The question has to be where do you start to describe the truly amazing experience we had out and about with High Country Horses ..? The whole day was an absolute dream from start to finish and we simply cannot wait to get back there and do it all again ..!
We were picked up in the morning from our hotel in Queenstown and were taken the 45 minutes by road down to Glenorchy and on to Paradise – where, by the way, the place more than lives up to its name, calling it Paradise is putting it mildly – it surpasses anything you have ever or will ever see in terms of the stunning scenery.
The trip along the road was very comfortable and our driver / guide filled us in with all the info, facts and figures we would need to know together with really interesting stories along the way. We paused for a photo stop at Bennett’s Bluff which takes in views to Glenorchy, Paradise, Mt Nicholas High Country Station, the very impressive Earnslaw Glacier, Mt Alfred and other cloud piercing snow capped mountains. I am really not fibbing when I say that the even the postcard shoots of the region cannot do the place justice – it really is jaw dropping stuff!
When we reached the stable yard you could see the horses all tacked and ready for their day out! After a small bit of obligatory paper work we were decked out with all the equipment you would need – right down to footwear. I am sure that High Country Horses carries gum boots in the biggest range of colours and sizes you have ever seen – there is a pair for everyone! And so armed with a wind proof oil skin jacket and a small saddle bag (again both courtesy of High Country Horses!) we made our way out to meet and greet our trusty steads for the day!
We were expertly matched with our horses and I immediately fell in love with Meade. He is such a sweetie – a real gentle horse! He has a beautiful temperament and I felt 100% safe on him. Of course, he is an animal and I am pleased to say that he has a mind of his own. Just like me, he loves to snack (chocolate for me ... willow branches for Mead) and just as I need a beady eye on me at all times in my fav chocolate shop ... so too do most horses heading through their version of a choccie shop ... aka willow banked rivers! It’s simple enough stuff and the guides give you full instructions on how to move your horse on – I know it would be harder for them to move me on in a choc shop then it is for us to move these gorgeous horses on ...!!
Heading out of the yard and onto the river banks the scenery simply opens up as you zig zag your way across The Rees River and up into the upper reaches of the river and into the National Park. Under safe and expert guidance from our lovely guide we were able to first trot and then canter through the lupin fields as we made our way past several places where Lord Of The Rings was filmed right up to the base of the Invincible Mine where we stopped for lunch.
Lunch was supplied by High Country Horses and it was delicious. All dietary requirements were catered for and the lunch was more than enough! The horses also had a fill up on the lush grass and we went off to explore the small waterfall and crystal clear stream running into the larger river bed. Pausing to take in the moment you really felt privileged – the wonderful company, the horses, the scenery, the experience, the silence, the sunshine on your face all coupled with knowing you were exploring areas that many can only dream of is something super special.
After a the rest we were back on the horses again and riding through native NZ bush before taking a turn up the hill and through what is known in the region as the 2000 gate. Here for those that wanted we were able to take off the brakes and go for a real run up the hill through the manuka bushes up to the top of the hill and WOW..!. Not only was your heart beating from the gallop up the hill but the views from the top were simply out of this world .. a full 240 degree panorama over Glenorchy, Paradise, The Greenstone Valley, the Rees River and Dart River bed is something that I simply cannot find the words to describe .... you have to head up there for yourself! We waited for the others who did not want to gallop to join us where we were like paparazzi at a Lady Gaga concert ...! We were non stop taking photos and video of the views and of the awesome horses who had looked after us so well – we were simply grinning from ear to ear...!
We made our way down the hill and back through the lupin fields, zig zagging back across the river back to the yard to end our amazing day in the saddle – and what a day it was.
I have tried my best to describe the day but just like trying to describe the location, the experience with High Country Horses is every superlative you can imagine could never even begin to come close to describe what an incredible amazing day we had.
If you only do one activity whilst you are in New Zealand, make sure you head out on the day ride with High Country Horses... you will love it!