Glenorchy Back Country ; No Words

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

Well at least Eliza Doolittle was.

Me, I would be better saying,

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

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

I LOVE words.

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

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

But I digress –

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

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

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Don’t click on the blue map – nothing will happen. Just an overview of where ‘we are’
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This is the area we rode in 🙂

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

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

So breathtakingly beautiful.

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

WORDS FAIL ME!!!!!

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Bijmin – no words 🙂

No really, they do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Queenstown early morning
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Lake Wakatipu – 75km long, 400m deep
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The crew the morning after that meandering night 🙂

And that was the beginning of a Real world:

no internet, no radio, no news, Facebook:

sometimes not even lights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunrise from our camp
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No words
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That water
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That grass
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Breathe taking
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Whichever way you
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looked, left you
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speechless…
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Pistol gazing at the world…..
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No words….
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the Dart River… braided, beautiful, breathtaking….
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anyone for a wedding?
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the beauty of silence – created by the beauty around us… no words…
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The crew
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That’s Pistol again – and a VIEW – no words 🙂
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Cabbage trees, snow, mountains, rivers, air as clear as….. no words 🙂

We rode through forests.

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

streams and waterfalls a constant surprise.

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

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

The forests were filled with dreams.

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

You name it, they were there.

Silent, watching us feeling them.

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sometimes steep, ……
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Both ways……
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silence….
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that up…… and
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and down feeling….
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No words…. but heaps of smiles….
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That Forest….
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That Forest….

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The waterfalls, the walks, the views –

No Words….

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None of us could stop smiling for the sheer joy of being alive
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In a world so captivating
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On top of the world
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No words….. just love
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The look of love – Needs no words
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My ‘partner in crime’ looked always like the cat who had found ALL the cream…..:-)

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

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and took those candid shots!
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So much water – everywhere…..

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

We shared our meals with our beloved horses.

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

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Our camp – frosted grass, slippery decks, cold feet and hands but warm smiles and laughter to make our stomachs ache….
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and then the sun reached us……
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and thawed our frozen chairs
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Drinks were shared, with all sundry 🙂
sharing is caring
that’s mine…

 

Making lunch was always such an adventure

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What about my breakfast please…..?
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At least someone knew where we were, or at least where we were going to be :
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“with a little help from my friends
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Some conversations were private….

 

Brushing teeth was an adventure 🙂

 

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and After 🙂

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so warm and welcoming

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What remained after a horrific fire 😦

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no words – just a new day
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As old as time itself……

 

my rusty
where are you?

 

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

Returning from my first ever swim, bareback…..

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My first ever bare back ride – the face says it all 🙂
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The 3 Musketeers before we plunged into the icy glacial water 🙂 🙂 🙂
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Fun and….
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and games in the most beautiful country on earth….

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

 

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

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Our last dinner together

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

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

Linked through our connection to our horses.

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

No words.

crazy crew

 

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

 

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

Holiday Romance

Okay, so I’lll admit there was a time when I indulged in a few holiday romances, but that was many years ago.

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Now I am older and wiser and a whole lot more cautious.

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After all, the broken heart following such affairs is deterrent enough for me not to venture into those waters again.

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So I approached this relationship with grown up attitudes.  We would be together for 5 days, we would enjoy the time we had together and go our separate ways with no strings attached, no expectations and therefore, no pain.   Nothing could be simpler.

And so it was that we danced around each other, assessing how far we could push ourselves and each other.

We tested which buttons would produce a joy of such magnitude I cannot begin to describe it, and which buttons were clearly going to be a no-no with me left deflated and hanging on the ground, foolish and stunned by the speed of the whole chain of events!!!!

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Still I persevered, thinking the whole thing would be so worth it for 5 days.   And I believe he did as well as he stuck by me – faithfully and quietly.   Never looking elsewhere, always waiting for me to join him.

But he was not boring;  not submissive, quick to challenge me and turn a ho hum moment into an adventure.    There were times when he was confronting, prodding and dare I say it, even went so far as to goad me into losing my ‘cool’.

It was at moments like these that the encouragement and support of my girl friends  kept me ‘in the game’ so to speak and made it all worthwhile.

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And then it was all over and I had to leave.

I had been preparing myself for this moment from day one, but still, it was SO much harder than I had expected it to be.

A long kiss, and I walked away.

But no, not too far.

I came back for another cuddle and a whisper and he gave me a kind, soft, lingering nuzzle which left me oh so warm and fuzzy.

I was ready to leave him.

It was after all, just a holiday romance.

I love you.

I stalked him the day after I left to find that he was happy, content, eating well and showing little sign of distress.

Was I relieved?

Perhaps.

Just a little.

But hurt too, did it really mean so little to him,

this holiday romance?

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At home again with a slow heart I did the washing, hung it up to dry

and there it was!!!!!!!!

He had not just walked away casually without a backward glance.

He had left me a locket of his beautiful hair.

Well perhaps not quite a locket.

Rather a whole lot of auburn, russet short hairs.

But still a secret parting gift to remember our precious time together,

those stolen moments when we swam unhindered,

bare backed, not even socks or shoes;

in a delicious spine tingling icy glacial pool with no one around

(well almost)

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They were there, clinging to my leggings – the leggings I wore on that special ‘bare back’ day.

Even After the washing machine had done it’s work.

Clearly, I had meant something to him, since he wove them so firmly into the cloth of my, was going to say soul,

but really just my pants and jackets.

Still, a gift from him to me.

So Just Perhaps, this wasn’t merely a holiday romance,

but a whole lot more.

The Big question now is,

do I live with ‘him’ around me for a little longer,

or do I use the band aid approach to purge all memory

with a lint stick?

 

“the look of love”

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Mt Goomboorian, Campdrafting

Now that we had mastered the art of cattle mustering

(in 2 easy lessons you understand 🙂 )

We moved on to ‘greener’ pastures.

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In the bus, with horses in tow, we left our beautiful Mount and drove through Gympie, where once again we made a pit stop, this time, not at the bottle shop, but rather at the ‘bandaid’ shop (aka pharmacy) to attend some rather painful nether parts which one of us had acquired which offered as much mirth to the group as it offered pain to that region. 🙂

Task accomplished we stopped at the Best pie shop Ever.

Truely you can take my word for that.

And the chips were not half bad either.

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The pies were delicious – with or without sauce
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The lovely Lisa salting our amazing chips
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While some rested in the smoker’s lounge 🙂
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and our lovely horses settled for their hay
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If you down that way – the best lamb shank pies in town (and good coffee too)

Cots Camp,

near Widgee was our home for the next few days,

with such cute tents awaiting us and  more lovely views.

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The local bar 🙂
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Our home –
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Our home for a few days
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our ‘little’ houses
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Sunrise – or perhaps…
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it was sunset ….
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another guest at….
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Cotts Camp

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The team here were Unbelievable

I really need to give a shout out to Rod, Ash, Jake and the rest of the crew.

Here we arrived, greenhorns every one of us, and with their welcome, and patience, we actually understood this camp drafting competition and learnt more or less:

(some of us much less,  or perhaps I should one of us, much less – you can guess who that was.   The others much more 🙂  )

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Our amazing crew

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Jake, an old soul in a young man as one team member described him.   He was SO kind, patient and enthusiastic –  a real treasure
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The most amazing Ash
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Rod, the rock of Cots Camp

Now for those of you who have no idea what campdrafting is, (I was one of those until a few months’ ago).   Allow me to elucidate briefly.

In the days of large scale cattle mustering there was always the banter about who had the best horse, who rode the best, who could ‘tame a beast’ the best etc.   And so a sport was created.  I believe exclusive to Australia, called campdrafting.

In this, the competitor is in a ‘camp’ with several ‘beasts’ (aka cows) and on his horse he selects one and ‘dominates’ it by isolating it from the others and heading it towards the front end of the camp where there is a gate into a large arena.   When the competitor is ready, he calls ‘gate’ and the gate is opened, the cow races out, as does the rider who then attempts to ‘steer’ the ‘beast’ around two pegs in a figure 8 and through another set of pegs (the gate) – all within 45 seconds.

Sounds easy?   Well yes, when you see an expert, you hold your breath but they do make it look easy.    None of us were experts!!!!!!!   So just like us, you now understand what we are to do.    I will attach below 2 videos, an expert (our lovely Helen) and a wanna me – yours truely for comparison purposes on condition no one laughs please.

And so our days were spent being taught to chose our ‘beast’; dominate our ‘beast’; turn our horses on a dime; stay in the ‘arc of vision’ of the cow –

not too far behind because all the ‘beast’ will hear is the sound of you chasing and it will go forward – Fast.

not too close or you will clip it and you and/or your horse and ‘the beast’ will go down – Hard.

so a bit like Goldilocks, just right.

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First Jake or Rod are ‘the beast’ – walking us through the concept – yup that’s me and T Rex
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Then they (in this case Jake) rides with you
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showing you so patiently
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Then you have a Real ‘beast’ !!!
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Which I will attempt to ‘dominate’ 🙂
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Serious discussion 🙂
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In front of an ever patient audience!
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Comfort to know that even the excellent riders (Duncan in this case) had lessons
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One thing about this sport – lots of sitting and waiting….

Finally we move from the practice runs to the Real Arena – where we had surprise after surprise as our ‘beasts’ roared through the gate and straight across the arena to the opening at the other end, before any of us knew what had happened.

Our horses on the other end knew exactly what to expect and bounded across the arena at fast gallops chasing the cows.   Our first rider, who shall remain nameless let out a yell of surprise, you can probably guess and found herself at the other end of the arena before the word was completely out of her mouth such was the speed of her trusty steed!!!!

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… and out the gates they went….

Thankfully our next attempts were less ‘startling’

Slowly, with the amazing patience and coaching from Jake, Ash & Rod, we all started to improve – of course some did so a lot more than ‘others’ (you can guess who those ‘others’  are – and if in any doubt, refer to the score sheet from our final day competition)

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walking the arena to ‘get our bearings’
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pondering the arena
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riding the arena
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being helped around the arena
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being watched in the arena

It was all such fun.

Until it wasn’t

Sadly one of the team fell  – at the far end of the arena and we watched, helpless, as she bounced and lay still.   A sober reminder that this is, still, a risky sport.   Thankfully, with a nurse in the team, an ambulance from Gympie and a little bit of luck on her side,  her injuries were not life threatening although serious.   *

It was a quiet evening for the rest of us – with conversations muted;  all aware of how easily it could have been any of us; how quickly things can go from normal to tragic; how fortunate we each were that it wasn’t us (and how awful to think that at the same time)

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Then another day dawned

 We were back for our last day of campdrafting –

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This was a very serious competition

with much shouting and encouragement from the sidelines

as each of us attempted to win the coveted trophy.

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Yup, that is
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Me & T Rex…..
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Wish this was me – its the lovely Helen….
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And that’s me pretending I’m Helen 🙂

Here is a video of our lovely Helen showing “how it is done”.

Here for prosperity is a video of yours truely, showing how a greenhorn does it…. or rather doesn’t

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Waiting for the ‘Judge’s call”

On the day, I am SO pleased to say that our favourite John, won.

Never was a team more pleased for a winner.

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The winner
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and his runners up
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and in case you Really want to know how I did – 😦

and in case you thought it was all chasing beasts, there was also ‘washing them’

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Talking to friends afar
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Talking to friends near
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Resting ….
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Stretching..
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Hugging

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and cuddling
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and the rest 🙂

And suddenly – it was all over, we rushed back onto the bus for the trip back to airport where we all went our separate ways with Great Memories.

Thank you Cots Camp Crew for an amazing time. 

 As usual, all photos are thanks to Rainbow Horse Trails, ‘the team,’ myself and Globetrotting.com.au

*  Happily T is back in Melbourne and recovering well – we missed her and sister K on the last 2 days.

Mt Goomboorian, Cattle Mustering

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The adverts were amazing, mustering cattle, camp drafting, (suitable for all riding levels, even beginners (that’s still me!!!!))  stunning views –  Southern Queensland, mid winter, escape from Melbourne cold, improve my riding skills – who could refuse.    So before I knew it, I was a paid up ‘member’ of the June intake of camp draft novices. thanks to globetrotting.com.au

A flight into Queensland, for those who are wondering where I was going (as was I), the attached map will give a rough idea.   We all met at Maroochydore airport; Maroochydore is, apparently derived from  ‘murukutchi-dha’ in the language of the Brisbane River Aboriginal people, and it literally means ‘the place of the red bills’ (i.e. the black swans).

There were 11 of us, mostly groups although John was a brave solitary traveller, actually doubly brave as he was also the only male – he became our Knight in Shiny Armour on his white steed and I knew Margaret from our ride in Margaret River last year.   Introductions duly made, we left in a bus for Gympie. (The name probably derived from an aboriginal word for the local stinging shrub).

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Two hours on the bus, including a most important bottle shop stop,  saw us arrive at the base of Mount Gomboorian, our home for the next 3 days.    After a brief introduction to our horses, how they are trained, which saddles we would use etc.  we were loaded into vehicles for the ‘ascent’ up the Mountain.   I think these two photos sum up the exhilaration of the angle of ascent !   Some of us felt the need for head protection as we bumped and bounced and tried to hang on!!!!

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Words again do not do justice to the views, across to Fraser Island, Noosa and back inland ‘forever’.    Perhaps these will help you.

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Whichever way you looked
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the views took your
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breath away….

Our tents were more than comfortable …….

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My little red bag – stayed outside – not a good shape for opening in a tent – note to self 🙂 🙂
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Margaret and I were as snug as could be in our home from home

and the food always appetising – Sean our trusty chef excelled at every meal.

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Dinner
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Men in the kitchen
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Women round the table
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Mud Crab – delicious
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If challenging for some 🙂
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and absorbing for others 🙂

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But it was our horses that really ‘sold’ us.

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I had T Rex – small (hence the name) and young with a distinctly ‘mulish’ look about him.   Be that as it may, for the first time I could reach the saddle of my horse without standing on a Huge log or rock or mounting block.   He was not,  at least to a novice eye (i.e. my eye)  a good looking horse and I was asked more than once if I was on a donkey!!!!   That question though was always from a ‘non horsey person’.

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Our horses

Never, however be fooled by looks – I am sure your mother told you that once.   This little hang dog mule of mine had the spunk of a champion camp draft horse and when you asked him to go, he could move like a bullet.   So the donkey statement never came from anyone who saw him actually move 🙂

Our first day was spent out riding through countryside, getting to know our horses, their quirks, their likes, and dislikes (more about that later).   T Rex likes eating and since his face is level with the bush most of the time, he spent a great deal of time chewing and I spent a great deal of time stopping him.   I did, in the end, convince  him to stop – win for me.

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Steep climbs
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and drops with
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amazing views
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whichever way we looked
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No words, just views
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and light dancing through the trees
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And skies so blue
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it looks like someone painted it

Where are we?

By now you will know that I am curious about how places get their names and we rode through some Weethefeekaarwe Bush.   This Weethefeekaarwe Bush consisted of  grass and scrub taller tha us on horseback so that we could hear one another but not always see one another.    The name rolled off Andrew’s tongue with such ease and emphasis on odd syllabi it took me a while to work out – he had no idea where we were or what it was called – I will leave you to work out the name for yourself 🙂

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keeping heads well up
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to see above the grass
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ducking and diving
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through this

Weethefeekaarwe Bush – none of us knew where the . we were 🙂

Lunch at the Silky Oak was a treat.

Made extra special by a drink in the pub like nowhere else in the world!!!

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Me and my ‘mule’ T Rex
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Helen and her steed

After drinks and food we collected our transport parked outside waiting patiently and ambled home through such lovely countryside.

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the companionship of riding together
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friends made along the way
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alone, but not alone
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my hang dog ‘mule’ T Rex
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ever changing
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So sure footed
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regardless of the depth
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and of course always a drink
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so special
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Did I mention my T Rex tripped in a hole, at which point I thought I was going to go over his head.  Except a fox popped out of the hole which pushed T Rex up again and we both survived.   Could not believe what I saw!!!!!!
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But left me grinning from ear to ear for a while….
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and T Rex watching his feet more carefully for a while

Night Time Visitor

But it wasn’t all riding, we had a lovely visitor one evening, only 15 years old and by the light of the moon and headlights of a vehicle, she gave us a whip cracking demonstration.   For posterity sake, I have included it even though it is not a first class video.   The show was.   And I had a ‘crack’ at it – It is a lot easier to hit oneself and cry out than it is to hit the ground and make the whip cry!!!!!

Cattle

There is something very peaceful about ‘mustering’ cattle.

That is, until something goes wrong.

Now you do realise we are all novices, some of us even novice riders, never mind jackaroos.   So we were not mustering 2 000 cattle 100 miles; rather about 70 cows, a few miles.   Still, it Was mustering.   Instructions were given, we were allocated our places and so began the task of gathering them all together so we could get them out of the gate and onto the road.

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We ‘plodded’ along with cars patiently waiting behind and in front of us – this is the country after all – or should I say thank goodness as they did not seem to be at all agitated despite having to wait for an awfully long time while we herded the cattle from A to B.

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every patient cars
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well behaved cattle……
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with a crack crew behind them
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keeping them in line
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even the tiny calf at the back who kept lagging
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while the cars continued to wait patiently (we hope patiently)
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The traffic 🙂

And just when you think all is going well, a cow finds a hole in the fence and runs through, which means all the others follow.   And there they are, in a field with another herd of cows.   Which means we have to sort the two herds out and then take ours back on the road.

That deserves a whole blog – suffice to say, we did a lot of watching while the experts (being the Rainbow Beach Ride team) did the work of separating the two herds.  And the rest of us?   Stood and watched and munched on fruit we had brought with us.

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them watching us
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watching them (well some watching them 🙂 )
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T Rex – not a dinosaur
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nose to nose with them
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Debbie pondering
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and enjoying her fruit salad
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but not sharing 😦

Once the herds were separated (thankfully there was an old dip pen we could use to do this; we had to begin again.    Herding them into a group to continue to point B.    Back on track and thinking again we had this all under control, a dog ran out of an open gate (what farmer leaves a gate open – I ask with tears in my eyes).   This was no kelpie used to sheep and cattle, but a mean spirited dog that ran wild amongst the cows – dispersing them again this way and that.   And I must tell you, when 70 peaceful cattle suddenly swing around and face little you on your horse and you are not sure what is going to happen, your stomach tightens and you concentrate on your breathing.   I heard a few choice words around me and hoped our talk about forming a wall was being adhered to by the others or I would be alone in the melee.   To be truthful I cannot remember how we turned the around, but settle them we did.    With the young owner of the dog apparently oblivious to the chaos he had just created.

And on we went.   Of course there are no photographs – we were far too busy 🙂

There was a lunch at a lovely homestead where we chatted about the happenings of the  morning and I have no doubt the horses had their own conversations – if only I could understand their language!!!!!

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lunch break 🙂

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The cows were sprayed by some while others ‘played’ with their horses and the next day saw us mustering them back to A.

You would think we had this under our belt by now, wouldn’t you – I mean what could go wrong?   We knew where the hole in the fence was.  We knew where the ugly dog lived.

And then the surprise.

An open gate saw some horses run up to us.  No problem, the cows are used to horses so they don’t spook.    Shetland ponies, though, are quite a different proposition.   Two little ponies followed the horses, proud as punch they looked as they trotted up to us.   They could almost pass under some of our horses bellies, but that didn’t matter, Rosie next to me baulked and bolted into the ‘gutter’ which mean my lovely T Rex felt the need to follow.   All I remember is ‘hang on with your legs’ – my thighs have never worked so hard, my reins less so, but we all stayed on our feet so to speak and while we recovered, the rest of the team stopped the cows from running all over the place – Again!!!!!!

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Them ponies 😦  created ‘chaos’

And that was us mustering……

Done and Dusted – experts, clearly.

So time to move on to greater challenges.

Camp Drafting

P.S.  Photos kindly taken by Rainbow Beach Rides, “Jackaroo team”, myself, and Globetrotting.com.au

Hidden Trails……

For those who don’t ‘have the bug’ this blog may be a bore.   I know most of my friends think I am a little crazy and there is no doubt that my father would have something to say about the absurdity of a 60+ woman starting to ride horses when it hasn’t been part of her life up to now.
But then of course, one of the marks of a madman (or woman) is that they march to their own drum and don’t ‘toe the line’.   So here I am, riding, more or less efficiently and thoroughly enjoying every moment.

So after the tentative Cape Trail Day zero – Farm 215    and the glorious one to Margaret River  I ventured out into the High Country, Victoria – almost down the road from where I live and did a 6 day trail there.   Thanks again to www.globetrotting.com.au and www.hiddentrails.com.au 

It was AMAZING – so to my non riding friends who think I am crazy, I apologise, but blog I must and to my crazy friends, well you will get the madness 🙂 🙂 🙂

16 of us met up in Mansfield for dinner the evening before our Big Ride.    5 of us ‘were single’ and knew no one prior to that dinner, the others were couples/friends.   Again riding brought together people from all corners of our country, our neighbours (New Zealand) and across the Pacific, from the USA.  By the end of day 1, we were one big happy family gathered around a huge fire, sharing stories, drinks, laughter, memories, food and the marvel of our surrounds.

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Getting to know one another….
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Around our amazing hearth
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with its amazing hot water system
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which kept us all happy
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and mesmerised
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While our 5 Star chefs prepared the MOST
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most AMAZING food
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With a little help from friends
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and a welcome board each day to remind us ‘where we were’
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Strangers were….
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now friends…..
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sharing and making….
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new memories

For 6 days we traversed the High Country as it is generally known.   From Mount Stirling, Craig’s Hut, Lovicks Hut, Mt Mandala, miles and miles and miles.

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This country is stunning, the gum trees like ghosts with so many stories to tell, curled and misshapen from heavy snow, miles and miles of rolling hills as far as the eye can see where almost no man has been, reminding me of British Columbia, steep edges with the Howqua river below. The Low Country with forests, koalas, birds, insects, flowers and so many river crossings we lost count.

There is no doubt that  It’s all about …. the horse and once again I won the jackpot with Audrey.   Yup, as in Hepburn, although she was neither slim, nor elegant but very large and quite heavy.   But a lady nonetheless with an appetite that defies description – she tried to eat at every opportunity and for a day or so it was a battle of wills between her and I as to who was going to get their way.   We compromised a great deal!!!!

But these horses are remarkable, faithful, strong, willing and so so kind.   All of us were constantly grateful for their stamina and sure-footedness as we climbed up and down the MOST awesome hills (some would say mountains!) – and while it is difficult to take photographs and ride at the same time, we do have some and I will let them ‘do the talking’.

We wandered through the terrain used for the film “The Man from Snowy River” based on a poem by Banjo Patterson and relived a moment or two.

With a kiss at the ‘kissing tree’ as we called it, where Craig and Jessie from the movie are believed to have ‘spent time together’.

This kiss marked 44 years of marriage – a celebration worth most definitely a kiss!

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And as each day took us up to the top of the world, or down to a beautiful valley, we drew closer through our shared experience and gratitude to the Hidden Trails crew who worked tirelessly to make this one of the most remarkable weeks of our lives.

Whether it was the amazing food, or the incredible work involved in caring for our horses, feeding, shoeing, washing, saddling, unsaddling, corralling, the transferring of our camps, the attention when one of us didn’t feel well, and most importantly, keeping our drinks colds!!!!!   It was a trip of a lifetime.

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Heights and edges
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the likes of which
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I don’t want to do
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…too often
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Spectacular as it was
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The real Man from Snowy River image
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Hells Pass

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As wobbly as this photo looks – so we sometimes felt riding up to this point 🙂

And of course for every up, there is a down – debates constantly about which is more challenging!!!!!

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It was Something to conquer
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and both riders and horses
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were grateful to be back ‘home’
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scattered as we were in our swags under a sky alive with a million stars

Having been well cared for;  fed. watered and doctored.

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There were days of glorious views, river crossings, trees so tall I felt I was in a cathedral of some kind, birds calling, skies so blue and fresh, faint sounds of riders behind or front, the glorious silence of riding companionably, along with your thoughts,  the creaking of the saddle and sound of their feet on the ground somehow at one with the earth.   Old huts, with stories to each, a koala in a tree.   Hidden trails indeed.

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and in case  you have not had enough : some more images and even a stunning video thanks to Rachel Meek of our epic climb to Mt Magdala!!!

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And thanks to all my now friends, from this amazing adventure for your wonderful photographs.

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Another day – Another lesson

Life is full of surprises.ph-country_f8f492999cea1ed0c7a326c8c73c4e18

I mean, take saddles for example.

Yes, that’s what I said, saddles. They go onto the backs of horses.

Ever thought about them?   Well of course not, nor had I until last week.

Like chicken breasts from the supermarket, saddles, just ‘were’.   How many of us think about the size of the chickens that offer us these juicy large breasts – when I did, I baulked at the thought that they may be the size of dogs!!!!!

So why would we think about a saddle?   No reason of course since we don’t eat them, and most people don’t go near them in day to day life.

Except I am not not on of the ‘most people’ having decided well into my 60’s that I shall learn to ride.   Which means sitting in most instances on (in?) a saddle.   Still I gave it (the saddle, not the horse) little thought – it just Was.

Some saddles rubbed me in uncomfortable places, some buckles chaffed and left reminders long after the ride was over, but mostly they just came with the territory.

Until I changed my territory and went on a fabulous trail to the High Country (blog to follow: HiddenTrails,Globetrotting.com.au) where I met a Saddle Maker.   Not just ‘a saddle maker’ but Peter Horobin and his daughter Marlee who make saddles which are sent all over the world;  these are ‘bespoke’ saddles – think Kate Middleton Duchess of Cambridge and her bespoke dresses and you get the idea.

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note the chalk diagrams of the ever patient horse’s muscles
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More explanations about
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trees and things 🙂

Peter was amazing, teaching us about the muscles and bones around the shoulder of the horse, how saddles impinge or don’t on their movement, how poor mounting (climbing into the saddle for my non riding friends the wrong way) can bend the tree.

Yup, its okay I also didn’t know what he was talking about and heard the voice of a rather dumb naive blonde (that would be me) ask what on earth he meant.   Turns out a tree isn’t what we were seeing all around us, but rather part of the saddle, a foundational part in fact.

And of course there was a next step – a visit to his shop/workshop/sanctuary/creative studio which I did today after my third only riding lesson put on the Mornington Peninsula.

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And what a wonderland of energy, passion, skill and hospitality.   The saddles – there are SO many different types, every one hand made, so many colours, so many uses, so many textures, it was like entering Aladdin’s cave, an abundance of smell, touch, leather, style and confidence.

I wished I had a horse so I could indulge myself with a saddle.

Instead I got to polish the saddle being shipped to Western Australia to Carla – a special new friend, with whom we rode in the High Country.

Envious I am of those that ordered saddles – they are getting works of art

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Polishing Carla’s Saddle
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except you cannot see our hands doing the work 🙂
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Templates for every saddle – and don’t muddle them up!!!!!
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racing saddles – weighing almost nothing
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saddles and saddle and saddles
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colours and leathers and shapes
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Early blades to cut the leather
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Horobin legacy continues
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Peter ‘at work’
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when he is not driving from saddle to saddle

And I had NO idea that a saddle could be such a special, wonderful creation – I thought only quilts fell into that category – another lesson learnt.

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Measuring
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looking good

Photographs from the wonderful riders I shared a week with, and Peter Horobin Saddlery 

Margaret River – Harmony

Nothing I have ever done prepared me for Globetrotting and Jesters Flat…….

Beautiful Perth.  My final few hours before returning to ‘the real world’

All to myself - time to reflect
as I walked along the banks of the Swan River

Enough time to marvel at what had happened over the past week at Jester’s Flat


Enough time to marvel at what happened when seven women, unknown to one another arrived in a place unknown to any of them, and challenged themselves to a completely new experience.

Some of the 'gang'
doing ‘their thing’ at different parts of the week.

And what happened was that I found, in that a week a glimpse His creation in all its glory.

Miles of beautiful fields, grass bending in the breeze
Miles of manicured vineyards; shade and light playing with the colours on display as the wild flowers showed off their extravagance

Birds of remarkable colour and sounds more varied and sweeter than any music created by man.
Grasses, flowers, trees of every shape and hue –  so many variations of blue, baby blue, dusky blue, egg shell blue, blue blue light blue; as many pinks as there are adjectives;  every variation of white imaginable and then the yellows, oranges, purples, mauves, reds and every shade of green.  Some tiny delicate plants last but a few hours and are as small as a finger nail, some stand bold and strong for hundreds of years, each a miracle of design and detail.   Only with His palette on His canvas, can these colours work so beautifully and not jar the eye.

About 800 years old, this tree is

Forest of intrigue filled with mystery and bird song

Whites whiter than white, pinks, blues, details

The sun played with us

with light and reflections....

adding to the joy of 'bush walking'

I found a sky that brooded over us, kept us jacketed but honoured us all the same by not wetting us.
A sun that teased us, warming us intermittently and unexpectedly filtering through the forest or lighting up the fields and fields of yellow daisies, until finally it exposed itself totally to reveal a sky of such blue blue our eyes were opened to a world of promise; shining new growth on the trees, shimmering in the light, red clover stark and strong alongside the vines which ran so straight and neat beside us.
Kangaroos by the score looking at us as we looked at them, scampering away, with their young sometimes peeping at us from a snug pouch and at other times hopping alongside their mothers. Was there ever a stranger creature?
Cows always curious running up to stare at us, eyes luminous and vacant at the same time.
Sheep taking no notice of us at all.
All though, taking notice of the season, and dropping young as Spring arrives with That promise of new life.

The entrance.....

that time of year.....

Rosie, the family 'pet' for whom....

dried noodles were as appetising as new foliage :)

And of course I found the horses.    The reason we were all here.

These four legged creatures;  as strong as an ox and as gentle as a baby, as wild as it’s possible to be and then again as submissive, as yielding as gentle as imaginable.

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There is nothing in the world quite like sitting astride a horse which weighs hundreds of kilos, and working with it to move, stop, walk, trot, canter, turn on a dime all with subtle body movements and a tiny metal piece in its mouth.   Having said that, they can be capricious and unpredictable, kicking and pulling for no reason and then again be kind and loving and snuggle you for no reason too (or perhaps it can smell that Apple 😜)

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And all the while seven women share their stories, their dreams, their fears.  They offer encouragement, a helping hand, a laugh, a glass of wine, a smile. They stretch themselves doing things never done before (like trying to play polocrosse 😂😂😂)

They bond through a common love of horses and all that they experienced Through that love, in that place.


And for one week His plan for creation shone; people and nature worked together in perfect harmony. Each leaving with a sense of being part of ‘what’s possible’ ; linked forever through Globetrotting.com.au and Jesters Flat – a very special time

Me and my special George
The “Mob” – if we weren’t eating……

We were probably riding 🙂

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s class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-5075″ src=”https://leepowrie.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/img_3621.jpg” alt=”” width=”3024″ height=”4032″ /> o special, no words[/ca
The local Polocrosse team – yes, we did – or at least tried to play 🙂 class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-5079″ src=”https://leepowrie.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/img_9626.jpg” alt=”” width=”4096″ height=”2731″ />  – the best fun ever[/ca
He kept us company and amused throughout the day

as we learnt SO much
about this amazing land
and how it is possible to
live united to and with it, in complete harmony
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The Essence of our week                                                                                                                      Tranquility, harmony, beauty, nature, breathing, joy, serenity                                                              Such a special time

Day 2

If anyone snored, no one heard – we all slept warmly and long.

And our second day dawned bright and sunny.   Full of optimism about the weather I forgot for just a while that we live in Victoria where the weather changes every 20 minutes.

We wandered down to the horses, wandering how our bodies would feel as we climbed ‘aboard’ after such a long day yesterday in the saddles which were definitely ‘not custom made’ as the others usually use.

But we were fine, and up and riding in quick smart time.

Which was just as well as Rhumba was ready to rhumba, forward, sideways, anyway but quickly and for the first 1o minutes I had my hands full.

Today we were riding up and up and up past farmlands, a fabulous school camp with kids having so much fun I was tempted to stop and join them on their flying fox.  Past cattle, with heads down against the wind, almost level with a Wedge Tailed Eagle which seemed suspended in the sky as it flew into the very strong wind.   And still up and up.

To the place where that famous shot was taken,

“where even Clancy took a pull,

It well might make the boldest hold their breath,……

But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,

And he swing his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,

And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,

While the others stood and watched in very fear”  (banjo patterson)

And I must say, it was a fearful place.   None of us were game to ride to the edge, but rather relied on Michael leading our horses to ‘the spot’.   I could not look down, in fact I could not breathe in case Rhumba should think I wanted her to move.   I held her head up, just in case and thankfully swung round after ‘the photoshoot’ to safer ground!!!!

 

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And still these photos cannot describe the drop – go see the movie 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

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The weather did not invite lingering and we hurried down with a steady drizzle and wind reminding us why these hills are known as ‘the Alps’.    I had a very large oilskin which made me wonder if I would ‘take off’ when cantering as it turned me into, according to the others, a phantom rider, but kept me warm and dry in this winter weather.

And so we rode home, as we had all the way in single file, Wendy and Michael at the back talking, we couldn’t hear what they were saying, but there was a companionable constant hum of their voices reaching us when the wind was still.   And the three of us absorbed in our own worlds. The kookaburras called along the way, bellbirds sang, a wedge tail eagle alongside the road ate from a carcass, kangaroos loping across the fields every which way; standing up in the strange posture to watch us and then bouncing off.  Sheep littered the lower hills looking for all the world as though hundreds of white tissues had escaped from a tissue box and landed haphazardly round the field.   The eucalyptus forests with trees reminding me for some reason of cathedrals – Huge, imposing, reaching for the sky.  The barren hills which were pine forests, now looking forlorn and empty of any life.   And the green green hills so full of energy and promise of new life.   Wattle in flower was everywhere, a bright yellow which when the sun caught it seemed to shimmer with a promise of abundance not yet here.

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And so to a lovely lunch to farewell new friends, and another adventure.

And not a moment too soon.

The drive home alone was in pouring rain, so heavy that reaching the speed limit was not possible, never mind exceeding it!!!!

My musings over the two days included gratitude that I was now in my little old car; it’s 4 wheels, a steering wheel and heater rather than my new friend, Rhumba, her 4 legs, reins and an oil skin.

Oh and did I tell you?

The Howqua River was one of just thirteen locations worldwide featured on the fly fishing documentary television series A River Somewhere.[8] 

That bit of trivia for my fishing friends – best come visit!

Day One

The most amazing porridge and coffee (Mansfield Coffee Merchants) 

 

set me up for the drive to the stables – about 30 minutes out of Mansfield.

There is, at least for me, always a few nerves involved in arriving somewhere alone on another adventure.   Will I be riding alone, and if not, who will I be riding with.

And so the ‘settling in period’ as I  jostle around the ‘edges’ to determine where in the pecking order I fit – a little, as I discovered like the horses themselves as they get chosen for the trail.

I arrived at the stables to find I was not riding alone.   Sitting comfortably and beautifully attired were a ‘couple’ – mother and daughter to be precise.   Or even more precise, Wendy and Danny.   My antennae and nerves on high alert I realised these were riders with a capital R, every fibre of their brand name gear confirmed that to me.  Almost certainly  their antennae were out as they realised this was a rider with a capital B (for beginner), as every fibre of my gear (aka Aldi & Kmart) confirmed.   I have no doubt their hearts sank at the thought of a novice holding them back.

But they were so gracious and at no point did they allow me to feel incompetent.   So grateful.

That out of the way, the next thing is to ‘navigate’ around the horses.  Which one leads, who snaps, who lingers, and let me tell you, they most certainly do have a pecking order as Danny and I discovered throughout the 2 days as our two jostled with each other.

And then there’s the saddles, apparently I was riding on a stock saddle, long stirrups, legs down, stand up when cantering, hang on the mane, lean forward so if she swings in the bush (as she did a few times) you ready to swing with her and not off her 🙂 🙂  and so it went on.   Finding bones and muscles in strange parts of my body, I settled onto the new horse, in a new saddle surrounded by Victorian Alpine countryside.

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My stock horse, Rhumba made me think on many occasions that she should be called Rumble (as in the jungle – think Mohammad Ali); nipping whenever she felt like it, putting her ears well back and warning me and Danny that any closer was a no go, deciding to trot at the most random moments, for the most random reasons and for all that, lovely to canter.    Danny had a busy time keeping her little one in line – and her years of riding experience came to the fore.

The ride was interesting with very steep climbs and even steeper declines – although I know that cannot Really be possible :).   The ground was often very muddy and the inclines such that  much of the day our eyes were down keeping a watch on our horses feet.   They slipped and slid but thankfully everyone kept their balance.   Well most of the time that is.

The countryside was breathtaking and we stopped for a photoshoot.

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We also stopped for lunch alongside the river at an old miners hut.   Which was fortunate and lovely because as we started our fire and made some hot tea, it began to rain and we were warm and snug.   By the time we were ready to ride again, the rain had moved on.

We needed to cross the river a few times and it was  surprisingly full and fast flowing.   Four of us were across when Michael’s horse (Michael being our host) lost its footing and it and he went for a swim in very cold water.    Thankfully neither was seriously hurt and we could all laugh about it once we were sure there were no major injuries.   One learns early on that there are no egos in riding – mishaps can and do happen to any and everyone if you spend long enough on or around horses.

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Truth be told, even in those tranquil riding moments when you can be lulled into a semi comatose state, your horse remains its own being with a will and strength quite independent of yourself! So I’m realising it pays always to be vigilant.

Rhumba jumped a creek and chose to land on my foot as opposed to the ground, (I wasn’t on her back at the time – just in case you wondering)   Wendy’s horse lifted her head suddenly and cracked Wendy very hard on hers (She wasn’t on her back at the time either!), ever so grateful she was wearing her helmet; Michael’s horse had a swim and so did Michael (he Was on her back at the time!)

As you can ‘see’ a lovely day one, with many hours in the saddle.   A good meal and time now for bed.

 

Contentment

It is difficult to put into words the sense of well being that is possible after a long day of physical adventure, a hot bath, a seat on the verandah – as opposed to a seat on a horse 🙂

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We are in the Howqua Valley, the river in front of me; the sound of its strong flow mingling with so many birds roosting for the night.   The sun is setting and the trees appear luminous as the last rays filter through them.   And the daffodils watch on as they clearly have done season after season.

Strange name Howqua, with equally strange possible origins, after a Chinese tea very popular during the 19th Century, after a Chinese surveyor of the area, (Ah Kin Wowqua);  a derivative of   Mount Howitt, where the river rises, and aqua; or if you prefer, after John “Howka” Hunter (1820–68), a pastoralist.  I am guessing any will do, but it is probably better known as the countryside where they filmed The Man From Snowy River.

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Which brings me back to the ride….  well almost back to the ride.   Firstly though, I must remind you that riding and taking photographs are almost mutually exclusive, and even more so when you are not riding alone and cannot just stop at will.    So most of the photographs we tried to take ended up in the ‘trash’ bin – you will need to engage your imagination if you mean to capture even a fraction of this adventure.