Text Natasha Martin
It took me a year to convince my mother to come and visit me in Namibia, where I’d been living for just about that time. “It’s so far, we’re so busy….”
I recognised the excuses as the same ones I gave her when I was in college. But I really wanted to share with her the country I’d fallen in love with and that had adopted me so generously, so I began to think of an offer she couldn’t refuse.
It’s perhaps not wise to say (let alone submit for publication) that I found a solution amounting to nothing short of bribery. My mother is an avid horse-rider – which I, by the way, am not – but I knew she would not be able to refuse the offer of a horse safari, even if the idea made my butt ache just thinking of it!
I was right. Within minutes of proposing a visit that included a four-day horse-ride through the desert, I had flight confirmation in my inbox.
A few weeks later she arrived, and after a short visit to Lüderitz and a stop to see the mysterious wild horses at Aus, we were heading for Desert Homestead, a lovely property accessed from the NamibRand Nature Reserve, the largest privately owned nature park in the world.
If you’ve travelled in Namibia, you’ll know your guide should be a twenty-something-year-old male, dressed in khaki. But the exception proves the rule. At Desert Homestead our two guides, Megan and Theresa, looked like they’d sashayed off a page of Vogue magazine.
While standing in the lobby of Desert Homestead sipping our welcome cocktails and signing the waivers, Megan asked us to describe our horse-riding experience. I opted for the lowest level, but explained that I felt ‘novice’ was a still a somewhat generous description of my horse-riding abilities.
And then it was time for our first ride, me wearing loaned jodhpurs that were slightly too short and bright-purple running shoes, and my mom, Theresa and Megan, decked out in elegant boots and well-fitting riding apparel. We headed for the stables. I insisted on wearing a riding helmet, although this accessory negated my secret dream of galloping across the desert with the wind whipping through my hair. Caution won the day, and I opted for protecting my head.
With that we were off, and all thoughts of sore bottoms, bucking horses and nerves evaporated. The NamibRand Nature Reserve has an ability to clear your mind. Free of fences, it extends as far as the eye can see. Occasional gemsbok wandered gracefully along, grazing peacefully (safe in the knowledge that no predators were lurking in the reserve).
Lulled by the soft gait of my handsome horse, Dingan, I started to… enjoy myself. Then out of nowhere, Megan asked: “Shall we canter?” I discovered that English was the only language that distinguished between a canter and a gallop, and that these horses were Afrikaans speaking. What Megan really meant was: “Shall we gallop?” So off we went, racing through the Namib.
Megan and Theresa were amazingly thoughtful guides. They were able to set a pace that was perfect both for myself as a novice and for my mom as an ‘intermediate’ rider. And one of them was always at my novice side.
At night we camped under the most dazzling canopy of stars. An advance team had set up camp, and took the horses off our hands as soon as we arrived, so that we could focus on our well-deserved sundowners. The tents were cosier than I had expected, with the beds covered in crisp, white, down duvets.
Surely any meal served in a desert is impressive, but what we ate was truly delicious. Each night, Megan cooked us potjiekos on the fire, and we dug into steaming pots of chicken curry or lamb stew.
We continued riding for three days, passing the occasional gemsbok and springbok, strikingly set off by the majestic scenery of southern Namibia. At the end of four days, although grateful for a warm shower, I was sad to bid Dingan farewell.
What started out as a sly way to tempt my mother to make the cross-Atlantic journey to Namibia, ended up being the perfect way to reconnect with her while doing something we both enjoyed, surrounded by some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery.
I even continued horse-riding in Windhoek, to the extent that I bought a pair of stylish riding boots. But I’m still wearing a helmet!
About Namib Horse Safaris
Namib Horse Safaris offers unique riding trips around Namibia. Visit this website to learn more: http://www.namibiahorsesafari.com.
Want to book it yourself?
Even if you’re a novice, as I am, I highly recommend spending a weekend at Desert Homestead. It’s a five-hour drive from Windhoek and can be combined with a visit to the spectacular Sossusvlei.
Contact Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Desert Homestead offers SADC rates, so if you live in Namibia, be sure to ask for them.