A Desert

The oldest desert in the world, so the scientists say, more than 500 million years old in fact.   The Namib (open space) is just that – so open it forces your heart to expand and your soul to lift and time to stand still.     So at times as we sat and absorbed the expanse, the silence, the colour, the feel, the vastness it felt as though time too, had stopped.

Was this where time began?

Or is these where time has ended?

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Sandwich Harbour
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This was once, a home
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Just because…..
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We were not alone – Springbok looking at us looking at him

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Space
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wherever we looked
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time to recapture
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or capture
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ever changing and always staying the same
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a moment in time
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so fortunate to see
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and he showed off happily
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There was huge
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effort involved
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in climbing
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the dunes
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whether old
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or young

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but the views rewarded us
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and of course we had to go down too….
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but who is complaining

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The never ending beauty of the dunes
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Difficult to assess the steepness of the dune as we drop down – with the engine switched off you hear the roar of the sand – as if from the bowels of the earth – AMAZING

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These rather ordinary videos will give you an idea of the scale of the place

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some welcome sustenance after the walks

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and this is what happens when you don’t time the tide correctly !!!!!

photos courtesy of the Powrie girls and Erika de Jäger

A Country…..

…in the south west corner of Africa.     Namibia gained independence only in 1990 South Africans have always felt a close affinity to what was previously called South West Africa with many of our young men spending time in the military in this part of the world.

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For much of my youth large parts of the country were ‘out of bounds’ because of the fighting ‘up north’ as we used to say.

Happily now, we are free to explore – and that is precisely what we did recently.

Well actually we only explored a little of the country – 10 days is not enough to do it justice.   Almost the size of South Africa, with a population of 2.5mill (S African has approx 60mill) it is a deliciously sparsely populated so that it is possible to ‘escape the madding crowd’ and absorb the light and air unhindered.

We began in Walvis Bay, with time spent on the water sharing our boat with friends

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The light and mood in the bay is extraordinary – enjoy20170807 - ET2_24

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The Salt Pans are also amazing – this salt pan currently supplies South Africa with 90% of it’s salt; concentrated salt from seawater with the aid of evaporation.    This salt pan also forms part of Southern Africa’s single most important coastal wetland for migratory birds.

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and when we thought we had seen such beauty nothing could compare, we visited Sandwich Harbour…… which deserves it’s own page.

(photos courtesy of the ‘Powrie girls’ and Erika De Jager)

Park Run?

I had heard about park runs for quite a while. Friends of mine all loved it and ‘did’ it and talked about it. But these friends were sociable beings, always doing things in groups, super fit, good runners, supremely confident. Me? Don’t be crazy, I’m old, unslim (such a word? – there is now)and not all that good in ‘group activities’ so I stayed away.
Until I didn’t… reluctantly and nervously I succumbed and joined J at Jells Park at 8am.

I had no idea what to expect, what to bring, what to do, take my car keys, bring water, leave my jacket where?

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This is a volunteer run community group showing people working together at its best.  The welcome so genuine, the smiles so easy, leave your jacket here, its perfectly safe.   A short chat to congratulate milestones (50 runs etc), brief chat for the newcomers and then we were all off.

A bell is rung and the front runners who had already run who knows how far before joining our run.   This was a very serious time trial for them as they took off like the proverbial bats.   They are remarkable as without fail I notice each week, they arrive at the finish line as I begin my second lap.   There are mums with new borns in prams; family groups; a grandpa and his young granddaughter – who hold hands the entire route.   I am not sure who is supporting whom, but this will be one of those remarkable memories for her that will bind them forever.   There are young children and old ladies – me amongst them, and old men.   Everyone out and doing the best they can, and no one cares whether it is fast, slow, sprinting, jogging or walking.   It is the spirit of being out.

And Jells never disappoints – whatever the weather, it is a special place.

After the first run – followed by yummy coffee with new friends, I was hooked.   And so is my special four legged friend who has run it with me every week since then.

I thank my fit, supremely confident, group movers for  persuading me to join you.   I thank the park runners and volunteers ( everyone puts their hand up to volunteer at some time or other)

And I shall now look for Parkruns wherever I travel.    They have appeared all over the world, Swellendam in the Cape, the Drakensburg,  Ireland, UK. and the rest  As if I needed an excuse to wander the planet……

Day 2

If anyone snored, no one heard – we all slept warmly and long.

And our second day dawned bright and sunny.   Full of optimism about the weather I forgot for just a while that we live in Victoria where the weather changes every 20 minutes.

We wandered down to the horses, wandering how our bodies would feel as we climbed ‘aboard’ after such a long day yesterday in the saddles which were definitely ‘not custom made’ as the others usually use.

But we were fine, and up and riding in quick smart time.

Which was just as well as Rhumba was ready to rhumba, forward, sideways, anyway but quickly and for the first 1o minutes I had my hands full.

Today we were riding up and up and up past farmlands, a fabulous school camp with kids having so much fun I was tempted to stop and join them on their flying fox.  Past cattle, with heads down against the wind, almost level with a Wedge Tailed Eagle which seemed suspended in the sky as it flew into the very strong wind.   And still up and up.

To the place where that famous shot was taken,

“where even Clancy took a pull,

It well might make the boldest hold their breath,……

But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,

And he swing his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,

And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,

While the others stood and watched in very fear”  (banjo patterson)

And I must say, it was a fearful place.   None of us were game to ride to the edge, but rather relied on Michael leading our horses to ‘the spot’.   I could not look down, in fact I could not breathe in case Rhumba should think I wanted her to move.   I held her head up, just in case and thankfully swung round after ‘the photoshoot’ to safer ground!!!!

 

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And still these photos cannot describe the drop – go see the movie 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

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The weather did not invite lingering and we hurried down with a steady drizzle and wind reminding us why these hills are known as ‘the Alps’.    I had a very large oilskin which made me wonder if I would ‘take off’ when cantering as it turned me into, according to the others, a phantom rider, but kept me warm and dry in this winter weather.

And so we rode home, as we had all the way in single file, Wendy and Michael at the back talking, we couldn’t hear what they were saying, but there was a companionable constant hum of their voices reaching us when the wind was still.   And the three of us absorbed in our own worlds. The kookaburras called along the way, bellbirds sang, a wedge tail eagle alongside the road ate from a carcass, kangaroos loping across the fields every which way; standing up in the strange posture to watch us and then bouncing off.  Sheep littered the lower hills looking for all the world as though hundreds of white tissues had escaped from a tissue box and landed haphazardly round the field.   The eucalyptus forests with trees reminding me for some reason of cathedrals – Huge, imposing, reaching for the sky.  The barren hills which were pine forests, now looking forlorn and empty of any life.   And the green green hills so full of energy and promise of new life.   Wattle in flower was everywhere, a bright yellow which when the sun caught it seemed to shimmer with a promise of abundance not yet here.

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And so to a lovely lunch to farewell new friends, and another adventure.

And not a moment too soon.

The drive home alone was in pouring rain, so heavy that reaching the speed limit was not possible, never mind exceeding it!!!!

My musings over the two days included gratitude that I was now in my little old car; it’s 4 wheels, a steering wheel and heater rather than my new friend, Rhumba, her 4 legs, reins and an oil skin.

Oh and did I tell you?

The Howqua River was one of just thirteen locations worldwide featured on the fly fishing documentary television series A River Somewhere.[8] 

That bit of trivia for my fishing friends – best come visit!

Again?


Even the most liveable city in the world sometimes is not enough. When the urge to smell the bush, feel the breeze, see the vistas, hear the creak of leather becomes too strong to ignore and a dear friend sends you a link to Watson trail rides

http://watsonstrailrides.com.au/
How could I resist?

So here I am – 3 hours out of Melbourne in Mansfield – with an adventure about to begin

Well the truth is it began sometime time ago when I booked ‘on the web’ my accommodation for tonight in Mansfield – at the Mansfield Travellers Lodge – pleased as punch I was with myself until too many emails from the USA made me suspicious. On checking my booking – I was scheduled to arrive at Mansfield Travellers Lodge -Ohio 😂😩🇺🇸

Rewind – I won’t bore you with the rest of the fiasco – think dumb blonde!!!! However I did feel better when I discovered I was not the first person to make this mistake!

However all’s well that ends well they say; though in this case I should say, starts well as here I am in Mansfield Victoria Australia at the start of my riding adventure
Backpackers lodge – why wouldn’t I at $40 a night, (bring your sleeping bag) and being Monday I have the dormitory to myself!! And the kindest manager, who clearly felt I couldn’t be trusted, after my failed booking, (- not the first person he assured me ) to find the stables unaided; has given me a detailed map for tomorrow – so appreciated

A stroll round the town prior to my dinner has me wondering about this ride – I see only people in snow gear here, coming off the mountain – you hear that peculiar sound their pants make as they walk, before you even see them. And the sight of the sun on the still snow capped mountain takes my breathe away – no photo could do it justice.

So as I sit in the local pub with my local wine (Snobs Creek Pinot Noir😂) and lasagne I reassure myself : regardless of snow, rain or shine it’s all about the horse.

But will I be warm enough, will my body hold up, will I dismount or be dismounted?

Tomorrow will tell

Mansfield
Warm welcome
Filled the gaps

It’s all about ….

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.

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There’s more to The Bush


There’s more to The Bush than the bush.

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)

There is more to The Bush than the bush

Fairest Cape ….

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


Never noticed this before 😳

 


Steenberg winery where my lovely cousin’s equally lovely daughter recently married is the first farm (1682) developed in the Cape.   So beautiful.

 

 

 

 



No Regrets

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





Day 5 : Leaving something on the table 


All good things…..
Following the old adage my mother taught me; always leave the table wanting more.

I did a short ride today, almost too short. But then again not.

Just perfect

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 have new horses. Me on Willow (why are mine so large and my legs so short 😩), Julia on Princess and Randal on Whiplash. Different saddle too.


A time to test my body, just how well has it stood up, can I trot, canter? We shall see.

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.


Through a forest path so dark no photos came out and where we startle a duiker (makes a change from them startling us👏)

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.


But wait, there’s more, lunch at Stanford Hills

You mean I need to use a knife and fork?
Surely you’re joking?
Who’s he? (Howard – African Horse Co)
And so ‘the end’ 🐴🐎🚗😄