Riders on the Storm


The morning we checked out of Jeffrey’s Bay, we had horse trekking planned. Papesfontein horse trekking is the only place in the country where you can let loose with horses and gallop for kilometers down the beach in the surf. This sounded incredible, so we signed ourselves up.
As we drove away from the hostel, the clouds began to roll in. It sprinkled a bit, then cleared up again as we neared the ranch. This didn’t look good.
When we arrived at the farmhouse, there were only four of us signed up to ride: Kelsi and I, and a couple who had never been on horses before, ever.
The lady who owned the place was lovely. She said, because we were more experiences riders, that we could pretty much do our own thing.
“When you hit the sand dunes just split off from the group and do what you’d like. The horses know their way home, it won’t be a problem, and the weather should hold out, you may get sprinkled on a little on the route home, but that’s half the fun!” she gave us some faster horses and said that if we wanted a real thrill we could switch our horses with the guide’s. That was her horse; a real racehorse. “If it’s adrenaline you’re looking for, that horse will give it to you” then she sent us on our way.
We walked through the first part of the trip: Kelsi was on Bubbles and I had Patches. It was a lovely, rolling hills area that we trekked through. The South African couple that joined us were very nice, and were quickly getting comfortable with the feel of their horses. The four of us and our one guide strolled for about an hour along the dirt paths before we hit the sand dunes.
The sand dunes separated the grassy, forested hill area from the beach. From the top, you could see forever, (or at least all the way to J-Bay) it was beautiful. This was obviously the turning point towards home, because the horses started to prick up and get ready to run.
“Can we run a little?” We asked the guide.
“Sure” he said.
But our horses were nervous about stepping out of line from the guides horse at first. They wouldn’t run without the lead horse in front. So instead, we all picked up our pace to a canter together until we hit the beach.
The new couple was hanging in there and didn’t mind the fast pace. But Kelsi and I were ready to go faster, and with an endless expanse of white beach and surf line ahead of us, we pulled away from the group and started at a gallop.
We’d only been running for about a minute when our guide came bolting past us on his horse. Oh my god was that horse fast. I thought we were going fast, and he passed us as if we were standing still, sand spraying up behind the horses feet. The guide looked back at us with a concerned face, but we couldn’t tell why.
“Catch it!!! Catch it!!” He yelled at us.
Catch what? We thought.
Then I turned my head to the right and saw a riderless horse run up along side me. I pulled my horse to the right and reached out to the horse next to me, still at a full run. It took a minute, but I finally caught ahold of the reins.
Now I had two horses, who didn’t particularly like being next to each other, running at a full gallop, with me hanging in between the two of them. Okay, so it wasn’t a full gallop. In reality we were probably close to standing still, but it was so exciting I thought I was still galloping. I managed to get the escapee horse under control, before my horse swung around and I lost hold of the second horse.
By this time the guide was back and was able to grab him. Kelsi swung her horse around and we all started back to the other couple.
The lady had apparently fallen off when her horse took off after ours, but she was fine, having landed in the sand, and was brave enough to “get back on that horse,” literally.
When everyone seemed okay, Kelsi and I took off again at our own pace. The horses seemed to know the way, and we were ready to go! I’ve ridden horses a lot in my life, but something about riding along the beach in the surf was really amazing. Just open space to run and see and move. It was beautiful… Except for the ominous black clouds looming ahead of us. We both put our rain jackets on in anticipation, and it started to rain soon after.
It just sprinkled at first, which was nice and refreshing during a running part. Then the wind picked up and it started teeming down. Gale force winds is what we were apparently in (as we found out later) and they were not fun. The rain stung our faces and burned our eyes. Wearing sunglasses helped for a minute, then they fogged up so much that you couldn’t see a thing. We looked back to see our guide half way between us and the older couple way off in the distance. He must have had a hell of a time keeping track of the four of us in the weather.
As we turned away from the water and into the dunes again, another guide came up to us. He had been sent to find us in the storm. He directed our horses at a trot back through the trees.
We came over one sand dune and down over a short rocky area. The wind was still howling and we were both soaked to the bone. Kelsi’s horse was ahead of mine and trotted swiftly over the rocky ground. Then, to the right of the horse, a long black log lay on the ground. The horse obviously saw it too late, then got spooked and jumped to the right and then back to the left in quick succession. Kels counteracted the horse’s first skitter, then lost her balance on the second turn and, in slow motion, spun off the horse and hit the ground. Her knee smashed into a large rock, and she went down on her elbow as well. My horse jumped to the right out of her way, then I pulled it up to a stop to see how Kelsi was.
“Kelsi! Are you okay?”
She was silent. Sitting up in a crooked position with one knee twisted under her against a rock.
Still silent. I know Kelsi is in pain when she’s silent. I don’t know anyone in the world with such a high pain tolerance. She doesn’t complain ever about being in pain, and even if she is aching all over, she’s usually still laughing. So silence was NOT a good thing.
She was wincing in silence and biting her bottom lip. The guide pulled his horse around to come see if she was ok. I tried to think of anything in the world that would help.
“Do you want me to come down and help you?” I asked “I could give you a hug, I can help you get up! Oh my god, I feel your pain right now. I’m coming down to help you” I just blabbered on and on trying to think of something to do or say to make it better. Then I tried to get off my horse. Unfortunately, after a month of gaining weight traveling, and being soaking wet from the rain, my skinny jeans weren’t moving, ANYWHERE. I was totally stuck in my saddle.
“Sorry baby! I can’t get down! I’m too fat for my pants and now I can’t move! You’re on your own.”
Kels cracked a teary-eyed smile and then struggled to her foot. Her one leg was not in any shape to touch the ground, and to be honest, I have no idea how she crawled back on that horse. We were only ten minutes to home, so close! We half trotted and half walked the way home. Every bumpy movement meant agonizing pain for Kelsi’s knee. However, by the time we reached camp we were both in good spirits and laughing again. Despite the storm.
The owner gave us some towels and we changed into fresh clothes. Then we thanked her for an unforgettable ride and hit the road. Our busy road trip couldn’t be put on hold any longer. We were off to the Garden Route!





Jeffrey’s Bay

We had heard great things about Jeffrey’s Bay. A surfers town on the southern coast with a fun backpacker vibe: what more could you want? When we drove through, we knew we were hooked. The place was larger than I had imagined, but had a very laid back, friendly feel to it.
We pulled up at a hostel called Island Vibes at the far end of town. It was paradise. The hostel sat on a small hilltop, right on the beach. It looked across the entire bay, with its white beaches and perfect surfing breakers. The hostel was cheap, clean, had an incredible bar and such wonderful staff. We had a very tight schedule for the next week. Too many things to see to get stuck in one place; but after we saw Jeffrey’s Bay, we pushed back our itinerary and signed up for 2 nights.
Our first afternoon we spent shopping. The town of J-Bay has some incredible deals on surfer ware. Billabong, Rip Curl, Quicksilver and a few local brands all have their outlet stores at one end of town. We spent a couple hours walking the streets, trying to find some cute beach ware.
Afterwards we stopped at a little Sushi joint for some lunch. The place had long wooden picnic tables and was mostly outside. Just the laid back kind of place we love to eat at. That’s where we met Dean, our server. He and his buddy Ash were two South Africans that fell in love with J-Bay’s lifestyle and decided to stay. They work til 3, then surf and dive and party until bed, then get up and do it all again. Dean was keen to give us all sorts of local places to see: the waterfalls, the horseback riding, the places to party, he knew it all. Meeting Dean was just the beginning of our experiences with South Africans. The further along we got with our road trip, the friendlier people were. Just when we thought we’d found the nicest person in the country, the next person would surprise us by being even more helpful.
When we’d gotten some ideas on things to see, we wandered back to the hostel to relax. It was hard not to fit in relaxing in such a laid back town. The view was spectacular, the hostel offered all sorts of comfy couches to lounge on, and after a long drive, it was exactly what we needed.
Sooner than we wished, the bartender from the lower bar found us. “What are you girls doing?! Come down and have a drink with me! It’s lonely down there, come hang out at the bar.”
Oh okay, if we have to.
When we arrived the lower bar was full of just staff members. Michael Jackson (as he liked to be called) was the bartender who had dragged us downstairs. He was a hilarious guy from Malawi who spent most of the night howling with laughter about something. Then there was Ben, the organizer of daily activities for the hostel, and Richard, the upstairs bartender who was trying to fit in as many drinks as he could before his shift started. We had a great time telling stories and sipping on Windhoeks until more people finally started to join in the party.
At one point Michael Jackson got distracted by some friends, so I got behind the bar to pour drinks for everyone. I held my own behind the bar until the cooler full of beer ran out. Apparently the guys thought I did an okay job, because they asked Kelsi and I to come work for them full time. Turns out they need some female bartenders around the place. It was a tempting offer, but with a flight to India in a week, we had to politely decline.
When the beers were completely gone, we shut down the lower bar and moved everyone upstairs to the main bar. From there we spent the night meeting all the different travelers. Dean and Ash even showed up for a while to have some drinks with us before heading to a party in town. Even for a Tuesday, the hostel was pretty full of people looking to have fun.
This time it was my turn to head to bed early while Kelsi partied on into the night. And in the morning, we once again wanted to do nothing…
Unfortunately, there were too many things to see and do, so we dragged our asses out of the hostel and went to see the waterfalls.
The waterfalls were about 20 minutes or so away from our hostel. They were on a local property, just outside of town. All you had to do was pay a dollar or two to enter on to their property then it was yours for the day!
We were given excellent directions to the property. We found it, no problem whatsoever. The issue, we realized quickly, was getting from the main house, to the waterfalls. There were about 20 different routes you could take once you drove through the back yard. Dirt and gravel roads headed out in all directions: great, what now.
We followed the paths that looked the most worn, and tried our best not to bottom out our little car on the way. Finally the road just stopped. So we got out, walked to the edge of the cliff, and looked over into the gully. At the bottom, there was a little blue-green pond with a flying fox running over it. The place was gorgeous; it had some rocks to climb on, and both small and large cliffs to jump off. And as a bonus: no one was there!
Kelsi and I grabbed our things and climbed down into the gully. What a spot! We lay out on the rocks with some music and soaked up the sun. Then it was swimming time. I climbed down the rocks to see how deep the pool was, and Kelsi swung off the flying fox. We swam around for a while, then tried to climb up the rocks on the far side of the pool.
The rocks were fairly flat, but they were covered with moss and were extremely slippery. Every time we started to climb out we would slip back into the water with a splash. This started to become so funny to us that eventually we couldn’t climb out at all we were laughing so hard. We looked like two seals trying to wriggle our way up on the shore. Finally Kelsi tried a new move.
“I’m going to salmon up!” She announced.
So she wriggled her body upwards, with no arms, while I tried the same. It didn’t work. But we were killing ourselves laughing as we were half stuck up on the rocks.
“Oh my god, I wish someone could see us right now” I said.
Kelsi paused, “They can” she said.
“What?!” I looked back and upwards at the top of the cliff. Sam, an Aussie guy that we had met the night before was shaking his head and staring down at us.
“Of all the people in the world” he said “of course it would be you two I find down here”
How embarrassing. We all just laughed, as he, his brother, and a random family all came down into the gully to join us. We had a wonderful afternoon swimming and hanging out with everyone, then finally Kelsi and I decided to head back into town.
We sat on the beach watching the waves for a while, then to a restaurant called Nina’s where we stuffed our faces with nearly every seafood item on the menu.
We had a quiet evening back at the hostel. We watched the sun set over the beach, and called it a night early. Jeffrey’s bay was an incredible place to relax for a couple days along our otherwise busy road trip. The next day we were up early for more activities and another day on the road!