The Ride Wild Coast Adventure - by Nicky Hoseck

The Ride Wild Coast Adventure

Everything at the farm this month has paled into insignificance when weighed against the incomparable thrill of the The Ride’s Wild Coast Adventure which I embarked on with Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson of The Ride last week. Joining us was a return guest, Victor Kee, who has spent many years taking clients riding over Exmoor. As it turned out, we were a pretty invincible team… well, not so pretty but definitely invincible!
 So, our mission was to cover 200km of stunning Wild Coast terrain in six days, departing from Umngazi River, north of Coffee Bay, and ending in Kei Mouth. The first leg of our journey was to box the horses up to the starting point. Our departure day dawned hot with strong winds, not making for the best conditions, but Julie-Anne and Clint drove on valiantly and we arrived at Umngazi in time to set up camp (for both horses and humans) and head out on a short orientation ride.

While this ride did little to prepare us for what was to come, it did give us a taste of the beautiful scenery and breathtaking vistas that the Wild Coast had in store for us. After an evening spent getting to know one another, I left the party watching themselves on TV, and snuck off to my deflatable mattress for a shoddy night’s sleep.

With only a short distance to cover on the first day, we allowed a significant amount of time for Barry to faff – something that would become as regular as coffee in the mornings to come – and then headed out on a bit of a stop start commencement to the day. And what a ride! This section was new to everyone and finding the correct path proved challenging – as did the path itself! Leading our horses, we scrambled along in knee-deep mud, fighting off the grabby branches and trying not to entangle ourselves or our horses in the numerous obstacles keen to hinder our progress.

After a hot and sweaty start to our ride, the terrain became slightly less exacting and we arrived at our first stop, The Kraal, in time for a spot of lunch and well-deserved swim in the warm waters of the Mpande river. An afternoon sojourn to the local shebeen (unofficial tavern) gave all the chance to kick back, relax and soak up the friendliness and hospitality of the Xhosa people.

Day three saw us covering +-40km from The Kraal to Mdumbi – it also presented us with our first big river swim. Under Barry and Joe’s expert guidance, we intrepidly strided out into the Mtakatye River, whose 100m wide expanse put a few butterflies in everyone’s stomachs. Despite a little unwillingness at the start of the swim, the horses ventured on valiantly and we all arrived safely and relatively gracefully on the other side and sat down to a lunch of river-soaked sandwiches (courtesy of me who had de-water-proofed them for reasons none of us could fathom).

 The next day was hot and we had some serious distance to complete so the pacing of the ride was vital. With Reign and Victor dropping back rather on some of the long hill climbs, we decided to swap horses in order to keep the day moving. With a lighter rider on his back, Reign soon found his feet and slotted in with the rest of the horses. The day ended even more beautifully than it had begun, with a ride through a curiously atmospheric dune forest and out for a last long beach canter and up through the river to Bulungula where we spent an idyllic night in a thatch lapa in the paddock with our horses.

We all awoke early the next morning, except for Joe who remained huddled in his Barbie sleeping bag even as one of the horses decided to investigate the lapa for any signs of food. And who can blame her? We all found Equifeeds so tempting in appearance that we sampled it and decided that it was a definite improvement on some of the foodstuffs us humans were being presented with for breakfast!

Now on our fourth day of riding, we were heading to The Haven, a section of the ride that I had been particularly looking forward to. The Haven is situated within the sister reserves of Dwesa and Cwebe which conserve one of the Eastern Cape’s largest remaining sections of indigenous coastal forest. As I have quite a thing for forests, I had been wanting to visit this area for a long time and the morning’s ride did much to emphasize the unique appeal of this arboreal wilderness.

We were all very relaxed, knowing that we only had around 20-25km to complete during the day, and so we added to our time in the saddle by losing equipment (I actually rode back in an effort to locate my GPS that was actually safely stowed away in my bag all along) and sustaining minor injuries. An unexpected branch scratched me on the nose enough for it to bleed profusely and require the expert first aid of Barry – i.e. he stuck a big piece of white tape on my nose, laughed at me and took photos – ahh, the bedside manner!

A quiet afternoon was enjoyed, sort of, by both horse and human, although Barry’s natural energy levels (approximately the same as a Duracell bunny) meant he had trouble with this concept and forced us all to drink copious quantities of red wine instead (I swear, I was an unwilling participant!). A wonderful evening of laughter and silliness saw me struggling to arise from my damp tent the next morning and I surfaced only just in time for breakfast.

From The Haven we continued our journey down the coast and our last night on the road would be spent at The Kob Inn, where I was back on familiar ground having recently ridden up there on our newly adjusted 7-day beach trail. It is a wet day from start to finish, with rain soaking us from above and rivers soaking us from below. Our first challenge is the Mbashe River which, with its grumpy greyness, notoriety and sharks, is enough to stir a little nervousness in me. It proves to be a straightforward wade across so, with that out of the way, I am all ready to enjoy a great day’s riding in the pouring rain!

The rain couldn't do much to dampen our spirits, although one or two unexpected rivers did take some of the fighting spirit out of our leader. With the countryside beginning to flatten out and the long beaches stretching ahead of us, it was an incredible day’s riding with the overcast, rainy weather providing good conditions for the horses and keeping us all cool and hydrated!

The wonderful hospitality and friendless of the Kob Inn’s proprietors and staff were a welcome luxury as we arrived sodden and shivering. Warm showers, big beds and great food were some of the highlights of the evening. A few more dry clothes would have been an added bonus but it was not meant to be, although the tumble-dried jeans and socks were a welcome sight (and sensation) the following morning.

Saturday marked the last day of our adventure and we had three rivers to cross and just over 50km to cover to our final destination. The day is pretty grey with intermittent rain and one of the horses is battling a little with chafing from the girth the day before. We adjust all her tack, do away with the martingale and set out with a whole new perspective – one which is primarily filled with chestnut ears as the head is flung around in celebration of this new liberty.

Shaan-Rae and Candis join up from The Kob Inn with us at the beginning of the ride but the fast pace soon separates the original four members of the team from our new companions. The beaches are fast and furious and the horses, now on familiar ground, are full of running. We hit the long beach before Wavecrest with a spring in our steps and plenty of banter about the gallop ahead. As I know the horses well, I also know that I am riding the fastest and it is not long before we drop, lengthen and leave the others behind. Although I have galloped this beach hundreds of times, it never fails to produce much exhilaration and the feeling of complete freedom. I wrote in my diary: “We are galloping into an abundant beauty where happiness pushes light into the shadows and illuminates the darkest corners of my soul.”

After a wade through the Nxaxo River, we eat lunch quickly and continue on our way. We usually take one full day to ride back from Wavecrest to Kei Mouth, and now we are hoping to squeeze it into a couple of hours – which we manage successfully. Although the guys have let me lead the way since Wavecrest, I lose all control when we hit the golf course and watch in horror as they canter heedlessly up the fairway, threatening to destroy our already strained relations with our neighbouring golfers! Joe’s excuse was that he forgot to put his horse’s bit in – Barry’s was that he’s simply pig-headed and doesn't play golf!

What an incredible week! I feel almost homesick for the adventure and for the companionship of both humans and horses. This trip has inspired me to dream beyond my comfort zone, plan new challenges for myself and my horse, give up smoking, and basically change the entire way I approach life and horses. “Right now, in this tiny moment, there is no one who can clip the wings of my freedom. Together, my horse and I, we can conquer untold wonders and discover all that lies beyond these horizons.”

For more info on how you can be part of our Wild Coast Horseback Adventures - go to our web site

1 comment:

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