By Michelle Creegan-Dougherty.

Time is an illusive concept. The idea of six months of travel seems endless at the beginning, until you are two-thirds of the way through and the end is all too near. The first day of our grand adventure ended with us girls and our horses sleeping in stalls at the Blenheim racecourse. Excitement kept sleep at bay as our minds wondered at the journey ahead of us. Having no plan seemed daunting, but has turned out to be the trick to navigating our way this far. A bit of an oxymoron I know!

After four months on the road we have already started reminiscing on our most blissful days, and our most challenging (to date). When your daily life becomes an adventure, every day gifts you with new insights into your horses, the land and each other.

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We had a month of travel under our belts when we reached the Hope Kiwi track heading into lake Sumner. Armed only with word of mouth directions and a road map (we have since become better equipped) the three weeks spent in this bush covered, mountainous area was definitely memorable.

Our first few days were spent contemplating the track, as after a few attempts of bush bashing we became unsure if we were going to be able to get our horses through. Luckily, Jade and I sussed out a proper four-wheel drive track that we had been directed to by a kind farmer and finally started to make some progress up the valley! What a relief.

If anyone has been to this area they will surely remember the clear water, lush valleys and bush covered gorges leading to high mountain tops. The Hope Kiwi hut is situated at the edge of what I have decided is still the most beautiful meadow I’ve ever seen. Handily, it also had a horse paddock!

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As we neared the hut and the end of our day, the rain that had been looming overhead rushed down to meet us. Sheets of water poured over our gear and horses. After quickly unpacking, we were extremely grateful for the security of the hut as the warm fire kept the cold at bay.

The next day brought more rain, but the gentle kind that a rider really doesn’t mind. Our path ahead of us had once again become unclear, as we were to take our horses on a walking trail that lead through thick forest.

For other trail riders out there you know there is a big difference between a walking trail and a horse trail! We slowly made our way over the tree roots, around rocks, and squeezed our packs through bush. The words “bush bashing” came to mind.

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Luckily we only made one wrong turn. Unluckily, this lead to Jade (who was riding in front) sliding down a steep bank yelling “I canna stop!” with Blythe and I reassuring her from the top.

Once we were all back on flat ground and safe and sound, many questions circled in our minds. Will we get through? Will we have to ride all the way back to Hanmer Springs? Through our confusion came a clear beam of light in the form of horse sign on the trail. Hallelujah!

After a bit more trail clearing and bush navigating we reached lake Sumner. As we unpacked our horses sunlight warmed us for the first time in days, and the relief of finding our way was incredible.

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This particular adventure stands out because we learnt a few lessons, the first being we should always have a good map! Being mountain-savvy women, we should have already made sure of this, but sometimes you can forget the most important things.

We also gained belief in ourselves and realised the importance of combining our strengths to navigate tricky situations. As we continued past lake Sumner the memories of that beautiful place have not faded at all.

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Photography by Blythe Cruickshank

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