THE RIDE III
| Wednesday 19 September 2012 14:41
CHASING THE GHOST OF SIR HARRY SMITH
ON: Sundays (Starts: 7th October ‘12)
AT: 22:00 on SABC3
GENRE: Local Documentary
In 1834, the Sixth Frontier War explodes in the eastern settler districts of the British ruled Cape Colony in southern Africa. Thousands of Xhosa warriors pour over the eastern border laying waste to settler farms and Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Harry Smith, veteran of Waterloo and the Peninsula Wars is tasked with taking command of the British garrison in the settler capitol of Grahamstown. On the 1st January 1835 Smith leaves Cape Town and, utilizing the postal system of the time, rides the 950km to the frontier capital in just six days: one of the longest, fastest horseback journeys in recorded history.
176 years later modern day adventurers Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson attempt to emulate this heroic equestrian achievement. With 33 horses and the help of an extensive backup crew, they will recreate the postal system of 1835 and endeavour to match the furious pace set by Smith. Part epic reality adventure, part historical enquiry, "Chasing the Ghost of Harry Smith" documents this extraordinary journey in an eight-part, TV Series.
Discover what it took to shape a country on horseback and whether modern man and horse can match the strengths and endurance of this remarkable historic man of action.
Meet the adventurers:
A career in the international yachting industry based out of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, where adventure and travel were part of a day’s work, followed by the development of a ground breaking wildlife reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa where the history of the Anglo Boer War and horses became a passion, sowed the seeds for the idea that was to become The Ride. Impatient, curious, daring and always up for an adventure Barry has lived in Cape Town with his wife and son since 2009.
Educated in England, Joe returned to live in the Midlands of his native KwaZulu Natal. He joined
Barry on the team developing the Dalton Private Reserve, where the two, already related through marriage, developed a bond and mutual reliance that will stand them in good stead when undertaking The Ride. Cool under pressure, a passionate conservationist and horseman, fluent isiZulu speaker and always circumspect about an adventure, Joe runs the Dalton Private Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, where he lives with his three children.
Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson, South Africa's famed horseback adventurers, are back to take on another historic ride. This time they plan to emulate Sir Harry Smith's epic 950km journey from Cape Town to Grahamstown.... in only six days. The 6th frontier war had erupted on the eastern border of the Cape Colony in southern Africa and the historic hero sets off to take command of the garrison at the frontier capital. 176 years later, Barry and Joe set off and with the help of their extensive, thirty-strong back-up crew, commence the most grueling expedition of their lives. Not only is this a massive logistical undertaking, but nearly two centuries after Smith's ride, the changed modern landscape proves challenging beyond their expectations. From riding through the dangerous informal settlements of Cape Town, to trekking over two colossal mountain ranges, the brothers-in-law soon start falling far behind the historic hero. By the second day, Barry and Joe, desperate to make up time to reach their end of day destination, ride furiously until Barry is violently thrown from his horse bringing The Ride to a catastrophic end.
One year later, after twelve months of extensive planning, regrouping and obtaining some of the best endurance horses in South Africa, Barry and Joe are back to undertake Sir Harry Smith's ride; determined to chase him all the way to Grahamstown. As day one kicks into gear, Barry and Joe set of on a daunting 166 km ride. During Smith's time, the old wagon road travelled through the sandy dunes of the Cape Flats but, nearly two centuries on, the brothers-in-law have to battle in the dark through a highly urbanized modern landscape. As the first light creeps in, the modern riders are neck and neck with Harry Smith, ascending the monstrous Hottentots Holland Mountains, which since colonial times have been known as the "Gateway to Africa". Second time around Barry and Joe conquer it without a hitch and set off, to their end of day destination, close on the heels of the historic hero. They've managed to perform brilliantly on their first day back on The Ride, but the question remains whether they are truly prepared for the grueling 784km that still lie ahead.
It's the second day of Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson’s attempt to beat Sir Harry Smith to Grahamstown and after battling the monstrous mountain ranges on day one, Barry and Joe set of for their first river crossing. At four am sharp they're off chasing the ghost of Harry Smith and soon enough reach the swollen Breede River. Luckily for Smith a Pont ensured his swift passage to the opposite bank but, almost two centuries later, Barry and Joe have to swim the icy waters. With the fast flowing current pulling them downstream, they have to muster every bit of strength, until they finally manage to safely reach the other side. Pushing on as fast as they can, they overcome one obstacle after the other until they reach leg three, that stretch of the route that has haunted them for over a year; the point where Barry was thrown from his horse. Can they manage to move beyond the third leg of day two and finally chase Smith all the way to Grahamstown?
Having overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles on day two, modern adventurers, Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson set of on a monstrous 176 km journey, the furthest they've ever ridden in a day. They're halfway through Sir Harry Smith's epic six day horseback expedition from Cape Town to Grahamstown, but Joe is ailing. An impending flu has gone to his chest, and a damaged knee and ankle are slowing him down. From Heidelberg, past Mossel Bay to the beautiful Outeniqua Mountains close to the old woodcutter’s outpost of George, the duo battle gated farmlands and dangerous highways in the hope of catching Smith's ghost. Minutes past five, on the 3rd January 1835, Sir Harry Wakelyne Smith rode into the Drosdy town of George and a large ceremony awaited him on arrival. Barry and Joe arrive well after this; once again the wartime hero had outdone the modern team and if they wish to match his pace, they have some serious riding to do in the three remaining days.
Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson are more than halfway through the epic six-day horseback adventure, recreating the historic ride of Sir Harry Smith. It's the fourth day of their expedition and with renewed energy they set off to cross the formidable Cradock’s Kloof pass over the Outeniqua Mountains. During Smith’s time this pass was the only route to the eastern frontier and for decades it maintained a notoriously bad reputation. Two centuries later, not much has changed and it is with great difficulty that Barry and Joe undertake the challenging climb. It is on this pass that Sir Harry Smith met the mail carrying terrible news of the dire situation in Grahamstown and resolved to reach the frontier capital within two days. With renewed urgency he rode towards the frontier and almost two centuries on, Barry and Joe have to gather the reigns in order to keep up. With temperatures soaring and the pressure mounting, this epic journey starts to take its toll on man and beast.
It's the fifth day of Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson’s attempt to reach Grahamstown before Sir Harry Smith, and a mammoth task lies ahead for the adventurers. The duo has a monstrous 220km to cover, making it the longest day of their riding careers. After only three hours sleep they set off, close on the heels of the ghost of Harry Smith. But they had barely begun when the troubles start. They've chosen highly inexperienced horses and are struggling to get them going in the dark alongside a treacherous tar road. Calling in one emergency horse change after the other, the pressure mounts for riders and crew, so much so that horse master, Spud, threatens to quit the team. The riders are failing on the most crucial day of the ride. With weary bodies and minds they try their best to push on through to the end of the challenging day, but halfway through their hopes are shattered when they lose their way. With another 140 kilometers looming and only four hours of daylight remaining, the possibility of reaching Grahamstown the next day is becoming very slim.
Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson are closing in on the finish of the epic task they have set themselves, but have yet to finish the remaining distance of their monstrous 220km day 5. The second last day had snowballed out of control and they've fallen far behind Sir Harry Smith, who in 1835, was racing through the war-torn countryside towards Grahamstown. By nightfall, Barry and Joe have another leg to go, but after the soul crushing start to their day neither riders nor crew can carry on. With the remaining mileage added to their final day, the team manages a quick three-hour rest before they hit the road again. They set of on the final day of their epic adventure, with a ride of almost 18 hours: a mammoth task. The ghost of Harry Smith bested them on day 5, but they have chance to catch up. One more day remains to prove whether Smith's epic six-day horseback ride from Cape Town to Grahamstown can be matched.
After six days of constant riding, having covered a massive distance of 860 km from Cape Town en route towards Grahamstown, over mountain passes, busy highways, through rivers and highly urbanized environments, Barry and Joe are half way through the last day of their journey with a mammoth task still lying ahead. Even more so for Harry Smith who, on the 6th January 1835, is one leg ahead of them, desperate to relieve the besieged village of Grahamstown. On the final day, their route takes them through the game rich wilds of the Eastern Cape where Barry and Joe experience an incredible horseback safari, from the Addo Elephant National Park to the Shamwari Game Reserve, home to the big five and many a lethal predator. Both the modern riders and Smith are now within reach of Grahamstown, but the final test remains; can they reach their goal destination by the 6pm cut off time? In 1835, thousands of refugees have gathered in the frontier capital, anxiously awaiting Smith's arrival. 177 Years on the modern duo are feeling the weight of his mission.
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