Thursday, August 09, 2018

Turkeys in the scrub

Grace in the face of the great Pealing

Monday, July 23, 2018


As we drift blindly into a rabid consumerism that seems to be completely bolstered by submission to the fascist tactics of rampant capitalist ideology, I am not comforted to learn it's all quite accurately predicted in literature.

I have been reading the book Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell and have been reflecting on his observations of poverty that cause a shiver down my spine.

As we see our Government remove the safety net for unemployed, people with disabilities and even the elderly, while they vilify refugees, take away their support and give handouts to big business, a very grim picture of life in Australia is emerging. 

Though Orwell deliberately turns his back on the pursuit of Money as an Ends he illustrates quite clearly how the absence of money in a capitalistic society can rob from people all sense of basic human dignity. 

There is a concept of the failure of the individual in an environment that (possibly mostly in the author’s eyes) puts far too much importance on money as the measure of success. Capitalist ideology is dependent on a system that promotes ‘failure’ in order to motivate people to ‘success’. It is a producer of failure, and success is the illusion of those who manage not to be perceived to fail. The toll this attitude takes on individuals and society is devastating. The temptation of the successful to kick the ladder out from the feet of those aspiring to ‘do well’ seems a completely natural response to living in this kind of society. It is by nature cannibalistic and will create an underclass who have very few prospects and have very little cause for hope. Demoralization of the ‘underclasses’, the proletariat, or just plain ordinary folk seems to be the ultimate goal of this kind of social system.

In Australia I thought we aspired to a kind of democratic socialism that understood the need to protect the whole of society against the ravages of destitution, financial bankruptcy and the subsequent moral and social squalor that accompany it, because we could see that it produces a net loss to the country as a whole. 

That was the old way. We are now living in a very different country. For the financial elite it probably doesn’t seem any worse, they will amass more wealth and so will invest more into security, prison’s, military and punitive legislation to keep the rabble from messing with their comfort… 

I think Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a book that is worth reading as the conditions in Australia today are becoming very relevant to the themes in this book.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Aces High

I've been thinking lately about old friends and the life we lived together somewhere between childhood and the great drifting into the world of seriousness and responsibility.
God knows how any of us survived our youth. Growing up as children in the 70s allowed us a sense that we were born to be wild, that the paths we blaze would be flaming with the burned debris of our parents ambition for us to succeed. We stomped into the 80s as long haired bogan louts with heavy metal T-Shirts and a surprising appreciation for Culture Club, Madona and Duran Duran. The 80s was a time of peculiar changes, a naive ignorance of the environmental realities and a capitalistic view of unlimited potential for the future. It never sat well with me and I rejected it out of hand... Which did set me apart from my mates as I always have been.
In our time together leading into late teens, we were really just kids. Before the proliferation of video games, internet, mobile phones, social media, etc... etc... we amused ourselves by hanging out with our mates, cruising around on bikes, trolling the streets, wagging school and getting into a little too much trouble. 
Some didn't make it to adulthood. Some were too wild, some had grown up in abusive homes and turned their anger in on themselves and society. 
We were intolerant of boredom and did anything possible to relieve the symptoms, usually at our own peril and in contempt for the broader community... Harm was done to neighbors, friends and family paid particularly dearly as our adolescence reigned! 

Some just had a wild curiosity and a furious lust for more of everything all the time and of those the least likely survived into adulthood. Shane was one of these but amplified by 10. His fearlessness and confidence were anomalous to me, I have no idea how he managed to survive as long as he did, but it didn't come without a price.

Image taken @ AC/DC Lane Melbourne

Farewell to a Brother -
Shane although I haven’t seen you in more than twenty years, your spirit is carved into the sinew of my youth.
In all the adventures and the scrapes, and broken teeth and laughs we shared.
So hard you lived and always fought, nothing could keep you down! You were tougher and kinder than I could ever have been. Sometimes I stood back and wondered how you dare be so sure when I was full of doubt.
You never flinched! 

Shane no one and nothing could contain you! So many times I watched as you took the hardest of blows, you always got up with a wicked grin! While I think about you now I can feel a power riff in heavy metal coursing through my veins and the memory of you rises! 

You were a loyal and loving friend. Even after all these years and the distance that has grown between us when I think of true friendship I think of you. You were at times reckless. Yes! Loyal and loving undoubtedly! But Fearless! Always! In the maelstrom of youth and for as long as I have known you… Fearless! Go NOW 

I’ll light a candle as they set your body to ashes! If I could be there to walk you to the door I would as you would hold that place for me! 

Go Grinning! Go Well!

I will sit now, put on my headphones and think of you.

Aces High - Iron Maiden
Hells Bells - AC/DC

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Rolling on

Head space in a time of none.
A brief re-cap.
Came to Victoria to hike, visit family and friends and to defrag from work.
Hiked two full days of the GOW before needing to resign from the trail. Bad weather etc...
Did a few trips around Melbourne suburbs, via a combination of bike foot and public transport.
Caught up with a couple of old mates and a friend from Darwin, hung out with my brother a little bit and generally had a really nice time staying with mum and dad.
Mum's Vegie garden, Pineaple sage in the foreground silver beat in the raised beds
Mushroom on the trail
Legendary Chai tent at the St Andrews Market
Remembering the old days: British bikes have always been a common feature at St Andrews pub
Magpie at Quarry Hill South Morang - Now surrounded by housing development
Graffiti and paste ups in Melbourne lanes
Somehow seemed fitting
The view across Queen Victoria Market from just near the Drunken Poet

Mum with the awesome hand painted copy of Desiderata by Darwin artist Nathalie Qunitos Uhing
Difficult to walk up but beautiful to look at on the GOW
Self Self Selfie as usual... I put my 30kg pack down to take this photo of me

Friday, May 25, 2018

Attempting the Great Ocean Walk (pt 5)


There's no pretending this trip was a success. Not sure where my head is at to post 5 entries on a 2 and a bit day's walk but I was feeling typey... 

After resting on the lawn outside the Otway Light Station I needed to make a decision. Would I continue along the walk or quit now while I had the possibility of getting a lift back to town?

Up until now there had been a school group a couple of hours behind me for each section I had walked, they were camped close by each night. Close enough for me to know they were around and it was reassuring that if I had an accident they would likely find me. 
If I chose to continue I would be travelling through more remote parts of the park and from my discussion with the ranger, it was clear that there was absolutely no one else on the trail, either in front or behind me. You can only hike The Great Ocean Walk in one direction, East to West. I did not like the prospects of travelling alone in such bad weather.

Even at the Light Station there was no public phone, no mobile reception and no means of communicating with the ranger.  I was feeling less than positive about my prospects of completing the walk. 

One of the school leaders offered me a ride back to Apolo Bay in his ute but I was determined to keep going so I thanked him for the offer then proceeded 600 meters along the track to the Hikers camp ground. I found it difficult to get to the camp as there were a few busted tea tree limbs hanging across the path... not a good omen. When I got to the camp it was wet, my gear was wet too. 

I took off my leach bite shoe and sock, they squelched with the sound of thickly congealed blood sticking to leather and wool. I could smell the blood. The wound was small but my socks were disgusting! I looked down at my feet and could see bruises forming under the nails... 

I considered the potential for my feet giving out or the sleeping bag becoming ruined by water and decided there was too great a chance of me being stuck on that trail and not being able to get out until the ranger realized I hadn't reported finished in five more days.

It was then that I decided to quit the trail! 

I legged it back to the car park, had a quick word with one of the adult leaders of the school group, sured up a lift back to Apollo Bay and sat back on the grass and lolled in that terribly no man's land between relief and regret!

My trip home was quite fluky. We got to Apollo Bay Information Centre exactly 45 minutes before the bus to Geelong was due. I booked my tickets through to Melbourne and then sat at the bus shelter and watched rain clouds rolling over the hills and blasting Apollo bay with an icy cold spray of mountain rain while I waited for the bus.

The brisk refreshing delight of Otway coastal rain

Apollo Bay Bus shelter
Arrived at Geelong station with 10 minutes grace, enough time to hobble to the Melbourne bound platform and before I knew it I was on the train... At Southern Cross I switched tracks to the Hurstbridge line and my train arrived within 10 minutes. I can't remember exactly what time I got back to mum and dad's place but it was a dream run... From the time I arrived at the Light Station until the time I was was soaking in a hot bath was something like 7 hours. 

Geelong Station
The weather remained bad for hiking for the remainder of the week. I don't mind hiking in the rain, even if it's cold but I was not equipped to for wet nights. My down sleeping bag would have failed miserably and I would have been freezing. I am sure I made the right decision but can't help working through various scenarios that would have allowed me to complete the walk.
Today 7 days later did we have a beautiful cool and sunny day.

One major failing of this track is the fact that you must book your camp sites in advance and there aren't any options for altering your schedule while on the track. If I could have deferred for a couple of days I would have found a way to complete the track in sections or at least taken a day's rest while I replace my sleeping bag.

I will return to The Great Ocean walk and I WILL complete it!


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Attempting the Great Ocean Walk (pt 4)

The Honeymoon is over
Friday morning I got up at first light, sorted out the wet from the dry, packed as much stuff as I could, ate some breakfast and some ABC instant mocha coffee (from Indonesia, very sweet) then attempted to dry and clean the mud off my tent.

Tent half collapsed... a somewhat messy affair
Dawn at Blanket Bay with rain on the horizon

Sunlight pressing though
A friendly farewell

Once everything was stowed away I set out on the 11km hike to the Lighthouse. Although I was now carrying quite a bit of excess weight in unwanted water, I was still able to enjoy the walk and found this part of the trail absolutely stunning! It wove through a series of landscapes, including a little bit of Ash Forest full of tree ferns and tall tall trees, then some beautiful stunted eucalypt groves with a ground cover of bracken and shrubs, and in the valleys were dense rain forest trees with ferns, mosses and lots of tiny birds. Between Blanket Bay and Point Franklin I saw 6 wallabies in the valleys and undergrowth. Also two deer on the open path.

Boot Cleaning Bay protection against spread of Phytophthora a parasitic fungas that kills plants

Wild views along the shipwreck coast (Point Lewis I think)

Bracken undergrowth

These forests are so special providing great protection from the wind, life beneath the canopy is far more comfortable than the bald hills we have created for agriculture.

Of course the New Moon is accompanied by Spring Tides so it was important to make river crossings and beach walks during the low tide. I arrived at Parker Inlet at a good time to cross the water was quite low and I could see the ocean bubbling and frothing at the creek mouth. I would not want to be there when the tide comes in. After crossing the creek I looked down and noticed blood on my boot. I felt no pain and knew straight away it must have been a leach. It must have been there a long time because it had gone of it's own accord and all that remained was a sock totally soaked in blood! 

Parker Inlet at low tide

Creek at Parker Inlet

The less gruesome view of leach meal time

Immediately after Parker Inlet was a very pretty but long stone stairway, it was a steady walk to the top but quite stable footing. Regardless of the quality of the track I still felt stuffed by the time I reached the top. My hips and toes were struggling under the weight of my pack. I had bruised toes from the downhill tramping and sore muscles in the hips and feet from unfamiliar exertion, but generally, I was able to keep the pace and continue. 

Hard slog up a pretty hill
Looking back

The next section was coastal heath and totally different from all the other sections I'd done. I was walking along the edge of a shear cliff face and the wind from the southern ocean was blowing hard against me. At some points there is a clear view along the coast and the lighthouse can be seen in the distance. Absolutely wild, raw power! It energized me but at my core I felt I was beginning to flag. By the time I reached the Light station I was knackered. I plonked on the grass and rested.

Windswept coastal heath

Board Walk and stairs

Cape Otway Lighthouse... Just over there... another 2 km to walk

(To be continued...)