Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Saddle Up on an Aussie Safari

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Saddle Up on an Aussie Safari

Article excerpt


HORSES and pubs are the icons of bush Australia.

So, 20 years ago, Lyn Tainsh of Clip Clop Riding Centre, inland from Queensland's Sunshine Coast, decided to link 100 kilometres of her favourite rides and the best of the country hotel pubs around Noosa into a four-day tavern trot: the Apalonnian, the Kin Kin Country Life Hotel and a final night at the world's oldest working silent movie theatre for the weekly showing of The Sheik with BYO drinks.

I drove up from Brisbane with Brigid, a fine horsewoman, doughty drinker and ideal pub-ride companion. We prepared for the rigours of days spent sitting tall on a hunk of leather and wood: hours perched on Queensland bar stools meant we arrived bright-tailed and bushy-eyed.

Kay, our leader, was an ex-teacher in skin-tight jodhpurs and a broadbrimmed Akubra drover's hat. Which made her unlike any teacher I'd ever been schooled by. Still, she had that familiarly brisk tone of voice, as she introduced us to our horses. My steed was an ex-racehorse called George.

Brigid's mount was Harry: nononsense, matey names of horses that one might enjoy a beer or two in the company of. We climbed up into the deep stock saddles with their front thigh braces and rode off between the "paper bark" trees, lulled by the hypnotic "wOOOmpoooing" of the woompoo doves, and kookaburras cackling at the incomprehensible humour of their own blue jokes.

We spent a long morning trotting through semitropical rainforest and cantering up the red dirt tracks of Wooroi state forest until we finally stopped at the top of a hill with a view that stretched from the Glasshouse Mountains in the south to the distant coast and the start of the Barrier Reef. Dismounting, we flopped to the ground while Kay taught a home economics class. A handful of twigs, a single match and, minutes later, a small pannikin of water was boiling vigorously.

She threw a hefty pinch of tea in then windmilled the billy-can around her head. "That's bush brew," she announced. "Now it's Irish tea," I added, pulling out my hip flask and pouring in a good shot of Jameson's.

We picnicked on cheese, bread and cakes among the trees before riding through the deserted forest in the late afternoon. Actually, we steeplechased a lot of it. Galloping in tandem, the horses snorting, clods of earth thrown up by their thudding hooves.

Hoppy animals and screamy birds rushed past as we jumped logs and ditches between the eucalyptus trees to arrive at Lake Weyba in a sunset as rich and red as Merlot down a dress shirt. "'Stingray lake', in the local Kaby Kaby language," Kay told us as we splashed into the water. We cantered offshore and tacked along, hockdeep, as if sailing equine catamarans, before landing the horses next to the far-from-rugged cabin which was our home for the night. …

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