It was with very energetic butterflies that I mounted the magnificent Chestnut, so named for her rich colouring. Our guide, Mira, hopped on – with no visible effort – to Blue, a stunning boy of about four years old, whose slate-coloured coat shone in the February sunlight. Mira is currently studying biology in Germany and comes down to South Africa to help with the Papiesfontein trails and to indulge in the African summers. Her passion for, and knowledge of horses put us totally at ease; despite our being real novices.
The trail starts off with about 50 minutes along a gravel trail through the scrubby Eastern Cape landscape. Every now and then, we caught sight of the river and a few buck species along the way. This was the right place to start us off as we were able to get a real feel for how to guide the horses before we hit the vast expanses of the open beach.
At the end of the gravel road, we were faced with a sizeable, steep sand dune. I was ready to climb off and walk Chestnut up it until Mira started giving helpful instructions on how to ride our powerful horses to the top. To feel the muscles and strength of the animal as it determinedly climbs up the dune beneath you, watching as its muscles writhe beneath the skin’s surface, was truly humbling and not a little impressive. As we neared the top of the dune, a world of beauty lay before us. I had not imagined how very spectacular these stretches of white sand dunes could possibly be, and I’m happy I hadn’t in a way, because the sheer beauty of it forced my breath out in an audible gasp.
The horses seemed to feel the same awe-struck sense of peace, completely relaxing and venturing out (still at a politely considerate walk) up and down these rolling mounds of white sand. Dune after beautiful dune, we reached the last one and, on getting to its peak, were again mesmerised by another facet of these exquisite surrounds – the green and blue of the Indian Ocean lapping onto unless miles of untouched coastline.
Although the horses clearly wanted to break into an uninhibited gallop on this long stretch, they were extremely responsive to our grip on the reigns and maintained a leisurely walking pace.
The entire trail took about two hours to complete. We loved absolutely every moment of it – something I realised when my cheeks began to cramp from smiling. Mira kept us entertained with commentary on the surrounding nature and the training of horses, and pointing out interesting finds along the way.
You will definitely need a high-factor sunscreen, water, a camera, long pants (trousers) and closed shoes. Also, for those not accustomed to the saddle, consider asking for an extra blanket on which to sit, as the saddle becomes tough after sitting in it for an extended period.
The Papiesfontein trail is certainly one of the most beautiful places I have been on my travels, and experiencing it on horseback comes very close to perfection in our estimations.
Address: Papiesfontein, Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape.
Telephone: +27 (0)79 299-8080
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 09h00 to 14h00 (except Christmas and New Years day)