New Zealand has taken over the mantle as the adventure capital of the world. From bungy jumping to rafting, from mountain biking to hiking. What people sometimes forget is that you can do all these activities and more, right here in Cape Town. We just don’t shout about it as much.
A 30 minute drive from the centre of town past the elysian Constantia valley and over the mountain pass will take you to the sleepy community of Noordhoek. This rural outpost is perhaps most famous for its beach. The white sand stretches for over eight kilometres and is bordered by wetlands of the national park and the natural boundary of Chapmans Peak on one side and the man made Kommetjie lighthouse on the other. The clarity of light is hypnotic. With the sun shining and views over the breaking Atlantic waves to Hout Bay, there is perhaps no more beautiful vista in the world.
The great director David Lean shot the beach scenes of the classic film “Ryan’s Daughter” on this beach. It was supposed to be the west coast of Ireland, but as happens so often in that country, rain and no clear light was too much of an interruption and so South Africa became Ireland.
With nature making its beauty so abundant and large, it is natural that so many locals ride and keep horses on their properties. There are several riding schools in the area but Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding stands out. For over a decade, they have been pioneers in South Africa in hippotherapy and riding for the disabled. For the abled but not so competent riders like myself, they organise outrides on the beach on a daily basis.
Under the watchful Germanic eye of my instructor Nadine, I mounted their largest Frisian horse, Black Velvet, and after a short walk past several residential properties, we meandered through the dunes to the vast expanse of white beach. The winter rains provide large pools of water to trot through and arrive on an endless tract of sand. We headed to the skeletal remains of the SS Kakapo, a steam ship which has been wrecked on this beach since 1900. The wreck provided the furthest point we travelled down the beach and we turned around, cantering back westwards. I try to bluster over my lack of skill with enthusiasm on the saddle but the ever watching Nadine helped to correct my posture.
I must admit I was distracted by the view: the sea giving out to beach, then to wetlands and finally,magnificent mountain slopes, densely overgrown with green coastal fynbos. Your mind does wander over the ride; sitting high on your horse looking at such vast and pristine nature. We dismounted back at the yard and for myself, with a certain tightness in my thighs. The yard has a certain harmony and tranquility; dogs lazing on the grass with horses grazing overlooked by the mountain range. I could not think of better way to spend four hours.
My thanks once again to the team at Sleepy Hollow.
Horse Riding In Cape Town by Nicolas Edwards