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Winding Road to Wanaka: Russell and Rose Scott on Cavalcade

March 17th, 2010
By Sue Clark

After three months of training which included trialling various saddles, saddlebags, breastplates and wet weather gear as well as doing many miles each day both on the beach and along forest tracks 'take off' day 21st February finally arrived.

"We're away" with a toot and a wave Russell and Rose Scott drove away on the first leg of a very exciting journey, one they had been looking forward to "I have always wanted to do the Cavalcade, I have read so much about it, now we are actually going to be doing it!" said Rose. As with so many things, their adventure was not to be without drama. Five minute out of Murchison and they came across a horrific accident, not a good start! The horses had to be offloaded to graze the road side. These were sobering moments and it was not an easy task keeping the horses calm with the road clogged with large milk trucks and various other large vehicles.

With several more 'pit stops' and horse stops, they eventually reached Twizel. The search was on for accommodation for those of two legs and those of four! Fortune smiled on them, they found Heartland Lodge a Bed and Breakfast on a back street. Little did they realise that this was an incredibly 'posh' place and when shown to a five star room with white carpets etc. Rose and Russell could only say " hmmm I think we are more suited to the loft" needless to say the loft was very comfortable and not at all 'loftish'. The proprietor was very obliging with regard to their four legged friends and offered a paddock - with grass!

A shorter journey the next day took them to Clyde and through to Earnscleugh Station where the cavalcaders were to meet up with the other riders in their group. No welcoming committee so they decided to bang up their one star pup tent and await instructions. Having settled their horses for the night,. and had a good wholesome meal in the woolshed, they decided to call it a night in readiness for the early start the next morning. The tent was found to be a bit on the small side but the Kathmandu bedrolls were excellent.

Russell and Rose's group were to be known as the Fraser River Riders and their trail was to take in the Fraser Dam, along ridges and valleys below the Carrick Range and the historic gold mining area of Bannockburn. On to the shoreline of Lake Dunstan, a brief stop at Old Cromwell Town then round the lake edge to Lowburn Valley with all nine cavalcades meeting in Wanaka for the street parade.

The next morning dawned and together they worked to pack up the tent and everything else -the only light being the lights they wore round their heads. Team work was important in order to get the horses fed, themselves fed and be on board their horses Blue and Whizz at 8 a.m. sharp.

82 riders set off on the first leg of their journey. It was incredibly hot and the water bottles got a hiding on the first day Lesson one learnt - carry more water! Whizz and Blue benefited from all their fitness preparation and the eight hours under saddle passed without too much difficulty. Russell earned the nick name of "Jig Jog" - both horses were a little overwhelmed with all the horses and the new trail etc. and jigged and jogged for two whole days - the shout "Walk will you" could be heard many times coming from either Rose or Russell at intervals throughout the day to little avail.

The territory was infested with rabbits, matagari with thorny spikes, thyme and wild rambling rose bushes. The matagari and rose bushes played havoc with Russells bare legs but also made excellent cover for toilet stops.

The second night was hosted by Don and Marion Clark at Carrick Station. Some will remember Don as the outstanding Otago and All Black flanker of the early and mid sixties whose career was cut short by a riding accident. A bath in the creek and a wash for the horses who then had the luxury of a green irrigated paddock, the last grass they were to see for a while! And another early night.

The next day Rose walked as many miles as Whizz who was overly excited. They plodded r the length of Lake Dunstan together. Rose developed a huge blister and decided that, come hell or high water and whatever the trail or Whizz threw up she would not walk another step! Mt Pisa Station was their destination where Russell and Rose scored the shearers quarters - with a shower! Luxury, pure bliss after another long, hot ride and party time in the woolshed followed another well cooked meal.

By now Whizz and Blue had settled to a more comfortable pace. Although it was really steep, almost a matter of take two steps and rest for the horses and they were literally "bumper to bumper" it was still definitely the best day's ride with breathtaking views of the Upper Clutha area. They arrived at Lake McKay - no shearer's quarters so it was back to the one star accommodation with a quick wash in the irrigation race. No grass here for the horses so they munched through the night on hay and hard feed. Bearing in mind that there were over 80 horses and riders there were very few accidents or bad experiences. A number of people opted not to ride the whole journey, they rode every second day and there were only two trips to the hospital. One broken arm and one migraine is quite amazing.

On the final day 900 horses making up the different cavalcades met up and rode through the main street of Wanaka and were met by literally thousands of spectators, some dressed in gold mining and old timer gear plus TV, Radio land newspaper media people. What a fantastic welcome. The horses were all squashed up so they had to behave and it was truly a magnificent finale to a lifetime experience.

The five days riding were celebrated with a hoe down at the local watering hole and it was a humdinger!

The journey home needs a mention. It was not without incident. Taking the wrong road out of Wanaka meant that instead of travelling up the centre of the island and taking a quick route home, they found themselves meandering up the West Coast. Their Pajero broke down in Hokatika, no spare parts there so they were delayed for a further three days and Russell laughingly adds "Three days and two hours!"

They were transported, horsefloat, horses and all on a transporter to West Port - "That was an experience in itself" says Rose. On arriving in West Port it was to find that all the accommodation was booked out so they managed to find a room in a Back Packers hostel which turned out to b great fun.

Speaking about the trip on their return Rose said "It is not something you would experience every day and it was so worthwhile all the ups and downs, we are off to do the Murchison three day muster on 18th March.

Have they caught the bug?

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