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Jacqui and students on her farmBefore it began I had a farm... just ten acres, but heaven on earth - most of the time. It was in Paparimu, and I'd bought the land together with my lovely old two-storey settlers' home in 1988. But the house needed a lot of work, my mortgage each year got bigger, and I seemed to earn less from the property.

More and more I was resorting to driving the 45km into Auckland to work, and of course this was taxing on my health, my car, plus the farm and garden and housework lacked attention.

So I sold the property, which left me free, homeless and with a decision to make... what to do with my life.

My sons, Chris (21) and James (16) were now independent, James living with his father in the city, Chris flatting. So I decided to do something I've always wanted to do - travel the length of New Zealand on horseback.

I'd been dreaming about such a trip since I was in Intermediate School and read of the epic journey made in 1925 by Aimee Felix Tschiffely, who took two ponies off the Pampas and rode from Buenos Aires to Washington DC. Originally he intended to ride as far as New York, but "the traffic was too bad". In 1925!!!

Anyway, I was chatting on the Internet to a friend in London one night, and when I told her what I was doing, and suggested she come along, she decided to quit her job and come too! What an adventure!

Of course there were complications. My mare, Rosy, I sent to Blenheim to await my arrival. Blenheim is near the top of the South Island. I'd decided to ride south to Christchurch as the high country would be closed by snow for the winter. Then when Lisa joined me, we would ride north from Bluff, the southernmost point, to Christchurch, and then ride up the North Island.

Another difficulty: some of my livestock were more than 'animals', they were friends, so I had to find temporary homes for them. Two cows, some sheep. And there were two dogs - Zig (Border Collie) and Brae (my son's Shetland sheepdog, but devoted to me) who would have to come with me.

We managed to find a great homestay at Springs Creek, just out of Blenheim. Kerry Raeburn and Tim Newsham have a wonderful one acre garden and a very old house, in which we stayed, next to theirs.

Chris and James were taking my car back to Auckland after the Easter break, so we drove over the hills to meet with Lawrie McVicar, whom I'd made contact with from Auckland. Lawrie organised the guide/support crew over the mountain passes.

Logistically, it would be a rather dangerous exercise riding horseback down SH1 through Kaikoura to Christchurch with rocky drops to the sea beside the road, and rocky cliffs extending upwards on the other side, tunnels to negotiate etc. So we're going inland to use one of the less-used tracks over the mountain pass, from St Arnauds in Central Marlborough. South-east and down to Hamner Springs - originally a route used by the Maori hunters to travel from Canterbury to the West Coast and back.

In the mountains, especially in New Zealand, it is very easy for the weather to change dramatically in a matter of minutes. Lawrie organised for a vehicle, trailer, food and first aid supplies to provide essential back-up for both humans and horses. We met to discuss the finer points of what I was taking, and for Lawrie to introduce me to the packhorse he had bought on my behalf.

Nicknamed Doug after his previous owner, this standardbred had started out life as 'Anvil Dancer' and originally been sold for $10,000. However, after a few wins on the track he'd decided his heart wasn't really in trotting to win, so he'd been destined for the meatworks when Lawrie found him.

Lawrie is 64 years old and grew up droving, mustering, working with horses and dogs. Some years later he became very interested in the Australian way of riding, and then into the Western disciplines - including roping cattle and dogging, and had many championships to his credit.

I arranged to meet them again at Top House, near St Arnaud, farewelled the boys and readied Rosy for the ride.

© 1996/97 Jacqui Knight, all rights reserved.

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Main Page   |   Introduction   |   The Diary [ PARTS: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ]   |   More Pictures   |   Thanks   |   The Book   |   Brae's Book   |   This Site