Tag Archives: riding in Africa

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.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 6 - Riders crossing the Palala River going north.jpg

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 4 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018 –

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - view from Bushwillow

The fourth day of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018 was one of contrasts. We woke to clear weather although rain was forecast. This was welcomed as we had a long way to go and needed cool conditions.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 4 - Riders leaving Windsong.jpg

We left Windsong Cottage, mounted our horses and rode to Boschdraai Primary School at the nearby Sesotho village.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 4 - Boschdraai Primary School who received gifts of pens and pencils from riders.jpg

The riders had brought pens and pencils for the 140 children who expressed their thanks by singing three very touching songs. The headmistress, who has been working at the eco-school for 24 years, needs a new printer with ink cartridges. She needs set pupils work as she only has one other teacher and three classes of children.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 4 - Michael riding in the dust

We passed wild fig trees as we cantered down sandy farm tracks to Horizon Horseback’s game reserve and picked our way through the natural rock formations of Ghost Kopjie.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 4 - Riders approaching Ghost Kopjie.jpg

Fissures in the old red-standstone, said to be formed in the pre-Cambrian era some 4 millions years ago, is home to nocturnal creatures such as owls and porcupine.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 4 - Helena riding through Ghost Kopjie.jpg

At one stage it got too tricky for the horses but we had never taken this route before.

We had to double back a bit but we made it down to the grasslands below.

We saw jackal as we crossed the plans plains, took a break by a lake, and rode on down long marrum roads that run between game reserves. The vegetation became lusher.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 4 - cantering down the road in the rain.jpg

Rain set in and the going became slippery but the horses kept cantering.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 4 - Mary and Pip riding in the rain.jpg

It was not long before we reached Lindani game reserve where the back-up crew had set up lunch in a paddock where we could unsaddle the horses and let them relax.

Ant warned us that there had been a crocodile attack on the nearby dam.

But it hadn’t been seen for a while and the horses were able to roam freely.

The riders enjoyed a barbecue lunch by the wetland.

Some were in need of reinforcements.

That afternoon we saw zebra, wildebeest and warthog as we cantered across the plains.

As we rode into a belt of acacia woodland we came across giraffe with young.

They allowed us close enough to take photographs.

Giraffe have a different gait to other animals, although horses can be trained to walk as they do, which is meant to be more comfortable for the rider.

It was a long but varied day.  Sandy tracks across the reserve to Motseng Lodge.

We were thirsty by the time we reached the paddock where the horses were to spend the night but Ant and the riders were still smiling.

To see footage taken from the helmet of one of the riders on this day – please click here

You can see a little of what Lindani is like and take a look at Motseng, the lodge where we spent the night here:

Day 3 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

DSC06956.JPG

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.

DSC06977.JPG

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.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Catherine asleep on a bench at the Living Museum donated by TWT.jpg

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.’

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Lizzie arriving at Windsong .jpg

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.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Michael with the Calcott's dog.jpg

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

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Pilates class.jpg

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

Day 2 of The Waterberg Trust challenge Ride 2018

 

DSC06929.JPG

The Waterberg Plateau rises to about 1,400 metres on Ant’ Hill: 4,500 feet above sea level. We covered some distance that morning, climbing an escarpment and riding across the game reserve as the sun beat down.

DSC06796

Although we had encountered a number of waterholes it was only when we reached the highest dam at noon that we took the chance to swim the horses.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 2 - Viv swimming her horse

They loved being able to cool down and play in the water.

As we rode bareback , staying on board wasn’t as easy as you might imagine.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 2 - Lizzie swimming her horse

Later that day, when back in the saddle, we came across a herd of Livingstone eland that hadn’t been seen for some time. One of the cows was badly in need of veterinary treatment.

TWT Ride 2018 - Ant Baber

Ant Baber called in a helicopter to collect his game vet, Paul, and asked the riders if they would volunteer to help by following the eland once it had been darted with anesthetic.

DSC06941

The riders and horses came into their own, cantering through dense bush after the herd of large antelope while the helicopter was buzzing overhead.TWT Ride 2018 DAy 2 - Helicopter and Game Vet

The vet was able to land in a clearing as one of the guides caught the female eland by the horns and calmed her with a mask before she received treatment to her wounded rear-end.

DSC06940.JPG

It was exciting to take part in the game capture and to be able to observe the procedure. The wound was caused by a tick infestation that had become critical. It would not have healed naturally.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 2 - MC on her horse with game vet team.jpg

The wound was dressed and the cow  given anti-biotics, de-wormed and sprayed with insect repellent to increase her chances of survival, before being released back into her herd.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 2 - eland after vetinary treatment

While the helicopter and vet were on hand, Ant decided to capture the eland bull and translocate him to another breeding herd as it is important to introduce fresh genes.

TWT Ride 2018 - DAY 2 riders help translocate an eland bull.jpg

The riders were needed to help carry the anesthetized bull into the truck, which would transport him into a neighbouring area. Although sprayed for ticks, he was in excellent condition.

DSC06948.JPG

Although cantering some of the way, it was dark by the time the riders returned to the lodge when they still had to pack for the days ahead. The plan was to rise early and ride out of the reserve and across the Waterberg, heading north-west towards the Palala River.

DSC07015.JPG

You can get a feel for what it’s like to ride at speed through the African bush in this video:

Day 1 of The Waterberg Challenge Ride 2018

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Jessica taking on Save The Waterberg Rhino
An introductory talk from Jessica Babich of Save The Waterberg Rhino

The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018 began with a talk on Save The Waterberg Rhino who will receive 50% of funds raised on the ride to increase security in the area.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - 5 rhino sleeping.jpg

While the rhino themselves were resting under a tree, the riders gathered to embark on an afternoon ride across Ant’s Nest game reserve to gain an understanding of the area.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - riders having tea before setting out

The route was planned by Ant Baber, who would use his experience to lead the challenge ride over the next six days. Everyone had been in training, working on their fitness.

The horse managers at Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill had carefully chosen and prepared horses for each rider. They needed to be young and hardy enough to cope with the challenge.

Some riders had found vented hot-weather helmets and wore gloves to keep off the sun. Long-distance McClellen saddles were used with specialist neoprene numnas.

It was magical to be riding through the African bushveldt. Being high summer in South Africa, everything was green and the dams were filling after last year’s drought.

The riders soon came across a number of giraffe browsing on blooming acacia.

TWT Ride 2018 - DAY 1 Sarah with giraffe.jpg

A mature adult male giraffe was happy to let us get fairly close.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Viv with giraffe.jpg

As the horses normally graze out on the reserve, the wild animals are used to their presence.

TWT Ride DAY 1 - Mary with three giraffe.jpg

We let the horses browse to reassure the wildlife that all was well.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - giraffe and riders

The riders moved on to see zebra, wildebeest, warthog and a variety of antelope.

Ant Baber was also able to show us his breeding herd of Cape buffalo that tend to prefer thick bush.

This would normally be a rare sighting but the animals were peaceful and behaved naturally.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Ant showing Pip buffalo.jpg

We then picked up speed and managed to cover quite a bit of ground.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Sarah and Mary riding in evening light.jpg

It was not a hard ride but we learnt a great deal and got used to dodging thorn trees.

Riders ended up gathering at Ant Baber’s house to as the sun went down to learn more about Save The Waterberg Rhino and the anti-poaching initiatives currently in place.

Here they could observe a number of white rhino who arrived with a few warthog in tow.

It was an opportunity to met some of the armed security guards who watch over the rhino around the clock and are in contact with the South African police.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Sophie with armed guards at Ant's house.jpg

Arriving in South Africa for The 4th Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

Something very special happened the night riders gathered at Ant’s Nest in South Africa on the eve of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride this January.

We were having a drink out on Ant’s Nest game reserve when some local residents approached us:

Rhino at Ant's Nest

Five white rhino emerged from the bush at the same time as six members of the team arrived on horseback, led by Ant Baber.

It was as if the rhinos were coming to thank us for raising funds to assure their security.

Ant Baber approached the animals to assure them all was well.

And as the sun went down we were able to observe the rhinos in their natural habitat.

They are docile animals, sadly under threat as markets in the Far East place a high value their horn – even though it is no more than keratin, akin to human fingernails.

Please read more about Save The Waterberg Rhino, here

To find out about other projects supported by The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride, please click here

~Riders taking part in The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018~