Ants in Port Elizabeth and Jumping off a very HIGH Bridge!
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Ants had returned to Port Elizabeth (PE) the previous week so Annabel and Terry arranged for us all to go there and visit him as well as drive some of the famous Garden Route along the way.
We set off pretty early as Terry wanted to be off the farm by 7am to beat the worst of the traffic. We made steady progress and the scenery was spectacular in places, especially driving through the mountains behind the farm.
We had to get to a place called Natures Valley by 12pm as we were meeting Annabel's Dad and Step-Mum for lunch at a lovely little restaurant on the roadside. Annabel had her favourite…Peri peri chicken livers!
After lunch I took over the driving whilst Terry had a break, and a sleep and we drove on passing baboons on the various bridges crossing the gorges. We also crossed the bridge where Justin had done his bungy jump a year or so previously. The jump here is supposed to be the world's highest. There are higher jumps in places like China but they are not off bridges and they are not strictly bungy's either.
When we arrived in PE we drove straight to our accommodation for the night, the house of Juan and Kate, friends of Terry and Annabel. Unfortunately though no one there answered the phone so we couldn't get past the electric gates, so we phoned Ants and arranged to meet him in a local bar.
Whilst at the bar Kate rang after noticing all the missed calls and admitted to being in the shower at the time. Oops! We headed back to the house where Juan and Kate have a full size and fully stocked bar overlooking their pool. Very nice!
The following day we got up early for breakfast and headed to the local mall where Annabel wanted to spend some vouchers she had in the bookshop. Annabel reads a lot of books, probably more than Sarah! She has bookshelves full of books all over the main house and the guest house on the farm.
Later in the morning we headed to the races at Arlington Racecourse which is the smaller of 2 racecourses in PE. We arrived early and had a look around the track which was unbelievably small and quaint. It was very well looked after though.
We called Ants out of the jockey's room where he was waiting to ride and had a quick chat and chill in the sun with him and then when the races started we went to find a table inside out of the heat. It is notoriously windy in PE and this track in particular can get very blowy. Annabel told us that one day the wind even blew over the starting gates! However it was also extremely hot and we were glad to sit in the cool building with Juan and Kate. Also at our table were Yvette and Hedley.
Yvette is a local trainer and Ants rides work for her as often as he can. Hedley is a complete extrovert but is very nice and has looked after Ants a lot including looking after his money so he doesn't blow it all on nights out! He owns many races horses of his own but is not really involved in Yvette's business. They are neighbours and good friends of Juan and Kate.
Ants had a few rides lined up for the day but the first few were not good horses and he didn't come anywhere. Whilst riding to the starting gate on his third horse it head butted him and cut his cheek under his eye right where his goggles sit. After that he couldn't wear his goggles and they wouldn't let him ride without them so he unfortunately had to stand down for the rest of the day which was a shame as his best ride was going to be in the afternoon. It was nice though that he spent the rest of the afternoon with us.
After racing Headley decided to order take-away sushi from a very good local sushi bar. Ants is a big fan of sushi so it was agreed that everyone would head back to Juan and Kate's for dinner. Ants and Sarah went in his car to collect the 3 big trays of food and the rest of us would meet them at the house. There was so much food and we couldn't eat it all but Headley insisted on paying which was very nice.
We spent the evening around Juan's bar with him acting as barman. Ants was going to ride work for Yvette in the morning so left early to get a good night's sleep, but not before he had arranged for Sarah to ride too! Sarah was excited as she had ridden with Just a few times on the farm but never with Ants and this was to be her first experience of galloping a real racehorse and not just the baby's.
The next morning we got up early headed to Yvette's yard where she had a very aggressive parrot wandering around. After Headley had shut it in the toilet and jokingly pretended to flush it for being too noisy it we wandered through the 2 big barns full of horses to find the one owned by Terry and Annabel. Unfortunately this horse hasn't been running too well and they are trying to decide what to do with it. All the horses there looked to be in very good condition and it was a much nicer, cleaner and better organised yard than the one we had visited previously. Then we all jumped in the car and drove to the gallops to find Ants who was already there.
Once there we watched a few horses galloping past with Ants doing his stuff and then it was Sarah's turn. Yvette picked an appropriate horse, a big grey which was good as he stood out from all the brown ones. Then Sarah rode off with Ants to the end of the track. The aim is to do what they call pace work by galloping alongside each other for the length of the track. They came back past us much quicker than we expected and unfortunately I didn't have the camera ready which Sarah was very disappointed by. They were going very fast though and everyone thought she rode well.
After this Yvette headed to the main track on the racecourse. Her yard and the gallops are all part of the land owned by Fairview, the bigger of the 2 racecourses in PE. On the course some of the youngsters were being put through the starting gates for the first time. They were then being signed off by a race official who would say whether they were ready to start racing or not. It was very interesting seeing how they introduce these horses to the stalls and encourage them to walk in and then jump away when they open. Sarah was fascinated.
Next Yvette was going to take a second string of horses to the gallops and Sarah could have ridden again but Ants had finished for the day and Terry and Annabel were keen to get going so we left and arranged to go for brunch at the seafront. Terry, Ants, Sarah and I all went for a big English breakfast but as it was late morning by then Annabel went for her usual peri peri chicken livers!
After eating it was agreed we would drive to Jeffreys Bay further down the coast towards Cape Town where there is a big Billabong outlet store. Annabel wanted to get some new clothes for Ants and Just and Ants came with us although he drove his own car.
Half way there Ants was very tired from all the early mornings so we swapped and I drove him in his car. He slept the rest of the way.
At the shop I sneakily helped Annabel choose Sarah a birthday present whilst she wasn't looking and bought a nice t-shirt for myself. Then we headed to the beachfront for an ice cream before saying goodbye to Ants. This was probably the last time we were going to see him before we left South Africa.
Terry was very tired so I offered to drive after this and everyone else went to sleep. It was just a long straight road so it wasn't hard to work out which way to go. When we got near to the bridge where the bungy jump is I saw a sign for it and thought I might like to have a go. Everyone else was sound asleep so when I saw the second sign at the entrance I thought what the hell and turned off!
The sudden change of direction and bumpy track woke everyone up and they were surprised to find out I was going to jump. It was about 3pm by then and everyone was keen to get to Mossel Bay for the night and find accommodation before it got too late but they were happy I had decided to go through with it.
Once I had signed up they got us harnessed up and we made the walk to the bridge. There was me and a young Brazilian who were the two for that time. This is a really popular jump so I was lucky to be able to just turn up and have go. We walked on the pathway which was suspended under the bridge, the views were amazing and you could see all the way down the valley.
When we arrived on the jump platform the music was pumping and all the guys were really professional and ready to go. It was a good spirit. I was nominated as the first to jump, this was good for me and I preferred this. I sat down and they strapped my legs together ready and then took a couple of photographs. Next up I waved at the viewing platform in case Sarah, Annabel and terry were looking at the TV that was there, they weren't and just laughed at that bit in the video! I hopped over to the next point and they attached the bungy and safety. Now there was no going back, I was not nervous and actually quite exited, they lifted me to the edge and told me to hold my arms out and smile to the camera, then one, two, three , buuuuuuuunnnnnnnnggggggggggyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Off I went, it felt like I was flying a really weird sensation and one I would do again. Once the cord had reached its limit I sprang back up again, Terry said I must have come back up at least half way, I did this funny flappy thing when I went weightless that Sarah points out to everyone on the video and then went back down again.
Once I had stopped there was a guy already on his way down to collect me with an electric winch, he got me back to the top and I was buzzing, the adrenaline shot was amazing and I was buzzing for the rest of the day. Once I got back Terry, and Annabel had bought me a t-shirt saying I had done the jump which was really nice, I also got the video which was cool.
After this we got back in the car and headed to Mossel Bay where we had to find some accommodation for the night before our White Shark Diving the next morning!