If you have heard of Chloe Phillips-Harris, it has probably been in conjunction with a seemingly far fetched head line such as ‘woman snow boards across Gobi desert behind a camel’ or ‘kiwi traveller detained in Kazakhstan as "NZ is not a real country"'. Far fetched as it may seem, Chloe is as much of an adventurer as the headlines suggest.
Her recent autobiography ‘Fearless’ is her story, a gripping narrative of a determined young woman pursuing the most audacious of dreams. Raised by her solo mother on a rundown farm in New Zealand, Chloe’s upbringing wasn’t the most advantageous. She was fortunate however that her greatest love, horses, were a constant presence from the early years of her life. The descriptions she has of her first equestrian experiences are wonderful to read. From cheeky ponies, to unpredictable horses, Chloe put the hard yards into understanding and training every one. These experiences led to her adopting and successfully training wild Kaimanawa horses at the age of just 22, despite endless horror stories and warnings not to do so.
In 2013 Chloe ran the race of her life, the mongol derby, an 1000 km race across the wild landscape of Mongolia. Half of the contestants usually drop out before the end of the race but Chloe clung on despite illness, severe fatigue, searing pain and a climate that could change from burning heat to torrential rain within a matter of minutes.
Endless hours of work, patience, and planning clearly lay behind Chloe’s every achievement, along with huge amounts of commitment and determination "I kept running and kept training, trying to fit everything around my busy schedule. I was always tired, and always trying to find the money to keep making this crazy goal happen... for me horse riding was boom or bust. You balanced everything so carefully, then a big horse sale would come along and you'd pay off all your debts; then save money and watch your spending until the next horse sale came along..."
She credits her stamina to her parents, an adventurer and a doctor who met during an epic shipping adventure. The trip almost took her mother’s life with Chloe's father quite literally sailing to the rescue.
Chloe’s interest in other cultures and ways of life also add a fascinating element to her narrative. From her isolated upbringing in Northland, to the steppes of Mongolia, Chloe brings to life her surroundings and experiences. She has been a veterinarian in Egypt during the Arab Spring, travelled to Fiji and India working for horse welfare, and even set up a beef farm in the Kazakhstan mountains. She makes it clear that it is the people as much as the animals that inspire her to travel and learn more: "I learned how much I also liked hearing people's stories. It was fascinating: their political views, stories and the choices they made gave you a whole new perspective on every issue... I wanted to learn more about everything".
Chloe’s autobiography is a gripping read, at once an inspiring story of human endurance, and a rollicking great real life adventure. Not even Chloe it appears knows exactly what comes next, but you can be sure it will be intrepid, inspiring, and an epic headline.
by Chloe Phillips-Harris
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand