(CNN) – Scottish adventurer Lewis Hall has been cruising across Europe for nearly three months, but the final point of his 2,800-kilometre journey is almost in sight.
Originally from Edinburgh, Hall set off from Siena, Italy on March 24 with his horse Sasha and the pair have since made their way across Tuscany to the Ligurian Mountains and into the Basque Country, France.
They are scheduled to complete their amazing trip in Cape Finisterre, Spain during the first week of July.
Hole’s latest adventure on horseback comes two years after he drove a long distance in the UK and just months after he drove from Cornwall to Devon in southwest England to raise money for Afghan refugees through his fundraising organization The Big Hoof, which supports charitable causes by tripping over. challenges.
The adventurer, who also works as an actor, first started riding as a child, but it was a trip to Mongolia in 2014 to help a friend with mental health issues that fueled his passion for horses.
They ended up buying three horses in order to gain access to a certain tribe and Hall says the experience sparked something in him.
“That whole trip brought back my equestrian education,” he told CNN Travel. “It wasn’t about competitions or riding fast or jumping.
Lewis Hall and his horse Sasha ride along a Pyrenees mountain trail during an epic journey across Europe.
Lewis Hall / Big Hoof
“It has become a very spiritual and solid relationship. I have kept in touch with them [horses] from this moment.”
Returning from Mongolia, Hall took opportunities to spend time with and ride horses and soon began working at a stable in London. He founded The Big Hoof in 2020.
During his first major charity trip, in memory of his friend Leo, Hall raised thousands of pounds for a UK-based national charity for cystic fibrosis.
But the Covid-19 pandemic began shortly thereafter, forcing much of the world into lockdown. Once things started looking up, Hall says he noticed a shift in the way the people around him viewed the world and their own adventurous abilities.
“I can feel, especially in the UK, that some magic has gone a little bit into people’s imaginations and the odds of what you thought you could do and what you thought you could do were very different after the pandemic, and before the pandemic,” he says.
“Especially with the conversations I had with people of my generation, and the assumptions made by the older generations, it seemed like everything had shrunk.”
“The idea of going on adventure, being free, meeting strangers, and living in a world that was once optimistic doesn’t seem to work.”
Determined to prove that “there is still some magic in the world,” Hall decided it was time for a bigger ride, and came up with the idea of traveling from Italy to Spain on horseback.
His goal was simple, to raise awareness about mental health and “maybe inspire people to believe in a world that still exists.”
As he put his plans into action, Russia invaded Ukraine, and Hall admitted he considered scrapping the whole thing, because the idea of ”riding a horse through some hills” seemed “ridiculous” given what was happening.
Hall aims to raise money for Amna Charitable Society, which supports the psychosocial well-being of refugees and other displaced communities, as well as raising awareness of mental health.
Lewis Hall / Big Hoof
“I hope by the positivity of the message, as I put myself in as many unusual scenarios as possible, others will think, ‘If this idiot on a horse can do this, I can do something in my own backyard,'” he says, emphasizing that health The mentality is “at the heart of the ride.”
Hall has so far focused on his trips within Europe “because it fits very well with off-road.”
“There are a lot of pilgrimage routes all over Europe,” he explains. “It’s not hard to make your way through it.”
But unsurprisingly, traveling by horse comes with many challenges, particularly when it comes to basic requirements such as food, water and shelter.
In order to ensure neither he nor Sasha ran out of food, Hall’s sister and some of her friends were traveling with them by car, dropping off supplies when necessary.
He also took very few clothes with him – his sleeping equipment consisted of a coat which he used as a tent and a thin sleeping bag.
However, Hall says he is usually more concerned about Sasha, an Anglo-Arabian horse he obtained from an endurance center in northern Italy, from himself.
“You don’t worry about two feet,” he explains. “You worry about six legs, and you worry about an entire animal that needs a lot more attention and care than you do.”
He tries to plan at least a few days in advance to make sure they head toward a place with water, straw, and grass so Sasha’s needs are met.
The possibility of wolves being present while riding through the mountains should also be taken into account, as well as the possibility of a horse getting cuts or superficial wounds during the longer rides.
“There are a lot of things that can go wrong,” he says.
But Hall insists it was all worth it and has become very attached to his “friend”.
“You have this companion who shares that experience with you,” he says. “And the happiness it brings to you and others far outweighs any challenges.”
He is often influenced by the jubilant reactions he receives while riding in Sacha’s village or town, along with the conversations this sometimes provokes.
“It’s amazing to see the culture you evoke when you travel very simply like this, with such an animal that has stood the test of time,” he says.
But their journey was not without setbacks. Hall found the task of crossing the Liguran Mountains via the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri walking route Being particularly harsh, she says the bad weather, along with the high climb was particularly challenging.
He was unable to ride Sasha for at least 20 days during this part of the route.
“I mean, the walking was hard enough, but the horseback riding is really hard work,” he adds, before detailing the physical toll he took through the mountains for 15 days.
“The only way to move forward was to keep going. So we didn’t stop at any point. When I looked back on the roads, I was done [the equivalent of] 12 marathons and climbs [UK mountain] Ben Nevis nine times.”
Hall, who records his journey on Instagram, receives messages from people from all over the world, some of whom are keen to join him.
In fact, a young woman from Amsterdam named Kiki had already done it, riding her horse a quarter of the distance during the trip.
Fortunately, her arrival came after the hardest part of the road, and Hall says things have been “a little bit manageable” since then.
He encourages others to meet them during the final week of the trip, which will likely start from June 20 onwards if all goes as planned.
Hall climbs the steps of the Arles amphitheater in France with Sasha.
Lewis Hall / Big Hoof
“I want people to feel really comfortable to go out so they can have fun and participate in the journey, even if it’s only the last part,” he says.
When asked how he plans to celebrate once he completes the trip, Hall said he hadn’t thought it too far, but joked that “something alcoholic would be nice.”
Although he hopes to rest for a few days, Hall is keen to get back in the saddle as quickly as possible, and aims to go on another “decompression” ride.
“There are ideas for riding the west coast of Portugal, and I think it would be really cool,” he says.
While his focus has been on raising awareness about specific charities, Hall says The Big Hoof is developing into something bigger than he ever imagined.
“I think it’s a way for others to find something fulfilling and a source of hope,” he says. “For people to find something and maybe use it to leave something behind, or to create something new.”
Hall, who was seen in Les Cassis, France, is scheduled to finish his 2,800-kilometre journey in Spain in early July.
Lewis Hall / Big Hoof
In October, the latest edition of The Wee Big Hoof, a challenge geared toward riders of all levels and abilities, will take place to raise money for a bowel cancer charity.
For now, Hall is focusing on the next phase of his journey, which takes him through the Pyrenees, a mountain range that stretches across the border between France and Spain, and on the famous Camino de Santiago Trail before ending at Cape Finistere, in the west. The coast of the Spanish region of Galicia.
As he continues to move forward, the messages of support he regularly receives from those inspired by his journey help propel him and Sasha forward.
“The main goal is to spark something into people’s imaginations,” he says. “Showing things are still possible. The absurdity is still there.”