Friday 18 January 2013

'The finest view in the world'

That's what we horsy people like to say about what you can see through the space between a horse's ears. Literally, of course, that's usually about nine square inches of ground - but you get the idea. Today the view was again of the Rail Trail; but better in every way. The morning was one out of the box: calm, sunny and warm, and the Central Otago scenery was absolutely at its best, the grass velvety on the hills, the rocks sharp and clear, with beyond the Hawkdun Range still dusted with snow on the tops. And, with respect to the nice people at Shebikeshebikes who set me up yesterday for my 18km on the bike, for me there was no better way to get out and enjoy it all than mounted on Shiloh, in the company of Kelly on Douggie, of Trail Treks. She can arrange anything from half a day, which I did, to the whole five-day expedition if you're a glutton for pleasure; and even if you're a non-rider. I'd be tempted: Chatto Creek to Omahau was just tantalising.

Away from the road, the Trail cutting through farmland, it was gloriously peaceful. The only sounds were the horses' hooves crunching on the gravel, skylarks singing, sheep baaing and - well, that was it, apart from our voices. Every so often a cyclist would come along, looking a bit flushed and sweaty, and, I fancied, envious of our comfort and superior view from so much higher up. I'm sure they felt self-righteous about their personal effort, but I was having such a lovely time that I was happy to let them console themselves like that. They had no idea, poor things, what they were missing.

It wasn't all selfish pleasures: I did spot a lamb with its head stuck through the wire fence, which Kelly freed, noting that it had obviously been there some time. So that gave us a warm glow. And Kelly was meticulous about clearing from the track the droppings not only of our horses, but of others whose riders were less considerate of the bikers and walkers. Mostly, though, we just rode along on our free-striding horses, nattering about all sorts of things and enjoying the beauty of the day. It was brilliant.

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