Ant Baber led the fourth Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride, taking a new route across the Waterberg Plateau from Ant’s Nest to Jembisa on the Palala River to the north, covering 187kms on horseback over six days and crossing seven different game reserves.
Team members from the UK and Bermuda had been busy raising sponsorship, 50% of funds going to Save The Waterberg Rhino and 50% to community projects that uplift the people and place of the Waterberg in the Limpopo Province of South Africa
While we had excellent game viewing, we also enjoyed very good food.
Meals were served in a variety of different settings, enabling the team to get to know each other and have time to chat to guides and directors of the game reserve. It was a true safari, in that we went on a journey through the African bush.
Coming across wild animals made our spirits soar.
We were able to get unusually close both on foot and on horseback.
What the animals thought can only be guessed.
But the riders wrote to say how amazing it was. ‘I think you have a winning formula as the riding is wonderful but all the extra experiences such as the school, youth club, church and visiting Clive Walker, enriched it and made it a truly unique experience and insight into the Waterberg.’
On the second day we had a real life adventure, helping the local vet.
‘It was a truly memorable adventure’
The horses were used to approaching wildlife as they graze with other animals in the bush.
It was high summer in South Africa so the afternoons could get hot and tiring
and the road was sometimes steep
but each day was full of variety
and we developed a huge sense of camaraderie.
‘…it was just pure fun and I felt so carefree’
We each had time to develop a relationship with our horse.
While the herd enjoyed the grazing we loved finding out about the projects supported by The Waterberg Trust.
It was a privilege to meet the local people.
These included exceptional women changing the lives of children.
‘Apart from the riding, we so enjoyed seeing all that The Waterberg Trust supports. There are some incredible people involved.’
We met the conservationist Clive Walker and learned of what he had achieved for the UNESCO Biosphere and good to hear his new plans for the Waterberg Living Museum.
It was a privilege to be able to watch wild animals from horseback.
The landscape was ever-changing.
After five days in the saddle we reached the Palala River without mishap and thanks to the teams at Ant’s Nest and Jembisa, we were able celebrated the finish in style.
‘It really was a very special trip and a challenge at that.’
Special thanks go to Ant Baber and his family for looking after us and enabling us to ride across the land of their forefathers and beyond.
It was ‘a really amazing experience’.
The horses needed a good rest and the riders were tired but everyone agreed that it had been an incredible week of exploration.
We rose early and saddled up the horses for a day full of promise.
Ant Baber, who had planned the route, was keen to cross Lindani game reserve and reach Jembisa to the north that morning. We had a long way to go.
The riders set off from Motseng Lodge where we’d spent a comfortable night.
We crossed the Melkrivier, a tributary of the Palala River, avoiding the footbridge.
It was a good chance to water the horses.
From here, we made our way up a steep, jungly kloof chocked with dense vegetation.
It is in these valleys that you find the most ancient trees that thrive in relatively sheltered conditions where they have access to water.
Being on an intercontinental convergence zone, the Waterberg is home to over 350 different species of tree from baobabs to wild fig – a greater variety than the whole of western Europe.
We suddenly found ourselves at the top of the hill where the vegetation opened out.
Wild proteas, the national flower of South Africa, were growing here.
We climbed higher still, taking a track that gave us occasional views across the Waterberg.
This unique unspoilt wilderness area has been declared a UNESCO world biosphere.
On reaching the top of the Buffelshoek escarpment we dis-mounted
and lead the horses, on our quest to reach the very north of the game reserve.
We walked some way down the steep trail.
It was good to stretch but quite hard work as temperatures had risen.
After a while, we were able to look back at the impressive escarpment, looking for vulture roosts in the rocky outcrops.
A sandy path led to the north gate of the reserve and out onto the road.
We were able to canter up this track to reach the southern gate of Jembisa,
a 3000 hectare private game where the manager was waiting to let us in.
We were soon able to water the horses and rode through the bush, looking out for wildlife such as zebra, wildebeest, warthog, oryx and impala who had young at foot.
After about five kilometres, we took the chance for another exhilarating canter down an old air strip.
After untacking the horses, rubbing them down and making sure they had plenty of hay and water,
we made it to the lodge in time for a late lunch, which was served under the trees.
It was difficult to leave Jembisa,
especially since they have a wonderfully refreshing pool
but we climbed into two game drive vehicles and were taken to the neighbouring reserve.
Funds raised by The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride are being used to enable sixty local teenagers and their teachers to attend a week-long residential course on nature conservation here. You can see photos of the last group sponsored on Facebook here.
For local children, this course costs 375 Rand each per night, fully catered, which is exceptionally good value for a life-changing experience. TWT also fun transport from the township of Leseding.
After meeting the director and learning how the school raises environmental awareness,
riders came face to face with one of the teaching aids – an impressive Burmese python.
Rescued from a life spent in restrictive captivity this beautiful snake is used to show local children how important it is to treasure the wildlife of South Africa and that all animals have a role in the eco-system. To find out more about Lapalala Wilderness please click here.
You can find out about Jembisa, who kindly sponsored the ride by letting riders cross across the reserve and stay for the next two nights in great comfort by clicking here
or watch their marketing video here:
‘It was demanding but the greatest fun.’
Fifteen riders crossed seven different game reserves in six days, covering 187kms while learning about Save The Waterberg Rhino and visiting community projects that benefit young people in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
~The Waterberg Trust Challenge Horse Ride 2018~
The ride began at Ant’s Nest game reserve where team members from the United Kingdom and Bermuda learnt about Save The Waterberg Rhino.
~Rhino walking up to riders gathered on the plains at Ant’s Nest~
The challenge ride was led by Ant Baber whose family have lived in the Waterberg for five generations. He has spent the last twenty-one years re-introducing wildlife to the area.
Today, white rhino, giraffe, buffalo, warthog, baboon, zebra, wildebeest, eland, kudu, nyala, impala, blesbok, a variety of other antelope can be spotted from horseback.
~TWT riders observing zebra on Ant’s Hill game reserve~
January proved a good time of year for there were many newborn animals.
We were able to observe breeding groups of rare species such as sable and roan antelope.
The riders helped to capture a sick eland so it could receive treatment from a game vet.
~A sick eland cow receiving veterinary treatment~
We learnt more about the area while traversing six other game reserves.
~TWT Riders crossing Lindani game reserve~
~Observing young giraffe from horseback on Lindani~
We saw golden wildebeest, red heartebeest, vervet monkeys, ostrich, black-backed jackal, bushbuck, oryx and waterbuck as well as species we’d seen previously.
~Reaching the Palala River on Jembisa game reserve~
Over the week riders were able to visit a number of charitable projects supported by The Waterberg Trust, which gave us a chance to meet local people.
~Discussing conservation issues with Clive Walker at the Living Museum~
~The Waterberg Trust Riders at Lapalala Wilderness School~
~The ‘Back to School’ project at Lethabo Kids Club in the township of Leseding~
~Nurse Grace telling TWT riders about her work in local schools~
~The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018~
Bringing you some of the best photographs from The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride in January, featuring each of the riders who took part and gallantly raised funds for Save The Waterberg Rhino and community projects in the area. Thank you for all your help and support!
-Ant Baber leading the riders in search of game re-introduced to the Waterberg-
-Juliet Madden from North Yorkshire who gathered together the group-
-Sam Scott from Cumbria with giraffe on Ant’s Nest in the Waterberg-
-Tina Fox-Edwards from Berkshire riding across the Waterberg –
The rains had been late and we saw newborn animals
-Hilly Collinson from Yorkshire, grabbing photos of giraffe-
-Louise Horsely from Australia coming across a herd of buffalo-
-A white rhino arriving while we were being given a talk–
-Janie Beardsall from Yorkshire in her bush hat-
-Elisa Spearmann from Wiltshire on her mare-
– A roan antelope photographed by Mairi Hunt-
-Camilla Newton from Rutland-
-Sisters, Mairi Hunt and Sally Milvertson being introduced to a python-
-Claudia Smythe-Osbourne from Yorkshire with two very young giraffe-
-TWT rider Lulu Ferrand from Leicestershire –
-Simon Williams-Thomas from Hampshire on ground support –
-TWT Trustee Sophie Neville observing the endangered white rhino-
Many thanks go to Tessa Baber for hosting the ride and having us to stay at Ant’s Nest
-The lodge at Ant’s Nest some three-and-a-half hours north of Pretoria-
-The team: TWT riders and guides at Kolobe Lodge on Lapalala Wilderness, January 2017-
– Sunset at Ant’s Nest photographed by Sam Scott –
The riders’ drew on their experience and fitness on the third day of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride, when we covered a more than 37 kilometers riding from Ant’s Nest to Kwalata Game Reserve on the Blocklands River.
We made up a big group of thirteen horseman with three guides and set off early in an attempt to find wildlife.
It was white rhino that we saw first, including one cow with a three month-old calf.
We were able to get very close as the horses are used to grazing with rhino.
We then rode west through the bushveldt and although we cantered at times,
we went slowly in an attempt to find game, pausing to watch wildebeest and zebra.
After a while we came across Livingstone eland, a rare breed originating from Zimbabwe.
We crossed through recently filled dams
and came across a number of new-born animals, including impala lambs.
Once on the top of the escarpment, at some 1,400 metres above sea level, we found a breeding herd of buffalo – the bull looking at us from behind a clump of dense bush.
He was with a number of females.
We were also shown a breeding herd of rare roan antelope being re-introduced to the Waterberg.
We then left Ant’s game reserve and enjoyed riding fast down sandy roads across the plateau
and down towards the Blocklands River that flows north into the Limpopo
The horses were fed and watered in a secure boma originally made for buffalo while the riders were housed at the lodge in cottages that looked out over the water.
Everyone was able to kick off their boots and relax after what had been a long day in the saddle.
To our relief, there were bathrooms and a swimming pool to sooth aching muscles.
And even a stuffed crocodile – luckily the only one of his species we encountered on the ride.
To keep up with news and events of The Waterberg Trust please see our Facebook page
Multi award-winning filmmaker Alastair Fothergill, who’s produced most of the landmark natural history series presented by Sir David Attenborough, along with five feature films for DisneyNature, flew from Los Angeles to speak at our charity fundraising event in Yorkshire hosted by TWT rider Juliet Maddan and her amazing team.
Every penny raised by the talk went go straight to The Waterberg Trust who have a cost-effective way of sending it to projects in South Africa.
Sponsorship was found for the drinks reception held before the talk when TWT riders served wine and canapes
This enabled people to meet Alastair and learn about projects in the Waterberg
The Yorkshire Party Company supplied delicious things to eat, while others kindly donated wine. Asygarth School gave the use of their auditorium and facilities free of charge.
Juliet Maddan saw everyone was settled in their seats
before Alastair’s multi-media talk on his series ‘The Hunt’ made for BBC Television.
It featured animal behaviour never before captured on film.
We also learnt quite a bit about how the sequences were made.
A couple of questions from the audience were taken after the talk.
A fundraising raffle run by Jolenta Henderson was drawn for a case of proseco donated by Edward Theakston, Alastair’s book, an Elfinglen tray and other lovely prizes.
TWT rider Mairi Hunt painted two watercolours of rhino for the event, one of which is depicted on this special limited edition Elfinglen tray, now available for £100
To buy one of these large handmade trays made in aid of The Waterberg Trust please contact Elfinglen by clicking here.
Limited edition bird trays are also for sale for £100 each
A sculpture of a rhino with her baby by Unity Heald was sold in a secret auction.
Very many thanks to all who supported this memorable event
Here are some of the film clips Alastair showed us:
Just to show that although it was good fun the TWT cycle ride was challenging! Conditions were foggy and puddles frequent but the back-up team came armed with a teapot.
The gallant riders made the 82 miles from Cambridge to North Norfolk in one piece – and without a even puncture.
Funds raised will go to educational projects in the Waterberg region of South Africa, carefully channelled though The Waterberg Trust who have a Justgiving page here
photographs by Sam Franklin
TWT Truste Barry Burles reports:
The delights of many adventures are the unintended benefits. The thought of 84 relentless miles to North Norfolk was daunting. My first outing recceing the 20 miles of the route to Ely resulted in me peddling through the flood waters alongside the River Cam with frozen and wet feet. However, it forced me to find an alternative that resulted in us taking National Cycle Route 11 to Ely through Wicken Fen. The benefits were great because Route 11 was on mostly hard cycle path surfaces suitable for the road bikes. And it took us across some fabulous open Fen wetlands with great bird watching, wild-looking highland cattle and rare breads of horse. The natural distractions and frequent punctures during our training rides meant that we missed many trains back from Ely, where we invariably stopped for a scrumptious poached egg and hollandaise sauce breakfast, doubling whatever calories that we might have burnt.
The next 20 miles was a straight sprint along 10 Mile Bank to Downham Market after which we were noticeably in the Brecklands navigating our way down rutted and puddly farm tracks and through numerous hamlets with extraordinary names such as Totenhill, Wormegay and Blackborough. This was a long haul through the 55 mile stage when energy simply ran out and the banter stopped as the determination to simply keep going switched on.
To add insult to aching muscles, we encountered our first hills. Never has the support team been such a welcome sight with their broad grins and stupid questions asking us what took us so long? Our condition was quickly remedied by their freshly brewed coffee and tea and the wonderful consommé soup, flap jacks and scotch eggs to die for. But our cause to complete the distance was more pressing. After warming up in the Paddling Duck pub, we slowly recovered and were ready for the final 20 miles that went surprisingly easily as we all seemed to find our second wind.
It was not long before we were in front of another pub crossing a river (picture above) where cars can no longer go. Refusing to be distracted, we peddled on along the pilgrim route through the Walsinghams, cycling past black caped churchmen walking towards us along the Holy Mile to the slipper chapel. Knowing that Langham was now close, the hills to Binham and then on up to Langham were easily managed.
We arrived to the welcoming cheers of wives and girlfriends. We knew from the church clock chiming four that we were just in time to watch England beating Wales that added to our glee. A few beers, a great rugby match and delicious dinner and wine all provided a delightful end to a happy day.
A bunch of men playing hard together engenders the best of camaraderie. The highlight of the adventure was the good spirits that everyone brought with them and kept sharing throughout.
We have since organised a second bike ride along the same route with a riders from the Cambidge Rugby Club. Together we have raised just short of £7,000 for The Waterberg Trust which was a rewarding effort in itself. Many thanks to all our sponsors.
As the weather was relatively cool, Anthony Baber decided to ride north up to the Jembisa wetlands in the morning.
This entailed a bit of hard exercise as we walked up a stony hill past an old Iron Age fort.
It was worth it to reach a view point that enabled us to look down over the Palala River Valley and the way we’d come.
We saw wildebeest, zebra, impala and blesbok along with interesting birds
and returned to the lodge where Tess Baber and Kelly of Save the Wwaterberg Rhino Trust joined us for lunch outside.
That afternoon we rode fast alongside the airfield on Jembisa and along winding tracks through seringa woodland in the low evening light.
We saw red heartebeest on our way to a view point where the staff of Jembisa had champagne waiting for us to celebrate the fact that riders had covered more than 175kms.
We rode the last 5kms back under dark skies and bid farewell to our gallant horses who were trucked home, two by two.