Posts Tagged With: Australia


We left Melbourne at about five in the evening for our overnight water crossing to Tasmania, on board the lovely Spirit of Tasmania.  I had rented us a private cabin for the trip, which, although tiny, did have one queen sized bed and two bunk beds.

Guess who got the bunk beds.  It wasn’t Rob.  Although he spent most of the night in the ship bar so it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway.

We arrived in Devonport at about 8:00 am and headed to our hotel.  We had rented a couple of rooms to get ourselves oriented to Tasmania and prepare for our Overland Track backpacking trip.

We headed to our hotel, which was a “4 Star” rated Tasmanian hotel called the Gateway Motor Inn, and supposedly the nicest hotel in Devonport.  My room had a double bed and a twin bed, with un-matching bedspreads, a circa 1970’s TV set, and a tiny bathroom with the toilet flushing mechanism mounted on the wall beside the sink.  There was a picture of a blue cat in an apron beside the contraption pointing with her paw to the flush button.  Quaint.

I tried to talk Rob into renting a car to tour around the island, but he said he wasn’t up for it.  Snapped it at me, in fact.  He wanted to go to his room and lie down.  This initiated a discussion about the backpacking trip.  After a very short talk we determined that there was no way Rob would be able to hike for even one day with his roughly 30 pound backpack on his back.

We walked to a  local travel agency and made arrangements to rent a cabin at the beautiful Cradle Mountain Lodge, a lovely cabin-based resort in the heart of Tasmania. From the lodge we could do day hikes as Rob felt up to it, and he could rest his back for the next leg of our trip, which was another horseback trip that would be even more demanding than our Australian Pub Crawl.

The Cradle Mountain Lodge was lovely to see.

Sunny Cabins

I was greeted at check in by one of the resident brush-tailed possums.  It bit me immediately after Rob took this picture.

Paula Possom

We checked into our cabin, which was lovely, with the exception being that it had only one bed.

Guess who got the bed?  It wasn’t me.

Rob immediately became enamored of the fireplace in the cabin.  He embarked on what would be his obsession for our entire week in the cabin…..building the largest fire possible and keeping it burning at all times, maintaining a room temperature of no less than 120 degrees at all times.  It felt that hot, anyway.

Rob fireplace

I settled my sleeping bag down on the floor next to a window, where I spent every night with the window cracked open to allow enough cool air that I could sleep in the stifling heat.

The resort was very lovely and offered many amenities.  It had hiking trails throughout the property and they boasted some absolutely incredible views.

Hotel Walkways

You could hike along this beautiful river on the a walkway right from your cabin door.

Rushing River

It was truly spectacular.

Rushng River 2

Our first night there we had a visit from one of the resident possums.  It came to the window and looked inside, scratching gently on the screen.

Rob opened the window.  Our hotel literature told us very clearly not to feed the possums, as they could acquire a fatal disease from human food called “Lumpy Jaw.”  (I know…it sounds like they made that up.) Rob apparently did not read that part.

Possum inWindow

It also told us not to let the animals in the cabins under any circumstances.  Rob didn’t read that part either.

Possum in Cabin

We eventually had to chase the possum from our room with sticks from the fireplace.  I don’t think that had been his first taste of human food.

The weather took a turn for the worst on our first full day at the resort.  We woke to driving rain, which didn’t stop me from embarking on a three-hour horseback trek from the small stables down the road from our cabin.  The ride was miserable.  The horses were untrained, it was unbelievably muddy, and my mount was noticeably lame.

The weather turned even worse that afternoon, with snow falling through evening and for the next couple of days.  It was lovely, but we were so glad we were not in the middle of nowhere, living out of our backpacks as we had planned to do.

Snowy Cabins

Our little cabin was cozy and warm, with the ever-burning fire sending a plume of smoke in the air.

Cabin smoke

We spent lots of hours in the lodge watering hole, called the Tavern Bar.  We played pool and drank and ate the hours away.

Fireplace Lodge

A couple of days into the visit we met some new friends.

Penny and friend

Penny and Tess were college friends embarking on a one year walk-about of Australia.  They were staying in their ancient van, which had the unfortunate feature of a leaky roof.  The girls were so sweet that we invited them to stay with us in the cabin for a couple of days.  They were happy to pitch their sleeping bags on the floor.  We all settled in just fine.

Reading in Cabin

We went on a long day-hike with them, through the spitting sleet and snow, to the top of Cradle Mountain.

Top of Mountain

Rob calls this my “Admiral Bird” look.  I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds funny anyway.

Paula Top

Penny and Tess left to continue their trip a couple of days later, leaving while Rob and I were on a four-wheeler riding escapade.  It was really, really fun riding through all the mud.

4 Wheelers

When we got back to the cabin Penny and Tess had cleaned it all up, their skills putting the hotel maids to shame.  And they left us this note.

Penny and Tess Note

See, I wasn’t making it up about the fireplace.

Rob spent a couple more days getting massaged at the hotel spa, and we relaxed and got ready for the next leg of our trip.  I was rested and ready to go by the time our Cradle Mountain visit came to an end.

Paula Hiking

Next week we’ll fly to Christchurch, New Zealand, to embark on a ride with the real “Man From Snowy River.”

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Australian Pub Crawl on Horseback (Part 2)

Our first official day of riding started with a rainy two hour ride around the ranch. Rob managed pretty well for a non-rider.  What I say in my journal about my non-horsey brother is that “He did very well on the introductory ride – managed to post at the trot and hold on during the canter.”

The next day we had another ride around the ranch, then came back for a late lunch.  The lunch was exactly like a lunch you would be served in England; bread with canned meat, tuna and a pasta salad.  This was served with sliced tomatoes and chopped lettuce.  We also had the option of Vegemite.  I went for the tuna.

I think Rob just had beer.

Rob in the Kitchen

We departed the next morning in the pouring rain.  The ride started by fording the river behind the house and setting out across extremely rough country.  We forded two more rivers and crossed gullies and hills steeper than anywhere I’d ever ridden before.

Water Crossing

Because it was rainy and cool the kangaroos were out in force.  We probably saw a hundred of them that day, as well as wild goats (which looked exactly like domestic goats) by the dozen.

Our guide told us that the kangaroos were considered a pest, eating forage that could be better used for cattle or sheep.  They are not protected, and are often shot for meat and hides.  Occasionally the local stockmen hold kangaroo roundups, herding large groups of kangaroos into an enclosure where they are disposed of with rifle shots.  They often poison them as well.

The terrain was treacherous in the rain and mud, but we forged ahead.

We finally arrived at the little town of Emmaville at about 4:30.  We were drenched and tired by then, and plenty happy to see the little pub where we were to spend the night.

I wrote “The local pub was a welcome site, with warm fire and cold beer.  We had a hearty dinner and retired to the bar to watch some  dart players and visit with the locals.”

This is our group in front of the pub the next morning before leaving.

Group Photo

We set out at 9:00 and had an easier riding day, though we had some steep uphill climbs where we had to stand in our stirrups and hold the horses manes to keep our balance.  We saw lots of sheep and baby lambs, and had several good long gallops. There were a couple more river crossings today, too.

We even got to jump over some logs.  Rob didn’t jump though.  He was too scared.

Jumping the Log

At the end of the day we stayed at another little pub, in the tiny town of Torrington, population 82. We spent a couple of hours playing pool and talking to a local stockman and his wife until dinner time.  We had roast beef with potatoes for dinner, an excellent meal after our exertions of the day. The next day was our rest day.

On our rest day we hiked out to see the lookout site of Thunderbolt the Bush Ranger, a very famous thief on the order of Robin Hood. The views were spectacular from the top.

Rob at Lookout Point

We went back for lunch, then hiked off to see the “Mystery Face,” which is a natural rock formation shaped exactly like a real face.

Mystery Face

After a few more hours of beer drinking and pool, where Woodsy and I beat Rob and Woody for the World Championship, we turned in for the night.

Rob Pool

And headed out on a beautiful sunny morning for our next leg.

Tableland Hotel

It was a perfect day for riding.  The ground was smooth and we had the opportunity to do lots of galloping and more jumping of logs.

At one point we were galloping along through a farmer’s paddock when suddenly a horse came out of nowhere and shot by me.

It was Shandy.  And he had no rider.

Rob on Ground

Rob landed in fairly soft dirt, and wasn’t injured at all.  This time.  But I get ahead of myself.

We stopped in Deepwater for the night, where we had some unanticipated and vaguely disturbing entertainment.  The Publican, which is the owner of a pub in Australia had a two year old stud cold.  Our guide Woody made arrangements to have the stud colt service our hateful little packhorse Chartreuse, who was in season.

We joked about who was more excited about that, the stud  colt or the Publican.  We never could come to agreement.

At each pub we visited there was a schedule posted as to when the Pub Crawlers would be visiting.  One pub had a huge board for us to sign.  It had obviously been there for quite some time.

Hall of Fame

Rob stayed up late every single night, drinking beer and playing pool with the local drovers who came to visit.  Much hilarity was always enjoyed by all.

The next morning we headed out for our final long cross country tour.

Deepwater Inn

It was another great day for riding, and we made the most of it.

We raced.

Over the Hill

And this is where Rob took the coolest picture of our whole trip.

All Four Feet

Isn’t that awesome?!

Rob didn’t participate in the race. He was chicken. But he took lots of pictures.

We swam through a reservoir, then forded another river before coming to an area called Ranger’s Valley.  Ranger’s Valley is home to Australia’s largest feedlot, feeding 70,000 cattle.  It is owned by the Japanese.  Huh.

After Ranger’s Valley we went for a nice gallop over hard flat ground. Those Australians love their gallops.  Rob was right in front of me when Shandy suddenly literally jumped right out from underneath him.  He hit the ground very, very hard. Rob, not the horse.

He broke his wrist.  But we didn’t know that until we made it back home. He was in terrible pain for the rest of the trip.

How he hated that spotted horse Shandy!

We eventually made it back to the ranch.

Join me next week when I show you the super cool event we got to do before we left the ranch.

And I’ll explain why trying to stop chewing tobacco while on a trip overseas with a broken wrist is not a good idea.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Travel | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Australian Pub Crawl on Horseback (Part I)

In the fall of 1997 I made the unprecedented (for me) move of quitting my supercool job in the high tech industry to travel the world and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I was 34 years old.

My brother Rob, who was living with me in California at the time, was scheduled to start at the police academy in the east bay the following January.  He agreed to accompany me on a couple of trips to get my feet wet; then I planned to travel more the following year by myself.

We decided that our first trip would begin with a Pub Crawl in Australia, and then culminate in a long pack trip through the mountains of New Zealand, with several luxury segues in the mix, including a ten-day backpacking trip on the island of Tasmania.  Both of the main trips were to be undertaken on horseback.

This was funny because Rob really didn’t then, and definitely doesn’t now, like to ride horses.  Midway through the Pub Crawl this sentiment was to be strongly reinforced.  But I get ahead of myself.

As we all know, travel involves a lot of waiting. Here I’m waiting around outside an airport terminal somewhere in Australia.

Waiting with Bags

Our First Stop: Sydney

We started out our trip with a few days in Sydney, time to get acclimated to the time zone and see a bit of the city.  I was a little in shock by the fact that I had actually quit my job and was completely footloose and fancy free.

Rob was on the hunt for three things 1) Beer, 2) Girls, 3) More Beer.

It was immediately obvious that his quest for number (2) on the above list was going to be severely hampered by the fact that everyone who saw us travelling together thought we were on our honeymoon.  How they reconciled the fact that we always had two separate hotel rooms was beyond me – I guess they thought we were starting right off with an open marriage.

In Sydney we stayed at the Hotel InterContinental. Anyone who has travelled a bit or ever stayed in any InterContinental knows that they are always among the top luxury hotels in any city.

I described the hotel in my journal as “….a nice old hotel, well-trained staff, though the furnishings are a bit dated.”

Boy, I was a snobby little thing back then.

We spent three days in Sydney, most of which Rob spent at a pub called the “Fortunes of War.”  After he went there alone one night and I hadn’t heard from him by mid-morning the next day I started to get a little worried.  He turned out to be fine though.

My journal entry read “Well, Rob turned up. He apparently woke at 6, decided he might not live ‘til 7, and went back to sleep until 11.” This was a pattern that was to be oft-repeated during the trip.

The Pub Crawl Begins

We flew to the tiny hamlet of Glen Innes and were picked up by the tour operators.  They had not received confirmation of our arrival and they weren’t expecting us that day, but they took us in with good grace nonetheless. I am not sure what we would have done it they hadn’t happened by the tiny airport at the right time.

Porch with Beer

We went to their small ranch and had some refreshments. There we met our fellow rider, a lovely woman named Jill, who was visiting from Wales.  Actually, the way she introduced herself was to say she was from “Wales.  Which is NOT a part of England.”  This was a fact she was to repeat several times a day during the ride.  I don’t know why.

Then we went over the details of the excursion, which were as follows:  we would begin our riding the next morning.  After a couple of day trips around the base ranch to get used to the horses and the riding time we would head out, riding cross country for about 20 or 30 kilometers (our rides varied between 10 to 20 miles per day) to arrive at a small hotel/bar/restaurant (the pub).  Our luggage would be transported via automobile to meet us at the pub.  We would have dinner and play some pool (and if you were Rob, stay up ‘til the wee hours of the morning drinking local beer and chatting with the drovers who came in from the outback to see the American guests).  After four days of cross country riding we would return to the ranch and see some local sites, spending a few more days there.  Our whole experience would be eight days long.

Once we had the plan down,  it was time to meet our horses.

Rob was assigned a gentle old appaloosa gelding name Shandy.

Rob brushes

I got a spirited thoroughbred-type gelding of indeterminate age called Cognac.

Me and Cognac

We got our saddles assigned and adjusted by our hosts. Here is Rob with one of our hosts Joan, getting his saddle adjusted.

At least that’s what they said they were doing.

Rob gets saddle

He swings into the saddle for his maiden voyage on Shandy.

Rob climbs on

And adjusts himself for his first ride in Australia. Shandy looks so calm. But I get ahead of myself again.

Rob adjusts

After a good night’s rest we were up early the next morning for our first day of riding.  It was raining.

saddled up

The rain only added to the ambiance of the whole thing.

Join me next week when we embark on the adventure.  I can promise lots of rain, extremely rough country, excessive amounts of beer, and plenty of pool.

And you can find out why Rob grows to hate Shandy.

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