Big hangover next morning - but I was up at dawn, ready to go riding with young Heidi, a charming 11 year old horse freak. We started saddling them up, but Nugget made a dash for it as soon as he realised he was naked - no hobbles, bridle or halter. I learnt a very valuable
lesson as he did laps around us for half an hour - long enough to call it off to get into town in time for the day's events.
As it was, everyone missed the famous re-enactment - I got a lift with Terry again. Disappointed that the bloke organising my hammer and nails hadn't come through. I still stuck around for the very drawn out billy cart race down the hill.
I'm glad I did, It ended with quite a bit of excitement - several big crashes (some involving the crowd) and breaking speed records etc etc. Ended up hitch hiking home after Heidi and family decided to stay for the museum. I was beginning to expect to get a lift with them anyway - I was alone on the road out of Cooktown for what seemed like a very long time - until a big yellow growling panel van pulls up
- two rough looking blokes going to the Den - I hopped in the back, lay on an old mattress and prayed I would survive this lift - he was already doing 1 20 kms/h to overtake a car on a blind corner and saying "1 hope they don't crack down on drunk drivers after the festival". But we made it (albeit in record time!), I tended to the horses with the help of Terry and Heidi, my horse-mad helpers, and had another good night in the pub.
Monday morning, got up early and rode up past Wilma's for a canter up and down the road with Heidi on Sarah. I stayed for a few coffees with her parents and friends after the ride as they packed up to go home. By the time I'd moved the electric fence, said goodbye to departing friends, had lunch, read the book... I still had a lot of preparation to do before tomorrow morning!
But I did it! And in the pre-dawn hours this morning, I made what was probably the most difficult step in this whole journey. Terry and Sharon got up to see me off - and I rode away into the silent rainforest. Both Nugget and Sarah quickly settled into the slow, steady pace. Today certainly wasn't without incident though! Did the first damage to my good saddle almost straight away.. .when Sarah stopped to do a shit, the lead rope pulled through a buckle I had threaded it through - tearing it off! Not very strong leather at all! They baulked at a bridge, and several times Sarah refused to go any further, but we ended up doing about 15 kilometres.
There aren't many places to camp along this road - thick rocky rainforest either side. But this is quite pleasant - enough grass for the horses, close to water etc. I took them down to the creek (after unsaddling them, setting up the fence, building the fire, etc) for a drink - Nugget went down straight away for a good long one, but Sarah wouldn't. And she hasn't had water all day. I'll take them back down in a minute to try again.
Potatoes are nearly ready, sun is setting, the clanking of the bell keeps me at peace. Another early night is in order for an early start tomorrow.
Wednesday 15th June
And the clanking of his bell kept me awake all night - but I know I'll get used to it, and wake up only when it stoos clanking. Sarah still didn't drink last night, and this morning I led them down again - she took a bit, but they've been grazing in wet grass and her urine was clear yesterday -I wasn't worried.
Allowing them to graze on the way back to camp I made a big mistake (and subsequently learnt a big lesson) - I left them both briefly, unhobbled. . .and they were OFF! Trotting down the road back towards the Lions Den. Oh no! It really seemed like such a tragedy. What a disaster! And only minutes before I had thought to myself. .1 SHOULD hobble him.. He was leading, you see - she just follows whatever he does. And who says he'll stop at the Lions Den?! They were across the creek (about 1 00 metres away) walking fast now, I started after them - every time I moved closer, they'd speed up. And it was hot - the sun had come over the range - I was in jeans and a singlet; I thought of getting changed and taking something more, but was somehow sure that I'd get them sooner rather than later. So we jogged along 100 metres apart for quite a few kilometres; there was dense rainforest on either side of a fairly straight road - there was no way I could cut in front of them - the only thing I could do. I was counting on a car coming past to help me get to them, or once we got to Rossville I could cut behind the school. Luckily a local ute came towards us, past the horses and stopped to give me a lift back in front of them - once I had my hands on their halters, they were as good as gold!