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     (that’s a link you can click 🙂 )and the glorious one to Margaret River  (That link again 🙂 )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  (You get the picture – links 🙂 _

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.

IMG_5594
Getting to know one another….
IMG_1731
Around our amazing hearth
IMG_5537
with its amazing hot water system
IMG_5556
which kept us all happy
IMG_5593
and mesmerised
19238442_1856944080991355_1606487513_o
While our 5 Star chefs prepared the MOST
IMG_5610
most AMAZING food
IMG_5605
With a little help from friends
IMG_1723
and a welcome board each day to remind us ‘where we were’
28342703_1856944464324650_445900562_o
Strangers were….
IMG_1773
now friends…..
IMG_1771
sharing and making….
IMG_5541
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.

IMG_5571

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!

28695790_10157167939709746_2049140167_o

28459646_10155529517159773_394268957_o

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.

28460641_10156228324947560_1913206501_o
Heights and edges
28696121_10157167946639746_2039189737_o
the likes of which
IMG_5536
I don’t want to do
28407903_10204400039996776_379107526_o-2
…too often
28685541_1871274449558318_5397022475848667342_n
Spectacular as it was
28407312_10156228325687560_1203204991_o
The real Man from Snowy River image
28503747_10156228327817560_163047238_o
Hells Pass

IMG_1817

IMG_1827
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!!!!!

IMG_5531
It was Something to conquer
IMG_5609
and both riders and horses
IMG_5580
were grateful to be back ‘home’
IMG_5516
scattered as we were in our swags under a sky alive with a million stars

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

28408114_10155529506619773_954945105_o

28500416_10155529506649773_1039663473_o

28460098_10155529506659773_440159808_o

28461671_10155529505944773_181888962_o

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.

IMG_1837

28460480_10155530819764773_1473691693_o

28461155_10155530819594773_1980998499_o

IMG_1840

28499804_10155529498164773_1593108523_o.jpg

IMG_5550

IMG_1847

IMG_1849

IMG_5549

IMG_1729

IMG_1715

IMG_1832

IMG_5599

IMG_5600

IMG_5655

IMG_1842

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!!!

28408190_10155529522534773_615909426_o

28408071_10204399935514164_1903315017_o

28342885_10155529499794773_1969954053_o

28417979_10155529502524773_270583643_o

28407843_10155529522529773_1467856830_o

28418387_10155529531854773_2034383208_o

28461167_10210321842952089_2038192151_o

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

28417880_10155529505704773_1266674860_o

28407218_1856942924324804_662583677_o

IMG_5673

28407478_10204400041916824_2022172603_o

28342753_10204400038276733_2114502779_o

 

IMG_6006

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) 

IMG_5922

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)

IMG_5968

IMG_5970

IMG_5973

IMG_5975

IMG_5971Bizarre,

Someone buys them,

Works of art in their own way

Guo Pei (Chinese Born)

 

IMG_5982

IMG_5978

FullSizeRender.jpg

Intriguing  – Ron Mueck

And one of the best parts:

Everywhere people engaged, absorbed, participating.

Special

As was our lunch

Different Perspective

I had decided a long time ago that I would never pay to hear/see any of Wagner’s works.   I apologise to the aficionados who ‘get him’; I mean no offence.   But 15 hours for one work;  too long; too loud; too many high notes; too much for me.

So it was with some chagrin and surprise that I found myself at a concert on a Friday morning (yes I have joined the ranks of the ‘seniors’), having bought a ticket to hear my beloved Beethoven, only to discover that before him, I would be listening to Wagner.

IMG_5987 You would not have guessed it from the advertisements

So,  several firsts for me today:

  • Real live Wagner performance
  • Payed for that Wagner performance
  • Seated alongside the orchestra instead of in front.

And after an amusing introduction by Sir Andrew Davis outlining the opera (which takes some doing!!!) we sort of understood that we would be hearing part of Gotterdammerung: Act 1 – Dawn Music and Siegried’s Rhine Journey – see even the names are long and ‘loud’ and

So it began.

And I was totally mesmerised

By the pattern

By the flow

By the enormity

By the complexity

By the sound of Wagner.

and all too soon it ended.

Admittedly there were no voices, only the large orchestra and I was so close I could read the music of the harpists below me – so it was visually fascinating too.

Just maybe, I will give Wagner another ‘go’ one day.

In the meantime I shall continue to delight in the familiar accessible glorious majestic tones of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto which was the finale.
And NEVER disappoints.

 

 

 

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.

27657842_10156054261739437_3194639509344534702_n

IMG_5524
note the chalk diagrams of the ever patient horse’s muscles
IMG_1779
More explanations about
IMG_1780
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.

images

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

IMG_5901
Polishing Carla’s Saddle
IMG_5900
except you cannot see our hands doing the work 🙂
IMG_5910
Templates for every saddle – and don’t muddle them up!!!!!
IMG_5904
racing saddles – weighing almost nothing
IMG_5906
saddles and saddle and saddles
IMG_5905
colours and leathers and shapes
IMG_5907
Early blades to cut the leather
IMG_5911
Horobin legacy continues
039-Saddlefitting-Pferdesportzentrum-Aldrans-Kriemhild-Morgenroth-Stefanie-Reindl-Photography_4a90aebb73341004168b0fb2c6d930e9
Peter ‘at work’
IMG_5909
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.

IMG_5913
Measuring
IMG_5914
looking good

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

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.

20180110 - WALVISBAY SANDWICH HARBOUR_059

20180110 - WALVISBAY SANDWICH HARBOUR_032

 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.

20180110 - WALVISBAY SANDWICH HARBOUR_072

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.

20180110 - WALVISBAY SANDWICH HARBOUR_082
Our ‘visitor’
20180110 - WALVISBAY SANDWICH HARBOUR_083
Leaving us, beer in hand – the photo does no justice to the height we are at
20180110 - WALVISBAY SANDWICH HARBOUR_081
Away he went to join his friends

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.

img_2921

 

img_2923

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 […]

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!!!!

 

img_2746

img_2749

img_2730

img_2733

img_2735

img_2748

img_2724

img_2740

 

 

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?

img_2290

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.

 

img_2652

img_2630

img_2652

img_2650

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 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!!!!

 

img_2603

img_2582

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

 

img_2602

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.

img_2589

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!