Just Chaps thanks Iain Paterson for sharing his epic adventure:
Day two started early and wet. I was due to start at 8am, start times were 12 hours after your finish time the night before, and due to my horse’s quick presentation we had a slim lead. There was only one stage to go on the first horse then we had a horse swap at Port St John, so I was hopeful I could remain as part of the leading group. After a quick breakfast and a last attempt to dry kit out on the fire we saddled up, Hazzan looked in good condition and had eaten and drunk well over night. After having his shoe replaced again (this was the third time he had lost the same shoe earning me the nickname Cinderella) I saddled up and walked him a bit before going to mount. Hazzan had other ideas and as I put my weight in the stirrup he threw himself to the side and fell over. I managed to jump out of the way, but it was a little alarming! Wiesman, the horse’s breeder and owner, helped me get on and we warmed up, trying not to think about the fact that our underwear was already damp! Everyone set off and immediately we started to climb, straight up a steep slippy hill resulting in us taking it steady so as not to pull muscles.
Then, disaster, my cantle bag containing my sleeping bag fell off! I jumped off to get it but everyone else continued on without waiting, leaving me on my own. This rather upset Hazzan who would not stand to let me reattach my cantle bag to the saddle so I eventually gave up and slipped it through the breastplate so that I didn’t get left to far behind. Cantle bag secure (ish) I went to remount and all hell broke loose, Hazzan threw himself up and sideways as my weight went into the stirrup, for a brief moment I hung on his side as we danced sideways before he tripped on a hummock and we started to roll. Next thing I knew we had rolled in a heap into the back of a building, the building was built into the hill so we were stuck behind it. Hazzan was cast against the wall with my legs trapped underneath him, his full weight crushing my left one against a rock. As I lay there waiting for my leg to snap I called fore help and two locals came running around the corner. Unable to do much they talked to me while I tried to figure out how to get this horse off me, I couldn’t reach the SOS button on my tracker to summon the race team for help and I couldn’t wriggle free. After a few minutes Hazzan had had enough and started to kick and scrabble to free himself, with my head at his rear end I protected my head as much as I could and waited for it all to be over. Thankfully he got up without damaging me but I heard afterwards that he did kick a hole in the building, a narrow miss for me!
I got up and checked all my limbs, no breaks! My leg hurt a lot but I could weight bear, I caught Hazzan and checked him over, no serious damage to him either. Somehow, we had both gotten away with it. After catching my breath I decided that Hazzan needed time to warm up and would let me get on later when he wasn’t so close to home, so I set of with me leading him, trying not to lose to much time and not get lost on my own! This started 16km from hell where the horse would not let me get on and only trotted when he felt like it! When the second group of riders eventually caught me up I was absolutely knackered and was not very happy, however, the guys were amazing and helped me remount and we set off together to traverse the last section of the stage. This was a tough hilly section that required us to get of and lead the horses down the hills, this was fine until I had to remount and even with everyone’s help I could only get on Hazzan some of the time. This made the finishing stretch of this stage very arduous and I could not wait for the horse change.
The second group all arrived at the horse change together and rushed to vet through, the rules meant that as soon as your current horse had passed the vetting you could choose your next horse, saddle up and go. Hazzan vetted through quickly and I set to work to reattach my cantle bag to the saddle to avoid it bouncing on my back all day. This took precious time and when I went to select my horse there was only one left! Note to self, next time choose horse then fix tack. My next horse was a tough Boerperd, the native south African horse. These horses had been used for the middle stages of the race as these had the toughest hills and required steadier, sure footed horses to traverse the steep cliffs. The first stage with our new horses began with a quick ride along the beach then turning inland towards the town of Port St John. We had to ride inland in order to use a bridge to cross the Mzimvubu river, unlike the other rivers which we could swim, this river is a well-known breeding ground for Bull Sharks and was therefore unsafe to swim. Navigating the busy town proved difficult, particularly as my cantle bag fell off again! The horses were not particularly used to traffic and the south African custom of driving past at full speed while beeping their horns didn’t help the horse’s nerves. We did make it through however and entered the blissfully peaceful Silaka nature reserve, a beautiful patch of rainforest with some lovely tracks that allowed myself and another rider who had waited with me when I lost me bag to catch up with the second group of horses, I was no longer dead last!
This stage included one of the biggest swims of the race and when we arrived there was quite an audience, again, my horse was a brave swimmer so I set of into the water and started swimming, we were swimming for what felt like ages but I’m sure was only was few seconds before we made it to the other side and jumped up the jetty to get back onto trail. The rest of the stage went smoothly but with the light fading we knew we had to get a move on in order to be allowed to leave the next vet check before the cut off. Then, disaster! The trail we were meant to be following was nowhere to be found meaning a long period of picking our way through the jungle, hoping that the tricky trails we were following would take us in the right direction. They thankfully did and the two big rivers that we had to negotiate were relatively straight forward but we still made it to the Kraal, the cut of point, too late meaning that we had to stay there rather then continuing to the compulsory overnight hold at Hluleka.
In all honesty, this was a bit of a blessing in disguise as we were totally taken in by the wonderful people at the stop and were provided with warm dry beds, very welcome! Once the horses had been sorted out and the sleeping arrangements established I got to have the first good look at my damaged leg, it hadn’t caused to much trouble through the day so I was hopeful however upon removal of my boots the level of swelling was immediately obvious, my left leg was twice there size of my right leg! Removing my sock revealed the extent of the bruising, safe to say the colours were pretty impressive… Straight to the vets for their thoughts on the damage. No breaks suspected but they wrapped it with an animalintex dressing and a vet wrap to keep a bit of pressure on it during the night. Time for a good night’s sleep and maybe even our kit to dry in the room. 150km completed. 200km to go.