Thursday, January 31, 2013

End of January

It's nearly the end of January... nothing much to talk or post about really but I just wanted to stick something in here so the blog doesn't go completely stagnant.

I've been off work for most of the School holidays in an attempt to keep the kids entertained and the wife a little saner than she otherwise would be at this time of year. I'm not sure having me pinned down at home has been the relief she'd hoped it would be! Sorry about that darling... I'm hopeless at being housebound!

READS:


Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes. Read it! A great bicycle advocacy book which, although a few years old and written from an American perspective, was quite relevant to Australian conditions. There were heaps of references to blogs I read regularly and to incidents I'd read about at the time they happened. Although a book that focuses on policy, infrastructure and town planning might be boring I found it interesting enough to knock it over in about 3 days!

The Last Navigator by Steve Thomas.  Am 3/4 through this. The author of this book had a very unique opportunity to meet and be taught by true navigators from another age! Sadly the art of navigation and the traditional culture of the Caroline Islands have probably given way under the weight of western culture, technology and all that. Some of the magic of the ancient guild of navigators from that region is alluded to through the book along with many reflections on the terrible fate their culture faces as young people loose their respect for the ancient knowledge having been exposed to all the stuff that is offered by a contemporary consumer society... or something like that. Many of the reviews I read about this book appeared to have been written by people from an anthropological background rather than sailing buffs. There is so much that I am finding familiar with what I am seeing happening to Yolngu culture. It's quite frightening to see how generic the destruction of traditional cultures can be.

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien: I started reading this with my eldest child this week. As a pretty crappy reader I this is the first book I've ever attempted to read a second time.. (Excluding Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I chose to read twice at school!) We're reading a chapter a night and are really getting into it! We've just met Gollum in the cave, I love those riddles and the way he talks to himself.

RIDES:
I have really missed my daily 20km commute to work and back! Seriously! I loose my mind when I can't ride my bike once a day! The time I spend riding to and from work each day is my great escape! This is my mellow time, my undisturbed meditation space and my only exercise. Since I've only been working two days a week over the past month I have noticed I am more easily agitated, I'm also noticing that the gut I grew over Christmas has settled in with me getting no exercise!
I was able to ride to work on Tuesday, (The day that the monsoonal trough arrived in Darwin). There was so much rain on Tuesday, we had flood warnings. There was no way I was going to let that stop me from riding. I happily cycled home in the rain. I was in a state of bliss! Riding in tropical rain is quite a pleasure actually. I even had music! I discovered an old bum bag with a headphone socket that I'd squirreled away ages ago. It worked beautifully with the mp3 player safely inside and the headphone jack plugged into a waterproof socket. Cool! As I rolled over the bridge at Rapid Creek a whole bunch of micro bats came swarming out of the tunnel under the road, some of them flew straight into me... or I rode into them, not sure who had right of way when it comes to bats in the rain. It was quite a funny thing to happen. One of them hit pretty hard but I noticed he straightened up and kept flying so I assume he/she's OK.

There have been other short rides closer to home with the family. Most afternoon's the kids and I take the cart out and accompany Sam while she walks the dog.

My only longish ride over the past two months has been the ride out to Howard Springs.

OTHER ACTIVITIES:

Ummm Mulch Pit for gardening, (only occasionally), Litchfield Park, Wildlife Park and today Fog Dam.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Riding against the Traffic Part 1

Another footnote in the anals  annals of a cyclist... ;)

Over the years I have had too many conversations about, rules, regulations, laws etc... when it comes to cycling. I have read 1,000s of blog articles, news reports and so on about the merits of cycling, the attitude of  drivers vs cyclists and so on... My experience has been that arrogance, self righteousness and pigheadedness are not the exclusive domain of car drivers. If you're a pedestrian on any of Darwin's shared cycle/footpaths you will find that some cyclists can be even bigger arseholes than the majority of drivers when it comes to their sense of entitlement on what they perceive as 'their road'.

Quite a while back I wrote a blog post that discussed roadmanship; at the time I thought I'd continue to write about such things but the reality is, I don't have the time or the energy to devote to producing any deep study or reflection on the subject. These days I'm flat out just getting to work and performing my parental duties, but, all the same issues still irk me! Besides that I've discovered that I'm actually lazy. ;)

As a cyclist and someone who would like to see much more acceptance of bicycles as a legitimate form of transport I am often dismayed by the crazy shit I see cyclists doing on the road. (OK I've made a few mistakes on the road and have been grateful to survive.) I am not talking about minor maters like failing to dismount to cross a road. There are a lot of road rules that make no sense and I believe that with a strong sense of self preservation, a clever defensive cyclist can assess the potential for danger and choose the path of least hazard regardless of what appears to be the rule. Helmets are a good example. The NT has quite sensible helmet laws. Children must wear them all the time, adults can choose not to wear a helmet  when cycling on the bicycle paths but must wear them on the road. I'd prefer no laws on helmet use for adults but can live with what we have here. It makes sense and common sense dictates that even if the police aren't too interested in busting people for not wearing helmets on the road I wear one whenever I ride on major roads. There are signs along one of the local bike paths that instruct cyclists to dismount before crossing the road. This makes no sense and is potentially more hazardous so I do not comply! However there are some activities that defy logic. One of these is riding against the flow of the traffic!

WHAT NOT TO DO! (Giddy Goanna, Bikes Busses and Roads. Book 4, 2000 Giddy Goanna Ltd..)


I don't know if this happens so much in the other states but here in Darwin I regularly see people cycling on busy roads against the traffic. I admit there are times when crossing a road or switching paths I have found it necessary to travel a short distance in a contrary direction to the rest of the traffic. For example there a section of road inbound on the Stuart Highway where the bicycle path ends a few hundred meters away from the Post Office in Winnellie, it's crazy, that there's nowhere to go except onto the verge and into oncoming traffic, I have ridden it a few times and it's always hair raising! For me this is an exception. What I am talking about in this post is something else. It's about the large number of people in Darwin who seem to think that riding against the traffic is the norm. It is my belief that riding against the traffic is extremely dangerous and creates all kinds of danger on the road including potential head on collisions with other cyclists but so many cyclists in Darwin seem oblivious to the danger. 

What spurred this post was seeing yet another wrong way cyclist on my way to the Airport recently. I saw a young woman cyclist cross the road on the opposite side of the road to me and was confounded by the way she rode. She was heading in the same direction as me but was riding against the traffic. She rode boldly along the side of the road, not on the dirt but on the road toward oncoming traffic. The traffic was not going fast but the combined speed of car and bike increased the danger enormously. I watched the cars coming towards her and flinched at the thought of the impact. The cyclist peddled on oblivious. I have seen it so many times before... why do they do it?

I have discussed the practice (issue for some) of riding against the flow of traffic with a few people, cyclists and drivers, and have had some curious responses to my questions about safety. Perceptions seem completely contradictory to each other, yet none of the people I've spoken with have offered any logical argument either way... What has become most obvious to me is that generally people don't seem to be interested in thinking about these things they just want people to stay the f--k out of their way. 

Now I've written a swag of words and still haven't made my point so I'll label this 'Post 1'and try to follow up another time.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Family drama reveals detention contortions - Eureka Street



Over the past few months I've been attending a weekly vigil at the Darwin Airport Lodge Detention Centre.
The Darwin Airport Lodge is listed as an 'Alternative Place of Detention'. There has been a lot of criticism about locking children up in detention centres so the government swapped a few words around and now everyone's happy. The dumb ass Australian public who want to punish people for seeking safety but don't want to be seen to hate children are satisfied that an 'Alternative place of detention' is far more caring and humane than a detention centre. The government invents some crap about creating a deterrent in order to prevent drowning at sea and the Australian public are overjoyed. We get to condemn the evil people smugglers, punish, confuse, condemn and antagonize asylum seekers who risk their lives to find safety simply because the last mode available to them is by sea and continue to feel righteous about ourselves because we are doing all this so that we can assist the refugees who go through the appropriate channels first. What a joke!

Meanwhile there are real human beings who had the misconception that Australia is a safe place with laws that could protect refugees from persecution. When they get here and realize the bitter truth they are crushed! They are completely confused by the lack of humanity in the way they are treated, the lies they are told and the brutal way they are herded up without being told what is happening and shoved around like cattle! We condemn them for not following rules that don't actually exist and then place them in a system that arbitrarily creates and dismantles it's own rules on a whim and expects them to be aware of every policy change being applied to their lives. Reality is continually altered and readjusted by an authority they have very little access to, time is warped by waiting and disappointment, justice is overridden by the incapacity for detention facilities to hold the numbers that are being held for artificially long periods in order to create the illusion of an appropriate length of time one might wait in a queue that never existed and people never know where they will be moved to next. Maybe Melbourne, maybe Sydney maybe Nauro or Manus Island... Maybe sent back to danger because there's no space in the waiting room and nobody wants to asses your claim! 
In the midst of all this there are children! My daughter recently asked " If the people that I go to visit love Australia, why doesn't Australia love them? Why don't we adopt them they could do nice things for Australia?" 

Over the past few months I have met many lovely people, many people who have far greater respect for our country than most of the citizens I have met but they are broken... first by the horrors they have fled but now even worse their sense of hope for any kind of future is being stolen from the by us! No amount of rationalization  can mask the injustices we are perpetrating against these people and the to subject innocent children to these conditions is inexcusable!

If you have any sense of justice you might like to read the story below about Ranjini and her family. How have we come to this place where we as a nation are prepared to rob children of their childhood and their potential to flourish and grow? We are poisoning the roots of our own future!

Here's a story from Eureka Street... food for thought.

Family drama reveals detention contortions - Eureka Street

"...Ranjini's story is another indictment of a collective failure or refusal to imagine the injustice endured by others. We allow ourselves to be distracted by endless abstractions peddled by politicians and the media because if ever we acknowledge the humanity we share with refugees, then we may be compelled to treat them accordingly.
Still, sometimes, despite our best efforts, a name surfaces, photos of a smiling woman emerge. A baby arrives."
 (Author. Fatima Measham)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Backyard Bivouac



Last night I had some fun with the kids in the back yard. We build a cubby house, or to be more accurate, a bivouac.
A bivouac is a temporary shelter made out of whatever you can find close by.
It's the middle of the school holidays and the kids have actually been playing outside and as human nature dictates they're obsessed with building a shelter... It's instinctive, if you leave a kid outside for long enough they will start gathering stuff and build a house!
I wanted my dinner but my eldest child started to throw a wobbly because I had to dismantle the tent we had in the yard. We thought about it for a little while, looked around the yard, and this is what we came up with.
 
 


 Materials: 
- folding ladder
- 6 x 6 tarp
- two bamboo poles (taken from the veggie garden which was not doing too well anyway)
- 5 pieces of string 
- 3 tent pegs
- couple of cushions

Time taken:
6 minutes
 
Presto! The best bivouac we've ever made. Dad's popularity rating leaps from tolerated buffoon to beloved hero parent no.1 in record time. We actually had to call the kids into the house long after dark! I couldn't believe it!

Living in the  tropics I think this quote is fairly apt:

Bivouac
Bivouacking is miserable work in a wet or unhealthy climate, but in a dry and healthy one, there is no question of it's superiority over tenting. Men who sleep habitually in the open breathe fresher air and are far more imbued with the spirit of wild life, than those who pass the night within the stuffy enclosure of a tent.

The art of Travel.
 (Quoted by Tahir Shah in the book 'House of the Tiger King-The quest for a lost Inca City'. )

When I was young some mates and I used to sleep out in the bush a bit in a fairly makeshift shelter. Mostly made out of branches but we could usually find a bit of tin for the roof. It was a bit unnerving though when we discovered scorpions under our groundsheet!
Since then I haven't done much rough camping although I've been lucky enough to visit Elcho Island during the dry season to attend a Cross Cultural Mediation Program, where I much prefer to sleep outside under the stars than to share a tent with 4 other smelly participants. I've slept on the ground, It's pretty comfortable on the cliff edge or on the ceremonial beach sand after a few hours of dancing! Usually though once the tents are set up, I grab my fold out bed (Bloody luxury!) and set it up a couple of meters away from the tents and keep all my gear on top so it doesn't blow away when the dry wind sweeps across the island during the day. The nights are absolutely magic outside I don't get why the others don't do it. I always hear them complaining when someone farts or snores. From my bed I look up through the stars and into the eyes of God! True! Out doors is so much sweeter than indoors... unless it's the wet season.




Murray's bivouac - Flight of the Conchords
Bivoac.What a funny word. Kids love turning the house inside out and turning the furniture into tunnels, caves and of course bivouacs. I used to do this as a kid but if you're a fan of Flight of the Conchords you'll know that this even adults can have fun making a bivouac indoors. ;) 
Ever since I saw Series two, episode 4 of  'Flight of the Conchords', the word bivouac has caused me to break into hysterics! Actually if you're a fan this episode also has the song 'Friends' on it.

In this scene Murray senses that Jermaine and Bret aren't much into building bivouacs. He asks in all seriousness: "You think building a bivouac is childish?"
 They do but later you see Jermain perfecting the construction of the bivouac which they didn't dismantle when Murray left. I am lucky. As a parent I can declare the building of indoor bivouacs out of bed sheets and cushions as childish but still engage in the activity if I want to and even get points for being a 'Good Dad'. 

Ha! Happy bivouacking kiddies!




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

ABSURD!

Today I had an awakening. Thought I'd better post it before it disappears down the crack with the socks, the key to my bike lock and the USB flash drive I needed the other day!

Being compelled to look for meaning in the world and being constantly confused or even disappointed by what I discover one word keeps appearing in my mind (well only when I'm capable of being philosophical, other times I just feel sorry for myself because I'm convinced that nothing makes sense and the point of it all continually eludes me and so on). The word is: Absurd.

When trying to describe the unusual things that happen in an average day at work the only word that I've found that truly describes it is Absurd. Today after one or two Absurd incidents, but not enough to create any great agitation or distress I had time to contemplate the general situation. Absurd lept into my head and just danced around on it's own as if it was at home in there. I pondered it for quite a while. I remember reading the word somewhere in a book I was into... or maybe it was one of those damned Jed McKenna audio books. I don't remember and it doesn't matter! The point is that when I consider situations to be Absurd my reaction to them changes instantly. My consciousness shifts I become free of judgement and expectation. 
I move from trying to apply logic to an illogical situation to complete acceptance. 
"Of course it doesn't make sense... It's Absurd!"

I looked the word up online

Here's a definition of the word:

Absurd

1. Ridiculously incongruous or unreasonable. See Synonyms at foolish
2. Of, relating to, or manifesting the view that there is no order or value in human life or in the universe.

3. Of or relating to absurdism or the absurd.
n.
 Then I found a reference to the word 'Absurdism' on Wikipedia. Now we're talking about a philosophy! I read on...
 ...In philosophy "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any...
Line by line the entry describes all the thought processes I've experienced while pondering the seriousness of 'Life the Universe and Everything', it goes on to quote Soren Kierkegaard and Albert Kamus and they describe so many of the concepts I am continually wrestling with... and they wrestle with them and come to different conclusions... or maybe temporary positions. I'm blown away by the familiarity of it all. Maybe because it's the eternal question that is hardwired into us all, or maybe because I've read some Kamus and his writing is laced with the same propositions. Or maybe it was that bloody Jed McKenna fucking with my head! Probably a combination of all really.
Or maybe I was subliminally programmed with it years ago when I was reading 'Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galazy'.

Reading on...
...As a philosophy, absurdism thus also explores the fundamental nature of the Absurd and how individuals, once becoming conscious of the Absurd, should respond to it...

A solution! Awesome! And the solution is intuitive when confronted with the idea that Absurd is not a defective position but actually the reality of the state of our very existence and all that we've done and all that we are... and didn't Pink Floyd already write about it in their song Eclipse (The Dark Side of the Moon)? 

I start thinking about Kamus and how his books left me feeling too much of the empty depressing, It's OK to know about Absurdity but how do you live in a constant state of Absurd awareness?  Then I read the conflicting perspective of Kierkegaard and how he felt a belief in something beyond the Absurd such as religious acceptance of intangible and unprovable thing could transcend the hopeless state that perpetual awareness of the Absurdity of life can cause. A legitimate escape from the, too heavy truth. And I realize I've discovered this myself through my own experience and I know it's true! Far out! This is freaking me out!

I can't believe it's taken me so long to discover this! 

Absurdity, a cosmos without meaning and God consciousness can coexist! Just don't forget at the end of the day that it is absolutely Absurd! 

I'm gonna go and listen to Bob Marley singing Three Little Birds and sleep like a baby tonight. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite's brother Kip... "Peace Out!"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Surfing clouds home from work

Cycling through a rolling corkscrew vortex below the vaporous swell of cloud. Waves in the air rolling not yet breaking. 


Riding home from Parap on Monday night. 7:00pm The sky was darker than usual, no sunlight poking through just a dim glow reflecting off the rolling head of another trough. A few drops of rain touch my skin and I wonder how far I'll get before the rain bursts free from the sky.
After a couple of minutes chatting with friends the time has come to ride. The early evening and morning are my favorite times to ride.

I was keen to start peddling but an old fella was gesturing me to the auto teller. I wanted to ignore him but without my glasses I stared too long to see what he was doing and he knew he had me! This happens a fair bit in Darwin. He's got his card and knows his pin but he can't operate the machine, he just needs someone to access his account and withdraw his money for him. It's a weird situation to have a stranger give you their bank card and pin number anywhere else it probably would never happen but in Darwin life is a bit different. I kind of doubted he knew the pin but sure enough I entered the number he told me and we were in.
"How much do you want to withdraw?"
"One Hundred Dollah"
I try one hundred and surprize surprize the machine refuses to pay. Not enough funds. OK, I thinks, No money, great now I can go home!
"You've got no money, sorry, it didn't work."
I waited to be dismissed but no, we're going to try again. Damn it! It's going to rain and I'm stuck at the auto teller with some old bloke who could probably do without another $100 of drinking money but he wasn't ready to let me go just yet.

"OK try forty!"
"There is no forty. Only twenty or fifty..."
"OK fifty!"

I try fifty and miraculously the money comes out. I leave it for him to grab from the machine, thankfully he had no trouble doing that, not that I would be tempted to take his money, even though I've rarely got more than a dollar to spend. It just seems weird and I want to get on my bike! The old fella says thanks, he's genuinely grateful, now I feel like an asshole for not wanting to help him. Argh get over it!

Back to the ride. Off we go. The sky is dark but I can see the clouds moving quickly with the wind licking at it's heels as the front rolls across the inky black sky. I roll down the familiar back streets and onto Bagot Rd. I love this time of night! It's the fruit bat hour, cooler, the sun is not frying my skin or broiling my brains the air is heavy and soft. I can feel the weight of the clouds above me and wonder when they will burst and bombard me with rain. I naturally start to peddle faster, It's amazing how much energy I have for cycling when it's cloudy or dark.
The sky is growing darker and darker up ahead... I'm sure I'll get wet but I don't care, the atmosphere is electric... (Only a few flashes of lightning fortunately!) I start to peddle faster. The air pressure drops considerably as I get closer to the storm I feel an incredible sense of lightness. The fruit bat hour is the time of night when 100s of fruit bats fill the sky headed for their evening roosts, It's quite surreal to see... The sensation is magical!
As I ride I am engulfed by the darkness of the storm cloud, I can feel drops of rain falling and wonder if I'll make it home without being drenched. I peddle faster and the bike just glides along. It's like there's no resistance! I am being sucked through a vortex! Moving faster and faster the street is quite empty, all peripheral sights and images disappear into a blur I feel an intoxicating euphoria. I am high! Now I feel like a surfer riding a 5 mile long tube of the perfect wave! The sky is getting darker, I glide the path, drops of rain gather on my skin but only enough to urge me on faster! As I head down Mc Millans road the wind of a storm front bowls it's way through the trees, the temperature drops dramatically but no rain. I am flying! Rolling up hill now I feel like I'm exerting no energy at all! I am in a state of bliss!
The bike trembles slightly as I cross Lee Point Rd, finally I begin to slow down as I approach home. Now I'm just cruising the final leg, my bike and this strange wave just pulls me home. I open the gate and dismount, roll the bike into its stable and enter the house... Home.
Oh give me my bike on any night like this.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A short Sunday morning ride

This morning I had some time off just to cruise!

Where to go? Well I have to admit I'm in no shape to go peddling around to Mandorah or to do any heroic jaunts south of Humpty Doo. Considering my current, pathetic physical condition I can only imagine a very short, very local ride. (I've been working on a hedonistic theory for reducing my itchy feet. The theory is that if I stay up late playing computer games and watching movies I will be suitably sedated so as not to pace the house resenting domesticity... The down side is my body and mind have atrophied to a state similar what a lobotomized sea slug might look like... I'm working on a new theory... )

If you like cycling Darwin is a great place to live. OK there's only one road out of town but around town there are plenty of cycle paths and parkways where cycling is easy and very pleasant. I decide to make a loop around the Casuarina Coastal Reserve and then continue on to Rapid Creek Market for some paw-paw salad and black sticky rice. mmmmm yum!

Since the brain isn't capable of inventing anything interesting to read I thought I'd just tell you about my ride.

The beginning of the ride was a bit emotional for me. I had to cycle past a place that used to be a very healthy woodland habitat and a favorite spot for large flocks of Red Tailed Cockatoos. The pocket of bush between Leanyer and the Lee Point Caravan park on Lee Point Rd was the source of inspiration for an artist friend of mine who lived across the road from there for years. We both used to admire the health of the woodlands and the variety of species it supported, then one day the buldozers moved in and the whole lot was gone in a matter of days! I called him not long after and could hear the Black Cockatoos calling desperately in a tone neither of us have ever heard before! It was quite unnerving to hear, those birds were obviously distressed and so were we!
What was will soon be forgotten by many who used to drive past that special pocket of bush and never known by the new home owners who come to fill the newly created estate of Muirhead!

Muirhead Estate. Wildlife exterminated! Woodlands no more!





 I soon passed Darwin's latest obnoxious development and was rolling down the trail to more familiar ground. The Casuarina Coastal Reserve Stringybark Walk. (Not officially a cycle path but for cyclists this track is irresistible). The blue bike I rode today was a freebie! I rescued it from a skip on a building site. When I found it the rear wheel and cogs were worn out, the chain rusted stiff and all the cables seized up. After just a couple of hours of free time and a bunch of horded spare bits I had it on the road and rolling beautifully. I've finally learned my lessons about chain sizes and gears etc.. I managed to find a matching set of cogs and chain to suit the bikes gear shifter and it worked very nicely.

Beginning of the Stringybark Track



The Stringybark track to Lee Point has been graded and quite wide for a walking path, its like cycling on a well packed dirt road. The upper woodland section is quite flat and winds a short distance through some typical woodland habitat with occasional views of the sea. A lot of the washed out drainage lines have been re-vegetated and closed to destructive cyclist traffic.


Not too far along the way the track splits and walkers are offered a choice of continuing to Lee Point or taking the Monsoon Vine Forest track back to Casuarina beach. If you ever visit Darwin I recommend walking (or cycling respectfully) along this track. It is the most beautiful track in Darwin! All paths head toward the sea. If you follow the official path it's a fairly gentle slope... If you're a ratbag and chose to take one of the washed out informal paths it can be quite steep and slippery. Radical cyclists seem to prefer the second (non)option.
As the track tapers off at sea level we pass an old WWII bunker, there used to be heaps of these all along the coast around Darwin, I think there are three in tact within the coastal reserve. WWII relics are still being found from time to time, including unexploded ordinance dropped by Japanese planes. This bunker is located near a freshwater washout very close to the water's edge. On a high tide the sea gets pretty close. The trees in the background are Casuarina trees, these are native to the area but were planted to help stabilize the dunes after sand mining in the 1960s decimated the natural dunes. Casuarina's are a favorite food of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.



After passing through the Casuarina forest, which is a bit like being in a Radiata pine forest with pine needles lining the forest floor and the whistling in the canopy when the wind blows, the track goes up hill a bit and into a very different and not so common habitat, Monsoon Vine Forest. It's always a bit cooler in here, greener, quieter and darker than the open Woodland and a huge contrast from the Casuarina forest which literally buts up against it. Monsoon Vine forests are remnant forests and as close as we get to a tropical jungle. The wildlife that lives in this habitat is very specific. Before the well watered urban gardens of Darwin suburbs evolved, Monsoon Vine Forests were the only place you would have found the Orange-footed scrub fowl. Despite my dislike for urban sprawl I have to admit the suburbs of Darwin have actually created a sanctuary for many species such as the scrub fowl, frilled lizards and once upon a time Yellow spotted monitors. Several species are probably more numerous within the city than they are in their natural habitat. On this part of the trail you can usually see a Rainbow Pitta or two and Rose Crowned Fruit Doves. The Rainbow Pittas are hard to spot from a bike, usually you'll hear them kicking the leaves around before you see them if you're walking quietly. This time I did see a Fruit Dove, (sorry no photos worth showing).


Sandy Creek mangrove

The Monsoon Vine Forest path is fairly flat but gradually winds it's way back toward the beach. Before emerging at the Darwin Free Beach (nudist beach) there's a really nice footbridge over the upper part of Sandy Creek. Now we're in the mangroves and a very different environment. On the dirt tracks before entering the mangroves are small piles of shells and ashes. A lot of aboriginal people who live in Darwin take advantage of the rich stocks of bush tucker that can be found so close to town. Shelfish are a luxury that many people can't do without. I think that for saltwater people, to live in the city and not be able to eat their favorite foods would be far too much to bear. The number of delicacies they can find in a tiny patch of mangrove is amazing. Gathering shelfish is the work of the ladies and kids. Maybe I could blog a hunting trip next time. A dhunga Balanda like me gets in the way out in the mangroves and can be more trouble than we're worth, even when hunting with kids.

Finally we're back at the beach. The Free Beach is pretty big and there's plenty of privacy for those odd sandal and socks wearing naturists.


Wide open vistas at Casuarina Beach. It's lovely. The sand is packed hard after some overnight rain and fairly easy to cycle on.

Bee Eater

Headed back past the open paddock beside the Rapid Creek I saw heaps of birds. One favorite along this stretch are the Rainbow Bee Eaters that perch on an old wire fence. Waiting for passers by to scare up some easy tucker.

Galah

Plumed Whistling Ducks - Foreground, Corella's - Background

Magpie Geese




Rapid Creek market
A quiet moment at Rapid Creek Market

Pretty soon I've crossed the Rapid Creek Bridge and I'm at the Rapid Creek markets. This is the best place in Darwin to find Asian vegetables (I'm not too sure about the chemical content of produce you'll find here). I came here especially for some paw-paw salad and black sticky rice. I grab the desert first and an extra sweet rice and casava wrapped in banana leaf and savor every mouthful. Something happened to me when I was in Indonesia years ago and I've craved this stuff ever since! Unfortunately I didn't get my paw-paw salad. I was given a free sample of some sickly sweet icy desert and felt obliged to spend my money on that instead! What a sucker!


Monsoon Nightcliff
Low tide on Nightcliff foreshore looking at a cloud

Headed home I rode back along the Nightcliff foreshore and got to see the approaching clouds of the monsoon just before the rain hit and everything became engulfed by the drenching tropical rain we've been waiting for. I cycled home in the rain feeling happy and contented and determined to change my program and go back to using early morning rides as a means of sedating my restless spirit or at least temporarily satisfying the nagging wanderlust that dominates my soul!
It's been raining fairly steadily ever since and the smell of the rain is divine!

video

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo in the Casuarina

Actually I forgot to mention the smells. Every part of this journey contained it's on particular smells. Riding past the housing estate I sensed dust and oil and an unholy lack of life.
The woodlands had a combination of fresh new wet leaves, sweet oxygen and just a touch of fowers.
The Casuarina forest smelt like the sea and the resin of half chewed casuarina nuts.
Monsoon Vine Forest smelt damp and heavy but fresh
Mangrove was a heady slightly fermented smell like warm beer
The smells at Rapid Creek market are like a free trip back to South East Asia! Spices, fruit even the occasional smell of clove cigarettes if you're really lucky. I love the food here but I have to admit sometimes even the scent is enough. Sometimes when I'm squeezing through the tightly packed walkways the smells convince me that I am somewhere else entirely.

A sweeter life I have never know. Peace.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Finaly the rain

A good morning is when I rise early and spend some time outside sweating toiling with a hoe in my hand or peddling my bicycle. After yet another very late night I didn't rise early, but, I did make it across to one of the local schools in time to chip in for a working bee. The school principal with support from the community has decided to open the, recently erected, gates and invite members of the local community to join them in creating a food garden! 



I may have got there late but I soon got into the action and yes I raised a sweat. (Not hard to do in the Darwin buildup, especially when your working with a body whose primary tasks have been striking a key board and lifting several coffee cups to the lips per day. 

I got home sweaty and covered in hay, happy!




Back at home the neighbors get kind of fussy about our messy garden and I can see their point but the back lawn is so much more interesting now than it used to be. I still mow it a couple of times during the wet season but I've really enjoyed watching it evolve naturally. Once it was a monoculture of cooch grass but now there's a variety of grasses and sedges popping up and seeding. The kids and I also threw a handful of rosella seeds around which are sprouting in odd spots through the lawn and will hopefully give us some fruit for jam when the dry season comes around. If the neighbors want someone to blame for our lawn they can look to Masanobu Fukuoka!

Oh yeah... the rain. It's been hot and muggy but there's been no rain for such a long time all the buildup greenery has wilted and shriveled. But tonight the waiting was over. Just as I arrived at a meeting a couple of suburbs away, a great wind came roaring through the verandah where we were sitting. Leaves came swarming into our sheltered gathering place with the ferocity of a tornado! Leaves and dust and scraps of paper were swirling around us in forceful willie willies that were blown horizontal by those huge gusts that always precede the first tropical storms of the season. Awesome! Pretty soon the rain was pelting down hard! After just an hour it slackened off to an even drizel and it's still going now 4 hours later. And the garden cries 'Finally The Rain!'