Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Outback
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Outback
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Outback
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Outback
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Bush.
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Bush
Photo: Janet Planet – in the Australian bush!
This is actually a close up of the bark on a tree!
Photo: Janet-Planet in the Australian Bush
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian bush
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Outback
Photo: Janet-Planet, in the Australian Outback
Visitors to the Hunter Valley, which is situated two-hours drive from Sydney’s CBD, will know that Pokolbin is the epicentre of this spectacularly beautiful area.
I am never backward in coming forward when presented with the opportunity to get Out and About in the Australian Bush so I jumped at the chance!
Of course, as with most things, there was a hitch…
The week was to be spent in support of our sons and daughter’s annual Military Cadet Camp.
This entailed cooking and washing up duties and general support around the camp. Filling jerry cans with water to slack the thirst of the cadets as they went about various exercises.
Mind you, it wasn’t really a hitch, after all who would not want to do that for the cadets, their son or daughter?
But with circa 330 cadets on camp, this was no small task – it was cooking on a grand scale and certainly nothing akin to “rustling up” the family breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning!
Impressively, the camp is run entirely by the cadets under the supervision of the cadet unit’s Commanding Officer and his support team. This includes logistics co-ordination and scheduling of exercises, all within a set chain-of-command.
During my week on Singleton Army base I had the opportunity to observe our son, TomO the Crown Prince, on manoeuvres in the mountains on Broken Back Ridge, a ridge that forms a natural boundary to the region.
For anyone who has been up on Broken Back and along many of its fire-trails will attest to the spectacular views it commands over the surrounding countryside.
I spent a couple of chilly nights up there, one of them quite wet, but I was doing it in the relative comfort of my trusty and dry swag. The cadets had to build survival shelters to sleep in…!
Whilst on Broken Back myself and a couple of the other parents were part of an exercise where the cadets came across a vehicle that had been involved in an accident. They were not aware of the exercise in advance, but they quickly employed learnt skills rendering medical assistance to the injured, whilst securing the area from possible “enemy attacks”.
Red colour dye, a tin of spaghetti and a couple of skeletal bones provided the props for authenticity…!
They excelled and we lived to recount the tale.
The Cadet unit at Barker College has a great history that spans the decades from the First World War and has seen many of its cadets go on to a military career, something that TomO is intending to do.
But it wasn’t all hard work for the cadets or the parents.
The last night was marked with a parade, a bush Chapel lead by the school’s Chaplain, the Reverend Ware, who was honoured at the service for his contribution to the Cadet unit over the past 25 years.
And after a meal that would satisfy any soldier just “in from the field” there was light-hearted entertainment when the cadets and parents alike performed a variety of skits. Let’s say, some were rehearsed more than others, but that was the fun of it all…
The parent’s skit won the night, apparently the first-time ever, with an exhibition of a drill march.
But that is what made it all the more entertaining for “the troops”.
This was truly a great experience for me and I am sure I am not alone in that sentiment…
Forged by the adverse conditions they faced it was a highlight to witness the camaraderie amongst the cadets as they were taken outside of their comfort zones. Young men and women from Barker College, our sons and daughters taking leadership roles, following orders, working together towards a common goal and ideal.
Along the Kokoda Track at Isaravu in Papua New Guinea there are four stone monuments inscripted with the following…
“Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice”
For those who have had the opportunity to stand there and reflect it is a moving experience…
During my week at camp I observed examples of all four of these qualities amongst the cadets and any parent who had a son or daughter on parade should be extremely proud of them.
I certainly was,
Bravo, Corporal Tom O’Malley
Photos: Baz – The Landy
As part of TomO’s school curriculum he does military cadets and is keen to advance to a full military career in the future and this coming week he is off to an army cadet camp at Singleton Army barracks in the Hunter Valley.
And this year I get to tag along and join in the adventure, although I suspect for me it will be peeling sacks of potatoes and onions to feed the “starving” cadets who will number approximately 330.
Mind you, a week in the bush is right up my alley and with a bit of luck I get to drive one of the army trucks and take a ride in a black-hawk helicopter – such is life in the “retired ranks”…
Speak to you in a week, Baz – The Landy
Anyway, I caught up with a fellow adventurer at the weekend, as it happens, my brother-in-law the Kiwi, and after some kayaking around the beautiful Newcastle coastline and over a couple of beers he tossed out the line…
“So what are you doing now that you have retired graduated from work…?”
“Well, it’s only been less than a week, but I am working on some ideas”…I said, twisting the top off another brown bottle.
“I’ve got a great idea for an adventure just suited to you retired blokes on a shoestring budget…” he said, barely containing a wry smile..
It’s a familiar line I’ve heard many times before and usually pitched after the third beer. And like accepting the “King’s Shilling” taking the fourth beer signifies you’ve signed up for some kind of adventure.
“Okay, Baz I’ve got a bush hike in mind, the Great North Walk, we’ll start the walk early next week so get your pack ready”…
“Can’t I just think about it” I suggested trying to conceal we were on our fourth beer.
It could have been worse, I guess.
Not that it is an ordeal, after all this is a walk that is quite familiar to me and I have walked it in the opposite direction, coincidently, with the Kiwi, and have spent a lot of time on sections of it over the years…
It is worth knowing, just in case you ever have an inclination to walk from Newcastle to Sydney, it is 240-kilometres in distance over rugged mountain terrain; the road trip is no more than 140-kilometres on the freeway; and the price of a one-way rail ticket is $18 for a journey that takes approximately two hours…
…Yes, I’m hearing you Janet-Planet, you’re right, that fourth beer is always forged in blood, sweat, and usually some tears – I should have heeded your advice and stopped at the third!
Mind you, The Great North Walk is a spectacular way to get between these two harbour cities and worth highlighting it was constructed as a celebration of Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988…
There’ll be no luxury, just a simple bivvy bag under a tarp as we progress south towards our destination, Sydney’s Circular Quay where there is an Obelisk that marks the finish.
Coincidently, the Obelisk is right next to a well known Sydney watering hole, the Customs House. We might even have a beer there in amongst “The Suits” to celebrate the end of this adventure…
Yes, Janet-Planet, I’ll limit myself to three beers, maybe…
Photos: Baz – The Landy
Most dictionaries define selfishness as…
“Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.”
I pondered on this definition and eventually came to a conclusion that this is possibly one of the most misused words in the English vocabulary.
I asked myself the question..
Is it selfish to pursue our dreams, to live the life we desire, to see what we can achieve; to explore new horizons and to develop as individuals; to stand at the edge and look at the world through a different lens…?
As individuals our life and the way we lead it creates a mosaic of who we are.
The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle randomly sitting in a box are meaningless unless they are joined.
In much the same way the pieces of our lives, scattered, cannot portray or project anything about who we are or what we seek to be until pieced together.
Interlocked they provide a mosaic of whom we really are…
The picture unfolds…
Whom or what would we be if we were not able to join the random pieces together and pursue our dreams?
Would we ever achieve our real potential, or would a fear of selfishness limit us and how we develop as individuals?
Baz – The Landy
“Can’t be, you sure?”
And every so often I get that old chestnut…
“Are you like a dog and just see black and white?”
Mind you, I’m pretty relaxed about it these days…
Perhaps my dress sense gives me away, after all, there was that matter of the yellow pants I bought all those years ago.
Sensibly, these days I outsource my clothing purchases to Janet-Planet who has a good eye for fashion, mind you she has a naughty sense of humour as well, so I usually get TomO to do a second pass on any clothes she buys me, just in case she’s in a playful mood.
But even that has its limitations as without doubt TomO has inherited his mother’s sense of mischief…
Throughout my school years I always wanted to join the air-force and fly fast jets.
Yes, I know, everyone did, but I really wanted to!
It wasn’t until I underwent the air-force medical that the discovery was made, which went to explaining quite a lot. I only wish they had given me the medical first, rather than have me sit through hours of entrance exams only to stamp that brand new file…
..Talk about being gutted, but I eventually moved on and ended up in the employ of the Bank of New South Wales, licking stamps to put on envelopes…
And speaking of my banking colleagues.
I did manage to give them a good laugh when I came home with an old Holden Station Wagon.
Not that there was anything wrong with having an old Holden…
But a pink one?
It was unique…
I was living in a small country town in Northern Australia and I’d had my eye on that car for a long time and couldn’t believe my luck that it hadn’t been sold before I saved enough money to buy it.
I swear that car was yellow, such is the vagaries of a colour-blind!
But hey, I wore that car like a badge and there was no missing it at the Mareeba Drive-In on a Saturday night…
But my colour deficiency did motivate me to thumb my nose at the air-force, give them the
bird, so to speak, not that they shouldn’t have rules about colour deficiency, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me, but I wasn’t going to let it beat me either.
“After all, adversity is just a stepping stone to success, right…? It only gets the better of you if you let it and there was no way this would hold me back, ever…”
I’ve enjoyed a successful career with the bank, 42-years worth…
Ah, no, I’m not still licking stamps, but thanks for checking!
And I went on to fly my own plane.
It wasn’t quite a fast-jet, but hey nothing wrong with pretending sometimes. And when I tired of sitting in the pilot’s seat, I swapped the plane for a parachute and jumped out of them – until I broke my bum in a mid-air incident (but that is a story for another time).
But strewth, I’ll tell you a funny thing, odd as it may seem I didn’t like the colour of the plane I owned, so I repainted it…go figure!
Photo: Baz – The Landy, Paroo River, Outback Australia
On a recent trip south to Kangaroo Island we took a couple of days to traverse parts of the park and view the Pink Lakes for which it is renown. Pigmentation caused by algae colours the lakes pink during the summer months and is quite spectacular to view later in the day.
Throughout the 1900s salt was commercially mined in the area with operations ceasing around 1975, but relics of this era can be viewed as you make your way around the lakes on the Pioneer Circuit.
Our starting point for travelling into the park was the small township of Linga where there is a well-signed and formed dirt road that takes you to the Pink Lakes. The Pioneer Track is a circuit that is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles taking visitors on a tour around the lakes and can easily be accessed from the larger towns of Ouyen or Pinaroo for those wanting to do a day visit.
Being summer, we were cautious to ensure temperatures were not too high in the park before committing to travelling through it. Not that we are unaccustomed to extreme heat and humidity, after all, we grew up in Queensland and lived in tropical Papua New Guinea for a number of years. But at this time of the year the park sees far less visitors and despite being not too far from a number of towns it remains a remote area that should be respected.
After a short drive from the highway we arrived at the Pink Lakes and Janet took the opportunity to photograph numerous plants and flowers at Lake Hardy before we moved on to Lake Crosby, a larger lake with camping sites available.
For those travelling the Mallee Highway this would be a good overnight spot to take a break, or alternatively, a good base to further explore the park over a number of days.
Murray-Sunset is a large area with a seemingly endless amount of tracks that you can explore, but for the most part, this will require a four-wheel drive vehicle due to the many sandy sections that are encountered.
And come well prepared with plenty of water and basic recovery gear as you may be on your own. We did not see anyone else in the park during our short visit.
With only a limited time to explore the park we headed north along the Underbool Track with an overnight camp at the Underbool campsite, before continuing north the following day to the intersection with the Pheeney ‘s Track and a drive towards the western boundary of the park.
There is a campsite not too far from the western border of the park on Pheeney’s Track, however we headed northwards along the North South Settlement Road and had our second night in the park at the Shearer’s Quarters campsite.
This is a campsite set amongst the trees not too far from the Shearer’s Quarters. And there is a walk that you can take through the scrub, but this is best done late in the day during the warmer months. And if you are lucky you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of some of the wildlife and wonderful display of wildflowers. And not to forget, marvellous bark-art as we like to call the patterns found on the many types of trees one encounters when exploring…
After a pleasant overnight stay at this campsite, which we had to ourselves, we made our way out of the park at Taplan, a small town on the park’s western border, before making our way south to Cape Jervis, the stepping off point for our Kangaroo Island Adventure.
We had frequently looked at Murray-Sunset on our maps and had it penciled in our “places to see book”.
This short visit gave us a taste of what the park has to offer and provided an opportunity for us to give our new Track TVAN Firetail a test in the sand. We had no doubt it would perform as well as our older TVAN Canning that it replaced, and it did, flawlessly…
We have vowed to return in the cooler months, although we suspect that in the depths of winter Murray Sunset would be a very cold place, but with changing seasons comes new perspectives, a warm campfire and the opportunity to XPLORE…!
TomO, the Crown Prince, along with a number of his fellow schoolmates, who are mostly aged 16 or 17 years old, have been helping to paint classrooms at the School of St Jude before attempting to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.
The School of St Jude was established in Tanzania by an Australian, Gemma Sisia, in 2002 to educate the poorest of the poor. Gemma’s belief remains that a free, high-quality education should be the right of all children in the world and that education is the strongest weapon in the fight against poverty.
Janet and I enjoy adventure and jump at any chance to XPLORE and as parents we have been blessed with a son who has embraced the opportunity; the challenges that exploring remote parts of Australia and the world brings.
We believe the experiences we have exposed TomO to through our pursuits has enabled him to develop skills of judgment and risk assessment well beyond what a lifetime in a classroom could ever teach.
Importantly, we have always taught him not to use the “F” word (failure, and yes, the other one as well!).
A little over 24-hours ago TomO and his mates began their final push to the summit of “Kili” from Kibo Hut after spending a few days of acclimitisation on the mountain.
Following is a message we received in the pre-dawn hours this morning.
Needless to say, we are extremely proud of TomO’s achievement, of all in his group, and despite the hardships endured, the fatigue created by this journey, he had the presence to be able to write to us in detail, via SMS, an account of his experience just after arriving back from the Rooftop of Africa…
And it’s alright if your eye moistens a little as you read, ours did.
Bravo TomO, you are an inspiration to all…!
Hey there, randomly got phone reception, but anyway just wanted to let you know that we just walked back from Kibo Hut about 3-hours ago. Yesterday we walked into Kibo around 3pm in the afternoon and slept through till dinner at 5. Had dinner packed then went to bed waiting for the 11pm wake up.
Got up then lined up outside in sub-zero temps and then began to walk up the mountain.
Was really cold which made it harder than it already was, slowly made our way up a gravel like track (hard to explain what it looked like) and the higher we got the more snow we began to see next to us. We then got higher and higher above the hut and people began to drop out, was really, really cold couldn’t feel my toes.
Thought about sitting down at some points but I kept going on because I knew I sat down I wouldn’t make it. Kept going and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done my feet were just so so heavy and I started swaying at one point but I kept going.
We were just before Gillmans Point when we began to see the sun on the horizon. Got there and was really excited, had a break there for like 5 and then kept on going to the full summit, was so so so hard like I was so exhausted and everything, but eventually I got there and was so happy. Didn’t get much video or pictures because it was too cold (so cold my phone died).
Others got a fair few shots, so yeah there will be a fair few photos going around.
I’ll call when I get to Springlands and tell you the rest, can’t be bothered to write anymore I’m really tired, missing you both though, talk later…
Baz – The Landy (On Kangaroo Island, but more on that later)
Ps: Tanzania works on Eastern African Time (EAT) which is 8 hours behind Sydney Australia. Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 19,340 feet above the African Plains. TomO and his mates will be resting up in a Safari Park before returning home on Christmas Eve…
On our travels we always cook on an open fire using our cast-iron camp oven. What better way is there to bring everyone together, hey?
Rest assured there is no shortage of laughter and friendly banter as we raise a glass to friendship, the setting sun projecting a montage of ever changing colour on a ruggedly beautiful landscape…
And what better way to greet the warming rays of the sun as it reaches out on a brisk spring morning than devouring a batch of scones with lashings of butter and jam, expertly prepared and cooked by my wonderful partner, Janet…
Camp food and fun in the bush with family and friends, you’ve gotta love it…hey?
Photos: Baz – The Landy
I was reminded of this eloquent quote from Hans Christian Andersen as Mrs Landy, Janet-Planet, and I took an early morning stroll in the picturesque village of Dittisham, situated on the River Dart in Devon, England.
Yes, I hear the chorus ring out…
“There is no red dust or never ending blue skies in the South of England Baz”…
Crikey, I can live with that, for a week or two, but seriously, warm beer?
Mind you, after a couple of pints down at the Ferry Boat Inn, okay Janet, three, I didn’t realise we were counting, one can almost get used to it…
“To travel is to live”.
Photos: Baz – The Landy
Yes, I thought you might ask…
No, I haven’t been hiding under a rock, nor chanting away in a Tibetan Monastery, as appealing as that might be sometimes.
And don’t worry I wasn’t eaten alive by an Australian Drop-Bear!
Seriously, vegemite behind the ears has always worked a treat for me in warding off these dangerous critters whilst I’ve been Out and About…!
Crikey, you know me, I’ve been busy preparing for some upcoming adventures, but more on that later, just enjoy the campfire for now, okay!
Photo: Baz, The Landy at Lake Cohen – in the middle of nowhere (and loving it)…
Since arriving home from the Outback a few weeks back I have been heading up the driveway to “The Shed” in the pre-dawn darkness to exercise on my rowing machine and lift a few weights.
Don’t worry, I’m an early morning person…
Over the coming months my exercise regime in “The Shed” will involve high intensity workouts on the rowing machine and weight resistance training in preparation for my expedition to Papua New Guinea early next year.
And rest assured, there will be plenty of hill climbing with a 20 kilogram backpack and I could never go a week without getting in a couple of paddles on the surf ski.
And this weekend’s weather in the harbour city is set to be perfect for all kinds of outdoor pursuits…
Crikey, bring it on!
Baz – The Landy
This region of Papua New Guinea has some of the most spectacular jungle scenery on the planet and is the habitat of the country’s national emblem, the superbly beautiful Bird of Paradise.
I had to postpone a trek along the Black Cat Track a few years back due to civil unrest in the region, something it has been prone to from time-to-time, but I have been anxious to undertake this adventure and revisit a country Janet-Planet (Mrs Landy) and I lived in as newly weds many years ago…
And whilst I have not given up on my desire to climb amongst the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas, the earthquake and tragic devastation it caused to Nepal and its people earlier this year has added a layer of complexity to that ambition!
But crikey, I need to “feed the rat” with adventure and an opportunity has arisen to join a trek along the Black Cat Track in May 2016 with a group of Papua New Guinean Nationals – “Legends” as they are rightly referred to and ably led by Aidan Grimes.
Co-incidentally, it will be almost 10-years to the day that I walked the Kokoda Track with Aidan, a veteran of 100 traverses of the Kokoda Track; a track that is synonymous with Papua New Guinea and the battles fought by our brave and courageous “diggers” during World War Two.
It will make a change to the Australian Outback and snow covered mountain peaks…
What an adventure, hey!
So strap on your backpack and get your hiking boots out…there is plenty of training to be done…
Baz – The Landy
My recent adventure into the deserts of Western Australia involved a return journey of over 10,000 kilometres into some of the world’s most inhospitable country, crossing vibrant red sand dunes where no roads or tracks exist…
But don’t be put off by the remoteness and harshness of the Australian Outback as the rewards for the traveller, the adventurer, is a landscape more bio-diverse and fragile than the Amazon rainforest.
The contrasting beauty of a rugged landscape, the colours that you will see can never be replicated in a painting or photograph, but the memory of a setting sun, the golden hue it creates as it gently slips below the distant horizon will imprint a lasting memory that will have you longing to return to this place…
My journey took me across Australia’s interior on a quest to assist a group of like minded people construct a shelter and other buildings for the Birriliburu people, the Traditional Owners of the Little Sandy Desert and Gibson Desert region of Australia…
Mind you, it is also about the journey and there was plenty of opportunity for me to explore and photograph other parts of the Australian Outback as I made my way westward…
Now let me say, shovelling sand and gravel into a cement mixer, on a clay pan and under a scorching sun is hard work and won’t necessarily count as a highlight of the trip. But the opportunity to spend time with the elders of the Birriliburu mob in their country, on their lands, was well worth the discomfort – it will leave a lasting impact on my life!
Crikey, don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasure to assist, I’m just complaining about those aching muscles that were antagonised in the process…
Amongst the aboriginal people I spent time with were a number of elders who were born to nomadic parents in the desert, first generation desert people who lived, hunted and sheltered on the very lands we were on and without any contact with Australian’s of European descent.
One of the elders, Geoffrey Stewart, was born to parents Warri and Yatungka, a couple who engaged in forbidden love under tribal laws and whose story is recounted in the book “Last of the Nomads”.
Another, Georgina “Dadina” Brown, took us to the place where she and her family were discovered by Stan Gratte, an historical enthusiast, in 1976. At the time Stan was retracing the route of a 19th century explorer.
Georgina is an accomplished artist with work on display in the Australian National Gallery and her story is recounted in the book Born in the Desert – The Land and travels of a last Australian Nomad.
All were willing to share their country with us, showing where they roamed the desert with their families and explaining how they captured food and travelled from rock-hole to rock-hole to find water.
Geoffrey shared some “Dreamtime Stories” and permitted us to view some magnificent rock art located in a gorge not too far from where we were based in the desert.
I have been travelling Australia’s vast outback region for many years and have always recognised it has a “spiritual beauty” to it. But this trip has been special in a way that I never thought possible and has helped me view life through a different lens, putting a different perspective on life…
We live in a society that insists we plan our lives away, where we have an insatiable appetite for instant gratification, and need the latest gadgets, where we are able to visit a supermarket for our daily food needs with little thought as to how it arrived there…
It was refreshing to observe another perspective on life from people whose ancestors’ have inhabited our sunburnt country for over 40,000 years – a people whose philosophy of living in harmony with the environment is the pathway to ensuring a sustainable existence.
No, not necessarily an easy one, that’s for sure!
Most importantly, this trip and time spent on country with the Birriliburu mob has reinforced something that modern day living often has us overlook and that is the only moment you can live in is the one you are in.
Such is the life of a desert dweller…
Baz – The Landy
As a footnote:
The Birriliburu Lands are an Indigenous Protected Area not open to the general public. I visited at the kind invitation of the Elders of the Birriliburu People.
I am, slowly, with great emphasis on slowly, making my way home, after my journey across Australia and into country with the Birriliburu People, traditional owners of much of the Gibson and Little Sandy Desert region of Australia…
My time on country with the Birriliburu Mob has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to sharing the experience with you, but for now, let me share some photographs of our magnificent Sunburnt Land – our island continent that time forgot!
Photos: Baz – The Landy
Footnote: My travel into the Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area was at the invitation of the Elders and Traditional Owners; access is not generally granted.
It will be a journey that will take us across our sunburnt land towards Uluru and beyond to the Central Deserts of Western Australia…
We’ll travel to a place where time has forgotten, where the hot scorching sun parches a landscape that is as beautiful as it is rugged. A country inhabited over the millennia by Australian Aborigines and crossed in more contemporary times by explorers’ who challenged themselves to discover what was in the Australian interior.
You will get a camp fire view of the setting sun as it slips gently below an orange tainted horizon, and if you are an early bird, watch a rising sun cast its first rays of light over the windswept land, a mug of piping hot tea in hand.
But for sure, you’ll get to experience the teeth shattering corrugations of the Great Central Road as “The Landy” makes its way westward, and at day’s end, quietly slip into a deep slumber under “The Milky Way”.
During the next few weeks “The Landy” will cover over 10,000-kilometres across a landscape that will transport me from the urban living of Australia’s largest city, Sydney, across the Australian Bush and into the vibrant and colourful Australian Outback.
Now perhaps there will be some who are thinking, is this city slicker meets the outback?
Crikey, who knows…
Mind you, I’m as comfortable in the outback as I am crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the daily commute to the office, having travelled to many remote parts over the years flying light aircraft or driving “The Landy” – our mode of transport that has morphed as time advanced.
Okay, I do agree, the good old ‘Fender hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years, seemingly, so we’ll just say I use the term “morphed” sparingly.
And despite the opportunity to view the magnificent Sydney Harbour each day, I won’t miss that daily dodgem car run!
But I am digressing…
Along the way I will be travelling with a group of like-minded people, sharing a few laughs around the camp fire and I’m sure, fixing almost as many punctured tyres as there are flies buzzing around. Importantly, I will be spending time with the Traditional Owners and Elders of the Birriliburu Country to assist them in building some “back to country” infrastructure.
Our travel will be along remote tracks that are covered in spinifex grass and frequently travelling where no tracks exist, where a never ending blue sky caresses the ochre-red earth on a faraway horizon.
And don’t go worrying if you haven’t heard from me for a while, rest assured, I’ll be around the camp fire at day’s end, recounting, laughing, and dreaming!
Whilst we live in a modern society with plenty of gadgets to keep us all in contact, sometimes they just don’t work in the Australian Outback – well that is what I told my boss anyway, so best I continue to run with that story…
I’ll welcome your company in the front seat of “The Landy” as the journey unfolds and don’t worry about long lapses of silence, it’s okay – the sounds of the Australian Outback will more than compensate for the lack of chatter!
And if you are stuck at home in-the-armchair, be sure to drop by every so often, I’ll be updating the blog as the journey unfolds and you can check out where I am as “The Landy” rolls along the bulldust by simply clicking on the “Map – Where is The Landy” tab at the top of the page.
Anyway it is almost time to get under way, so buckle yourself in and give Mrs Landy and the Crown Prince, TomO, a wave good-bye…
Photos: Baz – The Landy
Last Wednesday, TomO, the crown prince, broke his patella, his knee cap as it is more commonly known, in a bad fall in the school gym.
Needless to say it was a traumatic time for Janet and me to see the little bloke in so much pain.
This happened on the day I was due to arrive in Kathmandu to climb Mera Peak and just ahead of the tragic news overnight of a severe earthquake involving large loss of life in Kathmandu.
TomO had surgery on Thursday to repair his patella and all went well and he is recovering at home with lots of ice-cream! Unfortunately this will keep an active young man on the benches for the next few months, but the young bounce back quickly!
My climbing partners on this trip to Nepal headed to Lukla just prior to the earthquake and I’ve had news they are okay…
Janet has always been behind my mountaineering ambition and adventures one-hundred percent, but gave me a hug this morning and said,
“Glad you didn’t go you were needed here for reasons we didn’t know at the time…”
If it had not have been for Deb’s condition, which we would change in a heart beat if we could, I would have been in Nepal. But despite her condition Deb is still looking out for her little brother in ways that big sister’s do and perhaps only the “universe” will ever understand…
Our thoughts go out to all those affected in Nepal and if you are able to support the wonderful Nepalese people via a relief fund, please do.
As many of you will know I have been on a mission to climb amongst the world’s highest mountain peaks and this year I had two trips planned in Nepal. But isn’t it funny how priorities in your life can change!
Recently I wrote about my sister, Deb (Merle) and the illness she is courageously facing.
Well, I’m pleased to say that her treatment is progressing in line with expectations, but there are good days and not so good days.
But her spirit is amazing!
A couple of weeks back I was sitting on the couch, pondering life in general, as I am inclined to do, and realised that I no longer felt the compelling urge or need to head to Nepal this year, but I wanted to go touring the great Australian Outback with my family…
And yes, I’ve never needed any encouragement to get Out and About – my love of Australia and the Outback is almost as great as the love I share for my family, for Merle…
I know many of you have been “rooting” (that is the US expression isn’t it – makes me chuckle though! ) for me to get up the mountain and I appreciate the support, and who knows, the desire may return, but I have things that have far important to me as a person right now…
I know you will understand.
Hey, that doesn’t mean I can’t go climbing in the Blue Mountains, so there is still some scope for “More Dope on a Rope”.
But strewth, I love the Outback, so I have reset my website back to my other passion!
Much of my camping above the snow line has been in New Zealand’s mountain huts, and whilst it can still be cold, the huts provide protection from the elements. So up until now my sleeping bags have been sufficiently warm enough.
But they are unlikely to provide the protection I need for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal which involve camping above 6,000 metres. So I have needed to add another sleeping to the many that already reside in our “gear room”.
There are numerous choices available from the obvious manufacturers’ such as The North Face and other popular brands. The quality produced by North Face is first rate, and this is a piece of equipment that shouldn’t be driven by cost considerations.
You want the best and it won’t necessarily be the cheapest!
But I am very reluctant and discriminating when it comes to supporting these major brands due to the differential pricing they have in place. Dependent on which country you reside in it may cost more, despite the product being precisely the same.
Try and buy a sleeping bag from the North Face in the United States and you find that it will direct you back to the Australian website and the price increases considerably.
This is a hotly debated topic in Australia covering a range of major companies!
I like to support local businesses and Australian manufacturers, whom are a dying breed mind you due to the high cost of producing anything in Australia, but a company I have supported many times is One Planet.
One Planet is an Australian based manufacturer of sleeping bags of extremely high quality and I have used and tested them on my mountaineering trips to New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
Without hesitation I contacted the company’s owner and asked would he make me a specialist sleeping bag suitable for temperatures of around minus 20 degrees Celsius – yes, no problem was the reply; we’ll get on to that straight away…
Today I took delivery of this important piece of equipment, which came at a cost far less than the equivalent from the major global brands here in Australia.
Hey, I can’t wait to be wrapped up all snuggly and warm inside it on a Himalayan mountain!
Photos, Baz – The Landy
Acute Mountain Sickness, AMS as it is often referred to, is the effect the declining number of molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere has on our body as we ascend in altitude. It can range from a mild illness, to the more severe life-threatening forms of the illness, such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
The latter two conditions require immediate attention and descent from altitude otherwise death is the most likely outcome.
I’m not intending to go into a great discussion on either, nor am I qualified to do so, but as part of my journey “To Climb a Mountain” I want to gain a better understanding of both conditions.
High altitude is defined as 5,000 to 11,500 feet, very high altitude 11,500 to 18,000, and extreme altitude as 18,000 feet and above. At extreme altitudes physiologic function will outstrip acclimatisation eventually.
My reading has taken me across a wide variety of topics, but the one that caught my attention was the connection between muscle and the requirement to fuel our muscles with oxygen when under exertion.
Over the years I have trained as a power-lifter for strength purposes and I have achieved results I am happy with. As a consequence I have grown muscularly and currently weigh-in around the 95 kilogram mark. This has given me a good power-for-weight ratio and has enhanced my speed on the kayak over the short to mid sprint distances.
Power-lifting has helped me develop strong legs, especially my quads through squatting, and dead-lifting.
Will this muscle help, or hinder me on the mountain as I trudge up the side of an 8,000 metre peak?
When exercising, the body, or more specifically the contracting muscles have an increased need for oxygen and this is usually achieved by a higher blood flow to these muscles.
And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.
Due to the less dense air at altitude the number of oxygen molecules for any given mass of air will drop. Consequently, mental and physical performance will decline, and the larger the muscles, the larger the requirement for oxygen to prevent muscular fatigue…
So what can I do?
There is not a lot that you can do to prepare for the effect of AMS, some people will adapt and perform better at altitude than others and this is hard to predict from one individual to another.
What I can do is decrease my muscle mass, and whilst that will mean a decrease in overall strength I can try and maintain the power for weight ratio balance.
The upshot of all this is that ahead of my expedition to Nepal in April I will deliberately take around 10-12 kilograms out of my frame…
The climbs in Nepal will be done without the aid of supplemental oxygen.
I won’t be changing my training routine greatly, I will maintain some weight training, rowing and kayaking, and importantly, a daily walk of around 10-kilometres with a 25-kilogram backpack at silly o’clock in the morning (that is 4:00am).
The best way to control weight change, either gaining, or losing, is via your diet and that starts in the kitchen.
Baz – The Landy (In my home gym in the “Shed”)
They say it is bad luck to change the name of a boat as it may anger the Gods of the Seas, and given I will be climbing in a “Sea of Mountains” this year, caution is king!
As many will know I have been on a journey to climb amongst some of the world’s highest mountain peaks and have spent a good deal of time in recent years training and progressing to the point where hopefully I can reach out and touch the sky from an 8,000 metre peak in the Himalaya’s.
They say it is all about the journey and I’m a great believer in that notion. I am climbing mountains because I enjoy standing at the top and looking out, and down – the freedom this brings me is overwhelming…
And who knows where this journey will take me, Janet (Planet), and TomO!
I am heading into a pointy end of the journey with two trips to Nepal this year so I now want to bring greater focus on the journey and hence the name change.
Think of it as chanting a mantra!
Every time you see it, just say “To Climb a Mountain…” – I am firm believer in the power of the universe and that it will help me greatly.
Okay, so I’m a little weird, you knew that anyway, right!
And crikey, are you kidding me? I’ll need all the mantras and support I can get my hands on so don’t hold back!
Oh don’t worry, I’ll still post some of those Outback Australia photos from time-to-time that many of you have come to love, after all I live in the greatest country in the world and I’m happy to share it with you…
And rest assured, I’ll still be handing out a bit of a cheek when the circumstances warrant it.
But as for bad luck in changing the title.
I don’t think so, with all you wonderful people supporting me, and I’m overwhelmed at the support I am shown, there is no way bad luck will get in our way…
Stay focussed now, Baz!
Photo, Baz – New Zealand’s Southern Alps
I had expected to be in Nepal in 2013 and 2014 after spending 2012 and the early part of 2013 training in New Zealand with the world’s best high altitude experts.
But, somehow life has the propensity to throw a curved ball every so often, and I’ve had a couple to catch over the past 12-months!
Whilst New Zealand has some of the world’s most magnificent mountain peaks, it doesn’t have the altitude of the Himalayas’. My ability to adapt to the altitude is an unknown, but it will be put to the test on two expeditions to Nepal in 2015.
The first will be in April to climb Mera Peak, which stands at 6,476 metres, 21,246 feet, and in September I will attempt Himlung, a peak that stands at 7,162 metres, 23,497 feet.
Both of these climbs will be done without the use of supplemental oxygen, but there will be a rigorous acclimitisation process to ensure the best chance of success.
And hopefully these climbs will set-me up for an ascent of Cho Oyu, an 8,000 metre peak bordering Tibet and Nepal.
I am confident of my ability to adapt; certainly I don’t expect expedition life will be a problem given my remote outback experience and the hardship that often brings.
Training is in full swing, but as always, remains a work in progress, and I will be spending time climbing in the wonderful Blue Mountains in the weeks ahead…
The first ascent of Mera Peak was made on 20 May 1953, using what has now become the standard route from Mera La and no subsequent ascent occurred until 1975. We will just miss the anniversary of the first climb in 1953 by a couple of days.
We will have two camps on the mountain, camp one at Mera La and camp two, our high camp, at 5,800 metres. Our summit day will typically start before dawn and we are hopeful to summit in 4-5 hours. Some fix rope will be used near the summit where it becomes very steep.
As 2014 draws to a close, grab your climbing harness and a rope, or perhaps if you prefer, a coffee or tea and a nice comfy couch.
Either way please be sure to join me in on these climbs; one step at a time, we can do it together…
Baz – The Landy