After what you study in school, you would think the world has caught up with evolution. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not always true.
Seriously, after reading about bleeding stones, unexplained facts, globalization-challenging villages, wild horse races and the Atlantis connection, where do you think the place I’m going to talk about is? You guessed it, Sardinia. More precisely, Parco della Giara, a wonderful plateau that originated 3000 years ago on top of two extinct volcanoes.
Here the only dwellers are wild animals, be them wild pigs, cows, birds, or horses. While all wildlife has more or less caught up adapting to natural changes, the horses have remained small as they were about 10.000 years ago. They are not ponies, they are normal horses, just smaller. Their elegance would make them a longed target for collectors and horse lovers, if they weren’t protected and so impossible to touch, feed or change in any way their living conditions.
They are wild and so they have to stay, they are helped with food only in case of a very bad drought that would undermine the growth of vegetation they need to survive.
Apart from these spectacular animals, Parco della Giara offers an extraordinary variety of plants, trees, flowers. Every season reveals itself under the form of different vegetation, different colors and different smells. Similarly, also visitors’ experiences vary. In spring we can see the horses grazing on a beautifully colorful sweep of flowers, in summer we can see them getting some fresh in the water, in winter it might snow and the white makes the view stunning, and in autumn sensual golden hues give the surrounding its inevitable romantic ambiance.
Since we went in summer, we were lucky enough to be granted with the sweet sight of these small horses cooling down in the lake, grazing some water vegetables and looking at each other. Although we were extra careful not to bother them, perhaps they noticed our presence all the same, in fact while we were about to leave, a small family of three, male, female and newborn came near, probably after wrangling with other members of the same herd. In fact, the stallion marked out its territory straight away placing its dung where they were supposed to stay.
Life is tough for horses in the wild, making them live for about twenty years. So the question is, if you were a horse, would you prefer to live free in the wild for twenty years, or inside a stable for forty? My guide, Roberto, native from Tuili, one of the villages bordering the park, maybe due to their inner free spirit, had no doubt: even though life conditions were harder, he would totally prefer to be free to run and enjoy nature in the plateau for half a lifetime than domestic horses.
Going to Parco della Giara makes you sense how it was living in the past, when shepherds used to spend the night in the countryside, used to make cheese, ham and other food in thatched huts and guard their sheep and cows from foxes and thieves. Maybe a not so remote past in Sardinia, where this was the lifestyle only forty years ago, perhaps harder than now, but also with a different relationship with nature.
As Roberto suggested that every season makes the park worth a visit in order to admire different aspects of it, this year I started ticking summer off the list and promised myself I must go back at least other three times to cover the whole year span.
I hope you will enjoy this small video I shot in the park to give an idea of the peace these unique horses live in.
Parco della Giara is surrounded by many villages, and a tour is available from more than one of them. I booked mine from Tuili, picturesque and traditional hamlet right on the valley looking at the plateau. My tour guide was Roberto, owner of Jara with his wife, with an amazing knowledge about both the horses and the rest of the wildlife, plants, trees, flowers and purposes now and in the past in the plateau. Should I go back, I wouldn’t hesitate booking him again and I feel I can absolutely suggest him to whoever wants to go. His mobile number is +39 348 2924983, his email [email protected] and his website for more details is www.jara.it or www.parcodellagiara.it.