A Hammam

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.   

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And so it was that I found myself in Morocco riding a Barb/Arab horse in the Sahara Desert, camping and ‘making like the locals’ for 6 nights and 7 days.  No, let me rephrase that – the locals do not  by choice do what we did; only mad dogs and Englishmen (or similar) go out in the midday sun, let alone in the desert, on the back of a horse 🙃.    Our mob definitely fitted the mould of (or similar) 🐎🙄

And that ride was in itself a remarkable experience

but not the topic for today 🙂

Rather, I want to share a different experience.   

And I use the word ‘different’ fully aware of the many meanings it can convey.

Throughout our time in Morocco we heard tales of how wonderful a Hammam was.

So what was this?

The word is derived from the Arabic meaning ‘bath’ – delve further into the history and ‘communal’ appears 😉.

Moroccans along the way gave us varied descriptions but essentially

“You will LOVE it.   You lie on hot stones, you get wrapped in a clay/mud mask and rest and then you are massaged with oils and your hair is washed and you feel SOOO good and rested.  It is amazing.” 

Or words to that effect. 

While ‘Google’,  describes it as follows.

“A hammam is a traditional cleansing and beauty ritual.

At the heart of the Spa, an authentic hammam provides guests with a signature bathing ritual that combines heat, fragranced steam, warm water, ‘marocMaroc’ hammam products and a cold plunge pool to revitalise the body and soul.”

A Hammam

It is important to understand that we had been in the saddle,

in the desert for 7 days

with only one brief shower during that entire time.   

And while we were exhilarated by That adventure,

we were also dusty and saddle weary by the time we found ourselves back in Zagora.   

So when our inimitable guide,

whose name I have forgotten, but whose smile I will not, 

(it was a little too welcoming, a little too joyous, a little too jolly

and clearly as we were about to learn he was a lot smarter than we were)

suggested a Hammam, well we positively leapt at the opportunity.

Wouldn’t you?

IMAGES LOOMED……. 

And so it was that with the anticipation of an hour or two

of quiet, tranquil, relaxing, muscle soothing pampering,

the six of us women

(who were still to tackle the 8 hour road trip home over

on the the 10 most dangerous passes in the world the following day,)

jumped at the opportunity.

No warning bells sounded at the speed with which this was organised for so many of us all at the same time.

No unease appeared when we were quoted only MAD 100 each (less than A$20).

And still we were enthusiastic when we were told to hurry and come just as we were.

Because we knew all about the Hammams – Didn’t we?

We had heard about them for weeks.

And so we paid our smiling guide MAD 100 each

We Paid

and squeezed into a tiny vehicle to go to our Hammam.

We squeezed in and off we went 

Not directly though, as our driver managed to get lost;

but eventually, after several u-turns, mobile phone calls and general chaos we did arrive.

……….

At a most unprepossessing building with no signage to indicate this was anything at all – it may have been a factory, a closed shop except for the no windows. It could have been a disused warehouse, or in fact a deserted prison. It was not.

It was in fact, our Hammam.

Well therein lies the rub.

This Was Our Hammam.

It was also the Hammam used by Every woman

(and None of the tourists) in Zagora!!!!

Our smiling guide shoved us through the door before we had a chance to say anything. It closed behind us and …….

He was gone. We weren’t.

And then again we were.

Or at least for an instant it felt like we had gone,

we were not sure where,

but certainly we must have left our planet and …..

…….well each of us had our own picture of where we were now….

and it was nowhere any of us had ever even considered a reality.

However, this was VERY REAL.

We were in a small room with a line of low wooden benches along 3 walls. The 4th wall had a high counter in front of it on which two women leaned; watching us. They were clothed from head to, I presume toe (I couldn’t see behind the counter) while the women, old and young seated on the benches were either naked, or in the process of becoming so. Quite happily it would appear.

And it was SO noisy.

That I think was the first thing to register in my mind after the first 3 or 4 seconds of blind shock!!! There were the voices, all raised, laughing, talking, shouting across at one another. There was a sound of water and steam and it all bounced off the tiled walls and floor so that one decibel instantly became five

And 6 Anglo tourists ranging in age from 65+ to 26+ stood amongst the Arab women, like rabbits caught in a hunter’s headlight.

Although, of course, no one was ‘hunting us’ (or perhaps our guide already had as turned out the locals paid less than MAD10 each for this adventure, we had paid 10 times that 😂

There was not much to be done now except ‘go forward bravely’ because, to quote Macbeth, to go back were as difficult as to go ….etc.

Breathing deeply, I decided to ‘go forth’ and slowly took my sweaty, (very sweaty, 7 day old riding shirt) off my equally sweaty body and stood there.

Waiting.

I am not sure what for but after a few seconds of standing there feeling very foolish, I removed my bra.

And rather like a reluctant strip tease dancer I slowly and very carefully took off my boots and socks (the tiles were damp and slippery), and then hesitantly my riding pants.

I was now as good as naked, my arms piled high with dirty clothes and heavy riding boots which I handed to one of the ladies behind the counter, along with my handbag.

In ‘our’ world, you would have received a receipt for these goods – not here. They just disappeared behind the counter somewhere and I wondered if they would ever reappear.

So I stood, on a wet, clammy tiled floor, stark naked apart from a tiny pair of lacy knickers which did nothing to ease my sense of exposure and vulnerability when the lady behind the counter indicated I should hand over my glasses. I refused as politely as I could under the circumstances. I felt vulnerable enough without losing my sight as well 😐

For a brief second in the chaos of emotions I was experiencing I was reminded of another time and different showers and the loss of identity. It took a strong ‘self talk second’ to get things into perspective.

My friends were on their own journey of ‘exposure’ so to speak until finally there were 6 very white bodies clad only in knickers (and my pair of glasses) standing sheepishly in what I shall call the ‘reception’ room.

The craziness of the whole thing struck some of us then and we could laugh at ourselves. Nervous laughter, perhaps, but still a laugh as we looked around at the equally naked women watching us and going about their business with No sense of unease, despite their nudity.

And their business was?

Well having their weekly Hammam of course.

Dressing, or undressing in this room

and then walking naked into the next room while carrying their basket of “cleaning materials”.

All the while talking loudly and laughing and thoroughly enjoying their time here. This is their weekly gathering place, a chance to say hi, to catch up on gossip, share recipes, joys, sorrows, to look for prospective daughter in laws (all 10 fingers, child bearing hips.. you get the picture),

and savour the most precious commodity in that part of the world – water.

There were elderly weathered bodies, young lithe ones, children, babies in mother’s arms, teenage friends.

All naked, all comfortable and sitting around either on low wooden benches or on the tiled floor. Watching us as two very large, very black women, wearing ‘almost’ knickers, silver necklaces and nothing else appeared and ‘herded’ us from the reception room through a middle room into the last room and pointed to the floor against the wall.

(By this time my glasses had completely steamed up and I had no choice but to walk back to the ‘reception’ and hand them over – not knowing if I would ever see them again, or I guess, whether I would ever see again full stop. (My spare pair was far away in a bag in what seemed like another planet at that moment in time.)

Back though, to the floor against the back wall where we now all sat, facing into that room and beyond that into the middle room.

Ah, if that was all we were doing – facing.

But not so.

We were facing and looking directly at pendulous breasts and huge thighs occupying low benches along the walls, all at eye level. And it didn’t matter which way your eye went, there was another body or part of a body. 😂 The rooms were filled with bodies.

We watched arms, legs, thighs, all being massaged by either the owner of said limbs or in some instances by someone else.

And everywhere NOISE and heat and buckets of water into which ladles were dipped and water poured over bodies.

It is difficult to describe this place and how like ducks out of water we felt, even though we were actually in water.

Slippery water all over the floor which was diligently swept away by a naked lady with a large broom. She moved the water around and with it, mandarin peels, banana skins and you don’t really want to know what else.

The experience continued with our ‘black herders’ (for that is what they felt like to me, the lamb being herded) ladeling water over us, giving us slippery black soap to massage into our bodies (which we duly did). Surprising how submissive one becomes when out of one’s comfort zone, just following orders whether verbal or otherwise.

So there we were on the hard wet tiled floor (for some reason I was given a tatty piece of linoleum to sit on – go figure). Our two ‘ladies’ then came back and poured more water over us to rinse the soap off. With sign language we realised we were to lie down on our stomachs (on the hard wet tiled floor) while our bodies were subjected to a brief but very severe ‘massage’ with a loofah glove that had been who knows where 😫😅.

And Yup, you got it, we were turned over and the process was repeated on our other side, with equal vigour only now I was facing my ‘masseur’ and her very large free swinging bosoms which hovered before me so I dare not move for fear of making contact with one or both!!! 😳 That completed I saw Jo alongside me, with complicated sign language say, ‘yes please she would like her hair washed’ and ‘no she had no shampoo’.

No problem apparently, as our large lady simply poured water over her head from a bucket. I watched Jo splutter and spit like a child caught unawares under a shower, have her hair ruffled by said lady who poured more water over Jo’s head and hey presto –

Hair Washed.

I declined the hair wash

One more bucket of water over me, (and the others) cooler this time, and we were ‘free to go’.
Back the way we came –

through the middle room,

into the reception room –

not only naked (bar the skimpy knickers) but sopping wet too.

At this point we realised what the ladies had in their baskets apart from shampoo –

towels and dry clothes.

We had none of those and while our ‘used clothes’ along with handbags, boots and glasses were returned we struggled to get dressed on a sopping wet floor with now damp as well as dirty clothes, and of course in full view of our gallery of voyeurs.

But dress we did and with a HUGE sigh of relief

walked out of the front door.

Away from the heat, away from the noise, away from the complete strangeness of the local Hammam.

Some of us were still laughing at the craziness of this adventure, some were close to tears.

All of us needed a drink (or two or three) and so we crossed the road to a tea house and sat down with a deep inhalation of clean air.

While we may have wanted something stronger, no alcohol is served in Morocco (or at least that is the official position) and we settled for several cups of coffee while we discussed and digested our experience and waited for our guide to meet us again.

I go back to where this all started:

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.”

I was most certainly exposed 😜today – in more ways than one!

And yet, we all lived to tell the tale – and quite a tale it was.

Margaret River – Harmony

Nothing I have ever done prepared me for Globetrotting and Jesters Flat…….

Beautiful Perth.

My final few hours before returning to ‘the real world’

All to myself - time to reflect
as I walked along the banks of the Swan River

Enough time to marvel at what had happened over the past week at Jester’s Flat


Enough time to marvel at what happened when seven women, unknown to one another arrived in a place unknown to any of them, and challenged themselves to a completely new experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the 'gang'
doing ‘their thing’ at different parts of the week.

And what happened was that I found, in that a week a glimpse

of His creation in all its glory.

Miles of beautiful fields, grass bending in the breeze
Miles of manicured vineyards; shade and light playing with the colours on display as the wild flowers showed off their extravagance

Birds of remarkable colour and sounds more varied and sweeter than any music created by man.
Grasses, flowers, trees of every shape and hue –  so many variations of blue, baby blue, dusky blue, egg shell blue, blue blue light blue; as many pinks as there are adjectives;  every variation of white imaginable and then the yellows, oranges, purples, mauves, reds and every shade of green.  Some tiny delicate plants last but a few hours and are as small as a finger nail, some stand bold and strong for hundreds of years, each a miracle of design and detail.

Only with His palette on His canvas, can these colours work so beautifully

and not jar the eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 800 years old, this tree is

Forest of intrigue filled with mystery and bird song

Whites whiter than white, pinks, blues, details

The sun played with us

with light and reflections....

adding to the joy of 'bush walking'

I found a sky that brooded over us, kept us jacketed but honoured us all the same by not wetting us.
A sun that teased us, warming us intermittently and unexpectedly filtering through the forest or lighting up the fields and fields of yellow daisies, until finally it exposed itself totally to reveal a sky of such blue blue our eyes were opened to a world of promise; shining new growth on the trees, shimmering in the light, red clover stark and strong alongside the vines which ran so straight and neat beside us.
Kangaroos by the score looking at us as we looked at them, scampering away, with their young sometimes peeping at us from a snug pouch and at other times hopping alongside their mothers. Was there ever a stranger creature?
Cows always curious running up to stare at us, eyes luminous and vacant at the same time.
Sheep taking no notice of us at all.
All though, taking notice of the season, and dropping young as Spring arrives with That promise of new life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance.....

that time of year.....

Rosie, the family 'pet' for whom....

dried noodles were as appetising as new foliage :)

And of course I found the horses.

The reason we were all here.

These four legged creatures;  as strong as an ox and as gentle as a baby, as wild as it’s possible to be and then again as submissive, as yielding as gentle as imaginable.

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There is nothing in the world quite like sitting astride a horse which weighs hundreds of kilos, and working with it to move, stop, walk, trot, canter, turn on a dime all with subtle body movements and a tiny metal piece in its mouth.   Having said that, they can be capricious and unpredictable, kicking and pulling for no reason and then again be kind and loving and snuggle you for no reason too (or perhaps it can smell that Apple 😜)

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And all the while seven women share their stories, their dreams, their fears.

They offer encouragement, a helping hand, a laugh, a glass of wine, a smile.

They stretch themselves doing things never done before (like trying to play polocrosse 😂😂😂)

They bond through a common love of horses and all that they experienced Through that love, in that place.

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And for one week His plan for creation shone; people and nature worked together in perfect harmony. Each leaving with a sense of being part of ‘what’s possible’ ; linked forever through Globetrotting.com.au and Jesters Flat – a very special time

Me and my special George

The “Mob” – if we weren’t eating……

We were probably riding 🙂

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Or resting

 

 

 

 

 

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The local Polocrosse team – yes, we did – or at least tried to play 🙂 

He kept us company and amused throughout the day

 

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An amazing morning

 

as we learnt SO much

about this amazing land

and how it is possible to

live united to and with it, in complete harmony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Essence of our week                                                                                                                      Tranquility, harmony, beauty, nature, breathing, joy, serenity                                                              Such a special time

Day 4: An easy walk 😜??

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 😂


We drove to Danger Point just in time to see the fog rolling in. We chatted to the lighthouse manager, and read the story again of the Birkenhead which I vaguely remembered from schøol.

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

Unquote

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 did not find this an easy walk 😳. It was a walk, following green painted signs, rocks, bricks, up and down a narrow path until we finally arrived at our target destination, de Kelders.

We sat on the deck watching the fog come in and blanket the coastline.


Wisdom prevailed and we walked back to Gansbaai along the main road.

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 😜


A very late lunch in Gansbaai made up for the trudge back.


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


And a visit to the shop local shop where I could have bought anything my heart desired, from food, clothes, furniture, books, and if I had wondered into the back rooms, perhaps even a husband 😂😂😂

I settled for an Easter egg for Julia


Ps trivia question :

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.

Day 3: A walk with friends 

I went for a walk today, to use different muscles after so many hours in the saddle.
Joining me was my delightful young German companion, a volunteer at the stables, the two resident dogs and a ginger cat!!!😻
We set off on a trail marked ‘Fynbos’ with no idea where it lead nor how long it would be. It took us almost two hours and our remarkable cat walked with us the entire way!!!
The dog’s of course ran back and forth and in and out and up and down exhausting us just watching and we took our weary bodies up through beautiful leucadendron forests – taller by far than we.
We passed a dam used usually for swimming and kayaking which sadly was empty, another one which delighted the dogs; beehives, protea fields, and grasses with strange scents.
Everywhere again we saw butterflies – such a good omen in these times.
Different continent, different ‘friends’ the same unity of spirit as we take a walk


 

No Clothes

There is something very liberating about having no clothes.

Every morning we put on the same things.

And when we return from our rides, shower and change, it is into the same tracksuit pants and top every evening .

I intend to get into my pyjamas each night and instead crawl into bed just as I am, tracksuit and all.

My breeches, chaps, socks, (there was a clean pair; still drying in a truck somewhere I’m thinking) helmet and jacket now stand in the corner, almost by themselves, so coated are they in sweat, salt, sand, and above all memories.
Waiting for me to put them on again : safe, smelly, secure and with no choice.
It is very liberating to have no clothes 😄

Today I Lived 

Today was the kind of day for which there are no words.
We set off from Stanford River Lodge, a lovely spot for a repeat visit and rode for almost two hours towards the beach.
A different road today took us along a dirt farm road, past beautifully groomed homes, guest houses and boutique wineries- almost all foreign owned.

I thought I had been transported to London when in the distance I saw a bright red, very bright red body, a black, very black, large, very large hat. It was not a palace guard but a cheerful lady waiting for a bus.
That bus came, towards us on this narrow sand road. We pulled up and out of the way as he rumbled past and thanked us by hooting!!!!

Clearly he doesn’t ride😉

Luke was having none of this greeting business and bolted into the bush.

I was not on my phone, I was holding the reins, we both survived and continued in silence.
I don’t believe we said more than 10 words all day. Each of us absorbed in the uniqueness of the day and place.

We walked and trotted, feeling our bodies, feeling the heat, listening to the creaks of the saddle and the horse sounds.
The birds and butterflies floated around us, the mountains loomed to our right and we turned off the road into the ‘bosveld’ (bush)
A different type of riding as we picked our way over logs, round bushes between trees

Trying to get to the dunes without asking our animals to climb an Everest of sand!
We only asked them to climb one half the size- still a challenge for my weary body and doubtless for Luke. And again navigated our way through dune after dune.

White hot sand, sinking hooves, air like a hot blanket, we moved forward, up, down,up and there it was.
The roar of the ocean, so loud we could not have spoken to one another even if we had wanted to.

The breeze from the sea was like a draught of Guinness after a hard days work. It smelt wonderful, felt wonderful and tasted to our parched throats, wonderful .
And there it was.

An hour of perfection.

A beach, stretching as far as the eye could see.

Low tide, gentle waves, mussels scattered all over the beach, gulls hovering, a seal playing in the waves.

Two fisherman in 15km of beach.
There are no words to describe the feeling of walking, cantering, galloping, cantering, walking, galloping in the shallows.

The exhilaration of the vastness, the miracle of oneness with the massive body beneath me, the security of being able to look around at the same time – relishing the speed, the rhythmic sounds of us each galloping at our own pace and in our own worlds.   The waves at our feet, the wind in our faces, the salt on our legs and arms.

Truely today I Lived.

And I am grateful.
My body is tired.

Who said your bottom would be sore😂😂😂. Mine is fine and even my thighs managed to survive (not known as thunder thighs for nothing 😜).

No one said the small of my back and my torso and those other parts I didn’t know exist would ache and grow voices of their own.

(Did I mention we have riden 80km in 3 days 😳)
A shower (no bath here😢), cup of tea and  a glorious hours walk with two dogs, a cat and my lovely Julia ends a day I feel few are privileged to enjoy.

I am grateful



Day 2 – long, long, remarkable 

If you are wearied by my use of superlatives – please move on.

Because today is filled with superlatives, both with respect to the world I saw and with respect to how my body feels now!!😜😜
Julie and I had coffee and cereal this morning and left on our mounts, joined again by Breyten and Patch.
Another perfect day, slight breeze to take the edge off the heat, few clouds to make photographs more interesting and horses eager to move.
And move we did. Did they forget I put down beginner on the form? Did they forget I am three times their age? Sometimes it felt like that 😜

Our start took us through hills filled with Leucadendron – miles of them, green with pink tips, bulging with energy following massive fires a few years ago. It felt as though if Luke and I stood still for a while they would flower before our very eyes. As far as we could see, these green gentle bushes.

Then hills and hills of proteas – breathtaking
The ground was different today – sandy, soft, tough going I am guessing.
I know you may not drive and be on your phone, but no one told me I couldn’t use my phone while riding. So there I was, trying to get a signal; reins loose; gentle walking; looking down at my phone; happy as Larry 😂

And then a large male bushbuck jumped out of the bush, Luke jumped out of his skin and I nearly jumped out of the saddle 😂😂😂😂

BUT I didn’t; I gripped legs tightly, gathered the reins, saved the phone and decided perhaps I could , after all, call myself a rider !

Steep climbs – up and down, Luke trusting me and me him.

We saw the baboons today, sitting on a rock above screaming at us (apparently they don’t like horses 😂)

And one more steep hill revealed another world of beauty- before us was the Atlantic Ocean ; no words can describe the beauty; the privilege, the pinch myself this is real moment.
And for the next hour we had the sea and mountains before us. Such majesty and beauty : how can anyone say He is not amazing. It was beyond description. We could see as far as Cape Point !
After a short break to water the horses. I saw the saying come to be; we led them to water, filled the tub, and even though we told them in English, German and Afrikaans that were would be no more water till camp, we could not make Patch and Sparkey drink 😂😂😂😩😩
And then the dunes. Miles and miles of white sand.

We saw no one the whole day and it felt as though we were the first people in the world to arrive here. At times the sand was hard and I could hear Luke’s hooves crack the surface and in other parts so soft the animals sunk deep into the white sand, making me grateful I wasn’t walking 😊

And finally the beach, wild, isolated, waves roaring, amazing and exhilarating. No talking, just hand signals.

It was high tide so at times we had to wait for the waves to subside and rush through the gaps.

And suddenly a long stretch  of uninterrupted beach, in all this time we saw only 3 fisherman. And thousands and thousands of cormorants, filling a huge rock, and in the distance looking like a forest on the beach – literally thousands of them. They flew into the waves, diving like kids do, under the waves – amazing
Dolphins, we counted 4 also played in the surf – the whole sight somewhat surreal .
And we cantered, and cantered. Spray on my face, the even sound of Luke’s feet in my ears. My mind trying to absorb it all, the sights, sounds, the sensations. My body trying to adapt to the rhythm. “Trust your horse, trust yourself, trust your body”

And I did.
And then we reached the end of the beach and turned into the dunes again. Suddenly there was silence, the sound of sea blocked by the sand.
Up and down we rode away from the beach and each up brought the sound of the sea and each down took it away.

Surreal.
We still had two hours riding ahead of us. Completely different fynbos again. Trees burnt black looking like skeletons, with green new growth all around.

I saw butterflies everywhere – all day surely a good sign that the bush is healthy.
I cannot lie, the last hour was hell. My body was exhausted and trotting was painful. Every canter saw me holding onto the saddle ( thank goodness for a trail saddle) to save my back, or was it my kidneys, or perhaps my thighs, or was it my mind?
But I made it to Stanford River Lodge, let the others care for the horses, made a cup of tea, had very hot bath and am now nursing very tender thighs.
6 hours about 34 kilometres
Would I have missed this and saved my body? Not on your life. Although perhaps I should answer that tomorrow 😜






https://youtu.be/Lnj8ZMlx13I&rel=0


 

Trail riding 

Trail riding is quite a solitary experience .

Of course I am not riding alone; there is Breyten ( keep wanting to call him Breytenbach) riding Patches ( very original name😜) and Ella on Sparkey.

Essentially though I ride alone as we travel in single file.

Conversation does ebb and flow, but there is much more ebb than flow.
Which leaves me solitary, to gaze, to marvel, to think, and to not think.
To feel this 600kg animal responding to a slight squeeze of my knees.

To go up a mountain side, lifting my weight off his hindquarters and to feel the strength of his forequarters pulling us up.
To gaze again, and see horizons blue and distant, mountains blue and shadowed, sea to infinity.
To find that rhythm with him when he trots so it becomes easy and as if we are one.
It’s an amazing thing. This horse-man thing.
I have to trust him going down an equally steep mountain side. (Had I forgotten the rule – what goes up must come down 😩). In fact there was a notice – caution steep descent (do horses read? – anything I guess is possible 🐴📃these days). In reality it was probably for the Klipspringer mountain bike trail.
But again I digress – back to that trust. This downhill was quite something and Luke I think trusted me to keep my weight off his shoulders as he gingerly worked his way step by step down a mountain slope.

I trusted him not to slip and send us flying (I would happily have dismounted and walked in parts) but there you have it – I didn’t and he didn’t
And we were soon trotting again comfortably on more level ground.
All the while Patches and Breyten were ahead and I presume Ella and Sparkey behind ; each of us alone on our worlds and not alone.
It’s an amazing thing. This horse-man thing.

Ride : day one

I wish I could share this day with you, I wish I could show you all the amazing things I have seen. I wish I could capture the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feel of the breeze in our faces as we canter along.
I wish I could take photographs of all I experienced; the tiny tortoise on the road; the kahia (homestead) with an afdakkie (no Aussie equivalent 😂) with every metal contraption on its roof – including a kitchen sink!!!

I wish I could share this day with you, I wish I could show you all the amazing things I have seen.

I wish I could capture the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feel of the breeze in our faces as we cantered along.

I wish I could take photographs of all I experienced; the tiny tortoise on the road; the kahia (homestead) with an afdakkie (no Aussie equivalent 😂) with every kind of metal scrap you can think of on its roof – including an old kitchen sink ! The hen with her chicks scuttling out of our way as we rode past.

The added height of being on horseback gives angles, views, approaches not seen on foot or bike and of course access where cars can only dream of going 😜
And the views: whichever way I looked, mountains, sea, sky, clouds – beauty beyond expectation.


We rode for about four hours today. Through fields of proteas, grasses, Erika’s of all different reds, tiny blue flowers, bold yellow ones, white, pink and every shade of green the eye could conceive of.

The birds, or rather their calls as they flirted from one plant to another with every so often the streak of copper, red, green as a sunbird  shone against the light.

Baboons that must have travelled parallel to us as we heard them calling all the while although we never saw them. 
Luke, my large brown gelding is the kindest animal, not perhaps what I imagine they refer to as a forward moving horse, as I spent much time hoping his walk would get sprightly 😜. But he trotted and cantered easily so that, just like dancing when your partner leads well, I managed easily on his back when his energy was up.


I just wish I could share today with you in more ways than  just this blog.
While women are known for being able to multi task (my girls always say I do too many things at once 😜)- even I failed to multi task today ; riding and taking photographs , not my thing 😢I pulled my horse up many times to take shots, but finally gave up. My iPhone doesn’t respond to gloved fingers so every shot involved degloving – why not just leave off the gloves I hear you ask- I’m old 😩 my hands are fragile and added to that the sun is still warm ☀️

We had a lovely late lunch – home made bread (from Stanford) cheese, avo and fruit. I’m in a self catering chalet make that a Woolies catered ( how did we ever manage before Woolworths?) with Julia (my young German chaperone,cook, companion.)


I’ve had an hours walk exploring and bird watching, a hot shower (no bath 😩) and am now seated on my verandah, hot cup of tea, chocolate, feet up looking at a stunning view (as a beekeeper moves his hides right in front of me 😊)

Luke is out to graze, the sun is setting, the lasagne almost ready, wine cold, bed calling.

Can life get any better?

I am so so grateful .

Bathroom

Reminder of an optional way to live

Our kitchen- past visitors memories 😂

Day zero – Farm 215

We had a comfortable 5 hour day today, stopping in beautiful Hermanus for a delicious lunch. The weather was a glorious mid 20’s with blue skies and the views along the bay spectacular. It was a little difficult to capture the beauty as we travelled along, so use your imagination as you gaze at the photographs.
We arrived here safe and sound and in fact I felt so strong I went for a two and a half hour walk in this stunning reserve! No sign of stiffness or discomfort at all.

Did I mention that my very kind cousins drove me here?🚗

I have not yet seen a horse, let alone mounted one 😂🐎


Hermanus

Lunch ❤️

I walked for almost 3 hours, silently absorbing the world, there were no birds, no people, no insects; no sounds except the breeze, my breathing and my feet on the path.

Life suspended between being present in the now and in another place – heaven? Not sure what the other place is/was except that it was marked by a sense of total isolation. Lovely in it’s silent vistas.

As the light began to change I knew I had to turn back.

A solitary sunbird flashed by and there was life again

The call of baboons across the valley, invisible but very present got my adrenalin going and my feet moving briskly towards the luxury of my temporary home, Farm 215.

Deck with a view

‘My’ pool

‘My home’ : Farm 215

Dinner is served 😃


Such a perfect day, I could turn back now; avoid the pain in the you know what, that is inevitable if I ride tomorrow; and still feel like I had seen heaven for a moment

27 March 2017