We were woken by weaver birds nesting above the lodge where we spent the night at Kwalata Game Reserve deep in the Waterberg hills.
We tacked up our horses, tying rain coats behind our long-distance McClellan saddles, and left head-collars underneath our bridles so we could tie the horses up in the bush.
We set off in good spirits and rode through Kwalata into Lapalala Wilderness, a private game reserve of approximately 100,000 hectares.
Since the Waterberg is on an intercontinental convergence zone there is a greater variety of trees and shrubs on Lapalala than in the whole of Western Europe.
There is also a great diversity of birds, reptiles and mammal species with a range of different antelope from solitary steinbuck to herds of kudu.
The annual amount of rainfall can be pretty much the same as in London but in the Waterberg it usually only rains in the summer months with occasional downpours.
We enjoyed blue skies all day, walking beside the horses as we followed a rocky track down the escarpement as we made our way north.
We rode up a small river, making a number of crossings until we came across a dam where it was safe to swim.
By this time our leader, Ant Baber needed a break. He had missed breakfast.
We rode on up the valley, coming to a bigger dam known for its population of crocodile and hippo.
The horses were able to take a long drink before resting for a few hours at mid-day.
We were grateful to find table set out by the water with drinks and bowls of salad.
The riders, who were exhausted, appreciated the chairs and needed a sleep after lunch.
We opted to take the scenic route that afternoon, riding past herds of giraffe, impala,
kudu and wildebeest, while vervet monkeys were spotted in the trees.
GPS readings revealed that we covered a total of 41 kilometers on this day when we grasped just how wild the Waterberg is.
That evening the horses ate well, appreciative of the lush summer grazing.
Ant Baber drove the group of tired but happy riders down the valley
for a well-earned drink
and a swim at Kolobe lodge
before gathering around the fire
where they met up with the back-up team and members of Save The Waterberg Rhino.
The director of Lapalala Wilderness School joined us, giving a short talk on what we could expect to see the next morning.
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