Testimonials in a random order
… I started giving Smokey light exercise after his rest to get him ready for the Quilty. He was a very tired horse after coming 1,300 miles, but I entered him in the ride to get some publicity for the Trail Riders Association, even if I had to walk the 100 miles. … Well the day of the ride arrived and the weather was great. The horses paraded for the pre-start vet check; I was keeping my fingers crossed that Smokey would get through OK. … Well, he did.
Queensland is long, flat and hot. New South Wales is wilderness and very remote, then you get into Canberra and are going around in circles. Victoria is short and steep. It’s all of the above.
The most important recreation project of the Australian Bicentennial Authority has been the development of the Bicentennial National Trail, the longest horseriding and hiking trail in the world. … Many of our historic sites and artefacts are encountered along the way. As museums preserve and display artefacts and information of events that happened, the Bicentennial National Trail preserves where and how they happened.
It was created with the USA’s 3,500-kilometre Appalachian Trail in mind, but this one, over five million footsteps in length, is the longest in the world. … The Appalachian trail cost more than $95 million; this one just $200,000 in Australian Bicentennial Authority support and a lot of people donating their time.
Second night’s camp was the BNT shelter on the western side of Musket Flat. This great asset for the Trail was provided by Fraser Coast Regional Council some years ago and it has been a welcome stopping point for many trekkers since. The rain had cleared out to sea by this time but the cold change following it made for a pretty chilly night. However some marshmallows toasted over the campfire and a few extra woollen blankets helped compensate for the cold.
Many people find the concept of the Trail an exciting one, even if they have no intention of ever walking or riding along it. There can be a great sense of satisfaction or national pride in knowing that such a facility exists, and appreciating how it is linked with the natural and cultural heritage of Australia. In this sense it can be compared with some of Australia’s major but remote national parks which are visited by only a small fraction of the population, but receive the strong support of many other people who take comfort in the knowledge that they can provide something special for future generations to enjoy. The same can be said for the National Trail.
The next morning we packed up, Sam heading north, us heading south. Sam was amazed how quickly Shirley and I got our show on the road, we were a team, the six horses, Shirley and myself running like a well oiled machine. When we first met Rob and Bernadette, the cameleers, we were similarly amazed at how slick they were on arriving and leaving camp. It was something that we’d aspired to and were quite chuffed that Sam picked up on it, as we’d been pretty rag tag and unorganised when we started.
People often ask me why I doing what I am doing. At first I wasn’t 100% sure, now I know. It’s a 101 reasons, not just one. A major factor is the people you meet along the way. I can truthfully say that there hasn’t been one person I have meet on the trail who hasn’t been amazing in their own way. I would like to thank everyone I have meet so far and everyone in Canberra, for making my adventure on the trail such an enjoyable one. Truly, I am proud to be an Australian thanks to the people I have meet so far. I look forward to meet many more true Australians.
It has been an interesting task to type this record of Dan Seymour’s journey from the pages of Hoofs and Horns magazine. I have marvelled at his tenacity to keep to his task of spreading the idea of trail riding clubs and of finding and reporting on suitable tracks. It takes a special personality to make friends, as he did, whenever he rode. He recorded them all and the help that they gave to him on his long trek. I found myself admiring the generosity of the people who helped Dan and pointed out to him the best way to travel on his route north. Dan made this long trip with the only two horses, Smokey and Dino, and his old Bluedog, which speaks volumes for his care for these animals. Dan Seymour deserves to be remembered as one of the pioneers of the Bicentennial National Trail.
Great views of the Goulburn river at the entrance to the Widden Valley, still carrying a lot of water. A friendly couple at a rest area along the road took our photo. They wondered how long it would take us to get to Cooktown – Them: “3 weeks?”, Me: “A bit longer than that”, Them “3 months?”, Me: mmm a bit longer than that”, and so it went on.
In 1975 and 1976 the [Cumburrie Trail Horse Riding] club was actively engaged in exploring and mapping the BNT from Crows Nest to the NSW border. On the Killarney section RM [Williams] arranged for the Army’s 4th Cavalry Regiment based at Enoggera to do the surveying and mapping. The club supplied the horses and taught the men to ride before going out with them.
… facilities will be minimal to encourage the trail user to develop bushcraft skills and to minimise the intrusion into the environment.
It was such an incredible journey following the Guy Fawkes River on horseback. There was a mob of brumbies on every river bend. We found all kinds of creatures at night as the moon gazed above. Croaking frogs, their sticky little bodies crawling up our fingers; sly eels, eyes glowing like tiny diamonds peering up curiously in the moonlight; there were turtles, bats possums, and of course there were brumbies. With their glistening coats, those animals made this trip what it was, simply magnificent.
We prepared for this trip for three months, planned the menu carefully and worked all our horses and mules up slowly and carefully so as they were fit enough for the trail. All this proved successful by the fact we had no issues. Wow, what can we say, a wonderful journey, great company and terrific horses and mules.
We made good time in the rain and following the road. We covered 20km, arriving at Knockwood at 1pm. We travelled the next 10km through the bush to the base of the Lazareni Spur and started the climb at 2pm. It had taken us an hour to travel 10 km through the bush then another five hours to travel 3km. We would wheel one bike up then snig the trailer up. We put a piece of timber through the yoke of each trailer snigging it up the 3km of slope.
The next two days of riding were magic, with great stopping places for morning tea and lunch to give the horses a break, relaxed trails to follow, homesteads and properties nestled among the hills and feed and room for taped yards at each camping place. The group enjoyed a lovely camp-oven dinner and damper on one of the nights, and swimming in the Isis River was on the agenda for some.
I’ve camped in many weird and wonderful places on the Trail and being solo, I had to be careful not to be too visible. You might think that a hut is a great place to camp, but what with the possums in the wall or the mouse droppings, I’d rather be out under the sky, unless its raining, of course!
What we have created is a place that belongs to every Australian.
Doc reckons the best tip he received for long distance horse trekking came from Dan Seymour – “never go past a good feed”. It’s a simple tip but one to live by. “If after riding 10 km you come across a camp with good feed and water, stop. It’s a journey of time not of distance. Don’t push your horses another 20 km to find the feed is poor. It’s just not worth passing a good feed, ever.”
I climbed up over the Thornton Ranges and from some of the peaks I could look down on the lagoons of the Coral Sea. Once on the crest of the ranges I could see my next port of call some eight miles away on the side of a mountain, the home of the John Nicholas family. In this country there is still the spirit of the old pioneers as they have no power, no telephone and if the ferry breaks down they are cut off from civilisation. At low tide, the ferry sometimes is stopped by sandbanks, that shift with the tide. Here again the horse is king, as it is not unusual for this young couple to have to put their children up in front of their saddles to ride for supplies.
The trail being the place where you poke along and see if your company is worth keeping for yourself.
We have often been asked where our favourite place on the BNT was, every section of the trail has its good and bad parts, it was the people that we met, people that we would never have met unless we were doing the BNT. They were one of the major highlights. As long haulers on the BNT we found that we had a special affinity with the fellow BNT trekkers who had done the BNT before us, Rob and Bernadette, the cameleers, Max the donkey man, Theresa and Cedric Creed, Sharyn and Ken Roberts, thanks for the advice and stories, you have been an inspiration to us.
We chose to put ourselves under pressure, we chose the timeline, and we chose the trail, but what we didn’t chose were all the challenges that came up every single day but which, over time, we learnt to be grateful for, because every time we got past something … we realised that we were growing as people and as a couple. So thank you BNT for pushing Rich’s body to it’s limits, thank you for making me face my fear of being alone, thank you for taking all our well laid plans and binning them, and replacing them with much more exciting ones!