Woke up at 5.30 a.m. and decided to jump in the shower before any other bugger. Breakfast was at 8.00 a.m. followed by the weighing of swag and saddle bags. For those of you unfamiliar with swag bags, these are sausage-shaped and extremely difficult to zip up. By the end of the tour we had the knack - you pack everything in and then stand on it whilst someone else huffs and puffs hauling at the zip. There is an 8kg weight limit. I had 7kg, Di had 9kg. This was probably due to the extensive medical kit (including tooth filler, blister treatment, immodium (which turned out to be the most unnecessary item on tour), etc). We were then on our way to the stables and were excited at the prospect of meeting our horses.
Woken up at 5.30 by Jaz!
Waited for the verdict on shower before venturing out into the corridor for a 50 yard sprint to the bathroom. Got there to find forgotten shower gel, but no way was I going back and letting someone else have what may be the last hot water we see in days.
Breakfast was interesting, Lucy, Fiona and Karen discovered 'Vegetarian' has a different meaning in New Zealand, and includes bacon. Picked up by Erin, another of the guides (who looked amazed at the number of suitcases we had) in 'Doris' the stables trusty truck. After we squeezed all the luggage into the trailer, just, we headed off on the start of the 'big adventure'.
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The first task was finding somewhere secure to leave the laptop. Whose idea was it to bring that?!! Also all the luggage not in our swag was taken into the office, think they had to build an extension while we were away to take it all.
Jaz was given 'Tacka' a 22-year old dark bay mare. Di had 'Taffy', nothing other than a bay Welsh Cob. Jaz was beside herself, but loved the look of Tacka and decided she wasn't too big if Jaz fell off so all's well. (See picture.)
We were given a pep talk, a lesson in tying the 'snail' knot, an invaluable new experience. Learnt how to pack the horses and off we set. At first it was organised chaos - 17 riders and 4 pack horses (aka paki's). Di, of course, was never happier than having her 'paki'in tow (nothing changes). There was only one man in the party - the long-suffering Malcolm. Little did he realise what was to come.
The first hurdle came when Niles, one of the pakis, decided he was terrified of water and refused to cross the first stream - great! After much cajoling, wailing and eventually a rope round his bum, he changed his mind. We then started climbing through country very reminiscent of Shropshire - multiply the Caradoc by 3. It was a very long pull up the mountain and Malcolm's horse (Spike, son of Tacka), appeared broken-winded and distressed. However, once he arrived at the summit he was fine. It later transpired that if he was at the front his breathing was normal. We led the horses down the other side - fabulous views. However, we kept having to stop for various reasons - in the end we used that well-known Turkish phrase 'fuck knows' to describe why, e.g. "why have we stopped NOW?" - reply "fuck knows".
Our packed lunch (lovingly prepared by the Historic Hurunui Hotel - leftovers from breakfast) was taken by a fast-flowing river at 2.30 p.m. at which time we learned that our three and a half hour ride should have taken two hours, but George doing her mermaid impression cheered us up.
We set off again, crossing deep rivers, feet out of stirrups, ("better wet feet than a wet bum", was Kim's instruction); that was a first for all of us, nerve wracking but exciting. There was a gale force wind sending spray, and you couldn't look down otherwise you got disorientated, and knowing us would have probably fallen off, couldn't have that embarrassment on the first day.
After another few hours of climbing we reached our stop for that night. It was a huge shearing shed. You could smell sheep from 100m! After settling the horses down for the night we collected our swag and ventured into the shed. It was bizarre but in the middle of the shed was a table covered by a very white tablecloth, groaning with a banquet prepared by three little grey-haired older ladies. We stuffed ourselves on homemade corn beef, (another first), chicken, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, salad, apricot and mango crumble and drank lots of wine. Don't think we will be losing any weight at this rate.
We were unable to use tents due to the gale-force winds, so we all bedded down in the shed together with the smell of sheep. Spent a fitful night, due to much snoring and the howling, and that was just from the rest of the girls. The gale force wind through an open ended shed didn't help much either.