Acacia Africa Director and novice rider, Vivian McCarthy, visits South Africa and takes to horse-riding within the Drakensberg foothills.
Town of Durban, usually sizzling and sunny, was moist and windy once I arrived, however not with the wintry drizzle of England. No, it was African rain – heat, heavy drops that fell vertically and flooded the road inside minutes but cleared the air so magically. A reminder that I used to be on the sting of the enormous continent the place Nature is extra quick and related to life than at residence.
Travelling just a few hours inland we had been within the Drakensberg foothills and a few 1000 metres above sea stage – the Drakensberg Mountains working a thousand miles throughout South Africa forming a barrier with the landlocked Kingdom of Lesotho.
The mountain air was clear and the temperature diverse markedly in the course of the day: at 8am it was barely above zero, by 10 O’clock it was mid 20s and rising. Later that afternoon it was sizzling and but as quickly because the solar sank behind the mountains it in a short time turned chilly sufficient to wish a sweater.
I used to be balanced (roughly) on the again of Tetu, the trail forward zig-zagging its means up the slope towards the solar. As a novice I used to be blissful to have been given a delicate mare, one content material to observe reasonably than lead, and blissful too that the primary a part of the journey was alongside a quiet stretch of nation highway earlier than we changed into trackless fields of yellow-green grass.
The bottom undulated just a little earlier than rising to an incline of a number of hundred ft and our small group of riders shaped a line as we tracked slowly up the uneven terrain. With extra skilled colleagues forward and behind, the horses appeared to seek out their means nearly intuitively and I started to calm down and go searching as we gained peak.
Because the slope steepened I felt reasonably than guided Tetu throughout a slender stream and muddy ditch. I swayed within the saddle however stored my steadiness and as we continued upwards I felt Tetu start to labour and felt sweat working down my again. It was starting to get sizzling and I began to marvel if I’d used sufficient sun-block.
Unfazed by the presence of our little group, life goes on because it at all times has on this distant nook of South Africa. We rode slowly previous a gaggle of native ladies slicing the lengthy yellow grass and laying it out in neat piles to dry. I used to be informed it was made into broomheads which the women offered at market – the land not merely a scenic marvel for guests however a supply of subsistence for the individuals who dwell right here.
We had been now a number of hundred ft up, the countryside opening out round us. From the highest the views had been breathtaking. In a single course lay the Drakensbergs – rising to eight,000 ft, its large, snow-capped, peaks sharp towards the sky – and within the different course the plains of Kwazulu Natal rolling away towards the horizon.
The size of it was huge. At residence every little thing is close to: buildings, streets, folks, all shut sufficient to the touch. Right here it was totally different: distances had been immense and the air so clear you might see for miles. It was like one other world, and for me, the sensation was magnified by being on horseback. There’s one thing highly effective about sitting six or eight ft off the bottom on a horse. Nevermind that Tetu was the gentlest of animals or that if she had taken it into her head to interrupt right into a trot my sense of calm management would have been significantly upset. That didn’t matter: proper at that second, I felt an superior sense of feat. In additional methods than one, I used to be on the high of the world.
We let the horses graze earlier than persevering with alongside the ridge and throughout a excessive meadow overlooking valleys and a river till ultimately, we regarded all the way down to the highway the place we’d begun. Beginning down the slope and alongside the empty highway we turned again into the stables. I realised I used to be now not a novice and that horse-riding, one thing I assumed had handed me by way back, was an especially pleasant pastime. I even managed to dismount with out falling over.
Pony trekking is an elective exercise on our excursions. Vivian McCarthy travelled as a visitor of South African Tourism.