Again, it was light at 4:45am and steaming in the tent by 7:30. Another cooked breakfast, plus porridge, percolated coffee and billy tea. By Day 4 most of us were feeling relaxed and the day to day chores were starting to be done more and more by the guests. So we were ready a bit earlier.

On day 4 Iva joined us on his little 2 year old Appaloosa Pony called "Treacle". That morning my gelding Campfire had pulled up a bit sore, so he was relegated to "spare" and I was allocated a new horse - "Cascade" - A Bay Mare and a very different horse. So I saddled her up with some assistance from Monique and away we went. I decided on day 4 to swap my helmet for an Akubra. Monique was concerned and in retrospect - it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do with a new horse, but I was feeling far more confident in the saddle.

This time we lead out of camp to the North and started a long, long climb to the highest mountain of the trip - Black Man's Ridge. This climb had some very steep sections and again it was a case of grab some mane and let the horse find their way. Most of us were experimenting more and moving our horses off the trail, I had a new horse on day 4 and was getting to know her. After a bit of a battle to get her to leave the trail - we developed an understanding and before long I was picking my way through the trees, stepping over logs and even occasionally jumping small ones. We descended down from the summit and eventually stopped for lunch at "Witzes hut".

The usual routine - Billy tea, picnic lunch and then it seems a perfect tree for a nap :

I took the opportunity to explore the hut more thoroughly at Witzes and had a read of the code of conduct and the visitor's book. From the entries - it seems that most of the huts are very rarely visited and mostly by bush walkers in the summer. The code suggests that all visitors should write in the book, and make sure to note the date and time they visited, where they came from, where they are headed and how many in the party - the theory being that this is a truly wilderness area and your last known location might make all the difference if you get into trouble.

The Kosciusko National Park is nearly 3 million acres and at altitude, the weather conditions can change rapidly (even in the height of summer). It's not uncommon for them to get snow during this very trip in January - so it's good advice to make an entry in the book. I did so at every subsequent stop at a hut.A few Pictures from Witzes Hut:

(Click images to load the full reolution vesion and zoom in for a closer look)

After lunch we split into two groups. The more confident riders went with Brendan with the objective of "going for a bit of a canter". Monique of course, was in this group and today for the first time I decided I was one of the more confident riders. So half a dozen of us split form the main bunch and followed Brendan down onto the plain and once we were all ready we took off across the plain. Brendan explained the rules. Basically - go for it but trust the horse - they know the country and will keep you out of trouble, and anyone who loses their hat - you owe Brendan a beer! So away we went, with Monique and Sam in the lead. I decided to follow from the back but it seems Cascade had other ideas and once we got moving - she just kept going faster - trying to catch the leaders. I was working pretty hard to keep her at the back.

Again the horses knew what they were doing and could see the rabbit holes and wombat holes ahead and jump or avoid them quicker than I could notice them. Quite exhilarating! Cantering across the Snowy Mountain plains on an Australian Brumby with an Akubra on. Visions of "The Man from Snowy River" were coming thick and fast.

As we reached the far side of the Plain Brendan suggested that we climb the ridge on the other side and join up with the rest of the group, but as we climbed into the tress - we spotted a small mob of brumbies in the trees, so we slowed to a walk and tried to get close enough for a photo. When we were about 400m away, Brendon announced that we should stop there and he grabbed a camera and tried to get closer. He did this by sliding down to the right side of his horse's neck, with one leg over the saddle, and most of his body hidden by the horse's body. The idea being that he'd look like a normal horse (riderless) and they might let him approach. He did get closer and took a couple of photos but they quickly decided he was a stranger and the three mares and the new born foal cantered off into the trees. He did get a few photos from distance. We didn't get a good photo of the foal - the mares were very careful to keep themselves between her and us :-

We saw mobs of brumbies every day bar 1 - but usually at a distance. Apparently that's common. They are very skittish and the only way you get close is if you surprise them. There are said to be between 2000 and 4000 brumbies in the Snowy Mountains, and the Reynella staff go "brumby chasing" once or twice a year and add the ones they catch to their mob. As you can see from the photos - they are fit healthy horses and mostly greys, blacks and bays. I don't think we saw a single chessnut brumby.

After the brumbies had "bid us good-day" we headed in the direction of the rest of the group. Brendan was cantering through the trees and - feeling full of ourselves - we followed. It turned out not to be a very good strategy! A horse cantering between trees tends to knock branches and with us amateurs following Brendan - we didn't think to take a parallel path - we were following right behind. Brendan ducked under a low branch and was being followed by Sam on a huge 18 hand horse called Major. Sam ducked but Major was just way too tall - and she went through the low hanging branch helmet first. She was ok, but dislodged the limb, which swung down and hit the rider immediately behind her - Andy - square in the chest - nearly knocking him off his horse. I was behind Andy and saw the whole accident as it evolved. It was one of those "oh this is not good" moments, that you can't do much about. I pulled up short of being involved, but Andy was bruised and winded. We stopped for 10 minutes and he declared himself OK, and we headed off after Brendan at a more leisurely pace. Andy is one tough bloke. He sported a large bruise on his chest. I ribbed him about it and referred to him as "The Wolverine" for the rest of the trip.

As usual - Monique was out wide and parallel - enjoying her spirited new horse Rapture and was clear of the incident.

We descended down out of the trees, followed a creek line then joined up with the rest of the group and headed back to camp at Ware's Yards.

Quite a day. Again - beers, stories and a fabulous Iva dinner - cooked as usual - over the open fire while we watched the horses graze and enjoyed the view and sky.

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