Day One

The most amazing porridge and coffee (Mansfield Coffee Merchants) 

 

set me up for the drive to the stables – about 30 minutes out of Mansfield.

There is, at least for me, always a few nerves involved in arriving somewhere alone on another adventure.   Will I be riding alone, and if not, who will I be riding with.

And so the ‘settling in period’ as I  jostle around the ‘edges’ to determine where in the pecking order I fit – a little, as I discovered like the horses themselves as they get chosen for the trail.

I arrived at the stables to find I was not riding alone.   Sitting comfortably and beautifully attired were a ‘couple’ – mother and daughter to be precise.   Or even more precise, Wendy and Danny.   My antennae and nerves on high alert I realised these were riders with a capital R, every fibre of their brand name gear confirmed that to me.  Almost certainly  their antennae were out as they realised this was a rider with a capital B (for beginner), as every fibre of my gear (aka Aldi & Kmart) confirmed.   I have no doubt their hearts sank at the thought of a novice holding them back.

But they were so gracious and at no point did they allow me to feel incompetent.   So grateful.

That out of the way, the next thing is to ‘navigate’ around the horses.  Which one leads, who snaps, who lingers, and let me tell you, they most certainly do have a pecking order as Danny and I discovered throughout the 2 days as our two jostled with each other.

And then there’s the saddles, apparently I was riding on a stock saddle, long stirrups, legs down, stand up when cantering, hang on the mane, lean forward so if she swings in the bush (as she did a few times) you ready to swing with her and not off her 🙂 🙂  and so it went on.   Finding bones and muscles in strange parts of my body, I settled onto the new horse, in a new saddle surrounded by Victorian Alpine countryside.

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My stock horse, Rhumba made me think on many occasions that she should be called Rumble (as in the jungle – think Mohammad Ali); nipping whenever she felt like it, putting her ears well back and warning me and Danny that any closer was a no go, deciding to trot at the most random moments, for the most random reasons and for all that, lovely to canter.    Danny had a busy time keeping her little one in line – and her years of riding experience came to the fore.

The ride was interesting with very steep climbs and even steeper declines – although I know that cannot Really be possible :).   The ground was often very muddy and the inclines such that  much of the day our eyes were down keeping a watch on our horses feet.   They slipped and slid but thankfully everyone kept their balance.   Well most of the time that is.

The countryside was breathtaking and we stopped for a photoshoot.

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We also stopped for lunch alongside the river at an old miners hut.   Which was fortunate and lovely because as we started our fire and made some hot tea, it began to rain and we were warm and snug.   By the time we were ready to ride again, the rain had moved on.

We needed to cross the river a few times and it was  surprisingly full and fast flowing.   Four of us were across when Michael’s horse (Michael being our host) lost its footing and it and he went for a swim in very cold water.    Thankfully neither was seriously hurt and we could all laugh about it once we were sure there were no major injuries.   One learns early on that there are no egos in riding – mishaps can and do happen to any and everyone if you spend long enough on or around horses.

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Truth be told, even in those tranquil riding moments when you can be lulled into a semi comatose state, your horse remains its own being with a will and strength quite independent of yourself! So I’m realising it pays always to be vigilant.

Rhumba jumped a creek and chose to land on my foot as opposed to the ground, (I wasn’t on her back at the time – just in case you wondering)   Wendy’s horse lifted her head suddenly and cracked Wendy very hard on hers (She wasn’t on her back at the time either!), ever so grateful she was wearing her helmet; Michael’s horse had a swim and so did Michael (he Was on her back at the time!)

As you can ‘see’ a lovely day one, with many hours in the saddle.   A good meal and time now for bed.

 

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

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 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


 

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



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.

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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Perhaps a blog?

30th October 2016 – Jarryds, Sea Point. ♥

After a glorious walk – still pinching myself re this trip
I’m told by those that know more about FB than I do (aka my girls) that my musings not suitable – so I shall, perhaps, get round to blogging for those kind enough to be interested ( there I go again – too long 😂😂) till then enjoying my coffee

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Horses, stars and me

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It is a long time since I rode a horse, and even then it could be debated whether I rode the horse, or the horse carried me around.   I have done a few trails, in Lesotho, when the weather changed everything and the Mountain Club had to rescue us 🙂   a trail in a private game reserve in the Low veld where one rider fell and broke her arm; one short (very short) trail round this sphinx and pyramids in Cairo, on Arab stallions (so they so much smaller than I anticipated – thankfully) which was thrilling, frightening and left me black and blue for several long painful days 😦

These were some forty years ago –

which as I said, makes it a long time since I rode a horse 🙂

It is also a long time since I wanted to ride a horse!!!

One of the benefits of getting to the age of maturity (others use the word old) is that the short term memory fails one; so I cannot remember whether I decided faint hearted (see blog: ‘me, faint hearted?Me – Faint Hearted?) was a term I applied to myself, or in fact one I did not use to describe myself.

Which is probably just as well, because I had a glorious day today; even if I find myself ready for bed before the sun is!!!!

You see I received a very generous birthday present a year or so ago – a gift voucher for a horse trail ride with Hepburn Lagoon Trails.   This sat in a drawer waiting for me until, it would appear the stars aligned, and I received through the ether – sometimes I have no idea how things ‘find me’ – an email about a horse trail in Mongolia.    Now wouldn’t you, too, be tempted?   Well, one thing led to another and I found myself driving across Melbourne, roadworks notwithstanding, to finally arrive at a little bit of paradise.img_6356-copy

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Keiran is just the kindest, may I say sweetest person – patient, encouraging, friendly, confident and clearly competent with great horses.   With, minimal formality (ready paperwork) we were helmeted, booted and allocated ponies.   Some instructions and we were off.

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I will not pretend, I was apprehensive,  and wondered again why I hadn’t put ‘novice’ down on the form instead of beginner – the alternatives; intermediate or advanced were easy to decide on.    Keiran had us all trotting after a few minutes; reminding me that I should not double bounce on the saddle (did he really believe that banging my nether regions around like that was by choice 😂😜)  and it didn’t take long for me to find a more comfortable rhythm.

It is almost impossible to describe the feeling of riding through bush, the breeze through the grass, the light playing patterns with the trees, the sound of the horses, the views offered by the extra height of being on horseback.   I love walking, but this is different; this huge animal and me; for those few hours joined, trotting, cantering, walking, just ‘being’ – there is conversation between ourselves, and there is silence as we absorb a silence – that of the bush.   The bell birds, kookaburra, wedge tailed eagles being swooped by magpies, rosellas.   Fields of oats, cattle looking at us, horses calling from far off paddocks.

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And then it was over; and we had to ‘get down’ and feel our legs again. !

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Always a post mortem; sharing, eating, drinking – ‘all’s well with the world’ kinda feeling

I shall let you know in the  morning how these old bones feel, but for tonight, I shall sleep well with memories of a glorious day –  Mongolia still calls, but reality may leave a stronger calling card tomorrow.

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