HIGHLY RECOMMENDED PLACES TO VISIT


South Africa has much to offer - Excellent weather, large diversity of friendly people, wonderful scenic natural regions, extending from our East coast to our West coast, including macnificent regions like the Drakensberg, the Garden Route along the South coast, and the West Coast, with mountainous terrain with amazing cliffs, rock formations, water falls, excellent bird life, incredible vegetation, wild animals in nature reserves, and exciting sights for all to experience.


MKULU KEI HORSE TRAILS

Mkulu Kei Horse Trails

During mid-2005, I did some internet research on “coastal horse trails” as I always wanted to treat myself to the sounds and feeling of cantering on the beach, swimming in the sea and lagoons, and take in all the amazing aspects of the coast. I came across www.mkulukeihorsetrails.co.za, and read about the wild coast and made contact with Cheryl Giaccetti, who runs the trails from outside Kei mouth in the Eastern Cape.

What striked me from the first chat with Cheryl, was her openness in accepting me as a blind rider, and her words “I’d like to have you come so I can explain to you the beauty of our wild coast in more detail…..”. I’ve been previously turned away as a blind rider at other riding facilities in JHB and elsewhere, and Cheryl’s open invite and better prices made me book for the 5 day trail for Early February 2006.

The trail exceeded by far more then my expectations and what the web site describes. Firstly I was blown away by Cheryl and her family’s warm hospitality and personal treatment on arrival and on trail. Cheryl went out of her way to ensure I’m happy, and ensured she gave me full verbal descriptions of what she was seeing, including letting me touch the various rock formations, plants, etc. I learnt to appreciate how the wild coast changes terrain almost every few hundred metres. We rode along varying beaches, rock clifs, forests, fields, hills, villages, and swam in the sea and lagoons.

The Hotels, both Sea Gulls and Wave Crest were really well enjoyed, with very friendly staff, and oh yes wonderful and too much food.

Also, her horses are wonderful animals, all very well schooled, nice natured, and the only down side was when I had to give Gunston back after the trail, it literally brought me to tears, you create such a bond with your horse as they faithfully look after you on all forms of terrain along the trail. My riding definitely improved on trail and Cheryl, having assessed my riding ability she was the first to let me attempt some jumping and within one lesson I was clearing a 70 cm jump – thus she’s an excellent riding instructor as well.

PS: I’d like to thank you Cheryl, Don, the Kids and of course Gunston for a life changing experience. I will definitely be back, not only for another trail, I need to make it a annual get-away.

You’ve taught me so much more about horses and what amazing animals they really are, and have boosted my love for riding even more. This does mean a lot to me, as I’ve done many major cycling events on the tandem, run Comrads, did some large hikes, padelling, etc. and finding regular partners always being a challenge as a keen blind sportsman, but the horses and riding community have really been so helpful and accepting in general, and horses never let you down.


STRANDFONTEIN

Strandfontein web site

Strandfontein is a small coastal village along the Cape West coast (Strandfontein, in Namakwaland), which I really seriously recommend. There is so much to do, first class accommodation, quad biking, hiking, 4x4, mountain biking, fishing, whale and flower viewing, amazing sites (according to sighted people) and more.

What really ment a lot to me was the wonderful friendliness of our hoasts, Bles and Katinka Dreyer, who with the help of their staff hoast and coordinate all the above-mentioned. No where else did I ever experience such hospitality, they just really went out of their way to ensure that we were comfortable, happy, and enjoying every moment of our time. What I also enjoyed was their attitude to disabled people - they enjoy helping such people experience nature just as much as able bodied people too.

The quad biking tour was really exciting, and a must when down there (You even get your hot water bottle in your sleeping bag if cold that night while you're camping out. The quad bikes are very safe, fully automatic and easy to ride (I even rode one on the beach and along a sand road), and food on the tour was in abundance and first class.

We also took the geirocopter ride and that was just amazing, with sufficient sight of course you will see so much from up there, and just the ride itself is an experience.

There's so much else to do, we just didn't get enough time to it all, but really requires another visit soon.

Check out their site for more info and photos.


THE DRAKENSBERG

The Drakensberg is always one of my favourite places to visit, and have been there many times on holiday since a kid, starting with Caravanning with my parents, to tenting with friends. There's a lot to do, amazing hikes, many horse trails, and unique places to visit run by the local communities. The fresh air and large variaty of plant and bird species always calls me back there.


FAURESMITH

The Town of Fauresmith

Fauresmith, nearly the capital of the Free State in the past, a small town about 130 km south of Bloem, is the only town still with a railway track in the centre of the main Street.

Fauresmith hosts the annual Fauresmith 200 endurance horse ride, which is 203 kilometres over 3 days, in extreme weather conditions and tough terrain.

I against many odds, took on the challenge and did my first Fauresmith Endurance ride, early July 2009. I managed to finish the ride with no problems, and my horse Billy, finished in excellent shape, despite many people saying that he would never be able to complete such a strenuous ride.

Check out my story on Fauresmith here


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