I have written about this day out horseriding in my previous post, Nelson to Queenstown, but I thought I’d dedicate a whole post to Cecil the horse.
I have loved horses since I was a little girl, so this was the perfect way to spend a day in Glenorchy and I was looking forward to it immensely. I arrived and was paired up with a horse named Cecil, who was a magnificent bay stallion. My horse and I spent three hours riding through the Rees Valley surrounded by a landscape of rocks, glacial fed rivers and magnificent mountains. It was an incredible experience as we rode our way passed the Misty Mountains which were made famous by The Lord of The Rings. We spent the whole morning riding and after a break for lunch we rode out again.
Cecil was very well behaved in the morning, I think he was a little sleepy, but it was another story when we got together again. When we left the stables for the second time that day, everything was calm and we rode in silence without any problems. On the way back, I think Cecil got a little excited at the thought of ending his day with a bale of hay and a nice comfy stable because he started to buck his hind legs, jumping for joy it seemed. He didn’t let me know he was about to do that, being a horse all conversation is lacking, and it took me completely by surprise. I nearly came off a couple of times but he didn’t manage to throw me, I gripped as much as my knees would allow me too. Maybe he was just fed up with me on his back for a whole five hours, who knows what goes through a horse’s head!
Back at the stables, Cecil posed with me for a photograph as a memento of our day together and we said our goodbyes.
Afterwards, I wondered how I could spend the day walking over a volcano and another hiking a glacier and not ache in the slightest, but five hours on a horse and it was a very different story. I couldn’t move for the next few days, my muscles had packed up and I struggled to move even a few inches. Now I think about it, it was probably Cecil’s revenge and he was back in his comfy stable sniggering with his horsey pals.
I travelled around New Zealand in 2008, and ended up in Auckland as part of my trip. One day I took a trip over to the nearby island of Rangitoto.
I took a boat from Auckland and the volcanic cone, which rises up to 850 feet, can be seen for miles around, it’s a sight to see from afar. The name, Rangitoto, is Maori for “Bloody Sky” and the name comes from Tama-te-Kapua, a captain of the Arawa Waka, who was badly wounded there during a battle.
Rangitoto island was created over 6,000 years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions and evidence of the eruptions can be seen across the island in the form of fields of black lava stones. And it’s these black lava stones that were quarried between 1898 and 1930 and used as building material for Auckland. It’s a very unique landscape.
On the island, there are paths, that were created between 1898 and 1930 by prisoners, that lead right up to the summit.
It was a fabulous day out, tramping the old dirt tracks up to the summit and seeing the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and out to sea. I love exploring new places and being reminded of old ones.
I visited Koh Chang earlier this year and I have to say it’s my favourite island in Thailand to date. The island is big and covers just over 420 sq km, and around 70% of it is unspoiled rainforest, steep hills and cliffs, waterfalls and long sandy beaches. I went to stay with my friend Mark and he was my tour guide for the few days I was there. We drove all over the island and spent time on a few of Koh Chang’s best beaches.
Klong Prao Beach
On the west coast, Klong Prao Beach is a long sweeping stretch of soft, golden sand lined with tall trees and gorgeous mountain views surrounding the bay. It wasn’t that busy when I visited, but it’s long enough to be able to find a private spot all to yourself. The water is warm, calm and shallow, so it’s perfect for swimming, and the blue colour is irresistible in the heat of the day. It’s a fabulous place to spend the day before you grab a beer and watch the stunning sunset disappear below the horizon; we did just that, and more than once!
Kai Bae Beach
The next beach to the south on the west coast is Kai Bae, another long sandy beach, but smaller than Klong Prao and even less crowded. We parked the bike at one end and walked through a forested area, with charming wooden huts, before hitting the beach. The tide was out, so it was a few extra steps into the warm, blue water. But that didn’t matter we were there to relax under the swaying palms. In the distance, we spotted elephants wallowing in the water, so we went to investigate and sure enough, there were a few adorable little baby elephants splashing around in the water, but they were being burdened with humans on their backs. After one of the babies said hello with its trunk and wandered off into the waves with its load, I could only feel sorry for the poor things.
On the locally named “dark side” of Koh Chang, because it is less developed than the west coast, is Long Beach. Right at the bottom of the southeastern tip of the island the beach doesn’t really live up to it’s name. It’s not very long at all, in fact, this beach should be called Lonely Beach because there are no crowds here. The road there turns from tarmac to dirt and there are some very steep hills and hairpin bends to contend with, and, once there, there is just one beach bar serving food and drinks. Apart from that, all you’ve got is a beautiful tree-lined sandy beach, calm blue water lapping its shores and a secluded bay with views of the mountains around. Totally unspoiled and wild, it’s worth the effort of getting there.
Chang Noi Beach
We didn’t go to Chang Noi Beach for the beach, we went to have a few drinks at Shambala Beach Resort, but that didn’t stop us admiring the views of Koh Chang’s widest beach with not a soul on it. The sandy expanse is protected from winds by a large horseshoe-shaped bay, tree-covered mountains and slopes on either side, and the water is calm and mesmerising. It’s a fabulous spot for sunset gazing and the beer is refreshing as well!
Bang Bao Beach
On the southwest coast is Bang Bao Bay; two beaches with the same name and we visited both. One crowded, with people swimming in the warm water, relaxing on the sand with drinks in hand or asleep under the creaking palms. The other, a deserted strip of white sand that sits at the far end of a disused resort in the shadow of a 7-deck cruise liner called The Galaxy. We sat and gazed out to sea for a while contemplating the fate of this abandoned ghost liner.
On the west coast, a little further than Kai Bae, is Lonely Beach, a golden sandy beach with a young crowd. This is Koh Chang’s equivalent to Ibiza’s sunset strip, just a little sleepier. Gorgeous guys and gals enjoying themselves on the beach, sunning themselves or drinking cocktails as they listen to funky tunes coming from the beach bars. This place is so cool, international DJs, like, my all time favourite, Danny Rampling, come here to play their sets every year. When we sat down to enjoy the atmosphere we were most put out when a young guy, who was handing out party flyers, bypassed us and didn’t give us one. He obviously thought we wouldn’t be interested in partying the night away, but, as my friend pointed out, we’ve done our fair share of partying in the past and could probably party that young whippersnapper into the ground! 😉 Ah, the joys of getting older! 😉
Have you been to Koh Chang before? What’s your favourite beach on the island? 🙂
Over the years, I have travelled to over 20 countries and I’ve seen and done so many amazing things. But, there are a few places that I hold dear to my heart for one reason or another, so here is a list of my favorite places on Earth.
My home for the past three years, Bangkok excites me like no other city. Before I lived here, I never thought I would be a city girl at heart, but it turns out I am. It’s exciting because it is so diverse, there are traditional Thai temples, Hindu temples and Islamic mosques. Shopping malls that will make your eyes boggle at the sheer size and extravagance, some of the most delicious food you’ll ever eat, and rooftop bars where you can gaze in wonder across the city and almost touch the stars. The city has a fascinating history, part of which has European influences and people from all over the world call Bangkok their home. It’s a fabulous place for exploring and every twist and turn throws something new at you. It’ll take a long time to ever get bored.
Darling Harbour, Sydney
The first time I went to Australia, in 2005, I was wowed, I loved everything about it. The Blue Mountains, Fraser Island, travelling across the outback, but one of my favourite’s is a simple pleasure. I love everything about Sydney, but the best place to be is sitting in a bar, just as the sun is setting, in Darling Harbour. The day’s light slowly diminishes and the neon lights of the city and office lights of the skyscrapers, across the harbour, come on. It is, quite frankly, spectacular, especially when the lights are reflected in the water. I remember sitting there one day when I had a sudden rush of happiness and comfort, so much so, I had to ring my mum, back in the UK, to tell her how amazing it was.
Northampton is the place I’ve lived since I was 12, and it’s the place I go back to for holidays. It’s where my family are, and the friends, that know me the best, who welcome me home with open arms to pick up conversations, just like it was yesterday. My family are the single most important thing in my life, so I look forward to my annual trip, where I can spend time with them, eat some of mum’s delicious food, drink wine with mum and dad, and share more than a few laughs along the way. I get to see my gorgeous niece and nephews, who seem to be growing up way too fast, and spend precious time at Christmas with my sisters, brothers, and their families, it’s a fabulous time all together. Time that goes all too quickly, so it’s time to relish every moment spent with them.
Sri Lanka is where I got married first time round, and it’s a place that I probably would never have gone to if it hadn’t been for my marriage. We spent two glorious weeks there before jetting off to the Maldives for our honeymoon. We stayed at a plush hotel, which has since been rebuilt, following the 2004 tsunami, and we had our wedding ceremony in the hotel grounds. On the morning of our wedding, we got into our wedding outfits, both in handmade sarongs and tops to match. We met each other in reception, and walked outside to the gardens, accompanied by a troupe of Sri Lankan dancers, we signed the register, fed each other cake, our arms entwined with silk ribbon, and then sat and watched the dancers perform a traditional dance, while we sipped cool champagne. After that we went to the beach and had photographs taken, and we spent the rest of the day in the pool with the few guests that had gathered to watch our special day. This marriage never lasted, but it’s still there in my memory. I’ve been back to Sri Lanka twice since then, and it’s always going to hold a piece of my heart.
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
I only spent a few hours here, but the reason I was in Mexico was for my husband’s sister’s wedding. We stayed at the Moon Palace, a palatial and beautiful hotel, and, apart from the odd day tour, we didn’t really see much of this part of Mexico. However, an evening out saw us in Playa Del Carmen, which, back in 2000, was a world away from the glitzy malls, bars and clubs of Cancun. The thing that I remember was hundreds of tiny streets, with restaurants filled with locals who were there to enjoy their evenings. I bet it’s a different story today.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi is another place that holds some fond memories for me. I was travelling in Thailand with my friends and they had the most wonderful birthday surprise in store for me. They had been plotting with my family for my folks to come and visit. It was nothing short of amazing when my family turned up at the bar we were having drinks at. We shared a wonderful week all together and it’s on record as the best birthday I’ve ever had.
I went to KL the first time in 2005, when I was on the way home from Australia. It was the first time I’ve ever travelled to the other side of the world alone, and I spent 3 days in Kuala Lumpur. I stayed in a lush hotel, which is, sadly, no longer there, and it’s there I dined alone for the very first time. I went to the bar to have a couple of drinks first and chatted to the bar man, who made me feel a little less nervous about being on my own. When I went to the restaurant for dinner, I remember feeling very self conscious when I first sat down, thinking everyone was looking at me, they weren’t. I ordered, and then the resident band sang a Robbie Williams song to me, making me feel even more uncomfortable, but then I relaxed, helped along by the wine, and started to enjoy myself, I even started singing along with them.
Fun Island, The Maldives
Fun Island is where I spent my (first) honeymoon. The island was small enough to be able to walk around it in 10 minutes, pristine white sand, and private beaches to go with our private villa, such a romantic place, ideal for a honeymoon. The water was turquoise blue, and so clear and warm, we went swimming every day. We saw dolphins and sharks, and swam with the many other beautiful fish that made those waters their home. We ate good food, drank cocktails, and even paddled across to a smaller uninhabited island which we had all to ourselves, because no one else was stupid enough to wade between the two islands where the current swept our feet from beneath us.
Ibiza was where I spent my (second) honeymoon, but first my boyfriend and I used to go there every year for at least 5 years prior to our wedding. We loved it there, the clubs are amazing, and the island, if you get out of San Antonio, is beautiful and we had many wonderful holidays there. We needed a holiday after the holiday, mind you, because of all the partying we did, but still, it was an exciting place. Not only did we spend our honeymoon there, but we got engaged, sitting outside Cafe Del Mar, watching the sun disappear below the horizon, followed by applause from everyone around us. They weren’t applauding us, they, as well as us, were applauding the sunset. It made the hair on my arms stand on end, and to add to that, we were sporting huge grins as we continued our celebration into the night.
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide is home from home. I have family there, my mum’s second cousin, Helen moved there over 40 years ago. Helen and her family all make me feel so welcome whenever I go and visit. And it’s in Adelaide that I made a life changing decision. I originally went there in 2005, because my second husband and I needed to have time apart to decide whether we should continue our marriage. It took many walks up the beach to come to the decision that would set me on a path that would, eventually, lead me to living abroad permanently. Whenever I’m in Adelaide, we share so many laughs together, I just love spending them with them, they’re like my second family.
My mum’s other second cousin, Gill and her husband Norm, live in Bundaberg, and the first time I visited them, we went on a road trip together to the town of 1770, Agnes Water and Fraser Island. They were so gracious and I was astounded at just how much Norm knew about everything, from the different species of trees to the history of Australia. They took me to the rum distillery and we watched bats fly off from the mangrove trees in town, we took a drive to Bargara for lunch and walked across their property in the countryside. I did so much with them in the short time I was with them and it was the first place I went to when I went travelling alone for the first time.
Uluru is the place I got to sleep in a swag under the stars on the first night of a 6 day trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide. The whole trip was one of the best experiences of my life, but Uluru seemed almost mystical, once the sun left for the day, only the sounds of the outback to keep us company, and it’s around 600 million years old. From a distance it looks smooth, but get up close and you see holes and gorges, springs and caves, it’s just incredible. Throughout the trip, I did some amazing things, like walk around Uluru before sunrise, hike up Mount Ohlssen Bagge, and spend the night in Coober Pedy and Parachilna, but I also met some wonderful people who are still my friends today. And travelling through Australia’s outback was such a memorable adventure, I didn’t want the trip to end. In fact, when we arrived in Adelaide, we had one more night all together before leaving.
I spent seven weeks in New Zealand, travelling across the whole of the North and South islands on the Magic Bus. When I first arrived, I hated it. I had just spent five months in Thailand, I left behind some good friends, it was freezing, and I couldn’t muster a smile for anything. But when I started my journey around the country, I realised just how spectacular it was. The scenery is just stunning, especially in winter when the mountain tops and valleys are covered in snow. I hiked Mount Tongariro and Franz Josef Glacier, I went cave tubing, sand surfing and horse riding. I spent time with new friends and time alone, I even took a road trip and had waterfalls, gorgeous beaches, and hiking trails all to myself. When I left, I vowed I would never return, but I’ve since changed my mind and will go back someday. I learned a lot about myself there, like how to enjoy being alone, and it was New Zealand where I acquired a love of walking and getting out and about.
A few years ago, I started my love affair with foreign lands but at the time I wasn’t sure whether I was brave enough to begin this journey alone, so I researched ways that I could travel but with like-minded people. What I found seemed right up my street. I’ve always had a love of horses, so the Australian Jillaroo/Jackaroo School was the perfect way to spend eleven days doing something different in Australia’s outback.
After a quick stop to buy cheap work clothes, hat and boots and the all-important booze for our nights on the ranch, we arrived at Leconfield, 50km east of Tamworth in New South Wales. We were shown our rooms, I was sharing with a woman called Emily, and we were over the moon when we found out we would be sleeping in the, fondly named, Penthouse. Believe me, even though it was a dark and dingy shed, it was the best room on the farm, most of the others got housed in the sheep shearing shed. The one down side was that it was so cold at night and we wore socks, hats, and hoodies on top of pyjamas to try and keep warm. And getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet in the main house didn’t help things either.
We got given our horses for the eleven days. I got a lovely bay stallion that went by the name of Lightening. Don’t believe everything that the name suggests because he was the slowest horse I have ever ridden. Actually, lazy is the word, no amount of geeing him on was going to make him go any faster.
Leconfield was a working farm and as such there was a roster of different jobs to do. One of those jobs was to get the calves into their shed at night. There were two calves and their mother and every day they hung out at the top of the field. It took us quite a while to get them down to their shed, arms waving and yelling, trying to make them go in the right direction. Poor things were probably scared to death! At one point, there were three of us racing down the hill after one calf but it decided to double back on us, so we had to chase it back up the hill only to start again. It was as if the cows were laughing at us racing back and forth after them.
We had to get up at 6am to milk the cows. We had to sit on a small stool at the back end of the cow, not easy when the cow was stamping its feet almost knocking us off. I managed to get a few litres which, being a totally self-sufficient farm, was put in the fridge for use at breakfast.
In the afternoon, we rode two hours to the top paddock for our first cattle muster. A very hard task to learn, especially when you are on horseback and the cattle seemed to have other ideas. But we managed to herd them into a fenced off area where they were weighed for the owner, Brian. He was 85 years old and still riding horses, and managing his 4,600 acre farm. 4,600 acres seems huge but when you compare it to some of the other farms and sheep stations in Australia, it was actually quite small.
Day four was spent in the forest chopping down trees which we had to debark and load onto a truck. No mean feat because we had to clamber up a slope to get the trees and the only way to get them down was to slide them down onto the dirt track. Trees are heavy! Then we had to strip them of their bark and load them onto the truck to take back to the farm.
We rode to a large field near the farm and practiced trotting and cantering which was great fun, even though it took me three attempts to get my trusty steed to comply. Rather than kicking with our feet, we learned how to control the horses with our knees, a slight squeeze is all that’s required to get your mount to move but I don’t think Lightening understood the concept of move!
A well-deserved day off, so we went to town for more provisions, followed by lunch and a few cool beers at the local pub.
Day seven consisted of mustering the sheep back to the farm. We caught three of them, sheared them and watched two of them get slaughtered. It was not a pretty sight but our lesson of the day was that the farm had no choice, the sheep were no more than food and wool. Even the dogs and horses had jobs to do and we were told not to pet them. The remaining sheep looked naked after its recent shearing and appeared to be watching the massacre in terror, then it speedily retreated to the nearby field, safe for another day.
Our second cattle muster, this time we had a go at throwing the calves. They may look very cute and cuddly but when we tried to catch them, attempt to grab their back legs and throw them on the ground, we soon realised how strong they were. We learned how to separate the male and female cows and calves in order to count them, so the farm knew they were all present and correct.
With the trees that we had collected on day four we built the fence around the house. It was extremely hard work but thoroughly enjoyable. It was such a sense of achievement when the task was completed, even though I somehow managed to put my finger in between the hammer and the post. Ouch!
Today’s lessons were calf branding and ear tagging. These calves were slightly bigger than the ones before, so they were much stronger. The animals were also ear marked, so they could be identified at a later date, which meant ripping a bit of its ear out. It wasn’t over for them yet because they were branded, twice if they were male, and castrated. I felt more than a little sorry for the helpless creatures.
In the morning, we had a horsemanship lesson. We took our unsaddled steeds to the paddock and all stood in a circle. The ranch manager told us how the horse would respond if we gently ran our thumb from under its cheek to its shoulder, it would follow us without reins. We put it to the test by walking slowly back to the stables with the horses duly following. I think the real reason they were following us was that they knew it was feeding time! The afternoon was spent playing horsey games, egg and spoon races and races in and out of poles. It was great fun and I think even the horses enjoyed it.
I didn’t embark on this adventure thinking it was going to be a breeze in the park, it wasn’t but we learned a lot in those 11 days, not just on how to care for our horses but it was necessary to act as a team and to be able to communicate with one another. We were presented with a reference to say that we had basic experience in all the activities that we were involved with, so if I ever wanted to work as a jillaroo again then Brian’s reference was a good one to have. I had an absolutely fantastic time in Leconfield, yes it was hard work but I got to ride over some of Australia’s finest countryside and I had plenty of laughs along the way.