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Posted on March 3, 2020
In The Saddle Guest, Mike Smith writes about his holiday in Assam, India in November 2019. He told us he was so blown away by this ride that he starting planning his return journey before landing back in the UK. Having spoken to Mike over the phone many times since his holiday it is hard to put into words how passionate he is about this ride – for the team and the wonderful horses. He was keen for us to share his comments and pictures.
Having had contact and photos prior to the holiday from my fellow riders, Carol and Michelle, I easily spotted them on the internal flight from Delhi to Dibrugarh, sitting just a row in front. Exiting together from the airport we were met by our Guide, Rupak and driver, Gobin. Rupak presented us with lovely scarves and a folder with the detailed itinerary.
Gobin loaded up the luggage and we set off in a modern air conditioned MPV to the first bungalow, Mancotta. A 30 minute drive got us there and I was shown into my room – that actually turned out to be a rather grand suite of rooms.
Everything was comfortable and clean, with a proper bath and shower and, of course, the obligatory bucket and jug that I found in all bathrooms – it’s for a traditional Indian ‘bucket shower’ (not for washing the floor!)
After a quick home cooked lunch we changed into our riding gear for a short car journey to meet the horses. Passing through the centre of Dibrugarh we got a flavour for the sometimes busy streets and also for the fact that Dibrugarh hosts a number of medical training facilities.
On arrival at ‘the field’ I saw four horses with riders and thought ‘ooh, there’s other people riding’ – NO!! It was OUR horses with their grooms along with Jitanda – our lovely and experienced riding guide.
The grooms helped us mount and adjusted our tack before we got a feel for the horses with a bit of walking and trotting. Then we went for a short trip out – waved off by some locals who’d come out to see us. We had an hour of walking, trotting and a little canter, before returning to ‘the field’. We were met on our return by Rishi, the manager of the bungalow, who made sure we were all comfortable and that no one wanted to change their horse – none of us did. My horse Toofaan (which means ‘storm’) and I got on from the word go. He was ultra fast but also felt ultra safe.
After a peaceful night at the bungalow with a cold beer and a delicious home cooked meal it was up for breakfast, drive to the field and off onto the banks of the river. We had about four hours in the saddle but with a break mid way which involved the grooms taking the horses while Rupak is waiting with his coffee table, drinks and biscuits.
Remounting, the cloth came off the metal coffee table and – hey presto! – a mounting block!
We also met a couple of kids and gave them pencils that I’d taken with me.
Evening meal and then out onto the lawn for a lovely dancing display with an open fire nearby keeping us warm (it wasn’t particularly cold anyway – and we always had our presentation scarves).
The next day’s riding was on the Brahmaputra trail. Afterwards we dismounted by the river and went on a river cruise.
We had picnic on a deserted island – lovely picnic boxes with brilliant food and a tent toilet set up. I tried the kayak on the river – it is more difficult than it looks, but I didn’t get wet!
Day four was another lovely day riding followed by a tour of the tea factory which was very interesting. I loved this colourful Indian lorry parked outside.
Our next day was a non-riding day and we were up early to visit Dibru-Saikhowa National Park for bird watching. Unfortunately it rained although we were provided with umbrellas. We visited temples, museums, market and loads of interesting places every day.
While we were enjoying our boat trip the horses had been moved to a different tea plantation so the next day we were riding again. Lovely tea plantations and a circuitous route back to the bungalow for a good long canter on the approach.
By our last day I was getting a tiny bit saddle sore but still sad there’s no more riding and I would have managed (note to self – sheepskin seat saver that I took with me helped – I should have asked groom to put it on for the second day, not at the second bungalow!)
I have to mention the wonderful condition of the horses in Assam. They were lovely to ride. The team look after them so well and the stables are immaculate – very reassuring.
After the ride, we drove to Kaziranga national park , to a more traditional ‘hotel’ in time for a little swim before sight-seeing in the park.
Mike has booked to return to Assam this November 2020 and there are spaces. The group size is small. No more than four and normally just two or three.
For more information please do not hesitate to contact me via email at email@example.com or comment below.
I look forward to introducing you to this part of Asia.