TRAVEL CLINIC

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts, including a doctor and a lawyer
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I Want A Week

As A Cowboy

I'm Interested in a ranch holiday in the US but have heard that they're more like holiday camps and not really for serious riders.

Rachel Peterson

Stockport

Jill Crawshaw replies: It's certainly true that many so-called "dude ranches" ("dude" was the name given by mid-Westerners to visiting strangers) cater for an all-round holiday with activities such as tennis, nature walks, volley ball, swimming and all the fun of the fair, plus one or two hour-long trail rides each day. This type of ranch is usually called a guest ranch and will take children and every grade of rider.

As most riding is Western-style, with deep saddles and long stirrups, it is easier to learn than European-style riding. Many ranches in New York State and Florida are of this style.

Serious riders may find them frustrating: guests must stay in line and are not allowed to canter much less gallop (due largely to fears of hefty insurance claims) and, since trotting on a Western saddle is agonising, this means walking. Two Texan ranches which offer more serious riding are the Bald Eagle Ranch in Bandera and Twin Oak Ranch in Woodsboro.

The other type of ranches, usually working ranches, cater only for intermediate or experienced rider and, though meals are likely to be excellent (and vast), accommodation may be slightly more basic.

If you really want an experience out of a John Wayne movie and live like a cowboy on the range day and night, you could try the Dalton Range in Utah. The David Ranch at Daniel in Wyoming is another working ranch where you are expected to make yourself useful.

Ponderosa Ranch in Oregon, where you must be over 18, claims that after some time in the saddle alongside the locals "you'll leave like a cowboy". In Idaho, Granite Creek Ranch offers three-hour rides each morning and afternoon, between two and four cattle drives, and the usual trail rides and fishing.

The Horseshoe Ranch in Arizona discourages "city slickers" - guests don't know what they'll be doing each day, except that it will involve horses.

Guests staying at the Lonesome Spur Ranch at Bridger in Montana are invited to join in ranch chores.

A variation on the ranching holiday is to join a cattle drive, moving herds from winter to summer pastures, or round-ups when you camp each night and ride out in a different direction each day. The best of these are in Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. This year a new riding adventure that begins in Las Vegas offers several days riding followed by rafting on the Grand Canyon.

A typical price for a week's ranching or riding holiday with all meals, tuition, activities and flights is between pounds 900 and pounds 1,300; add another pounds 500 or so for an extra week.

Ranch America of 19A Village Way East, Rayners Lane, Harrow, Middx HA2 7LX (0181-868 2970) offers a large number of ranching holidays of all types.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

ARE BLOOD DONATIONS IN AFRICA SCREENED FOR HIV? WHAT IF I NEED A TRANSFUSION?

SOMEBODY told me that travellers in certain parts of Africa, such as Nigeria, should never accept blood transfusions in the event of a car accident, because blood donations are not screened for HIV. Is this true? Given that car accidents are frequent in Nigeria, how can I be absolutely safe from this risk?

Henry Wong

Birmingham

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: You are correct that quite a high proportion of blood available in developing countries is not properly screened for HIV. In addition there are other potential hazards from transfusions including hepatitis B and malaria. Of course in a life or death situation where a transfusion is required urgently, there may be little that can be done to find a safe source of blood. Outside of medical emergencies blood transfusions in such countries should be avoided.

If there is time then try to locate a source of screened blood with help from the local embassy; in most major cities such supplies are available.

Otherwise it is sometimes possible to receive plasma substitute while being airlifted to a Western hospital. These sorts of decisions can only be made by the medical workers dealing with the emergency. In any case, you should know your own blood group as embassies will sometimes carry lists of those willing to donate blood.

It may be a good idea to ensure that your insurance and medical assistance policy provides for air ambulance cover. As well as blood transfusions, almost any invasive procedure carried out in hospitals could present a hazard from contaminated equipment, which may be in short supply.

Sterile kits containing syringes, needles and suturing material are readily available through pharmacies and, although rarely used, do provide peace of mind. Some expeditions carry their own plasma substitute, although it is too bulky for the individual traveller.

Being aware as you are of the potential dangers on the roads will cut down the risk of an accident. If you are likely to be away for some time and the chance of needing hospital treatment increases, it may be worth considering a hepatitis B vaccination, which is not routinely offered to tourists in the UK.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8; Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

FROM DOWN UNDER TO SPAIN: GET A VISA

MY WIFE is an Australian citizen holding an Australian passport. She has British residence, and visas for France and the USA. We are hoping to book a holiday in Spain but need to know if she also needs a visa to visit Spain.

Eric Kay

York

The Travel Editor replies: Yes, your wife will need a visa to enter Spain. The Spanish consulate is at 20 Draycott Place, London SW3 2RZ, and its fax number is 0171-581 7888. If you cannot apply in person, you should send a sae to this address for application forms and details of how to apply. Do this some weeks ahead of your trip to be on the safe side.

For the latest information, you can also try the irritatingly slow and complicated 24-hour advice line on 0891 600123.

To make things easier, note that Spain is party to the Schengen agreement (along with the Benelux countries, France, Germany and Portugal), so a valid visa for any one of these countries can be used to enter the others. If you are driving through France to get to Spain you will need only one visa (obtainable from either Spanish or French consulates, though the Spanish is faster and more efficient).

ACROSS CANADA BY CH00-CH00

Is it possible to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific across Canada by train?

Georgia Myers

Lindfield, West Sussex

The Travel Editor replies: It is certainly possible, though there does not appear to be any direct coast-to-coast service at present. Starting at the Pacific side, you should take the three-day train journey from Vancouver to Toronto; departing Vancouver at 7am, this reaches Toronto at 5.50am on the fourth day. From Toronto to the Atlantic Ocean, you need to travel first to Montreal (about four hours), and then on the rather slow train to the coastal city of Halifax (another 20 hours).

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