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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Melbourne’s Magic

This is an amazing city, that on an ordinary Friday I can stroll down Southbank for a quiet coffee and ‘me’ time, then attend a morning concert (Different Perspective) 

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and immediately thereafter go to the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria), recognised as a world class gallery filled with stunning works.   To say nothing about the wonderful water wall which is an attraction in itself Unknown

On this occasion Jackie and I went to browse the Triennial exhibition.IMG_5931

Which was an adventure into a fantasy land that had us lost and amused and bemused for several hours

until the lure of a late lunch (very late) was too strong to resist.

So we ambled down to the river and sat and munched and marvelled at our

magical Melbourne.

Crazy, Bizarre, Appealing, Enchanting:

Yayoi Kusama – not sure why, but we had fun

Dutch are collective, We Make Carpets

was AMAZING, pool noodles, washing sponges, felt strips

Random, crazy, quirky,

Hahan (I think) Javanese

We loved this giant carpet,

with mirrored ceiling

and people enjoying ‘the countryside’

Alexandra Kehayoglou (Argentina based)

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IMG_5971Bizarre,

Someone buys them,

Works of art in their own way

Guo Pei (Chinese Born)

 

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Intriguing  – Ron Mueck

And one of the best parts:

Everywhere people engaged, absorbed, participating.

Special

As was our lunch

Friends in Strange Places

And there we were,

lost in the wonder of the amazing vistas,

the silence

and above all

the solitude.

Apart from a jackal, a springbok and a beetle

we had seen nothing and no one all day.

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 I happened to look ‘up’ the coast and where the dunes meet the sea

something didn’t ‘feel’ right.

Watching  carefully the something not quite right morphed into –

hang gliders.

Yup, in the middle of nowhere,

3 hang gliders weaving alongside the dunes, over the waves, towards us.

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We waved, They waved,

We marvelled and it turns out they did too (they had seen no one all day)

And being good hosts, we held out a beer,

more as a joke than anything else as they appeared

very committed to riding the thermals.

Young, agile and fit men (French or Belgium) that they were,

they were not about to turn down such an offer.

So without missing a beat they flew towards us, or at least one did,

landed or rather hovered just long enough to say ‘hi,

they have been flying for 5 hours and seen no one,

and thank  you for the beer’.

Then off again-

back on their adventure as we turned our back

and proceeded on ours.

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Our ‘visitor’
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Leaving us, beer in hand – the photo does no justice to the height we are at
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Away he went to join his friends

Day 5 : Leaving something on the table 


All good things…..
Following the old adage my mother taught me; always leave the table wanting more.

I did a short ride today, almost too short. But then again not.

Just perfect

It is a grey day today

The clouds blanket the sky so the mountains look somber, the grass ‘quiet’, sounds muted, birds more still, butterflies absent.

Our ride is appropriate.

Inland, along farm roads, between fields where sheep have their heads down, barely visible above the grass, where cattle lie or graze dulled by the absence of sun on their flanks.


We have new horses. Me on Willow (why are mine so large and my legs so short 😩), Julia on Princess and Randal on Whiplash. Different saddle too.


A time to test my body, just how well has it stood up, can I trot, canter? We shall see.

We warm up walking easily, Willow with a little more pace than Luke that makes for a more comfortable walk.   Past springbok, dark and light, young ones too, mixing with hundreds of Guinea fowl.

We trot and all is well. We canter and I debate whether the desire to canter outweighs the pain in the back ( strange that, not the but 😂).

I hear my mother; leave something on the table. Quit while you ahead!

So we trot and walk for a few hours leaving cantering as a memory and a hope for future times.

We pass through groves of gum trees (go figure 😜) which on this gray day make sounds that mimic the sea when it’s grumpy as the wind moves through them.


Through a forest path so dark no photos came out and where we startle a duiker (makes a change from them startling us👏)

I watch a Bataleur roll above us, powerful in his world.   Keeping pace with our trotting, rolling , dipping, disappearing.

A car stops to let us pass and I see a little girl, dummy in her mouth, on her fathers lap, to get a better view of us through the open window – eyes like saucers. Fascinated? Scared? Who knows, perhaps  a seed is sown to follow in our footsteps one day

A special way to end 5 days of riding through some of the most exquisite scenery surely God ever created.


But wait, there’s more, lunch at Stanford Hills

You mean I need to use a knife and fork?
Surely you’re joking?
Who’s he? (Howard – African Horse Co)
And so ‘the end’ 🐴🐎🚗😄

Day 4: An easy walk 😜??

Today we went for a ride of a different sort.


A white contraption; I would like to say it was a car, except that it lacked most of what we today consider normal in a car, namely windows that open and close when we chose; similarly with the four doors, a boot that has a handle to open it with and side mirrors that one can see in.

But I complain not : it had four wheels instead of legs, a steering wheel instead of a bridle and an engine that was filled by a kindly petrol attendant and not by us carrying bales of hay!!!!

(And I later learned 400 000 km on the clock – hey who’s complaining 😂🚑🚗)
Oh did I mention that unlike Luke who could be persuaded to reverse (admittedly it took some real persuasion) on the odd occasion, our white contraption could under no circumstances be persuaded to reverse😳
Leaving Luke, Patches and Sparky in the care of others we, or at least I dragged my weary body into that contraption 😂


We drove to Danger Point just in time to see the fog rolling in. We chatted to the lighthouse manager, and read the story again of the Birkenhead which I vaguely remembered from schøol.

A British military ship, one of first iron hulled ships, arriving in eastern cape for 1852 Xhosa wars ran aground here. It was a perfectly calm night when it struck an uncharted rock miles off shore.   In 20 minutes the ship sank. All women and children were saved, all soldiers and sailors were lost.  It is unknown how many horses died, 5 made it to shore.

193 survivors, 432 soldiers and sailors drowned.

There are 46 lighthouses round the South African coast, every one with a different signal. Danger Point’s signal is three flashes, 40 second pauses, three flashes. This continues from sunset to sundown every day. Still today in the age of technology !

Our lighthouse man also told us that last year they saw 60 pairs of whales compared to the year before when they saw 200. “Ek weet nie, dis hierie (sic) climate storie”

(I don’t know it’s this climate story)

Our contraption then took us to Gansbaai where we parked at the beginning of what was listed as an easy beach walk to De Kelder.

Parked is perhaps an over optimistic description of what we did, keeping in mind we had to be able to drive off again without using reverse.

We left her boldly pointing forwards, windows open, all our riding gear and ‘stuff’ inside challenging the world to come to her and help themselves 😂😂😂

What to do- we could not put our lives on hold because our car was unlockable. So we left, trusting that our riding gear which now almost had a life of its own, so full of sweat, salt and dirt as it was would lose appeal to any passer by and they would miss the rest of the luggage hidden under a blanket😊

Or better still not even give her a second glance as she looked as though nothing of value to anyone could exist in such a rusted contraption!!!
Benchmarks, life is all about knowing the benchmarks (see my blog – the Ik 😂) so when we read

I quote :

Start: Gansbaai harbour

Finish: Klipgat caves, De Kelders

Duration: 7 km, around 4 hours

Fitness: easy, children can do this trail

Unquote

I was confident.   In my head an easy seven km beach walk suits a plump person in sandals. Well I am old and perhaps not slim but not as plump as I was thinking of when I mentioned a plump person and I certainly was not wearing sandals.

Rather I was wearing very sensible walking shoes.


We did not find this an easy walk 😳. It was a walk, following green painted signs, rocks, bricks, up and down a narrow path until we finally arrived at our target destination, de Kelders.

We sat on the deck watching the fog come in and blanket the coastline.


Wisdom prevailed and we walked back to Gansbaai along the main road.

I know, I know, not very romantic. But I have had enough adventures for one week and as good a story (perhaps even a romantic one) disappearing into the sea cause we missed the green markers in the fog, may have been, we decided to disappoint 😜


A very late lunch in Gansbaai made up for the trudge back.


And of course our white steed was still waiting, as intact as she had been when we left her. Ready to take us back to our Klein Paradijs (little paradise) for the night

A drive past Pearly Beach in the cloudy evening was rewarded by watching a family fishing together – a past time as old as time itself


And a visit to the shop local shop where I could have bought anything my heart desired, from food, clothes, furniture, books, and if I had wondered into the back rooms, perhaps even a husband 😂😂😂

I settled for an Easter egg for Julia


Ps trivia question :

1. Why Gansbaai ( as opposed to some other baai)?

2. Why is baleen whale called southern right whale?
PPS trivia answer;

1. Resident Egyptian geese found there when settlers first arrived – cannot find out what happened to them 😢

2. Was called the right whale by early whalers because it was slow enough for them to catch with their boats: couldn’t dive deeply: light enough to float once killed and had high yields of oil and baleen.

Day 3: A walk with friends 

I went for a walk today, to use different muscles after so many hours in the saddle.
Joining me was my delightful young German companion, a volunteer at the stables, the two resident dogs and a ginger cat!!!😻
We set off on a trail marked ‘Fynbos’ with no idea where it lead nor how long it would be. It took us almost two hours and our remarkable cat walked with us the entire way!!!
The dog’s of course ran back and forth and in and out and up and down exhausting us just watching and we took our weary bodies up through beautiful leucadendron forests – taller by far than we.
We passed a dam used usually for swimming and kayaking which sadly was empty, another one which delighted the dogs; beehives, protea fields, and grasses with strange scents.
Everywhere again we saw butterflies – such a good omen in these times.
Different continent, different ‘friends’ the same unity of spirit as we take a walk


 

Trail riding 

Trail riding is quite a solitary experience .

Of course I am not riding alone; there is Breyten ( keep wanting to call him Breytenbach) riding Patches ( very original name😜) and Ella on Sparkey.

Essentially though I ride alone as we travel in single file.

Conversation does ebb and flow, but there is much more ebb than flow.
Which leaves me solitary, to gaze, to marvel, to think, and to not think.
To feel this 600kg animal responding to a slight squeeze of my knees.

To go up a mountain side, lifting my weight off his hindquarters and to feel the strength of his forequarters pulling us up.
To gaze again, and see horizons blue and distant, mountains blue and shadowed, sea to infinity.
To find that rhythm with him when he trots so it becomes easy and as if we are one.
It’s an amazing thing. This horse-man thing.
I have to trust him going down an equally steep mountain side. (Had I forgotten the rule – what goes up must come down 😩). In fact there was a notice – caution steep descent (do horses read? – anything I guess is possible 🐴📃these days). In reality it was probably for the Klipspringer mountain bike trail.
But again I digress – back to that trust. This downhill was quite something and Luke I think trusted me to keep my weight off his shoulders as he gingerly worked his way step by step down a mountain slope.

I trusted him not to slip and send us flying (I would happily have dismounted and walked in parts) but there you have it – I didn’t and he didn’t
And we were soon trotting again comfortably on more level ground.
All the while Patches and Breyten were ahead and I presume Ella and Sparkey behind ; each of us alone on our worlds and not alone.
It’s an amazing thing. This horse-man thing.

Ride : day one

I wish I could share this day with you, I wish I could show you all the amazing things I have seen. I wish I could capture the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feel of the breeze in our faces as we canter along.
I wish I could take photographs of all I experienced; the tiny tortoise on the road; the kahia (homestead) with an afdakkie (no Aussie equivalent 😂) with every metal contraption on its roof – including a kitchen sink!!!

I wish I could share this day with you, I wish I could show you all the amazing things I have seen.

I wish I could capture the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feel of the breeze in our faces as we cantered along.

I wish I could take photographs of all I experienced; the tiny tortoise on the road; the kahia (homestead) with an afdakkie (no Aussie equivalent 😂) with every kind of metal scrap you can think of on its roof – including an old kitchen sink ! The hen with her chicks scuttling out of our way as we rode past.

The added height of being on horseback gives angles, views, approaches not seen on foot or bike and of course access where cars can only dream of going 😜
And the views: whichever way I looked, mountains, sea, sky, clouds – beauty beyond expectation.


We rode for about four hours today. Through fields of proteas, grasses, Erika’s of all different reds, tiny blue flowers, bold yellow ones, white, pink and every shade of green the eye could conceive of.

The birds, or rather their calls as they flirted from one plant to another with every so often the streak of copper, red, green as a sunbird  shone against the light.

Baboons that must have travelled parallel to us as we heard them calling all the while although we never saw them. 
Luke, my large brown gelding is the kindest animal, not perhaps what I imagine they refer to as a forward moving horse, as I spent much time hoping his walk would get sprightly 😜. But he trotted and cantered easily so that, just like dancing when your partner leads well, I managed easily on his back when his energy was up.


I just wish I could share today with you in more ways than  just this blog.
While women are known for being able to multi task (my girls always say I do too many things at once 😜)- even I failed to multi task today ; riding and taking photographs , not my thing 😢I pulled my horse up many times to take shots, but finally gave up. My iPhone doesn’t respond to gloved fingers so every shot involved degloving – why not just leave off the gloves I hear you ask- I’m old 😩 my hands are fragile and added to that the sun is still warm ☀️

We had a lovely late lunch – home made bread (from Stanford) cheese, avo and fruit. I’m in a self catering chalet make that a Woolies catered ( how did we ever manage before Woolworths?) with Julia (my young German chaperone,cook, companion.)


I’ve had an hours walk exploring and bird watching, a hot shower (no bath 😩) and am now seated on my verandah, hot cup of tea, chocolate, feet up looking at a stunning view (as a beekeeper moves his hides right in front of me 😊)

Luke is out to graze, the sun is setting, the lasagne almost ready, wine cold, bed calling.

Can life get any better?

I am so so grateful .

Bathroom
Reminder of an optional way to live
Our kitchen- past visitors memories 😂

You what? 😂

You what?,

I’m going  on a horse trail.

Why?

Good question, and one I ask myself not infrequently.     And my answer always seems to be vaguely unsatisfactory.

Certainly, not because they are there, as with Everest.

Rather, I  want to. No idea why 😂.

OExcept perhaps because Kate Pilcher has inspired me (www.globetrotting.com.au) 😃

“Do you have any idea of how sore you are going to be?”

Yes.

“For 5 days?”

Yes.

“Who are you going with?”

No one.

And so the conversations peter out, always with the same look of incredulity and pity!!!!

Which begs the question, why am I in Cape Town, getting ready to go on a horse trail tomorrow and what am I in for.

To both, I have no idea except perhaps there is something about ‘the stars conspiring’ (https://leepowrie.com/2017/01/10/horses-stars-and-me/#)

and life is too short not to take up opportunities.

And so, the opportunity to visit Dee’s Saddlery was too good to miss.

Lovely Dee

An enchanting store filled with stirrups, saddles, caps, jackets, jodphurs, boots – an alladins cave for riders.

People popped on, to buy, to chat

think I should get my horse a toy,

why?

Not sure😃, maybe she would like one,   Perhaps she is bored

I gave my horse a ball and she looked at me and never touched it.    Have a glass of wine, forget the toy 🍷⚽️⚽️

We had such fun, jodhpurs, chaps (so very kindly lent), advice, warnings, and encouragement: topped of with wine to celebrate – madness, adventure, joy, horses, life.🍾🐴

Clearly our attitude was good 😜
Practising 😂😂😂



Am I organised, do I have the correct gear – make sure you wear the pants you always ride in, the instructions say, don’t try to ride in new clothes.   Ha ha – I don’t normally ride, so that is one I have already messed up on!!!!!   But committed now.  With brand new pants I have never worn before 😩


Flying in to Cape Town is always special, such a blessed city.  Is it a good omen that the tv cameras at the airport have a series on horses I wonder?


Being met by family is also special and a dinner to celebrate, family, babies soon to be born, and the same questions – why, why, and why.

Although, there was some support this time, – thank you cousins 😜and a quick Google of where I am riding to raised the anticipation considerably.

She likes crazy
They think I’m mad 😂
He gets it 😜

If my body holds up, if the horse holds me up, if my spirit holds, this will be a special special time.

Time will tell……

 

Al Ain

No not L. A. Al Ain.
Okay, I too, had to find an atlas and look it up. So for those without such a useful book (which as I remember was out of date almost as soon as it was published 😂)

Al Ain is the second city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi being the first, the largest and the capital of both the emirate and the country.

For those interested, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of 7 Emirates, amongst them Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Umm etc. Okay so you knew that, I won’t list them all then 😂.

Did you know the UAE is a member of the GCC (Arab Gulf

Co-operation centre) which includes Bahrain, Saudi, Kuwait etc. The etc again cause you know this and don’t want to be bored 😜.

Population of Abu Dhabi is (1.6million only), the largest of the emirates (by far, 87 340sq km) with 9% of worlds proven oil reserves and 4% of the worlds proven natural gas reserves. It is seriously wealthy (see my blogs, Abu Dhabi )

Oil was discovered in 1958 and the transformation of this area has been phenomenal (from rags to riches – a good read)

So if that isn’t a good enough reason to visit this part of the world, how about Etihad stops here on its way to Everywhere?

Better still, my dearest friends live here and I have not seen them for 16 years?

Well that’s why Al Ain ❤️

That’s where
Abu Dhabi houses and main road 1961
Tracks approaching Abu Dhabi 1954
The other reason
Friends