It’s all about the right horse, I was told by those who know best. And those who know best are, of course, those who ride all the time.
So why would I doubt them?
After all, they are regular riders who know horses well and are, I was told, the people one should ask for advice when embarking on a riding adventure.
Except, precisely Because they are riding fit and do so all the time, perhaps they are Not the people to ask?
What do I know? I set off to the gym confidently believing if I did the exercises (squats, sit ups etc) as prescribed, for a few months, I would be fine, as it all depended on having the right horse 😳
So there I was, with dire warnings from many friends about the madness of this adventure; the pain I was going to feel in unmentionable parts of my body, the risk I was taking, still ringing in my ears. My stomach slightly knotted as my brain tried to convince my body that those that Know, say I’ll be fine, it’s all about the right horse.
So I waited for Howard from African Horse Co to arrive at our meeting place, Farm 215. at the designated time of 10am having overlooked of course that the riding world runs to its own clock – dictated by where the horses wandered off to graze; how the old car felt that morning (riding in my limited – very limited experience seems synonymous with old cars – the cost of the one mode of transport dictating the cost of the other 😜), which saddle was where etc.
And then suddenly, after hanging around for an hour or so, there I was being handed ‘my horse’ – Luke
Far from sitting down and gently talking me through the week’s plan with words of encouragement ( the picture I had created in my head 😂) with a question/answer type session. Breyten advised; “Howard said hi”, and “up you get!” Which of course I couldn’t do without a step ladder 😂😂
Luke was a large animal – the largest of the three horses – and I was the smallest, or perhaps shortest is more accurate, rider. Somehow that didn’t seem quite fair 😩.
Since there was no ladder, I needed a leg up; and that was the case every time I wanted to mount him, for the entire week! Alas? I never did get to master the art of lifting one leg as high as my shoulder, putting it into the stirrup while balancing on the other and then swinging myself into the saddle, all on one elegant motion 😂
Nonetheless before I knew it I was on the back of a large horse and off down the road to, well I wasn’t quite sure where.
Reminding myself I needn’t worry – it’s all about the right horse.
And of course it is. All about the right horse.
And the legs, and the thighs, and the back and even the feet (6 hours in stirrups and you find parts of your foot you didn’t know existed 😳)
But it is about the horse. And Luke was the kindest, most gentle soul and within half an hour I knew he would not surprise me, well not much anyway. After all he did bolt when the bus greeted him, and we shot into the bushes when the bushbuck shot out of the bushes, but as bolts go, they were gentle ones, even for me, a beginner.
His back was broad and comfortable. His walk was steady if a bit slow. I asked him to trot and he did, not reluctantly nor in mad haste. It felt like he was indulging me: you want to trot, okay we can trot. Oh, you prefer a canter, no problem, I don’t mind cantering.
When we were galloping and I could hear Sparky galloping up behind me, I prepared for Luke to increase his pace. He didn’t, he stayed reliably steady. A ‘man’ beating to his own drum.
He never embarrassed me by moving when I was trying to mount or dismount him, something I was most grateful for 😃 He waited kindly, nuzzled me when I stood close, shared my sandwiches and even, dare I say it looked pleased to see me each morning.
And at the end of 5 glorious days of riding I agreed that it’s all about the right horse.
Perhaps Howard was right when he said. “If you had to chose a husband, you would want one like Luke. Reliable, stable, predictable, trustworthy, safe”
Did hear a small voice somewhere whisper “and boring”.
I could not be sure.
There’s more to The Bush than the big five, or even the little five, or the birds, or the snakes.
The Bush is about the smell, the sound,the Feel.
In this instance, the wind, the rain.
First fierce and dominating so that speech is pointless as words are carried away with the hustle of the storm. Water cascading down, flooding every corner of the land and disappearing quickly into ground parched and thirsty to drink.
And then, spent, the heavens seem to rest and the rain falls gently, so gently my clothes don’t get wet yet I can see the drops still falling on the water hole.
On this day, most holy day of Good Friday it seems appropriate that the sky is black and angry and the storm rages down on us.
And it seems also appropriate that as I turn to look to my right, I see the light through the clouds, not yet shining, but with the look of a promise of what is to come; sun and renewed growth.
And the rainbow to remind me, on this holy day, most holy day of Good Friday; not of our covenant with Him, but His with us.
“When I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being.” (Gen 9)
A day of rambling out and about in Cape Town. Sundays are busy days on the glorious Cape Town roads so that driving alone, as I was, it was difficult to stop and take photos that do this magnificent city justice. You will just have to visit and see for yourself – this is just a ‘toe in the water’ so to speak
Steenberg winery where my lovely cousin’s equally lovely daughter recently married is the first farm (1682) developed in the Cape. So beautiful.
As if on cue.
As if to remind me how special.
As if to highlight what was.
The clouds have settled, the rain is streaming down, the shutters rattling and I can see absolutely nothing from my windows.
The lights are on, the chimney whistling, my hair washed (and smelling of roses and geraniums the bottle tells me), a hot coffee getting cold alongside me as I sit on my bed contemplating the amazing five days I have just had.
It all began with Kate Pilcher and her http://www.globetrotting.com.au. Or perhaps with something even older, a primeval horse-man thing stirring within and disturbed again by her.
Either way, at 63, with no more than ten horse rides on my life, I bite the bait 😂😂😂
And swallowed hook, line and sinker.
I did some sit ups (clearly not enough) some squats (clearly enough), borrowed riding gear, found some Dutch courage, a sense of humour, and have lived to tell the tale.
Every day we breathe has the potential to be an adventure, at home with the dog or across a continent with a horse and new friends.
So crazy as the idea was, and against sound advice and my own ‘adult voice’ I took the plunge
No regrets :
I have seen the sky filled with light from a million stars;
I have seen the moon appear like a silver sliver over the mountains;
I have felt the thrill of half a tonne of animal galloping beneath me on a beach, alone, with only the gulls, waves, sand, sun and a solitary seal as witness;
I have felt the pain of a body used;
I have marvelled at the skill and strength of those gone before whose only means of transport was horse;
I have witnessed beauty that no iPhone can do justice to.
As I savour the solitude of Farm 215 and Bruce’s amazing food for the last time, I give thanks, I know I have been fortunate
I did a short ride today, almost too short. But then again not.
It is a grey day today
The clouds blanket the sky so the mountains look somber, the grass ‘quiet’, sounds muted, birds more still, butterflies absent.
Our ride is appropriate.
Inland, along farm roads, between fields where sheep have their heads down, barely visible above the grass, where cattle lie or graze dulled by the absence of sun on their flanks.
We warm up walking easily, Willow with a little more pace than Luke that makes for a more comfortable walk. Past springbok, dark and light, young ones too, mixing with hundreds of Guinea fowl.
We trot and all is well. We canter and I debate whether the desire to canter outweighs the pain in the back ( strange that, not the but 😂).
I hear my mother; leave something on the table. Quit while you ahead!
So we trot and walk for a few hours leaving cantering as a memory and a hope for future times.
We pass through groves of gum trees (go figure 😜) which on this gray day make sounds that mimic the sea when it’s grumpy as the wind moves through them.
I watch a Bataleur roll above us, powerful in his world. Keeping pace with our trotting, rolling , dipping, disappearing.
A car stops to let us pass and I see a little girl, dummy in her mouth, on her fathers lap, to get a better view of us through the open window – eyes like saucers. Fascinated? Scared? Who knows, perhaps a seed is sown to follow in our footsteps one day
A special way to end 5 days of riding through some of the most exquisite scenery surely God ever created.
Today we went for a ride of a different sort.
A white contraption; I would like to say it was a car, except that it lacked most of what we today consider normal in a car, namely windows that open and close when we chose; similarly with the four doors, a boot that has a handle to open it with and side mirrors that one can see in.
But I complain not : it had four wheels instead of legs, a steering wheel instead of a bridle and an engine that was filled by a kindly petrol attendant and not by us carrying bales of hay!!!!
(And I later learned 400 000 km on the clock – hey who’s complaining 😂🚑🚗)
Oh did I mention that unlike Luke who could be persuaded to reverse (admittedly it took some real persuasion) on the odd occasion, our white contraption could under no circumstances be persuaded to reverse😳
Leaving Luke, Patches and Sparky in the care of others we, or at least I dragged my weary body into that contraption 😂
A British military ship, one of first iron hulled ships, arriving in eastern cape for 1852 Xhosa wars ran aground here. It was a perfectly calm night when it struck an uncharted rock miles off shore. In 20 minutes the ship sank. All women and children were saved, all soldiers and sailors were lost. It is unknown how many horses died, 5 made it to shore.
193 survivors, 432 soldiers and sailors drowned.
There are 46 lighthouses round the South African coast, every one with a different signal. Danger Point’s signal is three flashes, 40 second pauses, three flashes. This continues from sunset to sundown every day. Still today in the age of technology !
Our lighthouse man also told us that last year they saw 60 pairs of whales compared to the year before when they saw 200. “Ek weet nie, dis hierie (sic) climate storie”
(I don’t know it’s this climate story)
Our contraption then took us to Gansbaai where we parked at the beginning of what was listed as an easy beach walk to De Kelder.
Parked is perhaps an over optimistic description of what we did, keeping in mind we had to be able to drive off again without using reverse.
We left her boldly pointing forwards, windows open, all our riding gear and ‘stuff’ inside challenging the world to come to her and help themselves 😂😂😂
What to do- we could not put our lives on hold because our car was unlockable. So we left, trusting that our riding gear which now almost had a life of its own, so full of sweat, salt and dirt as it was would lose appeal to any passer by and they would miss the rest of the luggage hidden under a blanket😊
Or better still not even give her a second glance as she looked as though nothing of value to anyone could exist in such a rusted contraption!!!
Benchmarks, life is all about knowing the benchmarks (see my blog – the Ik 😂) so when we read
I quote :
Start: Gansbaai harbour
Finish: Klipgat caves, De Kelders
Duration: 7 km, around 4 hours
Fitness: easy, children can do this trail
I was confident. In my head an easy seven km beach walk suits a plump person in sandals. Well I am old and perhaps not slim but not as plump as I was thinking of when I mentioned a plump person and I certainly was not wearing sandals.
Rather I was wearing very sensible walking shoes.
We sat on the deck watching the fog come in and blanket the coastline.
I know, I know, not very romantic. But I have had enough adventures for one week and as good a story (perhaps even a romantic one) disappearing into the sea cause we missed the green markers in the fog, may have been, we decided to disappoint 😜
And of course our white steed was still waiting, as intact as she had been when we left her. Ready to take us back to our Klein Paradijs (little paradise) for the night
A drive past Pearly Beach in the cloudy evening was rewarded by watching a family fishing together – a past time as old as time itself
I settled for an Easter egg for Julia
1. Why Gansbaai ( as opposed to some other baai)?
2. Why is baleen whale called southern right whale?
PPS trivia answer;
1. Resident Egyptian geese found there when settlers first arrived – cannot find out what happened to them 😢
2. Was called the right whale by early whalers because it was slow enough for them to catch with their boats: couldn’t dive deeply: light enough to float once killed and had high yields of oil and baleen.