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. Starting in 1990 I embarked on this record setting journey around the world with my family travelling by horse and caravan. It is officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records.
I’ve written a book about the feat, currently looking for a publisher.
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 (Cochrane), 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 had never been done before let alone attempted. 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 titled The Seven Year Hitch: A Family Odyssey published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster.
The Grant Family in 1990
At the beginning of the journey David Renwick Grant then aged 49 was married to Kate Elizabeth Cochrane Grant (39). Their two sons are Torcuil then aged nine, Fionn aged six and a daughter Eilidh, eight. In Holland they sourced a heavy horse named ‘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, travelling 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 globe.
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 traveled 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.
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.
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 Erenhotand 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, Quebec, New 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!
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.phpThe 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>.