Namibia Endurance Ride Association 2006 Walvis Bay: African Championship Endurance.Net

Steph's Notes from the Field


Made it, at least as far as the airport hotel outside of Capetown, SA. Just stepping off the plane, the air smells - and feels - different. Capetown is a looonnngg way from Idaho! Tomorrow I'll catch a comuter flight to Namibia. their ride - Walvis Bay - is Aug 30. as soon as i can get a good internet link (i'm on an old machine at the hotel - phone line - feels like i've stepped back in time) I'll post info, photos, etc.

France and Germany already seem so far away... Dave Kaden (Specialized Saddles) is going to send photos and stories and stuff from Compiegne since I won't be there for the WEC_YH . will keep you posted.

later -


Now Here In Africa

So far it's sunny, cheerful and lovely. friendly people, I love being called 'lady' by the porters and staff 'yes lady I will take your luggage' (for a tip of course). I've only seen the airport and hotel so far, have a wireless connection at the airport waiting for flight to Namibia, can see rugged mountains and green hills beyond the tarmac. and sunshine!!! too much rain in Europe this month, I need to dry out. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about Namibia so far - and the spring flowers are supposedly in bloom along the coast, makes me wish I was driving instead of flying. 1000 miles, but hey - when you live out west, that's nothing. Maybe next time.

I put a gospel channel on in the hotel room this morning while sorting through my stuff (will leave half of it at the hotel till return to SA) - wonderful music, black african singers, acapello (sp?), harmony and rhythm. swaying to the sounds with eyes closed. deep melodic voices.

Justin (friend of Steve Rojek - came to Aachen to crew) told me about a Cheetah conservation farm in Namibia - maybe I'll have a chance to get over there. Justin works at a private 'reserve' in Georgia - private foundation for preserve species from all over the world. They have several cheetahs there- and work with the Nambia foundation as well. That would be sooooo cool! we'll see. I know I'm going to cry when I see my first zebra or giraffe or wildebeast or any native beast in the wild. All of my childhood I read books about Africa, watched the shows, dreamed the dreams.

plane leaves in a few minutes - South Africa Airlines with bold red/green/gold/black/blue colors on the wings and tail.



Arrival in Walvisbaai

Now I feel like I'm in Africa. The plane landed at the Walvis Bay airport - a dusty little spot in the center of an amazingly vast desert. After the plane left Capetown we followed the coastline north, white breakers along a windy coast , bays and spits of land, miles of beach line. As we flew north, the landscape got drier and drier and drier and drier. Rugged mountains to the east, mile and miles of red sand, whipped into dunes and various desert scapes. Desolate, it looked beautiful from above. At the airport I was met by Schalk Pieraas (might have the name wrong, but will get it right eventually) - the son of a rancher from east Namibia - the entire family is here, 6 horses in all - for both the senior and junior team championships (stiff competition between South Africa and Namibia!). I understand that Botswana has an endurance program too, but they didn't make it to this ride.

Before I got out the door of the airport, I was snagged by customs. My huge suitcase aroused their suspicions. I'm bringing a saddle with me - a Specialized Saddle. Dave is helping sponsor my trip here and I'm lugging the saddle around with me for show - and in case anybody wants to buy one. After having to pay (a lot) for extra weight from Paris to Capetown, I'm already wondering if it was a good idea to bring it... and now the saddle is sitting in the Customs office of Walvis Bay - "no worry lady, come see us in the morning, we'll have it for you then" . I'm a little worried, the whole thing seemed a bit 'Africa' - but we'll see! I'll probably have to pay duty on it, and then if I don't sell it they'll refund the money, but something else about a tax...

Schalk talked to the guys, got directions and number for picking up the saddle, we'll see. He loaded my stuff in his Land Cruiser (what else?) and we took a little tour of the stable area - where the horses are staying on arrival from. A little dusty - definitely desert - looked an awful lot like Abu Dhabi in the days before they built the Endurance Villages - like the little camel stables. Horses looked tough and sturdy, not to big. And they use their horses for ranch as well as endurance. I suspect they're pretty tough.

I'm staying in the little hotel like place - small cement villas, a little reception area (with interenet, here I am...). I took a few pictures, but it's going to be a challenge to send stuff over the phone line. I'll work them way down so they're low res, and then when I can I'll do a more with a real gallery. this is going to be an adventure I think. Schalk mentioned something about 'going out on the dunes to drink a sun downer.." , or something like that! The africanz language (sp?) is interesting, and so are the accents. Schalk just spent a year in South Dakota, working on a ranch, learning things to take back to his family ranch. I guess his brother is in Washington state (Sue and Dennis Summers said they had a Namibian visitor - probably his brother!) - small world.

anyway - I'm going offline for a bit - will try to keep posting. and maybe some photos.



Driving the Trails

The mornings are misty here. when the desert air cools during the night, the moisture from the Atlantic condenses and the coast is shrouded in mist - not a thick fog - but a heavy mist that makes everything moist and keeps the morning temps cool. And then the clouds burn off mid morning - several hours of perfect weather - and then the wind starts to blow. the sun heats up the air over the great Namib Desert... sucking the cooler air off of the Atlantic. light breezes turn into stiff breezes, stiff breezes pick up the sand and get stiffer and sandier. This afternoon it was particularly nasty - hard to keep the eyes open. It's springtime here, so weather is unpredicitable - but looks like tomorrow (race day) will be similar to today. One look at the beautiful dunes and you know there has to be wind!

But the show goes on. I talked a little while today with Zulu - the tall South African - he's an FEI steward, and a common sight at the WEC's. Nice guy, loves Africa, loves the desert. He mentioned the Skeleton Coast of Namibia - the coastline that stretches north from Walvis Bay (the one and only port/harbor in Namibia). Called the Skeleton Coast because of all the skeletons of wrecked ships - it's a treacherous coastline, winds and currents that tease. This is where The Black Stallion was filmed - the site of the ship wreck that left Alex and the Black stranded on the coast. Zulu also told me a story about another shipwreck - not that long ago (he used to work for the SA Navy, lots of time spent on this coast) - the story, a passenger ship was flailing off the coast, a wreck seemed iminent, they sent the women and children by life raft to the coast. meanwhile the currents turned, taking the ship back out to sea - and they couldn't get the women and children back to the ship. They were stranded w/o food and water. The coastguard air dropped food and water (much of which didn't survive the drop). No airstrip, no way to get a boat in. They finally airdropped several large nets, the w&c spread the nets out on a stretch of beach, creating a landing strip - enough netting to give the tires some sort of grab and traction. A plane was eventually able to land, the w&c loaded onto the plane. The takeoff was rough, harder than landing, the plane crashed and all were killed. true story! (moral?)

Another story he told me - there's a 'mass horse grave' here at Walvis Bay- a monument . The Germans had transported in a large cavalry during the war. Walvis Bay was originally a German settlement, so it was a logical haven for them during wartime - when the end or the war was near, the cavalry-soldiers staged a hasty retreat, but left the horses. unattended, unfed. most of the horses died, some still with tack on, but a few survived. These went on to be the foundation of a 'breed' of horse - predominantly anglo-arabian bloodlines . Many of them are excelling at Endurance now (no great surprise). I'll try to get the name of the breed - it is 'SW' - something like Schnieder-Waltven.... something or other. Africaans is a bit difficult to understand. I'll see if I can get that info.

- better send this email for now -



Continued ...

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