Dogged: How Adeline Hallot Crossed the Pyrenees With Two Dogs, a Cart and a Cat: Part 1/2
Adeline Hallot lives in France. She owned two dogs, a cat, an old van and had always wanted to go to Spain. Then her van broke down. “I could have fixed my van but it was going to be too expensive,” she said. “So I sold everything I had, loaded my cart and started walking. I only got two kilometers the first day and couldn’t walk any farther.”
Read on for Adeline’s story.
Click on the audio player to hear Adeline tell her story (Bernie Harberts recording)
How We Met Adeline
We first heard of Adeline a few years before as she was traveling from France to Spain with her dogs, horses and cat. She was posting about her trip on social media and we thought what she was doing was great. Julia and Adeline became pen pals and this week, we visited Adeline while we were visiting my brother who lives in France.
Adeline told us all about her voyage, and we also got a chance to meet the animals Adeline traveled through France and Spain with.
(Note: Adeline posted as Olsey Leine on social media during her voyage. This post is based on notes, audio recordings and recollections of Julia’s and my time with Adeline).
Julia, Adeline and I ended up talking for hours about her trip. I was so interested in what she told us that I thought I’d write it up for you. We talked about so much I’ve broken her story into two pieces, the first of which I’m posting now and the second which I’ll post in a few days. The posts are:
- Part 1: Dogged (this post about how Adeline started her voyage)
- Part 2: How Adeline Hallot Went From Cart Traveler to Horse Traveler (which you can read here)
Adeline says the original plan for her trip was simple. “My goal was to start a journey, and follow whatever feeling I had. I could stop when I thought it was time to stop.” Instead of spending years preparing for her trip, she sort of fell into it.
Before Adeline took her walking trip, she was battling the effects of Lyme’s disease, suffered from sciatica, and had no energy. She had given up her apartment two years before, and was living in her van, traveling around Europe with her two dogs and her cat. One day, she went to visit her friends in her van.
“It was an old van,” she says, “and the highway to get there was steep. At some point, the van had trouble and I ended going 30 kilometers per hour on the highway, where the speed limit was 130 kilometers per hour. I had in mind I wanted to start a slow travel, but this was still too fast!”
“I Might as Well Go Now.”
The brakes of the van broke. She made it to her friends’ place, and brought her van to a mechanic. He told her the repair would take weeks and cost more money than she had. “I always wanted to go to Spain to recover my health,” she says. “And I thought, ‘I might as well go now.'” So she got rid of most of her belongings, acquired a cart and some camping gear and hit the road.
Here traveling companions were her border collie Dazou, her wolf dog Aiyana and her Bengal cat Effie.
Adeline estimates she started out with about 50 kilos (over 100 pounds) of gear on her cart. Much of that was food. “I needed to carry enough food for my animals and me because I was going to travel in places where there wouldn’t be stores,” she says. “That meant I needed to carry two weeks’ worth of food with me.” The cart attached to a harness she wore around her waist, which helped her pull the heavy load.
Adeline started her voyage in Saint-Pal-de-Mons, in central France. It was September and she was thinking about walking into winter. She wasn’t sure where she was going aside from “toward Spain”. She didn’t have much money. The cart was so heavy, it got hung up on rocks no larger than apples. “I wanted to go 2,000 kilometers to Spain,” she says. “But I couldn’t even go more than one kilometer because my cart kept getting stuck on rocks.”
None of that mattered to Adeline. All she could think was, “Okay, I’m walking now.”
On the Road
“I carried my cat in my backpack,” she says, “and only pulled my cart two kilometers the first day. I woke up the next morning and I was a little sore but I could move much better than the day before.” Being able to move again is a point Adeline wants to emphasize. “That was the craziest magical thing about starting up. I went from from getting struck by sciatica to muscle sore from walking. But I was moving fine!”
“The next day,” she says, “I pulled my cart four kilometers, and the first week I went 50 kilometers.”
Her cart was too heavy, though, so she started getting rid of stuff. “The dog cage,” she says, “was the first thing to go.”
“My dog Aiyana was young,” she says, “so I’d brought a mesh cage along for her. It only weighed about two kilos. I remember struggling to pull my cart up a steep hill and I was like, ‘I need to get rid of this cage right now'” So I left the cage on the side of the trail with a note that said, ‘I’m up for adoption. You can take me.'”
Adeline kept going and gradually settled into a schedule. “I walked about three hours per day. So it would be 15 kilometers a day, more or less.” Still, life on the road with a cart, two dogs and a cat took getting used to.
“Everybody looks at you,” she said. “You’ve read about people traveling like this in books and on the internet, but when you look around, nobody else is doing it. And that makes you feel alone, when everyone looks at you.”
September turned to October. “I just wanted to go to Spain because it was about to be winter time. It seemed like a good idea to go to Spain because I imagined it would be sunny and warm. So I picked a trail called the GR7 and just started following that.”
“Where Are You Going?”
Adeline followed trails and roads through southern France toward the Pyrenees Mountains, which she needed to cross to get to Spain. October turned to November. Spain was 1,000 kilometers from where she started. The weather got colder. Instead of sunny, warmer weather, she ran into lots of rain.
She says, “People would ask me, ‘What are you doing? When did you start? Where are you going?’ At the beginning, they laughed at me like they were thinking, “You are never gonna get to Spain! That’s still a thousand kilometers away and you’ll be lucky to get there by next June!”
Adeline kept walking. As she got closer to Spain, people became impressed at how far she’d come, not how far she still needed to go. “When I told them how far I’d come,” she says, “they started to say, “Oh wow, you’ve done all of that!”
Adeline says, “A regular hiker can hike 20 or 30 kilometers a day. You can’t go that fast when you’re pulling a cart and leading two dogs and carrying a cat, so I was only doing 10 to 15.” Adeline says the slow pace was more from struggling to pull the cart than the dogs and cat.”
“I didn’t want to do more than that. I didn’t want to get completely exhausted. My goal was not to impress other people with what I did today or how fast I did the trail. I wanted my trip to last for a long time. So my strategy was to go slow and enjoy the trip instead of just rushing.”
At one point, she met a man from the Netherlands. “He was hiking and had walked 800 kilometers in just a few weeks. He was walking really fast and I was walking really slow because I was pulling my cart. I asked him why he was in such a rush and he said he saw his hike as a challenge.”
“He told me he woke up at 5:00 am and by 6:00 am he was walking. I told him, ‘No, at 5:00 am, I’m sleeping. At 8:am I’m waking up and I’m having a coffee. And then at midday I’m starting to walk. And then, at 3:00 pm, I’m camping!'”
“He kept going and we kept in contact. Three weeks after we met, he had finished the trail, and I was still walking almost in the same place.”
Don’t be Afraid
People asked Adeline the same kinds of questions they ask most solo animals travelers. “They asked me, “Where did you start from? Where are you going? Why are you doing this?’ But the thing they asked me most was, ‘Aren’t you afraid of other people? Aren’t you afraid of people attacking you or stealing from you?'”
“Or other people would say, ‘I would be scared of being alone in the woods or to get bored.’ And some people would say, ‘I would be afraid that when I come back to the society, I wouldn’t have a career anymore. Or I couldn’t find a job.”
Adeline says she was afraid on her trip. But it wasn’t about being alone or being attacked. “The thing I was afraid of the most was one of my animals getting hit by a car,” she says. That’s why she stuck to trails and back county as much as possible.
As Adeline walked toward Spain, she was dreaming of her next trip. “That would be a journey walking with a horse, maybe to Norway,” she says. “Or anywhere through some wilderness and mountains. That was a childhood dream.” Adeline figured starting with this walking journey would actually be a preparation for doing it with a horse later on. She started reading books about Long Riders (a Long Rider is a person that has completed a continuous saddle journey of over 1,000 miles). She also began studying up on horse breeds that would suit that dream.
“I wanted to find the perfect kind of horse for my future journey,” she says. “Something surefooted that can walk on rocks and live outdoors in cold temperatures. I didn’t need a big tall, horse. I wanted something small and agile that could walk on the trails.”
Adeline settled on a type of horse she liked, a Russian breed called a Karbardin. She did some more research and found a breeder that was selling one of these horses. The breeder and his wife were Long Riders, having taken long journeys with horses in the past. Adeline was not planning on buying a horse yet, but fell in love with one of the horses the breeder had.
“I started to dream at night about horses,” she says. “And in one of my dreams, the horses told me I needed to call these people. The horses said, “‘just call. It’s easy. Just do it.'”
A Horse Named Gezi
Adeline contacted the breeder with the horse that had caught her eye. The breeder said the horse was young but it would make a good traveling horse for Adeline, so she decided to go meet the breeder and the special horse.
Traveling by cart with two dogs and a cat make spontaneous road trips hard, but Adeline found a ride for her cart and menagerie and visited the breeder. In the end, Adeline bought the horse for 2,000 euros, which was all the money she had.
The horse joined Adeline and her dogs and cat on their walking journey. Because the horse was still young, Adeline didn’t make her carry anything. Adeline says, “She just walked with the rest of the team.” Together, Adeline’s growing troupe continued heading south toward Spain.
“It was like magic,” Adeline says. “I didn’t have a horse and I wanted one. Then, when the time was right, I ended up with one.”
The horse’s name was Gezi, and she would accompany Adeline for the rest of her voyage.
Adeline finally reached the Pyrenees Mountains. Winter weather was setting in. Because she’d made a detour to buy a horse, she wasn’t on the Mediterranean side of the mountain range, where it would have been warmer. Instead, she found herself on the Atlantic side of the Pyrenees, which are much colder and wetter.
“The cart kept turning over on the trail,” she says. “Because it was attached to my waist by a strap, every time it turned over, it hurt my back. Finally, one day, it turned over and one of the wheels broke. There was no way I could go on so I had to stop and try to fix it. I didn’t have any tools but luckily I was close to a village where I could get some help.”
Adeline set up camp in a field outside Sangüesa and found someone to help her fix her cart. The winter weather got worse. Adeline says, “It never stopped raining and snowing which made the whole thing very difficult. I had to go to see an osteopath to try to heal my sciatica that got very painful again because of those conditions. I had to figure out how I could keep traveling aside from pulling my cart. That was killing my health and making my life on the trail way too hard, and I knew I wasn’t going to last much longer.”
Where is Sunny Spain?
It wasn’t an easy start. Adeline says, “My first night on the road with Gezi, I woke up and it was raining and snowing. I ended up crying inside my soaked and freezing tent that night.”
She and her dogs, cat and horse forged ahead into the wintry weather. “It contrasted with the beauty of the scenery,” she says. “But I was fed up with fighting the rain, mud, cold, snow every single day since the first day I set off with Gezi. I kept thinking, ‘Where is sunny Spain?'”
Next: Part 2 of Adeline’s Story
This brings us to the end of Part One of Adeline’s journey. In the next installment, Part Two, I’ll tell you what happened to Adeline’s cart and how she went from being a cart traveler to an equestrian traveler.
“How Do You Tie Your Horses?”: Listen to Adeline Describe her Voyage
I recorded my conversation with Adeline. If you enjoyed reading about what we talking about, I think you’ll love Adeline describing her voyage in her own words. Just click on the audio player below for a listen.
0:00: How do you tie your horses?
3:00: Crowdfunding a pack saddle
10:00: Slow travel
11:40 Van brakes die and Adeline decides to take trip
17:00: Getting a pull cart
22:30: “It’s been an hour and I’ve walked one kilometer!”
23:28: Adeline introduces her animals
26:00: Throwing out the dog cage
28:00 Two days’ worth of dog food
29:40: Deciding to walk to Spain
32:30: “My goal was not to impress other people.”
33:00: The man from the Netherlands in a hurry
35:00: The 3 questions people ask
37:20: After pulling a cart 500 kilometers
37:50: Learning about Karbardin horses
39:00: Finding a horse
45:00: Looking at a horse 500 km away
46:39: How Adeline came up w with her social media name Olsey Leine
48:00 Adeline’s advice to anyone who wanted to set off on a trip
51:32 Adeline shows us where she got Qezi the horse
54:17: how to pull a cart up a road while leading a horse and two dogs.
60:00: when can a young horse start carrying a load?
1:00:39: Setting off with a horse into the Pyrenees in winter
1:05:00: “a time of trouble”: the cart breaks a wheel
1:07:30: Asking for help in Spain without knowing Spanish
1:14:32: The winter rain in Spain
1:16:45: I can’t keep going with this trolley
How This Recording Was Made
I made this recording while Julia, Adeline and I were eating breakfast on Adeline’s porch. This recording contains all the things we talked about that didn’t make this blog post. One of the things I love about this recording is how it starts. AdeIine asks me, “So how do you tie your horses?” and then the conversation unfolds over breakfast. This makes for a lovely conversational tone that really captures Adeline’s spirit.
The clanking sound you hear during the recording is our spoons clanking in our bowls as we eat rolled oats. The slicing sound is us cutting up apples.
More Long Distance Equine Travelers
If you enjoyed reading about Adeline’s voyage, I think you’ll enjoy the following interviews I’ve done with long distance travelers:
- Filipe Masetti Leiti (rode across North and South America)
- Missy Priblo Chapman discusses her book “Distant Skies”
Follow Adeline’s Journey
Adeline is currently living in central France studying agroforestry, building a cabin, and planting a food forest. She plans to give tours on edible weeds. Follow her here:
Get A Free Copy of my Photo Book “19 Million Mule Steps”
I’d love to give you a free copy of my new 134-page photo book “19 Million Mule Steps”. The book is about my 7 month, 2,300 mile Long Ride from North Carolina to Idaho with my mules Brick and Cracker.