Kabardino Balkaria riding holiday in Russia - Far and Ride
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Kabardino Balkaria, Russia




Programme


• Pioneering Expedition

 

Horses



Type of horses:

Kabardin

Nature of horses:

Forward going, good endurance, sure-footed and resilient

Height of horses:

14.1 - 15.1hh

Weight limit:

100kg / 15 stone 7 lbs

Tack type:

Local Cherkess (Russian) saddles with simple bridles

 

Weather



 

Ride Description

This exciting new ride for 2018 is offered to those with a pioneering spirit of adventure. You arrive/depart in Georgia but cross the Caucasus mountains by vehicle to reach Russia and the horse trail, passing through spectacular gorges and interesting landscapes along the route. You will see the architecture and culture change from Georgian to Russian as well, before arriving in Vladikavkaz, a town whose name roughly translates as "I won the Caucasus".

European Russia is the part of Russia situated in the far west of the country - the larger, eastern part is considered to be part of Asia. The specific boundaries often vary, but it is generally considered that the Eastern border of Europe runs along the Ural mountains, Caucasus mountains and Turkish Straits. This exciting new ride is situated in the Caucasus mountains just north of Georgia and therefore comfortably in European Russia.

The dominant feature on the landscape is Mount Elbrus - the highest mountain in Russia and the tenth most prominent peak in the world. Elbrus has two summits, both of which are dormant volcanic domes - the west summit is the highest at 5,642m whilst the east summit is 5,621m. Elbrus has a permanent icecap which feeds 22 glaciers and hasn't erupted since 50 AD. You should get clear views of Elbrus from some of the high plateaus you cross on horseback.

You ride Kabardin or Kabarda horses, which have been bred by mountain tribesmen in the Caucasus since the 16th century. The breed were formed from a combination of steppes horses, namely the Karabakh, Arabian and Turkoman. The Kabardin are either bay, black or grey and are well-muscled with hard hooves. Their blood has a heightened oxygen carrying capacity suited for working in the high mountains and they are easy to keep, gaining weight easily and coping well in the harsh mountain conditions. Kabardin are usually fast with good endurance and are often used as sport horses outside of Russia.

The first 3-4 days of the ride take you up to the high plateaus to reach the summer grazing pastures of the Kabardin horses, where you may find herds of 150 horses gathered. Here you set up camp and spend three days exploring the glorious landscape and discovering ancient cave systems, waterfalls and canyons. This ride is also a cultural experience, as you stay with and interact with local Circassians - an ethnic group native to Circassia in northwest Caucasia. The term Circassian includes twelve Adyghe tribes, each one represented by a star on the green and gold Circassian flag. The Circassians were displaced during the Russian Conquest and the Soviets sub-divided them into Adygeans, Cherkessians, Kabardians and Shapsugians.

Pack an open mind and a sense of adventure to discover this glorious region.

See Programmes.

 

Food & Accommodation

Three nights are spent in a guesthouse in Tbilisi and two nights in a 3* hotel in Russia.

Two nights are spent in a family guesthouse in Russia - these are very different to conventional Europe and allow you to interact with local families and learn about their traditions. You will need to have an open mind! Bathrooms will be shared and single rooms are not possible.

The rest of the route is camping in two person tents with limited facilities.

Your luggage is carried for you, but will be exposed, so we recommend not taking anything fancy and using plenty of dry bags to keep your belongings clean and dry.

Meals are prepared locally and will be typical Kabardin or Georgian fare. The locals eat meat every day and so there will be plenty of meat provided, however, vegetarians can be accommodated as there is plenty of vegetables, fruit and cheese available. Other special diets however, (ie. gluten free), would need to bring their own substitutions, as these cannot be sourced locally.

Drinks are provided whilst on the ride, but you can purchase your own alcoholic drinks when you dine in restaurants.

 

Activities

These rides are in remote areas where access is only possible on foot or horseback, therefore non-riders cannot be accepted.

There are many interesting sites visited during the journey but there is little free time outside of the itinerary, except for sitting back and taking in the enormity of the landscapes.

 

Further Details

Languages: French, English and German

Health requirements: You must be fit and healthy. You are riding at altitude in remote locations and medical aid may be difficult to find.

Age limit: No specific limits, but must be able to cope with the spirited horses, length of time in the saddle and rough conditions, so not suitable for young children.

Tuition: No

Included: Accommodation, riding, transfers as described in itinerary, meals, drinks during the ride

Not included: Flights, visa, insurance, alcoholic drinks in restaurants

 

Travel Information

You arrive/depart from Tbilisi in Georgia and transfers are included to the group hotel in Tbilisi. Transfers to Russia are through the Caucasus mountains by road, and these are included in the itinerary. The journey in itself is an adventure. NB. You will need a visa for this district of Russia and should apply about 1.5 months before your holiday. We will supply you with an invitation letter for this.

There are no direct flights from the UK to Tbilisi, but the most popular route with one stop is with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Flights do tend to arrive very late at night or early in the morning, but you are collected from the airport and transferred straight to your hotel to rest. You may wish to add an extra night at the start to recover from the flight and explore the capital city.

Airport: Tbilisi

 

Programme


Pioneering Expedition



An incredible trail ride far from tourist routes on local Kabardine horses which are trained for endurance.  Discover wild landscapes with impressive cliffs and gorges, high crests and open plateaus, as you journey to the summer pastures of the Adygueen people, under the imposing mountains of Elbrus.

Day One:

You will be met on arrival at Tbilisi airport and transferred to your hotel to overnight.

Day Two: Tbilisi - Vladikavkaz

Today you will be journeying along the well-known Darial Gorge, the only passage through the Caucasus mountains into Russia. The name Darial originates from Dar-i Alan, meaning "Gate of the Alans" in Persian. The Alans held the lands north of the pass during the first centuries AD, and the area has been fortified by the Romans and Persians since 150BC. Ruins of ancient fortresses can still be seen along the road. 

The Georgian Military road in its present form was created by the Russian Empire in 1799 and still follows the traditional route used by traders and invaders through the ages. It is a 212km link between Tbilisi in Georgia and Vladikavkaz in Russia, with its highest pass Jvari at 2,379m. Along your journey you will take the time to visit some interest sites:

Firstly Mskheta - the former capital of the Georgian Kingdom in the 5th century. Located 15km from Tbilisi, it's 1000 year old cathedral is an important symbol in the Georgian orthodoxy.

Further along the Georgian Military Highway, the Ananuri Fortress, which dates from the 17th century, is located on the banks of the Aragvi river.

Continue to Kazbegi and admire the Sameba monastery, and on clear days, the mountain Kazbeg. You then cross the border into Russia and drive to Vladikavkaz, previously called Ordjonikidze in Georgia. This town still has a Georgian atmosphere, with southern Caucasian architecture and locals speaking a mixture of Russian, Georgian and their own dialect.

Overnight in a 3 star hotel here and have dinner in a simple but authentic restaurant.

Day Three: Vladikavkaz - Balkar Village

A second day of discoveries whilst journeying as you visit the surrounds of Vladikavkaz and Naltchik. There is also a chance to watch a skilled workman manufacturing north Caucasian saddles and bridles according to ancient traditions. By the end of the day you will have reached Balkar village where you overnight in a family guesthouse.

Day Four: Balkar Village - Xalbaz Village

Today you start your beautiful ride through the immensity of the northern Caucasian slopes on the majestic Kabardine horses. These first three days of riding take you from the old Soviet farm to the camp in the mountains where you spend another three days exploring the magnificent landscape around you.

Your first day takes you over the first line of mountains towards Elbrus. The landscape is hilly but not steep and so you can trot or canter sometimes. Reach the Kabardin village of Xalbaz in the late afternoon and camp beside a river. Camp will be set up for you already.

Riding: c. 7 hours

Day Five: Xalbaz Village - Camp

Today starts by riding along a valley before ascending a crest to reach a high plateau at 3000m. You spend the second half of the day on this plateau where the landscapes are incredible, with high cliffs opening onto wide paramo. You may meet shepherds along the way and there are opportunities to trot and canter. Your camp is beautifully situated in a remote location.

Riding: c. 7 hours

Day Six: Camp 1 - Camp 2 (Summer high pastures)

You start the day by riding downhill to the lower plateau through gorges which lead to the summer camp. There are outstanding panoramic views and if the weather is clear you could see the snow-covered summits of Elbrus. This camp is a simple place with a shepherd's hut where you will share your dinners with the local Adygueens who live there. You overnight in tents. 

Riding: c. 7 hours

Day Seven:

Explore the impressive canyons in the area on horseback and return to your camp in the evening.

Riding: c. 7 hours

Day Eight:

Ride up onto a high plateau which offers wild, open landscapes with distant high summits as a backdrop. Some of those peaks are over 5,000m! There are opportunities to trot and canter across the open grasslands. Return to camp in the afternoon and dine with the Cherkess.

Riding: c. 7 hours

Day Nine: 

The aim of todays ride is to reach some caves which can be accessed on foot or horseback. These caves are very remote and known only to local shepherds. Like other days you will have lunch along the route and follow some small pathways carved into the mountains. At the end of the day you return to your camp for one final night in the summer pastures. 

Riding: c. 7 hours

Day Ten: Camp 2 - Balkar Village

Ride downhill through the sinuous canyon which leads back to the lowlands and the village of Balkar where you stayed at the start of your ride. The hot showers will be very welcome in your guesthouse!

Day Eleven: Kendelen - Nalshik - Vladikavkaz

Transfer by road to Nalshik, where the Soviet atmosphere is very apparent, with much of the architecture reminiscent of Soviet times. There is time to look at the museum, park, market and stroll around the interesting buildings. After lunch in the city you transfer back to Vladikavkaz, where the architecture will make you think you are already back in Georgia. There may be time to stroll around the city before dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in a 3 star hotel.

Day Twelve: Vladikavkaz - Tbilisi

Set off early for the drive back across the Russian border and into Georgia. Depending on how long border formalities take, you should be back in Tbilisi for 3-4pm. Leave your luggage in your guesthouse, which is a converted traditional Georgian house in the Mardjanishvili district and explore old Tbilisi on foot. Dinner in a restaurant before returning to the guesthouse.

Day Thirteen: Tbilisi

The morning is free for you to explore this surprisingly cosmopolitan city. There is lots to see and do including a museum, market, exhibitions, galleries and churches, or simply stroll the cobbled streets. There is also a thermal bath which can be booked for you if you wish. At 3pm you meet your guide for one final visit and dinner together.

Day Fourteen: Departure

Transfer to the airport in time for your flight home, which could depart very early. 

NB. Please note that the riding itinerary may have to vary according to the weather and conditions in the mountains but always with your best interests at heart. For this first year, it is important that you are flexible and don't need to stick to a rigid programme as changes may be necessary on these pioneering adventures.



Minimum group size: 6
Maximum group size: 8
Ability description: You have to be an experienced rider who is comfortable at all paces across varied terrain and fit for long hours in the saddle. The horses are forward going and not for novices.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 13 nights / 14 days / 7 days riding (c. 7 hours riding each day)
Departure dates: 2018: 23 April-6 May; 15-28 July; 30 August-12 September; 14-27 September; 18-31 October
 
Pricing: 2018:

£2561 per person (group size of 6)
£2484 per person (group size of 7-8)

Single rooms are possible only in the city hotels and are subject to availability at £62 per night.

These prices include a small fee for the invitation letter for the Russian visa. You should apply for the visa 1.5 months before departure as it can take time to arrive.