Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Did Karma break my stuff?

It's a pretty funny thing but I'm quite sure coincidences sometimes happen just to kick me in the ass. Just after I'd posted my great winge about how nobody reads my stuff yesterday, a couple of people mentioned they had been reading this blog and a friend emailed me to ask for the link! How embarrassing! None of them would have had time to have read my latest post and I suppose I still had time to delete my self-centred rant but I think I'll have to just bear the scorn! Besides it was a good exercise in introspective reflection that only a dose of the blues can inspire.

The Karma
This month I’ve cycled about 500km, mostly commuting to and from Palmerston and one big ride of about 130km around the harbour to Mandorah. I had to replace a perished tyre but pretty much without incident.

Then it happened. All my stuff broke! Seriously! Well maybe some things were spared but pretty much all of my favourite accessories fell apart!

I putt a couple of recharged batteries in my most excellent armband radio and when I turned it on got an earful of high-pitched static that felt like it blasted a hole clear through whatever lurks in the space between my ears! So then when I got to work I dropped my flash new LED headlamp on the ground while fishing around my panniers for the key to the mailbox! The cheap plastic fractured instantly flinging batteries and the damaged casing all over the place! Argh… Sweat dripping from my stressed forehead I picked up the pieces and shoved them back in the pannier with the rest of my mess. I then got changed and settled in to a pretty standard day at work forgetting about my recent misfortune. On the way home I noticed that the pannier was flopping around a bit, ‘I will definitely tighten that screw it’s been getting looser the past few days’. Then just as I hit the lip of the gutter while pulling into the drive way and the pannier bounced violently and the clip fell off! The screw must have fallen out on the road somewhere on the way home! What a day!

Yester day I rode to work without my radio and with the pannier swinging in the breeze, not ideal but manageable, had a reasonably productive day then prepared to head off for a class at Palmerston again. I stuffed all my junk back into the pannier threw on my sweaty shorts and singlet (pheww) slid on my riding slippers went outside to put some air in the tires. I clipped on my 15 + year old Cateye cycle computer and started riding, when I looked down I saw that the digital display was all skewed! It was unreadable! I don’t know what had happened but it kept showing half numbers and stuff like that, it was still accurate but it took all my powers of cryptology to interpret the reading.

Got to school, did that, managed to stick the LED headlamp back together, got on the bike and rode home in the dark. At the very end of my journey about five minutes from home I hit an unseen bump and my rear tyre blew out! Fair dinkum!

Tally for the first two days of the week.

50 km


1 - radio (possibly never to work again)

1 - headlamp (integrity diminished but still working)

1 - pannier (screw lost, clip repairable, stability reduced)

1 - cycle computer (seems work now, possible glitch in the matrix or reaction to air-conditioning)

1 - tire (blown out not assessed due to fatigue and disinterest)

Now where does karma come into this? Well you see I am fairly messy, hate spending money and prone to rushing, so here’s my theory.

I used really old rechargeable batteries in the radio, I charged them way too long on an old charger. I reckon the malfunction had something to do with that.

I dropped my headlamp because it was just shoved into my pannier on top of all my other stuff and was rushing

I noticed the loose pannier screw two weeks ago but did nothing about it

No idea what happened to the cycle computer possibly punishment for some past stuff

Tyre blew out because I was rushing

There you have it Karma! On the other hand I could be the victim of bored or vengeful Greek or even Norse Gods who consider my life as fair game for their personal entertainment! Yeh that sounds quite plausible!

McArthur River Legal Challenge

The people of Borroloola's legal challenge has begun!
Please check out the McArthur River website and show your support for the people of Borroloola who are fighting to be heard above the din of our nations Greed!
Please post any constructive comments on articles that interest you they need support. Pass links to the site on to your friends. It is very difficult for remote communities to convey their message to the world and they surely have a great need to be seen and heard. All Australians need to be aware of the situation confronting these people.
See what respect our leaders shown for culture and environment when they are not in plain view of mainstream Australia?
Who is listening to the plight of these people? It seems that their remote location makes it easier to be indifferent to these peoples dilemma. What questions are the mainstream media asking? More importantly, what questions aren't they asking? Why?
Culturally and Environmentally this is an issue that should concern all Australians. Please take an interest.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Where have all my photos gone?

Well after less than a year of using flickr, and having most definitely skimmed over the fine print in the license agreement, I have discovered there is a quota for how many images you can post to flickr before they limit your account. The quota is 200 photos. I have reached that limit! I am not sure what all the repercussions are but one is: every time I upload a new photo an older one will become invisible from my photo stream maintaining a limit of 200 photos.

I have just looked through my flickr collection and it appears to me that, although it's been an interesting project nobody bloody well looks at my photos anyway! What's the point posting photos to the world wide web when the only people who are even remotely interested are yourself and if you're lucky at least one family member! I think my mum reads my blog posts and must occasionally click on an image, maybe only because her eyesight isn't what it used to be. (sorry mum)

So the question has to be asked, should I continue or call a halt to the whole time consuming project, of course that is a rhetorical question, not because it is not meant to be answered or that it can't be answered but because there appears to be nobody out there to answer it! I must declare just because a fellow posts his deepest personal thoughts (then censors or deletes them) on the internet doesn't mean that he has given up his privacy. You see it's kind of like the old question about the tree falling in the forest when there's nobody around. Does anybody really know I really existed at all? Well of course they do I have a life outside of cyberspace you know. And the answer is YES. I will continue. Why? I don't quite know but I sometimes get a laugh out of it. Even if it is 'a lot' egocentric!

If blogging is an egocentric act (I believe it must be) and no one else reads it, is that ego deflation? I don't know. Maybe if I could accept this all without complaint or even a twinge of self pity it would be a good exercise in humility. Of course then I'd have to delete this entire post and I have not written all this stuff just to discard it into the ether, although, in a sense, that is exactly what I am doing when I post it. I will continue. If only I could think of another good Zoolander quote right now!

good bye...

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Legal action against NT Government. The hearing begins tomorrow!

According to the Environment Centre NT's freshwater campaigner

"The Traditional Owners' legal challenge against the NT Government’s approval of the open-cut mine and river diversion will be heard in the Supreme Court, starting Monday 26th March 2007".

I'm pretty sure the public are permitted to attend court.
I believe the people of Borroloola are disputing the lack of appropriate process involved in the granting of a permit to expand the mine. It seems obvious that a thorough environmental assessment could not have taken place, however I personally believe that these assessments are always quite subjective and often mask potential risks.

Something a lot more controversial

And now to something a lot more controversial. It's about my my dear wife, who is prone to reading self help books. She's a bit of a bookworm and would much prefer to read a good story about far flung and exotic locations than to actually buy a ticket and go there herself. Ask her she won't deny it. I don't know if I can talk about this without sounding like some kind of chauvinist but I've just got to tell!

Our place is pretty messy at times and we try to share 'most' of the cleaning duties, although I still leave quite a few things for Sam to do on account of I am working full time and she has a fair bit more time at home. So anyway the place is getting grimy and requires a long overdue scrub. I mean everything from the grotty hand prints on the TV to the 1/2 inch of dust sitting on top of the picture frames. The whole place! Admittedly if I am so bothered by it I could have done it myself ages ago. But it's the principal you see. (I must be holding on to some long past misogynistic tradition of letting the woman do it.) So anyway there's heaps of cleaning to do and I have maintained that it won't be me who does it! I used to remind her that certain chores needed to be done or our stuff would begin to rot, but found that this only lead to uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. I didn't see the point in me moving back into the local caravan park on a matter of principal about mopping the floor. As I said I do take on some of the chores, mine are the high places and the ceiling fans which I must admit are also very grimy... 'very'!

So finally the grime has even gotten to my dear wife and she has decided to take affirmative action! No more cringing at the mold on the the bathroom tiles! No more complaining about the clumps of hair (both dog and human) accumulating in corners! It is finally time to do something! So what do you suppose she did?

She found a book about it at the library! Yep... there is a book! Granted it is more a practical guide rather than a theoretical analogy. But it is still a book and to my knowledge doesn't have a magic button that will take the cloth from the sink and wipe the bench or remove the layer of dust that has turned our mirrors opaque. The book is called 'Complete idiot's guide to Cleaning'!

clean book

Yep there must be nothing in "God's green goodness" (Mugatu, Zoolander: 2001) that hasn't been written about! When I got home from work the other day and saw it sitting on top of the mess piled up on our grimy bench I just had to laugh! Heartily. I'm glad she found it before I did, my helpfulness may not have been appreciated if she had come home and found it on the bench. So we are now on our way to becoming a housework aware family and will have all the information we need about scrubbing toilet bowls and washing dishes, now all we need is some unfortunate person to actually do the stuff while we continue to live the bohemian dream!!

Sorry dear I probably shouldn't have posted this, the compulsion was too strong, needless to say it is a book we could both benefit from.

Friday, March 23, 2007

What we do

Last week the husband wive and child went into Darwin City to get a book or something and we ended up just hanging out in the mall for a while. There was some banging going on at the other end of the mall and we looked over to see a very colourful and impressive Lion blessing businesses who had left offerings at their entrances.

Chinese Lion dance Darwin
Chung Wah Lion Dance

Darwin's Chung Wah society are extremely active and attend a lot of local events. This week they were visiting the shop fronts in the mall. There was lots of drumming and the loud banging of crackers exploding in steel drums made sure every one knew there was something going on. It was quite entertaining watching the young people in the performing this ritual and also watching passers by taking a keen interest in what was going on. Our daughter must have seen this performance several times now and she loves it. The lion is sometimes very confronting and cheeky he come right up to people and demands their attention and possibly an offering. I am not too familiar with the purpose of this ritual but I think it is to bring prosperity and possibly to protect against misfortune. The energy of the performance certainly brings a rush of excitement and is a great way of bringing the crowd together (you tend to want to be in a big group when there's a lion prancing around unrestrained!)

I've been too preoccupied to post much lately but I have to confess that I've dropped back on my bicycle commuting. I've decided that riding from Palmerston at night is not worth the risk. No matter which way I try to do it the dangers are always far too evident. Drink driving in Darwin seems to be a right of passage and I am sure if I use the road at night it would only be a matter of time before I am skittled by an unlicensed driver in a blackout or a boy racer with a brand new Subaru and an attitude who thinks the emergency lane is for passing roadtrains!

After deciding I would ride on the bike path only I have now realized that although the potential to be hit by a car on the road was real the likelihood of encountering wildlife on the bike path is unavoidable! As it is dark my headlamp attracts all kinds of insects (some of them quite large) that smack me in the face and infiltrate my nostrils, mouth and stick me in the eyes. There are a growing number of Cane Toads on the track dead and live which present a sticky problem of their own and there is the real possibility of meeting up with a pack of feral dogs or pigs! When they constructed the extension to McMillans Rd I came across all kinds of roadkill, I'm sure the quolls an bandicoots would have scampered away but I doubt the 12 ft long python I saw one day would have been quick enough to get out of the way and who knows what a crock might make of a small cycle mounted light heading towards it?

bike in sorghum
Pink bike in the (very tall) Sorghum

So I now only ride to and from Palmerston once a week during the day, So far it has rained most days but it's quite a pleasant ride and I can see most of the obstacles in my way. So that's it really! I still have nothing inspiring to write about but felt I should fill the page and stick on a couple of pix from my commute.

Fungi on Pandanus spiralis

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lazy Sunday

The madness of weekly routine has subsided and today I had a great day hanging out with the girls, a bit of a social morning followed by coffees at Donut King in Casuarina (I did not complain or winge at all!) then a nap in the afternoon and now My little mate and I are hanging out together and bopping along to the 'Dan Zanes and friends' video. Some groovy music to see out the weekend.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Although I've been fairly uninspired to write anything in my blogs this week that doesn't mean that being unplugged didn't bother me. By unplugged I mean our server blocked our internet connection for a couple of days. Why? Because our credit card had expired and it didn't occur to them to send a quick email asking for the expiry date on our new one! They just blocked us until I managed to contact them by phone and ask them to reinstall our (over priced) connection.

All the stuff I've been doing on the computer this last year has meant that I have created a fairly complex network of subscriptions and memberships in several forums, blogs and online groups all amounting to an online identity. My involvement and interactions in the sites I visit, comments I make on blogs, emails I post etc. etc... all equate to the online me. Having the account disconnected so easily and for such an insignificant matter as a date on a card is a great reminder of how fragile ones existence in cyberspace can be! thing is quite impermanent and unreliable. I can be snuffed out at a whim and one day maybe we all will be, online I mean. One day the power may go out and all that we have accumulated through the internet may be lost. All the information all the connections made between people all the access to data, accounts etc... everything could one day be snuffed out! That's a bit scary but I think it is possible.

So anyway I got cut off for a couple of days and had nothing to say anyway! This past week I attended the Environment Center's launch of their campaign to make Darwin a solar city, worked, went to school, picked up my daughter from childcare and prepared meals. Basically I've realized that I have very little time for stuffing around on the computer or doing much else for that matter and have been reminded in no uncertain terms that spare time is meant to be family time! I have been burning the candle at both ends by trying to do all that stuff and maintain my blogs, keep up to date with local environmental issues and read my favorite blogs when there's time. It feels as I get older that I have less and less time! Like time actually speeds up respective to ones age! I would love to do more cycling but the reality is that I just don't have the free time to do it in.

Through my daughters recent obsession with Play Dough I have rediscovered my bizarre fetish for sniffing the stuff! Actually I don't know that fetish is the right work it's kind of like an habitual or addictive behavior! I just can't help picking up pieces of the stuff and holding it to my nose! I didn't realize how often I did it until Sam caught me doing it one too many times and queried why I would want to sniff Play Dough. I don't know why! At first it reminded me of my childhood (which wasn't too bad or traumatic or anything) but then I just wanted to keep on smelling the stuff! Now whenever I pick a piece up I take a deep whiff! It's getting out of hand!.

What else has happened since I last posted? Oh yeh I got a flat tire exactly half way home from school (about 10 km) and had to pump ride, pump ride it about 6 times before the tube had become so split that it was letting out more air than I could cram into it! I ended up delicately riding on the flat and made it home in pretty good time. The disappointing thing was that I could make about 27 km per hour with a flat rear tire and not much less than on a fully inflated one! Now I'm gonna have to lift my game and increase my average speed if I want to get over that little humiliating fact!

Oh and I had a rather negative interaction with a young fella who nearly ran me over on my way to work on Friday. I was turning right into an intersection, signaling with the wide open palm of my right hand stretched out as far as humanly possible when the car approaching the stop line of the intersection, rather than stopping, accelerated towards me! (This can't be right thought I, people are supposed to stop not drive faster when approaching an intersection marked with a STOP sign!) Instantly I checked my position:
Yes I am in plain view.
Yes my right arm is stretched out wide and in clear view indicating that I am in fact intending to turn
No I am not on the wrong side of the road
Yes the car is still moving towards me
Yes it appears to be moving faster than when I first saw it
(I made eye contact with the driver)
Yes I may, at any second now, be struck down in the middle of the road by a dumm ass kid wearing an American baseball cap and driving a car that doesn't fit him!

I grab on the brakes.... they squeal as the rubber soles of my thongs struggle to cling to rough bitumen, the flimsy straps cutting into the tops of my feet as the car swerves around me and my bike lurches to the side of it's intended path!
"Hey!.(I watch for a split second to see if he will stop) "YOU F@#*!#$ IDIOT" I roar in my most aggressive 'I'm going to pulverize you in to tahini if I get my hands on you' voice. "GET BACK HERE!" I growl at the top of my voice.
He stared at me and drove on, then I looked around and realized I am was in front of a primary School and there were kids being dropped off just a short way down the street, well within earshot of my booming voice.

What an idiot I felt. There didn't seem to be any kids who heard me but the couple across the road, probably on their way to work definitely did. I don't know what possessed me to be so vocal at that time, I've had near misses before and never muttered a word but somehow this one was different. I felt sure the guy must have seen me but he kept driving regardless! If it seemed more like an honest mistake I probably would have said nothing but I seriously felt like this guy was aiming for me! I rode on to work quite embarrassed by my performance but still angry at the driver.

Other stuff happened between then and now and some of it was probably funny, some might have been worth writing about but my capacity for remembering stuff is pretty week so I guess I'll leave it at that.

Oh one last thing. Tires for touring bikes are very expensive! Part of my decision to ride on the flat tire was because when I got the flat it was raining and the water on the surface of my worn tire formed bubbles in several places when I put some air in. So I decided not to worry about saving the tire and I went and bought a new one. The cheapest I could find was $30! That's thirty dollars worth of very thin rubber which I am sure will not last me all that long. Now I have another reason for picking up my pace! If I'm gonna ride on thin tires I'll want to get as much speed out of them as I possibly can.

That's all I have to say, I suppose. The curlews are calling and it's getting late. I'm out of here!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Last Valley

On Thursday night we went to a screening of an excellent documentary called 'The Last Valley'. It was a stirring story that documented protests against the immoral and legally dubious practice of logging old growth rain forest in East Gippsland. Although the film was definitely biased against the logging it actually presented a human view of the loggers and the difficult relationship between them and protesters involved in the conflict. There was a fairly good representation of the real people who were caught up in a situation that is the result the phenomenal mismanagement of our natural resources brought about by corporate greed and bureaucratic malice and incompetence of our Governments.
(Unfortunately by 15 minutes into the film a certain child had become too disruptive and Sam had to take her home early. This was probably not a bad thing, as there was quite a bit of uncensored swearing in the film and a few confrontational episodes that may have frightened her, if she happened to stop running around the theatre and actually look at the screen.)

All I could think of while watching this film was how brave those people are! Going into a situation where they would be perceived to be threatening the livelihood of some very determined and desperate people (the loggers). While once again the word sustainable was bandied around, as if the word itself is some kind of universal stamp of approval requiring no logical proof, the film made it quite obvious that this was nothing more than an exercise in environmental plundering.

The saddest thing about the story told in this film is the opinion amongst loggers that environmentalists are their enemies! This couldn't be further from the truth! Surely the true enemy of logging towns would have to be the very companies that employ them! The Forest is their greatest asset but the logging industry is based on profit maximization which requires maximum profit for minimal effort. These are the principals that allow the clear-felling of forests and strip the communities of their future asset! There are examples elsewhere in the world where communities have continued to log the same patch of forest for many years, in some cases 100's. By selectively logging forests they are able to maintain a living Forest that will continue to regenerate indefinitely into the future.These forests provide employment for the community, and guarantee the same for future generations. What happens in Australia's forests is nothing more than environmental vandalism and social and economic suicide! It is so unfortunate that the people who live in these communities are unable to see who their real enemy is. (Of course, once again this is my unqualified opinion but isn't there some sense in it?)

Maybe what would be helpful is a well researched education program or a documentary film that can help identify logging practices that are beneficial and those that are destructive to forestry dependent communities. It might be possible to offer those communities a better long term alternative. Maybe then they would demand a change in the industry and lock out the companies that have so little regard for the long term survival of their communities!

It's amazing that this stuff is still going on. It is so barbaric, and we have so little of these habitats left in Australia how can regular Australians sit back and allow it to happen at all!

I'd like to thank the couple who presented this film. You have done us all a great service and hopefully the logging communities you have lived in will one day appreciate what was going on back when the battle for Goolengook was raging.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Web of Life

WWF has produced this great animation about the Web of Life following the theme of the Da Vinci Code. Check it out HERE. (You'll need flashplayer to run it)

Where is the line between profit and madness?

Although there are obviously many other environmental and social issues in the N.T. that deserve equal attention I have been focussed on the McArthur River because it is an example of outright disregard for the environment, water (our most precious resource), environmental law and the rights of traditional owners. Unfortunately there is a lot more dirty dealing going on in the Territory, such as the destruction of native habitat for plantation timber on Melville Island, which appears to have full approval and is even billed as being environmentally and socially responsible! This is a very distorted view of reality!

The Cane Toad problem is now so overwhelming that environmentalists are hoping to block their entry into Darwin as a means of protecting wildlife! Who would ever have thought that in the great expanse of the Northern Territory the safest place for wildlife would be amongst the suburbs of our capital City?

Unfortunately though the urgency and significance of the McArthur river campaign is such that I feel compelled to continue to bang on about it in the hope that the issue will not be forgotten. Despite the efforts made by environmental lobby groups and the traditional owners, there seems to be little public interest in the future of this particular river system or the rights that have been eroded by a dismissive political approval system!

Enough said! If you care at all about the effectiveness of our environmental safeguards, water or the health and wellbeing of fellow Australians please click on this LINK to the Don't Muck up the McArthur River website and check the calendar for updates. Don't close your eyes to this terrible injustice.

Read what the Northern Land Council (NLC) have to say about the issue HERE.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Circle of courage

Last week or some time a couple of weeks ago there was a documentary shown on the ABC called sticky bricks. It was the story of the people who live in a high rise apartment block in Sydney called Northcote. Just as the plan that created Northcote was a bit of a social experiment so was the plan to bring the disaffected residents together through the production of a stage show about their lives. Northcote was an example of how, although living in close proximity to one another, people can become isolated and alone and that human beings need more than four walls and a roof for shelter. The Sticky Bricks project gave many of the residents an opportunity to reach out to their neighbors and develop a sense of community which was apparently lacking.
There were many personal stories told and quotes read through the course of the performance but one that stood out to me was a speech about 'Indifference'. I don't know who first made the speech and I haven't been able to source it but it identifies indifference as the biggest threat to our society. Indifference is what changes communities into slums, indifference is the curse of an urban life.

Families are or should be made up of all age groups. Multi-generational families are a natural part of the fabric of most societies so surely a healthy society would encourage strong links between children and elders. Unfortunately in a society which favors the individual there appears to be quite a bit of apathy towards the nurturing of children and care and respect for our elders. This must create a negative feedback to our society as a whole and I'm sure this can easily be shown by the number of crimes committed by and against children today.

While reading some of my favorite blogs I came across a web site called 'Circle of Courage'. They are a New Zealand group who are cycling around New Zealand to raise awareness of young people in crisis.In their words:

The Circle of Courage is about encouraging every adult in New Zealand to build a relationship with the young people in their community; getting to know these young people by name and taking a real interest in their lives. Research has shown over and over again that it is adults taking an interest in young people that makes a difference in young lives.

The Circle of Courage model has been developed by the North American Indians. Each quadrant of the Circle of Courage invites young people, with encouragement from interested adults to:
  • see themselves as belonging to a whole – "I am loved", use generosity to contribute their wisdom to their community – "I have a purpose for my life",
  • draw on their inherent mastery of life to share their ideas and thoughts – "I can succeed",
  • take the step forward as independent people – "I have the power to make decisions".

I thought this was a great idea and a caring way of countering indifference. The very act of acknowledging this problem must do something towards improving the situation. My wife has often commented on the importance of the adults who contributed to her learning and encouraged her as a teenager. She is now working as a tutor and truly values what her association with young people has brought to her life. I can also recall times during my own adolescence where without the attention of caring adults I would have easily become lost like so many of the kids I knew. Please check out their web site. The ride is just about over so there are plenty of interesting stories about the ride, who knows it might inspire some of us to be a little more thoughtful of the kids in our own neighborhoods.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cox Peninsular Rd in monsoon

A quick ride to Mandorah pub

The rout
Map of route

Google Map

I can't remember exactly when or how the thought came to me but about two weeks ago I decided I wanted to ride around to Mandorah in one day. I suppose it's because I've been doing a lot of extra miles lately and thought I could manage the trip or maybe is was the influence of what I've been reading about endurance cycling, I can't remember. When the thought came to me I decided to ask my friend Martin if he'd like to come and somehow we worked out that this Sunday would be a good day for the trip.
As the week wore on a low developed out in the Timor sea and by Wednesday or Thursday Darwin finally began to receive some of the monsoonal weather we'd missed out on over the past two months. It hasn't really stopped raining since then!
Unfortunately Martin became unwell through the week and was not fit enough to make the trip. By Friday the weather bureau announced that a cyclone was forming and warned of worsening weather conditions. For some reason I felt compelled to attempt my ride regardless of all impediments! I was on a mission! This would be the longest I've ever ridden in one day and although monsoonal weather can be a bit nasty, I'd actually managed to convince Sam that I could do it and preferred to take my chances with the weather than to wait for another opportunity to escape my domestic duties as a father and husband. I became determined to make this ride no matter what! It was on!
On Saturday Sam and I took a load of sheets to the laundromat to put through the dryer. It's been so wet that we haven't been able to dry our clothes. After loading the dryer we went for a walk down to the Nightcliff foreshore. The water was extremely rough as the wind blew waves in every direction, about 30 surfers were out there trying to surf on waves that followed no pattern and would surge one after the other, smashing into each other and grinding at the sand and rocks on the shore. We went to the jetty and it was being absolutely pummeled as waves pushed through it to boom against the claystone cliffs. This was some kind of tempest, it was as if I was being taunted and urged to give up my crazy plan to ride further than I'd ever ridden in the midst of near cyclonic weather! I would not be deterred.

After very little sleep (again) I woke this morning at 4:30 to the sound of the rain still falling on our tin roof, there appeared to be no wind. Still that voice inside me said, 'go back to bed.' 'No one would blame you for not riding today'. But I'd decided I would do this no matter what! So I had my breakfast, gathered all the stuff that I should have prepared last night, packed the the camera and mobile phone into water proof clippie bags then crammed everything into my water proof pannier bag. The bag was full and quite heavy, as it was raining I took a full, rather heavy, thermos of coffee for comfort. I was out the door by 5:45 am.

The first leg of my ride was along the same route I use to get to Palmerston. It was dark but for some reason it was much easier riding in the early morning than at night. As I passed Knucky lagoons I realized that the rain had done a good job of filling up the wetlands and the huge drainage channels on the side of the road had actually filled to become a network of lakes whose surface was almost level with that of the road.
As the dawn approached the lbeam of my headlamp began to dim and by Coolalinga the sky was bright enough to do away with my lamp altogether. I put some air in my rear tire ate a couple of olives and cashews and got back on the road, rolling much faster with a bit of extra pressure in the rear tire!
As I rode I noticed a smell that reminded me a bit of fish bait it wasn't overpowering but there was a constant odour. There was a detour just before the Elizabeth river bridge and the river was breaching the out-bound lanes so I stopped to take a photo. It's amazing to see so much water flowing over our only road link to the rest of the country. Before they widened the road and built the second bridge a couple of years ago, this flood would have cut all traffic along the Stuart Highway! As I was putting the camera away I realized that I had picked up some snotty looking stuff off the road! What the hell is this stuff?

Stuart Hwy cut
Flooded River cutting bridge over Stuart Hwy(+ raindrop caught by flash)

It wasn't too much longer before I realized what the smell was. Scanning the road surface I notices lots of white smudges that looked a bit like pelican shit. They were in fact all that remained of 100's of Cane toads smudged across the road surface by the cars and trucks traveling along the highway! The white smudges continued all the way to Cox Peninsular road where lighter traffic meant that the toads weren't yet squashed into undefinable smudges. As I headed for Berry Springs the scenery was dominated by the corpses of Cane Toads, bloated and crushed along the roadside, the remains of their last meal spewing out of their mouths and guts. Their squashed amphibians resembled a macabre cornucopia of native bush tucker! So much biodiversity caught in the guts of a Cane Toad and delivered to the road as an offering, I imagined it an ironic testimony to the wastefulness and imbalance of man! But then I do get a little melodramatic when I have time to think.

I reached Berry Springs within two hours, with only a few brief showers of rain and no wind what so ever! From here on there would be no phones or other services for about another 70 km. I peddled on looking forward to the freedom of an open road and virtually no traffic.
Just a couple of km from Tumbling waters I came to my first flooded causeway. I rode through about a foot and a half of water and it splashed up all over my panniers, this would be a great test for my gear!

floodway crossing
Creek crossing

I began to feel a bit weary after another hour of riding so my time slowed quite a bit. The bike computer threw a bit of a fit so I couldn't match it's accuracy to the distance stated on the map. The further I got from the Stuart Hwy the less traffic I encountered and by the time I'd reached the Dundee beach turnoff I hadn't been passed by a car in at least half an hour! After the old Bynoe Rd I really began to feel the strain of this ride, my muscles were becoming fatigued and I had a fair bit of discomfort/pain in the groin. I stopped fairly regularly for coffee and snacks which gave me a bit of energy every time. There were quite a few creek crossings but all were quite manageable. Along the way I noticed quite a few Northern Rosellas, they are beutifull birds and I've never seen this many so close to a road, there must be some good feed for them out here. O and I also came across a kind of sad looking waterlogged snake trying to extract some warmth from the road, I think it was a keel back, I tried to take a photo but could only snap a couple of shots quickly as my camera was becoming wet very quickly!

I have to admit when I finally rolled onto the Mandorah pier at 11:00 am I was quite relieved to have achieved my objective! As it turned out I probably had the best conditions imaginable! It didn't get hot at all and there was no wind. These two factors would have made the trip a lot more difficult! As the ferry had just left I wandered/limped over to the pub and enjoyed a 600ml bottle of cola while scoffing down my remaining food. At 12:00 I boarded the ferry, leaned my bike over on the deck and headed up to the roof top seating where I could view isolated storms breaking out all around the harbour. I felt victorious and elated! I had achieved a personal milestone and had a great little adventure. What amazed my was that it only took up half of the day! However I spent the rest of the day resting and discovered I had earned myself some serious chaffing on the upper thy area, I reckon I'll be walking bow legged for a while!


My place to Mandorah - 131 km
Darwin to home - 14 km
Total including ride from Darwin to home 145 km

Departure - 5:45 am
Arrival @ Mandorah - 11:00 am

Distance - 131 km
Total time - 5 hrs 15 min

Friday, March 02, 2007

McArthur River coctail

Heavy metals in our rivers! What price are we willing to pay for access to one of Australia’s largest Zinc and Lead deposits?

When it comes to the damage done by increased concentrations of heavy metals in our rivers it seems that graphic metaphor is not needed. Of course the destruction of habitat and accumulative effects of pollution from mining could be graphically dramatized by images of a flesh eating monster consuming all life in its path. This metaphorical image would surely embody the long-term effects of a Lead and Zinc mine seepinh by-products into our fresh, estuarine and saltwater systems. Naturally the image of such a monster would make a powerful impression but it would of course be highly suggestive and emotive and appropriately be labeled as anti mining propaganda.

However when a real flesh eating bacteria is found to be killing people in the waterways downstream of such a mine and it is suggested there may be a link between an increasing occurrence of the bacteria and high levels of heavy metals; then we have a situation that realizes our worst fears!

Recent news reports have disclosed that there is a possible link between four confirmed cases of people affected by the bacteria (three of them now dead). Coincidentally there happens to be higher than normal readings of heavy metals in the waters downstream of the McArthur River Mine. – (ABC News Online Last Update: Wednesday, February 28, 2007. 9:05pm (AEDT)

Links to the latest news on flesh eating bacteria HERE.

As expected Xstrata is denying any connection between their operations and the possible increase of occurrence of this bacterium. But as there is no conclusive link their denial may be premature or even pre-emptive. I am no scientist but I would expect for them to be able to deny or accept fault would come down to the answer of two questions.

What is the connection between the bacteria and increased levels of heavy metals in the McArthur River?

  1. What is the connection between the McArthur River Mine and the increased occurrence of heavy metals down stream of the mine?

Of course there are many other questions surrounding the bacteria and the mine. However if there is any connection between the bacteria and heavy metals and if it is shown that the mine is responsible for the increase in heavy metals in the river a denial would be ridiculous!

Apparently Yanyuwa, Mara, Garrawa and Gurdanji people from the McArthur River area are challenging, in court, the Government’s decision to approve the mine. They should be supported in their brave stand and encouraged to fight! They are fighting not only for their rights but for the rights of all Australians and particularly Territorians to an honest unbiased and transparent development aproval process. Although they are seemingly alone in their action to defend this river that is so precious to many Territorians, not to mention it's likely value to the fishing industry, I am hopeful that more of us will join this worthy cause! The seriousness of this issue is becoming undeniably obvious. For more information Click HERE.

Please follow my links to the "Don’t Muck up the McArthur" website and support the fight against this disgraceful treatment of one of our nations great rivers. Show the Australian and Territory Governments that we do value our water resources and remaining natural habitats and that we will not stand for their destruction at the hands of an unethical mining company!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Muddy sand / singing rain

Morning Ride

I was up early again yesterday so actually managed to get on the road before 6:00 am and test my new headlamp.

On my way to Lee Point and well impressed with the solid beam of light emitting from my forehead, I was struck with a flash of inspiration. ‘Turn right’ the adventurer in me said, ‘go check out Buffalo Creek’. Err OK said I. So I turned right and headed down to Buffalo Creek. A few minutes later I was rolling smoothly into the car park at the Buffalo Creek boat ramp. The tide was out, way way out, and there wasn’t much to see in the mud flats. As I peered out across the void of mud and sand I wondered what to do next. It was still pretty early and I’d always wondered what it would be like to ride along the firm sand of the bank to the mouth of the creek. Without considering the possible distance I left the bitumen and headed across the soft grey sand. Bad Idea!

I’d ridden for ages and still no sight of the mouth of the creek! Approaching the channel beacon I realized that on a very low tide the shore might be miles beyond where I was standing and this appeared to be a very low tide. The sky was taking on the familiar hue of 7:00 am! It was time to head back, but which way should I go? Back to the boat ramp? Or along the beach back to the surf club at Casuarina cliffs? I chose the beach!

I tracked back away from the shoreline to avoid disturbing the wading birds that had congregated along the thin strip between sand and sea. So many times I’ve seen people loose there dogs so they can chase these birds and I often wonder how this might affect them. Do they have to devote so much energy to escaping dogs that they are unable to fulfil some other part of their life cycle like migration or breeding? How much extra needs to be consumed to counter the number of times they have to fly to avoid people or animals? Anyway I’d already disturbed a large flock so headed towards land to avoid upsetting any more. At least on this more remote part of the coast they were far less likely to be humbugged by any people.

As I rode on I discovered that I had chosen the bumpiest rout with the most salt-water puddles and sand bogs, it was a pretty hard slog back along the beach! Eventually I reached Sandy Creek and attempted to ford it at what I thought was a shallow spot. It was too close to the shore and the water was still muddy, I couldn’t see the bottom and I never counted on the quicksand effect of a muddy river flowing across beach sand! As soon as I entered the creek my front wheel sank into river goo! WOW!! I nearly went over the handlebars!

My heart jumped a bit as I recovered my bike from sinking and I clambered back to the bank thinking the whole time about the possibility of a crock lurking in the (deeper than I’d expected) muddy water. My thongs acting as suction pads I struggled to move away from the creek and ended up losing my balance. For a few seconds it was looking like bike and rider would be lying face down in the shallow creek mud! What better way to present a meal for a hungry crock? Luckily my thongs slipped off and I was freed! I recovered them quickly when they bobbed to the surface and carefully departed the edge of the creek.

In the name of safety I followed the creek towards the shoreline until it had widened and shallowed enough for me to cross safely. I had already lost too much time and was starting to think I’d be late for work so I pushed on as hard as I could with a wet sandy chain grinding and groaning miserably! To the free beach and a blast of fresh water from a public shower to dislodge the sand and dilute the salt that had assaulted Sam’s poor bike (well mine is in pieces). I finally made it to work just in time to shower and get started 5 minutes late!

Biggest-mob-a little crabs!

Night Ride
After work I rode to Palmerston in the rain and came home in the dark, again in the rain. The headlamp worked so well coming home that I was dazzled by illuminated streaks of rain. The glare was so great that I could barely see the path in front of me. There were Nightjars and bats ambushing insects at the edge of my lamps beam but I could barely make them out against the sparkling brilliance of illuminated rain drops. A constant monsoonal drenching for the past couple of days has brought the wetland to life. All around there were frogs croaking in a celebratory chorus; ‘finally it is raining like it should!’ I tried to look out for frogs on the path and hoped I wouldn’t splatter any, I say a few leaping to safety. I also saw a couple of large cane toads and mused that they might try to eat me if I were to hit one and come off my bike! There were so many different frog calls! I have no idea what species they belonged to. What a pleasure to be in the middle of a wetland amid the din of so much life. It was as if the rain was singing itself.
I made it home without incident and in pretty good time! Another successful commute without needing the car!

blue car
This auto burns no oil