The adverts were amazing, mustering cattle, camp drafting, (suitable for all riding levels, even beginners (that’s still me!!!!)) stunning views – Southern Queensland, mid winter, escape from Melbourne cold, improve my riding skills – who could refuse. So before I knew it, I was a paid up ‘member’ of the June intake of camp draft novices. thanks to globetrotting.com.au
A flight into Queensland, for those who are wondering where I was going (as was I), the attached map will give a rough idea. We all met at Maroochydore airport; Maroochydore is, apparently derived from ‘murukutchi-dha’ in the language of the Brisbane River Aboriginal people, and it literally means ‘the place of the red bills’ (i.e. the black swans).
There were 11 of us, mostly groups although John was a brave solitary traveller, actually doubly brave as he was also the only male – he became our Knight in Shiny Armour on his white steed and I knew Margaret from our ride in Margaret River last year. Introductions duly made, we left in a bus for Gympie. (The name probably derived from an aboriginal word for the local stinging shrub).
Words again do not do justice to the views, across to Fraser Island, Noosa and back inland ‘forever’. Perhaps these will help you.
Our tents were more than comfortable …….
and the food always appetising – Sean our trusty chef excelled at every meal.
But it was our horses that really ‘sold’ us.
I had T Rex – small (hence the name) and young with a distinctly ‘mulish’ look about him. Be that as it may, for the first time I could reach the saddle of my horse without standing on a Huge log or rock or mounting block. He was not, at least to a novice eye (i.e. my eye) a good looking horse and I was asked more than once if I was on a donkey!!!! That question though was always from a ‘non horsey person’.
Never, however be fooled by looks – I am sure your mother told you that once. This little hang dog mule of mine had the spunk of a champion camp draft horse and when you asked him to go, he could move like a bullet. So the donkey statement never came from anyone who saw him actually move 🙂
Our first day was spent out riding through countryside, getting to know our horses, their quirks, their likes, and dislikes (more about that later). T Rex likes eating and since his face is level with the bush most of the time, he spent a great deal of time chewing and I spent a great deal of time stopping him. I did, in the end, convince him to stop – win for me.
Where are we?
By now you will know that I am curious about how places get their names and we rode through some Weethefeekaarwe Bush. This Weethefeekaarwe Bush consisted of grass and scrub taller tha us on horseback so that we could hear one another but not always see one another. The name rolled off Andrew’s tongue with such ease and emphasis on odd syllabi it took me a while to work out – he had no idea where we were or what it was called – I will leave you to work out the name for yourself 🙂
Weethefeekaarwe Bush – none of us knew where the . we were 🙂
Lunch at the Silky Oak was a treat.
Made extra special by a drink in the pub like nowhere else in the world!!!
Night Time Visitor
But it wasn’t all riding, we had a lovely visitor one evening, only 15 years old and by the light of the moon and headlights of a vehicle, she gave us a whip cracking demonstration. For posterity sake, I have included it even though it is not a first class video. The show was. And I had a ‘crack’ at it – It is a lot easier to hit oneself and cry out than it is to hit the ground and make the whip cry!!!!!
There is something very peaceful about ‘mustering’ cattle.
That is, until something goes wrong.
Now you do realise we are all novices, some of us even novice riders, never mind jackaroos. So we were not mustering 2 000 cattle 100 miles; rather about 70 cows, a few miles. Still, it Was mustering. Instructions were given, we were allocated our places and so began the task of gathering them all together so we could get them out of the gate and onto the road.
We ‘plodded’ along with cars patiently waiting behind and in front of us – this is the country after all – or should I say thank goodness as they did not seem to be at all agitated despite having to wait for an awfully long time while we herded the cattle from A to B.
And just when you think all is going well, a cow finds a hole in the fence and runs through, which means all the others follow. And there they are, in a field with another herd of cows. Which means we have to sort the two herds out and then take ours back on the road.
That deserves a whole blog – suffice to say, we did a lot of watching while the experts (being the Rainbow Beach Ride team) did the work of separating the two herds. And the rest of us? Stood and watched and munched on fruit we had brought with us.
Once the herds were separated (thankfully there was an old dip pen we could use to do this; we had to begin again. Herding them into a group to continue to point B. Back on track and thinking again we had this all under control, a dog ran out of an open gate (what farmer leaves a gate open – I ask with tears in my eyes). This was no kelpie used to sheep and cattle, but a mean spirited dog that ran wild amongst the cows – dispersing them again this way and that. And I must tell you, when 70 peaceful cattle suddenly swing around and face little you on your horse and you are not sure what is going to happen, your stomach tightens and you concentrate on your breathing. I heard a few choice words around me and hoped our talk about forming a wall was being adhered to by the others or I would be alone in the melee. To be truthful I cannot remember how we turned the around, but settle them we did. With the young owner of the dog apparently oblivious to the chaos he had just created.
And on we went. Of course there are no photographs – we were far too busy 🙂
There was a lunch at a lovely homestead where we chatted about the happenings of the morning and I have no doubt the horses had their own conversations – if only I could understand their language!!!!!
The cows were sprayed by some while others ‘played’ with their horses and the next day saw us mustering them back to A.
You would think we had this under our belt by now, wouldn’t you – I mean what could go wrong? We knew where the hole in the fence was. We knew where the ugly dog lived.
And then the surprise.
An open gate saw some horses run up to us. No problem, the cows are used to horses so they don’t spook. Shetland ponies, though, are quite a different proposition. Two little ponies followed the horses, proud as punch they looked as they trotted up to us. They could almost pass under some of our horses bellies, but that didn’t matter, Rosie next to me baulked and bolted into the ‘gutter’ which mean my lovely T Rex felt the need to follow. All I remember is ‘hang on with your legs’ – my thighs have never worked so hard, my reins less so, but we all stayed on our feet so to speak and while we recovered, the rest of the team stopped the cows from running all over the place – Again!!!!!!
And that was us mustering……
Done and Dusted – experts, clearly.
So time to move on to greater challenges.
P.S. Photos kindly taken by Rainbow Beach Rides, “Jackaroo team”, myself, and Globetrotting.com.au