German equestrian explorer Guenter Wamser is nearing the end of an epic journey on horseback that has covered more than 25,000 km (15,535 miles) and nearly two decades of his life. Back in 1994, Guenter set out from Patagonia on horseback with the intention or riding north to the very top of Alaska. Now, he is deep in the Alaskan backcountry and nearing the end of his expedition, which has become not just an adventure but a way of life.
Guenter has dubbed his wandering journey the Transhumanica expedition and over they years it has taken him to some wild and remote places. His path began in Argentina and wandered into Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, carrying him to the top of South America, which he reached in 1999 after five years in the saddle. But the ride didn’t end there. In 2001 the German set off once again, passing through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and eventually Mexico which he reached in 2005.
The journey across Mexico was a long and rewarding one and reading Guenter’s journal it is clear that he enjoyed his time there. But when he reached the border with the U.S. he ran into a bit of trouble. He seems that his horses had contracted a tropical disease on their journey and they were not allowed to enter the States. The horses were found a good home however and Guenter found new mounts in the form of four mustangs that he adoptedf rom the Bureau of Land Management. Those horses have been his companions through the final phase of his journey, a ride along the Continental Divide Trail.
In 2007 Guenter and his traveling companion Sonja Endlweber, began traveling north on the CDT, passing through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana before eventually passing into Canada. As of last fall, they were in the Yukon territory, where they settled in for the winter. Earlier this year they returned to the trail with an end in sight and while the two riders are currently out of contact somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness, they will soon reach the northern most point of that state, thus bringing an end to the ride at last.
In his journal, Guenter says that his journey started simply as an adventure with his focus on riding across the Americas. But along the way it became less about getting to a destination and more about exploring the landscapes he was passing through and interacting with the people and cultures that he connected with along the way. He adopted a nomadic life that was its own reward. What he’ll do after this trail comes to an end remains to be seen, but after so many years traveling on horseback, I have to imagine it’ll be a challenge to return to a “normal” life.
Guenter is one of the founding members of the Long Rider’s Guild and as such his journey by horseback has been an exemplary one in terms of distance and time on the trail, but also for how he has treated the animals that have helped him along the way. His horses have been cared for very well and not treated simply as beasts of burden but as companions and partners who came along on this adventure like any other teammate. It is admirable that this incredible journey is soon coming to and end, but even more so that Guenter will complete it in such an ethical manner.
Thanks to my friend CuChullaine for sharing this wonderful and amazing story.
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