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.
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.
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.
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 …. (yup, you got it – a link 🙂 )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!
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.
And of course for every up, there is a down – debates constantly about which is more challenging!!!!!
Having been well cared for; fed. watered and doctored.
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.
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!!!
And thanks to all my now friends, from this amazing adventure for your wonderful photographs.
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)
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
On this occasion Jackie and I went to browse the Triennial exhibition.
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
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)
Someone buys them,
Works of art in their own way
Guo Pei (Chinese Born)
Intriguing – Ron Mueck
And one of the best parts:
Everywhere people engaged, absorbed, participating.
The oldest desert in the world, so the scientists say, more than 500 million years old in fact. The Namib (open space) is just that – so open it forces your heart to expand and your soul to lift and time to stand still. So at times as we sat and absorbed the expanse, the silence, the colour, the feel, the vastness it felt as though time too, had stopped.
Was this where time began?
Or is these where time has ended?
These rather ordinary videos will give you an idea of the scale of the place
and this is what happens when you don’t time the tide correctly !!!!!
photos courtesy of the Powrie girls and Erika de Jäger
…in the south west corner of Africa. Namibia gained independence only in 1990 South Africans have always felt a close affinity to what was previously called South West Africa with many of our young men spending time in the military in this part of the world.
For much of my youth large parts of the country were ‘out of bounds’ because of the fighting ‘up north’ as we used to say.
Happily now, we are free to explore – and that is precisely what we did recently.
Well actually we only explored a little of the country – 10 days is not enough to do it justice. Almost the size of South Africa, with a population of 2.5mill (S African has approx 60mill) it is a deliciously sparsely populated so that it is possible to ‘escape the madding crowd’ and absorb the light and air unhindered.
We began in Walvis Bay, with time spent on the water sharing our boat with friends
The light and mood in the bay is extraordinary – enjoy
The Salt Pans are also amazing – this salt pan currently supplies South Africa with 90% of it’s salt; concentrated salt from seawater with the aid of evaporation. This salt pan also forms part of Southern Africa’s single most important coastal wetland for migratory birds.
and when we thought we had seen such beauty nothing could compare, we visited Sandwich Harbour…… which deserves it’s own page.
(photos courtesy of the ‘Powrie girls’ and Erika De Jager)
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?
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……
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!!!!
And still these photos cannot describe the drop – go see the movie 🙂 🙂 🙂
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.
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.
That bit of trivia for my fishing friends – best come visit!
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 🙂
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.
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.
Even the most liveable city in the world sometimes is not enough. When the urge to smell the bush, feel the breeze, see the vistas, hear the creak of leather becomes too strong to ignore and a dear friend sends you a link to Watson trail rides
So here I am – 3 hours out of Melbourne in Mansfield – with an adventure about to begin
Well the truth is it began sometime time ago when I booked ‘on the web’ my accommodation for tonight in Mansfield – at the Mansfield Travellers Lodge – pleased as punch I was with myself until too many emails from the USA made me suspicious. On checking my booking – I was scheduled to arrive at Mansfield Travellers Lodge -Ohio 😂😩🇺🇸
Rewind – I won’t bore you with the rest of the fiasco – think dumb blonde!!!! However I did feel better when I discovered I was not the first person to make this mistake!
However all’s well that ends well they say; though in this case I should say, starts well as here I am in Mansfield Victoria Australia at the start of my riding adventure
Backpackers lodge – why wouldn’t I at $40 a night, (bring your sleeping bag) and being Monday I have the dormitory to myself!! And the kindest manager, who clearly felt I couldn’t be trusted, after my failed booking, (- not the first person he assured me ) to find the stables unaided; has given me a detailed map for tomorrow – so appreciated
A stroll round the town prior to my dinner has me wondering about this ride – I see only people in snow gear here, coming off the mountain – you hear that peculiar sound their pants make as they walk, before you even see them. And the sight of the sun on the still snow capped mountain takes my breathe away – no photo could do it justice.
So as I sit in the local pub with my local wine (Snobs Creek Pinot Noir😂) and lasagne I reassure myself : regardless of snow, rain or shine it’s all about the horse.
But will I be warm enough, will my body hold up, will I dismount or be dismounted?