My yoga teacher, Rolf Gates, has a special way of conveying the significance of “Let go of the grip you have, somewhere, here.” I have been mindlessly gripping intensely, about a lot, for the last few months. This weekend, I released my grip, let it all go! What a joyful reunion with my relaxed self. I let go of all the rigorous discipline around food, exercise, make-up, hair; consumed pasta, bread, sausages, bacon, ice cream, burgers, pizza with complete abandon; and bathed, well, only once! No running, no circuits, no make up, no hair washing.
I treated myself to what I really needed, a weekend alone, away from my site, immersed with what brings me peace and joy, the horses. I traveled to Kande, a small town along the shore of Lake Malawi and booked a room at Kande Horse Ranch, about 2-3 miles from the lake. When I arrived at 5 pm, I found I was the only guest for the weekend so had the most deluxe room with my own gigantic deck under cover for yoga and enjoying the view of the horses.
Kande Horse Ranch is a gem, because of Johnny, the owner. Johnny left England when he was 27 after working as a brick-layer and roofer for most of his adult life. He went to Africa and has been there since, 23 years.
His long career as a driver/tour operator from Kenya to South Africa left him in search of something that would nourish his soul. By luck, chance, serendipity, he found a piece of land in Kande that spoke to him and he was able to secure the 99 year lease from the tribal chief to build his guest house and horse ranch. He employs 15 or so locals, a huge benefit to the community, and appealing to the chief.
The place is stunning, built by Johnny over several years, including stables, barn, out buildings and the enormous guest house. The entire interior is white- washed over brick giving it a cottagey, European feel, contrasting with the dark mahogany furniture, window casings and trim.
We went immediately to the beach in the baby blue jalopy of a truck requiring a running push start, to the bar/restaurant at Kande Beach Hotel where we chatted for several hours with other expats and locals. Returning to the lodge, he cooked a delicious meal of fettucine bolognaise and salad. Retiring to bed, stuffed, I lay dreamily under my mosquito net, windows wide open, temp about 70 degrees, on my enormous king bed.
I awakened in the morning to the thundering of nuts or some heavy fruit crashing on the metal roof. Gazing out the windows at sunrise, I was thrilled to watch 6-10 monkeys grabbing the figs and tree nuts as they playfully swung through the trees. What a way to start the day!
After an uncharacteristic (for me) breakfast of huge slices of toast, jam and PB, I headed out on Bo for a trail ride with Burton, my guide. Two hours later we arrived at the beach after meandering through tiny villages and beautiful sandy paths lined with pineapples, grasses and huge trees. The rough surf was too much for the horses so swimming with them was not an option but we then headed back home and Johnny had prepared yet another meal of homemade pizza with cheese and olives, delicious!
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing with the horses, watching Johnny work with Angel (a problem horse), yoga, a nap and a bath in a 6 foot soaking tub, yahoo! At 4 we returned to the beach to meet a group of riders. Johnny handed me Alfie for my chance to swim with the horses.
We shed our clothes, helmets, and shoes and though not the safest of ventures, rode bareback into the water. With 8-9 horses? pretty dumb by horsemanship standards, but oh well!
The horses were excited and thirsty and Alfie tossed me into the lake pretty quickly after being bitten on the rump by another horse. No injuries but I had had enough of the pandemonium so the grooms took the horses back and we headed to the resort to lounge in the hammocks and have dinner; burger, salad, and ice cream (no M&Ms)
This morning Burton and I, on Kwanza, rode out again at 7:30 for a short 90 minute ride, sore butt and knee painL After a yoga session on my deck, Johnny whipped up a traditional English breakfast and I gorged myself on fresh rolls, honey, PB, bacon, sausage and beans. So many carbs, so much fat, so much for the grip!
Sadly, Johnny has recently sold the ranch to 4 Brits and is moving to Ibiza in October where his wife and son are currently. His new business will focus on training and rehabilitating problem/abused horses on the island. The retreat he has created is serene, beautiful, and his horses get the very best care and attention.
So grateful I had the opportunity to spend the weekend at the ranch prior to his departure, and to nourish my spirit with the peace, nature, and horse essence so ingrained in the property.
Tomorrow I can take hold of that grip once again if I choose; my routines, food choices, and attitudes but for this weekend it was with great relief that I was willing to let go. So worth it! Maybe I’ll have some M&Ms to finish it off!