If you think about it, the thing that makes Cape Town such an attractive place to live or to visit, is how any day out combines at least two or more of the city’s charms: fine dining, great wine, natural beauty, local wildlife, sweeping views, an active lifestyle…
This is what I’m thinking as I crest a hill, gazing down on the picturesque Franschhoek Valley below, and looking forward to the MCC and eggs Benedict I’m going to smash at Salmon Bar after I make it safely down this mountain.
There’s a less high-minded thought in the back of my head though, being voiced rather seductively by the Old Spice guy:
‘I’m on a horse.’
Not just any horse, mind you, this is a purebred Arabian – mine for the next hour or so courtesy of Franschhoek’s Paradise Stables. She’s everything the Victorians ever thought a lady should be: beautiful, well-mannered, lively, graceful and obedient.
Ahead of me, our guide, Pieter Hugo, is explaining parts of the landscape to a sweet, young German couple. The Germans, who have been staying in the area, came for their first ride a week ago and have been booking every day since – a pretty good testament to both the quality of the outrides at Paradise and their safety.
Pieter certainly isn’t about to complain about riding every day either. A former Springbok endurance rider, he’s one of those horsey types that seems to have been born in the saddle. Quite the character too, he’ll keep up a running commentary for the full hour on everything from riding to wine to local politics if you let him.
Over hill and dale
There’s no denying the beauty of a hike or mountain-biking expedition in these parts, but walking along at an easy pace on horseback is incomparably peaceful.
Our route takes us up mountain tracks, down through shady valleys, along wooded paths and through marching rows of vines. It’s breathtaking view after breathtaking view, and it doesn’t hurt that you’re a good 14 hands higher to take it all in. Cheesy jokes about ‘paradise at Paradise’ aside, for me this is pretty close to Nirvana.
Wine and ride
Paradise Stables offers a four-hour wine-tasting trail as well, which adds stops at Mont Rochelle and Rickety Bridge wineries to the general scenic splendour. Don’t worry if your butt starts to feel numb at the thought – actual riding time is more like two and a half hours. (Plus, you know, there’s the wine to take your mind off your derriere.)
Is there perhaps a pony?
Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced rider – Paradise caters to all levels, and you won’t find yourself at anything faster than a sedate walk if you don’t want to. It’s also my personal favourite stables in the Western Cape as far as feeling secure up in the saddle goes – you’re in safe hands (and on sure hooves) here.
Don’t worry if you don’t have the full dressage regalia in your closet just waiting for that day you finally got on a horse – comfortable pants or jeans and sensible footwear will be just fine. You may want to bring a light, long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from the sun or a mountain breeze, and don’t forget the factor 30 for your face either.
Where Robertsvlei Road, Franschhoek
When Monday to Saturday at 7:30 am and 5:45 pm for outrides, and at 8:45 am and 1:15 pm for wine-tasting trails
Cost Hour-long outrides are R250 pp. Wine-tasting trails are R800 pp, which includes wine tasting but excludes lunch
Good to know Fancy rolling out of bed and into the saddle? Paradise Cottages offers quaint accommodation on the same farm
Contact +27 21 876 2160 or +27 84 586 2160, [email protected]
Photography Paradise Stables, Jade Taylor Cooke