A Hammam – Spot the difference☺️ (not to be confused with A Hammam but to be read alongside it!)

One of the joys of travelling, after exposing myself to new ideas and challenging my perception of how one ‘should’ live,

is returning home.

And so it was that I found myself happily (and sadly at the same time)

back home after riding a Stunning Arab cross

(horse🐴that is, not anything other😉)

for 5 days in beautiful Tasmania;  

not camping but definitely ‘making like the locals’ in terms of

food and wine (plenty of it) 😍

Our little band of riders were closely observed by many of those around us who thought we must be mad, maybe not dogs, (as in Englishmen and that midday sun☀️) but clearly crazy with an enviable giddy kind of joy.

Because that ride was a wonderful exhilarating experience.  

However it is not the topic for day.

Rather I want to share a differentexperience.  

One I shared with my beautiful daughter.

Today.

We were each given a Christmas gift of self-indulgence

and when she suggested we went the day after 5 day’s horse riding, why wouldn’t I?

And so we did.

We hopped into my little car,

and drove to the appointed place without getting lost.

This could not be described as an unprepossessing building.

On the contrary it is anything but – bright, new, shiny and filled with exotic shops, people and a very large, very bold sign lest we had any doubts:

The Glen Shopping Centre.

I had read what was on offer,

and felt an involuntary tremor go through my body

as I recalled a travel experience 😳that I vowed

not to repeat, anywhere, anytime, ever again 😔

(https://leepowrie.com/2019/01/09/a-hammam/  )

 😳

I read how :

“You will LOVE it.   

You lie on hot stones, you get wrapped in a clay/mud mask and rest and then you are massaged with oils and your hair is washed and you feel SOOO good and rested. “

And yet here I was again.

Breathing deeply, focusing on gratitude

– it was after all a gift

And A Gift it was.

This time it was just OUR gift.

We were still in a small room,

but there were no wooden benches

and no other women, naked or clothed.

Just the two of us as we undressed,

placed our clothes in beautiful baskets,

put my glasses and jewellery into a tiny elegant purse

and then lay down on warm towels,

spread lavishly on a soft bed

(one bed each) ;😉

And

not a spot of linoleum anywhere in sight.

The only noise was the sound of a reed bass and wind chimes, simulating, I suppose a gentle breeze

(except of course a breeze is never as even as the music was –

I did muse on that – but I digress)

I lay happily on my tummy as my back and legs and arms were massaged, oiled and treated with hot stones

(or at least hot something as the lights were dimmed and my head hung through a hole in the bed) 🙃

When I was asked to turn over,

it was with a great sigh of relief that I knew I need not keep my eyes open;

ever alert to avoid being hit by swinging anythings – large or small 😂

The clay was applied with much TLC, the breezy music continued and I wallowed in nothingness till it was all gently removed. (the clay that is 😉)

Dry, snug, oiled, pampered and feeling SOO good,

we finally dragged ourselves away,

to enjoy a drink to Savour the memory rather than Expunge it.

And so it is that the same words are used to describe two very different experiences.

Strange that…🤔….

A Hammam

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.   

screen shot 2019-01-08 at 7.03.13 pm

And so it was that I found myself in Morocco riding a Barb/Arab horse in the Sahara Desert, camping and ‘making like the locals’ for 6 nights and 7 days.  No, let me rephrase that – the locals do not  by choice do what we did; only mad dogs and Englishmen (or similar) go out in the midday sun, let alone in the desert, on the back of a horse 🙃.    Our mob definitely fitted the mould of (or similar) 🐎🙄

And that ride was in itself a remarkable experience

but not the topic for today 🙂

Rather, I want to share a different experience.   

And I use the word ‘different’ fully aware of the many meanings it can convey.

Throughout our time in Morocco we heard tales of how wonderful a Hammam was.

So what was this?

The word is derived from the Arabic meaning ‘bath’ – delve further into the history and ‘communal’ appears 😉.

Moroccans along the way gave us varied descriptions but essentially

“You will LOVE it.   You lie on hot stones, you get wrapped in a clay/mud mask and rest and then you are massaged with oils and your hair is washed and you feel SOOO good and rested.  It is amazing.” 

Or words to that effect. 

While ‘Google’,  describes it as follows.

“A hammam is a traditional cleansing and beauty ritual.

At the heart of the Spa, an authentic hammam provides guests with a signature bathing ritual that combines heat, fragranced steam, warm water, ‘marocMaroc’ hammam products and a cold plunge pool to revitalise the body and soul.”

A Hammam

It is important to understand that we had been in the saddle,

in the desert for 7 days

with only one brief shower during that entire time.   

And while we were exhilarated by That adventure,

we were also dusty and saddle weary by the time we found ourselves back in Zagora.   

So when our inimitable guide,

whose name I have forgotten, but whose smile I will not, 

(it was a little too welcoming, a little too joyous, a little too jolly

and clearly as we were about to learn he was a lot smarter than we were)

suggested a Hammam, well we positively leapt at the opportunity.

Wouldn’t you?

IMAGES LOOMED……. 

And so it was that with the anticipation of an hour or two

of quiet, tranquil, relaxing, muscle soothing pampering,

the six of us women

(who were still to tackle the 8 hour road trip home over

on the the 10 most dangerous passes in the world the following day,)

jumped at the opportunity.

No warning bells sounded at the speed with which this was organised for so many of us all at the same time.

No unease appeared when we were quoted only MAD 100 each (less than A$20).

And still we were enthusiastic when we were told to hurry and come just as we were.

Because we knew all about the Hammams – Didn’t we?

We had heard about them for weeks.

And so we paid our smiling guide MAD 100 each

We Paid

and squeezed into a tiny vehicle to go to our Hammam.

We squeezed in and off we went 

Not directly though, as our driver managed to get lost;

but eventually, after several u-turns, mobile phone calls and general chaos we did arrive.

……….

At a most unprepossessing building with no signage to indicate this was anything at all – it may have been a factory, a closed shop except for the no windows. It could have been a disused warehouse, or in fact a deserted prison. It was not.

It was in fact, our Hammam.

Well therein lies the rub.

This Was Our Hammam.

It was also the Hammam used by Every woman

(and None of the tourists) in Zagora!!!!

Our smiling guide shoved us through the door before we had a chance to say anything. It closed behind us and …….

He was gone. We weren’t.

And then again we were.

Or at least for an instant it felt like we had gone,

we were not sure where,

but certainly we must have left our planet and …..

…….well each of us had our own picture of where we were now….

and it was nowhere any of us had ever even considered a reality.

However, this was VERY REAL.

We were in a small room with a line of low wooden benches along 3 walls. The 4th wall had a high counter in front of it on which two women leaned; watching us. They were clothed from head to, I presume toe (I couldn’t see behind the counter) while the women, old and young seated on the benches were either naked, or in the process of becoming so. Quite happily it would appear.

And it was SO noisy.

That I think was the first thing to register in my mind after the first 3 or 4 seconds of blind shock!!! There were the voices, all raised, laughing, talking, shouting across at one another. There was a sound of water and steam and it all bounced off the tiled walls and floor so that one decibel instantly became five

And 6 Anglo tourists ranging in age from 65+ to 26+ stood amongst the Arab women, like rabbits caught in a hunter’s headlight.

Although, of course, no one was ‘hunting us’ (or perhaps our guide already had as turned out the locals paid less than MAD10 each for this adventure, we had paid 10 times that 😂

There was not much to be done now except ‘go forward bravely’ because, to quote Macbeth, to go back were as difficult as to go ….etc.

Breathing deeply, I decided to ‘go forth’ and slowly took my sweaty, (very sweaty, 7 day old riding shirt) off my equally sweaty body and stood there.

Waiting.

I am not sure what for but after a few seconds of standing there feeling very foolish, I removed my bra.

And rather like a reluctant strip tease dancer I slowly and very carefully took off my boots and socks (the tiles were damp and slippery), and then hesitantly my riding pants.

I was now as good as naked, my arms piled high with dirty clothes and heavy riding boots which I handed to one of the ladies behind the counter, along with my handbag.

In ‘our’ world, you would have received a receipt for these goods – not here. They just disappeared behind the counter somewhere and I wondered if they would ever reappear.

So I stood, on a wet, clammy tiled floor, stark naked apart from a tiny pair of lacy knickers which did nothing to ease my sense of exposure and vulnerability when the lady behind the counter indicated I should hand over my glasses. I refused as politely as I could under the circumstances. I felt vulnerable enough without losing my sight as well 😐

For a brief second in the chaos of emotions I was experiencing I was reminded of another time and different showers and the loss of identity. It took a strong ‘self talk second’ to get things into perspective.

My friends were on their own journey of ‘exposure’ so to speak until finally there were 6 very white bodies clad only in knickers (and my pair of glasses) standing sheepishly in what I shall call the ‘reception’ room.

The craziness of the whole thing struck some of us then and we could laugh at ourselves. Nervous laughter, perhaps, but still a laugh as we looked around at the equally naked women watching us and going about their business with No sense of unease, despite their nudity.

And their business was?

Well having their weekly Hammam of course.

Dressing, or undressing in this room

and then walking naked into the next room while carrying their basket of “cleaning materials”.

All the while talking loudly and laughing and thoroughly enjoying their time here. This is their weekly gathering place, a chance to say hi, to catch up on gossip, share recipes, joys, sorrows, to look for prospective daughter in laws (all 10 fingers, child bearing hips.. you get the picture),

and savour the most precious commodity in that part of the world – water.

There were elderly weathered bodies, young lithe ones, children, babies in mother’s arms, teenage friends.

All naked, all comfortable and sitting around either on low wooden benches or on the tiled floor. Watching us as two very large, very black women, wearing ‘almost’ knickers, silver necklaces and nothing else appeared and ‘herded’ us from the reception room through a middle room into the last room and pointed to the floor against the wall.

(By this time my glasses had completely steamed up and I had no choice but to walk back to the ‘reception’ and hand them over – not knowing if I would ever see them again, or I guess, whether I would ever see again full stop. (My spare pair was far away in a bag in what seemed like another planet at that moment in time.)

Back though, to the floor against the back wall where we now all sat, facing into that room and beyond that into the middle room.

Ah, if that was all we were doing – facing.

But not so.

We were facing and looking directly at pendulous breasts and huge thighs occupying low benches along the walls, all at eye level. And it didn’t matter which way your eye went, there was another body or part of a body. 😂 The rooms were filled with bodies.

We watched arms, legs, thighs, all being massaged by either the owner of said limbs or in some instances by someone else.

And everywhere NOISE and heat and buckets of water into which ladles were dipped and water poured over bodies.

It is difficult to describe this place and how like ducks out of water we felt, even though we were actually in water.

Slippery water all over the floor which was diligently swept away by a naked lady with a large broom. She moved the water around and with it, mandarin peels, banana skins and you don’t really want to know what else.

The experience continued with our ‘black herders’ (for that is what they felt like to me, the lamb being herded) ladeling water over us, giving us slippery black soap to massage into our bodies (which we duly did). Surprising how submissive one becomes when out of one’s comfort zone, just following orders whether verbal or otherwise.

So there we were on the hard wet tiled floor (for some reason I was given a tatty piece of linoleum to sit on – go figure). Our two ‘ladies’ then came back and poured more water over us to rinse the soap off. With sign language we realised we were to lie down on our stomachs (on the hard wet tiled floor) while our bodies were subjected to a brief but very severe ‘massage’ with a loofah glove that had been who knows where 😫😅.

And Yup, you got it, we were turned over and the process was repeated on our other side, with equal vigour only now I was facing my ‘masseur’ and her very large free swinging bosoms which hovered before me so I dare not move for fear of making contact with one or both!!! 😳 That completed I saw Jo alongside me, with complicated sign language say, ‘yes please she would like her hair washed’ and ‘no she had no shampoo’.

No problem apparently, as our large lady simply poured water over her head from a bucket. I watched Jo splutter and spit like a child caught unawares under a shower, have her hair ruffled by said lady who poured more water over Jo’s head and hey presto –

Hair Washed.

I declined the hair wash

One more bucket of water over me, (and the others) cooler this time, and we were ‘free to go’.
Back the way we came –

through the middle room,

into the reception room –

not only naked (bar the skimpy knickers) but sopping wet too.

At this point we realised what the ladies had in their baskets apart from shampoo –

towels and dry clothes.

We had none of those and while our ‘used clothes’ along with handbags, boots and glasses were returned we struggled to get dressed on a sopping wet floor with now damp as well as dirty clothes, and of course in full view of our gallery of voyeurs.

But dress we did and with a HUGE sigh of relief

walked out of the front door.

Away from the heat, away from the noise, away from the complete strangeness of the local Hammam.

Some of us were still laughing at the craziness of this adventure, some were close to tears.

All of us needed a drink (or two or three) and so we crossed the road to a tea house and sat down with a deep inhalation of clean air.

While we may have wanted something stronger, no alcohol is served in Morocco (or at least that is the official position) and we settled for several cups of coffee while we discussed and digested our experience and waited for our guide to meet us again.

I go back to where this all started:

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.”

I was most certainly exposed 😜today – in more ways than one!

And yet, we all lived to tell the tale – and quite a tale it was.

Long day in Lisbon, or rather Portugal 🇵🇹

0AC06374-FF92-4A64-9430-D85946AB77C8There are lazy days in Lisbon and then there are Long days in Lisbon.   The capital ‘L’ is not a finger mis-type – not at all.  In fact it should be a LONG day and even that would not adequately describe it.  

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We had thought to use the red and yellow and even perhaps the purple busoes; reasonably priced, hop on/hop off, you know the type. 😉

 However the charming young lady at ‘The Blue House’ had captivated us and convinced that her private tour with Paulo was the best option. 

“Paulo is lovely, (which he is) 

Paulo is very knowledgeable (which I am sure he is) 

Paulo is funny (yes he made us laugh)

Paulo will take you everywhere (which he very definitely did)

And That, precisely was the point, or perhaps the ‘problem’.

I paid  (not sure how much exactly but clearly quite a bit as Margaret has continued to pay for everything since saying she still owes me money 😯)

We set off at 8am, after a coffee and banana, with the expectation of a long day.   And so it turned out – a long day followed by a long night 😴.

 And lovely, knowledgeable, funny Paulo set off to show us all the best pastry shops in Lisbon …. and beyond. 

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with pastry shops  – not at all.  In fact I love a good pastry – but a life time’s quota in one day 🤣 ? 

Obidas our first ‘tourist’ stop was really quaint and interesting.

 

 

It is a constant source of amazement, at least to me, to see the size of the stone walls, the strength of the fortresses and love in the churches built in this case in 13 century, all with manual labour and plenty of it I should imagine. 

 

Interesting and fun it was as we sat down for pastries and coffees – oblivious to the fact that this would be the first of many and what lay ahead 😊

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Which was Nazaré- which needs a whole blog to itself – I was blown away.   Almost literally and certainly emotionally.  

 

 

Ah I was mesmerised, and could have spent a few hours exploring.  Was befriended by a charming American surfer whose uncle had been the last lighthouse keeper here.   He explained the different boards; the subtleties of the ‘edging’ some smooth, some dimpled; fascinating.   He knew the surfers, understood the skill, the water flows, the winds.   Oh I could have stayed and listened to him for hours.   

 

But I was called away – guess why? 

Another pastry shop 🤣

Seriously though I was ‘dragged away’ to travel to Batalha.   More history, cathedrals, monasteries and amazing snippets of information – look at the column – every stone has an ‘initiial’ carved  into it.   Payment was made to families by counting the stones per this identification. (13 Century)

 

And then the local speciality – a pastry. Different from the last but as sickly sweet (at least to my palate)

And so onward and upward toward the purpose of our expedition- Porto

Via Aveiro and more pastries and I believe another cathedral although the mind has blurred a little by this time. Although I did see this quirky shop with random groceries from all round the world

Lunch had somehow passed us by , it being the latter part of the afternoon already as we headed finally for Porto with a list of the things we wanted to see.

Porto is beautiful, you could spend several days there.  Or you Should spend several days there was what we were told by everyone since.   We had a few hours, in the dark, under the raindrops- make that sheets of 😩.

We raced up stairs – many, of them, looked at the bridge and across the river, found ourselves separated by the dark and rain. Searched rather anxiously for some time and were happily reunited even if the air turned blue as we found each other!!!! Expressions of relief and frustration 😊 you get the picture.

And here are some more. (Pictures. Of Porto. In the dark)

And finally – some food.   By now so late a bowl of bean soup was all I could face.   But what I actually faced when it arrived was I Thibk pumpkin 🥣 soup 🤣🤣🤣

a Looooong drive home, sometimes at 160km/hr has us both wide awake rather than sleeping in the car.

At 2.30am we we’re droppes at our home having done a round trip of 700km!!!!!!

A long day in Portugal 😉

 

 

Breakfast – Lisbon style 😉

Yesterday’s eighteen and a half hour day on just bowl of soup and some pastries had left us a little fragile so we awoke today with rumbling bellies.

Just washing ….

So at the bright hour of 11am, we set off to get a brunch. Sunday morning – how hard. We have walked past cafe after cafe all week, two a penny everywhere we looked.

No matter where we looked

But not today, for love or money – we were prepared to offer either or even both – we could not find somewhere to settle the rumblings.

It was quite remarkable. If I had found a Mac Donald’s I would have settled even for that – but alas, not one in sight. Yes I know, but you have to believe me!!! Evaporated!

Go Natural

At precisely 11.59 we found a cafe “go natural” which was open . Surely an egg on bread and maybe even an avocado 🥑? In we went.

Happily we found a window seat so we could watch all the other people trying to find a coffee, wandering up and down the street. Happily they offered free wifi so I can write to you.

Passers by

Happily we ordered “2 poached eggs with avocado please, and two coffees please”

And happily (very) he took our money after checking they had 🥖 bread.

But I must confess that this is where the ‘happily’ bit stopped 😐 unless the fact that they wore hairnets and blue gloves made you happy 😉

After an interminable wait, an egg on toast arrived, deposited in front of me. Of course Margaret’s would follow immediately. Why would I be silly enough to assume an ‘of course’?

We waited, and waited, we checked our receipt – did he only charge us for one? Nope there it was – 2 eggs on toast.

Happily (?☺️) and finally an explanation.

“We only had one egg!!!! My colleague has just gone out to buy some more!!!!!”

They checked they had bread but didn’t check they had eggs?????? A restaurant????

Nothing to be done but to eat my now cold egg on toast while poor Margaret waited for her egg on toast to be found .

No words needed

And that was breakfast in Lisbon – we are now looking forward to lunch ☺️

Lazy in Lisbon

Today was a catch up day

The sun shone, the people smiled, the traffic was good and we ‘made like the locals’

Breakfast at our local bar – low on English, high on smiles. We managed to navigate the language sufficiently to get fresh orange juice and ham and cheese sandwiches dripping in delicious butter – heaven on earth, or at least on our street

Then off to Belém – where it all began. Well at least where Vasca da Gama set sail to discover me (aka South Africa – oh I remember our history lessons with pain 1497 😉) and the East.

Where Da Gama set off on his voyages of exploration

And a Pasteis de Belém.

To have had one of these is ‘Truely to have Lived’ was what I had been told. I smiled sweetly- I mean how good could they Really be? Good yes, but Really, let’s not exaggerate.

No one was.

We walked past a queue (line) of at least 80 people waiting to order and didn’t know about the side entrance leading into a labyrinth of rooms. All tiled in various colours, with tables and chairs everywhere and people coming and going, and sitting, eating and all taking photographs.

On an ordinary day 30 000 pasteis are baked but on a holiday up to 90 000 can be made. According to the same recipe since day one which was in 1837!!! Every one is hand made.

And to have one is indeed ‘to have Truely lived’.

I smile now, in agreement.

It really is something special – almost impossible to describe, a bit like a soft melk tert, but not, a bit like a french custard, but not.

A lot like heaven when you sprinkle the cinnamon (from the East) and the sugar (from Brazil) onto the warm pasteis and quietly swoon as the smell reaches you and that is even before it reaches your mouth!

And then you die 😍

But ah what a way to go!!!!

With 2 napkins always – 1 for your mouth and 1 for your tears when the pasteis has been eaten 🤗

A visit to the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Belém was so interesting. The school uses Lusitano horses from the Alter Real Stud farm established in 1748!!!! We were shown round their stables and watched the horses (or some of them) practicing.

And with such stunning weather what else but a train ride to Caiscais and lunch overlooking the sea, a gentle stroll around the town, a quick horse ride and train back.

And just to round off a lazy day In Lisbon – a delicious Portuguese drink – Liquor Beirao which has left me quite light headed and ready for 🛏 bed

Sintra – Dreamy Castles

Sintra – a city larger than Lisbon and with the most expensive real estate in the country is set in the Sintra mountain (hills actually) just north of Lisbon.

It also has a Whole lot of castles. Castles , of every shapes and size imaginable and even unimaginable. So much so that even Madonna thought to buy one here 🤣

So off we went to see what the fuss was all about.

And….. I hear you ask.

And indeed – What a day

Where do I begin? (Didn’t Frank Sinatra day something like that – perhaps he had Sintra in mind 🤣)

Maybe with the second place we visited : Palace of Pena

I quote “this palace is the finest example of nineteen century Portuguese Romanticism….. they (the castle and gardens) constitute the most important part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra’s World Heritage site “ I unquote 😉

How do I begin?

A monastery (12 century) converted into a royal summer palace by King Ferdinand II beginning in 1838 and completed roughly some 12 years later.

How do I describe what I found?

I must confess – totally conflicted 😐

Ferdinand’s folly?

Fun in the summer?

Fantastic dreams?

Or just a case of ‘over the top’

A mishmash of styles,

A hodgepodge of colour

A chaotic combination of cultures

One man’s indulgence – or perhaps not – I am still trying to get my head around the place – suffice to say a bit of this and a bit of that and everything in between.

And still it was amazing, interesting and challenging

And in case our senses were not overwhelmed already we went to another castle the Quinta da Regaleira where we got totally lost trying to find the famous finished well which should have taken us underground to the lake. And may I add, we were not the only ones 🤣 we encountered at least 12 people doing the same and at the end felt like the pied piper. For some reason my look of knowledge 🤣🤣 found me leading the way to nowhere with several groups blindly following!!!!

and then of course there was our first castle – the Moorish one (my favourite – perhaps a blog one day) and before that there was …. can I even remember ?

Oh and the setting of the sun over that Atlantic at the most western tip of the European continent. Next stop – New York 😄

( we were not alone as you can see 😉 but no one fell off the cliff today which was a relief))

And then there was the famous Santini ice cream and did I tell you about the Belem pastry to die for?

Or the night in a local bar Fado singing and far too much wine ?

No of course I haven’t because the ‘day’ ended at midnight and another day begins with new adventures, so interesting as they all were, a few photos will have to suffice till I find more hours in a day

Going nowhere…..

As anyone who knows me knows, I am learning to ride.

A horse, that is.

A bicycle in my youth was challenging but a horse in my ‘mature’ years is altogether a different kettle of fish .

Okay, so metaphors are mixed – apologies to my English teacher.

After a few trails, I am starting to feel like a rider and full of confidence I joyfully accepted an invitation to ride with J, (whom I met on a ride in New Zealand) this weekend.  She and I shared much on that trip – a tent, mulled wine (All grown up? Really?), much cider and even more laughter.   We also shared hours in the saddle as we rode through Glenorchy back country (Glenorchy Back Country ; No Words.

 

 

Flattered and looking forward to our time together I set off to Tooradin to ride and ‘catch up’ with my amazing, funny, strong friend.   She just also happens to be an excellent rider and knows horses inside out so to speak.

And there they were, all saddled up and waiting for us,

Beautiful Banjo, J’s horse with a saddle that stepped straight out of the movies

(mind you, he looked as though he did too)

and Ruby, my horse for the morning, with an equally impressive saddle.

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My Ruby and her rather showy saddle

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Banjo – just look at that saddle

It was a Glorious day, full of spring blossoms, sunshine and fields of beautiful grasses designed to give one itchy eyes and runny noses 🙂 🙂 🙂

Ruby’s lovely, I am told.

She will look after you.

She is very easy – her ‘buttons’ are good.

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Banjo and Ruby

So full confidence I mounted, and followed J on her stunning Banjo.

Needless to say, I did not check on any of these idiosyncrasies before I set off, (after all I am a rider now, so I would work it out 🙂 🙂 🙂 )

(For my non riding friends, horses have a strict ‘hierarchy’ with for whatever reason, some horse deciding they are the ‘Lord of the Manor’ and need to lead, or for equally unfathomable reasons, they have their favourite ‘friend’ and ‘foe’   Furthermore, in a lessons scenario you are in an arena with a ‘teacher’ and a school horse who knows his job is to ‘go round and round’    On a trail you are with a group of horses who always do this and follow each other faithfully. )

You ‘get’ the picture.

 

And so I was blissfully unaware of the fact that my Ruby didn’t like ‘any horses’ or that her buttons, while good, were carefully coded and not at all ‘obvious’  as I set off with my excellent riding partner J.

 Ruby set off at a gentle walk without too much coaxing.   In fact we even broke into a sprightly trot without too much trouble.   Her ears were always back and she wasn’t as happy as I was on the lovely old race track we were using.   She wanted nothing to do with Banjo which made for a trail kind of ride, me in front J behind 🙂 🙂

But we had fun, trotting neatly round the track, once, then twice and then…. at the furtherest end of the track Ruby stopped.

Just stopped.

 As if the battery cable had been cut.

Just stood there.

 Ears back, motionless.

Squeeze, I heard from behind me,

as J instructed me,

your calves,

squeeze, release, squeeze release.

And so I did, squeezed, released, squeezed released,

till I was covered in sweat and my squeezed and released calves

had no more squeeze in them.

Still Ruby stood impassive.

I tried everything, standing up, sitting down, pulling forward, squeezing backwards, talking, coaxing, yelling – all to no avail.

We were going nowhere.

Did I say I was a rider?

I think I did – but perhaps I am not.

And it would have been so funny, and actually was,

except that Banjo wanted to pass and my dearest patient J did too.

Instead she stayed faithfully with me, reminding me to “squeeze, release”

It was hot, I was sweaty and just as I thought, “well I better dismount and start walking home”-

Ruby starting trotting as if butter wouldn’t melt……….

with no explanation at all.

And back to the stables we went.

Which was when I was told the tricks to find her ‘buttons’   to get her to go somewhere instead of nowhere.

And so we left the stables…..

My ever gracious J fed me lamb and salads, watered me with ciders,

shared her life with me again and sent me home ….

content that I may still learn to ride and actually

go somewhere instead of

standing still and going nowhere.

Perhaps next time 🙂

 

 

Melbourne Sparkles in Spring….

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I LOVE my city.

I love that I can go to work,

and sneak out to The Hamer Hall on a Friday morning

for a one hour concert

and go back to work.

I love that just that short time amongst the gardens

and music is enough to renew the soul

and look ahead to a

Summer in Melbourne.

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Not to be missed.

Buckle Up Ladies – come for a ride…..

How wonderful to have reached the ripe old age of ‘comfort’.

That age between old enough to no longer to care and not so old that you need to be cared for.

So when two friends I recently met invited me to join them with their girl friends on an annual weekend ride;

I didn’t analyse why;   I didn’t second guess their motives; I didn’t worry about whether I would snore or not (I know I do); I didn’t stress about whether I was a good enough rider (I know I am not, I don’t even have my own horse);

I just thought how lucky I was to be included and said yes.

Of course that was 6 months ago and suddenly, here was the weekend away with strangers and I was to all intents and purposes, a stranger , perhaps even, a gate crasher !

Except, that’s the point.

Trail riders are not really strangers.

Within 10 minutes of meeting, with the common anticipation of 2 days riding together, we were bonded.

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I knew nothing about them, not even, if the truth be told, their names (as my memory lets me down in that department), whether they had families, what they thought, what they did when not on horseback – nothing.

Except that they loved horses and riding and that is enough.

That is enough to enable 7 strangers to buckle up, and ride into the Howqua river with, yes, you guessed it –

Buckle Up Bush Rides.

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 And I no longer was a stranger.

The love riders have for horses seems to extend with no effort at all, to those of us who are new to this game, and with open arms, I’m included as if I have always been part of the group.

 

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We met our horses, and set off for 2 days of beauty, fun, food and laughter.

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Well not just our horses

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there was also the view

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but our horses were lovely

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as were the surroundings

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and I had Ben

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so much water

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and we were off….

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The Howqua Valley is a beautiful area not far Melbourne and yet So far.

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Spring had arrived and everything was So green, with new leaves still almost sheer so that the sun seems to shine Through the leaves and summer dust has not yet arrived so it all felt so Light.

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from clear waters

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following us…

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or perhaps we following it….

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with steep climbs

climbing up
always up…..

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to lush gardens

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and cute homes

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blossoms round

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every

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corner

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and so to our ‘home’

We rode together, we ate together, we talked, laughed and even slept together 🙂

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Nothing like a fire

cheers
to make good friends

 

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linger and share

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and dream…….

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and some just……

We played, on land….

some with more success than others……

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Please – see there’s nothing scary on the other side

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Come i’ve jumped over – follow me

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Okay perhaps the other way will be easier?

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well if you lifted your hind legs 🙂

We played, in water…..

some with more success than others…

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Our horses afforded us such joy, ever patient, sometimes funny, always waiting for us.

 

food time

Okay not great footage, but how cute – breakfast time and like lemmings…..

they arrive.

 

They weren’t the only friends we had on our weekend either

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And then there was just the sheer beauty of walking, cantering

and absorbing this amazing countryside.

green

sky

rows

up

forests

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A very happy place –

thanks to a wonderful group of ladies

who were prepared to include me

and BUCKLE UP for a ride.

I cannot thank you all enough

 

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and thank you all, ladies, for your lovely photographs.

Glenorchy Back Country ; No Words

“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words!”

Well at least Eliza Doolittle was.

Me, I would be better saying,

“Words, words, words, I’m so stuck for words!”

Which for anyone who knows me, must surely be a first.

I LOVE words.

I love working out their origins, the way they look on paper; their shapes and rhythms.     And I love the way they can have multiple meanings, depending on context, dependent on the company, the glint in an eye, the emphasis on a syllable, the quickness of response, the back and forth.

Words can bind or divide with such ease and speed they become almost the most powerful tool available to us mere mortals.

But I digress –

words, they confuse, confound and cause all sorts of meanderings.

Like our meander into Glenorchy Back Country, South Island, New Zealand.

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Don’t click on the blue map – nothing will happen. Just an overview of where ‘we are’

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This is the area we rode in 🙂

And for those who don’t know where New Zealand is, the bottom of the planet, almost in the Pacific Ocean.  I think God created the world from the top and as he moved down, his artistry became more and more breathtaking; his masterpiece complete at Glenorchy.

And that’s the point – this trip was SO amazing,

So breathtakingly beautiful.

So filled with laughter and energy and love and caring and support that

WORDS FAIL ME!!!!!

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Bijmin – no words 🙂

No really, they do.

From our first meeting for a drink, which ended up including a dinner, we knew we were in a special place, where like minded people understood the words spoken, the words unspoken, the meanings behind them.

People who immediately saw the laughter in an eye, or the nervous hesitation in the curve of a mouth.

We knew, without any hesitation that we were heading for a special 5 days and we were right.

Although perhaps heading wasn’t quite the right word, try meandering.

As some of us did on the way home via a fairy light boat or two (see blog All grown up? Really?) but to bed we went, finally.

Surprisingly, despite creaky heads for some, we were all up and ready to go as planned, bright and early referring to the day and time, not necessarily  the people.   See what I mean about words ?

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Queenstown early morning

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Lake Wakatipu – 75km long, 400m deep

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The crew the morning after that meandering night 🙂

And that was the beginning of a Real world:

no internet, no radio, no news, Facebook:

sometimes not even lights.

But again, words – there were lights, just not the ones we normally think of when using the word.

The sky was alive with lights, THOUSANDS of stars, breathtaking, moving, shimmering, glimmering, glowing, even flowing….. just endless stars that kept us spellbound.

A walk in the dark one night, clambering down the side of a cliff in total darkness trusting Bijmin our leader, lead us to more lights.

At first we thought they were stars, but they were not.

They were glow worms – THOUSANDS of them, hanging under a huge cave like boulder across the river, which in the dark was invisible to us, and creating a second heaven of starlight.

We gawked, silenced and humbled by the enormity and power of our universe and thought how easily we could have missed it except we dared to brave the dark and damp.

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We rode around mountains, seeing glaciers, snow, water as blue as the sky, and then as transparent as glass so that you couldn’t be sure what was reflection and what was mountain.

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Sunrise from our camp

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No words

beaty
That water

dart
That grass

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Breathe taking

amazing
Whichever way you

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looked, left you

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speechless…

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no words

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Pistol gazing at the world…..

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No words….

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the Dart River… braided, beautiful, breathtaking….

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anyone for a wedding?

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the beauty of silence – created by the beauty around us… no words…

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The crew

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That’s Pistol again – and a VIEW – no words 🙂

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Cabbage trees, snow, mountains, rivers, air as clear as….. no words 🙂

We rode through forests.

With Beech trees as tall as cathedrals, moss and lichen dripping,

streams and waterfalls a constant surprise.

At times the forest was so silent we felt like the first and only people in the world.

At other times it was so full of bird sounds it made me laugh for joy.

The forests were filled with dreams.

Thoughts of dinosaurs, ogres, goblins, Bilbo, Gandalf, Frodo.

You name it, they were there.

Silent, watching us feeling them.

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sometimes steep, ……

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Both ways……

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silence….

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that up…… and

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and down feeling….

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No words…. but heaps of smiles….

lennox falls and that forest
That Forest….

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That Forest….

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The waterfalls, the walks, the views –

No Words….

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None of us could stop smiling for the sheer joy of being alive

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In a world so captivating

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On top of the world

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No words….. just love

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The look of love – Needs no words

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My ‘partner in crime’ looked always like the cat who had found ALL the cream…..:-)

We scrambled up and down, feeling, smelling, sensing the forest

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and took those candid shots!

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So much water – everywhere…..

We camped in cold, clear places and warm snug places.

We shared our meals with our beloved horses.

We brushed our teeth in public, and even had a bath with a view.

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Our camp – frosted grass, slippery decks, cold feet and hands but warm smiles and laughter to make our stomachs ache….

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and then the sun reached us……

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and thawed our frozen chairs

coffee time
Drinks were shared, with all sundry 🙂

sharing is caring
that’s mine…

 

Making lunch was always such an adventure

breakfast pls
What about my breakfast please…..?

never lost
At least someone knew where we were, or at least where we were going to be :

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“with a little help from my friends

private conversations
Some conversations were private….

 

 

Brushing teeth was an adventure 🙂

 

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and After 🙂

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so warm and welcoming

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What remained after a horrific fire 😦

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no words – just a new day

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As old as time itself……

 

my rusty
where are you?

 

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We lunched along river banks and on grass hills, we talked, we laughed, we giggled, we lay in the sun, we rode bare back, we swam our horses in glacial pools.

Returning from my first ever swim, bareback…..

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My first ever bare back ride – the face says it all 🙂

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The 3 Musketeers before we plunged into the icy glacial water 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Fun and….

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and games in the most beautiful country on earth….

We cantered, we jumped, we fell (or at least I did – twice in the first hour of our ride!!!!) we laughed again and shared- stories, drinks, food, fears, loves, joys, life with a capital L

 

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river

We felt like children on a school camp, in the moment, thrilling to the  joy of being alive, overwhelmed by the beauty of our surroundings, humbled by the generosity of spirit shown by our horses, stripped to our essence camping together and always laughing and playing.

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crew

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swim?

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Our last dinner together

 Our little group, from worlds as far apart as Tuscon Arizona, New Hampshire, South Africa, Nebraska, California, Sydney, Noosa, Melbourne were united, bonded forever by this experience.

Bonded by a thread as smooth as silk and as solid as chainmail.

Linked through our connection to our horses.

Joined by an experience that cannot be put into words and that cannot be replicated, nor understood except by those of us who were so fortunate to have experienced these remarkable animals, so patient, so responsive, so willing, so kind, so powerful in a country of such extravagant beauty.

No words.

crazy crew

 

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I left a part of my soul with Rusty my beautiful horse; Glenorchy Back Country and my new friends….

 

Photos are thanks to ‘the crew’ – I can claim No credit for them – very grateful team