#1
A Pom (Australian slang for a Brit) will tomorrow become the first woman to ride a horse right across the vast expanse of the Australian Outback.


Pommie girl becomes Queen of the Outback in epic 2,000 mile ride
By Nick Squires in Cairns



Vast: Australia is 32 times bigger than Britain and slightly smaller than the Continental United States.



After five months, 2,000 miles and encounters with snakes, wild pigs and saltwater crocodiles, an English veterinary nurse will tomorrow become the first woman to ride a horse right across the Australian Outback.

Anna Hingley, 24, and her Australian stockman boyfriend, John "Croc" Ostwald, 28, have endured saddle sores, extreme heat and swarms of flies as they rode from the coast of Western Australia to Queensland.

Their journey, which began on March 17, will end when they lead their six horses down a rainforest-clad escarpment into Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

"It's been the adventure of a lifetime," said Miss Hingley, from Stourbridge, Worcs. "It's been tough both physically and mentally but there was never a moment when I thought 'what the hell am I doing out here?'

"I didn't realise when I started out how huge the country is. I didn't know what an epic journey it was going to be. As far as we can tell from our research no other woman has crossed the country from coast to coast on horseback.

"I thought people might think 'what's a Pommie girl doing in the middle of the Outback?' But they were great, especially the Aborigines."

Through sponsorship the couple hope to raise several thousand pounds for Angel Flight, a charity which airlifts patients in remote communities to hospitals in the cities.

The trek took them round the fringes of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia, across vast cattle stations in the Northern Territory and into the notoriously swampy Gulf Country of Queensland.

Rivers were so swollen that they had to spend up to two days clearing boulders and digging sand to make fords safe for their support vehicle, a horse transporter towing a trailer of supplies.

"If the truck gets bogged out there, that's it, it's over, because there's no one to help you," Mr Ostwald said.

The vehicle was driven by Tom Guerrier, 25, a British film producer who plans to make a documentary on the adventure.

At night the trio slept in swags - an all-enveloping sleeping bag - or in the trailer, pulling on hats and extra clothes to ward off the desert chill.

During the heat of the day the snakes emerged, including death adders, king browns and taipans. "I was riding at the front one day when this big snake reared up out of the grass. It was nearly 6ft long. It left me a bit shaky," Miss Hingley said.

The couple met in late 2004 when Miss Hingley, who has ridden since she was six, was on a year's backpacking trip and joined a tour of Kakadu National Park. Mr Ostwald, nicknamed Croc for his familiarity with the large "salties" on his parents' cattle property, was the guide.

An accomplished horse "breaker" or trainer, he had been planning such a trek for years. "My grandfather was one of the pioneers of the Northern Territory. I wanted to keep the legacy alive," he said.

The quintessential jackaroo, with his jeans, scuffed boots, chequered shirt and sweat-stained Akubra hat, Mr Ostwald rounded up six wild horses and broke them in.

The couple rode for six to 10 hours a day, sometimes having to lead the unshod horses through rocky gorges.

They covered around 25 miles daily, regularly changing mounts with the four spare animals riding in the horse trailer.

The toughest part of the trip was the first month when extreme heat and humidity gave them excruciating chafing on their legs and backsides.

"Our jeans were saturated with sweat. We rubbed on paw paw ointment, which helped a bit, and bandaged up our legs," Miss Hingley said.

River crossings were made dangerous by currents and large saltwater crocodiles, particularly in the swampy region around the ominously named settlement of Hell's Gate. "They were in the water 25ft away," Mr Ostwald said. "You'd have to keep an eye on them and sometimes chuck a big rock towards them."

Having survived the ultimate relationship test, they are cagy about the future.

"Australia has captured my heart and I'd be more than happy to stay," said Miss Hingley, whose visa runs out in November.

"We're both pretty relaxed about the relationship and we're just going to see how things go. Who knows? Maybe we'll ride around the world together."

dailymail.co.uk