Col shares his experience on the National Trail

I was planning on starting my National Trail adventure on Wednesday 4th Oct 2023 from Healesville but as a prelude of what was to come, I wasn't quite ready so had to postpone until Thursday 5th Oct.
It was a beautiful day at Donnelly's Weir as I said good bye to my family and headed up the lovely green gently sloping trail not knowing what I was heading into.
I was given a taste of what was to come at the end of the first day.
The trail was blocked by a locked gate with the notes saying you could get around it through the bush.
Whilst that was technically correct as it applied to a single man or horse, there was no way you could fit a fully loaded packhorse through the bush so it was the first of many times, that I had to unload the horses, get them past the obstacle, repack and start off again.
It may not sound like much of a problem but it would take approximately two hours to unsaddle and saddle up again.
By the end of the first week, I was beginning to get used to the routine and was enjoying the bush.
It has been a mixture of pleasure and pain with some days being great riding in beautiful countryside while others were hard climbing up steep rocky trails.
The worst of these was probably the Butcher Country Track which, although only 40km long, took me five and a half days to complete, sleeping on the side of the road under a horse rug.
This track had small round gravel like ball bearings which was very hard to stand up on (the horses hated it) while as a contrast, the Barkly River Jeep Track had massive boulders to negotiate (the good thing about it was that it was downhill and only about two kms long).
When I first looked at the Victorian section, I allowed three weeks to do the entire State, well, in reality, it took me four months and was hard work but we made it through. 
The trails in Vic are shared 4X4 wheel driving tracks which is a good and bad thing.
The 4X4 vehicles are not allowed back on the trails until after the Melbourne Cup weekend and as I started before then I enjoyed the silence of the bush while riding through it.
I wished for the sound of a chainsaw as I came across a fallen tree blocking the trail and every 4X4 vehicle has a chainsaw in the back, so there are pros and cons for this rule.
Overall, I enjoyed the Victorian section and am looking forward to doing the rest of the trail.