The strangest thing happened when we were staying at the Bicentennial National Trail campsite in Sandy Hollow, which I forgot to mention in my other post. This is of course in addition to the team getting cactuses stuck in them and later escaping from their paddock. It was there that I found Fly’s doppelganger.
Now of course as a 16hh chestnut thoroughbred, white stripe and one white sock at the back, Fly isn’t all that unusual looking. I’m sure there’s a million horses out there that fit that description. But after travelling hundreds of kilometres, we have not actually managed to find a horse that looks EXACTLY like him, facial expressions and all- no easy feat for any horse!
At Sandy Hollow, the horses in the neighbouring paddock came up to the fence to say hello, and among them was Fly. Or at least what I thought was Fly. I raced to grab his halter, wondering anxiously how he had manged to get himself over to the other side of the fence and in with a strange mob of horses, when I saw Fly standing by our tent, exactly where he should be. I did a double take. Two Flys? How could it be? This horse even did his qivering-droopy-lip-sleepy-stance like Fly. I was tempted to find his owners and ask if they were interested in selling , as how utterly awesome would it be to have two identical horses, especially like the amazing Fly. But as I mistook one for the other several more times over the course of the day, I decided it might be a bit of a headache!
The next day was stinking hot and we decided to move to the Sandy Hollow caravan park, which had a swimming pool. What luxury! We could barely contain our excitement,. It also happened to be recovering from a big music festival held the night before, which we had a bit of a giggle at, considering that Sandy Hollow is a sleepy little town of only 400 people. But it has been a constant theme of our BNT trek that whenever we head into town, there is something on.
When we were close to Orange, the Banjo Paterson Bush Poetry festival was being held. When we were near Sydney, Mardi Gras was on. Later on, the week we rolled into Glenn Innes they were celebrating their annual Celtic Festival. And of course Ebor’s sportsground was being used for some big executive function the weekend we showed up. By the time we reached Nanango in Queensland, I was no longer surprised to see that they were setting up for a huge market the day we arrived.
Alas, I digress. After the luxury of a cabin and the swimming pool, we headed through the coal country for Manobalai TSR. On the way, we were held up by a truck carrying a huge bin-like thing- some god forsaken bit of mining equipment no doubt. It took up the entire road AND the verges, knocking letter boxes, signs and taking out tree limbs as it made its way past. We were sensible enough to get ourselves WAY off the road!
The monotony and awful moonscapes of the coal country was broken up somewhat by passing some amazing thoroughbred studs- The Hunter Valley sure knows how to breed horses. The youngsters didnt think much of the donkeys- running up to the fences, bucking and snorting. The horses all wear collar-like tags with their names on them; think Lika Flyer, Lucky Friday, Riverina Gold. Z insisted on riding Fly right along the fenceline so she could see the nametags and get name ideas for her model horses.
Around this area was also probably a record number of ‘Falling Rocks, Do not Stop’ signs. The first time we came across these on the trail, I have to admit I was a little freaked out, never having seen one before. We would pick up the pace drastically, worriedly looking up now and then at the cliffs overhead. But now they baffle me- if rocks are falling, how is not stopping going to help? Will moving quickly dramatically reduce your chances of being taken out by a wayward chunk of granite? something about it reminds me of running through the razor doors in the Prince of Persia video game we played as kids.
Another week or so of trekking through the Upper hunter brought us to Nundle, a beautiful old gold mining town near-ish to Tamworth. We spent a great week resting up there, trying to sort out a few saddle issues. After two months on the trail, just as we thought we were in the all clear zone, Fly has pulled up with a small saddle rub on his withers. We have begun to learn that heat and sweat really is the enemy when it comes to horse trekking.
While in Nundle, we also checked out the annual Nundle Go for Gold Chinese Easter Festival, which of course happened to be on while we were in town!