Arabella will put you in the saddle

By Bianca Coleman Time of article published Dec 29, 2013

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Cape Town - Picking up where we left off, the Arabella Hotel & Spa – near Hermanus, Kleinmond, Onrus, etc – will arrange any number of extramural activities for its guests, from gentle and sedate to energetic and adventurous.

When I stayed there last week I was offered the choice of quad biking or horseriding. Both have four points where they meet the ground, so you’d think they are relatively stable. And for the most part you’d be right, but both are unpredictable.

I’ve never been a fan of quad biking. Despite all the promises that they are virtually impossible to tip over, there was that day on the top of an almost vertical dune in Atlantis that begs me to differ. I’ve never trusted them since.

Horses. Well, horses, being alive and with minds of their own – training notwithstanding – are a bit of a wild card. Anything can happen.

Most places which offer outrides cater for children, novices and inexperienced riders so their beasts are schooled into submission. As a once-intermediate rider (sadly, lack of practice has downgraded my skills somewhat), I’ve been on horses that could not be kicked into even a slow trot, let alone a canter. Fat as butter and slow as slugs, they simply would have none of it, ambling along obliviously.

I was sent to Cloud’s End stables in the Hemel en Aarde Valley. It’s always wonderfully exciting to turn down a road you have not travelled before, especially when armed with only rudimentary directions, no natural GPS (when I left, I thought Hermanus was the opposite way) and very little petrol. You’d swear I’d never been on a road trip before.

The Hemel en Aarde valley is home to the Hermanus Wine Route, famed for pinot noir and chardonnay, where you’ll find estates like Hamilton Russell, Bouchard Finlayson, Whalehaven, Newton Johnson Wines and Sumaridge, so it’s a destination in itself.

In nearby Botrivier, Melissa Genevieve Nelsen makes delicious Genevieve MCC, which was recently celebrated with a bespoke garden luncheon prepared by Eat Out’s chef of the year, David Higgs, for various luminaries in the food and wine world.

That was just a bit of gratuitous name-dropping, but I do, without bias, recommend her bubbles. Drop her a mail at [email protected] to find out where it is stocked. You can thank me later.

Right. Back to the horses. Cloud’s End does have the docile animals. It gives lessons, and camps for young ‘uns. Owner Tanya Welman, who has many years’ experience, rescues horses from abysmal conditions (that humans can treat animals so appallingly makes me sick) and trains all of them, rescues and other, for riding, dressage and show jumping. So Cloud’s End also has horses suitable for accomplished riders who want to go galloping hell for leather through orchards and up the mountain. If you prefer a nice little stroll through a vineyard, maybe with a bit of wine tasting, that too can be arranged. Tanya is happy to tailor-make your hour or two – or four – on horseback.

The day I was there was blissfully overcast but not cold. Tanya and three of her staff rode with me; one of them on a rescued cart horse which is still skittish and undergoing training which includes regular rides with others, to learn the ways of her kind. My mount was named Midnight, a young bay gelding, and Tanya’s top horse, she told me. He’d recently won a bunch of red ribbons at a horse show and is worth more than my car.

We crossed over from the stables, through fruit farms and up the slopes of the mountain. From that vantage point – where there are waterfalls in the rainy season – you can sometimes hear the cry of eagles, and you can see the ocean. We often bandy about words like “breathtaking”, “stunning”, and “awesome” views without taking the adjectives too literally, but I have to say, whoever named this valley was spot on.

It is so, so beautiful it could make you weep.

It was a wonderful ride, even though I could barely walk for four days afterwards; horseriding makes you hurt in places you didn’t even know you had. Whether you ride, visit the wine farms or just drive through the valley from Onrus to Caledon, you cannot not love it. It was my first time, and proves once again that even if you’ve lived in an area your entire life, there is still more to discover. - Cape Times

l E-mail [email protected] for more info.

l Some Holiday EsCape Times activities are sponsored by the supplier.

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