ALIENOR le Gouvello has always had a passion for travelling and adventure, having lived in India and Brazil and experienced many cultures of the world.
The Frenchwoman rode a motorbike in a 10,000-kilometre stretch from Siberia to Paris and completed a 900km horse trek in Mongolia at the age of 22.
“I just love adventuring, seeing different countries and cultures,” she said.
“The trip in Mongolia gave me an appreciation for that pace, travelling in harmony with nature.”
She’s spent the past 10 years working with Aboriginal communities in central Australia.
“Being out there, living and working in those communities, gave me appreciation of the outback, being remote and being resourceful.”
She’s been riding horses since the age of five, and first came across brumbies in central Australia.
After some research, she came across the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association, which rehomes wild horses caught in the Guy Fawkes River National Park near Ebor.
“A friend of mine mentioned the Bicentennial National Trail, so I was contemplating doing sections of it, then decided to do the whole thing,” Alienor said.
”I came across the Guy Fawkes team, Graeme and Erica Jessup, and I was able to live there for six months prior to the trip.”
Breaking and training brumbies was a big learning curve, with the original three-month training plan turning into six months.
“We got horses that were straight out of the park and I wanted to train them myself, but I was very lucky to have Graeme and Erica mentor me through the process.
“There were four different colts that were gelded, two were too dominant but two worked out well, and then I also took a mare who had been trained.
”It’s about exposing them to as much as possible to make them bombproof on the trail.
“The beauty of those brumbies is their amazing temperament once you win their trust.”
The 13 months on the road with brumbies River, Cooper and Roxanne covered 5390km and 53 state forests, from the high country of Victoria to the tropics of Queensland.
Alienor left Healesville in Victoria in November 2015 and arrived in Cooktown in mid July this year. It took longer than expected to complete the journey after a five-month break due to heat and work commitments.
There were plenty of challenges along the way, but the most difficult part of the trip was the beginning.
“The Victorian high country was difficult because, at the start of an expedition, that’s where you find your feet and become a team with your horses,” Alienor said.
“At the start we weren't really a team and it was the most challenging terrain wise – it was extremely steep and relentless and it was tough finding feed and water for the horses each day.
“We had freak snow storm in the middle of summer for two days at 1800 metres (elevation), which I wasn't expecting, and I couldn’t carry rugs so the horses got a cold.
“The horses were amazing though – we had 13 months on the road and no injuries.”
Alienor camped each night, with her pack horse carrying her camping gear, two or three weeks worth of dry food, cooking gear and solar panels to recharge her equipment.
It wasn’t an easy task and “at times difficult mentally”, but she pulled through thanks to the easy nature of the horses.
“The brumbies are just amazing in any country.
“They’re so sensible, and natural selection makes the ones that survive in the wild quite tough and resilient, so they’re good at looking after themselves.”
The trip wasn’t without illness though, with Alienor battling Ross River Fever towards the end.
“By that stage, I had done about 4000km, so I wasn’t going to quit there,” she said.
”So I rode from Burdekin Falls Dam to Cooktown with Ross River, then I was run down and a week from the end I got really bad staph infection and ended up in hospital.”
After five days on antibiotics in Cairns hospital, Alienor still managed to plan the rest of the trip, and three days after leaving hospital she was back on a horse to complete the final leg.
She’s now recovered from the trek and has set her sights on a new challenge, the six-day Gobi Desert Cup in Mongolia in September.
”I’ve done a trek in Mongolia in the north region, but haven't seen the Gobi Desert, and I haven't done any endurance racing, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Alienor said.
The quick race, which requires competitors to complete 80km each day, will be a huge change from the slow pace of walking 30km to 40km a day.
”It’s completely different which is quite exciting and another adventure,” Alienor said.
“The national trail trek was three years of my life between the preparation and actually completing trek, so I’m looking forward to a much shorter challenge.”
- To follow Alienor’s next challenge, visit www.facebook.com/wild.at.heart.australia, and for more information on the brumbies, visit www.guyfawkesheritagehorse.com