While most Goldfields trails follow the old Otago gold mining routes, this year riders have a rare chance to trek coastal beaches from Fortrose to Owaka on 24th February to 3rd March. (Click here to sign up)
It’s a bit of a first for trail Boss, Mick O’Callaghan – in his 14 years of doing the cavalcade he’s never trekked the coasts.“We’re all high country riders so when we first heard this year’s trek was ending in Owaka…we asked where the heck that was!”
Not one to back down from a challenge (he hunts…say no more), Mick didn’t know any of the farmers down south – so he just got in his truck and had about 20 cups of tea visiting every landowner along the trail. “The response was terrific – it’s pretty remote down here so the locals are excited to see us come through.”
Getting the rest of his team together was a bit easier. Mick inherited most of the wranglers from the previous cavalcades – Tony, Pete and Kristen, while the Maniototo Area School is lined up to do all the catering again. “You eat like kings on the trek – so much that when you finish, you want to take them home with you.”
The ride starts in Fortrose which Wikepedia says is ‘on the southernmost coast of the South Island, in Southland.’
The locals love it down South, even though one local Catlin farmer joked “One of our ancestors said it was poverty that sent us here and poverty that kept us here!”
It’s tough, rugged but stunning coastal country, with the Fortrose Cliffs overlooking the estuary. “We have a few rivers to cross on this trek – the first one we’ll swim across and the rest we’ll go around.” Right. Swim. Hmmm. “You’ll only be swimming if you’re on a Shetland pony though,” adds Mick.
From there the ride heads up the coast, taking in lighthouses, sea lions, penguins, waterfalls, and White Head cliffs. “The first couple of days will be a good 7 hours ride as we have to cover a lot of ground but we arent climbing – mostly we’ll be sand dunes, forest and rolling hills. (The full itinerary can be viewed at tinyurl.com/y9wltgo4)
This makes the trek ideal for riders who can’t do the downhill bits.
This ride will have less ups and downs..more ins and outs with the coastal tide. So its much easier on the knees and it’s also good for newbees. “We just want people to enjoy themselves – it’s a holiday after all. There’s always someone to lend you a hand and the ride will be as easy as pie – you can get a half silly horse and after 3-hours riding in the deep sand it wont be silly any longer.”
Speaking of silly, we finished up the interview with a few quickfire Trail Boss questions:
Will there be any trail traditions?
We don’t do wedding dresses or clown suits (referring to other trails) but we do have a fine session on Friday night for charity so that’s always full of laughs.”
How do you get your horses fit?
About 4 to 6 weeks before the trek we do big rides over the weekend and then during the week run the horses around off the back of the Toyota until they change colour.
Your horse is a 18 hand Irish Hunter. Whats his name?
Big Red. He’s on the cover of the “ Gold Dust” Cavalcade book with my other horse.
What’s the other horses name?
Little Red. He’s 17 hands.
The first time I got bucked off a horse was when I was…
About 5 I guess. I got bucked off 4 times last year and about 34 times the year before!
If I could invite a celebrity on my trek it would be…
Richie McCaw – he’s a legend!
The most useless thing I ever took on a trek was..
Flat batteries for my torch
The most useful thing to take on the trek is…
Spare horse nails.
The best trekking horse I ever had was
“ A horse named lucky. She used to come to me when I called out her name. I trained her to keep still so I could jump on like Zorro from the woolshed. Or a rock at least!
If I was to write a book on my adventures it would be called…
A fools guide to horse-riding.