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! 😉