The other day, we had the best ever day off walking/ riding that we have had yet on our entire trek. Sad thing is, we weren’t even on the BNT.
After deciding that it was time to switch to bikes and send the bubs off on holiday, we were holed-up in Biggenden for good two weeks, phoning around and sorting out logistics. Its always nice to have a few days off, in which the longest distance you have to walk is down to the shops to buy a loaf of bread. However, after about a week of unusually sedentary activity, my legs were just itching to GO somewhere. I needed to hit the trail and get moving again. I’ve found it can be hard to stay still when you’re so used to walking all day, every day.
And wandering out that afternoon to have a peek at the bubs in their clover-filled paddock, I began to wonder about them, too. They love a rest day or two, always relishing the opportunity to catch up on grazing, or perhaps just laze in the sun and rest their tired legs. But cross that happy window of three days or so, and they become little monsters. They start to hatch escape plans, nip and bully each other, and generally carry on like a bunch off kindergartners in desperate need of a recess break.
So you can imagine the shennanigans that were ensuing after a whole week off. Z and I stood watching, shaking our heads as Fly darted around, tail up and legs held high, doing his ‘look at me- I’m a stallion, I’m a stallion, I am, I really am ‘ act for the benefit of the mares n the other side of the hill.
Meanwhile,despite there being huge amounts of green pick in the paddock, Jasmine was engaging in a variety of donkey contortion exercises in a bid to step through the wires of the fence and indulge in the grass on the other side. And all this while Basil was attempting to mount her.The circus had come to town!
It was obvious that the bubs were feeling frustrated at the lack of activity and being as fit and well-traveled as they are, it must be just as difficult for them as it was for me to have the journey suddenly screech to a halt. So Z and I decided to go for a 15km walk in order for them to burn off some excess energy and have a much-needed change of scenery.
And off we go…
We decided to take the advice of a local, and do a random loop up and around Mt Woowoonga Road, returning to the showgrounds a few hours later. So we brushed and saddled the bubs in no real rush, taking the time to comb every knot out of their manes and tails until they shone. Z commented on how fluffy the donkeys’ foreheads were getting and tried out a couple of new hairstyles on Jasmine. We leisurely saddled up, and without worrying about the usuall routine of packing and weighing saddlebags, we were ready to go in record time.
Without any fixed destination, goal or plan in place as we set off down the road, we dilly-dallied our way through the kilometres, stopping to look at birds,, pick flowers, point out interesting trees. And knowing the bubs would soon be far away, we enjoyed their wonderful company much more than ever. Having no set schedule, we had the time to humour Basil when he decided to stop for a munch and to giggle at Jasmine when she stole the grass right out of his mouth.
As we wandered along, I realised that when I was planning our BNT trek, THIS is how I thought life on the trail would be. THIS. Long days in the sun, spent laughing at horses and relaxing out in nature- living in the moment. But unfortunately, its not. Not usually, anyway. With much-needed water at camp to get to, only so many hours to work with each day, and the constant worries of watching for saddle rubs and keeping weight on the animals, the BNT can at times feel like such a MISSION.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I LOVE the BNT and everything it entails, for better or worse. And some days can indeed feel like this– like you’re floating on air without a worry in the world, like the universe is holding you safe in the palm of its hand,wrapped up in a snug bubble of love with your trusty steeds. But other days, when you’ve lost the way and can barely walk another step, or there’s a locked gate just as you’re almost at camp, things can get dark.
Base -Camping Instead?
For those who want to experience the trail without as much risk or frustration, I would definitely recommend base camping with your horse, especially after our pleasant little outings in Biggenden. Find a pretty hut or TSR to camp, perhaps organise for some hay or grain to be dropped off, and gone are the stresses of finding a new home and food for your animals each night. At one time, this would’ve been easier, but with the advent of motorised vehicles, its unfortunately not such a horse-friendly world these days. When base-camping, gone also are the fears of losing your way, and gone is the tedium of packing and weighing copious quantities of saddle bags and panniers.
But also, gone is the challenge .While we certainly had a pleasant ride, we returned to the conveniences of Biggenden, the five of us largely the same as when we had set off that morning. No feeling of euphoria that comes with slipping down gullies, mastering river crossings, and finding your way back to the trail to finally arrive at camp, sweaty and exhausted , but alive and intact.
So in summary, if you would like an easy riding holiday where you can relax and enjoy nature’s spread to the full, I highly recommend base camping. But if you are willing to get chewed up and spat out, to experience the highest off highs and the lowest of lows, there’s nothing quite like the amazing BNT.