SaratogaA Journey: Frebruary 2013

An Expedition

A Trip of a Lifetime

14 Riders

4 Packhorses

Cape Turnagain to Lake Ferry

9 Days

68 Hours in the Saddle

Day 1 - we all arrived from different parts of the North Island at Tautane Station at Herbertville.   We spent time sorting our gear and working out what was going into the pack boxes - these are weighed before being placed on the pack horses and must weigh exactly the same (usually about 20- 25 kg each side) - because they are dead weight they must be even to prevent the horse from getting a sore back and of course to prevent the saddle from slipping over to one side.

As we only had 4 packhorses and they only carried our food and cooking gear, we each had to carry everything else we needed ourselves on our riding horses. That meant clothing, toiletries, sleeping bags, bivy bags or swags, drinking water, snacks and 100 other little things that might come in handy.     Brett and I had packsaddled on a number of other occasions and each time had added to a list I had made of “things to take”. This list again proved invaluable and the other riders who were joining us on this adventure for their first time packsaddling were very pleased to receive this list so they too could prepare.

The weather when we left Tautane on the morning of Day 2 was perfect as in fact it was for the whole of the journey. We rode out along the beach as we did for most of our journey except for the odd occasion when we had to go inland to avoid slips (like the one on the “Devils Mile” behind Pahaoa Station) or to avoid impassable rocky shores

I was riding my wonderful Morab “Make-Believe Saratoga” (nicknamed “Missy Lulu”) who is now 12 years old.     She was in very good condition and I felt she was definitely up for the challenge of 9 days carrying me and all my gear. This was her 2nd packsaddle trip. Brett was riding our youngster – our 5 year old Standy-Arab “Victor”.   This was Victor’s first packsaddle trip although he had been trekked throughout the trekking season last year and was equally ready for the challenge.

Sara has not been a keen beach goer in the past but by the end of the trip was more than happy to walk into the waves – a big achievement for her.

The scenery we encountered along the way was breath-taking and we were able to ride through properties that otherwise we could not have had access to.     There was only one locked gate that we had to go through and I think this was because of problems in the past which the landowner had had with vandals – so quite understandable.    

We encountered many seals along the way – Sara was not too happy about getting too close to these and of course she could often smell them before she saw them if the wind was blowing in our direction so she became very alert and keen to “get going” .

We had to cross two rivers on the trip.   The first was the Owhango which we crossed as planned right on low tide.   This was a very good crossing and I am pleased to say that Sara and Victor “tested the water” first before the others came across – so very proud of them both.

The second was the Whareama River.   We knew that this was a difficult crossing and had to be made as close to low tide as possible.   We were nearly at the crossing point and had a bach organised to stay over at before we did the crossing but as we got closer and time moved on we decided that we would cross right on low tide that night (which was 5.30 pm) and instead we would “sleep under the stars” just across the river in some sheep yards.

So crossed at low tide –bang on – The shorter horses (Sara was one of those) got fairly wet – especially when she stepped into a hole on the way over.   We were swimming on several occasions during the crossing.

A very successful and safe crossing.

Had an amazing “night under the stars” that night – we had all the gear so were very comfortable. Some had bivys – others literally “slept under the stars” - in their sleeping bags. Water was a problem so had to make do with what little fresh water we had. Cooked our tea on the gas burners - lots of mouths to feed so no extra helpings for anyone.

Horses had a huge paddock (about 10 acres) but only slim pickings of grass. In the morning Brett whistled out to our two horses – everyone laughed!    But wait – an apparition appears at the far end of the paddock – its Sara coming towards us – not only bringing her mate Victor with her but also the pack horse that Victor had been leading each day - and they trotted into the yard!

We had two more nights under the stars and by then were becoming very accustomed to this “camping out “

Other nights we were very lucky and had the use of woolsheds, farm stay accommodation (Glenburn Station – very nice) and a family bach which belonged to one of the riders.

We were treated to two delicious meals of fresh paua as the guys managed to collect these on our stays near the beach.   Also were treated to a delicious meal of crayfish – kindly given to us by one of the locals when we stayed over at Tora.

Every morning we started the day with a hearty breakfast of porridge.   No toast as with 14 of us the bread had to be saved for our lunches. As it was we ran out of bread twice – luckily at Tora a neighbour kindly gave us some bread out of his freezer and we found a roadside food caravan at Ngawi where we stopped for ice-creams and the lovely lady sold us some of her bread that she obviously had to make toasted sandwiches with. Didn’t always stop for lunch but when we did lunches were very simple –sometimes jam and cheese on bread but on one occasion ham on the bone sandwiches – so couldn’t complain about the food.   Days we didn’t stop for lunch – we were very very pleased for our snacks we had packed (as per my list) – muesli bars, bags of nuts and raisins

Other dinners consisted of one pot meals made up from noodles, luncheon, tinned corned beef, surprise peas, instant potato.   Had one steak meal which one of the rider’s partners kindly brought into Glenburn for us (along with a few more goodies to top our supplies up)

Our longest day in the saddle was 11 hours – but on average we rode 8 hour days.

I meticulously recorded our hours as Sara is a member of the Morgan Trailblazers Club – so was a good chance to clock up more hours for her.

We came across a number of shipwrecks; an ancient marker boy which had probably been built in the 1920’s washed up on the shore.     Rode around the Honeycomb Rock – fascinating rock formation

Leaving Glenburn we ran into two of the local MAF officers – very friendly!     Had a great chat to them and they even did a routine check of our pack bags!   They also gave us a pile of paua knives!

After riding through Te Awaiti Station we stopped at the home of one of the “locals” - well known for her coffee and “muffins”.     She was not home at the time but her husband made us very welcome – we sat on their patio and enjoyed a hot cuppa and a chat, were able to fill our water bottles and give the horses a well -earned rest in the nearby paddock.   Great hospitality.

Coming through Ngawi the local Rural Delivery man caught up with us – jumped out of his van – out came his camera and tripod and he took photos and notes about our trip for the local newspaper

When we arrived in Castlepoint it was the Centennial weekend for the lighthouse so lots of people around – we received a very warm welcome and everyone was most interested to see the horses and hear about our trip. Stopped for a welcome ice-cream under the shade of the trees, gave the horses a good rest and then onwards and through Castlepoint Station.

2nd to last day we arrived at Cape Palliser Lighthouse - we put the horses into a nearby paddock and most of us climbed the 250 stairs up to the lighthouse! Had ridden all that way so couldn’t miss that opportunity - amazing views!

That night stayed at Kawa Kawa Station.     A night we hadn’t pre-organised but our leader knew the owners who very kindly let us stay in their woolshed – most appreciated as it was getting very late in the day.

On the last day – rode into Lake Ferry just on lunchtime – we had made it!!!

The owner of the Local Hotel and Camp Ground gave us a paddock for the horses and even turned up with some bales of hay for them.   We hadn’t booked any accommodation for that night but he managed to find room for us in the cabins at the camping ground – very comfortable!!!

Next day the drivers all went off to retrieve our vehicles and floats which had been left at Pongoroa.

Later that afternoon all the floats and trucks arrived back at Lake Ferry

So the horses were loaded up and it was time to head home – they didn’t need any encouragement to get into the floats.

A wonderful trip of a lifetime.

Very proud of our horses as it was a great achievement for all of them.

No horses went lame or were injured.   Only 2 horse-shoes to replace. No rider injuries either.  

Arrived home after having taken about 4000 photos between Brett and I –now the big job of putting these all into a slideshow so we can re-live this amazing trip.

A big thank you to all the landowners for allowing us to stay on and ride through their properties and also a big thank you to our leader Ian and also Lynne who rode with us – as they did all the organising for this trip.

Needless to say - we are now planning our next packsaddle trip!


  • Tuis Oklahoma Song
  • Tredway Aristocrat2
  • tredway aristocrat
  • kaycee mirage2