1.Not Stopping for Lunch
When trekking with animals on the BNT, every mouthful of grass counts in the bid to keep condition on. Therefore, most successful trekkers don’t stop much throughout the day, in order to get to camp by midday and allow the animals the whole afternoon to graze freely. We tend to follow the same rule, however, when the day is long, sometimes it DOES pay to stop.
When you are tired and hungry, your navigation skills go to pot, you make bad decisions, not to mention getting the dreaded 15km grumps. It can be so tempting to just push on for that last 6 kilometres, but in such a state, 6 kilometres can feel more like 10, and no one will enjoy it. Upon arrival at camp, its good not to be so totally wrecked that you can’t pick out a good site and work out fencing arrangements.
So now, for days that I know are going to be a bit rough or over 23km, I’ll pack a bit of lunch in my pack and tie the bubs up for 15 mins or so while we have a breather. Everyone arrives at camp much happier that way!
2. Not Carrying Cash
At home, I rarely carry cash- everyone takes cards now, right? Likewise, when leaving a town and heading into the bush, I never used to worry about bringing any cash. Why bother? There would be no shops where we were going anyway, and we had food supplies and everything we needed at hand.
However, leaving Killarney with only a few silver coins in my wallet, I soon learned my lesson. With our next resupply point two weeks ahead, we were loaded up with dehydrated food and copra. I couldn’t believe it when we passed a farm gate stall a few days in, loaded with corn and fresh tomatoes, and I didn’t have a single dollar to buy any. Having to eat soupy dried lentils again when there was all that beautiful fresh produce next door was enough to make me want to cry! Not long after that, a farmer next door to our camp was heading in to town and asked if we wanted anything. I would’ve loved some hay for Fly boy, and perhaps a bar of chocolate, and a six-pack of XXXX thankyou very much, but didn’t have any cash to hand over. So I politely declined. I could’ve kicked myself. Sorry, no hay today, Fly!
Since then, I have used cash on the trail for buying roadside veggies and honey, purchasing hay from farmers, paying for campste fees at an honesty box, and taking bus trips into town. Who says you don’t spend money in the bush!
3. Being Vegetarian
Perhaps not so much a mistake as one GIANT inconvenience. Much of the trail runs through cattle country, so its only naturally that people out here love their meat. And so they should. But farmers and other people out in the country have been incredibly generous and often invited us to dinner, at which time I have to mention rather awkwardly that we are vegetarian… That it might be a bit of an inconvenience for them…. That we are happy to maybe just eat the veggies on the side?? Which has usually worked out just fine. But a few times, people have gone to the trouble to surprise us with a juicy piece of steak to cook up at camp. You can imagine how heartbreaking it is to have to refuse, especially when people have gone to all that trouble.
Someone mentioned to me a while back that perhaps in the spirit of hospitality and good manners, that we should temporarily throw aside our ethics and just eat the god damn meat. I did consider it. But nahhh…. I just couldn’t. Besides, our being vegetarian doesn’t actually seem to offend anyone. They just think we’re a bit weird!
4. Overestimating how much spare time we would have
Waking up, packing up camp, saddling, walking, looking for a camp, setting up camp, cooking life on the BNT can ironically seem much busier than at home. Our first week on the trail, I was horrified that it was taking 3 whole hours to break camp, saddle and be ready for the day’s ride. I tried to reassure myself that one day, once we got into the swing of things, it would take mere minutes.
Six months later, it still takes 2 and a half hours every morning to get ourselves together and be ready to depart. It still takes hours and hours to travel 20 or so kilometres, and rest days are often filled with laundry duties, shopping, studying maps, calling ahead for permission to access private property or camp, or repair work. I kinda like to keep busy, so its all good with me, but when you are in the planning stages, its easy to overestimate how much spare time you’ll have when you are out on the trail.
5. Not having an Extra Horse/donkey
Again, perhaps not so much a mistake as much as a choice for which we have to pay the consequences. Having a spare animal allows you to rotate which horses/ donkeys are being used for riding or packing. This means that even if you don’t stop for a rest day, every animal will get, say , every third day off. If one of the animals becomes sore, you can still continue on your journey, using the other two to pack and ride. If you don’t have a spare horse, you are forced to stop. (Contrary to what many may think, it is having the gear on their back rather than the actual walking itself which takes its toll on the animals.)
Being saddled day after day can start to cause rubs and sores, no matter how well your gear fits, and so if you don’t have a spare animal to rotate duties with, you are forced to travel a lot more slowly, taking a rest day every couple of days or so. Because a spare animal means more feed and equipment to carry and the responsiblity an extra animal to look after, I decided that we would just make do with the three animals and stop when one of them needed it.