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.

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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 …. (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!

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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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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 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


 

Flying 😩

Flying today is not as i have said previously for the faint hearted but demands a strong constitution and sense of humour

My travel companion this time is an elderly gentleman, not spilling over into my seat physically as has been the case in the past, but nonetheless he spills over.

The first large loud and distinctly pungent burb exploded (there is no other word to describe it) with such force several heads turned our way.

I maintained a stoic dignity looking ahead, a little unsure of the appropriate response. He is elderly, there are cultures where that is a sign of courtesy and acknowledgment of a good meal – we had been given a tiny packet of saw dust tasting nibbles – perhaps that was it?

His voice is loud and demanding and the slight Serbian air hostess is politely taking offence at his tone. She and I make eye contact and understand one another. Another Loud sound emerges with a huge sense of satisfaction and I inhale tomato juice I didn’t order 😂😂😂 and continue to look ahead – “I heard nothing”

A sneeze follows, we all jump and the sounds that follow shall not be described 😳
Special meals are now the norm and it is a circus as everyone around me seems to have swapped their seats and my Serbian air hostess is wandering around with huge baskets of specials trying to find the owner of a seat number; vegetarian Hindi, vegetarian; ( there can be a difference?) Gluten free, you ordered low calorie? Oh, nut free? Lactose free? No I don’t have an order for sugar free; boneless fish?

And finally the normal meal trolley arrives – by which time most people have had their specials so I feel special as she aims directly for me – almost the only one left to feed 😂😂😂

One thing I know, whichever meal anyone gets, they will all fit the bill of taste free.
And my travelling companion now slurps with great delight, (oh that I could share the sound with you 😜😂)another tomato juice – no ice, salt yes, no pepper! No good

Perhaps the burbs are not after all a sign of contentment

We are both after all on a long distance flight!
I too may start to burb if any more tomato juice, with or without salt and pepper is served 😳
Flying requires a sense of humour, strong constitution, short legs (score there 😜) and a very good book (score there too)
And we are still not there yet 

Trains and tears….

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Melbourne, weep.

A city as sophisticated and elegant as Melbourne Still does not have transport from its airports into the city.

Here I am, on a Friday evening in third world Africa, saying good-bye to my ‘baby’  Jessica, at the main Oliver Tambo Airport.    Painless the travel was, 30 minutes from home to airport, and when I was ready to go back, 35 minutes from airport to my front door

There is a distance of 33km, as the crow flies, from Sandton, where we ‘live’ to the airport. This can take more than an hour on the freeway, and longer if there is a traffic hiccup, which of course sounds quite familiar to my Melbourne ‘family’.

Except there is

The train;

the Gautrain.

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Conceived in 2000 and completed in 2010 (imagine Melbourne thinking that far ahead!!).   I visited during the construction and there was disruption, no denying that.   In some of the busiest parts of the city  where large, sophisticated stations were built.

Big disruptions.

And we quietly muttered and grumbled and navigated our way around construction sites where there should have been roads.

And it cost heaps, estimated at SAR 3.5bill it ended up costing in excess of SAR25bill.

And it created jobs – heaps of them; more than 120 000 jobs and 15 000 courses for unskilled and management were made available.

It has 80km of dual railway line, 30km of tunnels and includes ten new stations.  11km of new bridges.

Other interesting trivia is that it involved about seven and a half million cubic meters of spoil [ph] and the tender papers took 7 hours to deliver and took up 18.5cu metres!!!!

A really a massive project –

As I said, Melbourne,

a big commitment.

But oh, does it work.   For a fair cost, one can park in the parking provided (and there is enough) get on a spotless, quiet train that leaves every 12 minutes and takes less than 20 minutes to deliver you right to the airport.

Why, oh why can a cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria plan and work together to create a state of the art commuter system to their major airport and Melbourne has a gridlock drive, hugely expensive parking and slow unreliable buses into the city and then perhaps if you lucky into the suburbs.

Melbourne weep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A different Soul

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Thai restaurant on the lake
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My fish straight from the late with traditional roasted banana (not my best – dry to my taste)
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Lake Victoria
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One of many kindergartens
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Home
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Need a door? or bed or sofa or anything – you can find it along the road
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Brick kiln
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Bricks, and bricks and bricks
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The toilet – but somehow it didn’t offend. They all survive – why shouldn’t I?

Now I’ve had experiences in Africa over the years that led me to believe I knew it
But Uganda is Africa with a completely different soul
So so difficult for my Australian ‘family’ to comprehend

Apparent chaos ; the senses assaulted by sights, smells and sounds that do not fit our idea of a ‘good life’.

The roads – filled with ‘burra burras’ motorcycles – word originates from them transporting from border to border

What do they transport?
Easier to say what don’t they transport?
Nothing
I saw a granny wedged between a man and woman with a toddler balancing in the headlight in front
I saw a bed balanced on one – the entire road blocked
Bananas piled so high you couldn’t see the driver
I could go on and on

The markets – riotous colour and noise – chickens in cages, goats tied to roadside; children in the dirt looking for flying ants alongside the road – not a metre from our vehicle

(OH&S would have a heart attack)

Brick kilns everywhere making bricks which become homes with no rules or inspections 😜

I don’t have the temperament to take people photographs – I feel I need to respect their labour and sense of dignity and not turn them into photos of curiosity

– sorry
You will Just Have To Visit
The Pearl of Africa

A few photos I have taken though

It begins

 

20/09/2016

It begins – (and after being sent to automatic passport check – waiting in line, watching the circle go round and round and round and ….. Get sent to normal queue – at the back and the whole process done again – manually 😂😂😂)
Let’s hope this isn’t an indication of what’s to come 😜😜.

And that was the easy bit 😂😂😂
You understand I am very organised – I even have one of those body hug things you keep your passport in – but not to be used yet ( why not I now ask myself)
Cause suddenly I cannot find my passport!!!! Visions of a trip home tonight instead of two months time !!!!
Sweaty stressed and out of breath I end up at the gate to find it waiting there for me – it just didn’t dawdle along with me; it went straight to the gate – no one knows how but it and I have been happily reunited 😂😂😀😂👍🏻👍🏻 and I shall shortly be putting it in that body hug thing 👍🏻👍🏻 – the end
– I am safely in my seat on the correct flight with my passport safely tucked away 💤