Friday, April 28, 2006

To Climb?

In two days time I will be at the iconic, monolithic and, from all accounts, fantastic piece of monstrous rock that is Uluru. I am a rock virgin, never having gazed upon it with my own eyes. Never having had the chance to be in awe, but that is all about to change and I can't wait.

But there is a question nagging me. I have been pondering long and hard about it. Do I climb the thing?

See the thing is, I really want to. The little red devil on the shoulder is crying out for me to climb up the mighty rock and gaze out over the centre of Australia from up on high. The little white angel on the other shoulder says, respect the wishes of the local aboriginals and fore go the climb for the walk around the base. The devil tells me to do both. Arg, I really am not sure what I should do.

So my plan is to see what my gut feels when I get there. If a genuine sense of guilt washes over me then I will stay grounded. If not I will follow my old man's footsteps from the sixties and make it to the top.

Either way, being at the rock will be a fantastic way to start my six months of travelling, right in the red heart of this great continent.

Look forward to some upcoming nomadic tales.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pre Crack Of Dawn Service

Two days ago it was ANZAC Day (yes I am a tad slow with the updates), and I decided that I would do something that I had never done and head off for the dawn service at the Cenotaph in Martins Place. (Now why is it that they call it the dawn service and in actual fact it is a long time before dawn? .. I actually know the answer to this .. so this is a rhetorical question).

We arrived at just before 5am and we could not get within 2 blocks of service. And at 5am they were well and truly already into the service and were at the last post and wrapping up with the anthems .. including a god save the Queen .. hmm. So it was a tad shame that we mostly missed it. But the atmosphere was still great. All those people, proud and patriotic about the sacrifice that our diggers have made. It was more a sense of pride for me than I ever felt on this years Australia Day.

Somehow by stealth I seem to have been caught up in the new tide of national feeling towards ANZAC day. I guess it all started for me when I headed off overseas and visited the battlefields of France in 2000 and then went to Gallipoli four years ago for the 25th of April. And now I have completed the Kokoda track and wandered around the war cemetery in Lae. On the horizon I am even contemplating hiking along the Thai-Burma railway later this year. Once I started visiting these battlefields I feel I should complete more of them. The funny thing is I don't know why I feel compelled to visit these places. It is obviously not because I just want to tick a box.

Anyway I took a few photos the other morning. I forgot to take a tripod so they are a tad blurry at the slow shutter speeds in the non-existent predawn light.

The masses of people

The Cenotaph

Beer at 6am .. oh there were plenty of people in this pub

More up on my Flickr page.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Another Bash

Barrington Tops NP

Back to the bush again on the weekend. This time for a 30 something k hike round my local national park, close to where I grew up . The usual activities .. an overnight camp, playing with camp fires, roaming along peopleless tracks, retrialling my ankle busting boots (not too bad this time) and getting the bush knife out for the first time since PNG .. great for chopping firewood and hacking insidious weeds. And the partner in crime .. my mate from the NZ trip.

It was all good preparation for my upcoming weeks where I plan to do a few hikes in various terrain - desert in the Northern Territory, a mountain in East Timor and probably a jungle nightmare back in PNG. We shall see. I certainly have now got back the taste for hiking. 2006 may be the year of the trek .. Eastern Europe, Turkey, possibly some Caucasus, still to come.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Traveller Turns Farmer

You drive the tractor. The fence poster needs to go on the back of it. The bloody thing is hard to get on. It is huge and ungainly. The thing precariously sits on the back. You drive off slowly and it topples about and looks like it is going to fall over. Then you are lining up the tractor over the spot for the post. Drilling the hole with the auger. Getting the posts. Using the chain-saw to sharpen up one end. Picking the post up and putting it the hole. Using the rammer on the fence poster to whack it into the ground. Whack, whack, whack. Lining up over the next spot. Repeating. Making sure the post is level at all times. More whacking. It is in as far as it needs to be. The pump electrics need fixing. It is shorting on the switch. Switch removed and pump is back in business. It sucks air. You check on the foot valve in the river. Make sure it is clean. Find a huge wombat hole. Could almost crawl in it. No torch handy. Walk through sways of sticky beaks and burrs. Getting them clinging all over your clothes. Pulling them off for the rest of the day. A walkabout sawmill is being hired. You wear goggles and ear muffs. Saw chips still sting your face when it hits. Various board sizes are pared off the log and loaded on the truck. The fine sawdust clings to your skin with your sweat. Six hours and six logs are ripped up into rectangular timber. The truck is moved and the boards are unloaded in stacks. Batons separate the boards to air them. You head back to collect the tractor for the next section of fence. It is only a few days on the farm but you are still enjoying it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wander, Perve, Dip .. All In A Days Work

Absolutely brilliant weather the last couple of days. Great anti-dote to Melbourne's cold. Yesterday in fact it was the hottest April day since 1983. A sultry 33 degrees. Bellisimo.

So what does one do when you don't have to work and have no other plans and the weather is perfectly summerish. Yep .. head to the beach.

So to Bondi I trotted. Foot, train and bus. Once there it was a case of wander around the promenade. Do some perving. Go jump in the surf. Jump back out. Jump back in and shake it all about. It was cold.

After the dip it was off to do something I had never actually done before. Walk the coastal path around to Tamarama and Bronte beaches. This was actually worthwhile. Recommend to anyone, although I hope you don't have to put up with walking behind a short, tubby, leathery tanned looking guy in g-string budgie smugglers. It aiiiin't a pretty look .. but like a car crash you feel compelled anyway.

Tamarama was a nice beach. First time visit. And I learned an interesting historical note. It had one of the country's first themeparks, which ran between 1887 and 1891. There was even a roller coaster that spanned the entire beach. Impressive.

Bronte was nice as well. A lot better than Bondi. Even though the latter is much more famous. The only pity, my bloody ticket didn't allow me to catch the bus back without coughing up more dough. Damn you State Transit Authority. Why can't you get your act together like Melbourne.



This monster was parked out the front of my residence today. A black Hummer with all the wanker trimmings.

What sort of dick would actually own one of these things? The ultimate tosser vehicle. For someone who just feels they need to give everyone and everything the big finger. I could feel the global warming just by looking at it.

Honestly, this beast will never see anything other than tarred and sealed roads .. of a big city .. let alone anywhere near where there may be roads of any other kind. So what is purpose of it?

Gawd it just drives me mad. Thankfully I will be able to put some perspective on such wankerness when I head off travelling soon. I bet there are none of these in East Timor.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Krispy Kreme, No Dream

Had my first Krispy Kreme donut today. No biggy. Rather ordinary actually. Not sure what the fuss about these things was. It was more like a chinese pork bun, with the pork removed, apple syrupy stuff inserted and cinnamon sprinkled on top. I should have just got the pork bun. In fact as soon as I finished the donut I was hankering for one .. but I was not walking all the way to Chinatown. It would have been cheaper than the bloody donut though. $2.50, what gives? Whatever happened to the 40c normal cinnamon variety .. with an actual hole in the middle. Oh they still exist don't they. Just at somewhere outside the insidious creep of KK.

The thing that really winds me up about Krispy Kreme is that they chose our little fair land as their first port of call outside of their North American stronghold. If it wasn't enough to create all those obese monsters in their homeland, they chose us as next destination for belt stretching. Forget Europe. Forget those wacky Japanese. They're all too skinny to be tricked by these fat laden wares. And it worked. A couple of years ago their first store in the country, their first store out of the US or Canada, opened. The location, Western Sydney, Penrith to be exact. It was the perfect target market. On opening night the cars were banked up out the drive through and out blocking the main road.

Anyway today I gave into temptation and tried the expensive Apple sprinkled Cinnamon puff explosion whatever. Mainly because the store was actually free of a queue when I walked past. (I absolutely loath queuing up for anything .. if it is not urgent and more than 5 people are in a line, I will just walk out of the store). Every other time a queue was always formed out the door. But I also needed to know in my own mind whether if I was just insane in being the only cynic about these guys. And to be able to say "yeah tried them and ... (fill in the blank)". Well now at least I can at least fill it with "there is no need to head back again".


And speaking of expensive, I finally got around to purchasing my one way flight out of PNG in the first stage of my travel plans. Rang up Air Niugini to get a price. Was stupidly thinking perhaps the price would be under $400 for the hour long flight from Port Moresby to Cairns. Instead after I told them all my details and casually asked what the price would be at the end (lots of finger tapping on keyboard was heard), "oh that will be $758 including taxes". WTF?. If I was eating cornflakes I would have choked. So I said .. "um oh ok, hold that booking, I am going to check your new competition, Airlines PNG. I know at least that they had cheap fares at the end of last year" thinking maybe Air Niugini was still matching them, but no budging there. So I hung up and rang the new guys in town. Thank Christ they started a service between POM and CNS at the end of last year and at a good and realistic price. A while later I had confirmed a booking with them for over $400 cheaper.

While on the phone to Air Niugini I was bemused to hear their lovely "hold music" spiel about how you should enjoy their hospitality on flights to and from Singapore, Manilla or Japan. What the? Are they actually serious? How many people would fly Sydney to Singapore via farking Port Moresby??? And not just because of their bloated and ridiculously priced fares, you would have to actually contend with getting there on the day you wanted to as well. To put their prices in comparison I flew return to New Zealand for well over a hundred dollars cheaper for a flight twice as long as their stupid one way they quoted me.

Air Niugini I hope more competition comes along and blows you out of the water. For the sake of PNG tourism at least .. you ain't helping it that is for sure. With its international image and high cost to get there, no wonder the only reason PNG tourism's figures are being propped up to around the 30 or 40,000 a year is because of the Kokoda Track and dumb returning volunteers.

Monday, April 10, 2006

John Laws Nearly Ran Me Over

Back in big bad Sydney. Sunday night. Decide to do my usual dine out at Harry's Cafe de Wheels. Wander off down there. Do the correct thing and wait for the little green man at the traffic lights. Get the signal. Start crossing the road. Get a big Bentley streaming down towards me. It stops just in time. ABS working for it. Get a bit of shock. Look alarmingly at the "357" number plate. Then through the front windscreen. Start thinking wanker with too much money. Get a good view of driver and passenger lit by the street lights. Recognise the passenger to be Golden Tonsillitis himself, John Laws. Confirm the wanker with too much money thought. Golden Jaundice looks rather sheepishly towards his driver. Some young bloke in a white t-shirt. Bodyguard, son, plaything, who knows. Notice some other people in the back seat. It all takes a second. Filthy look maintained and delivered throughout it. I cruise on to the other side. Grab that pie I was after.

I guess it could have been worse. Some nobody with no money could have nearly hit me or done the full job. Or it could have been Allan Jones. But if you are going to be hit make sure it is a Bentley. Which reminds me of that Simpsons episode.

It did reconfirm for me my contempt for everything Lawsie. If there is ever a statue made of him. I might just have to do something similar as the below to it.

Queen Vic Respect

Captured yesterday in Macquarie Street.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Chloe Phar Lap

Local icons. Both impressive specimens. Bigger than you would expect. Great to finally get around to seeing first hand and in the flesh.

Yes I have been having a perve at some of Melbourne's more famous icons. Chloe at the Young and Jacksons and good old Phar Lap himself. Next one to tick is Ned Kelly's armour. That's tomorrow though. Firstly I need to clean up. Have a shave. Get my best threads on. And head off to a wedding.

Pity about the weather. The wedding is in Flagstaff Gardens. It's very gloomy at the moment. It is true what they say. Melbourne has shite weather. I have never been here with good prolonged weather yet. Is this enough to rethink thoughts of moving here. Hah, what am I saying, I lived in London for 18 months. Can't top that.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Place To Be?

Flew down to the Mexican capital on the weekend. Staying at a mate's place. Got the whole week to fill in. Bumming around. Catching up with friends. Visiting pubs and sites. It is the tough life of an unemployed person with time to kill. Someone has to do it .. may as well be me.

There is a reason to the sojourn. The wedding of my volunteer loving mates from Lae. It has been planned for a while and so has this trip .. but that is not until Friday, so I have some time to be tourist boy.

So far I have ventured into the Docklands, taken a squizz at the National Gallery of Victoria, wandered through the Shrine of Remembrance, visited the shopping streets, ridden the trams and trains, checked out the new looking Spencer Street Station (now called Southern Cross Station), bypassed Federation Square and gandered at an exhibition at the Australian Centre for Moving Images. All in a tourist's days work with more to follow.

I like Melbourne, nice town. Thinking about living here one day .. for a while at least. Then again I wouldn't mind living one day in a host of other places. But I figure Melbourne is up near the top of the list. I need a reference at least on Sydney. Sydney is great, but from what I have heard so is Melbourne. It would be good to be able to compare and not just hear in either city, one eyed locals bleat that theirs is better.

And cheers to my mate Dippa, for putting me up. Nice digs, he's close to the city centre, on a tram line straight to Elizabeth street, has a huge plasma TV and a free 512k internet connection (he works for an ISP).

Back Alley Steps of Remembrance

Southern Cross Station Cow Up A Tree

Ode to Nuw Zulund

A little poem written by my travel mate. I think it is great and good enough to share, but it does all mean something to me.
We started out just the two of us
To see the Routeburn, Milford and Kepler
This is the story of the characters we met
And tribute to the Nuw Zulund Nation

To start off was the Kinloch guy
A happy chappy love was he
In what was no less than robbery
Charged us boat, bus, board, spa, breakfast and tea

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Then fond memories of our frind at Routeburn Flets
In less than threw us out in the rain
And the 2 campers we subsequently met
Cuddling up to them was such a shame

The Lack McKenzie ranger was a bit of a torment
Threw us out after a heavenly half hour
And trudging through water back out to the tent
Spittin chups at the nixt icy shower

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Then to Milford Lodge with such a reputation
To the 2 tenters it was a total delight
The hearty meal was reason for jubilation
But the loss of both gloves was really not right!!!

I could fill a book about the bus drivers-but need
To mention that very special Atomic shuttle gent
For his physique, skill, interlect and speed
The 90 k trip took 4 hours…our patience was spent!!!

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The Kepler was started in fine rainy fashion
In reverse to surprise our Washington frind
In downunder style- with our Mediteranean rations
With that forecast thought we may well meet our inds

After 2 rainy days walking along the flats
We found Iris Burn falls on the third attempt
After a few sleep depriving experiences
Couldn’t but wonder if should’ve brought the tent

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To my utter delight-we shed the brocolli
Up the steep mountains pounds were shid
Despite some pain our spirits were high
In the sun, wind and snow our knees were rid

And at the ind of a great day in the comfort of Luxmore
While writing the poem and having a rist
Amongst the riff raff and nursing the sores
Can not help but think this week’s bin the bist

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