Four beats to freedom - a horseback journey through New Zealand

Mary's New Zealand Diary

20 November

We spent a day in Twizel and then had the most magnificent ride with Lester Baikie up to Ferentosh Station, beside Lake Pukaki. It was steep and rocky and very very fine. On the Sunday, we went on through Glentanner station, with magnificent views of Mount Cook, and over the Tasman river which, contrary to 
all predictions was very low. Its a weird river to cross since as well as being very wide and braided (it took about an hour to get across) it is thick and milky glacial meltwater - bright blue but totally opaque. The stones 
proved a bit much for Foggy who is now footsore so we are taking a couple of days off at Braemar station - thankfully well tucked up when a rip-roaring norwester blew threw at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. 

14 November
The good news – we found a farrier and he sorted both boys with new front shoes. The set I had had made before hand were waiting for me in Omarama. Bad planning on my part – I had thought we would make it but a little extra time on the tarmac and I realised they were likely to split at the toes.
The bad news – he seems to have pared both boys down too much and fitted them with shoes perhaps too small. As a result, whilst still sound, they are both a bit tender on the stony going and I fear getting a stone bruise which would jeopardise the whole trip.

So I have had a rethink and cut out the leg round Lake Ohau that I had been so much looking forward to, instead going along the main road (ugh – though no way near so ugh as in the UK) from Omarama to Twizel. This will give them a couple of easy days on level ground, and an extra day off, instead of three more hard days in demanding country. 

Second bit of bad news:  More camera problems! The slr has now gone on the blink. I don’t like technology….

Borrie above Lake Roxburgh - en route to Alexandra
(but not without a quick snack!)

  Boundary hut - where we spent a night this week

From Cambrians we went across country to St Bathans Downs road (to accommodate the farrier) and then along the ridge with marvellous views of the Hawkduns and St Bathans ranges. A night at Hawkdun Downs station ( Thankyou!) and across their lovely paddocks full of merinos, where Foggy did his own version of Borrie’s head for home routine. I caught him in the water race – mental note, never let the riding horse go!!

Omaram saddle - our highest point to date, at about 1300 metres.

Up the Manuherika valley, taking the west branch – a wonderful track crossing and recrossing the river – glorious in the sunshine, but not the best for boys with tender feet. We stopped a night in a hut halfway up (see picture) and came over Omarama saddle at 1273 metres and down to Berwen station, outside Omarama. On the way we had a first view of the alps  before the rain hid them from view – and once again we managed to time it so we only got drenched in the last few km.

Scariest moment
Reaching the bottom of the valley, narrow track beside the fence, steep thorn filled hill to the right, and coming face to face with an extremely large and muscular looking angus bull who was having a siesta on the track, away from his wives. He was not impressed with the intrusion – we pushed through the bush trying to keep something between him and us as he pawed the ground and threatened us . It was a full half hour before my heart rate returned to normal!

9th November

We left Alexandra at 8.30 on Wednesday morning and had a lovely ride across two 
big stations (Whaikerikeri, and Moutere) in brilliant sunshine, finally camping on the side of the road about 28 Km north of Alexandra.  My first time using the electric fence to hold the horses overnight - a wee bit 
nerve-wracking. Another hot day on Thursday and we came through to Cambrians, just north of Becks.

I am now in Omakau school, where they have lent me their on line connection after I talked to them in Assembly.  I will go on over the omarama saddle, beside the Hwkdun range on Sunday/ Monday/ Tuesday, to Omarama.

Then I hope I will be able to get some photos to you...


6th November

Firstly I must apologise to all who have tried to follow our moves in the last fortnight and been thwarted. Technology let me down – I don’t think the computer really likes bumping about on the horses back – and I had to leave it behind in Gore. I will therefore get the updates through less regularly than I hoped, - bear with me.

Time is very limited – it takes a good 3 hours to get everything weighed and packed in the morning and by nightfall we are all ready to sleep!

I can’t write two weeks up in full, so I hope the following will fill you in….

Invercargill – Dacre – Mataura – Diamond Peak – Gore (2 days) – Waikaka – Leathen Downs – Moa flat – Millers Flat – Roxburgh Racecourse – over the Knobby Range to Alexandra.

Glorious days in wonderful rolling sheep country, the spring leaves green and the shingle roads quiet. Spring is very vivid .  

Some wonderful billets with wonderful people . Thank you, all.

Crossing our first ‘river’ – actually a brook behind Mataura, but the sides were steep and we had to go beneath the footbridge in order to scramble up the other side.


Riding over the top behind Diamond peak station, in the morning fog and seeing the valley open up before us later as we came down to Gore.

Seeing a family of Oyster catchers, complete with tiny chicks.

An afternoon going round Bob Lee’s farm – an impromptu stop on a lovely property up above Ettrick. 

A glorious trip over the Knobby range before the rain blew in behind us – fine tussock grass, extraordinary rock formations, magnificent views.

Having my hair cut in the barber shop – and gaining lots of local knowledge in the process…. (it is now SHORT!)

Setting off from Bluff


A long day on day one, ending in torrential rain. Four very tired, soggy folk glad to be rescued by Margaret Journeaux who provided covers, oats, a stable a fire and a bed….

Meeting a timber wagon on Mataura Bridge. Fortunately he gave way….

Foggy going grumpy on day 6 – he decided packing was not for him and he stuck in the middle of the road….

Foggy’s altercation with a barn door above Millers Flat – he pulled it out of its runners and down on top of him. I thought he had to have a broken back at the very least – thankfully I had a big knife to hand and could cut him free, administer arnica and ruta (thanks to Crossgates farm homeopathic products) and remarkably he seems unscathed.

Getting drenched in the last hour on the way to Roxburgh - and on arrival, to find the boys point blank refused to go into the nice dry stables at the race course, so we had to unpack in the down pour!

Two wrong turnings – serves me right for not having a map. Blame the computer.

Falling out with the computer, with the stove (mighty conflagration nearly ensued) and now with my new camera – a week after purchase.

Watching two very uptight horses cope with midnight fireworks when camped in a shearing shed above Roxburgh….. really thought I might lose them both over the sheep-high fence…

Funniest moment
Borrie thought he would roll, with his pack on. In response to a lot of shouting on my part, he hopped it instead – back the way we came. Only when I turned my back and rode off meaningfully in the other direction did he shriek ‘ I didn’t mean it’ and hurtle after us at speed….

RDA Links
In Gore we rode with several RDA riders, right up the main street on the Friday evening and back along beside the river. Some great riding and some great bucket-rattling – complete with police escort. Foggy took exception to the pansies on the roundabout! Why?! 

Here in Alexandra we met with 8 riders on Sunday afternoon to ride down the main street and back to the centre, through the sandy forest. Perfect weather, and a thoroughly well organised, successful trip.

Well done all who rode and thanks to all who walked and helped.

Forward planning
Going on towards Omarama, past the Hawkdun ranges. I am short on contacts for the next bit, so not sure when I will be able to do another update. Probably in about a week, but it’s all a bit iffy…

Bits n pieces
The packs usually way in at 25kg each . To this we add a top load (shoes and stuff) of about 10 or 12 Kg. Getting loaded each morning is quite a saga….

I have had a rethink on the packing – jettisoned quite a lot of stuff and had some handles added to the packs themselves to make them easier to lift. All this sort of thing takes a lot of time….

Shoes bearing up – wore a lot of toe metal on the tarmac early on, but seem to be fine now we’re more on the shingle or the grass.

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