The Outer Banks, NC is a long string of narrow sandy islands stretching for almost 200 miles down from the southern border of Virginia. These literally sand dunes act as a barrier protecting mainland North Carolina from the Atlantic Ocean. Rough, isolated and underdeveloped until very recently they have been home to the wild Spanish mustangs for centuries. The remote location, endless beaches and guaranteed sunshine made the islands attractive destination to the tourists and property developers alike. With tourism booming in the area in last 50 years more land was incorporated for development pushing away the horses from their original habitat. Today they live on a 12 mile long strip in the northern part of the Outer Banks. Accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles, the Carova Beach and the surrounded area of some 7,500 acres is protected against further development to save the horses in their natural habitat. With no paved roads it is still open to the public if you drive 4WD or you can chose from many companies offering tours in the area. After a short phone call to a Corolla Outback Adventure I booked an evening off-road guided adventure to see those creatures.
As Tim, our guide, left the paved road behind and entered the beach in his truck, we were on the wild side. He took us to various places along the coast and ventured inland allowing us to see the horses in their natural habitat – casually picking grass in the front yard, hiding amongst the dunes or cooling in the marshes after a hot day. The ride itself was bumpy and enjoyable with the ocean breeze cooling the excitement. As we drove the sky was taken over by milky clouds blending softly with the white sand of the dunes, emphasizing the dark silhouettes of the horses contrasting with the background. With the sun setting down the beach became steel blue with the horizon line blurred in the distance. The glare reflected in the sand was mesmerizing. Tim picked up the speed and the truck was bouncing on the rut trails as we headed back to Corolla. The air turned cold and the wind was whistling in my ears. Suddenly, we noticed a small heard of horses standing still in the middle of the beach as if they were statues carved in stone forcing all spectators to slow down and reflect on nature’s beauty. Oblivious to the upcoming traffic they have shown the sense of freedom and independence by manifesting their strength and determination. This was a clear message: we ought to respect each others and our natural boundaries.