouse for the night.

Day 7: Friday
A gentle trek from Bayacas back to Lanjaron, ‘La puerta de Las Alpujarras’ (the door of the Alpujarras) which leads through olive, almond and citrus groves, stopping for a well-earned beer at Los Bunuelos the local bar and restaurant. We then ride east above the town of Lanjaron passing the ruins of Lanjaron Castillo (castle) below. Once back at the ranch we will turn out the horses before enjoying dinner at La Casa del Veinto.

Day 8: Saturday
The last ride follows a spectacular trail along cobbled mule paths through an ancient chestnut forest and a beautiful river gorge to the waterfalls of the Rio de Lanjaron.  We will then head north with stunning views of El Pico del Caballo ahead, and stop for a picnic lunch. After lunch we follow the old logging tracks down towards the town of Lanjaron and back to the ranch. Here we say goodbye to our beautiful horses and return to La Casa del Viento farmhouse for a well-deserved dip in the pool and our final night.

Day 9: Sunday
A fond farewell and we transfer back to Malaga airport.

How much does it cost?

AAll our Challenge Rides require a registration fee. This £300 fee is needed to secure your place on the trip and is non-refundable if for any reason you are unable to participate. Challengers are encouraged to fundraise to pay for the £500 donation element of the total funds required. The total minimum funds required are £2,200 and needs to be received by us eight weeks before your departure date. This money includes all tour costs and a donation to The British Horse Society ; however, it doesn’t cover travel insurance and spending money. 

Fundraising inspiration

Now you’ve read about the Alpajurra Challenge we’re sure you’ll want to know how to raise the money to get there. See our list of fundraising tips to help you on your way.

How do I apply?

If this ride sounds like an excellent reward for your fundraising, then complete the application form and email it to wendy.minor@bhs.org.uk or send it by post to Wendy Minor, The British Horse Society, Abbey Park, Stareton, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2XZ.

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