By Molly Denver
A few years ago, we got a book for Christmas, "Journeys of a Lifetime" put out by National Geographic. Whenever we leaf through, we find ourselves feeling an acute wanderlust. We decided to experience one of those journeys firsthand by renting a horse and caravan in Wicklow County, Ireland.
The idea of riding in a caravan, gypsy-style, was a romantic gesture on our part. It made us think of the photos we’d seen of Gypsy life or of the pioneers in early America, in a time long before campers and micro-houses.
When we arrived at Clissmann Horse Caravans, we spent the first day getting acclimated to the Caravan itself. It is a rustic version of a camper with beds for up to four people. It is made from convertible benches, a table, a tiny propane cook top, two propane gas lanterns and a built-in closet dresser with shelves.
The night was cold- I think June is a tad too early for sleeping in an unheated cart in rural Ireland. The rain was intermittent but always looming nearby, keeping the desired warmth at bay.
On the second morning, we received training on dealing with the horse, putting on and taking off the collar, reins, etc. They went over the instructions repeatedly until we were comfortable with the process- as city folk, this took a few times. Then, we met our horse, Coco. We hooked her up to our caravan and took to the road.
The pace was slow and steady, taking 2 ½ hours to cover a distance easily covered by a car in 15 minutes. This gave us time to enjoy rural Ireland in a way that no rental car could allow for. People were patient as they got stuck behind our wide load, presumably having encountered our kind before. Keeping to the left at 3 miles an hour was no problem either. The steady clip-clopping of the hooves overlaid by the sound of the dishes and cutlery rattling around behind us was soothing.
We had to hop off the caravan to lead Coco through all the intersections. Once or twice she got spooked by someone she didn’t like the looks of along the roadside.
At the end of the day, we pulled into a prearranged place to park our caravan and let the horse loose in a nearby field. The field had a stream and plenty of available grazing for Coco.
On the final day of our trip, we headed back to Clissmann, Coco already knowing the way. One Journey down, 499 to go!