Duracks, pastoralists, the Kimberley’s and me

Anyone pick up books at Op shops?

I do, and so it was that I was introduced to ‘the Duracks’ for all of $2.

I had never heard of this family.   I had heard of the Kimberley’s, Kakadu and Arnheim land and had a vague idea that they were all ‘far up there’.

With the Sons in the Saddle, the Duracks and that land ‘far up there’ were brought together.

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I read about  hours and hours in the saddle, the mustering of cattle from almost one end of the continent to the other.

I read about their sleeping rough, eating even rougher, breaking bones, dying cattle, injured horses.  I read about them having to swim rivers and through it all, cope with the extremes of climate with a wet wet season filled with mosquitoes and fevers.

the day they got into the paddock it rained sixteen inches at Ascot.  Parry’s Creek became a torrent, flooding the plains to a depth of about five feet and all the rivers were swims…..  Next evening we were attacked by myriads of flying ants which crawl all over you and leave their wings behind.  Anywhere there is a light is soon about two inches deep in wings.   This is not exaggeration.  It’s a fact..”  (Sons of Durack, Roy Phillips letter to his mother 21 Jan 1912)

I read about the dry dry season when the grass would burn if you looked at it ‘the wrong way’

1904  “terrible bush fires devastated hundreds of square miles of country destroyed fences and yards and had all hands out fighting the flames for several weeks.”

I read such stories – they are fascinating and endless.

Constable Henry Parker disappeared suddenly.   “last seen strolling down the Wyndham jetty to visit a friend on the S.S. New Guinea.”   This was solved a few weeks later when Jacob Kuhl made the following deposition:

“Yesterday I caught an alligator in a trap I had set up on the gulf.  I shot him and took him down to the jetty and skinned him.  Then I opened him up and found some clothing like portions of a uniform…. and some human bones.   I put them all into a bucket and took them to the Police Station……”     

Poor Constable Parker.

And to clear the record, that alligator Must have been a crocodile as alligators are not, nor ever were found in Australia.   They, the 4 legged swimming ones,  and the Alligator Rivers were so named by Phillip Parker King, the first English navigator to enter the Gulf of Carpentaria.  He had previously travelled in S America, knew the alligator and assumed these were them (doubt he even knew there was a crocodile) and in his wisdom he named the rivers the Alligator Rivers (South, East and West Alligator Rivers).

Well give him a break – can You spot the difference?

 

Despite the length and small print of this book, I have persevered precisely because the stories are to interesting.

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And then suddenly I found myself ‘up there’ looking at a local map with all the names that had become familiar in the book.

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I was going to ride through the very plains they had ridden through so long ago.

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I do, however feel the need to acknowledge some minor, okay, perhaps not so minor,  but rather fundamental differences between me and them.   I knew where I was going.   Correction.

Like them, I had no idea where I was going, but unlike them, my  guides did know what lay ahead.   Poor MP and his ‘mob’ – look what they missed out on.  No roads, no phones, no google maps, no back up vehicles; just their wits and physical strength.

Regardless of these advantages, this was an adventure which was greatly enhanced by having read about those who went before me. (photos: Sons in the Saddle, Mary Durack)

It was also enhanced by all that I learnt on the tour to Kakadu and Arnhem land.    So much gained in such a short time that I would love to share with you, but that feels almost like a different story there was so much.

Kakadu, crocodiles, mines, protests and ageless lands

The concept of justice, punishment and restoration, the knowledge of genetics thousands of years before we had even thought of it, and so it goes on.

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history both modern and
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an idea of that ancient
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and ancient
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trees that tell a thousand tales
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and the ‘new’ art
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ageless
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Cockburn Range

Not really that surprising when you think I was in a land with rock faces 1.8 BILLION years old and a people who had lived, the same way, (until we arrived) for about 65 000 years.

But as usual, I digress.

Here we were in Kununurra the night before our ride.   Some of us had met at Darwin airport hopping onto the only flight into Kununurra so by the time we landed, needless to say we were old friends.

 

Alcohol rules are strict in this part of the world so our first stop was at the bottle shop, driver’s licence in hand.   This, it would appear was more important than money, because without it, money is useless as you could buy not even one can of beer.

Mind you,  with it, you could buy only a few more cans than one; there is a strict limit on the volume of alcohol allowed per driver’s licence per day!

But gleefully, as you can see from the video, we had our ‘stash’ and

Mission accomplished.

 

Kununurra

A pretty little town, growing in leaps and bounds, situated in the middle of nowhere.

 Well actually that is  not true, it is on the Ord River which means there is heaps of water – and accounts for its growing agriculture development and tourist industry.

 

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We explored that water, with a Fabulous dinner cruise on Lake Kununurra.

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hard to
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decide which
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view was more
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breath-taking
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but regardless
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the food and
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company was no less
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wonderful

And then it was all over,  our cruise came to an end and we were delivered back to our respective hotels, all weary and ready for bed.    That is, until we looked at our watches, it was 6.45pm and Pitch Dark!!!!!   There was some debate about how can we possibly go to bed so early  versus, it is very dark and we are very tired.   A very strange feeling.

But bed won over in the knowledge that an early start awaited us.

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That early start as we awaited ‘them’

When we were collected by Laura and Chris of Hidden Trails ,

and driven to the start of our ride – Doon Doon Station.

The names of all these places intrigue me –

they conjure up images of another era and I love them.

Wished I could remember the names of our horses and perhaps more importantly the names of the riders on those horses.

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This, you understand is particularly important since they would be my companions for the 6 days, and knowing what to call them, or more accurately, what they call themselves would be most helpful.

I practiced things like, green shirt, Jen, (she better not change her shirt); 2 girl friends, Deb and Naomi (hope they don’t have a fall out and separate); couple Paul & Fiona, ah, but there were 2 couples, so that complicates things….. you get what I mean.

I am proud to say that by day 6 I was pretty certain I had the correct name attached to the correct person.   Not so with the horses.

Truth be told, I didn’t take my brain that far and didn’t even try.

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Meeting our transport
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through this amazing terrain

I have been on trails where, even after 5 days I have had to ask someone which horse was mine.

They kind of all look similar, or at least to my novice eye.

Usually dark; generally with 4 legs, a head at one end, tail at the other, and of course two ears which tell one so much about where they are at right at that moment and the eyes.   Those melt your soul eyes, but which can also blaze with a look that has kept me well away from them, waiting for someone better equiped than I to approach them.

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My tiny Tinker…..

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always easy to locate

I had a tiny horse, the smallest by far of the group, so easy to see if I looked between the legs of the rest of the mob.

A Brumby, the real deal.

Or perhaps not, because I have just researched the Brumby and it is described as “a free-roaming feral horse in Australia.” (wikipedia) but there was nothing feral about My Brumby.

Tinker – easy to remember thankfully,  (from Tinkerbell I am guessing as she belongs to 6 year old Maddie who kindly let me ride her) was not feral at all but very well behaved.

Well mostly, but more about that later.

And so before we knew it we were in the saddle, and distracted from names by what was around us.

Breathtaking.

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Grass so gold, so patterned, so extravagant…..
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Sky bluer than blue….
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Cockburn ranges defining the space 

The scenery varies, the people change,

but the rhythm of a trail ride is essentially the same.

Hours in the saddle, exploring the landscape.

Sometimes single file, walking.

Sometimes alongside, talking.

Often in silent contemplation.

The sound of the horses and the creak of the saddle somehow perfect company.

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A special light…
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A lost young bull tagging alongside for kilometres
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Silent contemplation
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and sharing the joy

We pause along the way,

to marvel at a view,

learn some history,

look at the intricacies of nature.

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The Cockburn Ranges – amazing and sooooo old
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A Boab and a history lesson
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As we decipher the names and dates well into the 1800’s
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So beautiful …..
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Wherever the sun is…….
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A Bower bird’s ‘Bower’

And we stop,  in this case, to sleep out in the open.

In ‘swags’ (rolled up canvas beds).

Just the most comfy mobile home ever.

Find yourself a spot, unroll your swag and Bingo.

Home sweet Home.

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An organised Home Sweet Home

My less organised Home Sweet Home

My socks and swag

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Good morning
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Must I? Just a little longer…..

And that trail riding rhythm includes caring for the horses.

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Love is, a girl and her Tinker

There’s unsaddling, brushing, washing, checking over, feeding and

of course, loving.

Without the latter, none of the former would every happen.

These horses are SO loved.

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There’s ‘stuff’
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and patience
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and so much work as the feed is prepared
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Chewing the cud
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Chewing the chick peas
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The non stop work and love goes into the caring of theses horses
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who seem to respond in kind.

Don’t think it is only the horses that are cared for.

Oh no, on these trail rides our food is delivered with equal care and love.

Whether it is lunch on the road, being met by the truck with a delicious meal, drinks, and smiles, or sumptuous dinners round the fire :   we do not go hungry 🙂

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a lunch stop
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with table flowers and all …..
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and always more than we could eat – although we tried our best
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as we told tales, shared laughs and learnt heaps
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There were nights around the fire
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and skies to take your breathe away.

There was ‘girl’s time”

 

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serious
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and not
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always smiling

There was ‘boy’s time’

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with the talking
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and the thinking (or was it the drinking?)
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A Moment Captured

We had time too, to soak our bodies.

In a wonderful billabong, minus the crocodiles, right beside our camp.

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tranquil
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inviting

 

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whether by our winged companions
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our our bathing young beauties
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the cold was refreshing
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ah, that smile……
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and the sun invited us to stay….
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and drink …..
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…. the special moment.

There was private time, each in their own heads, with their own thoughts.

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we will
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never know their
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thoughts – as is appropriate
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But clearly these are good ones
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Mine was awe
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Jen was concentrating
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and perhaps they were just thinking about the climb ahead….
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That private time
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that is so peculiar to trail rides
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where we are together but apart
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and alone
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or not.

There were fun times,

crazy as only people who have camped out together can be….

comfortable with one another

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whatever
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we did
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it made us smile
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We rode through
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an old branding yard
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where we found a ‘witch’
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riding a broom left there for her !

There is so much to see, from memorials to those gone before us,

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To that which will be here long after we have gone.

Saddleback Ridge

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a long and windy road….
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a climb I preferred to do with four legs than four wheels!

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the tall and the short – but really the view…..
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No reason, except I love this photo
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Amazing views – the Pentecost Valley
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Oh and another amazing view – sunshades!
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ever patient friends

And endless other adventures.

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Friends and
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breakfast
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Rope tying, rein plaiting
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drinking
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riding
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fishing
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smiling…..

 

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and then the madness and excitement of swimming with my Tinker – and being the first to get into the ‘croc infested river’ 🙂 🙂
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But I was safe….
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I had my personal body guards
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and so
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Tinker and I plunged
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in and swam in a big
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circle with Marnie
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close by to help us
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feel strong
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SUCH JOY
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And I was not
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alone in having fun!!!!

Goodness me, we did So much.

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There were rivers to cross

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Some where straight forward
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some such fun
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some took some negoitating
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with an occasional dip
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with or without a rider. In my case, it was with me on her back, without any warning!!!! So one learns

And of course the ‘serious’ river crossings- no photos. Too busy keeping dry (I had a tiny horse remember) and staying on!

There were gorges to climb.  In this case Emma Gorge65951824_661225077683706_703666551055712256_n

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There were springs to swim in.

And suddenly, a helicopter ride and it ‘was all over’

No photographs or words can even closely match the wonderful memories of this amazing part of our country.   The sights, the friends, the horses, all are such that

I want to go and do it all again.

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Thanks Chris and Laura for such an amazing time.

Kakadu, crocodiles, mines, protests and ageless lands

Well, there I was, on a BUS, almost bringing the average age down significantly – or that is how it felt!!!!!

 

BUT, despite my doubts this 3 day trip into Kakadu and the tip of Arnhem land was better than anticipated.

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A very early start from Darwin took me into Kakadu.   On a great road past great places like the Humpty Doo Hotel.

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Don’t ask – the name could  be from one of so many origins, but I like the derivative from the cattle station Umpity Doo.  Slim Dusty clearly was intrigued too (Humpty Doo Waltz) And it was quite a lively spot as the following quote indicates:

“But it’s not just the proud men and women of the Territory who can sink a Darwin stubby, or two.

If you were around Humpty Doo in the 1980s, you might have come across Norman, the 600 kilogram Brahmin bull who could knock off a Darwin stubby in 47 seconds, and then wash it down with six tinnies and a meat pie.”  Rae Allen 2008

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Can you imagine that happening today?

We passed miles and miles of mango trees – all neatly groomed into ‘squares’ to facilitate easier harvesting.    40% of Australia’s mangoes come from this area which relies very heavily on backpacker workers and provide 4.8 mill trays annually

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The name Kakadu may come from  Gaagudju, the name of an Aboriginal language spoken in the park.   Or it may come from the Indonesia (kakatuwah)/Dutch (kaketoe)/German (kakadu) word.  Any or all anglicised into cockatoo.   You decide.

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Regardless,  Aboriginal people have continuously inhabited this area for more than 65000 years – before the last ice age!   Which interestingly enough is not as long as the crocodile has been there – try 200 million years – ‘unchanged’ – hows that for a fact.   But more about crocodiles later.

The park is located within the Alligators Region of the Northern Territory. It covers an area of 19,804 km2, apparently the same size as Slovenia and half the size of Switzerland.  Half of Kakadu is Aboriginal land and the other half is under claim by them.   It is a UNESCO Heritage site and leased  to Parks Australia by the Aboriginal people.

Why Alligator Rivers when there is not an alligator anywhere in Australia?   Well blame the explorer Phillip King (first English navigator who entered the Gulf of Carpentaria) who has seen alligators in South America and assumed these were they – not having any idea that crocodiles even existed.    He wrote

On our course up and down the river, we encountered several very large alligators and some were noticed sleeping on the mud.  This was the first time we had seen these animals, excepting that at Goulburn Island, and , as they appeared to be very numerous and large, it was not thought safe to stop all night up the River“.

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warnings everywhere
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low tide river crossing
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Sunday afternoon entertainment – waiting for?

Kakadu is vast with according to the indigenous people 6 seasons.

Yup, 6.   Forget spring, summer, autumn and winter.   Try:

Yekke (cooler (May-June) when the drying winds and flowering woolybutt tell the locals to patchwork burn the woodlands to encourage new growth.

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Bangkerreng (April) harvest time when the floodwaters recede and skies are clear.  Plants are fruiting and animals caring for young

Kudjewk (December – March) monsoon rains with spear grass over 2 metres high and high heat and humidity

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spear grass

Wurrkeng (June – August) early dry season, floodplains dry out; magpie geese fat and heavy after abundant food crowd the billabongs.

Kurrung (August – October) hot and dry means good hunting of file snakes and long necked turtles

Kunumeleng (October – December) pre-monsoon sees streams running, waterbirds everywhere and barramundi move to estuaries to breed.

So much more interesting and meaningful if you live in that part of the world than just 4.

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The bird life is amazing
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Not an alligator, but perhaps a saltie?
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or a freshie? You get both crocodiles here

 

Okay so with 6 seasons, why not for symmetry’s sake, 6 landforms here too.

Promise, I won’t go into detail;

Stone Country:  Savanna Woodlands:   Monsoon Vine Forests:  Southern Hills & Ridges: Tidal flats:  Mangroves & Coastline and finally Floodplains, Rivers and Billabongs.

I did not get to see all 6 landforms, but what I did see what beautiful, enormous and inviting to return.

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walkways to amazing ancient rock art

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river crossings….
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wetlands – looks like grassland but you couldn’t walk on it – wade perhaps, but unlikely
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breathtaking

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the Brolga – Australia’s largest waterbird
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Amazing rock structures
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and of course the teas
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River cruises to get an
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an idea of the scale of the country
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even the trees seemed ancient

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sandstone almost as old as time
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looking against that flawless sky
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the walk was so worth the view
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brooding or was it smiling?

There are some that believe it is brooding, because for millennia this land had been called ‘the sick country’ by the indigenous  with rock art showing people with misshapen limbs and ‘swollen’ joints.

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That Mine
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or perhaps ‘scar’ is a better description

It turns out, it was in truth ‘ a sick country’ if you spent too much time there.   Radiation from the uranium beneath the ground (which causes swollen joints) was found and hence confirmed their label.   And with that came the Ranger Uranium Mine – and you may recall the protests.   At the time, one of the largest uranium mines in the world.   It is now closing down, incurring losses for several reasons.   The 2011 Fukushima disaster and related market slump and the waste management costs.   The mine is being shut down with rehabilitation costs expected to be $800million!!!!!

And that is not taking into account the town of Jabiru which was a thriving small town supplying the mine and is now almost deserted.   Apart perhaps from the hotel – the famous Croc Hotel built as a 250-metre long, 30-metre wide giant crocodile.

It will be interesting to see the restoration when complete.

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From the air….
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a sense of
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the scale of
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the land
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and waterways

And ALWAYS worth a visit – this amazing part of our country.

Darwin – at the ‘top end’

Names like Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Jabiluka, the Kimberley

have been just that, names, to me,

tucked away in Melbourne.

Names slightly mystical in feel, often emotive in use and always, definitely remote.

Which in a sense they are of course, ‘tucked away’ in the far north eastern tip of this vast continent with me, in the deep south so to speak.

3 573 km apart according to google maps.

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So when a spot was offered me on a horse trail through The Kimberley’s, well you can see why I had no choice. 😉😉🐴🐴

Interestingly, anything that involves local travel, is quite expensive and a trip up north dents the bank balance almost more than if I was going off shore.  So I felt obliged to ‘do more than just the ride’ and of course dent that balance even more!

But so worth it – every cent.

Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory is closer to Timor than it is to Melbourne and it feels that way too.    In so many ways.

A million miles from Melbourne (okay I know, 3 573 km to be exact) but you get my meaning!

The climate which thankfully is less oppressive than I had anticipated creates ‘a look’ that is distinctive: shorts, sandals of varying descriptions or none at all.

Casual, slightly dishevelled, wind blown, sun swept, almost Californian but without the ‘bling’.     Not that there isn’t bling in Darwin, some of the jewellery shops show quite a bit, but the general feel is more frontier town than high end holiday space.   A  deliberate facade I felt.

Based on The Esplanade, I wandered around the city and took an evening cruise in the harbour.

View from The Esplanade

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was So much to see and learn.

Such as, NASA had a Darwin airport runway which was particularly long, earmarked as a potential shuttle landing spot if ‘things went awry’ internationally and they didn’t want to or could not land in the USA.    History shows it wasn’t used – but a good trivia question.

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That Runway

The Aviation Museum has 1 of the only 2 B52 bombers still on show. (lent to us by USAAF)

 

Amy Johnson was the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia. She flew from Croydon, south of London on May 5th 1930 and crash landed in Darwin, 18 000km  and 21 days later.  (crash landing after flying safely for such a distance – another blog awaits !)

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Amy Johnson and her Gypsy Moth just before taking off for Australia

Darwin was given the name by a British expedition arriving in 1839 in honour of Charles Darwin who had sailed with them on a prior expedition.

It has a small resident population (101 000?) but fills up during the winter with tourists passing through to a staggering 1.38 million spending over $1.5 bill.

It has a crazy climate of almost only 2 seasons, hot and hot and humid when the rains come between December and March.   The hottest month is November, just before the onset of the main rain season when the  heat index can rise above 45 °C (113 °F).

It is one of the most lightning-prone areas in Australia. On 31 January 2002 an early-morning squall line produced over 5,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within a 60-kilometre (37 mi) radius of Darwin alone – about three times the amount of lightning that Perth, Western Australia, experiences on average in an entire year!

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Darwin has been destroyed and rebuilt 4 times in modern history (who knows how many times before ‘the white man’ arrived).

  1.   In 1897 a cyclone destroyed Darwin (estimated cost UK pounds 150 000 in 1897 terms)Cyclone_damage,_Palmerston,_Port_Darwin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)    In 1937 another cyclone with estimated costs of UK pounds 100 000.Screen Shot 2019-07-10 at 5.50.43 PM.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3)    In 1942 Darwin was bombed by the Japanese and the military was taken completely by surprise.    Most of the ships in the harbour were anchored near each other, making them an easy target for air attack and it would appear no plans had been prepared for how the ships should respond to an air raid.

Interestingly more aircraft were used and more bombs dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbour.

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Interesting snippet I read:

At 9.35 am Father McGrath of the Sacred Heart mission on Bathurst Island, who was also an Australian coastwatcher, sent a message using a pedal radio to the Amalgamated Wireless Postal Radio Station at Darwin that a large number of aircraft were flying overhead and proceeding southward. The message was then relayed to the Royal Australian Air Force Operations at 9.37 am.   No general alarm was given until about 10 am as the RAAF officers there wrongly judged that the aircraft which had been sighted were the ten USAAF P-40s, which were returning to Darwin at the time after reports of bad weather forced them to abort a flight to Java via Kupang, West Timor. As a result, the air raid sirens at Darwin were not sounded before the raid.”

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4)    Cyclone Tracey devastated Darwin in 1974, killing 71 people, and causing A$837 million in damage (1974 dollars).

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And then there is the harbour.   And a lovely dinner cruise with strangers who were friends by the end of the evening.

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And so a quick visit to an interesting town ended.

But little did I know What an adventure awaited me.

Kakadu and Arnhem Land.

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Barossa Valley heaven

 

I cannot in all truth begin this with

‘there are no words’

which is usually how I feel about my amazing horse riding adventures.

There Were words.

Plenty of them.

Well, for starters, there were 8 women,

thrown together by the love of horses and adventure.

And in case that was not enough of a conversation starter,

there was the countryside, the horses, the food and the amazing wines.

Allow me to introduce our ‘Barossa Belles’ by way of these photos.

(the word descriptions will follow)

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That’s “US”                                                                                                  The Formal ……
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and the far more ‘real’ us

And it turns out all the ladies loved words.

And we didn’t stop using them the entire trip.

Trail riding is something very special.

There is the ‘getting to know’ your horse.

We are each allocated a horse, based on, well observation during our first lunch together I think.

And with Jen & Jeremy’s uncanny skill, they matched us all perfectly.

No one at any time thought about changing horses.

And I, happily, had my old friend Basheer again –

goodness I had forgotten how much I loved him.

Tassie Tigers….. (a very good description of the love of my life is in this link)

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And so it was that we and our horses were ‘a pair’,

We had more or less worked out ‘the basics’.

Every trainer has different ways of ‘communicating’ with their horses and so,

apart from knowing which is the front and back ends

(I have more or less mastered That one now 🙂

there remains the small but important things like,

‘go’, or perhaps more importantly ‘don’t go’.

Which I can assure you differs from horse to horse.

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Not sure what exactly Piccolo’s trick was – but it raised a laugh!

 

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Ruby allowing Jan to show her trick
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Basheer’s trick is to cuddle – me

Trail Riding is something very special.

We ride together, we eat together, we share a house together.

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And we absorb together.

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We absorbed the beauty
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the conversation
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the space
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the solitude

The magnificence of the Barossa Valley.

The scale of the gum trees.

The tragedy of the drought.

The generosity of the horses.

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The views
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were breathtaking
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and sometimes took the
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horses breath away
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too with the steepness
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The trees
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were so amazing
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it felt as though each
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could tell us a
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a hundred and one stories
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about their lives…
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water so scarce, so muddy, the sheep get bogged and cannot get out
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almost the only water we saw on the ride

Sometimes we ride in single file.

Sometimes alongside someone.

Sometimes we talk.

Sometimes we don’t.

There are times when it’s all in my head,

the surprise that I am actually riding a horse;

the enormity of the space around me;

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A lunch time stop.

the sounds of riders talking to others somewhere in front, or behind,

-a soft murmur of words,

unintelligible but creating a sense of well being.

Reminding me as I write this,

of the murmur of parents voices when,

as a child one falls asleep safe in the their sound.

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smiles…
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Private thoughts….
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shared moment…..
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trail riders….
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finding our way

 

Trail riding is something very special.

Because it is not all about riding.

There is ‘down time’ – when we sit and chat,

when we sit and eat

when we sit and share:

our stories, our lives,

our adventures, hurts and joys

when we sit and laugh and even be foolish

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That sun ….
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Or perhaps it was that wine….
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Either way ….
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spooning was the way to go

Or perhaps more drinking.

Then again, just lying in the sun :  just ‘being’

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Of course
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the views
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and food
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made for such
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joyful smiles
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and conversations

Our home from home

Our making ourselves “at home”

Trail riding is very special.

You can cover so much ground and it is often so relaxing

but at the same time you can never really relax

as these amazing animals can spook at their own shadow,

or yours, or even a butterfly, or for no reason at all.

And it behoves one to always “be alert, so as not to be alarmed”

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and so we remained alert
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as we cantered through
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the most amazing forest

Of course your understand we are not cantering in these photos 🙂 🙂 🙂

We are absorbing the smell of the pine trees,

the hushed sound of the hooves on the soft turf,

the call of the  Currawongs  disturbed by our presence

for the duration of this particular ride, there really were no words,

we were in awe of the place.

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There was a very special night
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at St Hugo’s where
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we had scrubbed up and donned our bling…
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to learn about this estate, its history, it’s ups and downs
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all the while indulging …. but with class 🙂 🙂
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There was much to absorb
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and learn
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and put into practice
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with joy and smiles

The food was amazing,

the wine outstanding,

an evening not to be forgotten.

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And if bling isn’t your thing,

you eat at the Farmer’s Market.

Where the food is offered with as much love and care

And your back pocket will thank you

As we did them, for a wonderful breakfast.

Not to be outdone,

a night at Grand Cru Estate

where 5th generation winemaker,

Peter Seppelt entertained us

with his home made pizzas,

Seppelt wines,

warm fires and hilarious jokes.

Or are All jokes hilarious if the food and wine is good?

Perhaps

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The pizza oven
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with everyone waiting
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The home……
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the food…..
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the company…..
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oh and the wine….
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Did I mention the
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food
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or the company
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and as for the chocolate dessert!!!!!
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Everyone was very mellow
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as we listened in awe
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to Susannah’s poetry recital

 

I said there were words,

heaps of them and

amazingly our resident poet produced the most wonderful limericks of

us and our horses.

So good I am sure you would like me to share:

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Lee and Basheer

A remarkable woman named Lee

Could never pass by a good tree

“Take a photo!” she’d cry

Bounding happily by

On Basheer (who I’m sure would agree).

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Jan and the matriarch Ruby

Striding out at the front of the pack

Unerringly finding the track

With the wind in their hair

A formidable pair

Boss girl Ruby, with Jan on her back

 

And tricky Vicky with her agile Moo:

A competent rider is Vicky

Whose jodhpurs were (luckily) sticky

Moo went down on her knees

But as calm as you please

She rode on and smiled “That wasn’t tricky”

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JANE and her equally striking Gem:

 

Now Jane has been riding a while

And it shows in her posture and style

With her Gem of a horse

She conquered the course

And all with a beautiful smile!       

 

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JUDY who bred miniature donkeys on Piccolo

For Judy, a donkey’s the go!

And she thought she’d prefer to go slow

Then she cantered the hill

And she’s praising him still

Her wonderful steed, Piccolo.

 

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Linda and Colt 45

This pair were so bright and alive

Gentle Linda and Colt 45

When we started to trot

Little Colty got hot

And his jogging turned into a jive!

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HELEN and Opal who clashed with a gate – no damage done 🙂

Opal had Helen’s trust from the start

The calm pretty mare won her heart

Until an old gate

Intervened in their fate

And caused them, just briefly, to part.

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The views, the light, the skies, the horses, the food, the people.

I almost said ‘no words’

But that would be untrue for as you can see

we had lots of words

and a final fling from Susannah

which I shall keep for the final lines of this blog.

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We rode through vineyards, gold and crunchy in the autumn sun,

the creak of the saddle and crunch of their feet in the leaves the only sounds.

And just because we could,

a visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm

and a cookery demonstration.

 

And just like that, a week of unadulterated joy was over.

And we went our separate ways,

Joined forever by memories to treasure

forever.

And summed up by Susannah in a poem she just ‘whipped up’ for us – quoted below:

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Susanna and her
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and her Jaberwocky
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who helped with the words

AUSTRALIAN HORSE ADVENTURES

There’s a stirring in the vineyards and a whisper in the leaves

And the magpies joyful carolling is heard

For Australian Horse Adventures have arrived back in SA

With their happy, willing, home-bred Arab herd

The beginner and the nervous, and the confident, the brave

The older, “Can I do it?” come to ride

There’s a horse to suit all riders, there’s a mount to keep you safe

And a saddle that will cushion every stride

There’s pretty little Opal, Ruby – Queen of all the herd

And sweet and grey is photogenic Moo

There’s Tikka, little Colty, and Bashir and stately Gem

And Jabberwocky – just to name a few

The team behind the horses? Smiling Jeremy and Jen!

There’s nothing that’s too hard or can’t be done

Every rider’s warmly welcomed, feels like family from the start

And they know that wine just magnifies the fun!

And their passion is their horses, they are proud of all the herd

Their barefoot, bitless, fit and healthy crew

They can tell you endless stories of adventures on the trails

And the tricks their clever equine mob can do

And Phil from up on Tower Hill comes down to lend a hand

To start your day with bacon, eggs and toast

And he boils the lunchtime billy and his pumpkin soup’s the best        

(sorry Jeremy, it just rhymes!)

He’s the humming kitchen fairy with the most!

And the countryside is stunning, ancient red gums, high bare hills

Where the breezes cool you after every climb

You can canter shady forest paths or trot between the vines

The only part you’ll hate is passing time.

And the food! The wine! (The laughter!) A gastronomist’s delight!

Each day a chance to taste Barossa’s best

The experience of meeting those who grow this produce too

Just makes this ride a cut above the rest.

And heading home – such sadness, the Barossa ride is done

But memories and photos tell the tale

Of a landscape of great beauty seen between a horse’s ears

And the best of times and friends made on the trail.

The oldest Shiraz vines in the world since those in France were destroyed by disease.

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Moments captured

Jen & Jeremy of

Australian Horse Adventures 

are the most amazing hosts

and without any doubt,

made this an extraordinary adventure.

Thank you Both.

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Morocco Ride – Kiddy Goats

And there we were, having to find a new campsite apparently.

Or rather our back up truck had to find the new campsite.

Which did not impress our lead guide,

(who of course, did the least of the work – just between you and I)037e79b2fb52127537be79110891ae3f

I on the other hand thought it an imminently sensible decision.

Once I learnt we were not the only madmen horse riding in the Sahara.

There was another group, and they were indeed mad and men.

Or at least their horses were, a group of stallions.

And considering all our horses were mares.

Well you see why I thought it an imminently sensible decision.

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Apart from anything else, I personally thought it was one of our loveliest campsites.

Nope. that does not mean it had any amenities,

but it did have

a hill!!!

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The hill alongside our campsite

Which served multiple purposes as you shall see.

The first and most significant one is

we could walk behind the hill and not be seen

– a very big plus in a desert with no toilets (or bushes).  21-emoji-tears

But be that as it may.

It was the spot where we saw, or let me rephrase that,

others saw

The Most Amazing Something flash across the sky.

(see Morocco Ride – the next days)

And it invited us all to explore.

It was enough of a hill to offer views, but not so much of a hill that it was daunting

so despite a whole day in the saddle,

3 of us raced off to see what we could see.

And no sooner had we begun to clamber up the rocks

 

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Than we heard the strangest sounds and looked back to see these kids

(little goats, not children, although we saw them too)

come running towards us as though their lives depending on reaching us.

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The ‘Hill”
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They clambered up the rocks like
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proverbial mountain goats
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bleating all the time and leaving us wondering
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what was going to happen when they reached us already at the top.

And what happened is that they stopped,

looked at us, looked around and

then scampered down with equal haste.

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Rushing back to ‘mumma’

Leaving us very bemused and feeling quite ungainly as

we clambered down the same rocks they had jumped and leapt down.

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The ‘Hill” with us clambering down – not quite like the goats 🙂

Through a conversation with ‘Da Mohammed’ my ‘go to’ on this trip

I believe I worked out the following:

The adult goats are taken by the shepherd to find feed while the

youngsters remain at the Bedouin camp.

For some mysterious reason, they (the youngsters)

thought we were their mothers

and they came running across

bleating to greet us and I presume seeking milk.

Imagine their disappointment!!!!

 

As the women from the camp came to call them and take them back ‘home’

It was such a fun interlude and surprise and

no sooner had we arrived back in camp than another group went up

to see the setting of the sun.

Without the goats this time.

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view from
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the top
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looking at our camp
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and at the camera
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Miles of not very much…
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Lovely Jo, whom I thank for all these photos – waving as she reminds us – life is good…

Silhouettes against ……

a setting sun.

A appropriate way to end.

An amazing adventure.

Morocco Ride – the next days…

(To be read after Morocco Ride – day one )

And just like that, the horses and riders worked together.

The first day was,

for everyone, a surprise,

requiring much energy, patience and self control.

But here, on day two,

it felt as though we all knew what was required

and were confident we could survive

and even enjoy the seven day ride.

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It is true they were long days in the saddle.

It is true it was hot.

It is true we had tiny tents and no ablution facilities.

And it is also true that I loved every moment.

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Long hours in the saddle

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with a hot sun most of the day

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and thankfully a cooling in the evening

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our very tiny ‘homes’

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Someone made these barriers – miles and miles of them.

The long stretches of silence as I absorbed the vastness around me

The companionable times I rode alongside someone and we shared our thoughts

The kindness of “D”‘ Mohammed, the guide who ‘adopted’ me

The responsiveness of my amazing horse, Zeina,

her kindness, generosity, strength and endurance.

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the guide “Da” Mohammed who took such care of me “Da” old lady                                      (da apparently meaning ‘old/wise’ 🙂

Perhaps these photos will illustrate  where words cannot,

what was a most remarkable experience.

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We passed a Bedouin Family. I did not go in, but some did.
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The miles and miles of ‘nothing’ – with it’s own kind of beauty
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And so much room to gallop, canter and have fun
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The only ‘fresh’ water on the trip
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It was hot and dusty
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and sometimes it felt like a looooong day
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Once we rode under a ‘shield’ of shade for about 5 minutes – I remember it was heaven and I thought of the cowboy movies where they always found shade. 🙂  Perhaps the heat had made me hallucinate – who knows, but I clearly remember thinking about cowboy movies!!!!!
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Biblical in its symbolism – like so much of this trip
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pulling up water bucket by bucket

 

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to give to our horses

 

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no words,
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just vistas
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of a land
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both harsh
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and beautiful
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whichever way I
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looked

 

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Feeding our horses was a daily ritual
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required everyone’s help – even the little travellers who joined us and gave us so much joy
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as well as giving our lovely horses food

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Some played while others watched…..

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and the men hauled water
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bucket by bucket at the wells along the way (there were not many of them I might add – those horses were remarkable)

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‘Da Mohammed’  Whose kindness gave me courage. Whenever I looked around, there he was, keeping pace, watching out for me – and it wasn’t just me he cared for     He loved the horses passionately and was always working. – I shall forever remember him with fondness

And of course there was the necessity of feeding ourselves as well…..

 

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whether it was buying an orange from the locals (loved the clothes!)
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or trying to buy something to drink…
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and our daily delicious lunch – fresh salads, tinned tuna and bread pockets that were fresh on day one, not so fresh day seven 🙂
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but always prepared with such love by our amazing guides
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while we were left to search for ‘the proverbial’ ablutionary bush…… and may I add, it took some searching – good ablution bushes were few and far between.
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Our campsite was always a welcome sight – table and chairs a real treat and many happy hours we spent round that chatting and sharing

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One night we slept in luxury,

a Bedouin camp with

‘stand up tents’

and sit down toilets,

even if they didn’t actually flush

and real warm water dripping out of a shower – of sorts.

How easily we were pleased.

How quickly we learnt to appreciate what a week before we would have despised.

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A “Stand up” tent – didn’t matter that four of us slept in it – it was LUXURY – Fully lined with the most beautiful rugs
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Some even did washing!!!! Drying was not a problem

Our neighbours

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That bizarre time warp
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the juxtaposition of the modern
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and the ancient
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They munched
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and sat and pondered
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as a herder sat and munched
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and pondered

There was a particular evening which perhaps sums up how amazing this place is.

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look carefully you will see the light of our camp

We were seated at our table – 8 one side and the rest of us on this side,

it was dark, the sky ablaze with trillions of stars.

(In fact someone had counted

28 shooting stars in less than 29 minutes one night)

Shooting-Stars

Conversation and laughter was alive with energy when

out of nowhere those 8 faces opposite us

 froze for a few seconds,

then there was a collective cry of amazement.

They had all, at the same time seen something in the sky –

we are yet to define it precisely.

Suffice to say, this meteor, comet, or something else flashed across the sky,

so vividly and for such a long time

that they were stunned into silent awe

while those of us who had our backs to this wonder

were left amazed

at their amazement.

They were speechless at first

and then

could not stop speaking – all at once,

trying to explain what they had just seen,

clearly frustrated

that no words could adequate describe their collective vision.

This is in many ways

an ‘other worldly place’

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a speck in the sky
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grew larger
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to reveal an Air Morocco plane – how appropriate!!!

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a night of singing with drums and a fire – our guides leading the way, as usual

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One day,

We went over a mountain pass .

I write it so casually,

but it was anything but a casual passing through a pass

(I seem to remember another pass that was less casual then casual 🙂

Always read the fine print. Really? )

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We went over on foot

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It was steep
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It was hot

We lead our horses, always hoping they did  not step on our heels 🙂

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it was Up and Up

 

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taking a break whenever we could…
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leaning on each other while we took a breather….
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or some photographs
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it felt like there was no end…
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… to the slog.
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and the heat.
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and then we were
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at the top – recovering and

 

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and contemplating the
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amazing vastness ahead.

It was a very real and yet at the same time very surreal experience.

And as I sat there, catching by breathe and looking

at the land before me,

I was drawn to The Book and the Promised Land.

And the time warp took me there –

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I couldn’t help but think of Moses (Deuteronomy 34),

who was allowed to see the that promised land

but was not allowed to cross over into it.

Craziness, Heat, Weariness?

Or perhaps this place truly is something different.

Of course I wasn’t looking at The Promised land.

For one thing I was in the wrong country.

For another thing,

there was nothing attractive about what lay in front of me.

Stones, sand

and no milk or honey.

And yet that is where my mind kept taking me.

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Promised land?

And then began the descent….

Mercifully in the shade of the mountains for a short while.

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Coaxing our horses we began the descent
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Down and