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Offline Dorsland

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Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« on: April 02, 2020, 11:58:42 am »
"Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles."

 Josiah Bushnell Grinnell



So yes, this is not a bike ride report. 

Hopefully it allows our minds to wander while our physical being is under lockdown. If it gets our minds off a world currently in turmoil, so much the better.

In the late '90s, early 2000s, in my late 30s, I wanted to make some major changes in my life. I had bought a small farm earlier that decade and worked my ass off with three income streams to pay for it, and was staring 40 in the eyes.  If I wanted to make major changes, now was the time.  One of those streams (more like trickles actually), was a horse trail business I ran off my farm and that did quite well.

So, one thing led to another, a proposal to do horse safaris in the Augrabies National Park got tangled up in red tape, a friendship with an English (pommie) woman running a very successful horse safari business in the Waterberg went south. With each setback, my feet got itchier.

So eventually I decided to go big and contacted Reit Safari in Namibia, one of the top horse safari operators in the world, with a proposal.  The saying that fortune favours the bold held true as the owners Waldi and Lumpi Frietsche were looking at getting out and concentrating on their cattle farming operation again after a killer drought.

Long story short, after about 18 months of backwards and forwards and lawyers and documents and draft agreements and whatnot, our best efforts to reach a deal also came to naught.

However, in the course of our relationship, I did get to do an unforgettable 10 day horse ride across the Namib desert.  A distance of around 600km from just west of Windhoek to Swakopmund.

I honestly wish I had kept better notes of my experiences.  I really only have some rough notes scribbled on the back of the photos I took.  Itís been just more than 20 years ago and my memory sometimes leaves me really trying to remember.  Please excuse me if the dates, distances, names and other details are not always 100% accurate.

What I do recall very vividly is the vast spaces, the landscapes, the absolute freedom and clear headedness I enjoyed, endurance of the horses that wore down a brand new set of shoes to cardboard thin during the trip and Waldiís astounding endurance for a woman of over 50.

Then there was the blond from Switzerland. Damn, to be 39 again.

So here are some pix and my recollections of that trip.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 08:04:17 pm by Dorsland »
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2020, 12:18:29 pm »
Go west 2

The ride traversed mostly private farms through the veld and across gravel plains before using a concession through the Namib-Naukluft Park to eventually reach the coast just south of Swakopmund. 

It was a supported ride with a fully equipped and converted 1513 4WD Mercedes truck and Hilux SFA bakkie meeting us each night with our camping kit, feed and water for the horses and food for us. There were some nights I wondered how the hell the vehicles had made it to where we were to overnight. On some days, especially the longer, hotter days where water was unavailable for the horses, they would meet us en-route at midday so we could water the horses and rest up during the heat of the day.

These rides are done only during the cooler months of the year (May - August if I remember correctly).  The rest of the year is simply too hot for trips like this.  Even so, the days were mostly quite hot and the nights cold, sometimes very cold.

The wide open spaces, as you guys that have been to Namibia can attest to, are incredible.  Wide open, unending vistas with absolutely no sign of human habitation spoiling them.  The ride starts off on the Khomas Hochland which is quite mountainous and then follows roughly the course of the Kuiseb river as it crosses endless gravel plains before entering the Kuiseb Canyon, out onto the coastal plains, down through the Gawib river canyon and out onto the dunes of the coast.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 07:28:38 pm by Dorsland »
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2020, 12:39:25 pm »
I was the only South African in the group of 10 riders.  Waldi led the ride each day.  As I mentioned, she is (was) over 50 yet had the body of an 18 year old girl.  Truly an inspiring woman.  Always friendly, always helpful, mostly calm and always busy.  In the evenings when we rested she was still busy making arrangements for the following day's leg.

The other riders (I cannot recall all their names) were a married couple from Ireland (Russell and his wife), Mary Bond and another guy from the US, a dweeb from England who should never actually have been on the ride (he fell and broke his collar bone on day 4 and we were thankfully spared his constant whining and bitching), 3 German women and the Swiss woman.

FLTR to the best of my recollection: German woman 1, Mary Bond, the pommie dweeb, German women 2 and 3, American guy, Waldi, me (boertjie met die laaaaaang stibeuls  :)), Russell, Swiss honey and Russell's wife.  The two of them would sing Irish ballads at night around the campfire that could bring you to tears.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 08:06:21 pm by Dorsland »
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2020, 12:54:38 pm »
boertjie met die laaaaaang stibeuls

As jy jou hakke ingekap het het die perd strak onder jou uitgeloop!! ;) :lol8:
Digitale kameras moes 20 jaar vroeŽr uitgekom het. :deal: :(
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2020, 12:57:15 pm »
The horses are a mix of Boerperd and Hanovarians, reasonably small in stature but with astounding endurance.  Six spare horses trailed along (sometimes they had to be led when we followed roads for short distances and when we neared Swakopmund) in case of lameness or other problems.  I had to swop horses on day 5 due to an abrasion on the wither of Sissy, my first horse.  For the life of me I cannot recall the name of my second mount.

Upon arrival at the Frietsche's farm, we unloaded our gear and got to know each other.  That afternoon we went for a test ride to get to know the horses and to be evaluated on our riding abilities.  One rider was refused to proceed due to poor riding ability.  She got to spend the rest of the trip at the farm.  How the pommie guy was allowed to go I didn't quite understand.

The pace was fairly comfortable.  It was after all, endurance not speed although we did have to cover the entire distance within the 9 days (10 days including the day on the farm).  Also the horses had to be paced.  They all got shod a few days before the ride.  By the time we reached Swakopmund, their brand new shoes were worn as thin as cardboard by the gravel plains and stoney terrain.  The spare horses did about 30% further distance than we did as they were constantly ranging ahead and off to the side, grazing as they went.

Each night we would meet the vehicles where they had set up camp and the "high line" to which the horses were tied for the night.  Here they were fed, watered, we groomed them evening and morning, cared for your saddlery and helped with camp chores.

The pic below was taken on day 2 as we crossed the Khomas Hochland
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 07:31:34 pm by Dorsland »
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2020, 12:59:18 pm »
boertjie met die laaaaaang stibeuls

As jy jou hakke ingekap het het die perd strak onder jou uitgeloop!! ;) :lol8:
Digitale kameras moes 20 jaar vroeŽr uitgekom het. :deal: :(

 :imaposer: :imaposer: Ek ry Generaal Christaan de Wet, nie stiff upper lip fox hunt styl nie.  Ek SIT innie saal.

Ek het hoeka my Yashica mik n druk kamera laat val.  Jy sal sien op van die fotos is daar links so 'n ligstraal wat inkom. 
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2020, 01:03:37 pm »
Some days, where water was not available for the horses en-route,  we had to water them from the truck that would meet us at a pre-arranged point and we could enjoy a bit of a siesta.  Despite it being May, the days were mostly quite hot. The buitelanders suffered with the sun so Waldi rigged an afdak for us.  'n Mercedes 1513 gooi ook 'n lekker skaduwee vir 'n middagslapie.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 07:33:21 pm by Dorsland »
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2020, 01:08:02 pm »
It is very important to groom the horses well, especially before setting off in the morning.  A small grass seed or pebble can quickly rub the horse raw and become very painfull during the day.  In the evening we could led the horses aside to roll and rub themselves dry and clean in the dust.

The truck was well equipped to allow the saddlery to be stored out of the dust and the veld.  The horses each had a blanket folded double, then a saddle pad and then only the saddle was cinched.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 01:10:14 pm by Dorsland »
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2020, 01:20:16 pm »
Hierdie is fantasties!

gooi nog  :thumleft:
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2020, 01:21:19 pm »
Lekker Ride Report. :thumleft:
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2020, 01:25:40 pm »
Each rider was only allowed one soft bag on the truck.  In this bag was your jocks and socks, toilet bag, towel, sleeping bag, change of clothes and whatever else you needed at night.  They provided a stretcher, skaapvelletjie for bedside mat (that was surprisingly welcome at night), pikstel and food and drink (these had to be ordered and paid for before hand and what you'd bought was what you got at night. There were also chopper tents available for those that preferred to sleep in a tent.  I added a stock of trail snack stuff (dried fruit, nuts and droŽ wors) to my bag for noodvoorrraad.  I was very glad for this on most days.  On the horse, only your water (max 5l), camera and a small saddle bag for sunscreen, first aid kit etc.  Also a jacket.

Our nightly camps looked like this.  You can see the high line for tying horses and where they are fed and watered. Mostly I jsut took my stretcher one side and slept there.  The Germans and the Irish couple slept in a tent every night.

While we were still crossing farmland, we spent the night at veeposte some nights.  This meant we could kraal the horses and saved us some work at the end of the day.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 07:35:32 pm by Dorsland »
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2020, 01:27:38 pm »
And then there were the camps like this one in the middle of nowhere.  Hel, ek verlang nou erg terug.

Apologies for the mark on the pic
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 01:32:00 pm by Dorsland »
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2020, 01:57:03 pm »
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2020, 02:02:39 pm »
It was great when we could water the horses at stock drinking facilities on the cattle farms.  Just look at the condition of these horses despite being under saddle for 10 days straight.  It was a crush to get your horse watered but all was orderly and controlled.
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2020, 02:05:37 pm »
Riding across those wide open spaces I gained a new respect for the early pioneers of the world.  Unlike for instance the Dorsland Trekkers, we knew there was water and feed and a meal waiting for us at the end of the day.  It must have taken special size ghoens to have decided to enter the vast unknown in those days.  How far did you keep going once your water was up?  When did you decide to turn around and head for safety or push on and hope that somewhere ahead there will be water.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 07:37:17 pm by Dorsland »
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2020, 02:08:03 pm »
Fortunately, the long days had their benefits  :biggrin:
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 02:08:54 pm by Dorsland »
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2020, 02:11:37 pm »
For short distances we sometimes had to follow public roads to cross district boundaries or to allow access to otherwise inaccessible canyons or cross riverbeds.   
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2020, 02:13:19 pm »
Here's a profile pic of my first horse Sissy.  I mentioned earlier that I had to swop horses with one of the spare horses after Sissy got an abrasion injury on her wither.  This pic was taken as we started to enter the Khuiseb Canyon.

I apologise for the quality of the pix.  The prints are old and faded to start with, plus taken with a crappy Yashica point and shoot that I had dropped at some stage during the trip.  And to seal it all, I have scanned them using an app on my cellphone.  It was the good old days before digital  :biggrin:

Pic 2 is jors troellie with Sissy in the Kuiseb Canyon where we followed a short section of the main road to get through.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 02:43:13 pm by Dorsland »
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2020, 02:21:40 pm »
I know you are wondering if my butt didn't get sore.  I have been around horses pretty much most of my life and am (or was) riding fit.  I never really got tired of riding or saddle sore during the ride.  But, when we arrived in Swakopmund, we had taken the horses through to a stabling facility and groomed them, cared for them and so on.  After we had all enjoyed a night out on the town, next morning we took the horses bareback down to the beach and swam with them in the (bloody cold) sea.  Then riding the about 3km back to the stables on a wet horse, bareback and with sea sand in your shorts, I got a big blerrie blister on my upper thigh. :patch:

Only "injury" I had for the entire trip.

I looked for the few pix I took on the beach but couldn't find anything.  :(
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 07:39:36 pm by Dorsland »
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Re: Go west young man, across the Namib desert
« Reply #19 on: April 02, 2020, 02:23:12 pm »
Of course, in the Swakop river bed where we spent our last night, these Boerbokkies were a sight for sore eyes.  :biggrin:
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