Australia Day Weekend 2019
What a weekend!
I’m pretty knackered, but here is a quick wrap-up of the long-weekend.
I had wanted to do a hike over the Australia Day weekend, and originally wanted to do an overnighter. A friend was going to come and earlier in the week we decided on just a day trip, but unfortunately, she had to pull out at the last minute. So, on Friday night, I did a quick bit of googling and decided to take myself to the Sugarloaf Reservoir and attempt the loop track.
Because Sugarloaf is managed by Parks Victoria, the gates are locked overnight. So, my original plan to get there SUPER early was quashed by a seemingly ‘lazy’ 8:30am gate opening time. I didn’t mind getting a little bit more sleep.
I swung by the horses on the way to make sure they are still alive (my daily ritual), and drove up to Christmas Hills, located 35km NE of Melbourne.
After parking and making a quick loo stop, I was off. I stormed off at a good pace, but me being me, I kept stopping to take photos…. A tree, a bird, the reservoir, a leaf… it’s all gold for my camera! I saw a bit of wildlife- a black tailed wallaby shot in to the bush at break-neck speed. Kangaroos were lulling in the shade in the distant corners of the park, and echidna moseyed along before he realised I was sneaking up trying to get a photo without disturbing him (I failed – he noticed me pretty quickly!). Then there were all the birds: currawongs, maggies, crimson rosellas. I was hanging out to see a snake (they would have been out and about in that weather), but I wasn’t lucky enough.
It was such a beautiful and serene hike. I spent a lot of time practising using a compass again with a dodgy map I had printed the night before. It was good to check on the compass which direction I was going, and then try to find myself on the map. There were a couple of times where the signs weren’t fantastic, and I was actually glad to have a map and compass to get on the right track (it’s not like I would have been lost here, but there was a couple of hikers who missed one turn that I had started to miss, and they stormed off past me, but I ended up ahead of them later as they would have made quite a big detour from missing the turn). One thing I noticed on this trail was the over-use of trail markers in the sections where the trail was blatantly obvious, but the lack of clear markers in the couple of spots where it was a bit confusing.
There was plenty of thinking time along the hike. I got thinking about my trek planning. About the horses. About what I still need to do. What gear would I be comfortable in on the trail (and in hot weather). And I started to think about if this was the BNT: where would I set up horse yards? Where would I pitch my tent? I repeated this thought process at random locations along the way. I had brought my 10 -year-old ipod, thinking I might enjoy some tunes along the way, but I didn’t pull it out once – my head was swimming the whole time in trek planning.
The hike is 18km and the signs all say 5 hours. I was hoping it was a bit of an exaggeration (as I’ve found most Australian hiking times tend to be). But with all of my photography and compass dawdlings, I really wasn’t sure how long I would take! I only met two couples around the entire route (except at the car parks, where there were a few groups picnicking- it was Australia Day after all!).
I guess I surprised myself at my relative ‘fitness’. I took 4 hours 20 to walk the loop (which included a detour up the lookout to see the water treatment area). The weather was heating up by the time I got back to the car- I was SO tempted to sneak a dip in the water, but as it’s drinking water, I’m pretty certain that’s illegal and I don’t fancy ending up in jail (no way I could afford bail!). So instead I drank my weight in water back at the car and pumped the aircon in my little car as I drove the half hour back home.
After a few hours of vegging out on the couch (my glutes and calves had ‘woken up’ more on this hike than they have done on an hours’ run!). It got to about 5pm and I thought it was time to get off my bum and go for a ride. Thankfully it’s daylight savings, so it’s light until about 9pm still.
It was back out to the paddock again for an evening ride on Dusty. Dusty was full of beans (when he canters up the ENTIRE hill, you know he has some magical form of energy). We just went out the back for a relaxed trail ride, which it was.
Sunday was a very full day. Up early (and out to the paddock for my daily horse-check) then I made the drive out to Narbethong for a clinic that was being run by Pack Saddling Australia. I’d been here in November last year for their annual big 2-day Workshop (which was awesome!) and was welcomed back again by the lovely John and Joanne Kasch.
It was a full day of information on packing. Always new things to learn, and good to refresh a few things I had learnt last year. I’m still to take the plunge and pack one of my own horses, but that plan is in the works so stay tuned…
In the afternoon we packed one of the mules, Jackson. Man, these animals ooze power. You just know that they are oodles more intelligent than your bog-standard horse. That is one reason why when I toyed with the idea of using mules, I decided to stick with horses. It’s nice to be able to put one over a horse- you can’t always do that with a mule!
After the packing stuff was over for the day, most of the participants were camping again (as some had travelled as far as Canberra for the clinic), so before dinner time, John took us on a drive to Anderson’s Mill Campsite to see the yards. Jo and John are BNT coordinators down here in the Victorian section, and have worked super hard with the local parks and communities to advocate for packing, trail riding, and camping with horses. They were successful in getting yards put in 20 years ago here, but the devastating Black Saturday fires of 2009 completely destroyed them. The replacement yards are beyond wonderful.
It was so strange for John to drive down the BNT tracks, pointing out bits and pieces to me. All I could do was wonder if I would get here. If in ~2 years’ time I would be riding my way down these exact tracks? Camping at that exact camp-site? Yarding my horses in those amazing yards and drinking water out of the water trickling steadily into a trough made specifically for campers (unfortunately tainted today by an unsavvy camper who had clearly washed dishes or clothes or something in it – ewww)?
I hope that I do make it and that in 2 years’ time I can be doing the opposite of what I am doing now: Rather than projecting forward, I can look back. Look back and think to myself “remember when John drove us down here and we checked out this area? Remember when I was so worried that I wouldn’t have the funds to actually make this trip happened? Remember when I worried about getting my horses (and myself) all the way down the east coast of Australia?” I really do hope they are the things that I am thinking in 2 years’ time, and that I can wonder to myself what I was worried about. I hope.
If I was knackered after the hike on Saturday, then I was totally knackered after I got home on Sunday night. Monday was a public holiday, so no work. I let myself sleep in (finally!) until 9am. Then toddled out to the paddock to do something with the horses. It was quite warm, so I thought it would be a good day to do another ponying session with them – riding Dusty and leading Tyson. The boys were great. Dusty was more than his usual grumpy self (it’s all show), and Tyson was as usual just cool as a cucumber. We even saw two groups of other horses on our little pipe track (we never see any horses there!), so that was really nice.
Then in the afternoon, I was back to more planning, logistics, selling stuff on ebay (yep, I’m trying to get some money the old-fashioned way too, even though I own very little of value).
Now, Australia Day weekend is over – this week is BOOTCAMP week for the entire team Big Horse Trek. More on that soon 😉
(& Dusty & Tyson)