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.
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
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 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
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.
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 😜
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.
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 😂🐎
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.