Skies looked threatening at the start of The 5th Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride but the game viewing was excellent with herds of zebra and antelope enjoying lush grass.
The ride was hosted by Ant’s Nest who had prepared some of their best horses for what proved to be a 208 kilometre marathon.
Since Ant’s horses usually graze in the bush we were able to get exceptionally close wildlife while riding around the property.
Riders were able to observe rare breeds such as Livingstone eland and sable antelope.
We made our way up to Ant’s Hill in search of rhino, finding the dominant male.
Jessica Babich of Save The Waterberg Rhino gave riders a talk on how funds raised by TWT are being used to install high-tech security equipment to combat poaching.
Early on 31st January, everyone was ready to cross the Waterberg, heading north towards the Palala River.
The horses wore head-collars, lead ropes and long-distance saddles for the journey.
Ant Baber led the team of twelve ladies who soon found themselves passing one of his breeding herds of Cape buffalo.
We then rode through neighbouring game reserves, crossing wide open plains where wildebeest and blesbok roam.
Lunch was taken at the Waterberg Living Museum established by Clive Walker and his son Anton Walker, who showed us around. They have a room dedicated to information on rhinos and the poaching situation.
The Waterberg Trust has donated picnic tables, benches and information boards to this centre of environmental education created for local schoolchildren and visitors.
We rode on, spotting giraffe, impala, blesbok and golden wildebeest as we made our way
through another reserve to spend the night at Waterberg Cottages on Triple B Ranch.
It is home for the Baber family who began rearing cattle in the Waterberg in the 1880’s.
There was a solar-heated pool to relax sore muscles and reviving ginger drinks for all.
Dinner was served on the veranda of the farmhouse built by Ant’s grandfather in 1928.
The next morning, we rode through the traditional Transvaal farm, passing herds of Bonsmara stud cattle.
Summer rain had filled some of the twenty-two dams built by Ant’s father.
We cantered down through woodland, where baboons could be heard barking, and stopped for breakfast at Horizon Horseback Safaris where hippo were in residence.
After crossing plains inhabited by ostrich, we reached another lake on the Melkrivier.
Egyptian geese, African fish eagle and rare spur-winged geese flew up as we passed by.
We crossed through an old cattle farm and cantered along red roads to Lindani game reserve where we stopped for lunch at a dam where crocodile are known to flourish.
After a relaxed lunch, when we could rest the horses, we rode into more hilly country.
Lindani game reserve has a high population of giraffe, warthog and other plains game.
Two nights were spent at Motseng Lodge where the horses enjoyed excellent grazing.
This enabled us to pay a visit to Lapalala Wilderness School where we met a python and
enjoyed a game drive on Lapalala Wilderness before exploring a remote corner of Lindani on horseback.
Crossing reed-choked stream beds could be challenging but the horses were brave.
One of the highlights of the ride was reaching the crest of the Buffleshoek escarpment.
After coming across giraffe, we dismounted to descend through thick vegetation for a couple of miles.
It was difficult to believe we had brought thirteen horses down the towering cliff face.
After perhaps the greatest of many long canters up the sandy tracks of the Waterberg
the riders made it to Jembisa game reserve where, after following oryx though seringa woodland,
the team was greeted by chilled champagne set out under a tree.
Our goal had been reached, the ride had ended. Most riders had spent a total of 38 hours in the saddle over 7 days: quite an achievement.
~Photographs by Ant Baber who led The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2019~
The next day, riders were able to visit Lethabo Kids Club in the township of Leseding where we met children who had benefited from TWT’s grant to the ‘Back to School’ project and handed over a donation of sports clothes and underwear for Nurse Grace to distribute. She updated us on how successful Dignity Dreams sanitary packs were proving in enabling schoolgirls to remain in lessons whilst they have their periods.
TWT Trustees saw some of the 24 security camera erected to combat rhino poaching in the Waterberg and discussed plans to install more of these effective deterrents.
Very many thanks to Ant’s Nest and Jembisa who hosted the ride and enabled so many of us to visit community projects in the Waterberg.