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Hardcover, 7.5 in. x 9 in.,
Over 100 illustrations, 65 in color.
Hidalgo is a great entertainment, but viewers should take the riding feats with a grain of salt. Get the real story on long-distance trekking in this astounding chronicle of a five-year, 22,000 mile ride by Elly and Nathan Foote.
I’m not sure what I expected when "Riding Into the Wind: On Horseback out of Patagonia, a Life Journey", finally worked its way to the top of my “to-read” list. A travel writer by profession, I did not expect a travel story so real that I could almost feel the dust gritting between my teeth.. As a lifelong horsewoman and animal lover, I did not expect a story so moving I would be wiping tears from my eyes.
There are two kinds of travel stories: those that make you want to get on a plane and go experience it for yourself, and those that make you feel as if you have, through a visceral connection to the writer, already experienced it. Riding Into the Wind is one of the latter. I have no desire to follow in the Footes’ footsteps, but I am grateful to them for giving me one helluva ride.
This book may not appeal to everyone. The story is often sad and frustrating. Animals die, people are rotten, and Mother Nature sucks. But there are also laugh-out-loud passages, wonderful people, beautiful places, and glorious triumphs of the human and animal spirit. If you’re a horse person and/or an adventurer and the first chapter doesn’t pull you in, check your pulse.
Okay, so what is this book that makes me sound like the Footes’ publicity agent? It’s 369 pages with a hardcover and end papers that make it look like a leather-bound journal of the type the Footes used to record their experiences. The book is illustrated with drawings by daughter Conchita Maria and photos.
The story is the saga of two independent young people who were destined, from birth, to be together. Elly grew up in Sweden with her mother, who moved from job to job. Elly moved from horse to horse, making four-footed friends while shying away from people - until she met Nathan. The son of a minister, Nathan was a star football player and student at St. Paul’s Academy, and comfortably carried a double major at Harvard until 1961, when he dropped out to go to Albert Schweitzer College in the Swiss Alps. Elly ended up in the same college.
Disillusioned by the Vietnam War and the assassinations of JFK and his brother Robert, the pair literally and figuratively burned their bridges to travel the world on horseback, squeezing the essence of life out of every single day. Their journey, often scribbled in journal pages by the light of a campfire, is not just a travel story; it is a poignant chronicle of life as seen through the eyes of two intelligent, introspective and socially conscious people very much in love with living and each other.
One reader called this a “Homeric” tale. I fervently agree. After working in the slums of Venezuela and living with gypsies in Spain, Elly and Nate set off from Patagonia with four Argentine Criollo horses and a dog named Chaco, aiming roughly for Alaska. Here a taste of the prose distilled from this journey:
What Readers Say
Found Treasure, March 12, 2006
Reviewer: Wynne (Norridgewock, ME USA)
I found this book by chance one day when casually meandering through reviews and links at Amazon. How strange to discover such a profoundly moving book in such a manner! It is easily one of the best books I've read in the past 10 years, yet I almost missed it entirely. My copy is now littered with "footprints" as I marked passage after passage of wisdom that the Foote's acquired and shared, such as this: "Years of travelling, always wary, taught us that all you control is your own reaction. And that is how you can control a situation." But the book shares much more than wisdom acquired on the trail. It also shares the pain and joy and intensity of an incredible journey.
Powerful, November 1, 2005
Reviewer: Valda Winsloe "Valda" (Ipswich, MA USA)
The sub-title of this book is 'On Horseback Out of Patagonia, A Life Journey.' The book chronicles the deeply personal and very unique life journey of Elly & Nathan Foote with four horses and a dog from the end of South America to Texas in the early nineteen seventies. Descriptions of people and places abound, but this is more than a travelogue; it is a story of overcoming obstacles and having the courage to open oneself to a world of new experiences, both very good and unthinkably bad. Take the opportunity to live this journey vicariously with Elly & Nathan, and share the thoughts and emotions that they had along the way. In the end, you may be glad that you played it safe and never undertook such a life changing journey of your own, or it may just make you wish that you had. Either way, your mind will be broadened by sharing their experiences, and you will be glad that you took the trip, if only by reading this book.
A "tail" for living, June 22, 2005
Reviewer: James H. Cox (Mansfield, OH USA)
At first glance, RITW might be considered a book about the incredible endurance of horses in extreme environments. Perhaps the casual reader will believe this book to be about 2 people out to "find" themselves. Recent dovotees of "Ecoquests" and endurance sports would no doubt find some connection to this tale. In my opinion the authors reach much deeper and explore fundamental life questions as much as provide rich description of some of the most challenging terrain on the planet. This book is no rehash of a diary. Nor is it a "travelouge" describing the really cool things to do during the day and the jacuzzi stops at night. Observe: Nathan and Elly's journey took place over 30 years ago - RITW was published in 2003! Life has continued for Nathan and Elly. This book was written certainly to entertain and astound but with wisdom that comes from much reflection and organization of thoughts. All of this, but I am fairly certain that any reader will cheer, imagine the bugs, smell the vegetation, cry at losses, "squoosh" in the mud, learn from the anguish and subsequent (though not necessarily inevitable) perserverence to recovery, dabble into the politics of the time, and complete the book fully satiated. Oh, and yes, this book most exquisitely and beautifully describes horses, horsemanship and the bond human beings can share with these marvelous creatures as well as our canine friends. Elly and Nathan didn't set out to set records or change the world (perhaps in retrospect!); but they did write a book of lessons all the more relevant in today's "snippet", get-it-done-fast society.
What a Great Read and Great Ride, April 14, 2004
Reviewer: A reader
As the author of the movies "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," and "Hidalgo," I have a passion for stories about unbroken spirit and the courage to follow one's dreams into uncharted terrain (not to mention stories about remarkable horses).
"Riding into the Wind," is such a book and more. Elly and Nathan Foote write with the same vision and conviction that they live their lives by, and they have that rare gift of transporting the reader onto the unbeaten path with them. It will inspire you to reexamine your life and reconnect with your dreams no matter how impossible the conformist world tells you they are.
"But the Patagonia never leaves you. It isn’t a place you understand. It is not a destination. You cannot conquer it. You can’t go there and take a tour for the experience."
"You want to do that, go to your closest IMAX theater and let them treat you to the current thrills and spills of vicarious living. It will be better than what any tour operator could offer you. Patagonia is about being out there without protection or guidance."
"You are alone in a landscape so vast that you go day after day and it does not change, and in that unchanging vastness you marvel how man found the spirit to live, facing the overwhelming evidence of his own smallness. Everything is drawn with such sparse strokes:"
"Plain, Sky, Wind."
"Day after day after day you ride, yearning for the moment when you reach the horizon where the plains end."
"And then, someday, when you are crowded in and suffocating, you close your eyes and you look into the never-ending horizon of the Patagonia and let the wind whip your face and the cold penetrate you and you let yourself imagine how it is to see a gaucho come towards you on the horizon and how it is to have the wind bring you the faint aroma of calafate burning and of ribs cooking and how it is to arrive to a shack tucked in a hollow and to know that you are welcome because you are human and there are so very few in this unforgiving land."
"Sixteen horseshoes on cobblestone, our castanets of ringing steel, play along the chalk shoulder of the Camino Real as we rise in graceful bolero and crest another rolling hill, we now see. On the empty flatlands of Matehuala stretching out below us, the old Camino Real makes one last wistful swirl, then surrenders herself to the monotony of Route 80. I feel ambushed. Inside me a voice like a slighted lover wails: betrayal! After leading us on, taking us along from ridge tops to arroyo shadows, all the way from Chiapas de Corso, how can you abandon us now to this black slash of a highway!"
"The hot silence of the plains throws the accusation back in my face: “Shame on you, gringo; you’re going home!” The words catch a hook at the end of the spinning lure: HOME."
"Three times I left. And for the third time now, I become a salmon
jumping sand bars to get back to the native pool. My eyes hopscotch
across the desert landscape, darting from one clump of mesquite to
another as I argue with the blacktop road, with myself. There is no place
back there; we cut all umbilicals."
Yes, why north? To find the answer, you’re going to have to read it yourself.
The Footes, who now live on a ranch in British Columbia, are working on a sequel to be published in 2005.
Reviewer Dale Leatherman is a travel writer specializing in golf, adventure and the Caribbean. She is the former features editor for POLO magazine, former senior editor at SPUR and former content director of EquiSearch.com. She is an editorial adviser to EquiSearch and contributes occasional reviews and travel articles.