Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Monsoon ride around Darwin Harbour

In Darwin, at some time in December or January the monsoon arrives from the north bringing on the true rainy season.
While we were in Bali, two weeks ago, the monsoon arrived in Northern Australia. It's been raining fairly consistently since then.

Cycling through a monsoonal downpour might not sound like the ideal way to spend your time during the Christmas break but to me it's about the best time of year to get out on my bike. Here in Darwin the sun can really wear you down. It's hot most of the time and if you're on the road for hours dehydration is a serious problem. The other issue, particularly during the dry season is wind. Cycling against the wind can seriously inhibit progress and uses up heaps more energy.

Cycling at night (when the moon is bright) or during monsoonal weather, when the sun is obscured by clouds, the air temperature is several degrees lower than usual and there's plenty of water around, are my favourite times to cycle the Cox Peninsula Rd.

Yesterday I did my solo ride around Darwin Harbour again. The road around Darwin harbour is basically a big jagged circle, lately I've  preferred to travel counter clockwise, this gets the remote part of the ride (about 50km without any services or phone reception) out of the way at the beginning when my water and food supplies are full and I've got enough energy to make it to the half way mark, and civilization.

I had intended to catch the first ferry at 05:45 but arrived at the jetty about 3 minutes after the ferry left! Had to wait till the next boat at 6:30... a slight delay.

It was a beautiful morning, the moon was high and peeking through gaps in the clouds. I love it when the moon is with me on a ride, even at the dawn, once I've seen her in the sky I know she'll be with me, somewhere up there for most of the day. I pray the burning rays of brutal sun are obscured and diffused by this precious monsoonal shield. 

I was surprised to discover that I had fallen desperately out of condition while lulling about in Bali eating food fortified with gula (sugar) and palm oil! A week at home on the couch eating fruit mince pies and watching all three seasons of 'Please Like Me' on iview didn't help much either. I wondered if I would actually make the 140km distance this time.

The ferry ride is always a treat, Darwin shrinks into the distance as the sturdy twin hulled vessel crosses the harbour. A fifteen minute ride delivers passengers to a considerably more remote and wild Cox Peninsular. (It's a whole other culture over there, freedom seekers get the best of both worlds!)

Legs were already a bit heavy and stiff before I'd even reached Belyuen community, just 12 km from the Mandorah jetty! No rain, and the sun was beginning to rise! I was slightly worried about the wisdom of doing this ride.

If you've ridden Cox Peninsula road during the dry season you will be very aware how little shade there is. If you think it's an ugly ride I urge you to try it during the wet season... preferably during monsoonal weather. It's like riding through an ancient forest of cycads and sand palms, all the larger trees are lush with brilliant green foliage, lilies and other wetland flowers spread across saturated lowlands. You would find yourself in a very different environment to what you'd expect, it's like a beautiful tropical garden! I startled a flock of Northern Rosella's and Red-winged parrots, the flew to a tree top not far ahead and waited for me to pass.

As my weak muscles struggled with the distance I shifted my focus from the road ahead to the beauty around me, set my music player to random and lowered the pace so that I continued moving forward, without care for speed. Stopped a couple of times for water but generally pressed on. At the back of my mind was the Blackmore river, about half way round, it's my regular rest stop. 

After about 40km, there had been no rain, I had a pain in my groin which was making it hard to peddle, I was seriously worried I wouldn't even make it half way around! Finally about 7km from the Blackmore River I felt the rush of cold air! Soon I could feel a precious mist of cool gentle rain, before long it was pelting down and the drains and creeks started flowing. Exhausted I sat in the rain and ate a Vegemite roll. Bliss!

Maybe I had overestimated my ability to cycle this kind of distance? My physical condition is pitiful, I've done no riding in about a month! I headed for the refuge of Tumbling Waters holiday park. Fully expecting to leave my bike there and call home for a mercy evacuation! Ride Over! Having made a decision, my spirits lifted considerably. I rolled down toward the camp feeling glad that I wouldn't have to go any further today! When I arrived at the gate there was a sign.


"WOW" What to do? "OK, No problem, I'll just ride a few more k's to Berry Springs and leave the bike somewhere there".

Still committed to quitting I had another sandwich and watched the Blackmore river, swelling and swirling from the heavy rain that had set in, I watched water flow off the land around me and join the river, muddy water mixing with clear, pushing eddies into the bridge and the banks... So much energy! Instead of riding back to the  road, I walked about 300 meters. Stood contentedly beside the bridge in the rain for a while, then tentatively got back on the bike for a few last kilometres. Oddly, the 15 or 20 minutes I spent off the bike and possibly the walking left me feeling much better. The rain now was pelting down, the hair on my arms collecting droplets, my skin felt clean and cool, sweat had been washed away, it was like I was starting the ride fresh! 

The rest of the ride was a breeze! I just took my time, relished the cool air and water on my skin. No dramas along Stuart Highway, The Howard Springs cycle path is glorious in the wet! Easy riding the rest of the way home! I'd made it! Did the whole thing.... didn't quit! Many thanks to the rain and my companion the moon.

(Couple of interesting points to the ride.... Much of this ride is along a remote road with a 110 km speed limit. Although most drivers are quite considerate, there is still a serious likelihood that over the course of 7 hours over 140 km of NT roads you will come across several idiots who enjoy scaring or threatening cyclists. On about 5 occasions I was passed quite closely by speeding drivers, the rain and  dangerous conditions only seem to excite them more. If you do this ride you must find a way to steady your nerves and ignore the idiots. Water splashing up from the wheels of a speeding car is not pleasant but thankfully not lethal. 
The Cox Peninsula Rd and Stuart Highway are strewn with the rotting carcasses of 1,000s of dead cane toads that have been hit by cars repeatedly, they form a slippery pulp on the roadside.... sometimes it stinks.... sometimes when cars pass closely in the rain they flick the pulp up into your face.... Don't eat it!)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Where Ausies don't oft go

Places I've dreamed:
Monsoonal weather approaches Bali by sea... (Candidasa)

Yes... that's a waterfall (Munduk)

Our secret bungalow in the hills (Munduk)

Subsistence farming... in these conditions it really seems to work (Amed)

A garden of delights and a lot of hard work (Amed)
Kingfisher (Amed)

Carting fodder (Amed)

Fruit trees above the field (Amed)

Padi below Gunung (on the road to Tirtagangga)

I cannot write words for these images or to describe the gradual sense of relief I felt having disconnected from all electronic media for two weeks. I hope you can get a sense of it from the images. The challenge now for me is how to continue to live in that space rather than return to my mental and emotional hedonistic, escape from reality cell.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Hollow Houses

It's a balmy night, for a treat tonight we take the kids out cruising for Christmas lights. As we drove through new suburbs full of hollow mansions I could hear the envy in their voices. “Daaad I wish we had a two story house.... Daaaad why don't we have a pool?” 

I hate these places but took the opportunity to explain, why we are the wealthy ones. We are rich with laughter and fart jokes and gay budgies and our senile dog. We are rich with time for each other and space all around us and freedom to come and go... We are free! We have no half million dollar mortgage, no banker's death-grip sentence, forcing us to put you kids in care while we work six or seven days per week, At night we read you stories and play games while others are agitated attempting to solve their financial concerns. 

We aren't troubled by ambition's din. We have what we need. When the percolator boils in the morning we can afford to sit a while and watch the wild birds in our yard as they silently feed their chicks or laugh at the antics of the horny Gilbert's dragons bobbing their black and white heads. 

Not many lights about this year... The stock market returns are grim, mining boom's over the dollar is down... Departing the suburban mausoleum with it's streets full of empty monolithic money god shrines, I do three laps of the roundabout just for fun, centrifugal force pushing the kids sideways to the left of their seats. 'Wooooooaaaaaaooow” We count, One – Twoooo – Threeeeee as we pass the second exit for the third time... A light flickers on the dash, the remains of our fuel is hugging the side of the tank... Time to straighten up and steer for home looks like we'll be cycling till pay day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

What the Actual... Racist?

The maintenance of an anglocentric mindset in a so called post-colonial multicultural society. LOL OK this isn’t a thesis just frustrated reflection on the bloody obvious.

 There appears to be a fad now of advertising in shop windows that attempts to capitalize on concepts of ‘community’. Besides finding it particularly creepy to have giant images of people’s faces looming down on me, it is also very obvious that the vast majority of the faces are white. Entering any shopping complex I already experience a kind of shock at the overabundance of posters and manikins depicting white or slightly tanned sexy models, used to promote the myriad of useless products. They are now trying to capitalize on creating an illusion of community.
Dr Seus 'The Sneeches and other stories'.

I think the idea is that by having images of ‘ordinary’ people’s faces thrown up on every wall and window it will make us feel comfortable and included. Personally I find that stuff creepy. I go to the chemist and I’m confronted with an oversized image of some white person in a white coat smiling at me... (Seriously! Is that you Nurse Ratched?) I think the idea is that we can look at the images and think, hey that picture of a person in a natural pose with imperfect features, yet also kind of good looking..., is just like me... (I’m guessing that’s the plan) Only they’re not. Are they? We’re not all white people, in fact I reckon on any day you visit my local mall you would easily find that white people probably make up a less than a quarter of the population. 

The reason I’m drawing attention to this practice at the moment is because of the completely overt nature of the prejudice revealed by these seemingly innocuous images and the effect I am sure it has on our community. I believe it is the continued saturation of media with ‘white faces’ white values, white lives that is responsible for the perpetuation of an inequitable, unbalanced, fearful country bent on turning neighbour against neighbour, making it impossible to build a mature self aware community.We are afraid to build honest trusting relationships with those who fall outside our own ethnic, social profile. Ergo we’ve been sold that same lie Dr Zeus’s tried to warn us about in 'The Star bellied Sneeches'. Why? Well I think it actually serves a commercial purpose…. And just like in the book there is a profit to be made by social inequality. I am sure we are living in a world not guided by any sense of social consciousness but dominated by the politics of fear and the careful manipulation of that fear into marketing leverage as was displayed the character Sylvester McMonkey McBean. The world is full of them and they call the shots. 

Dr Seus: 'The Sneeches and Other Stories'.

Living in a town which is by no means predominantly white I find the contrast between the ‘ideal’ images we are confronted with in the media and the actual demographic makeup of my community so absurdly obvious I wonder why they aren’t dragged down in disgrace as soon as they appear. It is shamefully telling of the attitudes which continue to dominate our society. At the mall recently they installed some very large posters to display what the current refurbishments would look like when work is done. The posters contained images of people plonked in various locations throughout the predicted new environment to simulate how the space will be used… This wasn’t even to sell a particular product, just an image to reassure people that the final product will be worth waiting for… once again the images were full of white faces which bore no resemblance to the people I saw around me. 

Having recently attended my child’s graduation ceremony, and having seen her and her school friends enjoy the celebration of their final year of primary school I wondered what kind of world were they about to step into? In this particular year only about a fifth of the kids were Anglo, the rest were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds a large proportion aboriginal. These were all bright kids, intelligent, capable people with many talents. They should all enjoy the same opportunities in the life that awaits them, yet as I looked around I knew they will not! The dice is already loaded against the majority of my children’s friends and it makes me furious! It’s outrageous and disgusting that our society should be split along racial lines (subliminally or overtly) as it is. After all that we’ve learned about inclusion and equality, we continue to be fooled into perpetuating a lie which will only serve to divide our community and set us against each other!

My children are not aware of how marketing has manipulated their own perception of themselves or their friends. They don’t yet feel the wedge that is being driven between them, deciding who it is acceptable to be or not to be! They don’t get that the images asserting white supremacy and the assumption of black criminality and deviance will sculpt the future for them and their peers. The messages broadcast by contemporary media and silently endorsed by a compliant population are, on the one hand over inflating the confidence of whites while devaluing and undermining their non-Anglo friends. We flood the airwaves and every form of media brainwashing society to believe that dark skinned people are inferior (with 10,000 subtle innuendos) then create special awards designed to encourage indigenous students to perform better in school, to assimilate and attempt to earn acceptability by mimicking their white friends. Forever reminding them that by virtue of being born black ‘we’ (society in general, including their own families and friends) will always have lower expectations of them. I saw one of the cleverest students at that school win an award simply for being an indigenous person who had set a good example and worked hard! What a fucking insult to the girls actual intelligence and to her family!

We have allowed ourselves to slide so far backwards I doubt many people have even stopped to consider how insane our perception the norms of civil society actually are!

Monday, December 07, 2015


Habit, form, shade, meet, stow, shelter

A tree of many virtues...

African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


The problem with realizing we’re all deluded is that it leaves you with nothing much left to believe in…
After a bizarre morning reflection at work today I found myself having to wait half an hour for a car to be repaired. I’ve been feeling absolutely aimless and lost lately, desperate to escape, or hide or do something completely radical.
Tempted to just wander off into the scrub I compromised and went and sat against a tree on a city street curb. That odd loneliness, a fog. 

So I spotted this tree and I just wandered across the road and plonked myself down on the ground at it’s base. I recognized the foliage it was an Allosyncarpia ternate.
I sat a while, completely submerged in my narcissistic shrine of misery… Then gazing through the mist of reminiscent longing for youth and freedom and the wide open road, outward to the blandness of Daly Street, I noticed a couple of minute black stingless bees clinging to my shirt. Immediately I felt the warmth of being connected to something, a reprieve from the emptiness. Not just bugs… these were Bees! 

Allosyncarpia ternate

What makes Bees so special? Well that’s a long story. I have happy memories of watching a cousin tending his hives when I was a kid. I was fascinated by the way he was able to handle the hives without incurring a major attack. I remember him spinning the racks and the vat of hot melted honey filling large tins with beautiful golden nectar. In those days he could place the hives in woodlands dominated by particular species of trees and each tree species would deliver it’s own unique flavour. From year to year the flavour and consistency of the harvest was slightly different depending on flowering times, rain, and proximity of the hive to flowering crops. There was a kind of symbiosis between the bees, the plant life and the apiarist. To me it seemed a beautiful, magical place where gold was spun.
Since that time I’ve had various encounters with European honey bees, although I’ve never kept them myself, I have visited their hives, ridden my bike (accidentally through a swarm of bees), been stung a few times by accident and have managed to touch them, pat them. I don’t know why but throughout my life I’ve had a fascination bordering on affinity with the bee.
Somehow, possibly by coincidence (As if there is such a thing) I was named after the Yiritja bee (not stingless yet I still haven’t met this family).
As I sit against that tree with my friends the bees humming around me I laughed out loud at the ironic absurdity of feeling alone.