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Posted on October 11, 2023
In this blog post, she tells us about this truly adventurous trail. We hope you enjoy reading Stephanie’s journal from her time on the Miyak Tribe Trail.
After an early wake up call, 8 riders and myself are off on an adventure: the Miyak Tribe Trail. This is a horse trail covering 200 km in six days through the mountains of the Mavrovo National Park. It’s rumoured to be one of the most beautiful areas and rides in Europe. I have already heard great feedback for this ride and so my expectations are high.
It’s important to be as fit as possible for this trail because of the long hours in the saddle over rough and uneven terrain. I am feeling well prepared and raring to go.
After arriving at Skopje airport, we are taken to a traditional restaurant for lunch in the capital. Next is a tour of Skopje. We visit different sites such as Fortress Kale, the Jewish quarter, Caravanserai and various monuments such as the Alexander the Great fountain.
After refreshments, we leave the city of Skopje by car and ahead into the mountains. We arrive at our hotel for the first night while the sun sets.
Vasco, our guide gives us a briefing about our week ahead. He mentions that the distance (200 km) will not be the hardest part of this trip – rather it will be the total 10,000 m altitude difference. He gives us a real insight into the Miyak lifestyle, traditions, culture and history of the Miyak tribe.
Next up is the horse matching. Vasco and Ramadam (the back up guide) listen to our wishes and preferences. As usual, I say forward going with good brakes, one that’s nice to ride on holiday. Vasco surprises me by offering his own horse to ride.
We end the evening with dinner: tapas, salads, local sheep cheese and steak fries.
After a hearty breakfast we gather for part two of the briefing. This time it’s about sustainability (reusable water bottles) and the wildlife we may encounter. We learn that bears are spotted regularly.
We are taken to an open-air amphitheatre in Galcinik where Vasco regales us with local legends. Following this, it’s a short drive to the stables to be introduced to our horses for the week. I’m matched with Jack, a ‘Berber mountain’ horse and we do a short, introductory ride.
After riding, we try milking goats. This is hilarious and very competitive – a great team building exercise.
After a snack of some fruit, we head off on the trail. We cover 25 km entirely in walk. This is a great way to find out more about your horse and enjoy the landscape. The leaves are starting to change colour with the approach of Autumn. I’m curious to see how different they will look by the end of the week.
Suddenly, a small village appears in front of us. We dismount and are surprised to find there is a table set up for lunch. Which is homemade soup, sheep’s cheese, vegetables and tapas.
After lunch, we start off by leading the horses for a short while, before getting back in the saddle. We see bear droppings and are informed that they are by less than an hour old.
Back in the saddle, we are ready for our first gallop. The horses fly up the mountain at an incredible speed. To end the day, there are two short stretches of canter before we dismount to lead the horses to our overnight accommodation in Lazaropole.
Dinner tonight is tapas, followed by wild boar and pancakes for dessert.
Breakfast is at 7:30 am: freshly squeezed fruit juice, omelette and French toast, washed down with coffee. We are briefed about today’s ride. It’s a long one, 35 km, with varying altitude – from 1,200m to 600m then up to 2,000m and back to 1,200m. We are saddled up by 8:30 am.
It’s not long before we reach a forest. After half an hour in the saddle, we dismount and lead our horses on foot down a steep section. I feel like I’m in a ‘forest bath’.
Shortly we were back onboard, having some fun, short blasts of faster riding. All the horses are very athletic and in top form. After a final gallop, we arrive at our lunch spot. The table is set with all kinds of delicacies: soup, bread, salads, nuts, cheese, local honey. All are delicious!
After lunch, we’re back in the saddle and we climb to 2,000m. The views are incredible. We are treated to a gallop on a ridge with valleys below us on both sides. What an experience.
Then we start our descent. Mountain rivers and springs criss-cross our path, as well as a large flock of sheep with the accompanying barking sheep dogs. The horses barely bat an eyelid.
We arrive at our destination at around 7pm. The grooms take the horses from us and we enjoy a well-deserved aperitif. On the menu this evening: freshly caught trout from the nearby mountain river.
Breakfast this morning is at 7am, a hearty omelette. We are in the saddle at 8.30am, ready for the longest day – 44 km. The uphill trail follows twisty paths. The morning is spent chattering away to each other.
After about three hours of ascents and descents, we arrive at a hunting cabin with a view. We feast on pears, peaches, bananas and nuts.
Back onboard, we climb steeply and stop to let the horses drink at a mountain stream and enjoy a muesli bar ourselves.
Just a few more hours of riding to go. The sun is gradually setting as we pass a large sheep farm with free-range chickens and guard dogs. We are told they used to have 30,000 sheep here, now only 3,000. Our camp appears behind the ridge. We settle down by the campfire and enjoy some wine.
Gradually light comes through my tent, I hear the proximity of the horses and rain falling on my tent. We’ve been really lucky with the weather so far. Hopefully this is just a short shower.
After a light breakfast with coffee, we visit a sheep farm nearby. We watch how the sheep are herded together for milking. First, they are herded into a corral, then they are taken individually into the milking shed. Once they are milked, they are taken out to a large meadow and then into the mountains by shepherds with their dogs. Whilst this is happening, we go to the milking parlour and learn the traditional way of making cheese.
Back on our horses, we head back into the mountains. Vasko spots a herd of wild horses in the distance. We head after them. Our horses and the wild herd are curious about each other.
We then descend along an old shepherds’ track. We enjoy our next race with a tailwind. After a while, it starts to rain. Fortunately, we are almost at our sheltered lunch spot where there is again a wide selection of food on display.
Once we are back in the saddle, we descend again – this time to Lake Mavrovo. The trail runs through a large forest. I enjoy every minute of this trail and it’s dappled light. We stop at a waterfall for the horses to drink.
Shortly after, we arrive in Mavrovo village. We pass the ski lift and slopes of this popular ski destination. We arrive at our hotel, where an aperitif awaits us. On the menu this evening: salad, cheese, deer stew, vegetarian pizza and local pastries for dessert.
The first part of our ride this morning skirts the edge of a lake. Some of the horses like to dip their hooves, the others prefer to stay at the edge.
Soon we reach the forest again. The pace is walk alternating with canter. Around noon, we arrive at a sheep farm and enjoy fresh tomato soup, homemade cheese and a traditional puff pastry dish.
After lunch, we arrive at the start of the foot of Mount Bistra and quickly reach the summit. We have a beautiful view from the top. Vasco soon signals for a gallop. It’s sublime how keen the horses are to run.
After a muesli break, we continue on to the other side of the mountain. A golden field makes for a golden gallop. Afterwards, we let the horses drink and continue to our next camp. We enjoy a campfire and some stargazing.
This morning is a bit different. Our wake-up call is 4:45 am. Looking up we are amazed to see the starry sky with shooting stars. Vasco leads us to the top of the mountain to watch the sunrise. There is a strong wind blowing. Just below the mountaintop, we see some wild goats. They look at us curiously before skipping away over the ridge.
Once we reach the top, we have some time to learn about the Miyak rituals and their relationship with nature. The sun is gradually rising on the horizon. In less than two minutes a large reddish orangey pink ball can be seen. Due to the chilly wind we cannot stay on the top for too long and we lead our horses down the mountain on foot.
After breakfast for both us and the horses, we tack up and set off. Shortly afterwards, we come across a local shepherd, who waits patiently until our horses have passed by before leading his flock of sheep further. We head into the mountains again and see our sunrise mountain top from a different perspective.
The road meanders past juniper and rosehip bushes. The penultimate part of the trail is on foot, along the ‘evil road’ to protect ourselves against negative energy. I think that in a week’s time autumn has progressed quickly. Lucky us with the sunny week (and barely 30 minutes of rain).
We are welcomed at the ranch by the crew and dogs. We enjoy a last excellent lunch: freshly made lamb and numerous side dishes. Then I say goodbye to my horse Jack with tears in my eyes. He especially took such great care of me and I have learnt so much. The transfer to Skopje takes about 2 hours and we see the landscape transform from mountains into a city. We end the evening with a traditional meal and music.
After breakfast: we say our goodbyes. Over the next few days we will undoubtedly relive this great week with the exchange of many photos and videos.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Stephanie for sharing her journal and images.
We have 2024 dates and prices for the Miyak Tribe Trail on our website.