Living Vicariously As A Peripatetic Shutterbug

{ More musings from the Cantankerous Old Mule }

Where the wild horses roam

Yesterday I promised that I would continue the story about the wild horses of Kleinmond & Botriver, so here we go:

A few years ago, while visiting my mother in Kleinmond (an hour and a half from Cape Town) she told me about a herd of wild horses that lived in the Rooisand Nature Reserve and the surrounding vlei (marshy wetlands) and farmlands. We even drove down to the nature reserve to look for them, but without luck.

610_8985Despite the many screwball rumours about the horses’ origins, like the one about them having swum ashore from the HMS Birkenhead, which sank off the coast in the 1800s, it seems as if the real story is a lot less colourful. This one goes that the wild horses are descended from the ploughing, hoeing, wagon-pulling domesticated nags that worked the huge farm that stretched from Kleinmond to well up the Botriver in the 1940s and ’50s. When all of those jobs were mechanised, the horses became redundant, and many of them were left to roam free. Their population ballooned for two decades, until it was decided to remove them in the 1970s. Apparently a few slippery individuals evaded capture, hiding out in the heavy fynbos and vleis. From those four or five horses, the herd has grown to at least 26 today.

I also read that a small part of the herd had broken away and moved across the Bot River to the Fisherhaven/Meerensee area when the river mouth was closed recently. During my month-long stay here this year, I again ventured down to the vlei to look for them a few times, as well as across at Fisherhaven. Again, there was no sign of the mysterious group. Then, last week, while driving through Fisherhaven on my way home, I came across half a dozen of the wild horses strolling casually down the road. It was noon, the worst time for photos, and all I had was my 50mm lens, but I left my car idling, followed them into the bush and managed to snap a few photos.

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I was pleasantly surprised about my serendipitous encounter but, really, I kept dreaming about seeing the main herd. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, two days ago I went in search of them again and was thwarted by a locked gate. Crestfallen, I drove back to the main road and turned left for home.

And then, without warning, just 200m down the main road, there they were, a dozen larger-than-life phantoms, calmly grazing down in the farm that borders the reserve. I pulled over, jumped out of my car, and dashed to the fence to see if it really was them, or simply an illusion of my imagining. Fearing a farmer with a big gun, I knew I couldn’t risk straying beyond the barbed-wire fence. Instead, I clambered onto a tree stump on the shoulder of the road and, straining as high as I could, shot a few photos through the trees.

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And that was when the second bit of good fortune came my way in the form of a Toyota pickup, which sped on by, stopped, and then reversed towards me. It was the friendly gun-free farmer who had stopped to see who the weirdo was perched on a tree stump staring into his land. When he heard I was keen to photograph the horses, he promptly invited me to drive on in.

It turns out the horses are anything but wild. Sure, they are ungroomed, scarred and weather-beaten; they may never have been haltered or ridden but they seem in good health and clearly are comfortable around people. As I walked amongst them, until it was too dark to shoot, some of the more inquisitive ones came over to scrutinise both me and my camera. I may not have seen them frolicking in the vlei, fighting for supremacy or displaying any of their other “wild” characteristics, but it was a wonderful experience and the light under sullen skies was just perfect.

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One comment on “Where the wild horses roam

  1. Mabel Saul
    June 20, 2016

    The nature is amazing

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This entry was posted on June 20, 2016 by in Animals, South Africa, Travel and tagged , , , , , .
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