Tag Archives: Long distance riding

Highlights of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

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

White rhino on Ant's Nest

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.

Day 6 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

TWT Ride 2018 - DAY 6 walking down to the Palala River (2).jpgAfter walking the horses down a steep track on Jembisa game reserve, we finally made it to the Palala River. It’s normally too deep to cross on a horse but the drought of 2017 resulted in unusually low water.

The rocks looked slippery but Ant Baber decided we could walk across.

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As we made our way the Rooisloot valley we came across interesting plants such as this Transvaal gardenia.

Greater kudu enjoy eating the green seed pods and had effectively pruned the bushes.

The aim was to ride up to the wetlands at the very north of the reserve.

We had entered at the gate just south of Emily’s Camp. Today we reached Kwarriehoek near the road to Makopane, which you can see at the top right-hand corner of this map.

It was good to have reached the open grasslands after having spent six days in the saddle.

 

Mission accomplished. We could ride no further north.

A highlight of the day was lunch at a house on the game reserve which has a pool with an incredible view, looking north down the Palala River Valley towards Lapalala Wilderness where we had been the evening before.

We mounted the horses and crossed back over the Palala, which flows north into the Limpopo on the South African border with Zimbabwe.

TWT Ride DAY 6 2018 crossing the Palala River - photo Sophie Neville

Without pausing to remove our helmets, we dismounted and climbed up the steep cart track in our hot clothes. The horses were fine but it was hard on the riders.

Once we reached the plateau, it wasn’t long before we were met by the back-up team.

They had brought us champagne to celebrate the end of the challenge ride.

Everyone was tired, but happy, if a little dazed.

No one had fallen off. There had been no injuries or mis-haps. The horses were still in good condition. We had explored a new route, which had proved varied and exciting. Ant Baber decided the ride had been a success.

We’d made it!

We had come so far and seen so much. The experience had challenged and extended each one of us..

We climbed back into the saddle and had a cheer from the team from Newbury, before making our way back to the lodge.

The riders enjoyed one last exciting gallop before bidding farewell to the horses, who had all done so well. We’d covered 187 kilometres in total – 197kms if you counted the ride before the official trek began six days before.

Very many thanks to all our sponsors and donors who encouraged us on our way. The funds raised will go a long way to help Save The Waterberg Rhino increase security in the area and will support community projects run by trusted charitable organisations that uplift the emerging generation by providing education or healthcare.

If you would like to make a donation to The Waterberg Trust please click here

~TWT Trustees: Belinda Chaffer and Sophie Williams-Thomas~

Day 5 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

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.

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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.

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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.

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We walked some way down the steep trail.

It was good to stretch but quite hard work as temperatures had risen.

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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.

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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:

 

Day 3 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

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Riders set off early from the stables and were led across Ant’s Nest by Anthony Baber.

We learnt more about the Waterberg as we crossed into neighbouring game reserves.

The African grasslands look benign but tend to be full of holes made by termites or burrowing animals, so it is safer to ride in single file, only cantering along tracks.

We watered the horses at dams and waterholes wherever possible and rode on.

The aim was to cover as much ground as possible before the heat of the day.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Michael and the team riding north

A herd of zebra and other game were spotted that morning and a fair distance was covered.

We were expected at the soon-to-be-opened Waterberg Living Museum. Here we met one of South Africa’s leading conservationists, the artist and writer Clive Walker, who explained the need for education in conservation, ecology and bio-diversity.

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Clive founded the Endangered Wildlife Trust and set up the Lapalala Wilderness School which we were due to visit later in that week.

The Waterberg Trust had provided the museum with funds to purchase picnic tables and benches, which the riders found useful both during and after lunch.

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Back in the saddle, the riders let their horses drink before crossing another game reserve.

The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

We traversed open grasslands where we saw zebra, blesbok and red heartebeest, spotting a baby waterbuck and rare golden wildebeest that are bred in the area.

It was a joy to cross wide open plains as giraffe looked on from a distance.

At one stage we found ourselves cantering along beside running wildebeest, some of which crossed in front of the horses.

The going was good and as the horses picked up speed it could be difficult keeping a safe distance from the one in front.

The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

‘Was it dusty?’ I’m asked.

‘When fifteen horses are cantering, it is.’

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We finally reached  Waterberg Cottages where Ant grew up. The horses were able to relax and roll in a sandy kraal where they spent the night.

The gardens were verdant after the summer rain and birdsong filled the air.

Some relaxed with a cold beer and made new friends or had a swim.

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As dusk fell, one the riders held a Pilates lesson.

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We were entertained by Ant’s sister, Juliet Calcott, who teaches at a local school. Her family had rescued this little bushbaby and were re-rehabilitating it.

That evening we were treated to a home-cooked meal on the veranda of Windsong Cottage, the farmhouse built in 1928 by Alfred Baber, who farmed the land we’d been riding across using horses and oxen. Historic photographs of the Baber family, which hang in the dining room, can be seen here.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - dinner at Windsong

Juliet’s husband, Dr Philip Calcott, who is listed as one of the Great Guides of South Africa, then took the riders on a Night Sky Safari – giving a lecture on the constellations of the Southern hemisphere.  You can find more information on Waterberg Cottages here and see learn how Night Sky Safaris began here:

The Waterberg Living Museum is now open and can be contacted on:  info@livingmuseum.co.za

Reaching the Palala River on Day 5 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017

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While the TWT riders were looking around Lapalala Wilderness School on the morning of Day 5, the horses were able to enjoy a rest and a good feed.

Ant Baber guiding 2016

Ant Baber, who was leading the expedition, had them tacked up before coming too collect us from the environmental project.

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The riders put on their chaps, helmets and suncream getting ready for the day ahead.

Camilla and Mairi preparing to set off one morning TWT Ride 2017

Ant’s horse was eager to get going.

A team photo was taken of the sixteen horses by Save The Waterberg Rhino and we were off.

TWT Ride team photo 2017

It was a hot sunny day, the bush teeming with life after the rains.

A peaceful section of TWT Ride 2017

We saw quite a bit of game on the plains, including warthog, zebra and wildebeest.

We also took time to learn a little about the trees and flowers.

TWT Riders Sophie Neville and Hilly Collinson 2017

Ant then took us down the valley to the Palala River, which flows northwards towards the Limpopo.

TWT Ride Day 5 Reaching the Palala River

The back-up vehicle got stuck in a stream running down the the river. It looked serious as the ground was being washed away from under the Landcruiser but Ant winched it up the bank and all was well.

TWT Ride 2017 Day 5 Claudia at lunch

Most of us were pretty tired and a little dehydrated by this stage but horses and riders were able to relax in the shade at lunchtime.

That afternoon we were able to enjoy a long canter down the old road where the going was good.

Cantering down the road towards Jembisa

We went through an old Transvaal cattle farm,

TWT Riders Janie Lulu and others walking through Jembisa

crossed the Melkriver and made it to Jembisa Lodge.

TWT Ride 2017 at Jembisa

The horses had comfortable accommodation in the manager’s garden.

TWT Horses enjoying a feed

We passed a pod of hippo in the Palala River and drove up to the lodge for the night.

TWT Ride Day 5 Hippo in the Palala River

Dinner was held under the thatched veranda where everyone was able to relax for the evening and look forward to another day.

TWT Ride Day 5 Jembisa dinner table

Day 4 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017

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We were woken by weaver birds nesting above the lodge where we spent the night at Kwalata Game Reserve deep in the Waterberg hills.img_4270

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.

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We set off in good spirits and rode through Kwalata into Lapalala Wilderness, a private game reserve of approximately 100,000 hectares.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We rode up a small river, making a number of crossings until we came across a dam where it was safe to swim.

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By this time our leader, Ant Baber needed a break. He had missed breakfast.

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We rode on up the valley, coming to a bigger dam known for its population of crocodile and hippo.

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The horses were able to take a long drink before resting for a few hours at mid-day.

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We were grateful to find table set out by the water with drinks and bowls of salad.

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The riders, who were exhausted, appreciated the chairs and needed a sleep after lunch.

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We opted to take the scenic route that afternoon, riding past herds of giraffe, impala,

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kudu and wildebeest, while vervet monkeys were spotted in the trees.

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GPS readings revealed that we covered a total of 41 kilometers on this day when we grasped just how wild the Waterberg is.

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That evening the horses ate well, appreciative of the lush summer grazing.

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Ant Baber drove the group of tired but happy riders down the valley

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for a well-earned drink

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and a swim at Kolobe lodge

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before gathering around the fire

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where they met up with the back-up team and members of Save The Waterberg Rhino.

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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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Day 3 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017

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.

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We made up a big group of thirteen horseman with three guides and set off early in an attempt to find wildlife.

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It was white rhino that we saw first, including one cow with a three month-old calf.

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We were able to get very close as the horses are used to grazing with rhino.

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We then rode west through the bushveldt and although we cantered at times,

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we went slowly in an attempt to find game, pausing to watch wildebeest and zebra.

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After a while we came across Livingstone eland, a rare breed originating from Zimbabwe.

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We crossed through recently filled dams

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and came across a number of new-born animals, including impala lambs.

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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.

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He was with a number of females.

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We were also shown a breeding herd of rare roan antelope being re-introduced to the Waterberg.

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We then left Ant’s game reserve and enjoyed riding fast down sandy roads across the plateau

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and down towards the Blocklands River that flows north into the Limpopo

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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.

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Everyone was able to kick off their boots and relax after what had been a long day in the saddle.

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To our relief, there were bathrooms and a swimming pool to sooth aching muscles.

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And even a stuffed crocodile – luckily the only one of his species we encountered on the ride.

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