So much seems to have happened in the final few days, not least the ladies from the clinic getting their breakers saddled and ridden in the arena and then out on a short trail ride. It was a massive achievement in 2 weeks and all credit to them, Genine and Robert. Others had the added complications of trickier horses and/or their own physical and emotional constraints to overcome as well as the learning curve to scale, but still accomplished significant milestones. We didn’t go on this ride as it was a special moment for the students but had taken Myrte with us on a beautiful ride the previous day into an unvisited part of the station including an excellent canter along the creek bed where I finally started to get my rhythm sorted out.
We were able to take a slightly slower pace than the first 3-4 weeks, work with Frankie, absorb the sessions the ladies were undertaking and even have some downtime after lunch when the temperatures started to rise and rise. We were still responsible for the horse feeding which gave me the excuse to visit the kindergarten twice a day at least. Emy-Lou is growing rapidly and all her charging around, bucking and rearing on top of mounds, has taught her how to kick! This is going to be sorted out very soon. The little fella has the paddock name of Zen but is still to receive his full title. Historically the names have to begin with RE so we had an ever-increasing list of ideas and wait patiently to see what he will be called. He has been a super little chap, very friendly and inquisitive, possibly assisted by Mum’s initial indifference, unlike Jaz’s protectionism, but also from my initial contact perhaps ‘imprinting’ on him.
When I went to say goodbye to him and Lily (my soul sister/daughter) he was even more curious than usual and I got covered in mud rubbing and scratching him. We had had a short burst of torrential rain and he must have rolled in a puddle or slipped up because his coat, fortunately quite muddy coloured naturally, was caked in it. It didn’t stop me though because it was such a precious moment when Lily was in labour and came to me for reassurance, of which he was the product. I will never forget that experience and look forward to seeing him (via facebook) grow up into a very handsome lad.
This was his and Emy Lou’s first rain and when I say rain I don’t mean British miserable cold incessant drizzle. I mean a deluge, sufficient to block internet access via the satellite which can’t penetrate, even moderate, cloud. Whilst we, in the UK, often despair of rain, here in this and many other parts of Australia (although not all as there is bad flooding in South Australia) it is welcomed with open arms, sometimes literally as they can be so pleased to see it. Its not really cold and you dry off again very quickly, unless you get absolutely soaked going to look at the crystal caves!
The rain had stopped, although the sky still looked very threatening. We had not managed the visit to the caves earlier in the programme as the ladies had been too keen to keep working the horses but the morning trail ride had been the finale so the afternoon was free. 2 trucks were loaded up with most of us in the back as there were only 3 seats available in each cab and 15 people. We used the noodles, most people would recognise these as the long foam cylinders from swimming pools, as seats and back rests. As we approached the area the heavens opened again, this time with a distinct temperature drop and no-one had any waterproofs. We ran across the country and clambered down quite a steep rocky, sandstone so very uneven, hillside and under the bluff. We wedged ourselves into the crevice just as the rain filled torrents started to pour into our shelter. Depending on where you stood or sat, there were some eroded ledges, you could either stay dry (although all clothes were soaked by now) or have a shower. No-one opted for the latter, intentionally. The ground was littered with lumps of pure white quartz both inside and out but we were more interested in the rain tipping in to the caves over the edges of the ground above illustrating exactly how they are formed.
After running back to the vehicles we had a bit of a white knuckle ride back along the dirt tracks at some speed, taking off over bumps, with those of us in the back leaving the bed of the truck by several inches. We had a loose tarpaulin to cover ourselves but this required holding up so that we didn’t suffocate. We were able to put the noodles to yet another use, albeit a bit feeble, when they were ‘erected’ as tent poles. Their lack of rigidity made this fairly unsuccessful so Krystal and Simone had to hold up the tarp most of the way back. I managed to get clobbered on the shin by the only one which could have been used as an offensive weapon as it had a carabina attached to one end. Back at the house I emerged from the tarpaulin soaking wet and somewhat battered and bruised. People pay good money for that kind of ride at an adventure park!
The following day we departed beautiful Bodalla at 6.30am for a stop off at the Texas Longhorn Ranch on the way in to Charters Towers, the first of its kind in Australia. It boasted the longest set of horns, tip to tip, until recently on JR (Johnny Red) as well as the oldest and heaviest beasts of this type along with water buffalo and bison. The highland cattle didn’t even get a mention but I felt very sorry for them in their thick coat in these 30+ degree temperatures and its not even summer yet.
We said our farewells in Townsville from where the ladies were flying back home. We were, very kindly, put up in a hotel room and enjoyed the room facilities but unfortunately didn’t have time to make use of the pool outside our door. The humidity had hit us when we got out of the car at this coastal city and even at night the temperature only dropped to 22 but still so sticky. It had been very difficult saying goodbye to the animals, particularly Frankie and little Jack Russell, Odi, but when it came to Genine and Robert words were totally inadequate. They have given us an amazing and totally unforgettable experience with so many highs we couldn’t really explain but we hope they know. Love you guys xx