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Posted on February 9, 2016
Sandie Davis tells us about her adventure riding along the Sunshine Coast of Queensland with husband Simon in celebration of their 25th anniversary.
Such tales traditionally start with “Sunday 4th October dawned bright and clear”…..well dawn it certainly was, bright and clear I am not sure so sure, let’s just say that although we had been looking forward to our In the Saddle Bush and Beach Ride in Queensland for many months, it was not the lure of trail riding, cattle mustering and galloping along pristine shores that roused us from our bed at 05.00 but a sleepy shuffle to the television. Not even the kookaburras and the butcher birds had roused yet. For those rugby fans out there, you know our sorry conclusion to that particular early start!
However, our disappointment at losing our World Cup pool match at Twickenham, to Australia, while in Australia, was soon forgotten as we concentrated on the real purpose of the day, meeting the rest of our ride at Noosa for the start of our long-anticipated 6 day riding holiday. We were met at the Sunshine Coast airport by Rebecca, whose easy chat and open manner quickly put us at ease as we transferred to hers and Alex’s equestrian property at Verrierdale. There we were introduced to Alex, our ex-Olympian host, guide and social secretary for the next few days and met the rest of our group, Vivian from Perth!
After a short introduction to our horses; Clint, a beautiful grey ex-racehorse for my husband Simon, Moose, a coloured Clydesdale/Pinto cross for me, and Scout, a chestnut stock horse with an eating habit for Vivian, we had a 45 minute ride in the arena to get comfortable with each other and then loaded onto the lorry to transfer to Kilkivan, home of the Great Horse Ride.
There we had been promised pre-dinner drinks and supper hosted by Bruce and Rae in the dining room at the Left Bank B&B. Fortunately Alex had already tipped us off that for the first time in a very very long time, there were 2 Queensland teams in the NRL (National Rugby League) Final that very night. We were encouraged to choose our team, the Cowboys or the Broncos, and were joined by Mike Webb, the stockman, bush poet and raconteur for a TV supper, sweepstake and plenty of alcohol! It was delicious and great fun, and I am pleased to report that our team’s win paid our bar bill. Who needs rugby union?! And it deflected any teasing about the losing whingeing Poms.
On Sunday morning we were up earlier than we needed to be, with the promise of a beautiful, clear Queensland day, and enjoyed tea on the veranda watching the finches, lorikeets and a rare red shouldered parrot on the bird feeder.
After Bruce’s delicious breakfast we collected the horses from the public corral and paddock (what a great idea!) and transferred to the start of the ride where we met Mike and his iridescent chestnut 17hh Roscoe. Mike is a true local, having only really left the area to complete his National Service in South East Asia, what he doesn’t know about Kilkivan and the Widgee Valley is not worth knowing. And, as our ride leader for the day over the Hanging Rock Trail, he regaled us with stories of his childhood, local lore and shenanigans, as well as having an eagle eye for wildlife.
We enjoyed a stunning ride over the Blacksnake range, with Scout living up to expectation getting his head down at every point of interest and view, Clint posing at every given opportunity, Roscoe shimmering in the sun and Moose worming his way to the front given half a chance. Mike kept us very well informed, spotting goannas on the other side of trees (possibly as a result of childhood trauma, but to tell more would ruin the suspense!).
Having descended into the Widgee Valley we were met by Alex and his horse Mack, and escorted onto his stunningly beautiful property Edenview….can’t imagine how it was named. After hosing down the horses, we were transferred (a little adrenalin buzz!) by quad up to the property where the table was laid on the deck for a barbeque lunch provided by Bruce.
It was lovely to be left to relax for an hour or so at our own leisure in the shade, or to mooch around at will. We were amused to observe Alex moving 4 horses from the corral to their overnight paddock, leading them all at the same time from the quad bike. I wonder how our horses at home would cope with that?
We then transferred back to the Left Bank, had a little while to relax and have a walk around the town, and then reconvened for drinks on the veranda before dinner. Bruce treated us to champagne with wild hibiscus flowers in honour of our 25th wedding anniversary the next day, and the resident possum put in an appearance in the tree right by where we were sitting. Over dinner Mike and Bruce regaled us with more stories, including the unforgettable quote “I felt like a long-tailed rat in a room full of rocking chairs!”
After another early start (by choice, that veranda was too good to ignore) and lively and sustaining breakfast, we made our farewells and transferred back to Edenview for a day’s riding on the property.
The horses were well rested after their night in the valley and we quickly brushed them down and tacked up ready for another stunning day in the saddle. The first couple of hours were spent looking around the property and valley, with Alex proving to be a mine of information about the local flora, trees and bird life, as well as his neighbours, dead and alive!
Following a refreshing drink and splash in the creek (for the horses), we moved on to the business of the day, moving 20 odd cattle, including a bull to a new paddock. After one false start, when they decided that they preferred it on the old grazing, we really did have them all rounded up and pointing in the right direction, and with Alex and Vivian leading, and me and Simon pushing them along, we kept them moving to the new paddock without incident or mishap. Then the happy newly fledged Jackaroo and Jillaroos returned to the homestead for a cold beer and lunch, with a sense of a job well done!
Once again we had an hour or so leisure, which we spent poking around the old cattle pens and races, and original sheep dip which dated back over 100 years with original timbers. Fascinating. We thought we were done for the day, but before we knew it Alex was rounding us up, gave Simon a quick introduction to a second quad bike, and we were off in tandem across the bush, back to check on the cattle. Not quite Mad Max but it was great fun and very exhilarating! Sadly after that it really was the end of the day, so we loaded the horses onto the lorry, said our farewells and headed off – yes, into the sunset!
Home for the next 2 nights was Amamoor Lodge, and we were a little later than expected, so our hosts Malcolm and Christine were ready and waiting for us with coconut chicken satay cooking over the camp fire and a well-stocked fridge! Malcolm is a qualified chef and dinner was delicious, served out by the camp fire in view of his beautifully restored Cobb & Co mail coach. All in all it really was a day and anniversary to remember!
The next morning we had breakfast on the veranda, overlooking the swimming pool and a view to the hills. Unfortunately Simon’s horse Clint had grazed his leg in the creek the previous day, so it was decided to rest him and Simon had the opportunity to ride Mike’s gorgeous 17hh stock horse Roscoe for the day through the Amamoor State Forest. Alex was able to point out many different varieties of tree and also proved to have an eagle eye for a goanna! We stopped for a short break at the Skyring Lookout with stunning views to the ocean and distinctive volcanic “mountains”.
Alex had thoughtfully provided energy snacks, liquorice for the horses and jelly frogs for us!
Lunch was provided and delivered by Malcolm to the Amama Park, a delightful picnic spot next to the river, where we listened to the whip birds and tried without success to spot the elusive duck-billed platypus.
Returning to the lorry, Roscoe showed his true mettle as a stock horse. In spite of being totally used to dealing with “toey” Brahmann cows and bulls, he absolutely could not handle a tiny lamb that stuck its head through a fence to say g’day!
On return to the Lodge, and having settled the horses, we were served tea and cake on the veranda and then made use of the swimming pool, before we climbed back into the lorry to sample the unique experience that was the Kandanga Pub and its colourful clientele. Alex told us the story of one particular local who had built him a dog proof fence around his property, only for the dog to promptly escape…when challenged the response came back “I didn’t expect him to go UNDER it!!” Lo and behold, said character appeared in the bar and stood us a beer!
Such was the generosity of our hosts, when we got back we were served champagne and canapes in honour of our anniversary the day before, and subsequently drifted on to a delicious dinner on the veranda and long and lively evening. Once again we slept well!
Simon was up early the next morning, making the most of the opportunity to watch the sunrise and the amazing variety of birds visiting the gardens.
Vivian and I had a more leisurely start, but never the less we were all packed and ready to go at the appointed hour. Today’s ride took us onto the Noosa Trail Network, henceforth immortalised as the NTN. Alex had chosen Trail 5 for us, starting at Cooran and heading to Pomona, taking in views of Mounts Cooran and Cooroora.
Thankfully, after a heavy shower early on which we avoided by sheltering under a tree, the rest of the day remained dry, if somewhat overcast. We were able to enjoy several lengthy canters along the forest tracks, and the day as a whole was irreverent with Alex inciting mischief and mayhem by instigating sniper attacks with the peanut-sized she oak cones plucked from branches overhanging the trail. Lunch was also light-hearted, taken at the chintzy Taste of the Past café in Pomona, but which had an unlikely selection of very raunchy literature scattered around the tables.
Having returned to the lorry and hosed and rested the horses in another public grazing area, we loaded up for the transfer back to Noosa, and checked into the luxury RACV Noosa Resort. Our accommodation was a massive self-contained apartment with a plunge pool and a roof top patio. Alex took the horses back home to Verrierdale, and we had the evening free at our own leisure to enjoy the resort and explore Noosa. We had a bite to eat in the bar and an early night!
In the morning, Alex picked us up bright and early with the horses and we took the cable ferry over the river to Noosa North Shore for the eponymous Bush and Beach Ride!
We were not disappointed (except that it didn’t feel nearly long enough!)! Who wouldn’t enjoy splashing in the sea and a gallop along a wide, empty sandy beach with the surf rolling in?
Too soon it was all over, and it was time to say goodbye to Moose, Clint, Scout and Roscoe. Sadly we loaded them onto the lorry, and settled back for the transfer back to the resort…or so we thought… A grinding of gears and spinning of wheels later and we were well and truly stuck in the sand! Luckily for Alex, Equathon had another vehicle at the beach that morning and having unloaded the slightly confused horses, with the help of Simon and a tow rope, we were eventually able to pull it free and continue on our way. Alex delivered us safely back to the resort and we were free to have lunch and explore Noosa at our leisure – which we did this time!
It must have been one of those days…on return to the apartment after a moderately steep walk up to the lookout over Noosa we decided to try out the plunge pool. Unfortunately we only discovered that the door onto the terrace only opened from the inside after it had clicked firmly shut …and due to the lay-out of the apartment blocks there was no other escape! Vivian was dozing on the top floor, behind a balcony…we spent an interesting half hour looking for stones and finally hit on the extendable pool pole and eventually she came to explore the strange knocking noises!
That evening Alex and Rebecca collected us, not in the lorry this time(!) and we went out for a delicious meal at Rasa’s Restaurant on Gympie Terrace. I chose Moreton Bay Bugs, a local speciality that I had heard about on many previous occasions but never sampled. They were strange looking but delicious! And I think Alex has forgiven me for throwing a glass of red wine over his favourite white shirt! I suppose that there had to be a third incident to round off the day.
And that, reader, was that. Rebecca picked us up in the morning and delivered us to Eumundi for the markets, and to meet up with our friend Claire and continue our Aussie adventure. And Alex moved on to another group of jolly cavaliers – well, we are from Worcester!