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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Or restingimg_3510

Or Riding

 

so special, no words
The local Polocrosse team – yes, we did – or at least tried to play 🙂 – the best fun ever
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

 

Melbourne – You Beauty

I have recently become a ‘footie tragic’.   It all began with watching my friends (quite a few of them it as it happens) who over the years have donned their yellow and black and madly cheered and cursed their beloved Richmond Tigers.   I did not ‘get it’ thinking them slightly odd ;  and then this year I did (get it)

And for the moment, I too am caught up in the excitement that is Melbourne in Grand Final Week.   Even to wearing a scarf.  You bet it is yellow and black.   And I mean Wearing it, all day, every day, to Park Run (I was not alone) to the shops, (I was not alone), to the grand parade, walking Coco; watching TV.   And everywhere complete strangers become friends as the yellow and black unites us.

Founded in 1885  Richmond  is a very ‘old’ club with its own railway station (well almost) The club has not won a premiership since 1980 – which in football terms is a very long time.   Every time I read up on Richmond there is a different reason put forward for the remarkable passion the Richmond followers have for their team;  from the age of the club to the club song (which is very catchy); to the colours to this to that 😂 so it would appear, no one is quite sure why.   But there it is, Richmond fans are loyal and fanatical.512px-Richmond_Tigers_logo.svgimg_2924

Whatever the reason, when the state declares a public holiday and Richmond is now in the finals, one just HAs to go to the grand parade in the city.  Apparently 150 000 other supporters also HAD to go.

We travelled in by train – together with families of all shapes and sizes, single tragic supporters, couples, – the train was packed; standing room only.    And so the fun began.

Melbourne put on its best face, the sun shone, but not too strongly, the wind blew, but not too briskly, the crowd moved, but not too quickly and we just smiled and allowed the throng to take us with it.     A stop for a coffee gave us time to watch the world go by and then on to the parade.

We could see nothing of The March – we just weren’t tall enough with the crowd so deep.  It didn’t matter.

The people, families, couples, singles, everyone willing their team to win, everyone soaking up the weather, the city, the energy, the glorious atmosphere that is Melbourne.

Our stomachs were calling us to fuel them, and we looked for a table – there were hundreds, all taken.  Resourceful Jackie found us a corner and amongst scores of yellow and black clad diners, we shared a lovey paella, talked about everything football and non football; and wandered home, weary but so grateful to be in Melbourne at Grand Final time.

 

All that remains is to survive the actual match, families meeting in so many different places and ways.   Some 120 000 lucky enough to be at the MCG, some at home, in hotels, in pubs, the city is Pumping with energy as we wait for our team to….. well that’s the question – win or lose?   Time will tell.

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Melbourne sparkles : even as we go back to 1630 : Shakespeare’s pop up globe 

While on a visit to London earlier in the year I found The Globe theatre closed.

Surprise surprise – it turned up in Melbourne.

Using meticulous research including sketches like this (Czech artist Hollar -1630) one of London, together with archeological reports on the dig of the first Globe these innovative (and brave) New Zealanders created this replica.

Their dream was to see Shakespeare’s work performed in its original space, to build the worlds first full scale temporary working replica of his theatre; fill it with a festival of his masterworks and share it with as many people as possible.

The theatre visible in this sketch of London 1630

And so it was that Claire and I went to see what the fuss was all about.  Aside from the fact that a walk through Melbourne’s stunning gardens to reach the theatre is a treat in itself, the Pop Up Globe is enchanting; the actors quite amazing, the energy exhausting and the desire to see another production strong.

Melbourne still sparkles ❤️❤️

ps. No fruit was thrown, but rain fell – all adding to the atmosphere – almost like being in England!!!!

 

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Park Run?

I had heard about park runs for quite a while. Friends of mine all loved it and ‘did’ it and talked about it. But these friends were sociable beings, always doing things in groups, super fit, good runners, supremely confident. Me? Don’t be crazy, I’m old, unslim (such a word? – there is now)and not all that good in ‘group activities’ so I stayed away.
Until I didn’t… reluctantly and nervously I succumbed and joined J at Jells Park at 8am.

I had no idea what to expect, what to bring, what to do, take my car keys, bring water, leave my jacket where?

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This is a volunteer run community group showing people working together at its best.  The welcome so genuine, the smiles so easy, leave your jacket here, its perfectly safe.   A short chat to congratulate milestones (50 runs etc), brief chat for the newcomers and then we were all off.

A bell is rung and the front runners who had already run who knows how far before joining our run.   This was a very serious time trial for them as they took off like the proverbial bats.   They are remarkable as without fail I notice each week, they arrive at the finish line as I begin my second lap.   There are mums with new borns in prams; family groups; a grandpa and his young granddaughter – who hold hands the entire route.   I am not sure who is supporting whom, but this will be one of those remarkable memories for her that will bind them forever.   There are young children and old ladies – me amongst them, and old men.   Everyone out and doing the best they can, and no one cares whether it is fast, slow, sprinting, jogging or walking.   It is the spirit of being out.

And Jells never disappoints – whatever the weather, it is a special place.

After the first run – followed by yummy coffee with new friends, I was hooked.   And so is my special four legged friend who has run it with me every week since then.

I thank my fit, supremely confident, group movers for  persuading me to join you.   I thank the park runners and volunteers ( everyone puts their hand up to volunteer at some time or other)

And I shall now look for Parkruns wherever I travel.    They have appeared all over the world, Swellendam in the Cape, the Drakensburg,  Ireland, UK. and the rest  As if I needed an excuse to wander the planet……

Spring is here – for today at least…..

And Melbourne sparkles.

Neighbours appear with the sun,

Children ride their bikes,

Lawnmowers come out of the shed,

Bicycles appear – not just the lycra clad; no weather a problem riders, but the mom and pop kind of cyclists, with kids in tow.

All a little wobbly as they navigate the muddy bits and find their summer muscles.

 

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Perhaps, precisely because weather is such a topic of conversation and variation,

Days like today are so so special.

Anyone who has lived here for more than a month knows that there is no telling…..

So the sun is out,

It is a Sunday – skip the ironing, the chores, the cooking –

Go out and smell the roses,

Explore the park,

Smile at the stranger –

It is good to be alive…..

 

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.

It’s all about ….

It’s all about the right horse, I was told by those who know best. And those who know best are, of course, those who ride all the time.
So why would I doubt them?
After all, they are regular riders who know horses well and are, I was told, the people one should ask for advice when embarking on a riding adventure.
Except, precisely Because they are riding fit and do so all the time, perhaps they are Not the people to ask?
What do I know? I set off to the gym confidently believing if I did the exercises (squats, sit ups etc) as prescribed, for a few months, I would be fine, as it all depended on having the right horse 😳
So there I was, with dire warnings from many friends about the madness of this adventure; the pain I was going to feel in unmentionable parts of my body, the risk I was taking, still ringing in my ears. My stomach slightly knotted as my brain tried to convince my body that those that Know, say I’ll be fine, it’s all about the right horse.
So I waited for Howard from African Horse Co to arrive at our meeting place, Farm 215. at the designated time of 10am having overlooked of course that the riding world runs to its own clock – dictated by where the horses wandered off to graze; how the old car felt that morning (riding in my limited – very limited experience seems synonymous with old cars – the cost of the one mode of transport dictating the cost of the other 😜), which saddle was where etc.
And then suddenly, after hanging around for an hour or so, there I was being handed ‘my horse’ – Luke
Far from sitting down and gently talking me through the week’s plan with words of encouragement ( the picture I had created in my head 😂) with a question/answer type session. Breyten advised; “Howard said hi”, and “up you get!” Which of course I couldn’t do without a step ladder 😂😂
Luke was a large animal – the largest of the three horses – and I was the smallest, or perhaps shortest is more accurate, rider. Somehow that didn’t seem quite fair 😩.
Since there was no ladder, I needed a leg up; and that was the case every time I wanted to mount him, for the entire week! Alas? I never did get to master the art of lifting one leg as high as my shoulder, putting it into the stirrup while balancing on the other and then swinging myself into the saddle, all on one elegant motion 😂
Nonetheless before I knew it I was on the back of a large horse and off down the road to, well I wasn’t quite sure where.
Reminding myself I needn’t worry – it’s all about the right horse.
And of course it is. All about the right horse.
And the legs, and the thighs, and the back and even the feet (6 hours in stirrups and you find parts of your foot you didn’t know existed 😳)
But it is about the horse. And Luke was the kindest, most gentle soul and within half an hour I knew he would not surprise me, well not much anyway. After all he did bolt when the bus greeted him, and we shot into the bushes when the bushbuck shot out of the bushes, but as bolts go, they were gentle ones, even for me, a beginner.
His back was broad and comfortable. His walk was steady if a bit slow. I asked him to trot and he did, not reluctantly nor in mad haste. It felt like he was indulging me: you want to trot, okay we can trot. Oh, you prefer a canter, no problem, I don’t mind cantering.

When we were galloping and I could hear Sparky galloping up behind me, I prepared for Luke to increase his pace. He didn’t, he stayed reliably steady. A ‘man’ beating to his own drum.
He never embarrassed me by moving when I was trying to mount or dismount him, something I was most grateful for 😃 He waited kindly, nuzzled me when I stood close, shared my sandwiches and even, dare I say it looked pleased to see me each morning.
And at the end of 5 glorious days of riding I agreed that it’s all about the right horse.
Perhaps Howard was right when he said. “If you had to chose a husband, you would want one like Luke.   Reliable, stable, predictable, trustworthy, safe”
Did hear a small voice somewhere whisper “and boring”.

I could not be sure.

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There’s more to The Bush


There’s more to The Bush than the bush.

There’s more to The Bush than the big five, or even the little five, or the birds, or the snakes.

The Bush is about the smell, the sound,the Feel.

In this instance, the wind, the rain.

First fierce and dominating so that speech is pointless as words are carried away with the hustle of the storm. Water cascading down, flooding every corner of the land and disappearing quickly into ground parched and thirsty to drink.

And then, spent, the heavens seem to rest and the rain falls gently, so gently my clothes don’t get wet yet I can see the drops still falling on the water hole.

On this day, most holy day of Good Friday it seems appropriate that the sky is black and angry and the storm rages down on us.

And it seems also appropriate that as I turn to look to my right, I see the light through the clouds, not yet shining, but with the look of a promise of what is to come; sun and renewed growth.

And the rainbow to remind me, on this holy day, most holy day of Good Friday;  not of our covenant with Him, but His with us.

“When I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being.” (Gen 9)

There is more to The Bush than the bush