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
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down.. careful step…

 

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by careful step
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Until finally we could ride again.

Welcome shade, for a short while,

and then the sun again.

As I said.

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

Trudging along, with my horse, with the heat, with no idea of what was ahead,

and in my head a picture of

Mary and Jesus going to Egypt as refugees,

trudging along, with their donkey, with the heat, with no idea of what was ahead

and once again this amazing country

took me into a time warp.

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Images along the way……

From shopping and eating…

To sights and views

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Jan, who gave this ride a miss and was always waiting to welcome us with Such a Lovely Smile…..
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That sun and dusk was something to behold
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and so we pretended to be masked bandits 🙂
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The most precious commodity in the desert
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alone in an almost alien world
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with the occasional sign of habitation
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and then again signs of absolutely
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absolutely nothing……..
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but miles of stone and sand
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and occasional ‘hills’
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follow my leader for 7 days.

A truly remarkable experience.

 

Thank you Jo, for all your lovely photographs. 

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Morocco Ride – day one…..

The thought of ‘thundering’ through the plains of Mongolia

was what got me on a horse in the first place;

and here I was,

about to ‘thunder’ across the plains of  Morocco, on a horse!

Who would have thought!

And while I am still to see the Mongolian plains,

I have seen miles and miles of the Sahara desert,

some 100 something kilometers I believe.

Nor I am complaining.

After all they both show up on the world map,

both begin with an M, 

and both are exotic sounding.     

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And so after some adventures along the way Always read the fine print. Really? 

which reminded me this was an exploratory trip,

I was relieved to find that we were not going to Tombouctou

appealing as the name is….

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(although I always thought it was Tim Buck Too)

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Because 52 days of travel was not appealing at all – again I suggest you ‘read the fine print’ to find out more 🙂
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some of the crew – full of anticipation….

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Instead,

we found ourselves in Zagora

where we needed to stop,

regroup,

shop,

stock up

and meet our horses.

 

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Not one of our horses, but certainly ‘the stables’ where we found our horses 🙂

Did I mention this ride began on my birthday?

No, I don’t believe I did – but there you have it.

To celebrate my 65th birthday I was about to ride a horse for 7 days in the Sahara.

Tells you something about what has happened to my mind in my old age!!!!!

And so the first night, spent at the ‘stables’ as shown above was round a table with delicious food and celebratory musicians.

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delicious food
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enthusiastic musicians

Sadly I do not have any of the promised Professional photographs yet but these lovely ones are largely thanks to Jo – so very much appreciated.

Where they fail, use your imagination.

We had two belly dancers and a group of male musicians all of whom wanted to party long after we were all ready to retire!

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Beginning to wish they were as ready for bed as we were !!!!

 

So far so good,

We had all had much fun,

survived the drive from (or was it too?) hell to get here

and  were about to begin a different ride bright and early

the day after the night before.

 

So how do I explain our first morning?

Maybe refer to my rough notes which I show below.

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They say:

“WOW!!!!!!  CHAOS

Barb & Arab horses.   

Good riders and still chaotic.   

What am I doing here

Fractured wrist and all

Stomach churning,

Ready to bail 

 But do what? 

Sit in the truck with no one speaking English?

Stayed – so nervous couldn’t even see the views”

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Really difficult to explain how hectic this morning was.

18 riders, more than I have ridden with before.

All of them much better riders than I am and still they had their hands full.

Of course these photos hastily taken by someone show tranquility –

that is because when there wasn’t (tranquility) which was most of the time that morning,

no one Could take photos 🙂

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Waiting as they saddled
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our horses, which took
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a looong time

Luckily for me I had Not done my homework on the Barb horse (or Berber)

because they are described as :

” generally possessing a fiery temperament and an atypical sport-horse conformation,

but nevertheless has influenced modern breeds”.   

It would appear even the Andalusian was bred through the Barb.   

 I certainly saw some of that fiery temperament on that morning.

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I did learn that they had been fed oats for a few days prior,

with no work,

in anticipation of the 7 day ride ahead.

Oats apparently makes them ‘full of energy’.

 

And so I was here – for better or for worse.

Finally I was allocated a mount, Zeina, a flea bitten gray (again)

although this time a Barb Arab cross and happily for me,

the kindest, most willing, even tempered friend I could ever ask to spend 7 days with.

Fortunately too, I was the last to be saddled up

so I did not have to keep her tranquil for ages waiting for the others.

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My flea bitten gray – Zeina and I. The sweetest soul in the Sahara…

So what were the views I according to my notes not see thanks to my nerves?

Well we left the ‘stables’ and found ourselves in the streets of Zagora.

Narrow lanes really,

where the sound of horses feet on the ground brought people rushing out from

every nook and cranny (of which there were many)

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people appeared
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from everywhere…..
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and apparently nowhere to….
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watch and even try to touch
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observing us as we
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passed through – and not just people stared at us!!!!!

Finally and thankfully we were out of the ‘crowds’ and could settle our horses and ourselves.

For what lay ahead……

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Finally “Far from
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The Madding Crowd”
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we became the mad crowd  🙂

Which was fascinating.

The Draa Valley to begin with.

(the Draa river when it flows is Morocco’s longest river, 1 100 km)

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a river valley filled with palm trees
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with occasional ‘farms’
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The Draa Valley
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those ‘farms’
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silent walking…
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and sometimes talking
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but always observing the scenery

It was an incredibly long day,

both in terms of hours in the saddle,

and emotionally as we settled with our horses

and worked through the Adrenalin of our start.

And my notes remind me we arrived at camp well past dusk,

weary, grateful for an AMAZING meal, and our tiny tents.

I for one, didn’t care that I wasn’t going to shower or wash,

I was just pleased to crawl into a warm sleeping bag, with a nourished body.

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The mobile ‘kitchen’…
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from which amazing meals were created
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our mobile ‘homes’
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Our Amazing support crew – 1 truck. All our gear, tents, food & horse food etc
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Time to put our heads down for the night

Portugal – Dolphin Trail

 

I am used to travelling alone and often find myself ‘the odd one out’ in a group.   But never more so than when I joined a group of horse riders in Portugal.

  The group  had been riding together for several months and were

winding down towards the end of their epic adventure.

I had just arrived, all enthusiastic and

wound up at the beginning of my epic adventure.

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They had long ago worked out where they ‘fitted’ in the group and their conversation flowed quickly and with a familiarity that left me ‘out on a limb’ for the entire evening.

That first dinner I felt like I was on one of the wobbly things you use in the gym.70275_1_Something designed to keep you on your toes; fully engaged and concentrating and wriggling this way and that to keep your balance!!!

 

But ‘find my balance’ I  did,

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And the first morning of riding was filled with sunshine, smiles and a natural order….. me at the back, comfortable on my horse, Epico, by name,

following the straight backs and confident body language of the riders in front.

Now I know I don’t know much about much,

but this time I had done my homework.

I knew I was riding a Lusitano,

whose ancestors were found on the Iberian peninsula as long ago as 25 000BC.

Not that my Epico was that old  you understand,

but his father’s father’s father etc….. was there once.

   In fact, apparently this is his father,

which is hard to believe when you realise

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that This is Epico. (on a good day)

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But I digress (again).

Lusinatos and Andalusians were only recognised as separate lines in 1960.  Apparently the Andalusian has a straighter head profile and carriage and used for dressage and the Lusitano a rounder head and stronger athletic body for herding cattle and those bulls.

I also knew that the Iberian Peninsula was where Portugal ‘found’ itself, and the use of the word Iberian dates back to 500BC!!!

It is the second largest European peninsula (after the Scandinavian peninsula) with indications of habitation more than 1.2 million years ago.

The truth is the history of the Lusitano and the Iberian Peninsula is actually quite interesting, but something tells me it would bore you, so I shall remain interested without sharing 🙂 🙂 🙂

What I Will share, though is that I was on an ‘exploratory ride’ which meant we had a vague idea of what lay ahead, but only a vague one.

Which suited me.

I was on a 5 day trail in the  Costa Azul (blue coast) of Portugal,

with our guides, Miguel, Dennis and Vladimir

and waiting to see what unfolded.

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Vladimir – so helpful
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Miguel – so amusing
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Dennis – so good at creating a feast

 

We had amazing weather considering it was mid November.

We had wonderful riding, through villages where the horses hooves clanked on the roads, conjuring up memories of bygone days in books of those times.

And where Epico lurched and lunged when a bus or truck came rumbling past –

I was too busy staying on to see what vehicle it was 🙂

But I certainly learnt to hang on tight, breathe and expect the unexpected!

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The sound of horses hooves on bitumen is such an ’emotive’ one – at least for me….
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that sound
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mirrors to avoid traffic!

And what an unexpected morning it was.

A lost shoe meant a halt for running repairs.  Well actually not running at all, it was standing repairs so that we could go running later 🙂

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That’s my Epico
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while the others took a leg stretch.
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and still others grabbed a bottle…….
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which was shared all round – such a delicious port – at 11 am!!!!!!
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and which obviously intrigued the locals 🙂

Our days were spent riding through stunning cork forests

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so beautifully old
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images of the countryside
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beautiful in their neglect
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Epico and me….
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gazing across…
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at our reflection
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drinks time

 

And the most wonderful lunches, outdoors, with smiles, drinks and such fresh salads

(well mixed in Miguel’s big tub 🙂 )

 

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even our
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4 legged friends
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had a siesta
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and savoured the aroma of our lunch

Cork is ‘harvested’ manually and the art of this is not to damage the tree.

IMG_4084This is how it is done.  – Each tree is debarked every 10 years

 

(Portugal uses cork in so many fascinating ways, shoes, bags, hats – really beautifully made. )

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cork stacked and ‘ready to go’

We had stunning canters, and a wonderful day on the beach.

Full of adventure – the photos will ‘speak’ for themselves.

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I love the light….
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shadows and
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sky
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The team
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solitude of a stunning beach

Which inevitably meant we just had to canter and race and have So much fun.

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miles of nothing
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sea and light
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to take your breathe away
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even though it was not warm

Until, one of the waves washed up some green netting just in front of my Epico.

Dear strong and brave friend that he is,

he needed to save me from this monster

and so swerved (suddenly) away, without warning, and left me behind!!!!

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and that was me, 20 seconds after falling
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not sure exactly how I feel
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but better laugh – just in case
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while I have my glasses
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cleaned and returned – Note the green netting – Such a Monster!!!
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and there I was back on Epico!!!!

But it wasn’t all riding, there was laughter, drinks and a wonderful day out on the bay with the dolphins.

 

 

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views
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pools
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skies early
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and
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late
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images……
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and always food….. 🙂

and the black pigs.

A fun day out looking for, finding and watching the Bottlenose Dolphins in Setubal.

These are totally ‘wild’ and seem to be very happy playing around our boat for hours.

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No complaints
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Bottle-nosed friends
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each with their thoughts……
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Setubal
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as smooth as glass today
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where friends converged
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to chat
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and salute
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LIFE

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And suddenly it was all over.

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I didn’t feel like I was trying to find my balance anymore..

I had found it.

But then again perhaps not

since I clearly lost it on the beach –

with a fractured wrist as a reminder.

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moments
unnamed
in time
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always the sky
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and water…

 

I had made some new friends, knew where I ‘fitted in’ and was no longer out on a limb

(although I had a limb which was ‘out of order’ :-))

and was looking forward to our next exploratory ride in Morocco.

 

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Farewell Miguel – till another time

 

Photos thanks to ‘the team’

for more on Portugal see Long day in Lisbon, or rather Portugal 🇵🇹Breakfast – Lisbon style 😉 ; Lazy in Lisbon;  and Sintra – Dreamy Castles

Weekend Getaway

“Come with me” I said.

“It will be fun.

We will escape Melbourne, the weather looks good

and it is sooo close”

And so she did.

Come with me, that is,

to escape Melbourne and because it is close.

Well to be precise,

I went with her since she has a very flash ‘ute’ –

with heated seats and all.

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Off we went on Friday,

two ‘gals’ on an adventure to visit the

Victorian High Country.

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We stopped for drinks at Bonnie Doon – seen the movie The Castle?

If not, why not, a great film and if you have, you know why we stopped here.

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Boonie Doon Pub

Mansfield was our next stop.

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It is a charming town, gateway from Melbourne to The High Country and always busy; with people –

riders like ourselves,

cyclists with their paraphernalia,

runners proving their worth to themselves, or someone else,

tourists browsing the shops,

locals doing their shopping and

everyone stopping at the many coffee shops.

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always a good excuse to stop

 The hospitality of ‘country folk’ the world over, knows no bounds and so it was here too.

Nelda and Greg opened their absolutely beautiful home to us for the night.

and what a night it was……

Four women from completely different backgrounds

sat round the table and laughed and talked as only women can.

moment
a moment captured
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a view captured
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a hug savoured

 

That we finished a bottle and a half of gin probably helped. 🙂 🙂

When we finally trundled off to bed wondering why we had lingered so long

when we had a full day of riding ahead of us –

we were tempted

not to,

ride that is, but just linger longer……..

joy
‘no words’ required

cheers

claire d

ah the joys of ‘geselsskap’  (English words don’t cut it)

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The morning …
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after the night before….
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brought a hazy beauty, perhaps not just because of the light 🙂

Saturday arrived bright and early, and so did we.

Arrive at Telephone Phone Box Junction to be precise, at 9am –

where we were met by old friends –

I had ridden with Christian and Laura before (

in case you are curious: Hidden Trails…… (click on the link….)

and quite a few ‘strangers’.

It is interesting how the dynamics of a group changes depending on the length of time one is going to be together.

In this case, only one night and so both the guides and guests seemed ‘more insular’ as though the energy required for introductions wasn’t  warranted for just 24 hours.

What can I say?

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What I CAN say, though ,

is that there is something about growing up in this country,

and even more so if horses have always been your love,

and the story of The Man from Snowy River.

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It carries an almost mystical attraction

so that to ride up to Craig’s Hut becomes

for many a sort of pilgrimage, or so  it seems to me.

I have now been lucky enough to ride there 4 times,

on on each occasion with different people

and each time I sensed they had a link to the place that I did not feel.

I am sure because I came to this place, horses and the story relatively recently.

For me, it is the ride, the mountains, the trees, the birds, the magnificence of the vistas.   Breathtaking.

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I was ‘moved up the ladder’ so to speak and my horse this time, ‘Billy’ was ‘more forward’ (for my non horsey friends – quicker, eager, needs more skill!)  and allowed to ride with the front group.

A huge step up for this wanna be rider you must understand –

kind of like wearing my ‘big pants’ now.

So off I went with the ‘real riders’  through rivers, up hills and across dales,

(although I think I may have the wrong country – dales? Australia?)

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We all know about mountain weather, and how unpredictable it can be.

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We also know that is has been over 35’C for weeks and weeks and weeks and the weather forecast showed a narrow band of rain, about 30% showers.
Nothing too alarming, but just to be sure we all strapped a ‘dry as a bone jacket’ onto our saddle and confidently set off for a day of pleasure.

And pleasure it was for the first hour or so,

and then, it would appear,

we rode straight into the tiny blue band we had seen on the weather app –

that small 30% chance of rain?

Well, we found it –

and suddenly the temperature dropped to about 9’C,

the wind arrived

and the rain bucketed down.

There we were, astride our horses, committed and gradually getting colder and colder

and wetter and wetter.

I was fortunate I had gloves, which although so wet I could squeeze handfuls of water from them, they kept my hands protected from the wind.

The others were less fortunate and I noticed hands being clenched in pain against the cold.

Finally we arrived  at our lunch spot – the sight of a fire and hot food.

We were more fortunate than our poor horses who were not fed, but rather tied up to weather the storm as best they could.

And of course we had our famous ‘dry as a bone’ jackets, which were in fact not dry at all and most of us were wet to our bones, but who am I to argue with an iconic name?

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our smiles, the horses heads down
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3 musketeers
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finding a hot drink
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and SO much smoke
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and rain
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while some burnt their pants drying to dry them

Finally, the rain eased and we tried to bridle our horses again.

My poor Billy was so cold he could not keep his head still and it was with great difficulty and much coaxing that he was finally all set to go.

I could feel his body shaking with cold as I mounted; it was a really awful feeling.   Thankfully he warmed up quite quickly once we started down towards our camp.

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Does that look wet & cold? Hope so, because it WAS

And it wasn’t long before everyone felt a little better;

the rain had stopped, the wind felt less brutal and the temperature was

a little higher as we went lower.

We left our horses at Razorback Camp, unsaddled, blanketed and fed.

Some of us meet ‘the locals’, shared their fire and drinks until it was our turn to be taken to our camp, ‘unsaddled’ of our wet gear, blanketed in warm clothes and fed a deliciously hot meal.

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Our horses rugged and settled….
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so welcome
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a hut to dry our clothes
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aptly named camp site

 

warm 2

And so to Sunday.

Which thankfully started bright and sunny.

Nonetheless I was not going to be caught wrong footed again, so when we were warned that it would be cold and windy ‘on the summit’ and we should dress warmly,  I took them at their word and did.

For the first time ever, I wore two pairs of pants, thermals and riding pants, and because it would be cold, I wore TWO thermal tops, yes I know, overkill?   But hey, you weren’t with me yesterday !!!!!  My cotton shirt, my down vest and again because I knew what Cold meant now, my down puffer jacket And my purple Aldi rain jacket.  Not to forget my thermal neck warmer and the ‘dry as a bone’ jacket strapped to my saddle, just in case.

I explained to Billy and asked his forgiveness for having to carry this

Michelin woman

michelin

because the look he gave me clearly said, “and now?”

And now……..

Of course.

Sun and warmth and despite the predictions, not a breathe of wind.

In fact a perfect day.

Unless you are kitted out like a Michelin woman –

which of course I was as you can see by the shape 🙂

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Michelin woman

For about the first hour or so both Billy and I ‘steamed’ as the sun warmed us.

In Billy’s case the steam was literal and quite funny to watch.

In my case, not quite literal and certainly less comical.

He and the other horses stopped steaming.
I was less fortunate and for the rest of the day  remained insulated in my private steam bath, unable to take anything off as there was nowhere to tie anything else on.

I did after all still have my ‘dry as a bone’  jacket, which interestingly was still very wet and heavy from yesterday, strapped to my saddle.

Nonetheless we had a magnificent day of riding to the summit of Mount Stirling, to Craig’s hut and back down to Telephone Box Junction –

A glorious end to an interesting two days of riding.

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Snow Gums, Mountains, Sky, Beauty