Only a year or so after returning from Egypt I have finally finished writing up my journal – huzzah! In celebration of this I have decided to submit a section to the Telegraph website’s travel writing competition. I thought I would post the chosen chapter here as it was one of the more exciting stories from my adventure…
“My horse Oscar was a magnificent Arabian with a coat of brushed steel. My guide Mohammed identified the rest of his little herd for me; “that Madonna and that Michael Jackson,” he gestured proudly. We walked back from the lagoon slowly after all the excitement had passed; the beefy Saudi man and his two thick-necked sons trudged forlornly down the track we had come from. Mohammed had dismissed them for kicking at his horses and sending them hurtling down the path like drunken bowling balls. “People pay for ride and think they buy the horse!” he exclaimed; still distressed by the drama. “They my life – not gonna let man treat them bad,” he sniffed, gazing at them fondly as they picked their way over the sand alongside us, the empty saddles still on their backs. “You want gallop?”
I didn’t even have to ask Oscar, relaxing my grip on the reins he streaked forwards, his glossy, athletic legs stretching out to consume the distance. We flew along the sands; the setting sun cresting the mountains to my right made the lagoon catch fire and the desert seem to melt into it. Oscar’s satin muzzle reached for the horizon and his tail streamed behind him like a pennant as he bounded joyfully along the shore. The riderless horses, keen to be home, galloped alongside; their hooves pounding a tribal drumbeat into the red dust of the earth, flanking me as they leapt the golden dunes. The little mare on my left edged nearer until she was running alongside so close that the glossy black curtain of her mane billowed at my knee.
Without warning her head snapped sideways and her teeth closed on my finger, ripping my hand from the reins. I quickly scooped them up in my right but she didn’t relinquish her grip. Tightening it, she pulled away, stretching my arm out over the ever-widening gap of rushing sand and realisation dawned that there were two outcomes to this; I was going to fall under the relentless hooves of the herd or be removed of my finger. The tendons in my hand stretched and screamed under the strain. It seemed to go on for an eternity; stride, stride, leap, stride, stride, leap, one hand on the reins, one in the jaws of another horse, my heart pummelling my ribcage, my skull full of the exquisite white noise of adrenaline like the hum of a hundred dragonflies. My custodian launched herself over the ochre ridge of a dune. My finger ripped. I closed my eyes and felt a jolt and then nothing but the desert air rushing over my liberated hand. I snatched it back, cradling my fist against my chest, ecstatic to still be charging one-handed and ten-fingered over the dusty waves.
“You Ok?” called Mohammed.
“I’m fine – just a play-bite!” I waved back happily, ignoring the sticky crimson picking a path to my wrist. I looked ahead to the rocky red giants slumbering on the horizon between Oscar’s pricked ears and grinned at the thought of my next ride.”