Pretend I’m 15. Eastern Cape, South Africa.

2 Jan

Morgan Bay, South Africa.

December 13, 2010

I love horses. Used to ride, and even, show horses as a child. When I planned this around-the-world gig, I had certain “must dos.” And, working with horses made the top ten list.

  1. Rekindle and forge friendships
  2. Meddle in the Middle East
  3. Build something lasting
  4. Transport tall-body across Russia
  5. Soak up confused communism
  6. Do the Buddhism gig in Bhutan
  7. Pretend I’m 15 and ride horses
  8. Drink in South African people and wine
  9. Smooch boys in Australia and New Zealand
  10. And, expand, extend and enlarge my soul

Found the perfect place to channel my inner horse child, Sunray Farms in Kei Mouth, South Africa. It’s the place for all things horses – Horse riding. Horse training. Horse trailing. Horse cleaning. Horse kicking. And, Horse smelling.

After the Safari, I had a few days down time in Jo’berg (Johannesburg) before jetting off to Sunray Farms. Everyone and their raccoons told me to NOT to leave myhotel without armed guards, a set of exacto knives or a titanium vest while in Jo’berg, so I spent a few days not moving and opted to hand wash clothes, watch D+ movies and fall in love with a STRIP mall.

Don’t tell, but I actually walked down the street by myself in broad daylight. The supermarket, ENGLISH book store and outdoor coffee cafe were all too tempting. I mean, I have not seen proper turn lanes, parking spots or visa machines since Poland. And, the grocery store had check out lines, a nut and candy dispenser, produce wrapped in plastic and meat behind glass. I spent an hour in the g-store taking pictures and touching aluminum cans. Did I tell you they have brand name toothpaste too? We’re talking a world class city people!

Two days of fondling canned vegetables was enough. On day three, I boarded a puddle jumper, prop-plane from Jo’berb to a town called East London, located on the Indian Ocean.

Brandon, son of Julie-Ann and owner of Sunray Horse Farms, was waiting for me at the airport with flowers and champagne. JOKE! He had just got off work. He markets/sells meat to small grocery stores and restaurants around the area. He was over served the night before and did not fall asleep until 3 or 4 am, to wake around 7 am for work. He announced within three minutes of my arrival that he must stop by a gas station for a pie. I thought it was strange he was craving a dessert when hungover, but I just nodded my head.

We found a gas station. Brandon came out, not with a dessert pie, but what looked like a hot dog wrapped in pastry bread. That was my introduction to meat pies in South Africa. Yep, could tell right away that this stay was going to be different…

Brandon was telling me on the way to the airport to pick me up there was a police road block. He believed the cops were tipped off about possible drug smuggling. In this part of South Africa, the farmers are paid by drug “lords” to grow pot in the corn fields or the jungle. The farmers get a cut. I guess now, the police want a cut too.

Brandon said the South African police conduct road blocks all the time. It’s the norm. They want to see if you’re legal – have your license, car registration, insurance, seat belts, and tires filled with air. Oh, they’re checking for booze breath too.

He said the police do it for many reason, one of which is to make sure the cars are safe to drive, the people driving them are legal, and drug smuggling is curbed. Wonder if this is what Arizona had in mind?

I arrived to the farm late and met my two new roommates for the next two weeks. Another Amanda. She is a full time worker at the horse farm, from South Africa and around twenty years of age. Roz is a 3 to 6 month volunteer from the UK. I later found out they are both “super cool.”

But, first impressions of the place where I’ll be resting my head this holiday were dismal at best. The first thing I noticed was the smell. Dog, mold combined with a manure fragrance filled the house. The common area was coated with white, Russel terrier hair and a farm of flies. And, my bed made for little people, inherited the wet, mold smell along with more flies. When I closed my eyes the first night, I just giggled. It all felt right. I mean, this is a horse farm, not the Four Seasons or Holiday Inn Express. What did I expect?

When I woke my first morning, the feeling of euphoria overcame me. I could not wait to meet the horses. I bound out of bed. Walked to the community bathroom and was welcomed by a millipede, spider and more flies. I ignored them. Went for the DEET bug spray, coated the body and headed to breakfast.

Over breakfast, Roz gave me the 411 on what I’ll be doing. Looks like we work from 7am or 8 am until 5 or 6 or 7 pm. We have an hour for lunch, or sometimes 10 minutes.

There are around 60 horses and three main pastures. One at the game reserve. One at the ocean. And, one here. I believe we check on the horses in the morning. Groom them. Feed them. Wash them. Ride them. Train them. Or, we lead tourists on beach or game horse rides along the Indian ocean and thru game reserves. It depends on the tourist bookings. I can expect to ride between one to six hours a day… Mouth did drop on that one.

I rode horses as a child. Rode until I was 15 or 16 at Barrett Farms for those who live in Orlando. My version of my horse riding story goes like this. Mom and Dad gave me a choice when I was 16 – a horse or a car. In my warped mind, I believed them. I choose a car for I assumed it would be a convertible, red, VW Rabbit. I mean, why wouldn’t an irrational 16 year old girl think this?

Come birthday, Dad gives me a small box. The keys are inside. I just knew it. Opened it. A gold key chain engraved with the words, “Big Blue” rested on top of the fake cotton. I wondered, “Big Blue???” Yep, Big Blue was the name of the 1960+ Chevrolet Pick-Up Truck he inherited from some random cousin in Mississippi. It was our Orange Grove Truck. Only one wind-shield whipper. No seat belts. Rusted flat bed. Holes in the floor board. And, no radio. I remember thinking, “This is NOT what I had in mind….and wanted to change to the horse option..”

My horse career was over, for pursued rowing for the hot high school boys. But, in the back of my mind, I longed to work and ride horses again. So, here I am.. In a town called Kei Mouth. With a bar called the Bush Pig.  Two food stores called Top store and Bottom store. And, two main roads…

It’s where South Africans travel for their summer holiday.  It’s where one is mesmerized by the intoxicating views of rolling hills, green pastures, game parks and the Indian Ocean.

Yes, can’t wait for this amazing ride….flies, ticks, dog hair, horse breath and all…

One Response to “Pretend I’m 15. Eastern Cape, South Africa.”

  1. ktlou 14/01/2011 at 10:01 pm #

    Oh my gosh, just looked through horse farm, s. africa album. so beautiful i can’t even say! many questions-did you have to buy new boots? did your butt hurt? what an experience, another wishing moment i could be there. unbelievable