Day 1 – Horse Riding
On arrival at Mlilwane game reserve we were greeted by dozens of zebra and impala on the short drive to the reception. We discovered that our lunch was a wonderful selection of toasties with chips from the restaurant
At 1pm we were greeted by our guide and taken to the stables to meet our partners for the next two days. My particular familiar was called Chunky, a small yet faithful steed who seemed to bare the grunt of my somewhat novice riding ability.
As we set off it became clear that any wildlife we came in close proximity with was not phased by our presence, giving us a small incite as to what was to come.
The terrain was very different to that of either the sand school or the typical Kentish woodland. The red sand and lose rubble of the park combined with the steep inclines and declines made for a challenging ride but after the first few hours the slipping and tripping of the horses became like clockwork.
4 hours in we reached the base of execution rock and we dismounted, removed the saddles and put the horses in a small pen at the base of the summit. After a short walk to the summit we sat down to our surprise of a second lunch of cucumber sandwiches, fruit, and mango juice from our guides!
Before sunset we had reached our home for the night. Again we left the the horses in a small pen and then after a small hill climb we reached our cave! The guides had pre-arranged a fire, all our food, our equipment and our beds which had all been carried up the hill which we had only just made up on our own :’)
The cave that was to be our home for the night was full of ‘sand people’ paintings, dating up to the 19 century. We ate wildebeest sausages, with chicken kebabs and vegetable stew cooked on a open fire by our guides.
Our sleeping accommodation was 8 canvas sleeping mats. Each had a small single mattress with a sleeping bag on top and then a blanket, all covered by a canvas cover enabling them to simply be placed anywhere on the bare ground with nothing but a rain shelter to keep them dry (you might know them as SWAGS). However we had our cave which was by far superior to any watertight lean-too!
In the morning we helped ourselves to cereal and toast, with tea and coffee. We were to set out at 8:30 to be back for 11. So after breakfast we helped our guides to pack the equipment they had brought up the previous day and took a load each back down the hill on our way to our horses.
We set out at 8:20am, slightly ahead of schedule and we had about 10 minutes of riding to warm up and then we were off!
With no warning we broke into a canter and for a solid 10 minuets we climbed the hills.
The entire 1st day we had stuck as a group in a fixed line and we only broke the line to stop for water and to dismount, however this was a different story… My horse that had seemed reluctant to move to my command all day on day one was now leaning on my every action, we shot past a few of my companions, much to their shock as being the least experienced rider in the group (having only been learning to ride for 6 months just for these two days) I hurtled past making it look as if I had been riding for years (don’t ask me how! :’) ).
The rest of our ride back was great, slow paced but still great, we had some extremely steep declines to tackle but after an hour or so we were out of the hills and back into the main area of the game reserve. Being on horse back the wildlife seemed to not even acknowledge our presence as humans and we were able to get amazingly close to; blue wildebeest, zebra and kudu.
The last section of our ride took us through a forest which sat alongside the lake. The forest seemed to have been previously burnt, with on top of the recent leaf fall and factor of being on horse back provided what to me was a magical sight to see and a spectacular end to what was by far my favorite aspect of the trip.