Horseback Riding Along South Africa's Long Beach

Finding "the quiet within" along the Noordhoek Valley
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It's oh, so quiet: the early a.m. calm of
mist-enshrouded Long Beach (Nathan Borchelt)

Other than the coin-operated horses outside of a Houston grocery store, I'd been in the saddle the sum total ofÂ…never before arriving at the Imhoff Farm outside of Cape Town one misty late-March morning. Visions of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood colored my impressions of what one does on horseback, but South Africa is about as far as you can get from the Old West, so I surrendered myself to my horse's good nature as we played a game of follow-the-leader, the guides shepherding our steeds from the farm toward Long Beach.

Compared to some coastlines, the meager 4.3-mile Long Beach could be considered something of a misnomer. But this is 4.3 miles of utterly deserted coastal beauty. The water is too rough to swim, so no resorts crowd its shore, which leaves the beach to walkers, runners, horseback riders from the neighboring farms, and surfers who flock here for the wicked right-beach breaks at the northern end

When we reached the coast that morning, after trotting through bushy marshlands alive with cranes, geese, and flamingos, the beach was covered in a thick mist that made the coastline seem to stretch into infinity. We trotted along in silence, everyone in our horse-riding group captivated by the surreal landscape that enveloped us. A third of the way through the two-hour ride, the group split; more experienced riders disappeared into the fog to canter with one of the guides, while the less saddle-savvy continued to trot alongside the ocean. We passed a couple out on a walk, a lone jogger, and two surfers in wet suits, long boards tucked under their arms, and saw no one else save one other rider, a man in a sweatshirt, hood pulled over his head, galloping down the beach with sand flying in his wake. Our guide Misty explained that he was breaking in a thoroughbred racing horse from a nearby farm, and as he thundered by, I quickly appreciated that my horse didn't take this as a challenge to step up the pace.

Toward the end of the ride, the mist started to lift, revealing a breathtaking view of Chapman's Peak and the full expanse of Long Beach. And when we got back to the farm, Misty took the less experienced riders into the corral for a few laps at a canter, a far cry from the breakneck pace that the other horse displayed on the beach, but fast enough for this urban cowboy.

Published: 20 May 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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