We have had very minimal phone reception in the last 341km or 22 days and haven’t done an update for a while! It has been a fairly rugged section of the trail, one that we have thoroughly enjoyed.
Killarney to Sandy Hills
We decided that riding in the wet pouring rain was not a great idea, so we waited until the rain had passed (we only got 60 or so ml) and headed off towards NSW. We were joined by Mal and Shirley with their two steeds for a great day across to cullendore gate. In parts it was pretty slippery from the wet, but the views were brilliant and it made a nice change from riding along roads. The fence along the border has been replaced mostly, and the old fence must have had some holes to let the animals through. We saw about 15 turtles, most of them dead (the two that were alive we tried to rescue by dropping them over the fence to get to water), and two goannas injured by trying to get through the fence. We camped on road verge that night and were thankful for the rain which had formed a big puddle for the horses to drink out of. We were only 20m from the border!
Up bright and early we crossed into NSW!!! It was very exciting to reach this milestone, it feels like it has been coming for a while! A drizzly day of riding along the Mt Lindsay highway put us into Liston where the locals told us the tsr was very overgrown so we camped outside the CWA where some of the locals came down for a yarn and a bit of bush poetry 🙂
The next day we set of for the boonoo boonoo river and we hit one of the most fantastically beautiful ridgelines I have ever seen…. Green, rolling hills, down into a sandy rocky creek. We all just rode in silence, taking in the magnificence of it all! We crossed the river, which gave me a little scare as Banjo decided he could go his own way and slipped on the rock, but no injuries and we were all good to keep going. The camp didn’t have a heap of grass so no rest day, but it did have a fantastic swimming hole with a waterfall which we took advantage off.
The next day put us at Sandy Hills where there is a great shelter and yard and some green grass so we stopped there while we had access to shoeing gear and spent 2 days replacing shoes. The terrain – bitumen roads and granite soils- wore the shoes down very quickly… We only got 350km out of this set!
Thanks to the chuck wagon (Mal and Shirley) for all the help, fun times, company and good eats, and to Marni for the taxi service 🙂
All the boys have fittened and hardened up properly and are getting lots of practice climbing up and down hills. We haven’t been game to tell them that it gets worse from here!
Sandy Hills to Gwydir Highway
Off to a late start getting away from camp totally threw the boys as we were out of routine and they were pretty sure they were having another rest day. They spent the first kilometre shying at all sorts of silly things and craning their necks to see the other horses that were out training for endurance. Geoff who lives on McLeods creek road was very helpful and went ahead and opened all the gates for us…. we were very grateful. Darcy’s Hill was a surprise steep hill (we obviously didn’t read the maps very well for that particular day) which left both of us feeling very unfit, but in hindsight it may have been the fact that we climbed it in the middle of the day, in the sun and there was no wind around to speak of! To finish the day off, we were hit with a very steep downhill that never seemed to end, and we were very happy to get to camp that evening, even if it was full of leeches and ticks!
After a day of riding cross country that was great fun, we followed a dirt road through the demon fault for a couple of days. Parts of this section were fairly remote, although we were never very far from someone or some kind of civilisation. Whilst camping in the fault, we ran into 70 touring bikes who were riding from Toowoomba to Barrington Tops, an army cargo carrier which looked like it may just land on top of us it was that low before it turned and flew down the fault line and most of the people who were living in huts in the area. It seems to be a place where people have their hobby farms and drive out once in a while to do a bit of work to the property.
We then had to find our way out of the fault and we spent 2.5 hours to cover 3km as it was so overgrown and wet. We were looking for an obvious S bend in the river with a cattle pad running up the ridge line. We looked at about three ridges and traversed many S bends before we finally found our ridge line (with a 4WD track, not a cattle pad) and we climbed up and out. It was a steady climb, but just a taster of what is to come further down the track. We then dropped back down for camp that night to Leamans Hut which was a great little campsite. The next day we set off bright and early, ready to meet Marni and Chris who were meeting us with our next lot of supplies at camp. About 10 kms into the day, we realised that the pack was in need of some work, otherwise it was going to cause a problem sooner rather than later. Our options were stop and spend hours by the side of the road fixing the pack, or leave the pack by the side of the road and deal with it later. We chose the latter. We continued on to camp to find the TSR with a great big lock on it and after a couple of phone calls, it became clear we weren’t going to be able to stay there that night. So Marni and Chris came to the rescue. We waited for them to arrive, picked up our pack off the side of the road then dropped it at the next TSR 5km down the road, we saddled up and kept going to the next camp. We were so lucky to be spoilt with a real meal, chocolate and cheesecake which Marni had made for us! The boys were pretty tired that night, so we planned to take 2 rest days before heading off to tackle the Guy Fawkes, but plans change!!!
During this section, Mater’s back healed up enough for him to be ridden again, and we were very happy to have him back in the rotation. 2 days of riding, and I think he may have coerced one of the others into biting him again. It worked and got him out of at least another 2 weeks worth of work. Horses will be horses!
Gwydir Highway to Ebor
On our first rest day, we noticed that Dusty was having some kind of allergic reaction and was swelling up like bubble wrap and had picked up about 5 ticks as his immune system was obviously taking a hit due to the reaction. We gave him an antihistamine shot which worked wonderfully, and by morning he was right as rain, but we decided we had to keep going and get away from whatever was itching the horses!
We walked to the next camp at the Mann river to discover a lot of weeds and no grass so we continued on to Christy’s TSR which had decent feed. We sat down to try and plan our travel for the next section as we had weather to factor in. We had all sorts of warnings and advice about the Guy Fawkes river and we had asked Gav to be on weather and river height patrol, so we were aware that the river was down and passable with not much rain to come in the next 5 days or so. We talked about the fact that there hadn’t been much rain, and the north was due for a cyclone (Preston had a feeling) which would then possibly dump a heap of rain just where we didn’t want it. So we made the decision to go and push through the Guy Fawkes before the rain came. Funnily enough, when we came out the other side of the national park, we were informed that a cyclone had formed up north – we will have to start calling Preston the weatherman!!!
We met some locals who gave us some great advice about the river and the brumbies in the park so we headed into Guy Fawkes National Park being very aware of what could go wrong. I was actually quite nervous as we were constantly listening to people tell us that we might have to swim, and the brumbies could steal our horses! The ride itself was hard work on the horses, but was brilliant. We really enjoyed the beauty of the Guy Fawkes and wished that we could have spent more time down there. The crystal clear water provided a brilliant backdrop to the sheer cliff faces and open grassy plains – we would highly recommend the section despite all the warnings. They were long days, up to 9 hours spent following the river and crossing from side to side to stay on the inside bends. The park is unfortunately full of weeds and cobblers pegs/farmers friends, some of which had grown 10ft high and were thick. Luckily Dusty and Laurie took it all in their stride… Dusty would close his eyes and bulldoze through the weeds and bushes without any encouragement. It was like he just knew that he had to get through and out the other side. Unfortunately while we were in the park, Dusty stepped on a rock which broke away underneath him and cut an artery on his fetlock. After examining it and seeing a pulse, we were able to slow the blood loss until we got to camp and were able to tend to it properly. He is a tough horse as he never went lame, continuing to bulldoze his way through all the while holding the lead and letting us know when we were in new brumby country.
Whilst in the park we probably saw 300-400 brumbies – every time you cross the river you encounter a new mob. Despite the efforts to trap them, the national parks estimate that there are still 1800 brumbies running around the park. We didn’t have any trouble with them, but didnt give them a chance to become too interested in us. Whenever we saw a mob that didn’t take off, we jumped off and Preston cracked the stockwhip at them which soon sent them off and away from us. We only had one half hairy moment where the 5 horses and I must have been blocking the mobs escape route, and they ran back and forth before I twigged and led/pulled the 5 horses across the flats while Preston stood guard with the whip. It was interesting to see the difference in the brumbies as we continued up the river. The grazing got better the further we went, and so did the quality of the brumbies. We also noticed there were a lot of creamy and coloured horses down there including cremellos.
The last day in the Guy Fawkes was a big climb out. we took 3 hours to climb the ridge, taking wide zig zags and almost requiring the use of hands and feet to climb out it was that steep. Once along the top, we had brilliant views of Marengo falls and the National Park, and the temperature dropped noticeably. we had climbed from 360m to 1100m in altitude. The temperature change has been welcomed as it had been very hot and muggy to date. We were all pretty tired reaching camp at the Blicks river, but were greeted with a great campsite – grass and clear, flowing water. We had a rest day there and spent 6 hours pulling out farmers friends from everything we owned, trying to put them in the fire so that we didnt spread them all over the lovely campsite.
Last day ride of Book 7 and we arrived in Ebor. Mushgang ( a BNTer who has been on the trail for 9 years and has been in Ebor for 2 years so far) came and met us along the way and took some lovely photos for us. We almost had a disaster where Laurie had to tuck his bum under to avoid being hit despite us having stopped and given way, and being visible to the car for at least a kilometre. We were both pretty upset after that happened. None the less we made it to Ebor in one piece, where we are staying with Stephanie and David at their stunning property. The boys have never seen grass this good and have put on weight in 4 days on grass. Stephanie laughed at us when we asked where the closest feed shop was to get them some pellets – they used to have to starve their quaterhorse to stop her from foundering!
The people of Ebor have been so lovely and welcoming and we are really enjoying our break there! We managed to also catch up with Gary, who left on Sunday to start the ride from Cooktown – We wish him all the best for his adventure 🙂 and Sue, Bob and Bill, who are only about 2 weeks behind us on the trail. We loved hearing everyones stories and experiences… It definitely feels like you become part of a very special family on the trail!
We are planning on leaving Ebor after about 10 days of rest! There is so much to do and see around the area, and we are loving exploring it.
We must say another thank you to all of the coordinators and people who have helped us long the way. Again, I cant express how brilliant everyone is and how much their smiles and advice helps us!