Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Bluff and beyond
A humble trail-riding venture has grown into one of Australia's great mountain adventures

Story: Christl Valentine-Anderson
Photos: P Walton

ImageThe day starts early for Victoria's high country cattlemen, when the air is still cool. But this is the week before Christmas and later in the day there will be hot winds, dust and flies. The cattle move off slowly, the older cows leading the younger ones. They have made this trip before.

The horsemen are at home in the mountains. Members of their families have been making this journey every summer for over one hundred years. But to the small group of tourists accompanying the cattle drive this is a new adventure. Leaving their overnight camp by the riverbed, they turn their sure-footed local steeds toward the steep, rocky outline of the Spur.

They savour the smell of horses' breath on their flanks. They are all experienced riders, for this is no place for beginners. They have travelled far and wide - even from overseas - to take part in this traditional five-day ride to deliver several hundred cattle to the high Bluff.

Here the animals will find sweet alpine grass for summer feed and the tourists will be rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Buller far across the flat high plain.

The leader of the group, Chris Stoney, is a good-looking fellow in his early thirties, with a way of charming the ladies in his party. he is of average height and a true mountain man and horseman.

ImageHe is a four-time winner of the Great Mountain Horse Race, the "Melbourne Cup of the Bush" held in the high country each Melbourne Cup Day. Born into one of the famous high country families that have worked this land for more than a hundred years, Chris is a three-time winner of the Cattlemen's Cup and rode as an extra in both The Man from Snowy River and its sequel.

The Stoneys, Lovicks, McCormacks and Purcells are members of an exclusive group. But these days the legendary "men from Snowy River" are less worried about the fact that colt from Old Regret may have got away than renewing mountain grazing leases.

Image"Our family has just had its lease renewed for seven years, but after that we'll have to re-establish our right to the land once again" Chris explains.

"The leases are under constant threat: it causes quite a few sleepless nights for the high country cattlemen in this area." Story end

Full story Issue 2, December 1998-January 1999

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