Sunday, July 8, 2012

Modes of transportation

After my rather brainy solstice weekend with the Dr. I was to follow a several-month-old invitation to David's home farm further up in the Karoo, near Graaff-Reinet. His cousin Philip, leatherworker and horseman, a carbon copy of Captain Haddock with his beard, cap and tobacco pipe - if only his voice wasn't just a tad to squeaky - had told me I must come up there and learn how to ride a horse.

Philip - what a character.

So on Sunday afternoon, I climbed into the farmer's 6-seater Cessna, for the only airborne leg of my whole trip. He had learned how to fly because he decided it was the most efficient way to travel accross this vast country - and I definitely prefer it over driving! Couldn't stop grinning for about 10 minutes after the stomach-turning ascent, and then got to steer the plane for a little while. It's really difficult to keep the thing level inside a cloud, because everything outside is just white, white, white... But there is a little instrument for everything, including a water balance, so we didn't crash and made it to Coetzierskraal, the Luscombes' family farm, in just over an hour.

What keeps an airplane up in the clouds


Of course the rain in Laingsburg stopped when I left, and it started raining at this new place as soon as I arrived. I moved into one of the now grown-up kids' rooms, and went for a stroll of the vast meadows, complete with rivers and willow trees. And ostriches. And angora goats! Those look just like sheep, really.

3 stoves! The one in the middle has a little fire going.

The next day, after a breakfast of oats cooked by the maid on an old-fashioned wood-fired stove, Plip and I went out to capture the horse I was supposed to ride. Her name was Venus, and she was with a young fole and quite grumpy to be made to carry me around on her back. My excitement made up for her apathy though, and so we managed to do a few circles inside a pen, then a few lanes on a larger field. After two days Venus, the fole and myself spent a whole morning exploring the farmlands all by ourselves. (I'd rather not tell you how the first time I got off the horse to open up a gate, she wouldn't go through the gate at all, turned right back around and trotted back to the stables. And how I had to take off my shoes and run after her through an ice-cold river. But it did happen... only once though!)

I'm on a horse!

Precocious baby horse

Horse riding makes a lot of sense out there, especially in places where a car can't go: One morning, David, his girlfriend and I drove out to a more remote part of the farm where the river had flooded a road, and promptly got the pickup stuck in the mud. It took about 5 men and half an hour of hard labor to finally get the vehicle back on solid ground.

The Karoo as seen from horseback

I stayed at Coetzierskraal for almost a week, and really didn't want to leave at all. But after 6 days I washed the farm dust and horse hair out of my clothes and got back on the road, down the grand N1, through Laingsburg and Hex River Valley. David's son needed his car down in Cape Town, and so for the first time since the beginning of the trip I was driving myself - back to the place where it all started.

(No,f course I would never be taking photos while driving. Ever.)

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