It is the little things in life, my friend, that traveling reminds you to appreciate. Such as having a port of entry that is will readily accommodate the shape and bulk of a human. I left my cabin, suddenly grateful for a proper door for the first time since my summer spent in a tent years before, and started my day.
I lunged Santiago who was more Sant than Iago today, lucky for me. It is so cool to see his progress on a day to day basis, and to know that I am part of it. When I put him back in his stall afterwards, he subtly turned around and leaned his head near to me as I pulled the wooden pole across the opening. He wasn’t looking to escape, he was presenting himself for a cuddle! I gladly accepted, and returned with a carrot for him later to encourage such behavior.
Dodo was a big galoot to work with but at least he didn’t try any funny business. Er, if he did then I was not knowledgeable enough to notice. That’s a scary thought… Being outsmarted by a horse named Dodo… Nope, totally didn’t happen, he was just a galoot. Walking him back to his pasture, the B-A-D (big ass dog) that lives in the fence of the house (not Bimbo of Shackra) barked his head off at us, which startled me but not the goofball. I am not proud of the following story, but it’s true. (Let me remind you I am a phi beta kappa member and all around clever adult. You may proceed now.) Incredibly frustrated with the involuntary increase in my heart rate, I puffed out my chest and yelled “What! You want a piece of me?! Well, HAH! You’re stuck behind a fence! Can’t do nothin’ homie!” I figured we were never going to be friends anyway and I might as well taunt him… I felt marginally vindicated as I stalked off, not that he was cowed in the slightest by my immature tantrum. Dodo made no comment.
The equine highlight of my day took the form of RIDING in the DESERT with Samantha. Well, the area is called the “river bed” but it has been a decade since the last time there was running water, thus DESERT. Samantha said we would take Constantine and Rakbah out together. I preferred a big ole horse to a scaredy-cat but as I didn’t say anything, Samantha said I would be riding Rakbah. Nuts! That horse is equally scared of the daily occurrences of a blowing tarp, camels, and a pig, and Sam wanted me to take him out into the big bad world? He’s not ready! Hell, nearly three months past my riding accident in Norway, I hardly felt ready. My theory on putting horse and rider in a new situation is that one of them should really know what they are doing. I pointed out to Samantha that Rakbah does not inspire much confidence from the ground much less the saddle, and she countered that he behaves well on an outride as long as he is with another horse. Trusting the riding instructor, we saddled up. After spending 10 minutes in the arena, I insisted we avoid the pesky pooch by taking a different exit.
Out in the desert, I noticed that I was more nervous than the scaredy-cat who, as Samantha had predicted, was completely content to let Constantine do all the thinking. I took a deep breath and made an effort to chill out. I glanced at Samantha whose posture was utterly relaxed. Trying to find my usual confidence, I did what I do best in order to distract myself: I talked. I have no recollection of what we discussed, until Samantha muttered to herself, “I wonder if that’s the rock…?” I knew from our conversations while driving that she frequently gets lost, so I asked her to speak up. “Oh, Dirk and I come out here to jog but we come from the other direction, so I’m looking for the rock we turn off.” Seeing no rocks in sight, I retorted, “I think I have just failed an IQ test, I came out into the desert with someone entirely lacking a sense of direction!” Such sass earned me a dirty look. What can I say? I frequently joke if I’m uncomfortable, and the humor did it’s job. I was significantly more at ease for the rest of the ride. Though we never found the rock, we did find our way home.
After tack cleaning and lunch we stopped at a cafe in town for snacks and wifi. Always willing to share my silly eacapades, I told my family briefly about the key breaking in the loc, as well as assured Michael that my hosts were not likely to murder me in my sleep.
Anticipating a trip to the beach once the cafe closed, we had brought the dogs Sasha and Amy. I followed them to the beachfront: commence a three creature frolick. It is a tough question who had more fun, me or the canines. In between running/jumping/skipping/playing, I investigated what was washed up on the beach. I, with increasingly rhapsodic excitement, found a spiny lobster, a sea sponge, an urchin, a jelly fish (poked it with my foot – now I understand the name JELLY fish and squealed in delight), and a seal skeleton. Near the skeleton was a tooth which had become dislodged from the jaw. Embracing the childlike feeling of the day, I stuck it in my pocket and forgot about it. I believe at one point on the walk, possibly as I raced the dogs back to the car, I exclaimed, “Best beach day EVER!!”
The afternoon was not finished by a long shot. Following Dirk and Samantha’s lead, we went to a seaside bar/restaurant for a “sundowner.” Drinking ciders and watching the sunset, even as the terrier picked a fight with every other dog in the vicinity, created a great sense of comraderie. Laughing and swapping stories, especially those of the equestrian variety, is one of my favorite ways to spend time. After a trip to the loo, I informed my new friends that a woman cleaning the bathroom had first asked me for my shoes, to which I smiled and declined, then invited herself home to America with me. “What was that about?” I asked incredulously. Samantha, in her posh British accent, looked at my face and chastised smoothly, “One must never GRIN, McKenna.”
We didn’t exactly feel like going home with its distinct lack of entertainment once the sun was down, so Dirk took us to the classic German pub for a few drinks, including free shots of schnapps from the German bartender. Dirk insisted; I assented. Becoming slightly more liquid than solid (a side effect of the German pub) we went for dinner to a restaurant by the ocean. We discussed horses (of course), our mutual friend (my host), South Africa vs Namibia, and too many other topics to count. I nabbed the check as a sign of my gratitude, and just as I had begun to dry out they punished me for my generosity by whisking me off to another bar.
Kooki’s was an Afrikaans establishment, which meant there were no obligatory shots of schnapps. There were, however, Afrikaans men. After I knocked over half my beer when gesticulating wildly, two men at the end of the bar sent over three jagermeisters. Samantha and Dirk simultaneously blamed me. I said, “You’re welcome” to them as I gave a small finger-wave and a smile-but-not-a-grin to the men. I bought the next round and practically skipped off to the toilets. It had been a great day, okay? Santiago asked for a snuggle, I rode Rakbah, played on a beach, spent time with friends, poked a jellyfish, saw a gorgeous sunset, and something else… Returning and reaching for my beer with one hand, I put my other hand in my shorts pocket. “Guys, I HAVE A SEAL TOOTH IN MY POCKET!” “Ok, we are cutting you off.” “No seriously I’m fine! I’m just so excited!” “But you just knocked over your beer like two seconds ago.” “Well yeah, but I would totally have been this happy to find a frickin’ seal tooth in my pocket no matter what!” It was a failed effort to convince them I had merely regressed to a (much) younger version of myself for the day, and we went home. Completely forgetting I had the tack room key on my keychain, I further damaged my campaign of sobriety by asking Dirk to help me unlock my cabin with the wrong key. They snickered as they said goodnight; I just smiled. Whatever my internal age or blood alcohol content (which I assure you was lower than it appeared here), it had been the best day of the new year.