Thumb prints in the Australian desert

Anne Beadle High, South Australia

 

This is actually a close up of the bark on a tree!

 

Photo:  Janet-Planet in the Australian Bush

Janet-Planet

Beer – Magical and Medicinal

Outback AustraliaLike a couple of old Holden cars in the Australian Outback, I was feeling just a little rusty and worse-for-wear this morning as I headed out on a 10-kilometre pack walk with the mandatory 20-kilograms strapped to my back.

In the pre-dawn darkness the kookaburra’s were just stirring in the Harbour City, laughing as I trudged on up the hill…

As part of my training to prepare for two climbing expeditions to Nepal in both the pre and post monsoon periods in 2015 I pack-walk between 10-20 kilometres with a 20-kilogram backpack every other day, and do sprint running on the other days.

Unfortunately, a recurring injury I have suffered over the past 12 months or so has been a tight calf-muscle in my left leg. Well to be more specific, and for the medically inclined, it is the peroneus muscle group.

Over the weekend “The Kiwi” was in town so there was plenty of training on Saturday in the mountains and given the extreme heat a few beers were consumed at the day’s end!

Water would have been better wouldn’t have cut it…

Of course, many will know “The Kiwi” as my partner in endurance events both in Australia and his homeland of New Zealand, and he is the bloke who has dreamed up a 250-kilometre run, come walk, from Newcastle to Sydney in March next year – apparently in 60-hours!

Oddly, 250-kilometres seems to figure often in the things he dreams up, last time that number came up it was a 250-kilometre cycle, run, and kayak from the west to the east coast of New Zealand’s south island.

Yes, these plans have usually been hatched over a few beers, and you’d think I would have learnt by now that one always needs to be cautious of Kiwis’ bearing gifts of free beers…

Crikey, I wouldn’t have it any other way though!

But on beers, the pain in my left calf muscle was absent on my pack walk at silly o’clock this morning, confirming, I’m sure, that beer is full of magical medicinal properties – truly, nectar of the Gods’.

Well that is the story I’m sticking with anyway, let’s face it – when you’re on a good thing!

 Photo:  Baz – The Landy (on Trilby Station in Outback Australia)

Beware of Trojan Horses (“The Kiwi” strikes again)

Heatons Gap, AustraliaI have a couple of things to say about this photo.

Firstly, it is Heatons Gap in the Watagan Mountains to the north of Sydney. It starts off steep and then it really gets steep. This photograph of me was taken on a training run with a backpack loaded with a 20-kilo sand bag.

Yeah I know it seemed like a good idea down in the car park, hindsight is a marvellous thing…

Secondly, if you are wondering what I’m saying, I’ll give you the sanitized version – if I ever catch up to “The Kiwi” he’ll be plucked…

“The Kiwi” is my brother-in-law.

The Kiwi - I often wondered how he arrived "Across the Ditch"
The Kiwi – I’ve often wondered how he arrived “Across the Ditch”
Baz - Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand
Baz – Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand

Yeah that’s right, the bloke that had me signed up for a run, cycle, and kayak, from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast in less than 24 hours, a couple of years back…

Now I will admit there was beer involved in the lead-up to being “pressed ganged” by “The Kiwi” to the start line on that occasion. Come to think about it my skydiving career had its genesis in the bottom of a beer glass in the early 1980s during a session with Bluey and the boys at the Breakfast Creek hotel in Brisbane.

Skydiving at Picton, Australia
Skydiving at Picton, Australia

Yes, I heard you saying there’s a bit of a pattern developing here…

But hey, in my defence, I was young and stupid back then.

At least I can say that I have moved forward over the years, now I’m only stupid!

I didn’t know “The Kiwi” back then, he was too busy jumping off cliffs with a parachute on his back, paragliding around New Zealand’s north island.

Anyway, “The Kiwi” calls me up a little while back…

“Baz, I’m turning 50-years young on 13 September and I thought we could have a few beers”.

Now you’ve got to be very cautious of Kiwi’s offering to buy you a beer, especially if you’re an Aussie. It’s a long story, but there was an under-arm bowling incident in a cricket game way back in 1981 from which they cannot move on. So if they are being nice, there is bound to be a catch, if you’ll pardon the pun…

“What is the catch”, I asked…

“None”, he said, “but I thought we might walk to the pub”.

“That’s sounds sensible”

Alarm bells were ringing inside my head, after all this is months away, but his shout, so why not?

“Walk” I said,

“We’ll, walk and run, after all the quicker we get there the more time we get before the girls come looking for us”.

Um, that would be Leah and Janet.

Leah and Janet (You boy's don't know how lucky you are!)
Leah and Janet (You boy’s don’t know how lucky you are!)

Strewth, I’m thinking “The Kiwi” is actually talking sense for a change!

“Yep, sign me up” I said without further delay…

Well sign me up he did…

Today our entries for the Great North Walk 100, a 100-kilometre run through the Australian bush on September 13, up and down a mountain range that will take us around 18-20 hours to complete, was accepted.

Fortunately we are no strangers to the area and we’ll be doing a training run up Heatons Gap this weekend, the first of many…

Strewth, I’m starting to feel thirsty just thinking about it…

Wish us luck; we’ll need it that’s for sure!

Anyway, the moral of the story (if there needs to be one) is if you are going to drink beer with a Kiwi, The Kiwi, then accept all may not be what it seems – so just gulp it down and enjoy the experience!

 Footnote (for the uninitiated):

“Kiwi” is the name given to a small flightless bird that is native to New Zealand, and New Zealander’s are usually referred to as Kiwi’s…

And where is New Zealand I hear you ask?

Well, it is not too far across “The Ditch” – The Tasman Sea; just think of it as an outpost of Sydney’s Bondi Beach! 😉

Success Isn’t Permanent (And Failure Isn’t fatal)

Not a bad thought to keep in mind, and it is one of the things I like to remind myself of each day as I chase my dreams…

 

The Shed (The Sweat Room)

The Shed - The font of all worldy knowledge
The Shed – The Sweat Room

The training shed up in the backyard was in full action this morning with a 10,000-metre row to the sounds of Deep Purple at silly o’clock…

 As much as I enjoy strength and weight training, I can’t expect to be a 100-kilogram gorilla and climb mountains, but the weight training has kept me going over these past few months…

Baz - A daily dose of weight bearing exercise
Baz – A daily dose of weight bearing exercise

 Hey, keep your fingers crossed that my Achilles tendon that I had surgically repaired earlier this year holds up!

And it seems to be as I start ramping up the cardio exercise and I must say it makes a pleasant change to the weight training.

As part of training for the mountains I am working towards a 100 kilometre-running race (I use the term running sparingly) through the mountains that I regularly hike and that takes place in September 2014.

Baz - heading up "The Hill"
Baz – heading up “The Hill”

And I’ll need every bit of that time to prepare, and the last mountain running I did was in one of the world’s toughest endurance races, the Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race in New Zealand in 2012.

And yes, that Kiwi brother-in-law of mine is hot on my heels pushing me, again!

Tongio "the Kiwi" and baz
Tongio “the Kiwi” and Baz

I’m also planning to cycle the iconic Birdsville Track in outback Australia in April 2014.  It is roughly 500 kilometres in length and the aim is to ride as much as I can on my Canondale 29-er Mountain Bike.

Dream big I say, and of course, live to the motto that  “those that don’t think it can be done shouldn’t bother the person doing it.”

Grey's Peak New Zealand
Baz on top of Grey’s Peak, New Zealand

 Cheers, Baz – The Landy

Strewth – Talk about an Aussie Icon (The shed, not me!)

The Shed - Font of all knowledge (and my daily training ground)
The Shed – Font of all knowledge (and my daily training ground)

You’ve got to love the Aussie Shed, wouldn’t be caught dead without mine…

It is full of exercise equipment; no Janet, I said exercise equipment, they aren’t medieval implements designed to inflict pain, although, come to think of it…

Baz - A daily dose of weight bearing exercise
Baz – A daily dose of weight bearing exercise

Anyway, I’m pleased to say I’m back into full swing up in The Shed, making that 4.30am journey up the garden path, passing the dogs, MilO and Jack, who wave me through with complete indifference.

MilO - The Wonder Dog
MilO – The Wonder Dog

And yes, I hard you whispering, “crikey he needs it!”

I must confess to being an early morning person, I guess you’d have to be to manage a 4.30am start each day, but it does have its advantages.

Baz - Concept C2 Rower
Baz – Concept C2 Rower

In between the clanging of weight plates being moved, interval sets on the rower or spin bike, I can stand outside in the pre-dawn silence and marvel at the stars in the sky…

Our wondrous universe…

How bloody good is that, hey!

Yep, I’m a daydreamer, that’s for sure…and by the look of it, TomO has caught the day-dreaming bug!

TomO - A day-dreamer
TomO – A day-dreamer

Hey, it’s good to be back at it!

And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops… 😉

Photos: Janet-Planet…

Reacquainted with an old mate (The shed!)

Baz - What a view
Baz – What a view

After seven weeks of rest, recuperation, rehabilitation, and a bit of hibernation I found it very liberating to be back up in the shed this week doing what I love, something that is part of my everyday existence, my every day ritual – exercise.

 A little over a week ago I gave the rehabilitation boot, the boot, literally, after getting the all okay from the doctor, and strewth, how good was that!

Recovery

 Geez, you never want to take mobility for granted, it’s a bugger when you lose it!

For those that are new, having a seniors moment, or maybe just missed it, I had an Achilles operation on my left foot, and a spur clearance on my right ankle about seven weeks ago…

Yes, to legs out of action at the same time, lucky for me though I had Janet and TomO taking good care of me!

After climbing in New Zealand during January it became very obvious to me that if I am to continue pursuing my dream of scaling some of the world’s highest mountains, heaven forbid, maybe even Mount Everest, than something had to be done to fix these problems that had been progressively getting worse.

Baz - Climbing in New Zealand
Baz – Climbing in New Zealand

The rehabilitation phase is well under way I am being extremely well cared for by my wonderful physiotherapist, Paula, from the Joint Health Clinic in downtown Sydney.

 And can I just say this, crikey, how good is it to be back up in the shed.

The Shed
The Shed

A bit of The Angels, one of my favourite Aussie rock bands, belting out of those little Bose speakers to get me motivated, the sound of free weights moving and some time on my new spin bike.

Even the neighbours are happy to hear that music signifying that I am slowly, but surely, returning to normal.  Yeah, okay, maybe they could do with a little less of The Angels.

 And on climbing?

Well it is far too early to return to the mountains, in fact I wouldn’t be able to squeeze on my rock climbing shoes, that is a hard task even under normal circumstances, but the swelling would make it an impossible task presently.

Baz - just stretch yourself
Baz – just stretch yourself

 And what about those big mountains?

Well, if I were to be brutally honest with myself, I would most likely come to the conclusion that my trip to Nepal this year is slowly slipping away from me.  Whilst the recovery is right on track, it was always going to be a very marginal thing as to whether I recover in time or not.

 But in the true style of an eternal and ever optimistic Sagittarian I’m not discounting it yet.

But here is the deal, climbing mountains isn’t a bucket list thing for me that I can just tick off, but something I want to live, enjoy, relish in, and return from.  So being in peak condition is key to my safety and that of those around me.

 The mountains will always be there.

But there is plenty of adventure in my sights regardless, including this year’s Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race, 111-gruelling kilometres down the Hawkesbury River, and if I don’t get to Nepal, I’m confident of lining up in next year’s Coast-to-Coast Race, a cycle, run, and kayak race that takes you 243-kilometres across New Zealand’s South Island…

Baz - Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz – Terrigal Beach, Australia

Strewth, far too much fun ahead, you just wouldn’t want to be dead for quid’s…

 And hey, good to see you again…!

Photo’s: Baz – The Landy

Keeping up with the Jones’s (Fair Dinkum – What was I thinking)

Well what I should say is keeping up with the Tong’s in my case. That would be brother-in-law and partner in all things adventure and exercise.

 Recently, Ray purchased a weight-vest to wear whilst exercising, and he has been using it almost exclusively with his sprint running training.

And he has made some substantial improvement in his mid-distance times.

Okay, he is a Kiwi so there is a certain amount of Trans-Tasman rivalry that goes on between us, unsaid of course, but it is all good, after all we egged each other on enough to line up for the 243 kilometre Speight’s Coast-to-Coast race across New Zealand 12 months ago, and the gauntlet has once again been tossed down for us to line up for the 2014 event.

Ray crosses the line after racing 243 kilometres across New Zealand (Baz is coming!)
Ray crosses the line after racing 243 kilometres across New Zealand (Baz is following!)

As a matter of interest The Speight’s Coast to Coast now features in the Worlds Toughest Endurance Challenges which has just been published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Baz - Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand
Baz – Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand

But on this rivalry, a casual mention of seeing how far we could walk with a back pack had us traversing 240 kilometres through the Australian bush from my home in Sydney to his in Newcastle to the north, not to mention some of the other walks we have done and Tough Mudder events…

Baz & Ray - Tough Mudder, Sydney, Australia
Baz & Ray – Tough Mudder, Sydney, Australia

So when I heard he was making all these gains with a power-vest I did the only thing one could do. I bought my own.

 Strewth, all I can say is, what was I thinking.

Twenty kilograms weighted on your body doesn’t sound like much, and after all we frequently carry that and more on our outings in the bush, but strapped to your body during an exercise session is another thing altogether.

Ray - Great North Walk, Australia
Ray – Great North Walk, Australia

 My body is aching tonight!

That’s what you get for trying to keep up with the Tong’s, I guess.

And on the vest, I purchased one from Iron Edge, a Melbourne based company who specialise in weight and cross-fit training equipment…

If you get a chance, check out the video, it gives you some idea how the weight-vest can be used.

Well, if you want to keep up with “us boys” best you go and buy one and add it to your exercise workouts…

 And hey, good luck out there!

I signed up to do what? (Mates – Out and About)

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

It is been just over one month since I returned from my mountaineering training in New Zealand and I haven’t so much as touched a rope or any of my climbing gear.

 Mind you I need little encouragement to get “Out and About” in the mountains and with only eight months to go before I head to Nepal I need to be training as much as I can.

Unfortunately, my Achilles tendon remains sore although treatment is progressing. I’m working on the basis that rest is best, but it does test the patience!

I just need to get an adventure under my belt!

This past weekend we had a visit from Janet’s sister Leah, partner, Ray and their beautiful son, Aubrey. We always look forward to the time we spend together and usually it involves signing up for an adventure or two with Ray.

Ray, Leah and Aubrey
Ray, Leah and Aubrey

And we always have a good laugh as we dream up another adventure…

 But strewth, I’ve just been doing a list of the things I’ve agreed to participate in and it starts with a trip on the mountain bike this coming weekend. It will take us along a road built by convicts in the early days of European settlement in Australia.

 It is quite a pretty place, but there are plenty of hills and it won’t be any walk in the park. 

Although, Ray reckons he’s letting me off lightly because of my foot injury. I’ll be on the bike, he’ll be running the 50 kilometres (phew – I won’t complain too much about the Achillies any more!)

And hot on the heels of that we’ll be lining up for the next Tough Mudder Event in Sydney early April.  We completed it in September last year, twenty kilometres of running, tackling obstacles, and of course tons of mud, getting zapped by electric charges, running through fire – all good fun, seemingly!

Baz and Ray "survive" Tough Mudder
Baz and Ray “survive” Tough Mudder

Next, while we were out paddling on the lake early on Sunday morning Ray casually mentioned that I’d better be fit for the Coast-to-Coast Adventure Race across New Zealand’s South Island as he is putting our entries in shortly.

Ray - Beachcomber Kayak
Ray – Beachcomber Kayak
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia

I don’t remember signing up for it, but it looks like I’m going next February. Actually, I’m looking forward to training for it; after all I need to be super fit for the Nepal expedition in November so I say, bring it on…

I made him do a 1-kilometre sprint in his kayak after that pronouncement!

 Whoops, note to self – tell the boss I need more time off!  Better still, with a bit of luck he’ll read this and come and pat me on the back and say, Baz, do you want a week off in February…

Baz crossing Goat's Pass - Coast to Coast Race New Zealand
Baz crossing Goat’s Pass – Coast to Coast Race New Zealand

But not to be outdone I raised the ante with all the finesse of a Mississippi River boat gambler and tossed in that we’ll need to do the 111-kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race in October as preparation for the Coast-to-Coast race. After all the Coast-to-Coast has a 70-kilometre paddle down the fast flowing Waimak River.

Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge - 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race
Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge – 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race

You’d think he would have folded by now, but strewth, he’s still got those cards close to his chest, so I’m wondering what is going to get thrown into the pot next…

One thing is for sure; he’ll come up with something as there is plenty of free time on that calendar still, in between rock climbing in the Blue Mountains, of course.

But hey, you’ve got to love this stuff and doing it with mates is what it is all about!

Just go easy on me Ray…!

And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops…

Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Mates…Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Ps: Oddly enough no alcohol was consumed in the planning of these adventures…

This is Incredible (Super-Hero’s, right?)

The Incredibles - You be the Judge!
The Incredibles – You be the Judge!

Now don’t you good folk go worrying that this Mr Incredible thingy that a wonderful person, Christina, wrote about me is going to my head.  You know, Bob Parr, family man, super-hero  from the ‘burbs.

Crikey, this is incredible, you’ve forgotten haven’t you.  My moment in the spot light and its slipped from your memory already…and it hasn’t even been 24 hours.

Your teachers were incredibly perceptive when they said , very bright, but needs to pay more attention to detail…

You can bring yourself back up to speed on it here.

Anyway, where was I, yes, don’t worry, there’s no chance of it going to my head, I’m far too incredibly modest to allow anything like that to happen.

And whilst I’ve got your attention for a moment or two, you’d have to admit that I am incredibly handsome. I just thought I’d put that out there, glad I got that out in the open for you, not that I’ve ever thought that myself mind you, never, no way, well not this week at least, not until this story appeared anyway.

In fact, so incredibly handsome that I can spend at least 10 minutes in front of the mirror admiring grooming myself each day.

Don’t just take my word for it, ask an incredibly impartial person, like Fay, my mother.

And someone did recently suggest that I looked like Harrison Ford.

Incredible…

True, you’re right, it was my brother-in-law mumbling something about Indiana Jones and we’re both doomed when the girls find all these empty beer bottles in the morning…

Of course, I am incredibly strong, what do you think I’m doing up in The Shed at silly o’clock each day with my cape and face mask…

The Shed - Or Super Hero hideout?
The Shed – Or Super Hero hideout?

Isn’t that what super-hero’s do?

And my boss, god bless his soul, did say that he’s glad I’m an incredibly talented mountaineer he’d believe anything I told him, to which he added that it is a blessing in disguise because I’m incredibly hopeless at trading currencies, but as he still needs someone around to send for coffee each day I should consider myself incredibly lucky!

That’s what I like about him, he’s incredibly generous when it comes to accolades about me…

And while I’m mucking around with this newfound fame word it would be entirely wrong not to mention that I have an incredible family, Janet and TomO.

Strewth, didn’t I luck out there, hey?

Yes, I heard you, incredible you said, didn’t you!

TomO, truly an incredible miracle for both of us, in fact so much so it often brings a tear to our eye…

TomO - An Incredible in full flight
TomO – An Incredible in full flight

And, let me tell you, he’s an incredible trampolinist, an urban tramp!

Oh yes, he’s an incredible son, incredibly likeable, okay, yes, he is incredibly cute and the Cheltenham girls are already checking him out on the train on the way to school each day, but who is this story about anyway…so let’s move on!

And speaking of Janet, she is incredibly beautiful with an incredible tolerance, spirit and adventurous personality.

Janet - An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia
Janet – An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia

Mind you, as I write this she has this incredible look on her face that is saying Mr Bob Parr you’re going to come to an incredible and sticky ending if you don’t take the rubbish out before the garbage man comes this week…it’s a short story, incredibly, I forgot last week.

Strewth, that’s right she’s an Incredible as well, best I don’t push my luck, so I’ll get on with that little job right now.

But let me say this, if I ever get to the top of some of those incredibly high mountains I want to climb it will be an Incredible super-human feat, well for me, in any case!

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

So to all, thanks for your continuing interest and ongoing support in the adventures that we get up to…and be sure to hang around for a while, I’ll be needing all the support I can muster to get me up those mountains…

And remember, there are no ordinary moments; no ordinary people; no ordinary lives!

Umm, Bob Parr, super-hero, hey…

Incredible!

You’re suffering from what? (Retrocalcaneal Bursitis)

Baz - Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand
Baz – Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand

For those of us who run, walk, jog, exercise on a regular basis the term achillies tendonitis is probably equally as familiar as the dog that always chases you half-way through your usual running route.

I suspect the achillies is blamed for most of the pain occurring in that region, but it can also be from other sources.

Over a period of time I have been suffering from Retrocalcaneal Bursitis.

Retro what, I hear you ask.

And just to be clear and to avoid any confusion, the condition and associated pain is in my heel, well below, um, my rear-end.

So what is this ailment, what causes it, and more importantly, what makes it go away?

My sports physician and I have been working on the last part of that answer for some time now.  Bursitis is an inflammation of a little fluid sac found around most of the major joints in our body and it is designed to provide lubrication against friction where muscle and tendons are sliding over bones.

Retrocalcaneal Bursa(photo A.D.A.M Inc)
Retrocalcaneal Bursa
(photo credit  A.D.A.M Inc)

Retrocalcaneal bursitis is the area specifically located around the ankle and heel area of the foot.

Causes for the condition can be varied, but for the most part it is an overuse type of injury that can be induced by walking, running, jogging, and can be accentuated by walking uphill.

For me, that is a tick on all counts. Jogging, tick, running, tick…

Women People wearing high heel shoes can often suffer from the condition.

Last year when I was training for the Coast to Coast Adventure race, a race from the West to East coast of New Zealand ,the condition came and went and was usually treated with plenty of stretching and some anti-inflammatory medication.  However, the condition has worsened over the past few months, corresponding to an increase in my mountaineering endeavours, which involves plenty of uphill walking on steep inclines.

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy

A recent x-ray confirmed that a small bone spur is triggering my condition.

Preparing blood for PRP Treatment
Preparing blood for PRP Treatment

And now that we know precisely what we are dealing with remedial treatment has commenced.  My sports physician has elected to use Platelet Rich Plasma injections, or PRP as it is referred to as.  This is a relatively new technology that involves taking a sample of your own blood, in the same way you would normally do so if having a blood test, and this is placed in a centrifuge to extract the plasma which is then injected into the injured area.

The science behind the treatment is that the platelets contain growth factors which stimulate an inflammatory and healing process.

Okay, I’m sure it is far more technical than that, but crikey, the last time I played doctors and nurses it was with the Kelly girls when I was 10 years old, and it was nothing as complex as PRP treatments.

But I’m digressing…

I had one PRP treatment about two weeks ago, along with a cortisone injection and I will be having a follow up injection in a week’s time to assist the healing process.

And whilst the treatment does not correct the bone spur at this time, it will help strengthen and thicken the achillies tendon and help protect against the aggravation, well that is what we are hoping for as surgery usually takes quite some time to recover from, but may be necessary eventually.

A boy who dreamed of big mountains
A boy who dreamed of big mountains

So another couple of weeks of rest away from the normal exercise routine, but I’m chomping at the bit and need to get extremely fit for the climbing expedition to Nepal later this year.

Strewth, can’t wait for that…

And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and take a big leap of faith!

Baz and TomO (two peas in a pod?)
Baz and TomO (two peas in a pod?)

Strewth – Who put the sandbag in my backpack (Heaton’s Gap)

Sunset over Bimbadgen Estate
Sunset over Bimbadgen Estate

After spending a wonderful Saturday evening at a Day on the Green which was held at Bimbadgen Wine Estate in the Hunter Valley, the alarm was ringing out that Sunday morning had arrived.

 I don’t normally wake to an alarm as my body is well regulated to getting up early to exercise, however after a late night I didn’t want to miss the Sunday morning action.

My usual partner in all things adventure, brother-in-law, Ray, and I were heading to a favourite training haunt of ours, Heaton’s Gap.

The Boys
The Boys

Heaton’s Gap is located half way between his home in Newcastle, and the Hunter Valley wine-growing region. There is a power line track running up a rather steep hill and we regularly train up and down the hill. Sometimes we run as much as we can, and storm the rest, other times we wear heavy packs laden with a sandbag.

Heaton's Gap
Heaton’s Gap

Usually halfway up we are cursing the hill, but when we get to the top and take in the view, the cursing stops, the heart rate slows, and we’re sure happy it is downhill on the way back.

The view from the top
The view from the top

 Today, Ray’s nephew, Daniel, joined us, and along with Ray, the pair ran to the top as fast as they could go…

I elected to wear a 25-kilogram backpack, and headed off to further break-in a new pair of Alpine hiking boots, the ones I will be wearing on my ascent of Mt Aspiring in New Zealand just after Christmas.

Crikey, it was not much past 7am in the morning, but the sun already had a sting in it, and the humidity was high.

The boys were heading back down as I was approaching the steeper section of the hill, and Daniel even came back up for “seconds” after completing his first lap.

And Ray, well he was suffering from the flu like symptoms I had only a week ago, but still posted a very healthy time.

Ray
Ray
Daniel
Daniel

And me?

In true alpine mountaineering style I just put one foot after the other all the way up, and all the way back down, just taking in the scenery and letting the world float by…

Talk about floating by; Strewth, I was perspiring so much, I could have literally floated away!

Baz - heading up "The Hill"
Baz – heading up “The Hill”

It was a great morning, but what of the rest of the day?

…Well, that was spent lazing about with family and friends!

And how good is living and lazy afternoons in a hammock, hey…

Don’t go falling between the cracks (Just embrace life)

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Austalia

Are there times that you feel like you are falling between the cracks, swallowed up by a world that just doesn’t seem to slow down?

 I’ll confess I do sometimes…

Baz – sliding through the crack, Boar’s Head, Australia

 But whenever I do I get a little echo in my mind, a little ditty that TomO said to me before competing in New Zealand’s Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race earlier this year.

 “Dad just go out there and embrace it, enjoy yourself” TomO said,

Baz – Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand
Now would be a good time to embrace it Baz!

 Crikey, it blew me away at the time, but you know, it sounds like damn good advice to me…

 So I’m going to get out there and embrace the day, hit it head-on…

Baz& TomO – embracing the moment

And remember, if all else fails, just Like The Landy on Facebookremain out of control and see what develops…

Strewth – talk about an Angel (But Janet’s no wall flower)

Crikey I have spent a lot of time talking about what I’m doing and that audacious plan I have to climb big mountains. Often I am asked, what about Janet, what is she doing while you’re gallivanting around Out and About.

 And let me put this out there right upfront, didn’t TomO and I luck out with such a great mum, and wonderful partner!

Literally, she was the girl next door and that is how we came to meet, and boy, what an angel.

Strewth, you’d have to be to put up with the antics of two boys in one household who spend most of their waking hours egging each on!

Janet and one of her “boys”

Anyway, she isn’t the sort of person that will race across New Zealand in some adventure race, or for that matter, done a backpack and walk some ridiculous distance in 24 hours, just because you can. But she’ll be there to support you…

But she does like the finer things in life and has a wonderful family and circle of friends that she spends time with in between looking after her boys.

Sisters – Janet & Leah
Great Friends

And talk about looking after us, crikey, she has to be the best cook around, even Out and About in the bush.

But let me tell you, when it comes to having fun, Janet is no wall flower.  I mean, she’ll have no hesitation abseiling off a skyscraper in Sydney’s Central Business District, or hopping behind the controls of an aircraft.

Janet & Baz abseiling the AMP Building in Sydney

And speaking of aircraft, perhaps she hasn’t flown as much as myself, but strewth she’ll have no hesitation in putting on a parachute and beating you out the door of one!

Talk about if you can’t beat them, just join them, that is her mantra…

Janet – going crazy over Picton
Janet – upside down waving – she’s no wallflower

And without a doubt she is one of the most courageous people I have ever met; some of the things I do she worries about, but then she always sends me on my way with her blessing and support – that takes tremendous courage!

Yeah, talk about an angel; she’s one in a million, that’s for sure!

The special people in your life just go give them a big hug and tell them you love them…

And remember, if all else fails, just Like The Landy on Facebookremain out of control and see what develops…

We’ve been cloned – Cookie Cut-outs (Fair Dinkum)

Baz & Ray

One of the wonderful things about participating in outdoor activities with your mates, whether it is recreational or in competition, is the camaraderie it engenders. The struggle, the hardship, the good, and the bad, it is there to be shared, enjoyed as a team.

I am fortunate to have spent many years pursuing outdoor pursuits and activities with brother-in-law, Ray Tong.

Let’s just call him my partner in crime.

And just so there isn’t any misunderstanding, we aren’t fugitives from the law, it’s just a figurative saying us “down under” tend to use to describe a good mate…

Okay, Ray is a Kiwi, but hey, he’s still a good mate none-the-less…

Now we’ve participated in many things together, mostly recreational,  with a smattering of competitive events here and there.  And yes, there is always an underlying competitive streak between us, but that’s just good old fashioned Aussie versus Kiwi rivalry

You couldn’t expect anything less!

Ray overlooking Hunter Valley, Australia

Anyway, we tend to spend a lot of time out in the bush, walking and trekking and many of these have taken on mammoth proportions.  We’ve walked from Sydney to Newcastle together, bush-whacking it 240 kilometres through the “scrub” – mind you if you drive, it is only 140-kilometres along the freeway.

We’ve spent countless hours on the water together…

Baz & Ray, Terrigal Beach, Australia

I chased him from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast, a journey that saw us cycling, running, and white-water kayaking the 240 kilometres over two-days.

We’ve run rapids in our kayaks together, and even struggled through the mud in Tough Mudder helping each other to the finish.

We’ve pursued paragliding and skydiving…

Baz and friends over Picton

And then there is the most dangerous of them all, the notorious Newcastle Bike Ride.

The “NBR” as it is known colloquially…

It isn’t for the faint-hearted.

This is an invitation only event open to those who can demonstrate superior time-trial qualities on a bike.

It covers a two kilometre sprint on a racing bike from Ray’s home in Newcastle to the Albion Hotel, followed by an endurance test of being able to drink at least half-a-dozen schooners of beer with lots of bellowing laughter, the city and back home.

The ride home is always used as a warm-down and should be done at a leisurely pace, unless of course you’ve stayed for one too many had a few flat tyres out on the road and your arrival is long overdue. In which case, the every man man for himself rule applies.

The Sprint

Many have tried, few ever rise to the occasion…

On the many trips to the pub time-trials we’ve done in Newcastle we’ve had plenty of time to solve the problems of the world.

 As one does!

Nothing is sacred, all topics covered.

Okay, we don’t touch Rugby ‘cause it always upsets the Kiwi’s when they lose the Bledisloe Cup, and there was one time when Ray wanted to discuss a problem he had after a “real” bike ride where we spent a long time in the saddle – haemorrhoids.

I told him I couldn’t touch that one and best to take it up with Leah, his partner, the sister of my partner, Janet.

Did I get that right?

 Confused myself there for a ‘sec.

What I tried to say is we married two sisters, Leah & Janet…The “Fawthrop Girls”.

Yes, “The Fawthrop Girls”…

So anyway, perched atop the bar-stools down at the fountain of all knowledge; The Albion Hotel, our bikes during these training sessions we’ve covered many time favoured topics.

Albion Hotel, Newcastle
The Boozer

On our last NBR only a week ago sometime back we started comparing notes on what we share in common.

As you could imagine there was plenty of back-slapping and congratulations going on as we reviewed the impressive list, after all we were on our 3rd 6th schooner of beer each…

  • Good looking – tick
  • A physique many would give a left-arm for – tick
  • Modest – TICK
  • Have a sister named Debbie – tick
  • Adventurous – tick
  • Competed in the Coast to Coast Race in New Zealand – tick
  • Kayakers – tick
  • Extreme endurance hikers and adventure racers– tick
  • Almost fallen off the same ledge on a mountain – tick (True story! Mt Tibrogargan in Queensland before we even met each other)
  • Climb Mountains – tick and half-tick (Ray was too traumatised to climb again sissy)
  • Both have flown under skydiving canopies – tick
  • We’re both cookie cut-outs – WHAT?

Strewth, we’ve been cloned, we chorused together in unison as we considered the similarities. 

Kneaded expertly and pressed with a cookie cutter; a cutter passed sister-to-sister, a cutter revered like one’s very first training bra.

Okay, yes, somehow I came out the better looking of the two of us, you know, a bit like pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, some are perfect, others possibly a little overdone and a touch rough around the edges...

Anyway here we were, seemingly virtual twins…

To be honest, I took some comfort in this as I was a little worried that Ray might have been thinking he should have married me given we had so much in common.

I mean, he gazed looked at me just a bit too longingly for my liking as we waited for our next beer to be poured. But I just put it down to the beer haze fogging his mind a tad…yeah, that’s what it was, a beer haze, yeah…

And as we rode sprinted home on our bikes, the wind gusting so hard that it’d blow your dog off its chain, the most favourite Fawthrop Family saying resonated loudly…

You don’t know how lucky you are!

Yep, there is no doubting it, we are both partnered to Angels, and we’ll put that to the top of the list,  for sure…

And while you’re here hang around and take a squiz at this You tube video…a little bit of that “cookie cut-out” adventure!

It is some footage of Ray flying a sky-diving canopy on the East-Coast of New Zealand in the early 1990s. It was quite out there at the time, for a Kiwi anyway!

And following is what us Aussies do, jump first, then fly…

Just pulling Ray’s leg…what they were doing was ground breaking at the time. He is wearing the white helmet!

Adventure, comes in many forms, and you’ve just gotta love it!

Roll-over and give me a laugh (Eskimo Style)…

It was a weekend of birthday celebrations for Janet, my partner, with family and friends. Janet is a party type of girl and loved the attention and the Chanel perfume!

 And with near perfect weather in Sydney we also took the opportunity to be out on the kayaks at Narrabeen Lake on Saturday, and The Haven at Terrigal on Sunday.

My usual training partner, brother-in-law Ray Tong, and I have been practicing our Eskimo roll in his kayak, the same type of boat we used in this year’s Speight’s Coast-to-Coast adventure race across New Zealand. The race involves a 67-kilometre kayak leg, and includes around 35-kilometres of white water to be negotiated.

We both had an unintentional swim in the cold Waimakariri River during the race…

And whilst we are not intending to line up for next February’s event we are keeping our options open and want to perfect our technique before heading back down the Waimak River.

Did I say perfect?

We’d settle for being able to roll up a little more consistently without half-drowning each time!

Anyway, we have been having a lot of laughs as we go about this training, and hats off to Ray, he spun the boat around so fast at one stage that he went around twice, the look on his face was priceless and the source of much laughter.

We’re almost ready to hit Penrith white-water stadium once again. This is a purpose built white-water course covering around four-hundred metres of grade three rapids. It is fair to say both Ray and I have spent plenty of time upside down through the rapids on this course…

And while we were at The Haven, TomO, my son, was expertly catching waves on his rescue paddle board, in between riding his skateboard down “The Skillion” a large grassy slope that features prominently in the local landscape. Laying down on his skateboard he rode it down the hill like a Luge.

He had the Go-Pro camera on the helmet to capture his daredevil exploits and is already working on  a short video, coupled together with background music he has composed. We can’t wait to see the result as he was travelling quite fast and it looked fun!

Speaking of training, I’m back into the mountains this weekend to further my rock climbing and abseiling skills, along with general rope handling.  My intention over the next few weeks is to do multi-pitch abseils off Boar’s Head in the Blue Mountains.

Boar’s Head is one of the most recognisable rock formations in the Blue Mountains, situated not too far from downtown Katoomba. It is a popular place to do multi-pitch abseils and involves around five pitches, the second and third into a large chasm, with a relatively easy rock climb back out at the end.

Janet said she is looking forward to another weekend in the mountains and as much as she loves the outdoors and seeing me advance in my training, she can’t wait to get back into the small boutiques after all it has been a couple of months.

So I look forward to updating the ongoing saga of a “Dope on a Rope” over the coming weeks!


Strewth Mate, you gotta love Tough Mudder

Sydney had its first Tough Mudder event today, and geez how good is it! I lined up with my brother-in-law, and usual partner in crime, Ray Tong, and man did we have a good time of it.

We laughed our way through it…

Mind you, my sister, who turned up yesterday to look after the dogs while we are in Fiji, snapped this shot at the start line.

It kinda has that look about it that suggests I was saying what the (insert naughty words) are we doing here!

It was run just to the north of Sydney on a rural property, and crikey, I don’t know where they found all that mud, but let me tell you, there was lot’s of it over the 20 kilometre obstacle course…

Anyway, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of the event, ’cause I’m heading for the showers, you know, to clean myself up…

P.S. Note to self, suggest to Janet that I’ve found the perfect beauty treatment that only costs about a hundred bucks. The last time I saw the bill for the day spa, and mud pack, it cost a multiple of this…

I’m more excited than a Bull in a paddock full of Cows

Yep, I’m pumped and excited!

I have spent the last week climbing in New Zealand’s Southern Alps with Dean Staples, an accomplished high altitude climber who has been to the top (and back) of Mount Everest eight times.

The opportunity to spend time under Dean’s guidance has been a great opportunity for me and there is much to write about…

But I need to get through Tough Mudder first which is being held to the north of Sydney tomorrow…

They say running 20 kilometres, being zapped by 10,000 volts, jumping through burning hay bales, after swimming in ice cold water is fun – I’m hoping so!

And if I manage to get through tomorrow I’ll be heading to Yasawa Island, situated in Fiji, with Janet and TomO this coming Sunday, so I’ll catch up with you from there!