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

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

A Sunday in the Cape

The last time I drove through the Cape on my own was more than twenty years ago.   I did it often; always however,  with an agenda, a business meeting at a winery, or a dairy, at a set time.   Which meant, of course, there was little time to dawdle, to savour the views, to sit and ponder the beauty.

This Time, I had Time: as much as I liked, so I pottered.

Meandering back from visiting friends in Veldrif aiming for Cape Town and taking whichever road tickled my fancy:

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St Helena Bay:   The Colours
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The last of the flowers ..
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..in patches everywhere, still
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Ready for winter
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St Helena Bay – and still this doesn’t do it justice
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Paternoster. Carmen my hostess and chef at Ouma’s Kitchen
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lekker vis
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And my view – iPhone doesn’t do it justice
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and no complaints about the bill either 🙂
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Paternoster: Too much sun, not enough water
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Paternoster – watching me watching them
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Saldana – seems somehow to fit into the landscape
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Langebaan –
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my turn next visit

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always 🙂 🙂 🙂
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Always ahead of me
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driving back on R27 :  The mountain, a magnet for the eye

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Why Steytlerville?

24/10/2016

Steytlerville / Country Practice / Time Warp

Why Steytlerville ? Why Here? (As opposed to somewhere else)

A dear friend of mine has given up a lucrative, busy medical practice in The City of Gold (Johannesburg ) to throw his lot in with 130 Europeans in this little town at the end of a road in The Karoo ( for my ausie friends – read desert 😳)
And so I came to see why.

I get it – as I sit on a bench on the main road which is wide enough to turn an ox wagon in. Eating a vetkoek ( too difficult to explain to my ausie friends😜) and drinking rooibos tea. And strangely with Hillsong – cornerstone playing in the background .

There is an occasional car that goes back and forth – because back and forth is all one can do since no roads lead anywhere 😜 except to the local township or a private farm.

Two (yes 2) funeral parlours. One of which promises excellent service ( but doesn’t make clear whether in this world or the next) – the other makes no promises in either 😃

Three general handelaars which sell everything from wool ( but no knitting needles) to generators and koeksusters.

Which brings me to language –

Neither English nor Afrikaans are spoken here – but that delicious mix of them both which seems to unite the groups (in an unconscious way) and makes me long to be back living here.

Everyone greets me – not that that means hundreds of greetings, interpret rather tens of greetings. And I am definitely now ”n tannie’ – for my Ozzie friends – a greeting reserved for your elders – a mark of age, respect and implied wisdom!!!!!

Not quite the celestial reverence accorded my ‘Dr Dave’ as we strolled through town yesterday evening though -,”aand Doktor’ was the call from every stoep, evening walker, child playing , teenager loitering – no one can remember when there was a resident doctor in Steytlerville !!!!!!! and without ever having met him or consulted him- he is applauded by then for just being here.

We had a roast leg of lamb for dinner yesterday – the gift of a patient and Dave invited local farmers to join us. Between vast quantities of whiskey and beer we talked in our mutual blend of languages, late into the night before the reality of a pre dawn start forced us all to bed.
A constant struggle to overcome weather and labour issues makes a farmers life here a tough one.

Time moves differently here – could it be :

the light, a bright blue that sparkles , or the stars – millions of them breathtakingly shimmering,

the one long road that leads nowhere,

the river that once washed the bridge
away, not once but three times and hasn’t had a drop of water flow through it for some thirty years

the people who have chosen to move slowly, stopping to talk, taking time to listen, talking to their chickens, thriftily watering precious vegetables, sharing more generously than one is used to in the city?

Or am I romanticising a town on struggle street – time will tell as Dr Dave settles into Steytlerville ……

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A town in decay
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Dinner under the stars…..
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until the mosquitoes sent us inside
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Rio’s long gone – now its naked, make it yourself, or gaan dorp toe 🙂
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The Baviaans
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Lekker vetkoek, kaas en konfyt met rooibos tee

 

 

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The journey, the sky and a road – to Steytlerville

Love Languages ….

Warning : not for readers without sense of humour 😜😂

25/10/2016


Driving a manual car is  a little like love making.   There is a remarkable degree of sensitivity involved.   The left and right feet and indeed legs, need to work in harmony;  all senses have to be alert to the slightest change in vibration, sound or heaven forbid shudder.   

In the case of either of the first two, an immediate response is called for – but not a violent one mind you or you will jerk to an comfortable halt with all sorts of possible unpleasant consequences 😂😂 not the least of which is start again. (See what I mean about the similarity ?😢).   
No, it requires a subtle but timely back and forth, up and dfunny_looking_happy_guy_driving_a_little_cartoon_car_0521-1008-1314-5730_smuown movement with again all senses involved, hands included to negotiate an onward motion towards one’s destination.   

So it has been with my little white cars for the last two weeks.   Each looks pretty much the same; four wheels, steering wheel, in other words  all the working parts look pretty much the same but don’t let that fool you.   Just as I imagine 😜 in the case of ‘the lovers’  – all parts look like they should work the same way.   But there’s the catch – the subtle variations leave me floundering if, for one moment I ignore This particular car.    That one may have responded to a quick sharp change but don’t try that on this one – a slow duet, one foot waiting for the other to engage, and then again a different rhythm for the next white car 😂😂😂
Imagine my language issues with 5 cars in two weeks!!!! No wonder I find myself single 😳

At least though, I find myself still alive – because you see I have discovered I am not the only one with ‘Umweldt’
Luckily it would appear others on the road have been gifted too.   So that when my love language fails me and my car lurches violently forward (yup you got the idea) like when you’ve eaten something bad – it just keeps lurching again and again in a forward direction and I can only hang on and wait for it to stop, or when the robot (lights) change and all those behind me are ready to move forward – I find again I used the wrong language : well failed to use any language at all forgetting it wasn’t automatic and not noticing it had retreated into silent protest and I don’t move an inch.

So just as I imagine 😜 would be the case with ‘the lover’, there is first confusion, then disbelief that such a stupid thing could sabotage, then irritation, because there is after all only one person to blame (in this case me) and then the the deep breathe Begin again 🤔and give thanks for that Umweldt all around me as others anticipate my gymnastics –

how do we do it?
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Masai Mara

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The ‘herds’
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The road

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Trying to get Far from the Madding Croed 😢
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That madding crowd
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The cattle 😳
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Finding a little water

National geographic and David Attenborough have done a great sell on the Masai Mara and the proud Masai. After a day in the park I I have mixed feelings about the It.

Livingstone, my guide went to the gate to pay leaving me to ‘cover’ the vehicle and be accosted ( no other word will adequately describe it) by not one or two but ten or twelve Masai women desperate to sell me blankets, trinkets, statues and no seemed not to be part of their vocabulary. I feel for them but at the same time there was a surliness and slightly unpleasant feel to it all.

After 30 minutes – yes 30 I couldn’t stand it any longer and left the vehicle to walk (storm may be more accurate) to the office :
“What’s taking so long”
“The machine, his slow”
39 minute slow? Not my problem. Give me our money back and we’ll go or let us through now or I will be complaining to the parks board
Guess what – our tickets appeared!!!!!

Something is amiss – this is the only bridge across the river of one of the most famous reserves in the world. There is no shortage of tourists paying big entrance fees. It has been like this for 5 years and when guides protested three years ago and put out photos on social media they were arrested and fined Kenyan shillings 300 000 each. The guides collectively paid the fines for them – still the bridge remains.

That aside, we saw good game today including lion, hippo and elephant. We also saw Nissans, Toyotas, land rovers in droves and they tell me this is the quiet season !!!!! It was like Burke Str (Eloff St for others😜).

I am in a ‘luxury resort’ with no reference books of any sort; where you pay for water (cannot drink the tap water,) and everything seems just a little ‘tired’ and not well loved. Still the adventure continues happily – life never being dull if you me – an 8 hour game drive tomorrow so I shall ‘report back’ then.

Cold here – have not taken my down jacket off all day

Roads …

04/10/2016

There are roads and then there is the Masai Mara ‘road’ – who would have thought – the main road into this famous reserve to which hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated by international sources.

And I, in a misspent youth have been on some roads – stuck for seven days; winched out; pushed out; even walked out and left the car to be towed back : but they were back roads in the 70’s
Not a main road in 2016 where tourism is the prime source of income

I tried to capture on video some of what it has been like – but mostly just had to hang on. It took us 4 hours to do 70 km – the whole journey from lake Nakuru to Masai Mara was a long 6 hours beginning at 7am. We saw 3 tourist vehicles breakdown – poor souls

The only explanation being offered so far is “the government – people in government own the planes that fly in so they don’t want the road repaired in case people will stop flying”.
I almost wished I had flown in – but then I would never have known ……

There are 3 points where the road has totally disappeared ( look at the washed away bridge) where the Maasai have blocked any alternate route with a barrier and demand payment to go through – or you can turn back

Poor Livingstone – my guide driver – this was a challenge 😩

 

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Driving

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03/10/2016

Driving ….

Thankfully back on the left hand side and interestingly enough while the roads are chaotic – (took us over an hour to go 7 km this morning )- can’t imagine how one conducts business here 😜….

It kind of works- no one goes fast so even though we pass on a blind rise I soon stopped holding my breathe as I realised every one is slow and slows down further to allow whatever the other chooses to do 😂😂😂.

Cars inch in to the queue so tightly I can almost feel the drivers breathe on me, but no collision – we seem to be able to make room without any reaction from my driver

Trucks trucks and more trucks on roads that are reminiscent of Jan smuts avenue 😂 potted, cracked and crumbling

 

03/10/2016