Riding the High Country

One of the things I really wanted to do while I was in Australia was ride horseback across the mountains in Victoria. Perhaps I’d seen the movie The Man from Snow River a few times too often, but I found the near mythic connection with Australian culture and horses to be too hard to resist. So I signed up for a Walhalla Mountain Saddle Safari, which advertised itself as being “not for the faint of heart.” Now, for a girl from the city, that means you’ll be roughing it—a few days without running water, sleeping on the ground, that sort of thing. Well, we were certainly roughing it, but this turned out to be a wild ride. Here, from the book, is a little background on my companions for the adventure.

There were eleven riders in all, with a wide variety of backgrounds, and ages running from 19 to about 45. I was the only American and the least experienced rider of the group. My three months of lessons, which culminated in the rib-breaking fall just prior to my departure for Australia, were ranged against people who own horses, train horses, and even ride daily as part of their work. I was definitely out-classed here. This was not a bunch of weekend hacks out for a romp in the woods. This was a bunch of hardcore riders out for the thrill of a lifetime. Almost everyone had been on one or more of these adventures before. Of course, it added tremendously to my sense of security and well-being when Judy, a veteran of many saddle safaris, donned a crash helmet, noting cheerfully, “My doctor said if I get injured again as badly as I did last time—well, it would be the last time.” (Despite this disheartening introduction, Judy turned out to be both a good friend and the source of most of the botanical information I garnered on this trip.)

The eleven riders include Colin, who is the kind of rider who can pick a flower at a dead gallop; Bradley and Beth, both accomplished equestrians; Jenny and Lisa, sisters from Melbourne, whose only difficulty was adjusting to a saddle, as they usually ride bareback; Mary and Bob, horse owners from near Melbourne; Judy of the white crash helmet, also a local horse owner; Les, a rancher from New South Wales; Carol, one of the few newcomers, but still an experienced rider; and me. We were accompanied by trail boss Malcolm (Mal), who is blond, rugged, handsome, and looks like he belongs here; and Mal’s young but skilled assistant trail bosses, Andrew and Marie. Meeting us most nights with the truck was Debbie, Mal’s wife, a petite, vivacious, pretty brunette.

The only other group members were Rex and Huon. Rex is a shelty and belongs to Mal and Debbie. He traveled with Debbie in the truck. Huon, a probable German shepherd/labrador cross, belongs to Andrew and Marie. He came with us, dashing madly back-and-forth all day long, making sure everything was all right and that no one got lost.



Filed under Australia, Book, Travel

7 responses to “Riding the High Country

  1. Lana G!

    Oh, good to know the book is almost here!

    Okay – a crash helmet! I would have been a little frightened and asked where the carousel was instead!

    Can’t wait for your book. Blessings on you.

  2. It was a bit scary, but I don’t give up easily. I made it through the whole trip, though I sustained a number of injuries, some permanent, about half not even mentioned in the book. (I figured readers might wonder why I kept going—though keeping going has been the name of the game for most of my career!)

    And despite the numerous slashes, crashes, bruises, and bashes, I actually had a largely joyous time. The High Country was spectacularly beautiful, and I was so wrapped up in the romance of horses and Aussie history that I still got an immense amount of mileage out of the adventure.

  3. Pingback: Into the High Country « Waltzing Australia

  4. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, though my version would be to ride across the United States. Except I can’t ride. Minor detail, that 😉

    Persistent childhood fantasy that won’t quite go away. I love looking at this site for the hell of it: http://ridingholidays.com/

    • LOL — it does help if you can ride! I’m definitely not built to be a good rider (you want long legs and a low center of gravity, and that’s definitely not me), but I still love the concept, and that Riding Holidays site made my heart beat a little faster. However, a desire to not end up in a body cast will probably keep me from taking on another really wild ride. I’ll just keep watching “The Man from Snow River,” and ride vicariously. 😉

  5. Robert Prentis

    Just last night we were remembering that trail ride and what a fantastic time it was.
    I googled “Walhalla Mountain Saddle Safari” and came across your article.
    What a surprise !!
    Reading those names brought up a lot of memories.
    Galloping across the Wonnangatta river flats with the wind rushing through your hair, long climbs up ridges to the snow plains, the mountain cattlemen’s huts, views from Mount Howitt, sore bums !
    (We’re still riding but wouldn’t think of not wearing a helmet)
    And the American girl who had a few tumbles off her horse but never complained once.

    Bob and Mary

    • What a lovely to surprise to hear from you. And yes — helmets definitely seemed like a good idea after a few of the bumps we took on that ride. Glad to hear that you’re still riding. I made it back to Australia three more times after that first visit — and managed to visit “Judy of the white crash helmet,” as well as a few other people I met while circling the continent. I hope you’re doing well. With news of the fires in Australia, plus the virus we’re all facing, it has been a rough year. But thanks for commenting. It was an amazing time.

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