Rid­ing for aware­ness

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

BELINDA Ritchie is near­ing the end of an epic jour­ney, rid­ing her three horses along the Bi­cen­ten­nial Trail in or­der to raise funds and aware­ness for the Na­tional Stroke Foun­da­tion.

A lawyer, Ms Ritchie de­cided that when a job con­tract in Bris­bane came to an end last year it pro­vided the ideal op­por­tu­nity to take to the Trail.

Ms Ritchie’s ride be­gan in Healesville in Vic­to­ria and is sched­uled to end on Sun­day when she rides into Cooktown, with her trusted and much loved horses Clincher, Trump and Rube.

It’s a jour­ney that be­gan in Novem­ber last year, tak­ing over 11 months and cov­er­ing an epic 5330 kilo­me­tres.

In the early stages of Ms Ritchie’s prepa­ra­tions for the ride her fa­ther suf­fered a stroke.

While he has re­cov­ered from the stroke, Ms Ritchie de­cided to use the ride to raise pub­lic aware­ness as well as raise funds for the Na­tional Stroke Foun­da­tion.

Speak­ing at an overnight stop with the Rum­ney fam­ily near the Mow­bray River, she said the ride has been a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery.

‘‘When I started the ride I re­ally didn’t know what to ex­pect,’’ Ms Ritchie said.

‘‘I’ve al­ways loved his­tory, and have al­ways been aware of the Bi­cen­ten­nial Trail, but it’s sur­passed my ex­pec­ta­tions.

‘‘The whole ride has been a high­light, but I guess the Kosciuszko Na­tional Park, Ox­ley Wild River and Kroom­bit Tops Na­tional Parks were out­stand­ing in their beauty, and spot­ting two croc­o­diles swim­ming in the Mow­bray River near Port Dou­glas was great.’’

She’s faced rid­ing in tor­ren­tial rain, hav­ing to wait for flooded rivers to drop, trav­el­ling over rugged ter­rain and suf­fer­ing through the heat and drought of Queens­land.

Ms Ritchie has mostly camped out at the end of a day’s ride, look­ing for a suit­able site with­wa­ter and graz­ing for the horses.

Along the way though she has also en­joyed the hos­pi­tal­ity of lo­cals.

‘‘I’ve been con­stantly amazed by the kind­ness of peo­ple along the Trail, whether it’s been the of­fer of a bed for the night, or a bale of hay for the horses when we’ve reached drought ar­eas,’’ she said.

‘‘There was also the road worker who handed over his lunch box con­tain­ing meat and salad, say­ing not to worry he had plenty more.’’

Ms Ritchie said she’s also de­vel­oped a close bond with her horses, or ‘‘my boys’’ as she re­ferred to them.

‘‘One of the as­pects of the trip that is amaz­ing is just how close a bond you de­velop with the horses.’’

Clincher, Trump and Rube are un­shod and have han­dled the marathon jour­ney with­out any prob­lems.

‘‘My big­gest wor­ries have been those nights when the boys have had no feed, and I strug­gled to sleep know­ing they were hun­gry,’’ she said.

While look­ing for­ward to the end of the jour­ney in Cooktown, af­ter so long on the Trail Ms Ritchie isn’t too sure how she will set­tle back into life as a lawyer in Bris­bane.

As for her boys they’ll en­joy some well earned R&R on a friend’s prop­erty in Stan­thorpe.

To learn more about the tri­als, tribu­la­tions and tri­umphs of this out­stand­ing young woman’s jour­ney, Ms Ritchie has a Face­book page ‘‘Tails from the Trail’, or to make a dona­tion to the Na­tional Stroke Foun­da­tion, go to her fundrais­ing page at http://doit4stroke.com.au/ tails­from­thetrail

Pic­ture: ROD KIL­NER

BEL AND HER BOYS: Belinda Ritchie and her three horses Clincher, Trump and Rube

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