After passing the livery stable and Keith’s lookout, we knew that we would only be in Wollemi National Park for another day or two before farewelling it forever more. It was a bittersweet moment, as Aberdeen had seemed such a long way off and we were finally getting close, but on the other hand, Wollemi was stunning and had taught us so much. It wasnt until we were in Wollemi that I feel like we had begun to ‘cut our National Trail teeth’- the donkeys were fit, we were scaling the slopes like pros (ok, slight exaggeration there) and the number of dramas that seemed to befall us in our first few weeks had gradually decreased. I was finally able to sleep properly at night without worrying that Fly would be afflicted with a sudden bout of midnight colic, that Z would come down with a deadly mystery illness miles frm medical help, or that the donkeys were secretly plotting one of their Great Escapes. Things were finally going according to plan, we were enjoying the luxury of friendly company and vehicle support every few days. It was finally beginning to feel like we were on the trail rather simply on some kind of trial. Z and I spoke about how things seemed easier now and I admitted that I
still felt like we were out of our depth at times. ”But at least we know how to swim a bit better now”, she remarked. Words of wisdom from the ten year old 🙂
Anyway, what a treat it was riding through Widden, oldest thoroughbred stud in Australia and potentially one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Z remarked that the nature spirits who created this part of the world must have been real drama queens, what with their flair for dramatic sandstone gorges and rather flamboyant mountain tops that resembled things like cats ears and wedding cakes.
After meeting a few of the wonderfully friendly employees at Widden and hearing that there was work a-plenty, I was tempted to apply for a job and settle down for a few weeks, or forever perhaps. But the weather had begun to cool down, a timely reminder that we needed to be further north before late autumn set in, so we continued on up to Phipps Cutting where we met Marlene and Joe- another pair of wonderfully helpful and friendly coordinators.
We battled our way through nasty cactuses the next day- with Jasmine completely freaking out and just about turning herself inside out while I attempted to remove the wretched spines. Basil also acquired a few, and in typical Basilian style, didn’t even seem to notice them when they went in, but was most objectionable when I insisted on getting them out. While camped at Sandy Hollow later that day, Fly came galloping up to our tent, looking rather distressed. This was incredibly unusual behaviour, as he is usually one very calm and collected customer. I assumed he was a bit agitated at the novelty of having prolific equine company for once, but upon closer inspection, I noticed he had managed to acquire a whole collection of cactus thorns in his lower lip. Every time I tried to pull them out, he would wrench his head away and I would end up transferring them to my fingers.
Luckily, Cathy had a pair of tongs on hand which did the job and Fly was especially smoochy with me for the rest of the day. ”Thanks mum!”, he seemed to be saying. I slept a very restless sleep that night, dreaming over and over of various cactus extractions. What nasty things they are! At least we know to look out for them from now on….