On January 25, Marie Palzer (21) departed her hometown Marahau on an adventure of a lifetime. Her plan? To circumnavigate the South Island aboard her Appaloosa gelding, Spirit, to raise money for Tearfund to combat child poverty.
Marie has called the journey Hoofing Around for Change, and if all goes to plan, she is hoping to complete their journey by the end of July. Here is their journey so far.
Day 1: Marahau to Cannon Downs
The small village in which I live organised a surprise farewell for Spirit and I. We received many donations, and it was that moment the excitement kicked in. My friend Karina joined me with her horse for the first stretch of our journey. We parted ways after lunch, and Spirit and I continued uphill past the Takaka lime works where I met Dick, a worker who kindly directed me to a well for Spirit to drink from.
It was a hot day, so I led Spirit to the Ngairua Caves to let him have another drink. We continued through the countryside where parts of Lord of the Rings was filmed.
That day we climbed 900 meters. I felt immense pride when we reached our first camp spot. I set up my tent, and tried to get some sleep. This proved to be challenging as I worried I would wake up to find Spirit gone, but each time I opened the tent I saw the outline of his pricked ears in the moonlight. I even think I heard a Kiwi call out; it was moments like these I was hoping to experience throughout my adventure. As I lay under the stars I realised I could not wish for a better horse to share this adventure with. My soul was content and I could not wait to embark on day two.
Day 2: Cannon Downs to Pupu Springs River
My dad walked the Ramika track with us which gave me a great sense of comfort. He shared his wisdom with me which later on in this adventure became crucial survival knowledge for me. Walking through the native forest and listening to the song of birds, I thought, life doesn’t get any better than this. There were some tricky parts with cliff faces to one side and jagged rock to the other- each time I would hold my breath but Spirit handled it well and made sure both of us came down the mountain safely. We had lunch by the river and Spirit decided he would rather help himself to mine than eat grass! We continued to Takaka where I stocked up on supplies and tried to find a place to stay. Today we encountered our first stretch of road which made me a little nervous, but Spirit hardly batted an eye lid! We found a spot by the river to set up camp for the night.
Day 3-6: Pupu Springs to Pakawau
I didn’t know you could get blisters on the soles of your feet until now. Apparently you can. We made it to the beautiful Golden Bay beaches where I was able to let Spirit stretch his legs as and we flew down the beach. The following day I attended the Golden Bay Lions meeting where I had been invited to give a speech and was blessed with a generous donation. I then headed to the most northern point of my trip and completed a lifelong dream- of galloping down Wharariki beach. I felt so free with the wind in my hair, sea salt splashing in my face and being surrounded by such immense natural beauty. I rode past gannets and seals, and explored rock faces and crevices before retiring to my tent. It’s the best feeling waking up and not knowing where you’ll be at the end of the day or who you’ll meet.
Day 7-11: Pakawau to Motupipi
Week one was probably the most challenging week of my life- physically and mentally. At one point I broke down in tears and asked myself ‘Why did I do this?’ but by day seven we had raised $1000 so I pushed on. I met a sweet five year old girl who insisted I wait at the beach while she ran to her batch to get an apple for Spirit and a glass of water for me. I waited quite some time but sure enough she came back with arms loaded of treats and a donation. Young, kind souls like these give me hope for humanity! It was an amazing moment as I watched five of the biggest stingrays I’d ever seen gliding through the water past Spirit and I as we crossed a large inlet. Moments like these made me realise that when you live life at a slower pace you see, experience and appreciate the elements of nature so much more.
Day 12-36: Cannon Downs to home
The first few weeks were a huge mental challenge for me. Spirit had a tender leg so I called the vet. He gave him some anti-inflammatory, and I rested him for a few days. After realising that I wasn’t going anywhere for another two weeks I felt defeated. The negative media attention I was getting regarding Spirit not being able to cope with the journey was also starting to bug me. My brother-in-law said to me “don’t let anyone else influence your happiness- you’re the only one that has full control over your own happiness.” It made me think how I sometimes allowed others to influence my mental wellbeing.
The day I took Spirit home was a stormy day, the rain was heavier than usual and the wind was thrashing. I still don’t know what was wrong with him, but the next morning he galloped up to me when I called him. He was no longer limping. The rest of the week involved lots of trips to the river to cool his legs as I waited for Spirit to be 100%. It’s amazing how deep of a connection I have developed with Spirit and how well we both now know each other.
Day 37-38: Ngatimoti to Batton Valley
I had mixed emotions hitting the road again. However as we rode along the Motueka Valley Road I felt that sense of freedom return.
Ngatimoti school invited me to talk about our adventure, how to create change and the geography of New Zealand. I happily spent the morning there and answered the well thought-out questions the children had. They even presented me with a large donation.
I headed south up the Batton Valley following the river where we stopped several times for Spirit to have a drink as I jumped in the water for a cool down. It was a ridiculously hot day which seemed to drag on forever as we made our way up the valley.
Day 39-43: batton valley TO st amaud
The stars were still shinning as I packed up camp and saddled-up Spirit. I wanted to leave early so that we could get over the pass before it was too hot. We set off with a river crossing and rode through the morning mist as we navigated our way over remote farm land and winded our way up and over the pass. It was our coldest morning yet so we covered ground much quicker than in the heat of the day. I couldn’t find anywhere that I could get Spirit down to the river to drink so I hobbled him as I lugged bucket after bucket up the river bank for him to drink. I don’t know if he really was that thirsty but I think he had great pleasure watching me struggle up and down that river bank. My partner Callum joined me for a stretch which I was grateful for as we found ourselves in some tricky situations and struggled to find suitable camping spots that were safe to hobble Spirit for the night. When we reached St Amaud a lovely family gave Spirit a paddock. It was so nice to have a hot shower, sleep throughout the night and not have to wash my cloths by hand! It was also amazing to eat something other than dehydrated food!
Day 37-38: St Amaud to Lake Rotoroa
I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof. Once under way it was an epic sensation riding in the rain- a nice change to riding in the heat! Once we made it to the end of Haward Valley we were greeted by Callum who had already set up camp for us and had a fire going. Haward Valley is a breath-taking place where I could have spent a week exploring the mountains and river. That night my parents turned up on their motor bike which was a nice surprise. We had a happy evening filled with stories, laughter, and great food. Later on I heard the ‘click, click, click” of Spirits hobbles to find Spirit walking off. The clever boy had learnt how to unclip the rope from his hobbles! I have started using a carabina, so let’s see how long it takes for him to figure that one out! The next day I headed up the Porika four-wheel-drive track and I found myself once again in a nature wonderland and saw an endless amount of native birds. One of my favourite moments was seeing a falcon soar through the sky above me. I spend a lot of time thinking about how much our society could learn if for a small period of time we would all just slow down, look around as and take in the knowledge that our biggest teacher nature provides. The track was ridiculously steep both up and down yet once again Spirit made me proud. The view from the ridge of Lake Rotoroa was amazing; the water was so clear that I could see the bottom of the lake. That day in my dairy I wrote “the world is a wonderland; the more time I spend in nature the larger my childlike wonder about the world and my surroundings becomes.”
Day 46-51: Lake Rotoroa to Greymouth
The Braeburn track led us to Murchison. We discovered black berry bushes along the way which Spirit and I both enjoyed! In Murchison, Spirit got the all-clear from the vet who said that he is a very fit, healthy and happy horse! I floated Spirit through the tight and windy Buller Gorge before riding down a back road which lead to Blackball- an old mining town. I stopped at the Pike River mine memorial and spent most of the ride thinking about the families who had been effected by this disaster. Just before Greymouth I had to cross the trickiest bit of road yet with tight corners, a cliff up one side of the road and drop on the other. I led Spirit with my heart pounding in my chest. We made it safely to Greymouth where journalists came to see us. The police arrived to give Spirit a cuddle and we headed through the town where we collected some donations before finally hitting West Coast beach.
I cannot describe the feeling that flowed through me as I reached the wild and harsh West Coast. Spirit was unsure about the huge waves that bashed on the stoned beach and splashed us with sea salt.
Day 52-59: Greymouth to Fox Glacier
It had been raining overnight and I awoke to a freezing, stormy day. The alpine mountains that surrounded us had received a large snow dumping overnight. I had been told that all the river crossings for that day would be fine but when I got to the first crossing it was fast flowing and murky. I tried to cross but quickly turned Spirit back as the sand was soft and the water was strong and deep. It was a hard decision to turn around and backtracking in the pouring rain, but the river was far too strong and dangerous to try and cross. The West Coast has provided me with amazing encounters including seeing many wild shammy and white herons, hearing deer roar and crazy storms. The West Coast is a challenging coast to navigate and I have learnt to never underestimate mother nature. Despite this, the West Coast has a special place in my heart. A two day ride will take me to a farm where I will spend a week helping with mustering and farm work. Although I love the life style that I have created for myself on horseback, I look forward to spending a week in one place before heading to Wanaka.
The next stage in my journey will involve me riding into areas I’ve never been before. The fear of the unknown gives me a surge of adrenaline. At this stage in my journey I have raised $1628 and have traveled 691 kilometres, and this is what I have learned: The time you spend on earth is your very own time to live, you are the biggest influence on your own happiness- do what you need to feed your soul!
Follow the rest of Marie and Spirit’s journey by liking their Facebook page, Hoofing Around for Change. You can also visit their website for more information. To support Marie and Spirit you can make a donation to their Give A Little account.