Gundy to the end of Book 9 (Jenolan Caves)
We had a very restful break in Gundy, although it was very wet. We caught the tail end of the big weather system that flooded a lot of the Hunter Valley – our thoughts go out to all the people that were affected by the devastating weather. After 5 days relaxing and eating grass (and trying to get out the rain) the boy were ready to head off again. Thank you to the Gundy community, especially Ian and Caroline, for their hospitality and the shelter with toilets and showers – it was much better that camping out in the rain!
On the road again, and out first day was into Aberdeen and the end of book 8. A beautiful sunny day greeted us, but it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way across. The day followed a road most of the way with a slight detour through a stock route – along the way we found a locked gate on one end of the route. Instead of turning back and heading along a very treacherous section of road, we decided to undo the fence (and re-do it back up again of course) and avoid the big trucks and blind corners. We travelled past some of the most expensive thoroughbred studs in Australia, and the amount of money in these properties just blew our minds. Between the vast amount of land, fancy fences and multiple entrances depending on what horse you were bringing to the property i think our jaws were dragging on the ground for kilometres. We made it to Aberdeen and were greeted by Tony and Ali, and shared a lovely meal and good company.
Up bright and early, we ventured into Book 9 and we had a fairly uneventful day across to Manobalai TSR, although Laurie, who is our most experienced cow horse, decided that cows that were black and white weren’t normal! After a couple of snorts and shies, he sorted himself out and decided they weren’t going to eat him. We had a rest day at the TSR as there was a lovely big paddock for the horses to run around in and a beautiful big river. We had many visitors – Belinda Ritchie came and camped with us ( a previous BNTer who completed the trip solo a couple of years ago) and we ventured across the river to have a lovely night with the coordinators Rosemary and Neil. Rosemary and Neil have been so unbelievably helpful and generous towards us – we can’t thank them enough! After Belinda took off home, Nick, the president of the BNT turned up and we to meet him (finally!) We had lots to talk about, and it was great to be able to put a face to the name!
The next day we were greeted with warm hospitality at the Sandy Hollow Caravan park where the boys had to share a paddock with sheep – again some snorts and funny looks before they quickly return their attention to the grass. From there it was an absolutely stunning trip through Widden Valley and up over into the Capertee Valley. By far, one of our favourite campsites was up at Grassy Hut – behind the shed which had a water tank was a rocky out crop which acted as a natural lookout over the spectacular valley below. We spent hours up there reading books and taking in the view, and returned up there in the morning to enjoying out breakfast while watching the sun rise over the misty valley. Down a fairly steep and slippery hill and we were greeted by Bruce who owns a large chunk of the valley. He offered us a paddock and dropped some beers, steak and veggies off…. Greatly appreciated after our long stint away from real food. We were visited by Lee who brought horse feed and human food as well – we are so spoilt out here. We spent a lovely afternoon chatting about packing and riding this section of the trail as Lee had done this section previously.
Over Baal Bone Gap we went – Mater was not impressed with the size of the hill and as he was loose, he kept stopping and looking at us as if to say are you serious? He would then wait until we were just out of sight, then come bounding up beside us, just to stop and have a breather again! Luckily with all the rain around water was abundant, but grass was not, so we continued on the next day. Over Sandstone outcrops – a 4WDers paradise – and through some scrubby bush we went. We had 3 nail biting experiences on this day before hitting Wallerwang. All I can say is thank god we put road nails in the shoes (tungsten tipped) – even with these in I was watching Laurie carrying Preston and Bundi carrying the pack wheel spinning trying to get purchase on the slippery rock and all I could think about was ‘I have to follow them up there’. They made it safely to the top, I pointed Mater to the tiny path of dirt at the side of the sandstone, gave him his head and apart from almost being removed from my seat by a tree branch, we all made it up safely. The next experience was as we came out onto the road into Wallerwang we thought we would be smart and cross a boggy creek instead of walking all the way around … The horses felt the soft ground up into their groins and lept through the creek and out the other side, and we were all safe and sound. The last part of the day was into Wallerwang along the highway – they have planted trees and have not left a lot of room for us…. Trying to lead 3 horses around trees, wombat holes (which one did fall over in) and loose wire was frustrating and there were a string of expletives leaving both our mouths. We arrived in the Wang (as the locals call it) exhausted to be met by the lovely Denise, coordinator of this section of the trail. Unfortunately Mal was away working, but I am sure we will catch up with him soon.
Rest day done, sufficient real food in our bellies and hours spent in a coffee shop revitalised us and we were off towards the Jenolan caves. We met Di and Judy, who were walking from the Wang down to Canberra and had a lovely chat talking dehydrated food and food fatigue which we were suffering from greatly. We followed their footsteps until Hampton, and were left little surprises in the way of dehydrated food J They left the trail at Hampton as it was starting to get cold, and it was blowing a gale. One day I lost my hat about 10 times – luckily the horses just stood as I dropped the reins/lead ropes and ran after my hat! We had a lovely meal at the Rydal pub with Lee, Scott, Margie and Greg – great stop and lovely hospitality, we highly recommend it… one of our favourite pubs so far! The wind finally died down, but the temperatures dropped, and on our last day to the end of Book 9, at 1pm in the afternoon, it started snowing. The horses didn’t even bat an eyelid and forged ahead to camp where we welcomed into the house by the McCourts. It was a very long day spent wearing almost all of the clothes we owned and we were getting off to walk to try and keep warm. We sat almost on top of the fire all night as we tried to warm ourselves… A long, cold day and we were utterly exhausted. We are planning a couple of rest days here, waiting for the cold front to pass over us hopefully!!!
Over 3800kms done and into Book 10 ……
camp at Rylstone
Walking through the pine forests – almost felt like deliverance day in some sections
Dusty heading to camp with snowflakes on his neck
Just pulled up at camp at Manobalai
On our way to Sandy hollow
On our way to sandy hollow
There were some sections of road that were very narrow and not alot of fun
Into the widden valley
Some of the locals at a thoroughbred stud
one of the huts we got to stay in
Rat proofing our gear (which didnt work as well as we would have liked)
waiting for preston to clear the log out of out path
some of the spectacular sandstone outcrops
Stop for a drink
Through the capertee valley
Up and over the southern side of Baal Bone gap