Four beats to freedom - a horseback journey through New Zealand

Mary's New Zealand Diary

I'm short of photos for the best bits of this leg - fell foul of the camera twice, once when someone else took some pictures for me and wiped off all that was in place, and the second time when we ran out of battery power. So exercise your imagination...

The boys felt VERY fit and looked distinctly plump after a week's eating break. We got a lift out of Christchurch and then rode up to Snowdon station, where we were royally entertained by Tony and Nicky Tripp for two days, spending the Monday helping with a STRAGGLE MUSTER.. For those in the UK this normally means mustering in sheep left behind on a main muster, but in this case they were actually 200 perrendale ewes and lambs who had been put on to the higher run when the feed was short earlier in the year. The bulk of the work is done on foot - the land is too steep for horses - and each musterer will have 3 or 4 dogs working with him. However we took the bottom beat so that we could rid, with Tony borrowing Foggy and both boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves . I think that the occasional 'fun day' is very good for them...

We had company again up to Lake Coleridge through a wonderful glacial landscape - magnificent roches moutonees - and then went on to Castle Hill station, on the West Coast Road, where we met up with 'the bus' supplied by Waikato Institiute of Technology for a photostop.  I have, by and large, no need for and no wish for 'back up' but the bus does play a role in helping with PR and also carries my varied jettisoned possessions and spare sets of shoes for the boys. 

We spent a couple of days at Castle Hill in order to help with the TAILING of the lambs. I deliberately avoided taking pictures here lest it offend the sensibilities of some - suffice to say that that what is done with a rubber band placed on the tail at birth in the UK is carried out with a sharp knife here, when the lambs are several weeks old. We were also 'mulesing' the merinos - a flap of skin around the tail is removed to reduce accumulation of muck which attracts flies. None of it very pretty, but all of it essential to reduce the risk of flystrike which can literally result in the sheep being eaten alive.

It is magnificent limestone country, with weird rock formations, and spectacular mountain backdrops. Even Boris was impressed and raised his head to look at the view!

We had an interesting time 'scrambling' up from Broken River to Mount Constitution on Flock Hill station- failing to find the wee stock track that would have been a much easier option than the near-perpendicular slope that we finally made our way up - both boys were ready for a sleep afterwards!

The weather changes quickly and later in the day we got absolutely drenched as we wound our way past Winding Creek to Flock Hill itself. We went on to Craigieburn and crossed the Waimakariri above Mount White on Christmas Eve. The one place you do not expect to meet other travellers is in a river crossing - but the boys were horrified to find themselves pursued by 'water serpents' in the form of a group of kayaks training for the coast to coast. This did at least give us the opportunity to take a couple of pictures - they make the river look incredibly tame since they are taken in one of the side channels, and it was much deeper in the main channel, but thankfully not discoloured despite the heavy rainfall.

Christmas day was spent in glorious solitude at a couple of huts high up in Mount White station. Mount White is one of the larger high country properties, about 60000 acres! The boys had an easy day in the sunshine and I swam in the river and got eaten by sandflies....

Boxing Day however was a little more strenuous. Having tightened up Borrie's shoes behind the previous night, we left at 7.15 and didn't finish the day until 8 in the evening. Drifting up to Anderson hut in the early sunshine was quite idyllic, with the ridge that had to be crossed later in the day looming up behind it

We had to climb up through very steep bush immediately behind the somewhat dilapidated Anderson hut and then make our way up the ridge visible in the photo. At one point we hit what seemed impenetrable bush and spent a full hour and ahalf scrambling up and down the ridge trying to find a way through- Borrie became more and more disenchanted with the whole proceedings and was determined to make his way back to Invercargill. Eventually we hauled ourselves up to about 1600m above sea level, where we had to negotiate scree and rock slides amongst the tussock before dropping down again to the saddle at about 1200 m. It was the most exhausting day yet - made worse because I misread the slope and failed to follow the easiest route. Thankfully it was clear weather - but even so I felt I was putting both boys at real risk at one stage and was more than thankful when we started down the long ridge to the Esk Valley, with magnificent views up to Lake Mason. I doubt whether there are all too many people who have been that way alone - certainly not without having been accompanied for a previous crossing and pleased as I am to have done it, I would not recommend it as something that anyone should take on board lightly.

At this stage, Borrie realised he was on 'home territory' and set sail with great sense of purpose as we came down from Esk Head station towards HURUNUI HORSE TREKS  in Hawarden. The last day was familiar territory to me as well, having ridden it when on my 'five day trek and packing skills course earlier this year. It has been good to spend a few days here reflecting on what I have learnt since then, and on how much I still have to learn as I prepare for the next stage. We have had some alterations made to the pack saddle - basically to make it a little shorter and to fit a second girth so that it moves less on Foggy . 

As I write this the Hurunui River is way above its normal level for this time of year and is quite uncrossable. Hopefully it will drop by the weekend and we will be able to go through Island Hills Station to Glenhope and up the Waiau Valley through St James station to join up with the Hanmer Springs - St Arnaud road. We then go on down the Wairau valley through Rainbow station, to reach Blenheim around the 16th January.

Up ] Mary's Diary-1 ] Mary's Diary-2 ] Mary's Diary-3 ] [ Mary's Diary-4 ] Mary's Diary-5 ] Mary's Diary-6 ] Mary's Diary-7 ] Mary's Diary-8 ] Mary's Diary-9 ] Mary's Diary-10 ] Mary's Diary-11 ]




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