Trail riders relishing a taste of yesteryear on traverse

Participants on the Otago Cavalcade pack-horse traverse make their way up Mt Kyeburn in strong...
Participants on the Otago Cavalcade pack-horse traverse make their way up Mt Kyeburn in strong winds yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
For the 17 riders on the Speight's pack-horse traverse on the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust's cavalcade, their journey from Omarama to Oamaru is a taste of yesteryear.

Forget the luxury of hot showers and catered meals.

The riders - with 29 horses - are on a self-supporting trail, with pack-horses carrying all their equipment, supplies and clothing.

Despite being on crutches just a week before the cavalcade started, and encountering strong gales on yesterday's ride, trail boss Alice Stewart could not have been happier.

"It really is the way I think it should be and I'm having a ball.

"Everyone's loving it. Any day in the saddle is a great day," she said, as she headed up Mt Kyeburn with her horse Barney.

Trail boss Alice Stewart.
Trail boss Alice Stewart.
She was sharing pack-horse Joey with North Island visitor Paul Cameron.

While she gave her "2-IC a heads up" to prepare on the off-chance that she would not be able to make the trip, due to piriformis syndrome, there was really never any doubt in her mind that she would not be on it.

"It's getting back to . . . grass-roots, the whole `how it was back then', although how they managed to survive without Swanndri and arnica and gas cookers, I don't know."

Described on the cavalcade website as being for the "nuggety few who can go without a shower for a week - sense of humour a must" - Mrs Stewart said the trail was always going to attract the right type of people.

Saying that she sometimes felt a lot more like Camp Mother than trail boss, she was thrilled to see everyone pitching in and helping each other.

On Tuesday night, she enjoyed her evening meal of rehydrated beef and vegetables - "an interesting concoction" - followed by a few good lumps of chocolate and a little whisky.

With no hot water or showers available, most riders had washed in rivers and Mrs Stewart was extolling the virtues of her merino-wool underwear.

"We all smell of peaches and cream," she laughed.

However, she did add that the one thing she was looking forward to most at the end was a bath.

The cavalcade finishes at the Oamaru race-course on Saturday, with a parade at midday.


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