24 July 2011 by Robyn Campbell

Ponies and Pad Thai

The sport of kings and cuisine from the royal courts of old Siam, are just two of the treats that await you in Ficksburg.

When visiting the eastern Free State, it’s easy to be lulled into a sense of serenity by the jaw-dropping scenery: farmlands blanketed in acres of green-gold sunflowers and mielies, the distant mauve of the Maulti Mountains, and the ochre-coloured sandstone koppies that pop their cheeky heads out of the landscape at will.

If you’re not careful, you’ll be so entranced by the countryside, before you know it, you’ll have whizzed right by two of the best-kept secrets in the Ficksburg region.

Tucked away in the Witteberg Mountains is the Franshoek Farm and Polo School, a pukka place to play a chukka, whether you’re a novice or you regularly hook mallets with their Royal Highnesses.

What makes this experience is unique is the chance to ride against the local horsemen who travel from Lesotho to compete in the mini tournaments that are organised against the local polo clubs.

Born in the saddle, so to speak, the horsemanship of the Basotho, who arrive in their colourfully patterned, traditional woollen blankets and conical straw hats will amaze you.

If pitting your skills against the pony kings of the Maluti’s isn’t enough, the school also offers yoga, fishing, and game viewing. Make sure you take a hike or ride across to the neighbouring property, the Franshoek Mountain Lodge.

Here, owner and expert Thai chef, Ros, gathers diners around a communal table and feeds them bowls full of steaming Tom Yum, platters of chicken satay, and Pad Thai, to er, thai for.

Ros’ food is hot stuff, but if you’d like something that will make you break a sweat, try the steam hut next to a saltwater swimming pool. What better way to relax those aching muscles after polo?

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