The evocative Baviaanskloof is a place of towering rock echoing with the call of baboons and bird song. Here, trails lead off into terrain worthy of Lord of the Rings, and the landscape changes with every mountain range. I find myself returning here whenever possible. Last year, whilst on the Baviaans Camino (read the full story here: why you should try the Baviaans Camino) I heard about the week-long horse trail that traverses this area, and knew that it was something I’d have to try.
Aptly called The Real Thing, the annual 250km ride starts in Kareedouw, touches on the coast, dips through forests, crosses farmland, treks up (and down) mountainsides, over Karoo veld and across rivers. Broadly speaking, it covers the 4×4 southern access route into the Baviaanskloof, crosses over the Baviaanskloof mountains and swings back around, ending Patensie-side.
It’s a few hours into the ride and I’m getting used to the dimensions of my saddle. My horse, Aster, flicks her ears at my weight changes and jogs forward a few steps before settling back into a walk. All around me are riders. 27 of them, to be precise. That’s another thing about this trail that’s different – it’s done with a large group, on varied horses. Endurance-fit Arabs from Molmanshoek, two heavy-set Friesians, a number of farm horses and Herclé‘s tough Boerperd stock, which you can hire.
The collection of people on the trail is as diverse as their horses. Friends, families and solo travellers. Doctors, vets, English professors, school-goers and farm managers. Many of them returning for the third or fourth time. The ride costs a fraction of what you’d pay for many international rides, or rides of a similar undertaking, and goes through just as isolated, beautiful landscape. It’s done at a slow pace for the most part, which gave us ample time to crane our necks at the scenery passing by, and canter where the ground saw fit. Being the designated photographer-horse, Aster covered more ground than most. We pushed on ahead, fell behind and climbed up high looking for shots. She was an absolute star.
Each night was spent in a different, beautiful valley, and the sunrise would bring the bleating of sheep and coffee on the boil, while each day took us through immense scenes of sky-scraping mountains, which we clambered up and cantered over before having lunch overlooking the valley floor far below. The last day is the most scenic -if that’s even possible. The mountains of the Osseberg glittered as patches of sunlight flitted over its craggy, purple face, and after drawing in the 360° views we made our way down to the Groot Rivier, which we crossed 9 times, grass as tall as our horses’ ears.
This ride is for the adventurous, for ones who want to get out into the wilderness with nothing between their horse’s ears but endless views. Here’s what it looks like to ride for seven days, through seven different biomes.
DO IT YOURSELF: Contact Herclé from Baviaans Horse Trips. He’s the only horse riding operator in the area and offers rides of various lengths, from day trails through to multi-day journeys, throughout the year on his well-mannered and fit Boerperde.