Old MacDonald's Farm

Abel Tasman Travel Blog

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The horses

Most people got up early to go kayaking or sailing today but since I have done both I was looking for something different. So I booked on an hour's horse-ride since I cannot remember ever getting on a horse. When I walked down to the trekking place I mentioned early that I didn't have much to do that day so the fella there started by putting on an old 45 of 'Waltzing Matilda' by Slim Dusty, and the tone and style of the music seems to set the atmosphere for riding a horse through the sunny mountain landscape. Brian was a little offbeat but was a nice enough bloke once you got talking to him, and after listening to a few old records and him presenting me with the Slim Dusty record sleeve as a token souvenier we got going. I was surprised at how unusual it felt to be sitting on and in control of such a large animal.

Me! On a horse for the first time!
Not that I actually did control it in the end. I couldn't seem to master the hard heel dig to instruct the horse to start, or 'gee up' to move faster, nor could I get over my embarrassment at attempting to say 'gee up' which seemed cheesy and so I mumbled hopelessly. The horse steadfastly ignored me, and merely followed Brian on Dale at a lazy pace of her own choosing.

We clip-clopped down the road and onto the beach, the tide coming in fast. We only had a short time so he would normally have headed back then but as he knew I was in no hurry and he hadn't much to do either we trotted around the farm, meeting all the animals (sheep, lamas, hens, guinea fowl, peacocks, ducks with ducklings) and then through the sculpture garden, me trying hard to stop Star eating half the garden for lunch.

Me hang-gliding!
Back at the stable I gave him an extra tenner to thank him for the extra time and he gave me a New Zealand half-penny, a coin that went out in the 1960s. It was a nice present and probably my favourite souvenier here.

I napped for an hour or so in the peaceful sunshine before heading out to meet the Sky Scenic Tour people to go hand-gliding, something I have always longed to do. Here is the only place in New Zealand where you are towed up by a miniature aeroplane called the 'Dragonfly', rather than jumping off a cliff. After suiting up we towed the hang-glider out onto the air field with a quad bike and then clipped into the suspended cases, me above the tandem instructor. We then clipped onto the Dragonfly and watched the string be taken up as it pulled away from us, 5m.

Woo! The view from the air!
...4m....3m... until suddenly we were being pulled across the grass and took flight almost immediatley. We gained height fast and in the tiny aluminium frame every gust of wind that buoyed us up took my stomach away as we rose. Soon we were up high being towed in slow, even circles by the Dragonfly and marvelling at the view of the sea, the mountains and the green landscape below us. We held in the wind current for some time and we both seemed to hover without moving for a long time, before the Dragonfly snapped the string, and suddenly we were airborne and on our own. Whilst rising I had been suddenly and frighteningly aware that now that we were up, we would eventually have to come down, and this became even more obvious now that we were alone in the sky. I breathed in quick gasps and assured myself repeatedly that I was 'ok, ok..ok' before he suggested we do a couple of steep turns. I took a deep breath and agreed and he turned the glider hard and we swung away in the air, turning in a sweeping circle. Sadly we were coming down fast as there was a lot of 'sink' coming in the air pouring over the mountains and we couldn't catch an air current to keep ourselves up for longer. The height perception was weird though, with the ground appearing to be close but lorries still looking like tiny toys. We came down and rolled across the grass in a surprisingly easy and flat landing.

Back at the hostel, my two bus companions Lukas and Tom were back and we set about making a group curry. Later we went down to the Park Cafe where they were holding an 'open mic' night which we had been assured would bring out all the weird ones from the hills. I stayed for a bit but left them there quite early to collapse into bed, tired and drunk.

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The horses
The horses
Me! On a horse for the first time!
Me! On a horse for the first time!
Me hang-gliding!
Me hang-gliding!
Woo! The view from the air!
Woo! The view from the air!
Abel Tasman
photo by: Morle