I spent this March sulking because it just did not compare to March 2012.
September ’12 I was googling ‘I want to be a cowgirl’, March ’12 I was plane hopping from Birmigham to Paris to Johannesburg to East London, South Africa. April ’12 I was sulking on a long, hungover journey back to snowy Britain and it’s been downhill ever since. I kid but the month I spent in sunny SA is worlds away from the ‘on your toes’ Northern hemisphere life.
Wild Coast Horseback Adventures is a family run business, situated in The Transkei Wild Coast area. After reading their website and seeing photos of trail rides through safaris and galloping along sandy beaches I knew I had to go. So a lot of hours later I was stepping foot on South African ground under a starry sky with a comfortable warmth. At the airport I was greeted by one of the owners and we made our way to Sunray Farm, just out of Kei Mouth. After trundling down a rocky road in a not so reliable truck we reached the farm. It was about 10pm so I was shown to the volunteer’s house (a converted barn) and met some of the other volunteers. I can’t say I was exactly poopin’ myself about the whole one man adventure I was about to have but there were some nerves, and let me say that if you ever go to Sunray Farm those nerves soon disappear.
I was on their Working Riding Holiday programme and that is exactly what it is; I volunteered as a stablehand/groom/trail rider/farmworker and yet the whole time I thought I was on an incredible holiday. To be fair I think most people I know thought I was on a jolly but I wouldn’t call getting up at 7am a jolly. Nor cleaning tack a jolly, or even chasing horses round a field a jolly but I like that sort of thing (it’s in the countryside blood). Let’s do the average day:
8.30- collect tack and feed, load trailer and head to the beach stables
9.30- catch beach horses, feed, groom, tack up for any customers
10.00- said customers arrive, help them mount, mount our horses, head off on trail ride along Kei Mouth beach or Morgan Bay’s cliff tops
12.00- back at stables, untack, groom, feed, put back in field, head back to farm for food
14.00- head to game reserve, feed and water horses their
15.00- ride round game reserves with/without clients
16.00- head back, clean some tack, break
20.00- either sleep or head into Kei Mouth for the night
Seeing that has made me feel really lazy. It was definitely not a ‘jolly’.
One day I could be riding with giraffes only meters away or racing down a beach or through the waves, one day was spent moving horses 13 miles away on horseback in a total downpour. It was the perfect kind of life though. We would have clients and volunteers from all over the world; Germany, America, France, Scotland, Australia. Sometimes it felt like a United Nations meeting for horse lovers of the world.
I’d also say I learnt more about horses than from my previous 11 years experience. There were some gruesome maggot wounds, crazy horny stallions, fresh faced colts, everything and I only wish I could stay there forever (which is always an option).
Wild Coast Horseback Adventures is perfect for anyone who loves horses, doesn’t mind horses, who is an incredible rider, or someone who has never ridden in their life. It offers a chance to see beautiful South African scenery of the Wild Coast, you could say it’s the lazy way of taking the footpath.
I left the farm crying, not because my head was banging, or because I’d fallen in love with the barman. I’d been among people that shared the same interests as me, in a country that shared my laid-back attitude; it the first foreign country I actually wouldn’t mind living in.
So I got on that plane on a low, with a woman beside telling me my generation had no future and was only happy when I met my family at the airport. Oh man I miss it.