Australia and Oceania

Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park – again

I have just quit my safe, regular job and am about to throw myself into a mix-bag of study, relief pharmacy work, adventuring and more writing. Not a bad crossroad to be at, but for sure I have a lot of thinking to do. My wife has picked up on my need to think, re-group, find solace and train for the Ama Dablam climb that is looming. Supportive as always, Jette says, “I think you should go hug some trees for a few days…go on, bugger off.” *Witness Danish girl being rapidly Australianised.* I quickly agree and four short days after hanging up the white coat I am at the trailhead. I don’t want to sound like one of those try-hard Indian-mystic-hippy-Bhudda type but Cradle Mountain National Park is truly my sacred ground.

grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again

Me in mum’s jacket at 3 months old – Crater lake Jan 1978

 

grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again

Fagus turning colour at Crater Lake

I have been coming here since before I could walk. My dad introduced many a young adventurer to nature here as he taught outdoor education. My childhood is peppered with memories of this place as is my adulthood – only a few months ago I married my best friend and fave travel companion in the shadows of Cradle Mountain. Yup, a pretty special place. But not only to me; the park is UNESCO World Heritage listed and us Tasmanians are fiercely protective of this area…so leave your guns and dogs at home please!

Despite having walked the famous Overland Track countless times the beauty of the deciduous Fagus still catches my breath. Before I even find my walking cadence I am at Crater Lake looking up at rocky walls which look as though God subcontracted the colouring to Picasso.

The hut at Crater Lake
grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again
grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again

The track past Crater Lake takes a dramatic uphill turn. Following a steep push I am at Marion’s Lookout, definitely starting to sweat but very much enjoying the feeling of my headspace clearing. It does not take long for these hills to clear my cache. An elderly guide is enjoying the views beside two Asian clients. The guide and I have a quick chat as the other two speak together in an undeterminable language. They look in admiration at my too-big-because-I-rushed-packing rucksack. Leaving, I farewell my chatty friends, hook my thumbs under the straps near my shoulders then follow my feet past Cradle Mountain. My mind in happily stuck in neutral by the time I stop to sit in complete silence whilst looking at my comforting mountains.

grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again
grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again

Soon I leave the high plateau to walk downwards through prehistoric looking palms into Waterfall Valley. A cheeky little wallaby watches me enter his grazing patch with a keen eye. Did I imagine him sighing in resignation before hopping away? Just before he disappears he gives me a second glance which seems to say ‘bugger off, I was here first…pesky humans’.

grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again
grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again

Thankfully I am the only one (human) here so I have pick of the campsites. I shun the new hut, with the cosy gas heater and fancy drying room, preferring instead to pitch my tent next to an old hut tucked away amongst a mystical Mrytle forest almost out of sight .

 

When I wake the next morning I realise why the new hut is where it is. My tent, the old hut, and all nearby trees are covered in frost which has no hope of seeing sunlight until at least midday. Nothing else for it, still in my sleeping bag I fish around for my cooker and make a coffee (sounds simple right, wrong) then I snuggle back down to read.

The second time I wake I decide it’s time to go waterfall hunting. My last time here was with dad, he showed me all the good waterfalls so, once fed and dressed, I dig up fond memories of this trip and amble through a few enjoyable hours pushing through untracked bush and hunting for a great photo. As I explore my mind dawdles across all manner of topic, for example;

1. If Jette and I have kids will I be fortunate enough to show them this area?

2. How do Giraffes drink water, with their long necks and legs wouldn’t it just come back out their noses?

2. When will we end this ridiculous cycle of extremist Christians hating on all Muslims – Extremist Muslims retaliating with violence towards all Christians and extremist Christians feeling more justification to hate on all Muslims?

3. Did I lock mum’s car?

4. Will I have it in me to get up the next big Nepalese Mountain? (A common mind-dawdle of late)

5. Should I move on to Scott Kilvert hut?

6. Why do I always put two twos in my lists?

grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again grey Exploring Cradle Mountain National Park   again

Late in the arvo while making coffee in the old hut a amiable retiree named Paul bursts in. Well, in reality Paul just walks in normally but as I have not seen anyone for some it feels as though he has just stormed in twirling a baton with a marching band behind him. Paul is trying to reduce his girth to tackle the Appalachian trail in America next year. We have a very brief talk but I am really not in a chatty mood. Deciding to move on I pack my things and hit the trail to arrive at Scott Kilvert Hut just on dark. Having managed to all but avoid conversation for a full two days, I struggle to hide my disappointment when I find more chatty people just waiting to make new friends. They are a friendly couple who have already established themselves at the hut. I decline their kind offer to play cards and beat a hasty retreat to pitch my tent on the helipad. Reading and listening to familiar mountain noises soon sends me off to a deep sleep. (Yes, all my gear is ready to grab in case a chopper comes and tries to land on my head in the night!) Early the next morning I wake…but soon I am lulled by the still.

At 10:30am I rouse myself enough to spend a blissful day on my helipad reading, photographing and snoozing. Who says training for a big mountaineering expedition needs to be hard work?! The following video is my entire day compressed into 13 seconds.

 

Once darkness falls I crawl into my sleeping bag having not said a single word for 24 hours. To think that some people go to expensive Thai Buddhist retreats for the same privilege. At 1am a curious possum wakes me by rustling against my tent, I stick my head out to shoo him off then look up at the shadow of the mountain where a huge wave of cloud is rolling down at me in slow motion. 20 minutes later my tent is flapping like a single aunt at a Greek wedding and the rain is pouring down.

Seven sleepless hours later I get up.

The storm seems determined to grow. I pack up all my now wet gear, fold the tent, stuff it all into my trusty red rucksack and get out of there. It truly is a cold, wet, miserable walk…but I love it. Just before finishing I make two short videos showing the wild weather.

 

I am done and back in mum’s car which thankfully was locked, I’m warm and driving home, fully relaxed, recharged and ready to face a few new life challenges, not least of which is figuring out just how Giraffes drink*.

Regarding the wild weather, don’t worry, it has not put me off from my special bush time. I just see it as good training, kind of a preview of coming attractions, for the Nepal expedition.

 

*Regarding the Giraffes I did find out. Check out this link In my search I happened upon the answer to another question which most people are too afraid to ask here.

Paragliding at Bright

grey Paragliding at Bright

 

A short video diary of my recent weekend paragliding at Bright with my mate Juan and some very cool freaks!

 

grey Paragliding at Bright

Melbourne Formula 1

Melbourne Formula 1

A few weeks ago I was riding my motorbike to work, nothing out of the ordinary there. I had just cut between the lanes to the front of the lights when I heard an unbelievable humming sound. It sounded like an angry hornet and kept getting increasingly louder at an alarming rate. I looked around frantically and not without some concern as it sounded like I was about to be rear ended in a spectacular fashion by some kind of superbike on steroids. The sound kept on getting louder until it passed by to my left with a roar. When the sound dimmed, leaving my teeth chattering, I realised that I had just heard my first ever Formula One car in person.The little bogan* in me was dancing around, grinning, with a massive car-stiffie, that engine sounded otherworldly.

My commute goes right past Albert Park, the road around the lake is normally a sedate amble past a large duck filled pond, for a few week of the year it is turned into a Formula one track for the Melbourne Grand Prix. Scaffolding is put up for the stands and workers busily make the road smooth and set out tyre barriers. The transformation is quite spectacular….not as spekky as the race though.

Whilst at work that day I was chatting with a colleague Jan about these amazing vehicles and she mentioned that her apartment overlooks the lake and asked if I would like to come to her F1 Party…”hell yeah Jan!”

Fast forward to sunday of St Patricks day, I am walking to Jan’s place, past green adorned pubs spilling embarrassingly drunk patrons and following my ears towards the track. Jan’s building if right on the southern corner of Albert park overlooking the lake, from her 14th storey balcony you can see five corners (about 1/3 of the track). Arriving a little before the race I cracked a bourbon can and watched a concerned circle of ducks huddling in the middle of the lake as they tried to figure out what to do next. The F1 Cars did their warm up laps as we watched a brilliantly choreographed flight by the Air Force roulettes, then an F14, F16 16 or some kind of big, loud war planes buzzed over close by. The intimidating array of (empty) bomb holders under the wing along with the noise made my very glad that he was on our team. I missed the race start as I got into a heavy discussion with a friendly, purple haired lady about sustainable energy solutions for Australia (don’t ask).

To give you all an indication of how damn close we were to the action check this little Tv to track film I threw together:

 

As you can hear, even from that far away the sound of these impossible machines is ear splitting. The ducks had all fled leaving a few confused seagulls on the lake. From our vantage point we could see both the track and a highway, note how the F1 cars make the normal cars seemingly stand still.

 

About half an hour later I had seen enough, my little inner, dancing bogan had collapsed from exhaustion and I headed for home. Sadly towards the end all I could think about was how cool it would be to fly a motorised Paraglider over the whole show next year…gawd that would annoy a few people!

 

 

*Bogan – (Adapted from wikipedia) The term bogan is Australian and New Zealand slang, usually pejorative or self-deprecating, for an individual who is recognised to be from an unsophisticated background or someone whose limited education, speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplifies a lack of manners and education. They hold a deep love of motor sport, wheelies and tuck their cigarettes under their sleeve while drinking bourbon from a can and swearing profusely. 

Fun times paragliding Torquay

As a beginner pilot I need the perfect conditions to go paragliding torquay. If the wind is too strong I may not get down easily and conversely if the wind is too low I may not get up! I also need a low tide so I can ‘bomb out’ down to the beach. Consequently I get to spend a lot of time para-waiting, that is sitting around watching more experienced pilots having fun whilst keeping my fingers crossed for the perfect conditions. Example; yesterday the wind was okay for me to fly in but there was a very high tide and, being something of a conservative pilot, I do not like flying without a second landing option.

Anyway, in lieu of me flying here a a nice little video I smashed together of some good friends having fun in the sky…enjoy

An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island – Ari Van Eysden

grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysden

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grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysden

Imagine a spectacular rocky outcrop of an island almost entirely covered by snow and glaciers and surrounded by pebbled beaches littered with all kinds of seals and penguins, this is South Georgia Island

Now imagine a ship anchored silently in a calm bay nearby an abandoned whaling station. Some passengers are on deck busily capturing the awesome sight with their cameras while others are enjoying a relaxing yoga class on the observation deck.
Then the call comes over the PA system that the zodiacs are ready to take us ashore. We dress in our 3 layers of clothes (the outer layer always being a waterproof layer including the standard issue yellow parkas).
Once on shore we start by photographing the amazing wildlife but there are more things to see here, not the least of which is Shackleton’s track. If you haven’t heard or read about Ernest Shackleton’s miraculous journey of endurance and survival in this part of the world I highly recommend you do so. So off we trudge, weaving our way around penguins nesting and fur seals staring us down. The wind picks up to about 60 knots but grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysdenthat’s ok and we trudge on but grey clouds start rolling down over the mountains. The wind picks up even more and the sun disappears altogether taking with it our desire to retrace Shackleton’s steps, we turn around to head back to the beach. Walking becomes increasingly difficult. We often assume the brace position which we’d been taught earlier but on the odd occasion you are too slow to assume it you literally get blown off your feet, take off uncontrollably and go rolling along the ground much to the amusement of those nearby.
By now we are told the wind has reached a speed of 104 knots (about 196 kms per hour) and as we approach the beach it becomes very clear that we will not be returning to the ship. It is listing badly to one side and the zodiacs on the beach are either airborne or have already landed up side down in the water (5 of them!). Some of the expedition crew are valiantly trying to hold the one remaining zodiac down on the beach with their own weight. We are told to huddle on the beach until the wind dies down. It begins to snow – horizontally – and grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysdeneventually the ship disappears into grey mist. There are about 30 of us and half a dozen expedition staff, the rest (about 100 of them) have earlier made it safely back to the ship. After a while our huddle is moved along to take shelter between 2 very large steel beams abandoned with the old whaling station. We bunker down there but can’t move about much. The snow is beginning to settle on us and people are getting cold fingers and toes. After about an hour a decision is made to disregard the “Danger do not enter” signs around the ruins of the whaling station and we gingerly start to pick our way between rusty sheets of corrugated iron, around huge coils of very thick rope, over snow-filled potholes and past old bits of machinery to a shed with a roof. We now take the brace position on in huddles clinging to each other for support. Inside the shed it’s dark but, without the wind chill factor, a lot more bearable. For almost an hour we stand around trying to dance gangnam style or doing the hokey pokey just to get the blood circulating. Someone tells a weak joke but we all laugh anyway.
grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van EysdenSuddenly the wind drops. We get news that 3 zodiacs have successfully been dispatched from the ship and it’s safe for us to return to the beach. In twilight and snow we find our way back, having trouble discerning the seals from the rocks until we are almost within touching distance and the seals suddenly rear their heads. Eventually we find ourselves safely in the 3 zodiacs and under the guiding light of the ship’s search lights beaming brightly over the water we calmly bob our way back to the ship in total silence. Unbelievable!!
At 8.30 pm we are welcomed back on board with a hot cup of tea and much applause having spent 3 hours in very unusual conditions. The captain tells us that wind speeds exceeded 110 knots (that’s well over 200kms!) That night we sleep like babies and the next morning we line up again to catch a zodiac back to shore where a whole new adventure awaits…but that’s another story.

 

 

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