Life & Travels Afloat in our Moody
……. (Girls and Horses!)
South Africa is a long way to come to receive an invitation to Twickenham, particularly during the Six Nations…., but so it happened! Meetings were hastily arranged in London on one day (though I hasten to add this trip was not funded), and Steve took the opportunity to spend some good time with Kate and Richard (and of course the dogs), and with his parents.
For those not aware, I have bitten the bullet (or perhaps I should say bitten the dust!) and started riding again. I was introduced to some stables not far from Kyalami about 20 km away. Described by a friend as a “sort of five star place for horses”, he wasn’t joking, and the name, Ascot, was the first clue! The Riding Master (ex top SA showjumper, 80 years old, with a twinkle in his eye!) had agreed I could come along. I hadn’t ridden for two years, nor had I received any lessons for nearer 20, and in any case I’ve always been a gallop-across-country-and-jump-whatever-is-in-the-way girl, rather than a “pretty” rider. So about six of us warmed up and the session began – all these people showjump. Circles, serpentines, half passes, shoulder-ins, flying changes and then some jumping. OK, it was a shock to the system, particularly when my steed put in a dirty stop before one of the jumps and I discovered my glue had worn out after two years! Still, I’m riding regularly, and enjoying the challenge of someone trying to make me a neat rider after all these years!
So pondering on “home alone” status, rather than stay at home and feel miserable without my beloved, I decided to find some riding away from the land of maneges and showjumps! I was told the area around Clarens was worth investigating. Good old internet, I found the Bokpoort Cowboy Ranch, and thought, well, why not! The adventure started with the 300 km drive from Johannesburg. I left at 5.30 as dawn was breaking, and had an uneventful trip down (thank goodness for the satnav!). Within half an hour of arriving, I was mounted and off we went for my first four hours.
Spectacular riding, tough little horses that scramble over rocks like goats, herds of wildebeest, eland, reedboc, bleesboc and zebra in the mountains around us, and at times close to us, with buzzards overhead. Odd glimpses of meerkats and jackals. Mountain streams were crossed, or enjoyed as a stop. Cliffs and wonderful rock formations. Scrambling up steep hills, or leading down twisty rocky tracks with cliffs on both sides. From the ridge, looking across at the Maluti Mountains in Lesotho, seeing evidence of marijuana smugglers, and hearing tales of the recent increase in horse and livestock rustlers that come across the border and spirit away in the night anything without a brand or not in the immediate vicinity of the farm.
Bokpoort is a fourth generation cattle and sheep farm, but no longer. The rustlers have made it impossible to run stock, and horses still go missing.… It’s a tough existence, and the family survive on horse tourism and game hunting which is very carefully managed. Whilst I don’t agree with game hunting (on most of the South African game farms the animals have no chance of escape), in the mountains they are not fenced in and have a fairer chance. The owner recants the family history through the Boer Wars and imprisonment in Ceylon. He talks horses, game, geology, botany, medicinal uses of plants, farming and talks and talks and talks ….. He is fascinating, but my brain was hurting by the end of the first ride! Periodically we stopped and listened to the silence – now that was when one really appreciated the beauty around.