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.
We had come to find out about the Lapalala Wilderness School, established in 1985
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: