It may will be a case of Yes Sir, No Sir, how high Sir, over the coming week.
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”…
Hey, just a week or so ago I hung-up my business suit following a “graduation from work”.
And one of the reasons for doing so was that work was just getting in the way of having fun and adventure – something had to give, right?
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…
The Shed…a place where tall stories can be told, a few laughs had, where you can grab a “coldie” out of the fridge to share with mates and if you are motivated it can double as a training gym.
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…
Stretching between the villages of Salamaua and Wau in the island Nation of Papua New Guinea is a long-forgotten second world war track called “The Black Cat Track”.
It has it all…dangerous river crossings, swamps, cliffs, precarious rock-ledges, venomous snakes, and leeches that will suck the blood from your veins after the malaria carrying mosquito’s have finished with you…
The Lonely Planet guidebook describes the Black Cat Track as “suitable only for masochists and Israeli Paratroopers”.
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…
Do we underestimate the power of the mind, the power of positive thought?
Is anything possible, without limitation, if you give your mind’s eye a vision and allow it to believe you have already achieved it?
Okay, it will take much more than an hour or so in the lotus position every other day telling yourself you are a brain surgeon before you get to pick up a scalpel, but it all starts with a vision, right?
My countdown for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal is well underway and I am undertaking plenty of physical activity to prepare and rest assured the body is feeling it sometimes.
But just as important as my physical preparation is that I am mentally prepared. And to take my mind off the 20-kilogram pack strapped to my back when I am out walking at silly o’clock I fill it with visions of standing atop those mountain peaks.
I picture myself telephoning my family, telling them I have summited and returned to the base-camp safely and sharing different aspects of the climb with them whilst sipping a warm mug of Sherpa tea.
Those conversations with my mind, with Janet and TomO, go right down to the detail of what is said!
Oh don’t worry, I’ve been practicing many other aspects of mountaineering these past few years, after all there are things to be learnt and practised – but that just reinforces what the mind knows it can do, right?
There are people who believe in positive affirmation, some who are not sure, and others with whom no amount of discussion will convince them it does. But let me share my own personal insight of why I know it does.
It was the mid- 1970s, I had just left school to join one of Australia’s largest banks and a month earlier I celebrated my 15th birthday. At the time the company produced a quarterly magazine called “The Etruscan” and in the very first edition I received was a story describing a day in the life of the people who undertook the bank’s money market operation…
I was enthralled, I wanted a job like that so in my mind’s eye I play-acted the people in the article, not that I actually had a clue what they really did, after all it was a short article, so I just made it up as I went – I was a natural.
Perhaps it was a bit unusual for someone of my age to be getting into this esoteric stuff, but that is what daydreamers do and I am a daydreamer. And I’m sure many will agree that a very fine line exists between dreams and reality confirmed by the days you wake up thinking, the dream I had was real….
Shortly I will have spent 40-years with this institution. Yes, 40-years, it wasn’t a typing error and for most of that time I have been managing and trading currencies in the bank’s money market operation.
You see a few years after convincing myself I was a natural at doing whatever it was they did, and following a set of events which were unrelated, I “woke” up in the bank’s trading room in front of a trading screen…
My vision of how it worked all those years ago is quite different to the sophistication of today’s global financial market, but that is just detail. I didn’t have to get the detail right all I had to do was to chant that mantra long and loud, to have a vision, to daydream and play act my part.
To simply believe!
After all, reality is what we choose to believe in…
I have been researching the impact that high altitude climbing will have on my body, what I can expect, what I can do to assist my body’s ability to cope.
And importantly, to be able to recognise the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness in its more serious forms.
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.
There are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives…
No matter who you are, where you are, or what you are doing…
This photograph was captured in the village of Menari, in the jungles of Papua New Guinea with myself and a truly remarkable man.
He was one of the “fuzzy-wuzzy angels” who helped Australian and American troops in the fierce jungle battles along the Kokoda Track and other places along the Papuan Coast during the second world war.
Like 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)
Since a young age I have been fascinated by the majestic beauty of mountains, of the peaks that poke through the clouds reaching ever higher into a deep blue sky.
Growing up in Australia has had mountaineering limitations given our highest is Mt Kosciuszko, a mere 2,228 metres high.
So I contented myself with walking through and over the hills and mountains, developing a love of the Australian Bush, the magnificent Australian Bush…
Like an unsatisfied lover, in recent years I started to look further afield with a desire to experience more from my affair with the mountains…
Three years ago I commenced training designed to assist and enable me to contemplate climbing an 8,000 metre peak in the Himalayan Mountain Range. The mountain of choice Cho Oyu borders Tibet and Nepal and is the world’s sixth highest mountain peak and possibly the most accessible of the world’s fourteen 8,000 metre peaks.
The fun is in the journey, right?
I have had some great times developing my rope skills climbing in the Blue Mountains not far from Sydney as well as undertaking an extreme fitness regime.
And talk about a good laugh here and there, strewth, I can’t even tie my shoelaces properly (it’s a long story) but here I am tying myself off on vertical rock-faces!
Climbing Sweet Dreams – Blue Moiuntains
The “Crack” on Boar’s Head
Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Final pitch on Sweet Dreams
Baz – Blue Mountains, Australia
Unfortunately injuries over the past year or more proved to be a significant setback and at times had me questioning whether I should continue! But the injuries are now behind me and a solid fitness regime is under way to get me on track!
My head is back in the right place, the switch has been flicked once again…
And crikey, the “rat” is gnawing away and it needs to be fed – that’s a good sign, for me anyway, as Janet rolls her eyes with a wry smile breaking through ever so slyly.
Janet knows the rat well, it has led us on many wonderful adventures…
And how good is New Zealand’s Southern Alps playground – truly a mountaineer’s playground.
After a reasonably steep multi-pitch climb I crossed this snow covered Arête in the cover photo on the way to the summit of Auroa.
Whenever I view this photograph it reminds me that “standing back from the edge is safe, but the view is never as good” – it reminds me what I love so much about the mountains, it inspires me to pursue my goal…
The Watagan’s is a great place to spend a weekend or few more days hiking. Situated just to the north of Sydney, it is a lush mountainous area full of wonderful flora and fauna.
We hiked a familiar route, the Great North Walk, overnighting at Barraba Trig, a picturesque site that overlooks the famous Hunter Valley wine growing region from its vantage point high on a ridge top…
The girl’s, Janet and Leah, packed their men, TomO, me, brother-in-law Ray (the Kiwi) and young Aubrey, off on Saturday afternoon, before glamming up and heading to a beautiful French restaurant in Newcastle…
And what an awesome effort by nephew 5-year old Aubrey, he walked half of the 25 kilometre hike!
And the Kiwi showed some great endurance carrying him and a 20-kilo pack the rest of the way! Mind you he did run 100-kilometres of this route just a couple of weeks back in 20-hours!
We are off into the Australian Outback tomorrow, in fact it will be a journey of epic proportions through some of Australia’s most remote desert country.
You can read some more about our trip by clickinghere.
But hey, no need to fret if you don’t spot me around your blog for a couple of weeks or so I haven’t given you the flick or anything like that, after all what else would I do during the daily commute at 6:30am in the morning if it wasn’t for your blog?
Okay, and don’t go thinking you’re not a favourite either just ‘cause you didn’t get a mention, strewth you’re a fickle lot today, aren’t you!
I just won’t be in range for the normal communication devices to work! You know, those techo gadgets, iPhones and WiFi thingy’s…
Although, you will be able to keep tabs on me.
Yeah, that perked you back up a bit didn’t it, I can see you’re excited about that prospect… 😉
If you get a chance make sure you take a bloody look at the blog posts I have scheduled each day and by clicking “The Landy“ link in it you’ll see a map that shows just where we are “lost” in this Sunburnt Country of ours…
How cool is that!
Every so often I’m hoping to be able to share some of the magnificent landscapes I capture on my trusty Nikon 600 Camera, so keep an eye out for that!
I will actually be doing some running while I’m crossing the desert to prepare for the 100-kilometre running race I am lining up for this September. Yeah I’m hearing you– talk about dumb ideas spawned out the bottom of an empty beer bottle, but if you’re in need of a bit of a giggle just clickhere.
Rest assured the desert country will be as “dry as a dead-dingo’s donga” so you know what that means – a couple of beers a day to quench that thirst. Strewth, you wouldn’t be dead for quids!
Hey, take care, and I can see it is no use telling you to be good, and remember the motto I live by… if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops!
I 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.
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.
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.
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! 😉
“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.” Walt Unsworth.
Walt must have had me in mind when he penned that!
I’m gearing back up, slowly but surely and aiming for a Himalayan trip to climb three 6,000 metre peaks in the not too distant future
And of course, Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest and one of fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, still beckons…
This has been my goal for sometime and you might be left wondering when is Baz going to get around to doing it…and I must say I’m a bit behind schedule after the injuries and personal setbacks of the past twelve months – but I’m getting it back on track, slowly, but surely!
In the meantime I’ll be travelling in Australia’s wonderful outback in June and July, including a crossing of Australia’s Great Victoria Desert and a visit to the site of the Atomic Bomb testing from the 1950s– so be sure to stay in touch!
And crikey, just remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…
Isurava Village, situated along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.
I am making plans to head back into the Papuan New Guinean jungle in April next year to walk the Black Cat Track.
I tried to get there a couple of years ago, but civil unrest in the area prevented it. So plans have been made once again, and will provide a great lead in for some climbing in Nepal later in the year!
This area has some of the most pristine jungle in the world…
“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.
Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…” Walt Unsworth.
I’m gearing back up, slowly but surely…
Initially into the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, for some rock climbing to hone the skills and aiming for a Nepal trip to climb three 6,000 metre peaks in November.
Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest and one of fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, beckons in 2015…
This has been my goal for sometime I’m just one-year behind after the injuries and some personal setbacks over the past twelve months.
But I’ll be doing plenty of travel in Australia’s wonderful outback over the coming months also – so be sure to stay in touch!
And crikey, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops…
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…
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.
And yes, that Kiwi brother-in-law of mine is hot on my heels pushing me, again!
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.”
I’ve had a little bit of hiatus from the keyboard over the past couple of weeks and perhaps you’ve may have been thinking where’s Baz, has he gone underground or something…
Well talking about going underground, I took this photo late in the afternoon at White Cliffs, Outback Australia on one of our recent trips…
And just below the surface is the Underground Motel where we stayed in rooms fashioned out of an old mine. White Cliffs is an opal mining town, whose day time temperatures in summer can be above a ‘hundred on the old Fahrenheit scale for weeks on end and below zero at night in the depths of winter.
Seemingly, there is little happening on the climbing front just at the moment, even though I have recovered sufficiently from the operations earlier in the year, I’ve just lost a bit of zest for it.
Isn’t life funny sometimes, hey!
I wanted to be on those high mountains so badly earlier this year, in fact I was scheduled to be in Nepal climbing this month, and now I’m struggling to get motivated enough to get back out there – so fingers crossed for me!
And crikey, in the meantime, it is Janet’s scones cooked in a camp oven in the Outback and TomO’s antics whilst on tour– and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Rivers, creeks, and billabongs, they have a way of drawing you in, somewhat like a divining rod in search of water.
Australia has a wonderful maze of inland river systems, which, at times dry up leaving waterholes, or billabongs, as we know them…
They feature heavily in stories and poems, songs and prose, of the Australian Outback.
Recently we camped beside a billabong, nearby to the Darling River, one of Australia’s largest, which slowly meanders its way towards a confluence with the mighty Murray River at Wentworth.
Steamboats plied their trade along the river as far north as Bourke, carrying supplies to the towns that dotted the Darling, transporting wool bales back to the cities on the return trip. Of course, drought, of which there were many, could see the boats stranded for long periods of time.
This land attracted many writers, inspired by the wide open spaces of the Australian Outback, and included Henry Lawson, whom I wrote about recently, and Banjo Paterson.
They are two of my favourite Australian writers.
Simply, their writings are timeless, despite both passing long-ago, you can sit by a billabong or a river and hear the echo of the men, and women, they wrote about, the friendly banter, the sorrow, the laughs, the tears, the highs and the lows.
Both men travelled extensively in some of my favourite parts of the Australian Outback.
One such place is the Barcoo River, nearby to the town of Jundah and the Welford National Park in far western-Queensland. A small town of not too many people, where the pub, owned and operated by Monica, is the go to place to hear news, a social epicentre for the area.
Lawson and Paterson, parched from travelling the dusty land, would have quenched their thirst at establishments just like the Jundah Pub!
Banjo Paterson was especially inspired by the Barcoo and surrounding area.
We travelled to this area to visit the site of Maggee’s Shanty and Richard Magoffin’s Grave which were not too far from Jundah and the Welford National Park. Those familiar with the writing’s of Banjo Paterson will recognise this is the place immortalised in his poem A Bush Christening.
The grave of Richard Magoffin, who perished in 1885, is nearby.
Magoffin came to Australia from County Down in Ireland in 1853, digging for gold in Victoria and fighting at Eureka. Later he settled with a brother at Chiltern, Victoria, before moving to Bourke, where they sank dams and ran a carting business before tough times sent them further north, to Queensland.
There was very little to see of Maggee’s Shanty, although a plaque indicated its site, but Magoffin’s Grave was very well kept.
And under darkened skies, with the threat of rain present, we huddled together at the site of Maggee’s Shanty, and read…
The Bush Christening – By AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson
On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,
And men of religion are scanty,
On a road never cross’d ‘cept by folk that are lost,
One Michael Magee had a shanty.
Now this Mike was the dad of a ten-year-old lad,
Plump, healthy, and stoutly conditioned;
He was strong as the best, but poor Mike had no rest
For the youngster had never been christened,
And his wife used to cry, “If the darlin’ should die
Saint Peter would not recognise him.”
But by luck he survived till a preacher arrived,
Who agreed straightaway to baptise him.
Now the artful young rogue, while they held their collogue,
With his ear to the keyhole was listenin’,
And he muttered in fright while his features turned white,
“What the divil and all is this christenin’?”
He was none of your dolts, he had seen them brand colts,
And it seemed to his small understanding,
If the man in the frock made him one of the flock,
It must mean something very like branding.
So away with a rush he set off for the bush,
While the tears in his eyelids they glistened-
“‘Tis outrageous,” says he, “to brand youngsters like me,
I’ll be dashed if I’ll stop to be christened!”
Like a young native dog he ran into a log,
And his father with language uncivil,
Never heeding the “praste” cried aloud in his haste,
“Come out and be christened, you divil!”
But he lay there as snug as a bug in a rug,
And his parents in vain might reprove him,
Till his reverence spoke (he was fond of a joke)
“I’ve a notion,” says he, “that’ll move him.”
“Poke a stick up the log, give the spalpeen a prog;
Poke him aisy-don’t hurt him or maim him,
‘Tis not long that he’ll stand, I’ve the water at hand,
As he rushes out this end I’ll name him.
“Here he comes, and for shame! ye’ve forgotten the name-
Is it Patsy or Michael or Dinnis?”
Here the youngster ran out, and the priest gave a shout-
“Take your chance, anyhow, wid ‘Maginnis’!”
As the howling young cub ran away to the scrub
Where he knew that pursuit would be risky,
The priest, as he fled, flung a flask at his head
That was labelled “Maginnis’s Whisky!”
And Maginnis Magee has been made a J.P.,
And the one thing he hates more than sin is
To be asked by the folk who have heard of the joke,
How he came to be christened “Maginnis”!
The Bulletin, 16 December 1893.
As a footnote, the heavens opened up as we walked back to the vehicle bringing much needed rain to the area, but turning the roads into a slippery brown sludge.
The Landy, with Tvan in tow, arrived in Quilpie a few hours later covered in mud!
Such is life, but what a great day with my two favourite people…
Last night I dreamt I was back in the Blue Mountains climbing “Sweet Dreams” in the spectacular Blue Mountains, Australia…
And if you are going to dream, it might as well be a sweet dream!
I’m taking it as a good sign!
The foot is recovering extremely well from the surgery and clearly the desire to return is prodding my subconscious!
Perhaps, Brian, my father, is providing some divine intervention already, after all he spent a life time helping others and I can’t imagine he is going to stop just because he’s now pushing up daisies!
And Janet’s father, Archie, well he always thought I was a bit of “a dope” for wanting to climb amongst the world’s highest mountains, and for running around the outback and crossing deserts in a four-wheel drive, Janet and TomO in tow…
So a return to climbing and mountaineering is long overdue and will be a welcome change to the events of the past three months.
And I know many of you are great supporters in my quest to summit an 8,000-metre peak, heaven forbid, Mt Everest, and are cheering me back into the mountains…
And why Dope on a Rope I hear you ask?
Strewth, I must tell you that is how it feels sometimes!
It has been quite an intense period in our “down-under” household over these past couple of months.
Surgery on my leg, the passing of Janet’s father, Archie, after a long innings stretching almost to his 100th year, and presently the terminal illness my father, Brian, is suffering and that will take him from us in the not too distant future.
Mind you, Brian is comfortable and at peace, and even quipped to me the other day that we’re all dying from the day we’re born, it isn’t how long you live, but how you live it that counts. Of course, his only real concern has been for the love of his life, his partner for over 50 years, Fay.
Courageous words indeed I thought and his faith has kept him, both of them strong…
But I wanted to drop a note to thank you for your kind words of support over these past couple of months, and to be honest, I haven’t caught up on all the news and stories that many of you write on a daily basis, but rest assured, I’m looking forward to getting back into the routine soon.
And speaking of routine, I have stepped back from my usual training regime to avoid “running myself down” during this difficult time, but I’m looking forward to a return shortly, and of course, back into the mountains, back on the journey to the summit of some of the world’s highest mountains.
Oh, sorry, what of the jet-setters. I hear you ask?
Strewth, TomO and Janet are having a “whale of a time” over in the south of England, but I must confess, I’m missing them and look forward to their return in about a week’s time.
By crikey, I’m sure they’ll have some news and tales of adventure that will be sure to cheer us all up!
Good luck out there, and remember, those that don’t think it can be done shouldn’t bother the person doing it!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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-kilometresacross New Zealand’s South Island…
Strewth, far too much fun ahead, you just wouldn’t want to be dead for quid’s…
With my recovery coming along and after a fortnight off work I decided to return to the cut and thrust of foreign exchange dealing this week.
And don’t let on to my colleagues, but I’ve been missing them and the fun times we have, after all we’ve been doing it together for a long time!
I had a practice driving Janet’s car on the weekend, in preparation for the week ahead, as it is an automatic, enabling me to drive myself to work, and yes, I know, it isn’t quite Red Rover…
But it was Monday morning and I was pleased to be heading across the Harbour Bridgeand looking forward to the day ahead; after all doing nothing is hard work!
Well, it was short-lived!
I began to notice some pain in my calf muscle around mid-morning and was thinking it was maybe just my sitting position. I was almost inclined to the old adage “suck it up princess” but after becoming more uncomfortable I thought it best to speak with my surgeon.
It had been impressed on me that after any surgery blood clotting in your veins is possible. Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is the technical term they use, and it presents just like an aching muscle in the initial stages.
Naturally, he sent me for an immediate ultra-sound test, and yes, there is clotting; DVT evident…
So I’m now on a heavy dose of blood thinner, something I’m not too enthusiastic about, and back on the couch for another day or two to give it a chance to settle down and the medication to do its work!
Oddly enough, I suspect that if everyone who had surgery was scanned for DVT there would be a far greater number of people detected, so clearly many instances perhaps just resolve themselves or go unchecked.
However, once identified and with the risk of it becoming a more serious condition like Pulmonary embolism, it needs to be treated appropriately!
My journey to the mountains is taking a path I didn’t foresee, but I guess it is all part of the journey!
Recently I had an exchange of thoughts around the notion that “we all die but how many of us truly live”.
But what does “truly live” really mean?
Does it mean we need to push beyond what others are doing, or scale the tallest mountain, travel the world endlessly, perhaps run the fastest marathon or lift the heaviest weight?
Maybe it could just mean sitting with a loved one and watching the sun pierce the eastern horizon as another day dawns…
And with plenty of time on my hands as I recover from recent surgery I pondered this question, in between snoozing on the day-bed, of course!
I am strongly of the view there are no ordinary moments; no ordinary people; no ordinary lives.
Crikey, therein lies the key, I thought!
There are no ordinary moments…
Whether you are travelling the world, caring for a loved one, climbing the tallest mountain, putting out the garbage, or even eating brussel sprouts.
Treat all the moments of your life, whatever you are doing, as something special and then you are truly living.
Being a climber and mountaineer, of sorts, I am inspired by Sir Edmund Hillary, not just because he was the first person, along with Tenzing Norgay, to summit and descend Mt Everest, but because he was a very humble man, a man that always had his hand out to help others, a man who truly lived his life.
And Sir Edmund had this to say…
“I have had the world lie beneath my clumsy boots and saw the red sun slip over the horizon after the dark Antarctic winter. I have been given more than my share of excitement, beauty, laughter and friendship.
Each of us has to discover his own path – of that I am sure.
Some paths will be spectacular and others peaceful and quiet – who is to say which is the most important? For me, the most rewarding moments have not always been the great moments, for what can surpass a tear on your departure, joy on your return, and a trusting hand in yours?”– Sir Edmund Hilary…
Almost two weeks have passed since I had surgery on both ankles and recovery seems to be going well. I’ve been getting plenty of rest on the couch, a few books, some movies, and lots of sleep.
I’ll be seeing the Doctor tomorrow and will have the stitches out and my first physiotherapy session.
But I can’t wait to get back into training for the climb in Nepal this coming November, but slowly does it…
And Janet & TomO have been fantastic, as usual, although Janet was heard to quip to a friend the other day, that keeping me resting is like telling our beautiful Border Collie, MilO, to sit still.
A bit like herding cats, she laughed…
Thanks to all for your wonderful messages of support, the best way I can repay your kind thoughts is to stand tall on those big mountains I want to climb, and give you a window into the beautiful Australian Outback at other times…
I’m sure we’ve all had one of those nights where you toss and turn, unable to sleep, your mind solving the problems of the world.
And with plenty of time to spare reviewing that bucket list that has been gathering dust…
I had one last night…
I tossed and turned in the early hours this morning, hindered by a plaster cast on my left leg, some minor discomfort in my right foot, and an aching neck, possibly brought about by not sleeping in the usual position I might normally.
I’m not one to create bucket lists to be honest, but my mind’s eye did turn to the climbing I have planned over the next few years, I could see those tall peaks in Nepal and Tibet with me making my way to the summits.
I think it even brought a smile to my face…
And of course my attention focused back to the here and now, the recovery I need to make from the recent surgery, the exercise program I need to undertake, which will include trail running and hill running; high intensity training on the rowing machine and out on the water on one of my racing kayaks, and I’m even contemplating Muay Thai boxing for specific conditioning.
Not to forget the technical mountaineering skills, getting back out into the Blue Mountains to hone those skills with the team from the Australian School of Mountaineering, especially self-rescue skills.
After all it is great until it goes all wrong, so best I have the skills to deal with that!
Even practicing something seemingly easy, but in reality is quite difficult, handling ropes and tying knots with large snow gloves on.
I’m sure I must have breezed in and of sleep, but as the first rays of light were piercing the eastern skyline that “crink” in my neck ruled out any more sleep for me. Mind you, normally I would be heading for The Shed at this time of the day to exercise…
I lay there, this time no thought of a bucket list, or climbing, or exercising, just my mind’s eye counting down the minutes to my chiropractic appointment with Greg, the owner of Sydney Spine and Sports Clinic in downtown Sydney.
I have had my body adjusted by the team at the clinic at least once every fortnight for years, and needless to say I am a great fan of this centuries old treatment…
And we usually get a couple of laughs in between the contorted positions I’m placed in.
The miracle of modern medicine and surgery has me at home already, recovering from the surgery I had on both of my ankles late last week…
My doctor is very happy with the procedures and results.
I had an endoscopy on my right ankle to clear some bone debris from a skydiving accident in 2008, and a couple of spurs that had formed.
The left heel was opened completely and the Achilles tendon detached to repair a split which apparently was mostly due to degeneration and to clean the heel of a couple of spurs and a boney protrusion, commonly known as a Haglund’s Bump. Because it was detached I have had to have two anchor screws placed to enable the Achilles to be sewn back on.
My sport’s doctor had tried some conventional and non-conventional non-surgical therapy on my left foot, including Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections that provided only moderate results.
I’m now recuperating at home and the doctor has suggested two to three weeks of complete rest to hopefully assist in a quicker recovery. Mobility is a problem as my left foot cannot take any weight at all, although my right foot can take weight, which is useful for getting around.
The plan is to progressively introduce some weight and physiotherapy to both feet over the coming month and we are hoping for a full recovery within three months.
Of course, that is the plan, and whilst it is unlikely to be earlier, it may take longer.
I have until mid-August to confirm my place on the expedition to Nepal in November, so plenty of time to recover and train, hopefully.
And to all, thanks very much for your kind words of support and I’m confident I’ll be back to doing what I love very soon…just being Out and About having fun!
Knife or Scalpel, the choice is yours, but the mere utterance of the word scalpel has me reaching for my head, the thought of being scalped sends a shiver up my spine!
A little while back I wrote about an Achilles tendon issue I was having in my left foot.
This has been a longer term problem, my Achilles Heel literally, that has plagued my training, at times, and climbing on other occasions. It has certainly become worse recently.
A course of treatment using PRP injections has been moderately successful, but not fixed the problem.
As it stands presently it needs to be resolved ahead of my climbing expedition to Nepal in November for two reasons, firstly I cannot achieve the level of training I need to undertake, and secondly, and most importantly, it will compromise my climbing ability, with a potential flow on effect to others.
So the surgeon has booked me in for next Thursday to treat the affected area, by scrapping the bone, and “cleaning up” the tendon area. This involves a partial detachment of the Achilles tendon. The procedure on the right ankle is very straight forward; they simply chisel off the spurs which may have been caused by a sky diving mishap from a few years back!
And you can see from my clinical description of the problem that I’m no medico, but I’m working on the principle that the bigger the medical words, the bigger the doctor’s bill.
In all fairness though, he could have at least waited until I had left the clinic before upgrading his vacation flight to the South of France from cattle class to first class…
But I’m digressing!
Having two legs out of action at the same time will literally see me flat out on my back for at least for a couple of weeks, before I become more mobile once again.
Whilst not ideal to have both done at the same time from a recovery perspective, it will at least give me the best chance of making the expedition to Nepal in November.
At this time I have put the expedition to the back of my mind as I need to have this resolved before giving it any more thought. Although my surgeon is confident I can recover quickly and get back to training. We are hoping for a full 4 months of intense training.
Now I know that sounds disappointing and it may not come to pass, but if it does I am simply viewing it as another step in the climb towards the world’s highest peaks. So rest assured I won’t be beating myself up about it…that would just be a waste of time and energy!
There is only one way – forward; and only one speed setting – go!
I told TomO I am buying one of those little bells you see in the Manor Houses, so I can give it a ring when I need something!
Like on Downton Abbey.
Crikey, not that I watch Downton Abbey (fair dinkum, I’ve opened a can of worms for myself, haven’t I)
I think I read about it on the back of a cereal box…(you do believe me, don’t you – no?)
Okay I watch Downton Abbey, but only every episode!
But back to TomO, his eyes rolled, and Janet chirped in with “in your dreams Baz, in your dreams”…
I’m sure they’ll take good care of me though and I’ll keep you all posted!
In the meantime, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops!
This approach seems to work well for us, well mostly, broken butt’s aside!
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’sCoast-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.
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…
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.
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…