In this series we will opening up the pages of our Globetrotters’ travel journals to learn about their experiences straight from the horse’s mouth. First up is a glimpse of the Glenorchy Back Country Ride, courtesy of globetrotter Sheryl Germany. Enjoy!
The night before my epic adventure! I’m so excited!
I’m getting ready to meet my fellow Globetrotters for drinks and snacks at “The Pub on the Wharf”.
I wandered across the street, filled with excitement. My group was there, with the exception of two. We have two friends who travel together frequently (Kate and Kath), two sisters (Sue and Kate), a mother and daughter (Sherilyn and Kate), and traveling alone, there’s a young aspiring police officer(Emily), a Southern Californian mum/wife (Becky), a dog trainer from Tahoe (Kate), and me. 5 Kates, 2 Sheryl/Sherilyns, and Emily, Becky and Sue. We will ride through the Glenorchy back country together, traveling companions bonded by our love for horses and traveling through beautiful country. A fellowship!
Bus transfer to Glenorchy – took about an hour – saw a rainbow and the beautiful area we will be riding around. Arrived at High Country Horses, met our guides and were briefed on safety and expectations. We were then assigned a horse – my boy is Rusty, a 15.3 hand high sorrel gelding. We were given lunch boxes and told to load our saddlebags as evenly as possible. We all fumbled a bit with new equipment, horses and expectations and we were all looking a little anxious and green. I’m sure the guides were used to this, somewhat, on the first day of each trip. Has to be a little terrifying bringing 10 strangers that claim they can ride , out into the middle of nowhere! Rusty, my noble mount was very forward, but fun. He likes to always be in the front. “He thinks he’s special” – he is, but I’m hoping to be exposed to front back and middle, so we began to work on that a bit.
Barely made it off the driveway and watched a stoat, something like a ferret, harassing a horse in the pen, climbing on its legs as the golden palomino attempted to shake it off then stomp at it. The activity spooked one of our horses and the domino effect ensued. In the end, 3 riders came off, one badly injuring her foot. Being a tough horsewoman, she continued onward. Damn stoat.
Mt Cook, Reese River, Dart River all on our sightings for today. There were many river and water crossings. The lupine was just finishing but still beautiful. White, blue, and a beautiful pink. The river crossings today were preparing you for what was to come in the next few days… I learned that you don’t look down while crossing these faster moving streams, as you can become disoriented or have some motion sickness – I’m glad Rusty already knew this and took care of things. I think day one was also to help the guides see what abilities were on the trip.
Had lunch sitting in a meadow with our mounts tied to trees. They didn’t seem to mind, and they were rewarded with the leftover apple cores and a bit of grazing.
We passed “Lovers Leap”. Many years in the past, native tribes lived in the area and were not to associate with one another, keeping their tribes, lands and belongings sacred and pure. The Chief’s daughter, the most beautiful of the land, met with another tribe’s son at the watering hole. He was a handsome young warrior, and they fell deeply in love. Their relationship was forbidden and punishable by his death. Instead, they chose to run from the chasing tribes to the top of the mountain and leap off together. Bound together for eternity instead of living without one another. The mountain still mourns them as there are small rocks and dirt that continue to fall, as tears.
Later in the afternoon, we Arrived at Rees Station for tea. We were welcomed by the resident sheep, and the horses were happy for a break. We unsaddled the horses, groomed them, and a few even had a special massage before getting ready for dinner. We were all sleeping in a bunkhouse together in two rooms. Bunk beds were ready to be made up, with special care packs included. Dinner was stuffed chicken, mashed potatoes and salad expertly prepared by our guides. It was all hands on deck for the clean up and put away. Lots of laughs and fun with great ladies!
We woke up early, packed up our quarters and had a lovely breakfast prepared by Jess and Bijimin. Eggs, toast, bacon, and I even tried Vegemite. We then caught, fed and tacked up our ponies.
Left Rees Station, cantering up the hill, Erin and Slim Shady briefly showed us their trick riding abilities by wearing the saddle on the side. After quickly deciding this was not a great idea, girth was tightened again (and again…) and we carried on with the ride, right side up. Took in some spectacular views of the valley and even met a few sheep on the hill. We continued riding up to and through the Rees River through native beech forests, ending at Arthur’s Hut for the night. We even had a peek at the “Misty Mountains”. We arrived to tea time under the tree beside the stream. Goodies were beautifully set up on a wooden pallet with charcuterie including cheese and crackers, peppers, olives, salami and pepperoni, as well as other things I did not recognize. We would later learn the the favorite place for sandflies is at the edge of a forest by a stream… we invaded their territory , and they forcefully and relentlessly attacked.
We had lamb for dinner, while the sandflies feasted on us. None went hungry. We learned from Bijimin that a single sandfly can produce 10 sandfly larve without eating anything. Give them a single drop of blood, they can produce 100… (or maybe 1000, I was distracted by the bites.) thank heavens their life expectancy is short, a mere 4-5 days. Deet and sandfly repellent does not deter (and perhaps attracts!) one must be fully covered to avoid being a meal. We appeared to be ninjas before we retired for the evening. We slept in heavy duty tents with cots and a special covering to get under for especially cold nights. The bathroom is a composting outhouse. The outhouse is occupied if the bucket is over the cone. Shower is separate and attached to the back of the kitchen building. It’s outside, but walls enclose it. The water is heated by propane, if you know how to use it… ahem, turn on the gas! Behind camp is a waterfall and a creek – beautiful, and very very cold. Perfect for poor Kath to soak her injured foot in. Beautiful green stone is prominent in the streams and was at one time used for weapon making by the Maori warriors. Tall grasses and flowers surround the area. No ticks, spiders or snakes!!! Only sandflies and mozzies (mosquitoes, as they call them here) Spectacular views. Beautiful weather. Slept well with the sounds of the waterfall lulling us to sleep. Also heard unusual sounds that I thought may have been an angry bird – later to find out it was likely an opossum. Evidently they are also a pest in these areas.
Breakfast was prepared by our awesome leaders, all dishes and cleanup after all meals were a group effort. Ponies were again caught, fed and dressed for the day. They get a sweet feed with supplements every morning, and they love it.
Today the weather was very overcast and cool to start with, progressing to very windy with rain off and on, with an eventual downpour. I was especially thankful for the Aussie raincoat provided, as we spent most of the day riding in the inclement weather. The horses inherently knew what they were in for way before we did, and knew how to handle the elements. Rusty was a bit irritated that we even went out. We rode up Pride Rock and took some photos – just magical in every way. All the horses would place their butts to the wind and rain with their heads bent slightly to the side to keep their faces drier and out of the wind. Smart ponies.
We were able to cross into a crevice that the head of the river came from. It was a beautiful blue color and oh so chilly. Many of the horses did not want to swim/walk into it, but they did. It was breathtaking, both in the scenery and the temperature of the water.
After this we went to the falls and untacked the horses, allowing them and us a break for lunch. There was a small area roped off with a hotline for the horses, and we retreated to a cave-like area alongside the falls. There was no dry place. We, however, were not the first to inhabit this covered area, as there were skeletal remains along with us. It kinda had the feel of a hole where Gollum may have once taken shelter. After lunch we walked up the narrow, muddy, rooted path up alongside the waterfall, previously passable, and a place where previous groups had come to swim. There would be no swimming today, and we were not even able to go all the way up as the falls were raging. The power of nature takes my breath away.
Chilled and wet, we caught the horses and ended their grassy munch fest to place wet saddles and blankets back on and head back to camp. It was mostly quiet, with only the sounds of the hoof falls, the creaking of our saddles and the sloshing of water in our boots.
We arrived at camp drenched and cold on the outside but warm and fulfilled inside, knowing we had just had an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience. Bijimin started a fire in the guides’ bunkhouse and we gathered around, warming up while hearing stories about horses, travels and life. Games were also played and “not everyone could come to the party”… (we eventually figured out the rules and everyone could come!) While drying out and warming up, a big windstorm came out of nowhere – 100+km winds, felt like a tornado!! It even made the newspaper!
Steak dinner tonight- cooked to perfection, with all the sides. It was a pretty cold night – I made use of the special covering that you put over the sleeping bag, as well as multiple layers. Heard the opossum again, I think he likes the area my tent was in.
Woke to a refreshing, chilly morning. Frost on the wooden decks in front of the tents and fog hanging in the view of the mountains. Hot coffee for breakfast with poached eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes with bacon. Yummm. 5 star meal for sure.
We caught our horses and readied them for the journey. I was offered the opportunity to ride Beer today! What a fun, new experience. A big, white draft-cross with a tiny little English saddle. I was a bit nervous getting out of my comfort zone and onto this giant couch. It was my initial hope to actually be assigned to this amazing boy, and I can’t believe it actually happened!
He did not disappoint, and my riding ability was certainly challenged. We left the camp and journeyed ahead. Finding my seat, kinda, we progressed to the gallop hill. My heart was racing as Beer waited for our turn to fly up the hill. It was a very freeing, breath-stealing experience letting him run as fast as his legs would carry us. Remember, he’s a draft-cross, not a Thoroughbred. The little girl in me just laughed uncontrollably inside. I still have a smile on my face as I recall the experience.
We continued on towards Paradise. Appropriately named. Passing through various streams and the “goat trail”, where the horses spectacularly navigated a rocky, single-track, mountainous trail with ease. Have I mentioned how beautiful this country is? Everywhere you look there is beauty. Mostly raw and untouched. You can smell the grass and trees, the water and the earth. The cool mountain air seems to cleanse the palette as your senses are awakened repeatedly.
We continued through to Diamond Lake and to where our rooms for the evening were. Hot water, indoor showers, flushing toilets, kitchens and a luxurious room with a real bed! Before checking out our “Millers House” accommodations for the night, we untacked the horses and walked them back to the lake. We mounted our majestic steeds bareback and took them for a swim in the lake. Again, giggling like a little girl. The feeling of floating on top of the world, just me and Beer, the beautiful boy. It was as if we were as light as a feather and gliding. I’m sure Beer didn’t feel the same, but was a very good sport anyway. Making our way back to the comfort of the cottages, we found our bags placed in our rooms and ready for us to gather what we needed to clean up for what the rest of the night would bring.
The decor was beautiful and welcoming. Inviting. Someone obviously took great care to make this perfect. Dinner was a bountiful selection of lamb, chicken, pumpkin, corn, salad, potatoes, green peas and I’m sure I’ve forgotten other items followed by deserts of tradition. Pavlova with kiwi fruit (the New Zealand way), hokey pokey ice cream, berries, fruit with cream and more. What a way to celebrate the last night of camping. We also had scheduled massages to ease our tired “bums”.
Before turning in for the night, Bijimin and Jess took us on an after-dark adventure through the forest and into the hidden pocket of glow worms, again telling us all about the luminescent creatures we were viewing. The worms glowed green against the black darkness of the overhang above the stream. How peaceful with the brook running, and being in utter darkness with the exception of the stars and the glow of the worms. Walking back to our rooms, you could see the sky open up and show the Milky Way and an abundance of stars on this dark evening. Grateful for this evening – such a gift.
Limited photos of this day, as my camera was filled with condensation after our very wet day yesterday.
Our final day, our trek from Paradise through the Dart Valley and back to the ranch in Glenorchy before taking off to Queenstown. Mixed emotions today, would love to have a few more days with my new friends and horses.
So, a quick breakfast and making our box lunch before starting the morning gathering of horses and getting set for the day. Today we saw some stunning wedding sites, one venue in which the founder of High Country Horses was married to her late husband. I imagine that it was absolutely perfect in every way. The couple and the surroundings.
Moving forward, we visited several filming sites from popular movies: Lord of the Rings, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Hobbit, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Boy, Wolverine origins, Mission Impossible: Fallout.
I felt as though this was sacred ground… just my opinion. Circling around the mountain and through the forest again surrounded by the beech, cabbage, manuka trees, kauri trees and other native plants, bushes and ferns. Looking down over the Shotover River as boats zoomed by, only needing 10 centimeters of water to propel through the shallow veins of the river. We were nearing civilization, somewhat. A few more crossings and our trip would be over.
Lunch stop at an overlook for the river, and we sat and ate alongside our horses as they also had a lunch break. A few of the horses checked in to see what our lunches looked like, and begged for leftover bits before being shooed away. The time came to saddle back up and complete our trek.
We arrived at the ranch and undressed our surefooted, trusty steeds, giving them a final groom and a few extra rubs, whispering a grateful thank you to them as we say goodbye.
As has been tradition throughout the ride, afternoon tea and scones awaited us as we finished gathering our belongings, said our goodbyes and climbed into the van for the trip back to Queenstown.
Forever in my heart, burned into my soul.
Our huge thanks to Sheryl for sharing her innermost thoughts about her ride in New Zealand!
Busting to have your own adventure in spectacular Glenorchy? Check out the ride page!