A Travellerspoint blog

Kangaroo Valley

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There are just a couple of weeks to go now to the end of my voyage around Australia. In fact I had already completed it when I was near Cairns and travelling inland back towards Mount Isa and the Northern Territories. I briefly considered driving there for the sake of connecting the dotted lines on the map but decided against it when it got incredibly hot away from the coast and the scenery was exceptionally boring; hundreds of kilometres of cattle stations and dry scrubland. Why would I want to pollute the atmosphere with my exhaust fumes just to satisfy a whim?

Several thousand kilometres and a wedding later [not mine I hasten to add] I find myself at Lake Yarrunga in the Kangaroo Valley not far from the town of Nowra on the New South Wales coast. It is a nice place this, with a huge, free campsite run by the Water Authority, amongst hills and temperate rainforest clad escarpments. After visiting the Fitzroy Falls, which were lovely but not quite as spectacular as the Blue Mountain ones, I descended one of the longest and twistiest drops down from the escarpment I have done in the bus. Luckily it was not busy so there was only one car behind me as I reached the bottom in third gear all of the way [meaning road rage inducingly slowly].

The water of the lake is used as drinking water for the region and is wonderfully pure. I kayaked for most of the first day and still did not reach the dam; probably achieving 16 to 20 kilometres, there and back. It was one of the most scenic paddles I have had, comparable to those in Tasmania although not as remote as there were a few large houses thinly dispersed amongst the hills and forests. Some of these houses were enormous mansions for the very rich, like castles with lakeside acreages of forest and rhododendron gardens. They looked unlived in to me, probably only used by their owners when the weather got too hot to stay in the city. The nice thing about the lake was that it was narrow and twisted through the gorges like a river so often both banks were close enough to be able to see the multitudinous Roos, Wombats, Water Dragons, ducks and herons. I swam and dried out in the nude although I was surprised several times by groups of paddlers organised by “Kangaroo Valley Safaris” or “Aussie Adventures” and other such tourist agencies. The lake is busy now that the Christmas school holidays have started [that means the long summer holiday, here in the southern hemisphere].
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On the second day I rose early and was out on the water at seven, heading in the other direction. It was beautifully calm and the dark reflections of the trees were perfect, the only ripple caused by the bow wave of the kayak and perhaps the odd splash of a Water Dragon plopping into the water. There was a dragon on almost every sun stroked branch, young and mature ones with iridescent green and blue scaled skin. The river became too shallow after a few kilometres and ended in a bed of water rounded stones. I sat on a rock still cold from the night, listened to the tiny sounds of forest and water and felt utterly at peace.

As I got back into the kayak I suddenly realised that there was a large Tiger Snake draped around a branch not more than five metres away. It did not ripple a rib at my commotion getting into the boat and I sat and watched for movement for many minutes. No doubt it was still cold after the night too, or perhaps, judging by its lumpy belly, it was peacefully digesting a couple of ducklings. Further along a large Wombat was digging out another entrance to its den right at the water’s edge. It was oblivious of me, scratching and heaving loose earth into the water making loud slurping and sucking sounds as its claws braced in the mud. It seemed to be thoroughly enjoying itself like a pig in the proverbial. Apparently their tunnels can be a network of 80 metres and they are very sociable, inviting relatives to visit whenever they like.

This social intercourse seems to have other consequences too for I have never seen such a large concentration of Wombats anywhere else. In the evenings they wander across the campsite and entertain the tourists with their antics. [Funny how they look as cube shaped as their poos. Do foxes have brushy tail shaped poos and Echidnas? No...Thank you mind!] Perhaps inbreeding has caused some erratic behavioural traits as several times a night I get disturbed by a Wombat that insists on scratching its back on my exhaust pipe. So vigorous are its movements that metallic rasping sounds are heard far and wide and the bus rocks from side to side...I kid you not. The neighbour had a good laugh about it and I’ve got quite fond of it myself; as I am writing the animal has returned several times to scratch its bum but runs off when I try to take a photo. I’m sure it has a sense of humour and is teasing me. Ha! Got it that time...I’ll miss it when I leave tomorrow.
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Posted by takinitezy 03:18 Comments (0)

Somewhere in Australia

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I have been driving along the country lanes on the fringes of the Blue Mountains. It is not far from Sydney. From the top of a rise the skyscrapers of the city can be seen in the haze. It is peaceful here, where Tree Changers and hobby farmers have built their large homes. Some of them still commute to work but most have retired to keep a few head of cattle, some goats, or indulge finally their dream of riding horses through the bush; of being everybody’s idea of an Aussie, Akubra hat and all.

It is perhaps a stage set of Australian country life, the well-off city dweller retaining their need for a comfortable lifestyle, complete with tinted windows, double garages, BMW’s, horseboxes, landscaped gardens with acres of manicured lawns, kidney shaped pools and the obligatory tastefully rusted agricultural implements on display at the roadside. On nice days they polish up the chrome on their Harley Davidson, don their round retro helmets and leather gear and go for a spin along the twistiest lanes they can find. Man, it feels good to lean into those bends! This is freedom; what I have worked for all of my life! But, far removed as they may be from the real country and outback Australian whose life is hard, utilitarian and harsh in the heat and the dust, I can see the appeal of living like this in rural suburbia; in green and well watered style. All of the larger cities have this green belt; not country, not city but a bit of both.

The sun was low and I stopped somewhere along the road in a little lay-by at a junction, I’m not sure where I was but it did not matter. The road was heading south, that’s all I knew; my aids to navigation were the shadows cast by the setting sun.
I like travelling like this, away from the busy, peopled world. Away from the stress of finding a worthy campsite that is required to be beautiful yet cheap, with attractions nearby and have all the facilities within a few steps of the motorhome [which, incidentally, has all of its own facilities too]. I like just stopping anywhere. I had a great nights’ sleep, hardly a car passed by. This morning I patted the kind-eyed horses in the paddock and watched some young calves gambol and kick their way through the tall grass whilst Sulphur Crested Cockatoos squawked and flapped from tree to tree. A grove of tall gum trees cast their cool shade on a lily covered dam and a Laughing Kookaburra added the final touch to this tranquil scene.

It is a peaceful land this Australia; prosperous and spacious enough to breathe fresh air scented by Teatree blossom and Eucalypt oil. Where “lifestyle” is most important and dreams can still be indulged in.

It is no wonder that, in general, the people of this country have no interest in changing their way of life. In general they do not even realise why they should. And even if they did, why should they change for the benefit of some people far removed from their Australian dream; those people who are suffering the consequences of climate change and those who do not have the resources, financial or natural to be able to withstand the ravages that climate change is already bringing? Those people who live in low lying islands of the Pacific and who have had to move from their ancestral home. Those people that live on the fringes of deserts who are refugees, not because of conflict but because they have had to move away in desperation to avoid starvation. Those millions of people whose harvests have failed or homes and families have been destroyed due to unprecedented, extreme weather events.

If Australians want to see themselves as compassionate and fair people, no matter how you look at it, there will have to be fundamental changes to how most of them think about their lifestyle as climate change creates increasing chaos and hardship to the more vulnerable people of the world. Granted, it is often in the wealthier country areas that you can see some of the high tech solutions, such as solar panels or brand new, architect designed, passive solar, sustainable mansions; that’s because they can afford them. But why do just two people need such a big house or acres of high maintenance landscaped gardens or a solar heated swimming pool? Being environmentally correct is becoming just another status symbol to a few while the rest blissfully carry on living the Australian dream.

I’m sorry to keep spoiling the idyllic picture, but it is what I see all around me as I drive through prosperous Australia trying to be as sustainable as possible. I feel a strong responsibility and I’m not even an Australian citizen; so why don’t these Australians?

Posted by takinitezy 02:15 Archived in Australia Tagged lifestyle idyll prosperous_australians Comments (0)

Eclipse

November 14th 2012, Northern Queensland, Australia

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My time in northern Queensland was coming to an end. I had yearned for the tropics whilst in Tasmania; warm breezes, swimming in the clear ocean, snorkelling on the reef, lazing on golden crescents of palm fringed sand. I suppose I was, once again, nostalgic for those sun blessed, carefree years of childhood on Curacao, as I had been when I headed across the Atlantic on my yacht searching for a tropical paradise.
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Paradise turned out to be elusive here in Queensland. It was rare to find a palm fringed beach, and when I did the water was not clear. The coast is too shallow; the tide goes out too far so you can only swim for a short while at high water. Most of the coast is mangrove, with muddy creeks and rivers discharging their silt burden into the Coral Sea. There were no fabulous reefs near enough to the coast to be able to snorkel; that is if the water was clear enough to see anything. The only way to see those wondrous colours of the coral was to catch a tourist boat to the outer reefs. The tourist operators have got it sown up pretty well and it is a multi-million dollar industry. Still, at least those of us who care about the environment have, to some extent, got the tourist industry on our side to protect the reef from industrial development such as the huge new coal export facilities being set up along the Queensland coast.
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No, the Caribbean in the ‘nineties was far superior in terms of being in paradise; as is Ningaloo reef on the west coast of Australia, incidentally. There you can snorkel right off the beach in perfectly clear water and tourism is still very low key, probably due to it being such a long way away from centres of human occupation.
There are other restrictions to living in “paradise” along the Queensland coast, such as dangerous Stingers, various species of tiny jellyfish which inflict excruciating pain and in severe cases can cause death through paralysis and shock. Granted, I was a bit late in the year, for it begins to become a serious problem in October/November when the stinger nets are unfurled and you can only swim in a fifty metre square enclosure. Even then it is not entirely guaranteed to be safe.
Sandflies, so tiny you can hardly see them, are also a cause of intense irritation and create large swellings on my body which last for two weeks, suppurate, itch furiously and leave little scars which seem to flare up again when I’m bitten a month or so later. I may be particularly sensitive to them, which in a perverse way is only fair since mosquitoes do not affect me much at all. In any case, they restricted my enjoyment of the tropics. It was foolhardy to sit on a beach in the cool of the sunset where I was a prime feeding ground for these vicious little insects which did not seem to be deterred by tropical strength insect repellent. I learned my lesson and stayed in the bus when it was a windless evening.
To sum up the Queensland coast; mass tourism, city resorts, too many people, commercial and materialistic values, unbridled development, cloudy water, mangroves, mudflats, crocodiles, stingers, sandflies, march flies, tropical diseases and more...do not add up to the paradise I was looking for. I’m used to snakes, spiders and sharks so they are not on the list, although they are abundant here too. I wonder what the tourists think about it; have they been taken in by the hype pedalled by the tourist industry? Perhaps they have little experience of what paradise can be like elsewhere. But then, everyone has a different idea of what paradise is.
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The rainforest, however, is another story. I found it very exotic and enjoyed my wanderings through the damp, dense lushness of buttressed trees, palms, ferns and climbers. It is at the end of the season, hot and humid and there were very few people on the paths constructed by the Parks and Wildlife service. At times I would be walking on my own through the dripping forest, listening to the sound of birds and the rustle of palm leaves, imagining how the first explorers must have felt when they had to cut their way through the tangled undergrowth. The forest cuts back; for many of the plants have razor sharp edges or thorns that tear at your clothes and draw blood from the skin underneath. They named one of the palms “Wait-a-while” because the long, thorny tendrils would hook into your body and halt your progress until you had carefully untangled yourself. The tendrils are intended [another marvel of evolution] to hook into tall trees so that the palm can literally pull itself up to the light at the top of the canopy.
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I swam in mountain pools, cut into the granite rocks by streams; carved into sculptural, sensual curves, hollows and chutes. Often I swam naked and alone, and felt like an Original Australian. My body was caressed by the gentle veil, fine as mist, which drifted through the air beneath the tallest waterfall in Australia. As the stream shot out over the lip, as though pumped, the gouts of water disintegrated in slow motion into the depth of the gorge. Halfway down the fall there were few gouts left; just vaporous rain which shattered into rainbow colours against the sun.
On my own I become more attuned to the forest, my senses are keen and I begin to pick out the detail that surrounds me; a rustle that is not leaves, a flash of blue alerts me of a Ulysses butterfly, a swift, dark flutter of a tiny bird. My wide eyes, sharpened by adrenaline pick up a strange movement at the edge of my vision. A huge scaled creature is crawling across a rock in the middle of the stream; I can only see its tail. Are there freshwater crocs up here? It jumps to another rock and I can see it clearly now. It’s a large Lace Monitor or Goanna [the Aboriginal name in eastern Australia]; the largest I have seen at almost two meters long. Surprisingly agile as it leaps from rock to rock gripping the smooth surface with its five fingered claws it glides silently into the forest.
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I was very lucky to come across a Southern Cassowary in the fan palm forest near Mission Beach. I stood stock still and tried to look unthreatening as it turned towards me to protect the two chicks. They have a reputation, these huge flightless birds, and can be aggressive; you would not want to get in the way of its heavy, muscular claws. It certainly intimidated me as it stared, looked annoyed and seemed to tense up for something. But then it relaxed a bit and started to lead the chicks down the path, stepping slowly and statefully away from me, looking rather comical with its dangly wattles and the horn balanced on top of its head. Every time I took a step to follow it turned towards me once again. It became a bit of a game for a while since this path was the only way back to the bus for me. After a few minutes the massive bird slid into a crack in the greenery which did not look big enough for a possum. It must have been protected from the thorns by its oily feathers which allowed it to push though them as though lubricated. I could still see the blue of its neck and its beady, bad-tempered eye following me as I passed by rapidly.
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Cairns was very disappointing. I had imagined it to be a trendy, arty, enlightened and environmentally aware city but after cycling and walking all around, found nothing of interest apart from a multitude of ripe mangoes scattered all around the public parks. I was astounded that everybody was buying them at the market for the hefty price of three dollars per kilo [imported from Bowen] and what really amazed me was that they were selling well in the air conditioned supermarkets for two dollars each!
The beach was a mix of mud and sand flats, dotted by mangrove shoots. They even imported the sand. A boardwalk had been erected along the esplanade, much the same as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and other cities by the sea. The mandatory swimming lagoon was larger than most, but did not have the wave machine of Darwin’s. [In Darwin you can often not swim in the sea due to Ecoli bacteria].
The first few rows of buildings back from the beach were resorts and hotels of the “international” kind. The rest of the blocks in the central section were packed with the less expensive, average, budget, sleazy, run down, backpacker and all other categories you can think of, type of holiday accommodation. Oddly, one or two traditional Queensland wooden houses on stilts were still standing amongst the modern, multi storey, characterless hotels on the Esplanade. A couple were for sale and had been left unpainted; no doubt they had a hefty price tag on them for these are prime real estate. A couple of others had been bought [or possibly are still with the original owners], restored to immaculate condition and are used as family homes. I wonder who lives there? This whole centre of town is surrounded by endless commercial strips of all the retail chain outlets that exist in Australia [and many from the rest of the world]. I know... I walked it one night I could not sleep and inadvertently took the long way around. It was one of the most boring trudges of my life, along miles and miles of darkened warehouses, 24hr fast food outlets and concrete car lots, none of which allowed for pedestrians. We walk in the gutter of our rampant materialism.
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Cairns appears to be a Mecca for backpackers: Party City. The many pubs, clubs and backpacker hostels were full of young partygoers from Australia but also many other countries. They often had DJ’s and live music to dance and get pissed to, until dawn. The locals welcomed them and divested them of their cash.

I had a quick look at the northern beaches of Cairns, dotted at intervals along the Cook Highway to Port Douglas. They were no more than affluent suburbs by the sea, stinger nets, shallow, murky water, fish and chips and grassy barbeque areas along the mini esplanade. Then up the escarpment into the rainforest tourist town of Kuranda. Oh dear! Once again tourism gone mad, even worse than I had suspected. As the terminal for the Tourist train and Skyrail [gondola cable cars] from Cairns, the visiting passengers would have to run the gauntlet of hundreds of shops and market stalls selling tourist tat. Or they could visit one of a number of nature theme parks; The Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld, Koala Gardens or Poisons Encounter to name some of them. I did visit the Butterfly Sanctuary and was educated a little, but when I asked the guide whether any of the species on display were endangered in the wild he said no. Which means that the function of this facility is not to protect nature but to bring nature to people in the easiest and most spectacular way possible, whilst making loads of money. Speaking for myself, it is much more rewarding and magnificent to spot one in the wild.
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I suppose it can be argued that the proliferation of parks such as this do enable the general public to learn something about the marvels of nature and by having a close encounter with some beautiful creatures will take that experience with them and hopefully have more concern for the protection of nature in the future. We will not get into the subjects of how nature is increasingly being seen as entertainment or; how young children are becoming gradually alienated from nature due, in part, to the paranoia of parents and authorities about the inherent dangers of playing out in the open or; how older generations [at least in Australia] still believe that nature is infinitely resilient and pass those ideas on to their kids or; how material values and instant gratification are regarded as far more interesting and important than the spiritual and healing experience of realising our place in the natural world. That’s getting a bit deep; perhaps another time. After a mango smoothie I headed off to find myself a site to watch the eclipse for it was Monday the 12th of November, two days before this rare event, and I wanted to find myself the best possible spot to think about my place in the universe.
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The weather had been cloudy and rainy for a few days and the many visitors who had come to see the eclipse were getting a little concerned that these conditions would continue into eclipse day. I had also seen early morning cloud on the horizon for the last week I was wandering along the coast so decided to head inland onto the Atherton Tablelands, where drier, clearer conditions were forecast.
I was up at 5am and cycled to the top of the hill near my campsite where there was an unobscured view towards the east across a large open paddock. A Japanese fellow was setting up some sophisticated looking camera/telescope equipment at the campsite amongst the trees. I tried to tell him that there was a much better view where I was going but he just nodded his head vigorously, smiling broadly and continued with what he was doing; he could not speak a word of English. There were a number of other campers but nobody else was awake yet.
The sun was already up but obscured by a large grey cloud which moved, infuriatingly slowly in exactly the same direction as the sun; towards me. But then the rays broke through and gradually the cloud seemed to dissolve. I took some pictures as the disc of the moon began to slip down across the top and left edge of the sun. My sophisticated equipment consisted of my new compact digital camera; a Panasonic Lumix TZ 30 with 20x optical zoom and Leica lens [for those technical, photography geeks amongst you who are particularly impressed by my results] and some $5 Eclipse 2012 commemorative cardboard viewing specs I had procured with great difficulty at Coles supermarket in Innisfail.
As the eclipse progressed, a bizarre silence fell across the land... It was the traffic on the highway pulling in to the side of the road and the occupants, on their way to work, getting out their own sophisticated equipment. Welding hoods, little cameras, paper sheets with holes in the middle and, I was mortified to see, a whole assortment of commemorative cardboard viewing specs of different origin from that of my own. The only thing that did not fall silent was the birds. As the light grew dimmer they began to fly in formation towards their night roosts. Curlews, Swans, Ducks and Cockatoos obviously thought it was twilight and the day was over. They must have wondered why they were still hungry and did not feel tired.
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A couple of guys from Atherton had pulled in alongside me. They looked like twins.
To be honest, the totality was not as great as the hype. I did not even feel the wonder I had felt in Curacao for my first eclipse. I was only about seven years old then and probably more impressed by the excitement of the people around me than anything. Yes, the landscape was enveloped in shadow; yes, the sun became a ring of light for a minute and yes, it was strange how there seemed to be dawn [or dusk] in the east and the west at the same time [that, for me, was the most interesting part, light conditions that can only occur at an eclipse; you could actually see the limits of the moonshadow in the sky, probably because I was at such a good vantage point]. The sun through the viewer was just a ball without reference and even at totality you could not look at the sun without it. The camera had its limitations and without magnification it all seemed rather small, distant and insignificant. Next time I will let the geeks do the work whilst I benefit from the excited hubbub of hyperbole and mange a mango smoothy in front of the telly.
There was a sense of planetary alignment and occasion; a point in time and space which was unique. But it was very cerebral and elusive. I like drifting out into space on a moonless night in central Australia or on the ocean; amongst the stars and galaxies, to let my mind expand with awe and feel humbled. Or just looking at the moon as an old, pitted friend, casting light and comfort into the fearsome, unfeeling power of nature’s night. Or seeing a once stunningly beautiful butterfly, exhausted at the end of its five day flight, settling for the very last time under a leaf.
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Posted by takinitezy 21:10 Comments (0)

On the beach

Sitting on a beach
Getting high
Smokin’ Nimbin
Makes me laugh
Thinking ‘bout Nimbin
Makes me laugh
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Dearest Tanya and the mob at the Environment Centre.

‘tis always great to remember that meeting the Environment Centre had where they discussed the validity of “THE FLIGHT PATH CONSPIRACY” or some such title they gave it. It was about the vapour trails left behind by jets. There were so many of them at one point [a few years ago now] that some people on the west coast of America began to think that there may be some correlation between those trails and the fact that their water went bad, the fish were dying, people were getting sick, all kinds of nasty things were happening.

Anyway when you look at it, it's funny! No! It really was funny! It was like a battle between “The Scientist” and “The People”. The Scientist alias this little man with a burnt head who...apparently had injured himself badly doing something very silly a few months previously, which makes us all laugh during the proceedings of this presentation because he might be clever but has not got a lot of commonsense. All of us laughed, on both sides of the argument. It was The Scientist who was required to prove that the trails were NOT the source of all this conjecture by those people on the west coast of America. He had been preparing this presentation for six months now and had lots of data explaining how trails are left behind at certain altitudes and atmospheric inclines and stuff.

But then he got personal, with his illustrations and obvious hits at the hippie, alternative, mystical members. Those with beliefs other than his own “strictly scientific” belief. So The Rainbow People fella stood up pretty soon and, with his dreadlocks flying, got real angry, in a peaceful but activist way, if you know what I mean. I liked the way they defended their territory, with vigour and feeling, it made me want to vote for both of them, if I had a vote that is. But I’m only a visitor, not a member.

I liked it that these people had passion, each their own. This was a robust discussion from a robust group of people who were genuinely interested in the Environment that we live in. It doesn’t matter that they approached the subject from different ways, scientific v Spiritual/intuitive/loving/creative. It doesn’t matter because they all CARED about the same thing. Because they all CARED.
In the end everybody knew we had to make a compromise. Let those who want to believe in the theory believe it and those that do not, not; let them believe what they believe but let’s move on, we have been hearing about this for months. So we did, and all went home quite happily. Nothing much changed. All the same issues still confronted us but that’s OK, we’ll get involved in the other activities of the group, the permaculture garden or protesting against the export of Uranium from Australia, there’s much to be done.

I liked it; the meeting.
It makes me smile, and feel warm towards them. And Tanya...Tanya, the welcoming, wild, generous, compassionate, huggiest lady in the caravan park who cares makes me smile too. Nimbin, those are good memories. It seems a long time ago so much has happened since then. Still having a good time but...this journey is drawing to an end. It’s time to do something new. After the eclipse I’ll be driving down south pretty fast, for me, a few hundred Kilometres per day, more than a thousand per week, that’s no big deal.

Better enjoy it while I can, where I am, always. I’m going for a walk along this glorious beach as the sun goes down.

Posted by takinitezy 03:38 Tagged beach high nimbin hippies vapour_trails Comments (0)

Cool Paradise

Cool Paradise
My day started well in Paradise.[No I’m not dead. On the contrary, I feel more alive than ever.] I’d had a good nights sleep in the dark little car park near the Bowling Club. No cop would ever find me here, deep in the suburbs of the city. No knock on the door at two a.m. “Are you camping here sir? Move along please. Oh, and here is an infringement notice.”

I got out of there at six, just in case. I am up at that time anyway, nowadays.

Off to the Esplanade where I would bask in the rising sun and watch the people of Paradise watch each other. The coffee shops were profuse and full as the first rays hit the terraces. It is fun to go out for your first coffee of the day and be seen. Some people come from Europe, they are used to it, but the wealthy Paradisians from Australia whose parents came from England or Ireland, or China, pretend that they have always done so: “ it’s traditional, in the family, the most normal thing in the world, relaxing with a paper or magazine. Oh yeah!” After all Australia is cosmopolitan; it’s cool. We may not be a world power but we can grind a bean with the best.

I took my glasses off to do my T’ai Chi. Now I would not see the people looking at me and would not get distracted. It works! You only see a blur and feel part of the Universal Blur too, so that you can perform your movements and get inside yourself better.
I looked very cool too, in the stance, rooted to the earth, an unfocused look in my eyes. “Hey man, look at him! Is he doing martial arts, or what? I may have to try that myself. It looks so cool!”

Feeling refreshed and high on Chi, I chatted to three ladies from Serbia. They worked for a solar energy company and were taking pictures of my new foldout panels. We got more and more animated about the state of the world; renewable energy, sustainability, growing your own veggies, a new no- growth economy, you name it and we got into it; it was great to get that off our chests and we parted with hugs and smiles. They went back to their luxury apartments in their Mercedes and I strolled back to the bus.

But then, as if carried on the cosmic energy of confidence, I said hello to a beautiful lady with Henna’d hair and lovely eyes. She must have been around my age but it was hard to tell, she looked much younger. Boy, was she cool, with her athletic figure and ready smile! She stopped, I was shocked! She stayed for a while as we engaged in this intense conversation about this and that, mindblowing stuff. I cannot remember what, I could not concentrate; I was too impressed, overawed, out- cooled [is that the same as chilled- out?] The handsome lifeguards were jealous and looked on from afar. “What has this old tramp got to say to a woman like that?” I wondered that myself. They waved to her when she left. I was sad to see her go without going for a coffee with her; DAMN! But no, I’ve got responsibilities...haven’t I?

All that before breakfast.
Ahhh breakfast! Didn’t I get just the most delicious yoghourt in the world? Organic [ yay!],thick and creamy, unhomogenised, with a layer of thick cream, almost butter on top. When you spoon out the yoghourt in solid wedges it all stays set like jelly, but oh so much nicer.White wedges, mix in the muesli and a couple of weetbixies, cut up the sweetest, cheapest bananas that you get around here and drizzle liberally [ or drizzlerally] with golden honey collected by hand by DN & AJ Keys [Keysies Bees] at 38 Oackley Avenue, Lismore NSW.
Its so cool to eat that breakfast, and stay healthy man.

Talking about healthy; everyone is out along the foot/bike path now. Jogging, running, trudging, posing, stretching, doing pushups in groups, handing over the ball and doing relays, showing their lithe, supple bodies off in the case of Chicks, and with T shirt rolled down and CK waistbands competing for “most daring exposure” status for the Dudes. Its extra cool to be on a skateboard and have dreadlocks.
There must be professional athletes amongst them, they’re the ones with heart rate indicator and sporty stopwatches, and rehydration packs strapped to their backs. They wear these skintight frictionless bodysuits to make their times a fraction of a second better. [Maybe it is Olympic Fever!]. Seriously though, a lot of athletes live right here in Paradise. It has got some of the best sporting facilities in Australia.

Mnmn. As I’m writing this I am munching some intense dark chocolate; I’m so glad it has become cool to eat it now that it is good for you.]

The young people don’t really need to keep fit [ you see very few fat youngsters running], they are flirting and posing, but the old folks are keeping fit and flirt and pose too... in their own way. They pose with their expensive bikes and hi-tech helmets, their super light alloy bikes bristling with gadgets and gauges. Wearing the right gear is being cool. This year it is black and grey with yellow striped crotch padding.
I am too cool to wear that stuff. How’s the song go? “I’m too cool for my shirt?” But then I’m an “Environmentalist”. They just don’t know how cool I am unless I grow my hair long, tie it up in a ponytail and wear expensive outdoor clothing. Suffice to say, I go pedalling in my torn travel trousers and shapeless T shirt; helmet from K Mart. Thank goodness someone sold me a good bike. It has transformed my mind, made cycling so much easier. I use it all the time now to explore around. Hilly or not.

I do wish to notify you that paradise has no hills, in case you were wondering before you get here. Bring a bike to heaven by the ocean, is my advice; I have cycled all day for three days without going over the same ground twice. Along great cycle/footpath/lanes.
This trip was no exception. I thought I would go past Seaworld to see what it was like but then took the wrong fork in the road and ended up doing a bit of dune biking, up and down a few meters like a roller coaster with curves. Cool!

I ended up at an industrial looking pier with a pipe running along it. You could walk along it for $3 if you payed at the kiosk. I asked the guy if he owned the pier. “No mate, it belongs to one of the richest men in Australia, I just lease it.” [meaning his stall selling drinks and sweets, I did not click immediately either].
“Cor, it must be a moneymaker, hey?” I said in that typically Queenslander way. He laughed.
Leaning on the railing I watched a mixed race family on their day out on the pier, fishing together. How lovely, what entertainment for all, resting in the sun, eating lunch with tea from a flask whilst dad was busily reeling in the empty hooks and rebaiting them with prawns. It did not matter whether they caught anything or not, the enjoyment was in the doing; a nice attitude that many fishermen have.
“I love the way you go fishing with the whole family” I said, leaning over towards the woman feeding a baby. She was part Aboriginal I could see and hear as she smiled and answered; “Yeah, and we’ve even got the grandchild here too,hehehe!”

There was a Japanese guy wandering around on the end of the pier amongst the massive cubes of concrete, looking for a flat spot to fish from. “How about that one?” I said; and he tried hard, balancing on the edge of a nasty drop into a concrete crevasse. Sensibly he gave up but I could not help wondering why he chose such a difficult place to fish, when there was half a kilometre of easy rocks to choose from...and told him so. “Yah, yah” he answered. I think he would have said that to anything I told him. It is hard for a Japanese man to lose face.

I ended up chatting for ages outside the ice cream van to a local. He worked with kids who had problems at home and took them on adventure trips to help them get over their trauma and become cool citizens. Another cool guy, don’t you think? We watched a group of young executive types on a team bonding exercise larking about in their full racing gear complete with body shells and crash neck supports. But they were riding MOPEDS! 50cc of power in scooterette form. They were taking action photos standing still; leaning their mopeds over so that they seemed to be cornering at amazing speed, their knees scraping the ground as they screamed around the final bend before the home straight.

Eating my ice cream I chatted to a couple parked in a camper van eating a heap of juicy pink prawns as they watched the superyachts ply up and down the channel. “We always come here, get a heap of cooked prawns from down the road and spend the afternoon lazing about.” These were not your Paradisians, keeping fit. No, they were stuffing themselves, gorging on a kilo each and not offering their new found friend any. He spoke with his mouth full of masticated crustacean showing in front of his gums and hamstered away in his cheeks. Not cool.

At the end of The Spit, as this was called I met a Canadian fella with Authentic Akubra Kangaroo skin hat, which, when you heard his accent, made him look more like a Mountie than an Aussie. His wife’s family was originally from Scotland, and in the way of many second generation immigrants, had tried to reconnect with her roots through investigating her family tree. She had got all the way back to the Huguenots in 17///. When I raised the subject of climate change he asked “So what do you think, is it really happening? I’m of the opinion it is just a natural cycle that we are going through, like we have throughout the ages.”
That got me going.
I pointed out that the vast majority of scientists agree that it is Human induced through the burning of fossil fuels, that it was happening way faster than any of the previous increases in temperature and it correlated exactly with the increases of greenhouse gas emissions. “Is that not a bit too much of a coincidence?”
I convinced his wife, I reckon, for she was nodding vigorously as I spoke. She was probably already convinced. Hopefully she will work on her husband’s scepticism at home. We had him listening at least.

I passed the fishing harbour on my way back and bought some cooked prawns myself, about a kilo for fifteen bucks. Three hours had passed by now. A lot of time when your day is only 10 hours long [it happened to be the shortest day of the year], and a lot of exercise. I was fitter and therefore cooler than most by now.
After a swim in the ocean and some writing time I saw a rock band perform at the free music festival on the beach. The Hoodoo Gurus, a band I had heard of but am not familiar with. They were older guys and played a kind of iconic Australian style of rock, Surfie Punk Rock, you could call it. A blend of Beach Boy, Bee Gees and The Who. I got into the groove, together with the rest of the Aussie grey haired groovers. It was cool.
Paradise is a cool place, I enjoyed it for a while but my illusions were shattered by a cool local guy, nineteen years old, who I met today on a street bench while I ate my Movenpick ice cream [really cool]. He came out of a pub and asked me whether I smoked. Funny; he did not look the type, and I was right about that, he just wanted to cadge a fag, played rugby, did not like soccer and preferred alcohol. We got on great as we sized up passers- by for a possible cadge. He was amazingly forthright when I asked him why he had moved up here from Melbourne; “I always got beaten up at school”
I met his mum and told her she had a great son; she did not seem convinced. He told me this place was worse though. Most of the pubs and clubs were owned by “bikie gangs” who were into crime big time. There were street gangs too. “It helps when you know somebody big in a gang” he said.
As we talked street wise stuff, he said I was really with the times man. What a cool compliment. A couple of girls with high heels and yellow sequined skirts so short you could see what they had had for dinner[ his words not mine], tried to charm us into giving them some money. “Meter Girls” my friend explained. “They used to put coins in your parking meter so that you could stay longer” No doubt they were organised by the bikie bar owners association to rustle up business. They sold calendars with scantily clad ladies on the front page, themselves included. I suppose it could be called fringe prostitution.
A little later a couple of young men tried to sell us some prayers printed on bits of paper. At the root of good or evil is money it would seem.
In Paradise.

I stuffed myself with prawns. Protein to build up my muscles.

Posted by takinitezy 05:57 Comments (0)

Why do I travel?

It is exactly three years from the start of this journey

I have written about my travels around Australia in my rusty, dusty, trusty bus and spoken about places, people and events. By now you may have read some of my instalments, or even all of them.

The most important part of this traveller’s tale, however, is about me. About the inner journey that I made whilst I drove through the desert, took long walks in the searing heat or sweated in the bus with nothing but stars to keep me company. The emotion that swept through me like a powerful wave while I walked right through a mob of Kangaroos or hesitated about going into a pub full of Aboriginals; while I talked myself hoarse on long boring trips or was transported whilst I stood on a red rock overlooking the wetlands of Kakadu.
The anger I felt, at how white Australians ignore the plight of Aboriginals and hide them away. The disgust I felt at the way they exploit Aboriginal Artists who are lost in their own country; or the awe I felt as I stood on a dark beach in a gale and heard the booming of the ocean at night, the sting of sand whipping off endless dunes. But also my joy when Australians accepted me as one of their own and gave me their friendship and sometimes their love.

Emotion

What made the journey so profound for me was the emotion. Emotion which was stronger than any I had felt before in my life. At the time I thought it was due to the pain of leaving my wife behind. “Of course; I needed time to grieve over a love that I had lost. Yes, it must be that”, I told myself. “My emotions are still raw and near the surface. They come out and bother me, make me cry, or feel exalted. Up and down; light then dark; yes then no, good, then bad. It must be that; they’ll go away...eventually.”
But they haven’t. Four years and many kilometres and adventures later, they are stronger than ever. I cry almost every day now; in gladness or sadness, empathy or loneliness. Surely grief cannot last this long and be this strong? My wife did not die, after all, and is leading quite a happy life. We are still friends!
Even throughout my year in Tasmania, when I had the companionship of a wonderful woman and formed friendships and connections with the people of this beautiful isle; while I was busy with projects and adventures, domestic comforts and wild solitude, I became more and more emotional still.

Now I am travelling again in my bus and wondering why. The journey I am doing is fabulous, anyone would agree. I am constantly struck by the beauty of this country and tell myself and others how wonderful this place is; as if I am trying to convince myself and them that I am having a good time. When I tell them I have been travelling in this bus for three years they look at me with envy and shake their heads. “Boy that must be great, I want to do that one day.”
I look at the beauty, chat to the people, drive my bus along lovely country lanes and stand on top of mountains but have not been as moved by them; not like before. I have not cried with joy or exaltation. Instead, my strong emotions come at the quiet times, usually in the wee hours of the morning. They seem to have disconnected themselves from the places, people and events. So why am I travelling at all now? What is my reason for travelling? Previously I had thought it was because of my rawness after leaving my wife; a bit of travel therapy. But now that does not seem possible any longer.

Maybe this is the answer;

I travel because I am running away from responsibility.

“Big deal” you tell me.”That is the most obvious thing I have ever heard. Tell me something new!”
But listen, it is not simple like that. There are a lot of unanswered questions in that statement. It still does not explain the way I feel right now. What has it got to do with strong emotions that come in the middle of the night? Does it relate to buying a yacht all those years ago? Perhaps it did then, but what about now; what are these responsibilities I am talking about in that statement? I did not have any responsibilities in Tasmania, or for two travelling years before that time but still I have these strong emotions, this inner turmoil.
So I’m not sure at all, it could be that; or maybe some of that and some of the other and something else as well. The clue has got to lie in the emotions; it is the thread that runs through my deliberations.

First of all, you have to agree and accept that it is not grief. When I bought my boat and sailed away from England and my first wife; I was hurt by her betrayal of my love but soon I was so engaged in this boat, my dream, that I forgot the pain. My family and friends were pleased and supported me in my venture. I left the pain behind in our house in London, where I had been lonely in the remains of my shattered life, and where, for a while, a woman helped me overcome my loneliness. [My pain was little compared to the anguish this woman had suffered for many years].
And the travel on my boat got better as a new partner joined me and stayed with me through thick and thin. The dramatic and adventurous things we went through together formed strong bonds until they, in turn, were broken by our separation. The separation brings pain of course, but surely not for four years. Especially, as I said before, when I have had good times since then [I believe she has too]. This time it was travel on my bus.

Aimlessness

Emotions could be described as a kind of intuition. Feeling good or bad about something without knowing why must be intuition. When those good or bad feelings come to me during the day I used to relate it to the things happening around me; a wonderful view, a stormy sea, some drunken aborigines in the long grass. So now, when these emotions become dulled during the day, my intuition is telling me something. It is telling me that I’m just drifting around. It is telling me that there is no purpose to what I’m doing. I’m drifting aimlessly. That is a feeling, an emotion in itself. Aimlessness.
There is no logic to it. According to most people I meet I should be feeling great. No responsibilities, financially secure, travelling at my own time and whim. But I don’t feel great. I feel aimless.

I think I know what it is, but I am not sure! I am writing this piece as a kind of logical progression to arrive at an answer in this way. I have been doing that quite a bit, to work thing out; to crystallise the aimless thoughts in my head. Each sentence has been written in real time and will not be altered. Just for fun; to provide a story and keep you guessing. Some of you, more intelligent or wise than me may have guessed right from the start why I am travelling. Just like knowing who did it, halfway through a Who-done-it murder story.

Travelling aimlessly is not nice once the aimlessness takes hold. I can do without the aimless part, thanks! I realised some time ago that I need an aim and tried to achieve that by working as much as possible towards that passion of mine, my love of Nature. My love of Nature has evolved into greater things. It has evolved into a love of this whole Earth. I suppose it has always been there but is now emerging from where it had lain suppressed for many, many years. I had never allowed it to emerge fully, I had other commitments. I acknowledged it from time to time but did not fully connect with it.

Nature means The Earth, and more; it means the Universe. It means Science, for Science is the observation of natural phenomena. From the energies of the Universe to the energies of matter, the smallest Particle Physics. It is all about energy.

Nature is everything; and everything is Energy.

But I am getting sidetracked and will get back to why I am travelling. I tried to alleviate that feeling of aimlessness by working towards caring for the Earth, for Sustainability, for a better world. My passion, my Love, extended towards people; after all, we are all part of nature, of the universe, part of the same energy. My love grew and grew in scope; I allowed it to fill my heart, body, mind and spirit. [do these make up the soul?]

I did practical stuff, like helping to build a straw bale house and helping a family build their hand- made house in a Sustainable Community. I have spoken to environmental groups wherever I came across them and joined meetings and discussions, hoping to be able to help them in some way. I have visited Permaculture gardens to learn more about living sustainably. I have involved myself online in Forums and joined new organisations.
But still I have not been fulfilled and satisfied!

I think I know why. Do you?
I am now overflowing with love. Love I have been gathering throughout my life but really opened up to just recently. I’m full of it. I need to do something with it in case I explode! I don’t want to waste it. There is not enough of it in the world today, the world of Nature and Humans needs some, and I have copious amounts of it to give.
My travel, and especially this last section of my journey, has given me time to reflect. On where I am in my life and what I would like to aim for in the remaining twenty years to satisfy this aimlessness and use this love I am now filled with.

This journey has been to find love, to let it fill me and to find ways of giving it.

To give and to receive love.

Posted by takinitezy 05:32 Archived in Australia Tagged nature travel life love happiness time reflect attachment aimlessness satisfaction fulfillment Comments (0)

A Romp in the Straw

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Linda, the lady traveller I had met at Lake Macquarie mentioned she was going to take part in a strawbale house building workshop near Dungog NSW. Oooh! I thought; this is just the kind of thing I would like to do right now. I had been a bit listless lately, wondering why exactly I was travelling around still. The scenery was fabulous, nature pristine as ever and the people friendly but...I was just not getting the same buzz from it as before. Before I was welcomed to Tasmania and forced to stay there for more than a year of love, adventure and joy. Before, I had been searching for something; call it home, or love, or a sense of belonging. Perhaps Tasmania was it, I’m still not sure but miss it already.

So after pestering Linda for the details, I went; turning up in the late afternoon at a collection of small buildings and concrete foundations without walls. The roofs were up, supported by a special wooden framework which is designed to take the measurements of strawbales. The raw material for the walls was stacked up under the roof to keep the rain off. Wet strawbales are not a good idea as they rot, fall apart in no time, grow mould and smell like silage. You end up living in a compost heap.

Judy, the owner of the property introduced me to Shane and Claire who were the builders, busily finishing off the final details before the workshop on the following day. She explained the functions of the different buildings over a cup of tea.
The main house, in which she would be living, overlooked a large curved dam in the valley with a backdrop of a dense mixed forest on the slopes beyond. This was all her land, many acres of forest which she was preserving and managing for biodiversity. The second largest building was to be accommodation, either for Bed and Breakfast guests, friends and family or WWOOfers [Willing Workers On Organic Farms]. There were two small, square buildings to be used as a “mudroom/laundry” [where you can leave wet clothes, use the toilet and wash yourself and your clothes] and a cellar/toolshed. [I am not exactly sure of the functional combinations].

Linda turned up, then one or two others came to set up their tents. Some of them knew each other from previous workshops. We said a brief hello and retired for an early night, ready for some hard work in the morning.

It was cold at 7am, probably just above freezing point, as the team gathered together around the hot water urn which was blowing steam, like our breath in the crisp air. Cars and Utes turned up; soon there were around 15 of us including the builders and of course the expert straw man Frank Thomas, with the English name but a German accent. He has been running workshops like this up and down the Eastern states right down into Tasmania for years and knew many of the people at this gathering.

After a short safety briefing we got to work. I could tell you all about the small detail but I don’t want to bore you with technical stuff. Basically we spent the next three days piling bales on top of one another in a brickwork pattern, fitting them in between the uprights of the structure, which sounds easy but was not really so. We needed a lot of half bales [think LEGO], which had to be split and retied with twine by hand. Sometimes the structure got in the way of easy placement and when we got to three trimmed with hedge cutter bales [on edge] high, a wooden compression plate was placed on top inside a groove cut in the bale with a circular saw and compressed down squarely and correctly by high tension steel wire and Gripples. Whew; what a mouthful! Told you it was complicated! It was good to have a selection of large bottoms to choose from to provide extra compressive power; especially, [for me personally] the female ones.
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We swapped jobs, at our own discretion unless Frank found an urgent need somewhere. Trimming with the hedge cutters [noisy, dusty, hot and tiring], carrying bales to be stacked, stacking and fitting bales, splitting bales in two and retying, cutting grooves [hot, extremely dusty and tiring], poking wires through bales and under bearing plates, tensioning with Gripples, making mistakes and doing it again, sitting on top of bales if you had a large bum and so on...
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At the usual mid morning smoko and tea break, we were provided with an endless stream of yummy cakes and goodies by Judy, whose job it was to provide fuel for the workers. Lunch was extravagant, with choices of wholesome homemade soup, fresh bread, a stack of sandwiches, fruit, nuts, salads and more cakes. She did us proud. I hardly ate an evening meal as I was not used to all this food.

The atmosphere was enthusiastic and wonderfully cheerful. Soon we began to distinguish the chatters from the quiet workers; the keen from the hangers on; but it did not matter. We joked openly about it and had a good laugh. One of the hangers on, too busy rushing around the state making loads of money, felt guilty perhaps, because he arrived with a car boot full of junk food one day. Oh dear, not the right thing for us Greenies! Some of us ate it because we did not want to waste it [that’s my excuse and true]. It tasted horrible and there was plenty left at the end of the week.
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Boy, I was tired at the end of the day! I would stagger back to the bus after five and collapse for at least an hour. Sometimes I dozed off on the bed and woke as the cold was creeping into my bones. But I got fitter towards the end of the week. It was good to feel my muscles tighten and the fat disappearing from around my waist. I felt lighter in body and mind. In the mornings I would do my newly discovered T’ai Chi exercises as the sun rose through the mist and bathed the valley in a pink glow. “Hey, this really works!” I thought as I breathed the universal Chi energy into my lungs, glowing with health of body and mind. “So this is wellbeing...” [Slightly sarcastically, for I know how it feels already].
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Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for building a hut...

We mixed and mixed, got covered and splattered, sucked into the ground by it. The soil had been dug up from the site, it happened to be just the right clay for the job. Great! But why had they not sifted out the stones before mixing it with water? Now we had to make mud soup, push it through a totally inadequate sieve that fell apart, and pick the stones out one by one. I could not have thought of a dirtier, more labour intensive job if I tried. A bit of bad planning I think.
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The walls were up, bashed and squashed into place and been given a haircut. 017_-_Copy.jpg
Now the dents and cracks had to be filled with a lime render. Mud was mixed with lime, water and gravel in a secret blend by Master Thomas. He had his magic machine which puffed and grumbled like a beast until the brew was done. The grey ectoplasm extruded itself from the trunk of the beast into the battered barrows. “Quick! Mix in the chopped straw!” shouted Frank over the din. We mixed like demented slaves, one of us clasping the writhing trunk to direct the turgid flow.076.jpg
It really did feel like something out of the lord of the Rings. Orc like creatures, made from earth to slave for the evil wizard. It was great fun!
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I did not feel so great when after filling cracks for two days the ends of my rubber gloves were eroded away and my fingers were raw soon afterwards. I had to stop, the blood seeped from where the skin used to be. I put myself on light duties for the rest of that day, the last one of the week. Oh yes, I nearly forgot. I also got some lime render in my eye which caused me pain for more than a week afterwards, despite immediately washing it out with copious amounts of water. Nasty stuff lime; they used to dissolve bodies with it in Snowtown, South Australia.
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Most of the workshoppers were gone; there would be another mob next week to do the main house. That morning Frank had brought in a team of plasterers to smooth out the render he sprayed onto the walls. That kind of job is best done by professionals, or else you would get an amateur looking job at the end of a lot of extremely hard work. I know what it’s like to hand render a house and so does Jean, my ex. We have not recovered from it yet, six years later. [Psychologically at least.]
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That’s it, a fine experience for a traveller. It makes him feel as though he is making a difference and not just bumming around. For he is making a contribution towards a better world for the future.

Posted by takinitezy 03:01 Comments (0)

Homeward bound?

South Victoria to Tasmania

Tassie_339.jpgThe narrow roads through the Otway ranges were spectacular, twisting through the fern tree forest along narrow ridges barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. This is cool temperate rainforest; mosses and lichen coat every surface, rock and tree. Birds and other wildlife were hidden and even the call of parrots was muffled by the dense, sodden undergrowth. I encountered few vehicles as I wound through this strange landscape. It felt as though I was in a different country, not having seen this kind of forest before. I camped along an overgrown grassy track deep in the forest. The only sound I heard was the chatter of a little stream in the ferny valley below.
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A land not his own

A little fox cub crept into the clearing,
Sharp nose twitching
Furry ears pricked
Daisy padding, grasshopping

Soon chasing butterflies
Soft tail floating
Learning to hunt and be smart
Clever but innocent

Born in a land not his own
He is not loved here
But beautiful vermin
And will be destroyed.

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The Great South Road was not particularly great. I have seen much greater roads than that I can tell you! Anyway, the cliffs and rocks were a pretty golden colour and the ocean blue. It was also packed with tourists and in some places hard to get to the viewing spots.
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Via Geelong to Melbourne airport.
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Changing places can mean changing yourself

The long term car park at Melbourne airport is the most boring place in the world to spend the night. No toilets, so I had to catch the shuttle bus before I went to bed in order not to get caught short in the middle of the night. I suppose it helped me find the quickest route to the terminal for an early start the next morning. I was on my way to see good friends, including my ex-wife, in WA.
I never sleep well before a flight and this was no exception, especially when a sudden heatwave made the night most uncomfortable. On top of that, my house battery seemed to have stopped functioning, going from 15 down to 9 volts in half an hour. 15 volts whilst charging on the solar panel is too high, indicating that the battery is not absorbing the charge.
The airport has also got to be the ugliest in the world; Australian dysfunctional, which is saying something. There is absolutely no chance of walking around outside through the endless traffic; no footpaths. Inside there are all the usual crappy shops and crappy fast food places you see around the world. It would be hard to find a healthy meal here, I thought, as I wandered through the haze of frying oil and coffee fumes.

From my journal
Why have people become so addicted to coffee? Every other stall is coffee. All varieties of coffee; hot, cold, strong, weak, milky, with flavours added and so on... When real coffee became trendy everyone wanted to be cool, beautiful, exclusive people and in the way of all trends and fashions they have become the norm. Mr and Mrs Mediocrity. Even the coffees have downgraded to the lowest common denominator. Let them go to franchised places and drink coffee flavoured slush out of polystyrene cups; served up by gum chewing 16year olds who do not look at you when you place your order.

Even people watching was not much fun; mostly Chinese people peering at the departure screens through thick lenses, or Aussies on their way to Bali with boardies, t-shirts and thongs. Perhaps I’m being a little un-fair; it is probably due to tiredness.
The flight was tedious too, the only excitement taking off and landing when there was something to see. The back of my chair * was being kicked * by a hyperactive one year * old for most of the * trip, arms and * legs flailing, intermittent * wailing.
No entertainment centre, no free beverages, and only 3 radio channels. Virgin would have rated very badly if I had still been doing those telephone surveys in Switzerland. Bah! Grump. Grump. Grump. Grump...

As we fly across Esperance I can see once again the wide spaces of WA and have mixed emotions. It kinda feels like home but I wonder if I could come back to live here? I’ll see how I feel after this week. Taking off from Melbourne was very different. There are lots of towns dotted about and the farms are smaller; generally more signs of Humanity. But I had a strange feeling; something like the land is worn out by too many people, the same sensation I had when I first came back to southern Australia from the vast desert. Somehow in WA I don’t feel that; as if the landscape is still more pristine and untainted. As if there is a huge reservoir of Nature waiting in the wings for Armageddon.
Coming back to Albany was initially a nice experience. Jean, my ex-wife and I were showing our good friends from Switzerland the nicest spots on the coast and the weather was sunny so everything looked particularly beautiful. More beautiful than most of the places I had seen on my travels; I wondered why I had ever left. Magnificent scenery, cliffs and beaches. Clean and clear blue water, white sand and the unique biodiversity of parks and reserves along the coast. The south west region really does offer the best of everything Australia can provide.
But then the weather changed; it became very windy, not uncommon in Albany. I remembered one of the main reasons I had left. Even in mid January it is hard to find a warm spot on the beach to swim and laze about. Little grey clouds move in off the ocean when the cold sea breeze blows from the south.
The practicalities of living here would manifest themselves after a while. Finding a job would probably not be too difficult, but in an environment I already know so well and therefore not very exciting or offering a new direction to follow. It would be all too easy to slip into my old skin; not an attractive proposition. Changing location can mean changing yourself.

At the Perth check-in counter I first heard about the floods in Brisbane. The guy behind me was in a hurry to check on his home there to see if it was in danger. I was not really surprised by the news. I had heard all about the floods in central Australia and the Murray River before. La Nina was still hanging around. I confess I was not much consolation to the poor fellow.

A brush with La Nina

So here I am, back in Victoria. Still on the road. Still looking for “home” and still undecided.
I wasted no time getting out of the Melbourne long term car park. The night came early in the gloomy weather. Soon I was camped deep in the state forest at Lederberg listening to reports of heavy rain moving this way. At 9 am the rain started. This was no shower. It soon changed from light drizzle to torrential downpour. I got out of there fast, not wishing to be stuck in this remote forest. If anything happened I would have no phone signal to call for help.
Taking a road to a caravan park I had visited a week before, I passed through the Macedon Ranges not far from Melbourne. The road got narrower as the ranges closed in. Just by guesswork [as the signposts were awful as usual, I turned right and ended up on a gravel road heading up into the hills. There was no way I could continue up here in this weather, although I was glad I had seen this beautiful hidden valley with wooded slopes. The tops of the hills were shrouded in clouds and racehorses stood shining under the black cypress trees to avoid the downpour. A large horse stud with many stables was nestled amongst the trees. The place reminded me of the Ardennes in Belgium.
Trying the left junction this time I found my way onto the correct road but had not been prepared for the endless steep climb that followed. I could not see a thing as I climbed through the dense clouds and rain. Damn! These adventures just seem to happen without warning. But then, I suppose that’s what makes it an adventure. There was an inch of water on the road as I twisted my way through S bends, but the little bus coped well.
From what I could glimpse here and there, these hills were for wealthy Melburnians. Large mansions behind imposing gates and landscaped gardens were the norm and had been here since the early twentieth century, I would hazard a guess. Later, the manager of the caravan park told me it was where the rich of Melbourne came for the summer when it got too hot in the city. They were mere summerhouses. Nowadays most middle class families have at least a shack on the coast or a second home. I’m always amazed by that; I wouldn’t mind a shack as my first home!

The caravan park I had chosen was one of the few not flooded in the days that followed. I holed up and caught the drips off the ceiling but was cosy enough whilst I heard about the chaos further north. Virginia, a couchsurfing friend, had invited me to stay at her house but she e-mailed me to say that it would not be a good idea to camp on her lawn, which had turned into a swamp. Her veranda was already underwater and she had moved her car to higher ground for a quick getaway should the water rise further. In the meantime she was preparing emergency food for the flood victims who had been accommodated in local village halls. Another example of a community pulling together to overcome adversity. Bravo, these unsung heroes!

What would happen if communities no longer existed? Everyone for themselves? Isolation? A deterioration of civil behaviour and consideration for others? It is already evident in today’s world. Communities step in when authorities cannot cope. Already much of the most vital work is being done by local volunteers. Centralisation and larger authorities may well benefit financially due to economies of scale but the savings are made only within the administration of the Authority, whilst remote communities, or what is left of them, suffer the consequences. I believe that a better future lies in localisation. Who was it said; “Small is beautiful”?

I waited out the floods then made my way to Melbourne in order to catch the ferry to Tasmania.
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A change is in the air

I’m on the ferry to Tasmania. It really feels like proper travel again. I remember such feelings from other passages on ships. Even ferries within Greece were like I was heading towards a different country. Not like air travel where you endure many hours of sleepless cramp and then arrive with a shock.
Ships are slow. You have time to say goodbye to the world you are leaving behind. Time to adjust, relax, reflect, dream and anticipate. There is an atmosphere that affects everyone. Passengers come on deck and watch hawsers being taken on board. The engines rumble; a hoot and the space between ship and shore widens with white foam. Little children wave even though there is no one to respond. Cameras click and blokes watch tugs and freighters play their game of push and pull between the buoys. Seagulls swoop in the hope of a churned up fishy meal.
It takes us an hour to cross Philip Bay and head out into the Tasman Strait where the first swells are felt. The journey becomes the experience. Slow travel.

The wind is up to 30 knots, not unusual in the Strait and the crossing rough. Three girls in their late teens get up from their seats and waddle like ducklings in line towards the stern of the ship. Two steps forward, one to the right, two forward, one to the left. Forward, right, forward, left. All perfectly synchronised, as though they have been practicing for hours.
A white-faced girl leans heavily against the counter in front of my seat. She looks miserable and meeting my eyes says in a weak voice; “I feel terrible; think I’m gonna throw up.”
[Not anywhere near me, you’re not.] “Try getting some fresh air. On that side,” I say, pointing to the leeward side of the ship [for her sake, not mine].
Four hours later I see her again. She asks me whether I’ve thrown up yet. “No.” She has not either and I tell her not to give in to it. “It’s a good sign you have lasted so long. Well done.” She looks relieved and better already. We are halfway and people are getting used to the motion.
The ship’s company falls into a sleepy siesta mode. Trying to stop myself from falling asleep on my book, I go outside onto the top deck. It sure is brisk up here; the fine spray stinging my face. It seems rougher than the forecast had predicted. Three metre, wind streaked swells with a mass of whitecaps on top. Every so often a wave crashes into the windward side, the ship shudders and spray comes over the bridge, clattering onto the deck like hail.
I am awake again and hungry. Found me a coffee and am eating the rest of my fruit [which the quarantine man had allowed me to take; as long as I consume it during the voyage].

Arrival at Devonport was rapid, I missed the call for disembarkation whilst I was on deck enjoying the prospect of a new adventure and chatting to a young German. His girlfriend came out and told us everyone had gone down to their vehicle. Someone said; “decks 3 and 5 are getting ready to leave”, and I suddenly realised I had not made a note of which one the bus was on. At least I did know on which side of the ship to look...hold on... did I drive in through the bow or the stern?
“Have you got any vegetables or fruit on your vehicle?” asked the quarantine officer; “plants or soil, compost or any plant material?”
“Not a thing” I replied confidently, “I got rid of all that at the other end.”
“Can I look inside your cool box please sir?”
“Sure.” I opened the lid and there, staring out at us was a large Cos lettuce. He thrust an accusing finger right into the lettuce and frowned at me. I cringed.
“Oh, yes! Forgot all about that.” I scrabbled to quickly remove the offending vegetable and also the cucumber underneath. He had his plastic Ziploc bag ready, shoved them inside and said sternly, “if this was WA, you would have been given a hefty fine, do you realise that?”

Tassiemania

The evening of my arrival in Devonport I made my way to Port Sorell. The rolling countryside was reminiscent of England’s West Country; Devon, or Cornwall, a region I love. The evening light warmed vegetable fields and horse paddocks. In the distance higher, forested hills were deepening to purple in the haze. Sheep cropped velvety grass carpeted the bumps and creases surrounding little weatherboard houses from another time. Dry stone walls and Hawthorn hedgerows. Willow and Bramble lined brooks babble through rocky grey gulleys. [OK, I know they are weeds but they look pretty and tug at my heartstrings.]
Port Sorell is on a river mouth; sandbanks and salt marsh; old wooden boats left high and dry on the mud of a tidal creek. Rickety weathered grey wooden jetties jut out at odd angles. They don’t seem strong enough to tether a boat in a breeze, let alone support the weight of a person. A Marsh Harrier flies low and fast, startling Lapwings and ducks paddling in the mud for food. There are happy sounds of children playing games around the campsite and occasionally the clop clop clopping of another nail being hammered into a jetty needing to be shored up for the umpteenth time.
The tranquillity is deceptive though; 21st century Australia has arrived here too. Estates of macmansions and holiday homes are springing up right behind the beach. Powerboats zoom up and down the estuary with water skiers swinging behind. Now a helicopter is constantly taking off and landing with groups of kids from the youth camp. How to build a bonfire and learning to cook is no longer entertainment enough for the low attention span of the modern child. Helicopter trips around the estuary are where it’s at.
“It is becoming just like the rest of Australia” said the female half of the elderly couple wistfully. After 40 years living in this village, they still have their bit of exercise every day, rain or shine, to take in the air and gaze fondly at the vista of low mountains and golden sands. Arm in arm they turn slowly back towards their spotless and well tended Home.
On the other side of the same estuary is Narawpantu National Park. Reached by a circuitous route through more wonderful scenery, I became more and more impressed with Tasmania. The National Park is renowned for the density of its wildlife and it did not disappoint. I saw no less than four large marsupials I had never or rarely seen in the wild. Pademelon, Wombat, Bennett’s Wallaby and Forester Kangaroo. The animals totally ignored me and I was able to photograph them with ease. I guess they were used to the many tourists.

These initial impressions of Tasmania were delightful and have been supplemented many times over in the months that I have been here. I have seen vast wild rainforests, alpine landscapes on rugged mountains, placid lakes and stormy coastlines. I have seen snow in the summer and swum in icy rivers. I have kayaked on remote lakes with mirror perfect reflections of the surrounding ranges. I have sailed through scenic Hobart on a wooden gaff cutter which has been left in my care by the trust of a stranger. I have driven to many corners of this small state and lingered in mining towns and rural villages, harbours and fjords, cities without stress. Places with much culture, history and Art. I have been charmed by this island.
But, most of all I have been charmed by the people, and one in particular.

Nell

We had agreed to meet at the pub in Georgetown at the start of the Tamar Folk Festival. I felt surprisingly calm as I wandered around looking for her. Years ago, I would have been nervous meeting a single woman, not sleeping well the night before. But I had changed, especially in the last few years. There was no stress, no urgency, and no expectation. I was simply meeting someone I had got on well with before, someone to enjoy the festival with.
Dark hair, I think. Looks about 50. Glasses? I could only vaguely remember what she looked like. Our previous meeting had been more than six months before and a lot had happened to me in that time, many impressions of people and places to blur the memory.
Ah! There she is. Nell walked straight towards me and smiled. We kissed politely or shook hands, I cannot remember and it was not significant at the time. The main concert was about to start and we headed off towards music.
The next few days have now blended into a dreamlike impression of music, song, laughter, tears, emotion and romance.
Nell was in her element at the festival. She had been involved in the music scene for most of her life and knew many of the performers personally. So for me it was a wonderful experience to meet the artists and become deeply immersed in the music at a personal level. I was welcomed into their circle and even participated in a choir. All of which were very new experiences for me.

Nell and I were immediately attracted to one another. At first we were not sure whether it was just that we seemed to have a lot in common, such as our Dutch upbringing or the way we felt about nature, the environment, life’s priorities and all kinds of issues. In fact we seemed to have nothing much to disagree about. But after a short while, we realised it was more than just intellectual compatibility; we felt other connections. [Do 60 year olds still exude pheromones?]

I could tell you that we rushed to Nell’s bedroom, ripped each others’ clothes off and made mad, passionate love that first night, but that would be a lie... It was the second night.

No, not strictly true either, what we really wanted to do was hug, kiss and be close to one another after some years of sleeping on our own. It felt good, we fitted together very well.
Both Nell and I have a fair bit of experience of partnerships but have also felt the pleasures of personal freedom and have therefore decided to follow a middle path. We will not live together but will spend good times doing all kinds of fun things; travelling, kayaking, sailing, the Arts, eating, making love... Although Nell works, it is in the tourist industry and seasonal, so she has plenty of free time in the off season. As for me, well; I may get a little job, if anyone will have me, but if that does not eventuate, never mind. I will just spend my savings; while I still can.

So have I found a Home? This is probably as near as I will get. Nell has made it so; she has tipped the balance in favour of Tasmania.
Without her, I may possibly have made this island my home anyway for it has so much to offer me personally. But undoubtedly, without her, I would first have continued my journey in my rusty dusty trusty bus. Back to Victoria on the ferry and up the east coast to Queensland; just to see if elsewhere was just as nice as here.

Just to see if HOME IS REALLY WHERE YOUR HEART IS.
Testing the concept.

Just to see...

Posted by takinitezy 20:28 Tagged victoria tasmania great_coast_road otway_ranges Comments (0)

Happy Holidays for some.

Into Victoria.

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The Christmas break brings out the best and worst in Australians. It is the first holiday of the year when the city dwellers [80% of all Australians] are unleashed on the countryside. There is a kind of spring fever in the air, schools are out, and it is party time. The tradition is to go camping and the campsites are packed. All of them. In National Parks, in forests, on the coast, in the hills, you name it.
They resemble refugee camps; a sea of cheap canvas and humanity, together with their kids and clutter. If you ignore the inhabitants [who are mostly too well fed], the only difference to refugee camps is the smell of sausages cooking which is noticeable from kilometres away. More reminiscent of say Africa, is the smell of “long drops” [field toilets, no more than a pit with a toilet seat] where the contents were piling up in blowfly topped pyramids approaching the rim. It seems ironic that people leave the city in order to find the great outdoors and end up crammed together in these conditions.
I was reduced to camping along remote country roads for much of the time.

In this part of Victoria there is a little village called Dartmoor, well away from the coastal chaos. I liked the name, as I had spent some happy times on the original Dartmoor in England in a previous life, so headed that way. There was still some room at the free campsite, although the noisy kids and dogs were a nuisance, especially when they had parties where the teenyboppers played the most inane pop music imaginable for hours and hours and the adults pretended to enjoy themselves in order to be the “coolest” mums and dads.Christmas__10_116.jpg

But ultimately I did not mind, it was good to see Australians enjoying the great outdoors, a family tradition continued through generations. A time to have fun with your parents, brothers and sisters. I saw very few glum faces on both grown-ups and kids and it often put a smile on my face too, when I saw them playing together. They have a go at most things; fishing, swimming, playing cricket, lighting campfires, hammering in tent pegs, chopping vegetables, baking potatoes, taking the dogs for a walk or just watching the other campers, like me.

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The seaside towns of Victoria have suddenly come alive. I watched daddies launch their shiny new powerboats; boat trailers littering the foreshore. Opalescent squid were being sliced up at the fish cleaning stations. A group of young children looked on in amazement as the large male fur seal balanced on a rocky shelf to catch some scraps, blinking in the bright sunlight. The elegant female twists and turns in the water seductively, hoping for a few crumbs from the fat fella’s jaws. These wild creatures have become tamed by regular feeding and you will find them in most towns on the southern Australian coast. Even the Pied Cormorants are within arms’ reach in holiday season; whereas they are usually quite shy.Christmas__10_251.jpg
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It may be holiday season but it is still not warm for me, having recently arrived from South Australia. The banners and Christmas decorations flap in the stiff, cold sea breeze. It seemed to me that this, the southernmost part of mainland Australia seldom gets really hot, for the countryside is very reminiscent of Europe. The flat bits are like Holland, with long windbreaks of poplars and farms located at regular intervals along straight roads. The hilly bits are more like England’s rolling downland. Paddocks are green and dotted with black and white Friesian dairy cows. I drove past several dairies and cheese factories. Even the weeds are European; Dandelions, brambles, thistles and hawthorns everywhere.Tassie_317.jpgTassie_311.jpgTassie_323.jpg

Port Fairy must be the most popular destination in the whole of Victoria. It is a pretty, historical village once the second largest port in the state apparently. The harbour is located in the mouth of the river Moyne and I really wanted to have a good look at this place so tried my luck at one of the four caravan parks.
It was like moving into an inner Melbourne ghetto. There must have been a thousand sites and the other campgrounds are of a similar size, so the locals, if they’re not extinct, are outnumbered by ten to one at this time of the year. Strangely the town itself was not overly full, the families with small kids preferring to laze about in and around the campsites.
There was a festive air about the place and I enjoyed the atmosphere immensely. They were proud of their Irish heritage in this town and I watched a Gaelic band playing in the park. Some children were showing off their Irish dancing skills. After a day exploring on my bike I sipped my pint of Guinness outside an old pub in the evening sun and transported myself to a little place in Ireland...Christmas__10_219.jpgChristmas__10_175.jpg

It was New Years Eve and everybody had been talking about resolutions all day. On the radio, on social networking sites, snippets of conversations around campfires. I began to think about mine; what would it be? It became a process of elimination as the clock ticked towards midnight. I listened to others or read them online. No, I did not need to lose weight or put some on; give up smoking or drinking. I did not feel as though I needed to give anything up or start anything new; perhaps a little tweaking here or there, but not so much that I needed to make a resolution about it.
I was baffled by the notion that resolutions should be made at this particular time of year. I make resolutions nearly every day, sometimes breaking them or modifying them to suit the changing circumstances. Why not make that a resolution; to reflect and make a resolution every day? Also it struck me that resolutions were in most cases about self improvement, which is good but why not turn it around and think about ways to improve other peoples’ lives?
It was nowhere near midnight but I could think of nothing better than an idea which had evolved from the week before, when I was feeling rather down. I had been reflecting about my failures in life and needed something to bring me out of depression. The resolution became almost absurdly simple and not particularly revolutionary; you all know about it:

TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE HAPPY.
Making other people happy, makes me happy.

If I’m lucky and live until 85, I have only got another 24 years. That makes every year, month, week and day precious to me. The realisation of how transient our lives are [whether someone believes in an afterlife or rebirth is irrelevant to me, because I do not] gives me the impetus to make their day, and will consequently make mine.
It will shape my behaviour when I communicate and interact with people. I’ll smile at them and engage them in friendly, meaningful conversation. A conversation like that can lift peoples’ mood in itself and can lead to further ways of bringing joy. Even those that show initial surprise at my actions may benefit from a little determined happiness. Obviously I will know when not to press those happy vibes too far; it can be inappropriate and even provocative in the wrong situation. I will not be a martyr to the cause. [Sometimes it makes people happy when I leave]
The value of a resolution is in its sincerity and I have tried to apply it to everyone I have met since the New Year. Of course I am in the fortunate position of living a stress free life, which makes it easier. It has led to very positive developments including much less depression for me. Try it!

From my journal
As I was walking to the bush dunny looking left and right at the families enjoying themselves. I heard a shout and saw a man raking in his winnings from a blue plastic groundsheet, which served as a card table for his family. A woman was sitting amongst the players and she was looking straight at me with interest and curiosity. She was about 30 metres away so I was surprised she had even noticed me amongst the crowd, from that distance.
I gave her my first full-on, genuine, resolution smile of the year and she immediately responded with one of her own. Her face lit up and we connected intimately for a brief moment. She looked so beautiful in a timeless motherly way, as though sharing with me her pride and joy in the wonderful family surrounding her. The warmth of that smile will stay with me for a long time and this small incident had a profound effect on me; heralding in the New Year and the rest of my life.
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Posted by takinitezy 19:46 Archived in Australia Tagged victoria australia campsites port_fairy new_year_resolutions Comments (0)

A grotto Christmas

South Australia and West Victoria

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Volcanoes and caves. That seemed to be the main theme for the rest of South Australia. Perhaps they stuck in my mind because they were a bit different. I mean; volcanoes in Australia?

I had seen sand dunes and magnificent endless beaches before; I had seen little touristy seaside towns like Robe before. Lighthouses, fishermen’s cottages, yachts, boat ramps, fish and chip shops, Norfolk Pines and seagulls.
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I had even seen lots of caves before, similar to the ones at Naracoorte. Stalactites, stalagmites, collapsed roofs and chambers that run for hundreds of meters. But these were different for two reasons.
The first [and the reason I had come to see them], was that they contained fossils of Megafauna, giant marsupials and other large animals that roamed Australia recently enough to be depicted on Aboriginal rock art. In fact there are speculations that the Indigenous tribes may have contributed to their disappearance.
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These animals would fall down into the caves through sink holes hidden by the dense bush, or they would live in the caves, leaving the remains of their prey scattered around for little intense palaeontologists to scratch their heads about. The fossils and remains revealed much more than animal species. They were also indicators of climate and habitat changes over a long period of time. Imagine the Petrushka doll like stomach contents of a predator-prey food chain. The different ages were revealed as the floors of the caves were excavated.
There were no large fossils to see in the caves I visited; a tour for these would have to be booked in advance, but I amused myself by scrutinising some diggings and visiting the Megafauna display which was fun although geared perhaps towards children or the average tourist. [Snob, you say?]

The caves held another interesting surprise; a colony of endangered Southern Bent-winged Bats which was being intensively studied by scientists to try and save them from extinction. A group of us were led into a study centre where we could watch the bats by means of infrared video cameras. It was truly delightful to learn so much about them from Carole the enthusiastic ranger while we watched the pups being fed by their mums [they seemed to be able to pick their own young from a heaving cluster of hundreds of bald minibats].

Hyperboles and cones

Down through the Coonawarra region, through Penola “Home of the first Australian Saint” Mary McKilloch, officially voted “in” by the Vatican only a week previously. Already the tourist industry is cashing in on her renown. This is another huge wine producing region. No wonder there is a wine glut; half of South Australia is planted with vines.
I was pleasantly shocked when the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier really did turn out to be bright blue. Tourist literature often gets a bit carried away with hype so I am becoming very sceptical about it. Large glossy brochures are produced with descriptions of every little town. Here is a sample:
Today, M.... is the perfect spot to unwind. Fishing, boating, skiing, relaxing, strolls along the foreshore and fabulous sunsets are just a handful of the treats awaiting visitors to this idyllic country town.
I have learned to steer clear of towns like this because translated that means there is nothing to see here but you can go out on the lake if you have a boat and if there is water in the lake. [In this case not for the last 5 years].
The brochures are full of it; sure there is something nice about relaxing in a sleepy country town. Simple pleasures; ‘nuff said. And when a town is the “Home of the big lobster”, avoid it unless you feel sorry for the place. Why do you think they built it?

But really; the Blue Lake and a couple of limestone sink holes were all there was to see in Mount Gambier and they were somewhat tourist worn. Enough to merit a visit and bike ride around the craters.
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I fitted in a couple of movies as I nearly always miss new releases around Christmas. Harry Potter and the....whatever” was only half a movie. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” was much better and although obviously for children, it did have deeper messages about courage, duty, self belief and religion. I must admit I was emotionally manipulated by the mouse’s final journey and had to avoid people’s knowing smiles on the way out. In my embarrassment I had forgotten that my bladder was bursting during the final scene and had to run the gauntlet for a second time on my way to the loo. My eyes were horribly red when I looked in the mirror.
Best performance goes to... Eustace [the nuisance].

Mount Schanck, south of Mount Gambier is another volcanic cone. This one, being in the middle of flat farmland was more impressive, a perfect volcano in miniature; Australia’s own cuddly cone.
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It was Christmas Eve and I could have driven 400 km to a friend’s house where I had been invited for dinner but it was just too far. Thousands of Australians would not have bentwing batted an eyelid at such a trip and were packing the roads to get to their loved ones. I was almost on my own, camping at the base of the volcano. The others were some young Europeans in a whizz-bang, engaged in serious drinking well into the wee hours of Christmas Day.

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The Europeans were still asleep, so I went for a snorkel in a limestone pond.
The water that is collected on the limestone plateau of South Australia soon sinks below the surface and forms a series of underground streams which emerge near the coast. The water is crystal clear and bubbles up through springs in the bottom of sink holes then runs a few kilometres to the ocean.

From my journal
I don wetsuit and flippers and lower myself into the icy cold water. My hands soon become numb and I clasp them behind my back where they can benefit from the heat of the sun. A rippling carpet of bright green weed and delicate, tiny plants unfold beneath me as I head downstream gently borne on the current. I pass through a channel between rushes to the next pool and then the next and cannot believe my eyes when a large freshwater crayfish waves his antennae at me, stands to attention and raises his claws ready to fend off this large intruder.

I could have plucked him from the gravelly bed and had a wonderful Christmas feast but did the right thing; this is a nature reserve and taking anything from here would be illegal. Besides he looked great in his own element, much better than in my billycan. Later I learn that these large crayfish are becoming quite rare.
The whole snorkel took about 15 minutes but by then my head was achingly cold and I suffered pain for days afterwards. This sunny day was not over and I drove across the border into Victoria stopping briefly at Nelson, a quiet hamlet on the Glenelg River mouth.
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That evening I camped by the river and had a Christmas dinner of sorts after all. There were five of us drifters, all without family or friends nearby and we shared a simple meal in front of a campfire. I had bought a small Christmas cake, some-one opened a bottle of sparkly and we clicked our plastic cups together for a toast; “To new adventures on the road.”
But this season always makes me feel depressed and the following day when I moved on I felt really bad. Anxious, with heart palpitations and panic. My self esteem very low. Sure, I’ve felt like this before but this was the first time I was really aware of it and took note of the physical and mental manifestations.

How little I have achieved in my life. Failed marriages, failed relationships, failed careers, failed at just about everything I have attempted. Paintings, writings, keeping in touch with friends and family. I’m not determined enough, too lazy, always taking the easy way out.
The anxiety has gone, the physical depression; but the vision of myself has lingered. It will not go away. Do I accept it and continue the rest of my life without being able to say I achieved something; that there was a purpose?

I could make excuses, like a therapist trying to prop up my ego but the vision will not go away. I still feel it is my fault and I’m too weak to remedy it. I know what I could and should do but I don’t. My marriages and relationships could have been saved if I had been more sensitive to my partners’ feelings and acted accordingly. If I had pursued a career I would have been in a more secure position now. If I had been more prolific and dedicated to my Art I would have been happier about my creative legacy. Even in my writing I’m not trying hard enough, I know I could do better. Just cannot be bothered, it’s easier writing blogs like this; taking the easy way out; will never be good enough anyway. Nobody will want to read it; friends are just being nice.

To those few of you who are reading this, I wish you a happy life without regrets; although that may not exist.

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Feeling blue? Take a good look at yourself.

Posted by takinitezy 01:31 Comments (0)

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