The Real Man From Snowy River

We finished up our Tasmanian adventure in good spirits, rested and ready for our next trip, an eleven day pack trip through the mountainous region of New Zealand’s South Island.

Rob had regained much of his good humor from the rest and recreation in Tasmania.  Look at him here trying to contain his glee.

Happy Rob

We traveled from Tasmania to the beautiful city of Christchurch and checked into the lovely Millennium Hotel, where we spent a couple of days getting our laundry done and watching stupid movies on Pay Per View (I noted “Michelle and Romey’s High School Reunion” in particular, in my journal). It has to be a pretty bad movie if you take up valuable journal space remembering the name.

Our trip was based out of a picturesque ranch called Waitohi Downs, which is a mountainous 2,300 acre spread.  It is home to 50 horses, 3,000 sheep, 150 beef cattle and 450 red deer.  The red deer are raised for their antlers, which are shipped to Japan where the velvet is a high-priced Japanese aphrodisiac. Huh. I guess whatever floats your boat.

Anyway, our hosts on the trip were Jenny and Lawrie O’Carroll.  They were a fortyish couple, no kids, and they ran the 1-day to 11-day trips based out of their simple yet comfortable ranch headquarters.

This is Jenny.  She was our camp cook, and exhibited unflappable calmness and good humor through all the challenges of the trip. She made a mean dessert too.


Jenny’s husband is Lawrie.  He is The Real Man From Snowy River.


I thought he looked kind of like a tall, masculine Richard Gere.  Lawrie and I hit it off right away (no, not in the “deer horn” sort of way) and he spend most of the trip trying to persuade me to abandon my life in the U.S. for a year and work for he and Jenny guiding pack trips.  I still can’t believe I didn’t do it.


Rob made a new friend while we were at the ranch.

Rob and Pig

Unlike Australia, where our gear was carried from place to place by automobile, here all of our stuff was loaded on packhorses.  Our first night there we were taught to pack our swag, which was a combination of bedroll and duffel bag, and carried all of our personal belongings for the trip.  We were allowed three changes of clothing, a towel, some extra shoes for camp, and our cameras and journal writing materials. 

There was no room in the swags for a blow dryer or makeup.  You will no doubt notice that in some of the pictures later.

The swags were loaded on the sides of packhorses for the trip.

Which brings me to the horses.  They were giant Thoroughbred/Clydesdale  crosses.  Here is Rob with one of the packhorses.  They truly were huge.

Rob and Pack Horse

At just over 16 hands high, my mare, Fern, was the smallest horse in our string. Did I mention there was no room for makeup?

Me and Fern

Here is a picture of Rob with his horse.  Or is it the horse and then Rob.  I can’t tell.

Rob and Horse

We had a fellow rider who was a very nice woman from Colorado named Diane.  Here we are, all loaded up and ready to head out.

Group Photo

And going down the trail. Isn’t it beautiful?

Heading Out

As the most experienced guest on the trip, I was often assigned the ask of leading Matia, a high-spirited and somewhat wild three year old gelding who had never been ridden and was on his first trip with the string.  Daily, he stretched my arms, jerked my neck, and once almost pulled me off crossing a nasty raging river.

I nicknamed the colt “Junior,” and next week I’ll tell you about how Lawrie actually made me ride him. 

Leading Matia

Categories: Horse Adventures, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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