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“Long Ride for Justice” - Namibia: The second leg of Ben Freeth’s journey

Blog 4: Friday 16 February 2024

Heading southwest, following the Omatako River in Namibia



Map of our progress along the Caprivi Strip, before we turned southwest


Nikao contemplating the early light


Yesterday (Thursday 15 February) was a really tough day as Nikao played up a lot to begin with while I was riding him and it took a great deal of horsemanship (mulemanship?) to bring him under control. Eventually, he seemed to settle and I rode the first 15 kilometres or so, doing a fair amount of trotting and then some cantering, as well as walking. Afterwards we had a break and let him rest again, then we walked for another 10 kilometres or so. After that, we stopped under a tree for lunch.

 

While Dr Telané Greyling, the Namibian horse expert who is my backup for the first stage of the Namibian section, was busy grazing him, holding onto the tether, he kept pulling and pulling. Suddenly I saw her being pulled off her feet and dragged along, but she held onto the rope, getting rope burns in the process. Unfortunately Nikao was just too strong for her, so she had to let go and off he went. Telané is probably the most experienced horsewoman in Namibia, and in fact, for tracking, one of the top people in the whole of southern Africa. She’s done amazing things!

 

So, for the next 20 kilometres, we tried to catch Nikao, but he was just running!  We’d manage to overtake him in our backup vehicle, but then he would just duck off the gravel road, go through fields and then leap hedges and fences, just like a kudu. This is a very large, graceful buck found in parts of Africa, including Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It’s famous for its fence-jumping abilities and can easily clear a three-metre fence from a standing position!



A kudu in action!


It was remarkable to watch Nikao, he was just totally wild, very different from a horse, which you can eventually catch. There's no way you can catch a mule who has decided that he’s gone into a wild state, well, certainly not this mule anyway!

 

We tried to drive him into kraal after kraal, which are rural enclosures for cattle, sheep and goats. This generated considerable interest from the locals and a number of people got on the back of the Land Rover to help us. Eventually, after about 20 kilometres, we managed to get Nikao into a fenced area that was high enough for him to be unable to jump.


Nikao in a fenced area


Then, after a long, long time, we managed to get Nikao, slowly, slowly, slowly, into a corner. And then I managed  ̶  with some water and carrots – to get his tether rope and secure him to a tree for the night.

 

Earlier that day, I’d been kicked in the knee by Nikao, and Telané was very concerned because she was due to head back to Windhoek. She said that I couldn’t continue the trek alone with a mule who was so wild at times, especially as I would be heading into a very remote area and could get left in the wilderness with nothing - and lose the mule as well, if Nikao escaped again.


Telané with Nikao at one of the farm gates


We therefore decided that I would continue walking, while Telané would drive back with Nikao in the horsebox to reunite him with his owner and equine friends. Mules are very social animals and enjoy the companionship of other animals. They’re also said to be more intelligent and diligent than horses.

 

While I said goodbye to Telané and Nikao, I was very emotional and was crying. Just as she was about to head off, I realized that I’d forgotten my hat and called to her. All I could hear was kicking! As Telané came back with my hat, I could see that there was massive hole in the horsebox that Nikao had kicked through.

 

It was almost as if he was saying, “No, no, I will continue with you. I want to continue with you.” It was as if he could see me left by the roadside alone, and he didn't like the fact that I wasn't with him. So he lashed out.


 The damaged horsebox!

 

However, I know that it’s the right call to pull Nikao, and that I go on alone. In the meantime, we’re trying to find a horse. This has certainly been a learning curve! A mule on its own is not a horse on its own! It’s been a wonderful first 400 kilometres with him though, and I've learned a lot.

 

So I'm now walking just with a small bag containing a loaf of bread and some biltong (dried meat), dried fruit and water. I also have my small liner sleeping bag that fits into the palm of my hand.


Biltong is a delicious form of dried, cured meat.


South Africa’s early pioneers, the Voortrekkers, preserved meat by making biltong.

 

But now it’s a little like being a pilgrim, I suppose, I'm just walking along the road with a small bag. I’m not sure how long I'll be walking until I get a horse, but even if I don't get one, I will carry on walking until I get to Windhoek. It's about 800 kilometres or so from here, but I will get to Windhoek!

 

One thing on where we stayed last night, it was just God's providence! The couple who own the farm, or at least the farm where we managed to eventually capture Nikao in the fence, was a wonderful Zimbabwean Shona couple, a black couple, and there was also a lovely white Namibian couple, Christian people. And oh, their hospitality was unbelievable. I hadn’t eaten meat for a few weeks. They served us with chicken and eland steaks and brought chairs out for us. It was just such a blessing after a really hard day yesterday. The Shona couple gave me a two-litre bottle of coke - Coca-Cola, ice cold! I literally in half an hour drank that whole two-litre bottle. Yes, it had been a hard chase, but God is good!


This map shows the Caprivi Strip (top right) and Windhoek down in the south


The journey continues….

 

To read the introduction and objectives of my “Long Ride for Justice”, as well as my regular blogs, click HERE 


My sincere thanks to you all and I’ll keep you posted.


Ben

Ben Freeth

Mobile: +263 773 929 138 (Zimbabwe)

Whatsapp: +44 7539 070 122 – limited mobile phone signal in parts of Namibia

 

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