My pony is trotting off into a field of bulls. He is not supposed to. He is supposed to be going down the steep hill. Vincent is yelling instructions.
His name is Power; I like to think of him as POWER. We’ve been walking along a flat dirt path now for a few miles. It’s been easy; surprisingly easy if you consider this is the first time I can remember riding a horse. I’m starting to think I’m good at this. Perhaps I’m preternaturally gifted at riding horses.
But I’m not. It’s just been easy. Vincent, our Besotho guide, arrives at the top of a steep hill, with a path covered with smooth, round rocks, and starts heading down without a hitch. POWER does not head down as easily. “Pull hard to the right! Hiy! Hiy!” I do what Vincent says. After walking through the bulls we’re back at the top of the hill. This time POWER starts the descent.
It’s very steep and POWER loses his footing on the loose rocks but finds it again quickly; this happens many times. I’m jarred. I’m jarred again. My heart’s racing and my knuckles are white on the reins. I’m starting to think we’ve made a big mistake. Is it too late to turn back?
We don’t turn back. My momentarily terror lessens to the point where even the steep parts seem quite normal. It’s beautiful out here. The roof of Africa, they call it; the lush green mountains with red dirt strips are gorgeous. It’s very sparse out here, very rural.
I think a lot about my gradfather’s journey through these parts seventy four years before. I can’t imagine him doing this alone, with even fewer resources and even less development. He must have been an strong man.
I don’t remember much of him; he died while I was still young and half a world away. He helped me make a tiny table and chair out of wood once with the kid’s tool set that I’d just gotten. He must have been patient as well as strong.
POWER’s stumbles-and-refooting become common place. I wonder if Grandpa’s horse stumbled, too.