Around the World by Horse and Caravan: A Record Breaking Journey

I’ve been holding this story back awhile – non-fiction this time. Originally an attempt at getting the journey below into Wikipedia the resulting article is what you see. I went on this record breaking journey around the world with my family by horse and caravan starting in 1990.

around the world caravan mongolia
Traceur our horse pulling the caravan through the scenic but desolate steppe of Mongolia.

The First Around the World by Horse Drawn Caravan journey began in 1990, officially beginning in Holland. The Scottish family of five included David Grant, then wife Kate, and their three children (from oldest to youngest), Torcuil, Eilidh and Fionn. The aim of the journey was to circumnavigate the globe by horse and caravan, a feat which has never been done before. From Holland the trip continued on through Belgium, France, Italy, Austria and Slovenia. The next stage of the journey went through Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan, before a return to Russia, then onward through Mongolia, China, and Japan before crossing the Pacific Ocean to America and ultimately on to Canada. Halifax in Nova Scotia was the finishing point for the epic trip which took seven years. From 1990 to 1997 the Grant’s covered over 17293 miles (27824km). The Guinness Book of World Records officially recognised the feat in the 1998 Guiness Book of World Records UK edition (p.86) and The Long Riders Guild also recognised Traceur for his equine feat. David R. Grant wrote a book about the journey called The Seven Year Hitch: A Family Odyssey published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster.

 

Contents

The Grant Family in 1990

At the beginning of the journey David Renwick Grant then aged 49 was married to Kate Grant (39) and their children are the two sons Torcuil (9), Fionn (6) and a daughter Eilidh (8). In Holland they sourced a heavy horse called Offy with which to pull the caravan and also had a Stafforshire Bullterrier dog called Lady as part of the entourage.

The Path Around the World

The family set off from Vierhouten in October 1990, covering between 10 and 15 miles per day, and travelled through Holland going southwards to Belgium, then into France. Unfortunately the original horse was not strong enough for pulling the caravan, so another had to be found that was sturdier and heavier.

That led the Grant’s to travel to Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue where they stayed with Joel Moyne a breeder and owner of heavy horses. Eventually a gelding in Traceur was purchased, a brown coated and black maned Percheron-Breton cross. Traceur would become the pulling force that would haul the caravan around most of the world.

From France, the journey continued through Italy, passing through Monte Carlo on the way. Austria was next before they reached Slovenia. Slovenia proved to be a challenge as the 1991 war of independence broke out, meaning the Scot’s travelers had to retreat from Dravograd to Austria before returning when it was safe to do so.

By the winter of 1992 the family had reached Mezőkövesd in Hungary where they stayed for several months while planning the rest of the journey through the recently broken up U.S.S.R. A new addition to the family was added in a Komondor puppy named Tsar with Lady having died in France.

They ventured over the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine and travelled to Kiev, then into Russia crossing the major Volga River at Volgograd. The next country to cross their paths was Kazakhstan, where they wintered in the capital Almaty, having survived one of the worst winters in forty years. They were given a puppy along the way that they would call Nin, short for Lenin.

around the world by horse and caravan
Traceur, Tsar and Eilidh in freezing Kazakhstan.

Originally the plan had been to enter China from Kazakhstan, but they refused them a travel Visa, forcing them to go northwards back to Russia then into Mongolia. It was a harsh experience in a desolate country and culminated in a court case involving David, who was nearly jailed for assault, but he was able to resolve the situation involving another man in the capital Ulaanbataar, allowing the Grant’s to continue travelling.

around the world horses fionn eilidh
Me (Fionn) with my sister on the back of Mongolian horse Chessy.

While in Mongolia the Chinese Government had changed its mind and decided to issue a travel permit, allowing the Grant’s to go southward to Erenhot and into a country they had intended to from the outset. Unfortunately, within weeks of being in China, Chinese officials ordered them to be deported without explanation, forcing them to travel to the port city of Tianjin. From there they had to take a ferry to Japan as the earliest possible exit from China.

Totally unprepared they arrived in Kobe, Japan shortly after it had experienced one of the worst earthquakes on record. Traceur and the dogs had to go into quarantine for three months, while David tried to source means to transport the animals across the Pacific to Canada. Canada refused to grant a Visa, so America was the only viable route to North America. After quarantine and monetary issues, largely alleviated by fundraising and the generosity of the Japanese people, the Grant’s were able to fly over to the West coast of the U.S. while the caravan was shipped over.

After some respite in California north of San Francisco the journey continued onward through the states of Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota. A harrowing winter in Mobridge, South Dakota ensued with the death of the journeys true hero, Traceur who died from a brain tumour. The family moved on with a new horse in Bertha, who pulled the caravan on through the remaining states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Canada was entered at Sault St. Marie. The remainder of the travels crossed through the provinces of Ontario, QuebecNew Brunswick, and Nova Scotia where the journey came to an end in Halifax during the winter of 1997 in November.

 

After the Journey Ended

When the journey finished the Grant family flew back to Scotland, having the caravan shipped over but leaving Bertha behind. Several newspapers from the British press covered the story upon their return to Scotland. David spent a year in Switzerland writing a book about the journey called The Seven Year Hitch: A Family Odyssey.

Kate returned to work and divorced David. Torcuil and Fionn went to college and school respectively. Eilidh followed her passion for horses and went to work at horse racing stables in England.

Any questions? Please ask!

References

  1. Gypsy life on the high road. The Independent (26 June 1999). Retrieved on 2015-12-31.

1. *http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Seven-Year-Hitch-Odyssey/dp/0671022113 2

2.*http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gypsy-life-on-the-high-road-1102678.html

3.*http://archives.lesoir.be/voyage-autour-du-monde-a-bord-d-une-roulotte-pour-une-f_t-19901119-Z03AAG.html

4.*https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19991010&id=py4zAAAAIBAJ&sjid=gggGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6588,2657997&hl=en

5.*http://www.thelongridersguild.com/Records.htm 1

6.*http://www.outthereliving.com/worldbike/USACanada/wbike045.html 4

7.*http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12284772.Around_world_in_seven_years_The_globe_trotting_Grants_face_their_final_challenge___the_search_for_a_new_home_back_in_Scotland/ 6

8.*http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/720903/Around-the-world-in-seven-years.html 7

9.https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1957&dat=19991003&id=l0ZGAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6ucMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1223,751872&hl=en Daily Gazette 1999

10.https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19991010&id=py4zAAAAIBAJ&sjid=gggGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6588,2657997&hl=en Free Lance Star 1999

11. “ROUND THE WORLD ON A HORSE AND CART; Family home after 7 years..” The Free Library. 1997 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday 16 Jan. 2016 http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ROUND+THE+WORLD+ON+A+HORSE+AND+CART%3b+Family+home+after+7+years.-a060990223

12. http://pwr.stparchive.com/Archive/PWR/PWR06261996P10.php The Power County Press, Idaho, 1996

13. McCARTNEY, Brian. “DEAD LUCKY – HOME IN THE ‘RED COFFIN’ Grants Survive a Bloody War and Mongol Bandits.” The Mirror (London, England). MGN Ltd. 1997. HighBeam Research. 16 Jan. 2016 <https://www.highbeam.com>.

14.”Children Pay the Price of a Family’s Globetrotting.” Daily Mail (London). McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. 1998. HighBeam Research. 16 Jan. 2016 <https://www.highbeam.com>.

15. Currie, Gordon. “World Trek Wrecked Our Caravan of Love; TRAVEL COUPLE IN SPLIT.” The Mirror (London, England). MGN Ltd. 1998. HighBeam Research. 16 Jan. 2016 <https://www.highbeam.com>.

16. “Rovers’ Return; War, Sickness and Poverty – but for One Family the Caravan Rolled on around the World.” Daily Mail (London). McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. 1997. HighBeam Research. 16 Jan. 2016 <https://www.highbeam.com>.

 

lion around 2

22 Comments

  1. Wow! That’s quite the thing to be a part of. Sounds exciting on paper but must have been really hard to do, especially as a kid. Thanks for sharing that. Glad to see you posting. 🙂

    1. Hey, thanks. It was something to be a part of, that’s for sure but a lot of sacrifice and very emotional. It could have been better and a dysfunctional family in such a cramped space nearly ended it all several times.

      1. I’m sorry things were tough for you. Being forced to do something so difficult so young sucks, and having such a unique experience sounds like it would make it tough to find an appropriate outlet for support when and if you need it. I guess the silver lining is that difficult experiences can mold us into better story tellers, because the emotions you want others to feel from your writing are easier to find and tap into. Or maybe that’s just a pile of… manure…but I’m of the mind that if that’s what life hands you, best to grow something. 🙂

  2. Holy crap, Fionn! What an adventure!! You have some brave parents to take that on especially with three kids. I’d love to hear more about it. Stuff that you remember. Sounds pretty amazing.

    1. An adventure for sure – not sure about brave I think the decision was moronic and ill judged more than anything certainly not something I’d recommend to anyone especially with crazy parents. I’d have been happy with a normal childhood. As for other stories related to the journey I might post some up at a later date.

      1. Ah, I couldn’t tell your feelings on it from the write up. It didn’t make you happy. I’m sorry, honey.
        How are you doing? Going to come back more? I miss your writing. 🙂

      2. Cheers 🙂 I’m not writing much but have some stuff I could upload. No laptop or wifi.however only random visits to somewhere that does and uploading from a phone is hopeless. Appreciating the encouragement though! How’s your writing going?

      3. Ah, still a vampire I see. 😉 I’m not writing much either really. I did join Twitter though. Are you still on it? I’ll look you up.
        I hope to read more from you soon but I understand the frustrations of posting from a phone. I hope good things are what’re keeping you busy. 😊

  3. Wow, amazing story – you should write it as a movie script. So sad that Traceur didn’t make it all the way to the end 😦 but at least he lived out – as you all did – a greater adventure than most humans will!

      1. Ugh…no thanks! I’m amazed you all survived. No pneumonia?
        Wait – isn’t it super early/late in Scotland right now? I seem to recall that you live there.

      2. Ah, okay. 😊 I’m neither a night owl nor a morning person. I guess that just makes me a sleeper. It IS amazing that none of you lost fingers or toes from frostbite. Even when skiing in -20°C with enough clothing, I still feel as if my fingers and toes would fall off!

Please, type what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s