If you have stumbled upon this site, you may be wondering what it is for….. You will probably call us crazy but on the 27th of April, 2014 we depart Cooktown, Qld to make the journey down the Bicentenial National Trail to Healsville, Victoria. With 4 horses for company, the 2 of us will spend approximately 12 months completing our journey. The BNT is a trail that was mapped out with funding from RM Williams in the 1970s and was then opened officially in 1988. Since then has been used by horse riders, bike riders, hikers and runners alike, although few have actually completed the full distance. Over its 5330km, it crosses coach roads, stock routes, brumby tracks, rivers and fire trails and is inaccessible to vehicles at many points along the way. It is the longest marked, self-reliant trail in the world.
- Life goes on March 30, 2016
Life after the trail goes on….
Both of us are very much enjoying post trail life and the challenges it throws up. We have both found jobs and are settling into our reality, although be assured we have a long list of future adventures to be organised!
One of the biggest challenges has been parting with our boys… so far only 1 has found a new home and a couple of others are still looking. I shed many a tear about parting ways with these amazing animals who supported us and provided companionship along the way, and i often thought how am i going to be ok with sending them off to other owners!
This morning i received an email from Bundi’s new owner who is in grade 9 at school. From the first moment we saw them together we knew this was the home he was meant to go to, and they would both grow happily, learning from each other. The email contained a poem that she had written for a school assignment, and the subject was her new pony. I have attached the poem below and happily give Sarah full artistic license!
Knowing bundi is in a home where he is happy, cared for and loved so much makes the whole process easier. I will always be connected to him, and have to give him credit for the amazing horse he has become through his life on the trail. But his lifes purpose now is to teach sarah and grow with her ☺ all the best to both of them, and i love hearing all the brilliant things you are both doing… like learning to jump!
Here is the poem…. i hope the quality is ok!
- Book 12 – Omeo to Healsville and the end! December 22, 2015
We had a week off in Omeo at the lovely caravan park. We re-shod ponies, went to the Omeo show which happened to be on, were looked after by Sandi and Lou and the rest of the campers at the caravan park! A special thank you to the lions club from Trafalgar who looked after us so well, and even invited us over for a coffee on our way through to Melbourne to do some jobs! They were brilliant and we really enjoyed chatting and learning from them. We had Mal and Shirley and some family arrive and it was nice to have some backup and company for a while!We got everything sorted and packed, backup vehicle supplied with REAL food and took off into book 12. Thanks to John for all the advice about the area – it was invaluable!Short day to Upper Livingstone creek, nice and flat and a stunning campsite with mountains of grass… it doesn’t get much better! Then a small climb up to Dogs grave which was a lovely camp with a hut but didn’t have a lot of grass…. its amazing how good having hay in the vehicle feels 🙂The next day was a little more challenging as we dropped down into the upper Dargo river – the motor home got to the bottom of the hill in a cloud of smoke from the brakes but survived – lucky it didn’t have to come down the stock route as it dropped off the side of the hill – it would have been a quick trip down! The trail then wound along the river – a lovely ride, but beware of the 4WDs and motorbikes on the road! Camp was another good one, great grass and water, so we took the chance to have a rest day and fill up the horses as we had heard from here, the feed gets poor. I could think of worse things that sitting in the bush, with good company, reading a book!Mal and Shirley left us as we headed onto proper 4WD tracks, but we would see them later on again down the trail! The day across to Talbotville the boys ate up. A big climb up, then down the otherside, it was our first day with big views of the high country and it was spectacular. We were surprised to find good grass at camp! Another good little camp, National parks Victoria have put a lot of effort and money into maintaining and setting up these great camps. We did a quick reccy of the shortcut which was totally overgrown, so the next morning we set off early as we had 40+km to do, up and over a 1000m climbing, and it was fairly verticle. We hit Wonangatta station at 3pm and we pretty tired from the day. We met lots of 4WDers who were brilliant and pulled over where they could and were always up for a chat! The temps had started to rise and the creek was lovely and cool – the first time I have been able to get fully in the creek since we left!!!We were due for a rest so the next morning we said goodbye to our backup crew and pottered around finishing jobs. It was very windy and hot all day and into the night. We knew a cold change was coming – we just didnt realise how quickly it would hit us.The climb up to Howitts hut was a steep and rocky single track, but again the boys showed how fit they were and climbed like champions. It started out warmish, but about 3/4 of the way up, it started snowing. It was so hard I had to put my sunnies on to stop it from hurting my eyeballs! At the top we had 2 choices – camp out on the plains or turn left to head for the hut. Because of the weather, we opted for the hut, and I am so glad we did. When we arrived, we met Julie and her mule who had been stuck there for 6 days already with a stone bruise. We chatted all afternoon whilst we kept the fire going. The poor boys were outside in the wind and the cold, but at least there was brilliant grass to keep their energy up. It would have been lovely for a rest day, but we pressed on to try and get out of the awful weather.Butchers country spur is a rough little track and we had been told there was no water and we should expect to do 40km. Luckily, Pine Creek was running and there was snow grass, not the best camp, but not the worst and better than doing 40km! Down the spur was pretty rough and I ended up with a bruise on my backside as I hit the deck a couple of times walking down the hill. The McAlister was lovely, but we made a rookie mistake of passing what was a possible campsite – it was a small area but there were no more camps suitable with a horse further down the river. We pressed on to Rumpfs flat, and were rewarded with lots of grass – we later found out that National parks were on strike and not mowing campgrounds…. Lucky for us!!!After a rest day, we headed off up Lazarini spur. We found middle ridge track and got 750m before it became overgrown and hard work. So we turned around and headed out along the road which was definitely the long way. About 8km from camp we hit the Barkley River Jeep track, which is the rockiest, roughest 2km of the trail. After making our way up it, we came away unscathed – I was suprised to find no cuts on the horses legs at the rocks were pretty sharp. Onto Lazarini spur and found camp, which was awful. Small area, and minimal grass that was underneath weeds, and the camp was 1km down the track in a small spring. Having already done 36km we toughed it out and stayed there, knowing there was grass at tomorrows campsite at Knockwood. After dinner, we were suprised to see Ailenor and her horses with backup arrive! It was lovely to meet her and trade stories! We even had a glass of champagne with her which was fitting, as we hit 5000km that day 🙂Dropping down Lazarini spur was the day I started loosing things – i left reins on the side of the hill (lucky they ride in a Halter!), I lost my jumper on Mt Terrible, which was not so terrible, and 2 fly masks along the way – It will be like a treasure hunt for Sue and Bob as they come through!!!Big river horse camp has no grass and bucket water, so we found a campsite to stop for the night. Not alot of grass but the horses scavenged well. We knew it was going to get warm, so we were up at 4, leaving at first light to beat the heat. Lucky we did. We arrived at Royston River to find not one blade of grass – swapped the pack and off we went to Kepples hut. 53km and we arrived to find the grass around the hut had been mowed that day. What were the chances!!!! A lovely little hut not far from Marysville, where again, the picnic table was the mobile phone reception area – if in doubt in Victoria, Stand on a picnic table and you will get reception. It has to be something they have planned!With no grass for a rest day, we headed into Marysville where we were re-joined by Mal and Shirley with their motorhome and hay! We were tired from the last 3 days, having covered 120km with minimal grass. But the boys proved again how tough they were, maintaining their 5km average for the 120km (that includes all our stops for drinks, wees etc and the hills). Once we hit Marysville, we were able to start relaxing. We had put a finishing date on our trip so family could make it out … we had a week to ride 50km! So we rested, rode 5km to Andersons mill, rested, rode 17km to Jo and John Kaschs where we had such a lovely time and really enjoyed getting to know them and had 2 days off while family and friends arrived. It was so nice to relax before our final day into Healsville.We woke up on the 12th of December, saddled the horses, then rode off into the early morning. It was 0 degrees on top of the hill and was very cold! My brother, Mal and Shirley walked out with us, then sent us off to finish the day by ourselves. It was a strange feeling know it was our last day on trail, but at the same time it was just another day!We didnt rush along, and stopped to pack up the packhorse, so our family could see how we rode the whole way. We dropped down the ridge towards the finish line and the temperature started to increase which made us happy! The we wound down to camp where we could hear people chattering away and we knew we were almost there. We popped out to find a group of people waiting for us and we climbed over the finish line (which was quite high!) to greet everyone. I was fine and wasn’t teary until every single person there was choked up and that set me off! It is such a hard emotion to explain – happiness, relief, pride and gratitude towards everyone that helped us along our way, especially towards our boys who had no idea what they were doing, but walked every single day ( mostly without complaint)!!!The other day I was asked if I was lost without the BNT now we had finished. My answer was no, but I’m sure I will be missing the lifestyle in a couple of months. The trip has been one of a lifetime, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges it has presented. I have learnt SO much, and the trail has changed both of our lives for the better.We have to thank every single person who helped us along the way, from a smile and a wave, to a hot meal and a shower, to those who did back up for us and those who went way above and helped shift horses and gave us a place to live. The trail wouldn’t have been the experience it was without meeting every single one of you and we are lucky to have made some lifelong friends along the way.Thank you to the BNT and those who give up their time to volunteer for the cause – the trail wouldn’t be there without you, and all of the help and information is vital to keep the trail open.At the finishJulie and WendyHowits hutButcher Country SpurMc Alister RiverRumpfsOut of Rumpfs Barklay River Jeep trackTop of the jeep track5000kmKepples HutFeed timeThe morning of the last day
- Book 11- Youak to Omeo December 22, 2015
With full bellies and resupplied we set off into book 11. We meandered through the youak valley with green grass and fat stock, then headed up lone pine trail, our first real hill and just a tease of what’s to come! Half way up the hill, we entered Kosciusko national park…. finally! We have heard so much about it and feel like we have been waiting forever to get here! It was interesting to see the scrubby undergrowth that was obviously a relic of the fires that had gone through. It was beautiful riding and the day seemed to go quickly. We encountered or first brumbies about 800m from camp at old camp site. They had a young foal worth them and took off pretty quickly. The boys were on their toes at the sight of them, but settled soon after. Camp was a set of yards with 2 toilets, and there were already some ponies in the yards. It turned out that the section coordinator was running a tour group from there and they invited us to camp with them and spend a rest day with them. We were spoiled by jen and Peter with beautiful food and great company. The girls on the ride were hilarious and we had some good laughs even if we got rained out! On our rest day, jen took us to see the old currango homestead and the plains where the highest concentration of brumbies are in knp.
Our next stop was meant to be circuits hut, but on peters advice we headed to Schofields where there was more water. During the ride, laurie became sore which was a bit upsetting. We gave him some painkillers and decided to wait to see how he was the next day. It poured all night and the boys weren’t very settled. ..we slept with one ear open being in brumby country without yards. A wet a windy day where we followed PowerLines down to lake eucumbene for a lovely camp at denison. Great grass and water with tables and toilets. We were being spoiled with the creature comforts! Laurie walked well so we decided to take 2 days of for him to heal and see how get went after that. We chatted to the fly fisher men, some of who didnt eat fish so we had a lovely brown trout for tea one night. I grabbed a ride into adaminaby fire a shower at the pub and to grab some more real food! !!!
The ponies slept and ate green grass, and had 3 escapes from the fence. .. we think the wallabies may have been knocking it down. The boys thought it was great and had a midnight adventure into everyone else’s camps!
Over the next 2 days laurie would look good for 95% of the time and a bit sore intermittently. When we got to bradleys hut we decided to find him a paddock and leave him to heal. Thanks to Peter and Bec who drove out to pick him up and took him back to their place. I had a bit of a tear after he left, but know it was the right decision for him. .
It was freezing up at bradleys hut with winds of 80kph and weatherzone told us it’felt like’ -7. In the morning, our 4l water bags were slush with ice! We had some his company that night from phil, a guy passing through using the shelter overnight. It was nice to chat to him and we appreciated the chocolate and milk power he shared with us! While on our rest day at bradleys, preston was mistaken for one of the fugitives on the run and we received a visit from the national parks gut who was ready to press the emergency button! He was relieved to find it was just 2 crazy people and 4 horses camped in the hut.
The other 4 ponies weren’t perturbed by lauries disappearance and they took off without a backwards glance. A big downhill to a lovely camp at jagumba, then uphill to yellow bog (the book says it’s flat. ..its not) where there wasn’t alot of feed. We then followed the power lines into khancoban where we erred greeted with enthusiasm by the new owners and made very welcome. The boys helped with the mowing which was a win win situation. We stayed in a cabin (luxury) as it promised to rain and rain over the next 2 days. We stayed out and again were touched by the generosity of strangers lending us a car to do some shopping in corryong for our days off. We met Charlie the coordinator (and unofficial mayor of khancoban) and Ken, of Ken and Sharon, who completed the trail in 1989. It was amazing to trade stories and compare how the trail had changed in the last 25 years. They had 12 horses and drove them through, leading not 1 the whole way.
Rested and recouped from a real bed and hot showers, we said goodbye to the caravan park and headed off to Victoria. 2 days of fairly easy going with yards each night and we were camped across the Murray from Victoria. The new boardmans run was much nicer than the bitumen alternative. Thanks so much to jenny who brought our food drop down to tom groggin. We had lovely meal with jenny and her riding friends on ton groggin station and then took our last rest day in NSW. The ponies must be fit, as they were into everything. We made a rookie error and went to sit in the shade without fencing off our gear. We came back to find a hole in the tent 1.2m long, copra all over the ground, and someone had tried to eat a roll of toilet paper as it was mangled, wet and green! We patched the tent as black cloud rolled in, but we didn’t get any rain to test or handiwork.
Here we come victoria! I declared as we crossed he Murray and headed up the Davies plain track. We had heard so many stories about vic… mostly bad /tough, but some good and it was time to find out what was true !
We climbed up to 1750m before dropping into the hut. .. it was cloudy and miserable so we were glad for shelter. The poor ponies had to weather the cold. .. i don’t think they know whether it’s summer or winter! We were suprised to see a group of 13 boys hike in and set up camp. .. there were 16 groups of them all across the mountains on their 21 day grade 10 camp. We camped with them at Davies plains and down at Charlies creek where they took their brumby watch very seriously and all followed as preston cracked the whip and chased them away. They all stood back and applauded! In not sure they were so impressed with the bells they got to listen to all night. .. but we might have done their leaders a favour and stopped them from asking a million questions a minute
The trail then descends deeply into limestone creek where you follow and old jeep track to stay off the 4wd track. It was slow going as we had to cut or way through, doing 1km in an hour, but across the creeks it opened up and we followed brumby pads out to camp. Camp was lovely big flats but plenty of signs of brumbies. Bundi was on patrol for us and let us know what was going on. We then headed for a place called brumby hill which was probably the worst camp we have had so far. Boggy and little feed. It lived up to its name and at about 2 pm we heard a rumble as 2 of them galloped towards our boys who were hobbled out in an attempt to get some feed into them. Preston yelled ” brumbies” and i ran, flat chat towards them. Well i probably would have been frightened if i saw that sight too, they left 3m skid marks as they hit the breaks and took off into the bush again . We were glad to leave that camp.
The next day was a big day which brought us to bindi station. It was rocky, and hilly. 1500m down to 800m, back up to 1200m to undulating then drop to 400. Big day. We were happy to see feed at bindi. … in fact it was clover up to my knees high. Amazing. We put the boys in the “chewed out” paddock and they were happy as pigs in mud. We were shown the shearer s quarters and had a hot shower. Thanks so much to penny and Fraser for their hospitality. We were chatting to them and found out the they never send anyone the way we came in as is to hard. .. there is a much nicer ride. And the same with the next day to omeo.
With our alternative route in hand we headed towards omeo and the end of book 11. A 40km day and we were shagged, but happy to see the rolling green hills of omeo and the prospect of a good rest.
We set up camp at the caravan park after being welcomed by Lou and Sandy and had a great meal at the pub. A week here to shoe and do some other jobs, and we will head into our Last book. It’s getting close !!!!
So far it has been tough but no where near as bad as what we had been told, although i hear the worst is to come in book 12! Healsville here we come!
Bundi at the highest point on the trail
Overnight at Bradleys Hut
Checking out the cows
The ripped tents
Some Brumbies Nutella Pony
Charlies Creek and our fellow campes
Brumby in the mist
Brumby hill – our pick was Craig and Shirley for the horse shoes????
The hills never look as big in photos
BNT and Alpine walking tracks
Dennison and sleeping ponies