The coldest weekend to date this year had to be the weekend we decided to go to Rietvlei and spend the weekend without electricity or hot water and on top of a horse in the freezing wind. But then again from what I heard about the power failures all over Joburg, we were probably luckier than some as we had a raging fire to keep us warm; once off the horses!
Friday afternoon we loaded up the gear and headed out on horseback to the first hut. We quickly got the fire going and dinner on the go, a good old braai for the evening! The night air was filled by howling jackals and we sipped on OBS to keep us warm.
On the ride
The next morning whilst doing a breakfast of French toast and sausages we had a jackal visiting the outskirts of the hut area, probably hoping to get a bit of breakfast himself. The morning air did not seem as cold as we thought, so off came the layers of clothing, to prevent being over heated on the horses for the day. What a bad idea! As soon as the gear was moved to the next hut and we saddled up to ride, we felt the zero chill factor of the air. The morning sun at least kept most of the cold at bay but as the day progressed and the clouds built up in the sky the biting cold wind cut to the bone. The temperature for the day was a cold 10 degrees!
Tacked up and ready to ride
The day was filled with great herds of Eland, Blesbok, Hartebeest, zebras, Wildebeest, Springbuck and the odd jackal that thought we were following him, as he ran up the path and stopped to see if we were still coming. The cold air stirred up all the beans in the frisky animals, springbuck leaping, wildebeest running around in circles, playing chase ‘em games and my horse included and with my hot seat; we spent most of the day bouncing from one fright to the next, side stepping and spinning, Vloorslag just wanting to boot me off and buck and gallop about with free abandon in the cold air, as you would if you were a horse on a cold day!
As we made our way through the reserve we made our way up into a clump of trees to see two Rhino’s hiding out from the cold. What an awesome sight to see them in thick bush peering at us as we peered back. A much better sighting than seeing them at the feed lot as in times before. (In the winter months the reserve puts out food for the animals as there’s not much nutrients in the dry veld grass to carry them through).
By the time we came into the picnic sight for lunch we were quite frozen. We sat behind a wall, sort of sheltered from the icy wind trying to heat up in the little bit of sun whilst munching our lunches.
We only had the last stretch to the second hut to do, which would’ve been a quick ride if only we didn’t have the only incident where a horse fell asleep on foot and got a fright when he realised where he was and leapt sideways in shock, losing his rider to the floor below. As this had scared the rider we weren’t able to gallop the last stretch to warmth but had to plod along counting the paces.
The temperature steadily dropped throughout the night with it reaching -2 degrees in the hut but under all the blankets and a trusty hot water bottle, we were as snug as toast. We made a delicious beef shin potjie early in the evening, as the cold and gale winds came in, it was too cold even sitting around the bomb fire we made and everyone got and early night.
Warming up around the fire
All of us
Another beautiful sunset.
By 9am the next morning the temp had only climbed to 2 degrees, the wind howled and some of the riders decided they were miles too cold to get back onto the horses and caught a lift back on the bakkie to go home and get warm. The rest of us, made sure this day we had enough clothes on to be able to ride but with all the beginners leaving on the bakkie we had a brilliant fast ride home, trotting and cantering all the way back to the reception. We over heated from the layers of clothes but ended the weekend well!
The map for the route taken on saturday