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The day the Buffalo Herders needed some herding | Fiona Coward

Buffalo Herder John the Geologist in a race against time to herd the 13:00 bus from Cambria

Buffalo Herding is just one branch of a complex family tree.

Let me explain. This observation came about when the herders needed herding.

Theoretically, there is a a fair amount of downtime in which the herders, can go and ride their bikes. The tracking page is checked, riders positions noted, times estimated and off they go. Only, the riders didn't know this was the script.

Fifteen kilometers down the road, the said herders (who may or may not have been the author and John the Geologist) pull into the Permit office to check their trackers. They get talking to a couple who have driven in to buy a permit (as herders do). Turns out, these are dot watchers and part of the massive WhatsApp group. They are also avid followers of a friend on the trail.

In the meantime, riders approach Kudu Kaya at an alarmingly fast rate and are unexpectedly, going to make the 1pm gate.

No problem.

Herder bike loaded into dot watcher car. Herder piled in the back. Other herder left to ride hell for leather back to base.

Helene of Kudu Kaya holds the fort. Herder arrives, piles into car and takes the riders through the Baviaanskloof. Mission accomplished by a fantastic coincidence.

Ian and Sandy are part of another branch of the Freedom Family tree – the dot watchers. And just by fortunate timing, they became a part of the herder lore.

What a race, what a family.


Observations of a rookie Buffalo Herder Part 2

Buffalo Herding is a vortex.

It sweeps us up into a maelstrom of memories, sights, sounds and smells to the point where we occupy a parallel universe.

A universe where we still identify as riders of the freedom trail but temporarily own a separate slice of it in the wilderness of the Baviaanskloof. Here in Kudu Kaya, riders arrive with shattered dreams or elation at their successful navigation of the mythical Osseberg.

As the riders recount their experiences, remove thorns, fiddle with bikes, we are swept up in their tales and we relive our own moments of fear, confusion and elation.

And then, just like that, the vortex collapses. They riders disappear into the dark the next morning with a lone herder tailing them until they cross the cattle grid.

And then we wait. We wait for the the first stirrings of the breeze that will bring the next riders, the next surge of stories and the strange oxymoron of a fleeting connection that lasts a lifetime.

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