Once you have decided on a long distance trek along the BNT, it is highly likely that it will be at least a year of planning, preparation or forethought before you actually feel ready to set off. For us it was more like two years. Here is an A to Z journey of what it took to get us out on the trail!
Arrange agistment and accommodation somewhere near Healesville
Break in donkeys to packsaddle and lead
Change our starting point from Healesville to Canberra
Deliberate- To take Fly or not to take Fly? (Took him in the end- best decision I’ve made so far) Would Z’s pony be up for the trail? Donkeys or horses? North or South?
Dream– it all starts here! For me, it all started when I was teaching ESL in Indonesia at 20, trawling the internet on my lunch break. I came across the Long Riders website and it planted the seed to go on an epic long-distance ride with horses.
Extricate myself from work, houses, cars, bills
Fly over from Perth
Give up. Even before we started it all seemed a bit too-hard basket. But usually by the next morning I was committed again.
Hang out with awesome people. There will always be naysayers out there who don’t think you should, would, or can do something out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, at times there are even people who are practically waiting to see you fail. My advice: hang out with positive, supportive uplifting people while you are planning your trek. You yourself will generate enough doubt and anxiety in the planning stages without having others add to it.
Imagine what things will be like out on the trail. This was half the fun! Never mind the fact that the reality was nothing like the dream…
Jot things down in a bit notebook. I had mine sectioned into Things to learn, Things to make, things to buy, things to take etc
Keep busy. It’s tempting to sit around and lament over how long it is before you set off, but it goes quickly I found there was so much to do at the last-minute, even if you plan it years in advance.
Learn how to use hobbles, highlines, and how to pack a horse.
Make stuff. Trekking gear can get expensive, and while you wont wanna skimp on certain items, others can be made just as easily at home. I made pack saddle panniers, lightweight horse rug (since discarded), stuff sacks, etc. Lots of people make their own horse feed bags.
Nerd out on knots, compasses and bushcraft. (Most of which I havent used, but oh well)
Obsess over what to take. Is Fly really the right horse? Two pairs of socks or three? Cotton or silk sleeping bag liners?
Practise being out on the trail. We walked every firebreak and road around Emerald in Victoria getting the donkeys used to traffic, hills and distances. (In hindsight, what we really needed to practise was water crossings…oops)
Purchase gear. A lot of our stuff came from Outfitter Supply in the US, other bits and pieces we got in Italy (Who would’ve thought there was a horse-packing culture in Italy?)
Quit my job. Always fun, even if like me, you love your work.
Research– stalk every BNT trekker’s blog religiously and read just about everything that has ever been published on horsepacking.
Save money– Being out in the bush with animals ends up costing more than you would think!
Transport Fly over to Healesville from WA and the donkeys from Northern Victoria.
Unify the group of steeds. Fly treated the donkeys like they were invisible at first. After a few weeks together, they really bonded as a herd and were ready to tackle the trail as a team.
Venture out with the new gear. Better to know if something doesn’t work properly before you’re on the trail.
Worry, worry, worry. Are we gunna be okay? Is Z gunna handle it?
eXtraneous items: Rethink, repack and get rid of anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Goodbye hoof knife, ukulele, violin and radio.
Yell with excitement! We’ll soon be….
Zooming off along the BNT!