The Calendar boy
“YOU LOOK TOO SERIOUS B, IT’S A PISS-TAKE REMEMBER”
Mel yells over the running water as I stand ankle-deep in a flooded creek wearing only my mountaineering pants. It is dusk and my sister Melanie is chuckling gleefully whilst wielding a camera.
“I AM BLOODY CONCENTRATING ON NOT FALLING OVER” I yell at my grinning sister, continuing with a muttered, “….and sucking my gut in” My words are lost to the babbling creek. I am unsure who is more disturbed right now, myself or Melanie, a great amateur photographer who generously offered to do my ‘shoot’.
Before we manage a good shot the light fails and we decide to wind up the shoot. Mel speaks to my back as I frantically throw on warm clothes “Maybe we can get a good one tomorrow at Cradle Mountain?”
“Yeah maybe, but bloody hell it is cold!” I reply while frantically rubbing my numb toes.
Why am I dancing about half naked in front of my sister you may well ask. Some weird Tasmanian ritual maybe? A lost dare perhaps?
No, not a drunken dare or pagan rite, I am trying to get a nice photo for a calendar in which I am Mr January.
“WAIT WHAT? You…you with the joined up eyebrows and shaggy hair, YOU in a calendar, but you don’t even come close to having a six pack…” I hear you scream. Calm down people, it is all for a good cause. Some months prior, my mate Chris Walker-Bush from Aussie on the Road had the great idea to compile a ‘Travel bloggers charity calendar’. Like a polite cough setting off an avalanche the idea quickly gained momentum (read the full genesis here). Without even considering the consequences, for example my naked ass haunting some hapless housewives fridge, I threw my name into the mix and was promptly given a spot. The brief was loose; ‘Risque, fun, no frontal nudity below the waist, relevant to your blog’
The day after our abortive photo shoot in the creek my sister, brother-in-law and I drive to Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania. ‘Cradle’ as it is affectionately known is my favourite place in the world, it is part of Tasmania’s pristine World Heritage Area and one of Australia’s oldest national parks. I cannot overstate the importance of this area to me, it is my church. Whenever I return from abroad, after re-introducing myself to parents and friends I pack my bag and scuttle off for a few days of silent, solitary mass here. This area is so important to me that soon, very soon my fiancée and I are going to climb the hill in the photo to the left and get married, anyway enough of this tree hugging, back to my modelling efforts…
We arrive early the next morning to find the mountain itself is covered in snow, the path is slippery with ice and our car thermometer shows a brisk 2 degrees celsius. I mentally prepare myself to jump into the frigid melt water. Beating the crowds we race to the boat shed to find perfect photography conditions. Dove lake is a mirror.
I strip and wade into the water. It is hard to put into words just how bitterly cold the water is. Immediately my lower legs go numb, I constantly stub my toes on hidden rocks and struggle to maintain balance.
“Ok, get in properly and do a sexy shampoo ad Ben,” big sister’s joking mood is infectious.
“You’re enjoying this a little bit too much sis…” I laugh through chattering teeth. Continuing (and not without a touch of whinge to my voice) “Okay guys I am only doing this once so take heaps of photos. Lots of photos, I bloody mean it!”
Dipping my head into the lake I fling my hair back, icicles of cold water sting my once warm back. I am starting to get dizzy and tired with the cold, my toes no longer belong to me.
“Again, I missed it sorry, haha!” Mel laughs as a crowd of curious daywalkers gather on shore.
“Oh, c’mon…” I almost plead, feeling the need to be inside my sleeping bag (which we put on shore in case of a hypothermic crisis).
“Ooh, no I have an idea, come here and lie down in the shallow bit” Mel continues inspired no doubt by my obvious suffering.
I am now just looking at Mel with big pleading puppy dog eyes, “Get the shot Mel, I am frikking cold” mumbling now “fo’ fucks sake…”
“Yeah, lie there and stay still for the ripples to go, we’ll get the reflections” Mel ignores my suffering determined to get the perfect calendar shot, I play along.
I lie down in the shallows and force my shaking body to still, the water feels like razor blades all over my trembling body. (note if you will the snow on the mountain, where do you think that melts to?)
“Stay still, a little longer….” Snapping away furiously Mel’s eye is glued to her camera lens.
“Fuc-ffaaar out Mel!” I growl through gritted teeth.
“Got it, this is your shot…now one more shampoo ad just to be sure…gotta get it right” Mel says with a determined look.
Ignoring her I wade towards my sleeping bag, by now there is a hefty crowd watching. They are all clad in beanies and warm gloves. I see a man self-consciously remove a heavy down jacket as he watches. I manage to stumble out of the water just as I begin to slur my words and feel warm, not a good sign. It was definitely time for me to get out before ‘funny cold’ became ‘serious cold’.
Under close scrutiny I manage to dress without revealing any secrets…in truth the cold water made hiding my secrets pretty easy.
A brisk walk around the lake returns feeling to my extremities but I am sure it will be days before I am reunited with my testicles. Back in the car we go through the photos and am impressed with what we have got. Beautiful scenery reflected on a dark mysterious lake is ruined by a near nude interloper.
As I warm I think it was all worth it, we had better choose a well deserving charity for this one.
POST NOTE: We let the public vote through our website on which charity was to receive the proceeds. Everything we make apart from shipping costs will benefit Mitrata Home which is an orphanage in Nepal (Mitrata means friendship in Nepalese) and VSO Bahaginan, a volunteer organisation which fights poverty in developing countries.
MASSIVE thanks to the awesome team at Uprinting who are very generously providing free printing for this project, if it is flat these guys can print on it and at a good price…check them out and tell them I sent you!
For more information on the travel blogging calendar and to check out the very cool people involved go to this link:
Or you can check out our Facebook page here: Travel Blogging Calendar on Facebook
Big thanks goes to my wonderful sister Mel and brother-in-law Win for helping me to get that one decent shot.