Life Outside the Comfort Zone – A week on Army Cadet Camp

An opportunity to spend a week in the bush was the call-out to parents from the school our son attends…

A beautiful spot nestled on the fringes of the Hunter Valley wine region and not too far from Pokolbin Village.

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.

Perfect?  No-way…

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”

Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice – Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea

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

Yes Sir, No Sir…how high Sir!

 

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”…

Speak to you in a week, Baz – The Landy

Photo’s: Janet-Planet

Hangman’s Rock…

Devine's Hill

On the rural outskirts of suburban Sydney, a little more than an hour’s drive from Sydney’s CBD, stands the small village of Wiseman’s Ferry.

Wiseman’s has a history steeped in early European settlement in New South Wales and at the heart of this historic village is the Wiseman’s Ferry Pub – a haunt that is popular with the weekend motorcycle crowd and families alike.

And I use the word haunt literally, as it is rumoured the upstairs guest rooms are haunted.

The pub is now owned by former Wallaby Bill Young and if you are visiting on a weekend be sure to take a look upstairs as it has a small museum and the accommodation rooms do look inviting, even if you might be sharing with a ghost from the past…

And if you ever stay there, let me know how you get on!

The village stands alongside the Hawkesbury River, which travels further upstream towards Windsor and downstream to an opening at the sea near Barenjoey. A car ferry transports you to the other side where you can travel towards either Spencer or the small Hamlet of St Alban’s, either of which are a very pleasant drive.

We are frequent visitor’s to the area and have spent many hours wiling away time in the park next to the river.

On a recent visit we took the ferry to the other side and walked up Devine’s Hill to a place called “Hangman’s Rock”.

It sounds ominous and folklore suggests that in the early days of settlement and at the time the Great North Road was being built, that convicts were hanged at this rock. But history does not point to this ever occurring.

But it isn’t hard to see why the folklore surrounding the rock evolved…

Devine's Hill

What makes the walk worthwhile, apart from being Out and About in the Australian bush, is the opportunity to view the magnificent work done by convicts on the road that was built northwards towards the Hunter Valley. In fact, it is along this walk that you can best observe the Great North Road as this part is now closed to vehicle traffic and has been preserved.

So if a bit of a hike up a small mountain, some history and a magnificent steak washed down with a cold beer is your thing, then head out to Wiseman’s Ferry for a day – I guarantee your first visit won’t be your last

Photo’s: Baz – The Landy & Janet-Planet

Adventure – On a retiree’s budget…

Walking

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…

Yes, Janet-Planet, I’ll limit myself to three beers, maybe…

 

Photos: Baz – The Landy

Graduating From Work…

 

You’ve what…?

I’ve retired!  

I hear the cry go out, but you’re too young to retire…

Hey, isn’t that the point.

Besides, I am seeing it as a “graduation from work to full-time adventure”.

But what does retirement truly mean in any case?

Perhaps it is a word for another age, one long past – for me retirement means I have set a different course with my life, reclaiming some of those dreams I have long-held.

Australian Outback

 

After all, you can’t just keep laying “railroad tracks” in the same direction and simply hope you don’t run out of tracks. It is empowering and invigorating to seize control of your life; to make changes as you look to new horizons.

Speaking of which, the Australian Outback beckons and perhaps there are still some mountains that I can climb and plenty of our wonderful coastline left to kayak…

Without doubt this change in my life affords me a better opportunity to claim back my fitness, something that has been lacking over these past couple of years!

It is 42-years since I commenced work with the Bank of New South Wales at age 15-years in 1975. “The Wales” as it was affectionately known was renamed Westpac Banking Corporation following a merger with the Commercial Bank of Australia in 1982.

 

“Dear Mr and Mrs O’Malley, it is now 6 months since your son entered on probation with the bank.

During that time, Barry has settled into his new surroundings and applied himself to his various duties to the extent he has shown himself suited to bank work…”

 

bank of new south wales

And whilst I have left the building today, my official finishing date will be 10 April 2017 and following a significant milestone in the history of the bank.

The 8th of April marks the date 200-years ago in 1817 that the Bank of New South Wales opened its doors to business for the very first time. And those that do the maths will see I have been with the bank for over one-fifth of the time since it took those first deposits from customers.

Coincidently, it was on 10 April 1989 that I commenced working in the bank’s 60 Martin Place Financial Markets dealing room after my return from a secondment to the bank’s operations in Papua New Guinea.

The bank has given my family and me a wonderful life, one that has been filled with the opportunity to develop professionally and personally…

“I am proud of the contribution I have made to the bank and today as I walk out the front doors of Head Office in Sydney, perhaps with moistened eyes, I will look back at the mosaic that is the Bank.

I will remember fondly the people I have worked with over the years, the challenges we faced, the successes we achieved, and, importantly, the laughter and banter we have shared.

I will wish those who remain all the best for their future as they continue to weave the living tapestry that is the bank; as they continue to make their own impression on that mosaic…”

 

People have asked me, what will you do?

Well, TomO, the Crown Prince, has just started Year-11 at school and I’m looking forward to simply “being around” for him as he navigates his way through these two important remaining years of his high schooling.

And the future, how do I see that taking shape…?

My answer is simple, to spend it with the love of my life, Janet-Planet.

All who know this wonderfully kind person will attest, she is an absolute angel – I was so lucky to marry the girl next door thirty-three years ago.

Yes literally, next-door neighbours making eyes over the back-fence!

Together we plan to enjoy the next chapter in our lives and look forward to watching our TomO make his mark on the world as he paints his own picture on life’s canvas…

A romantic notion?

For sure it is, but Janet-Planet and I are romantics to the core and loving every minute of that, it has kept us young at heart…!

And who knows where those “railroad tracks” will takes us, but sometimes you just need to walk to the edge and not be afraid to peer over it.

We truly believe the world becomes your oyster when you are willing to put your fears aside and simply…

“Live in the moment”

After all, that is the only moment that we can ever truly live…

“Thanks for your friendship and the memories, Big Bad Baz…!”

 

Selfishness – A simple word (With a complex meaning)

Selfishness is a word that we are likely to be confronted with every day…

But what does it really mean and how should it be applied to our daily lives, if at all?

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

Adversity – A stepping stone to success (Hey, what colour is this..?)

Seemingly, whenever I tell someone I am colour-blind they feel compelled to put me to the test.

“No… really, is that what you see?”

“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…

“Colour-blind, FAIL….”

..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…

A Bank

 

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…

CrayonsAnd for heaven’s sake we won’t even talk about coloured crayons, other than to say the sight of a colouring-in book and crayons is still stressful to this day…

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!

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy

 

Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun!

 

The Camp Fire

One of the best things about camping is sitting around the fire cooking camp food…

And with a long-weekend on offer we are heading bush to escape the bounds of modern urban living, well for 48-hours at least!

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

The Simple Path…

“Do not be fooled by simplicity, both in training and life.”

 When you let this sink in you begin to realise how easy it is to over complicate life and training.

It is easy to get away from the basics and it is easy to conclude more is better, or flashier is better. Truth be told, the simple path is often the tried and true path.

Photo: Baz – The Landy

Mateship…along the Black Cat Track

Menari Village, Papua New Guinea

The Black Cat Track is not another four-wheel drive track that I have discovered in Outback Australia, but for those with a little more than a passing interest in Australian Military history will recognise it as a significant battle ground in Papua New Guinea.

Many will be familiar with the story of the Kokoda Track.

Military historians have written often of the bravery and courage shown by those involved in the New Guinea campaign, especially along the Kokoda Track, and no doubt there are countless stories of others whose sacrifices and bravery are known only to a higher authority.

Today, many Australian’s in increasing numbers are walking the Kokoda Track to pay homage to those Australian’s and Papua New Guinean Nationals, affectionately known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, who fought to defend Australia and Papua New Guinea. Most, if not all, are moved by the experience, especially after gaining only a glimpse of the conditions they would have experienced and the enormity of the task they faced against the highly-trained Japanese invasion force.

In the mid 1980’s my partner, Janet-Planet, and I lived in Papua New Guinea and we relished the opportunity to travel and work in a country that was so close to ‘home’ but was so  culturally different to Australia

The experience was humbling at times.

Before leaving the country one of my National colleagues said that I would return on many occasions in the future. Of course I said I would love to, but he was insistent, telling me that he ‘knew’ things of the future.

And he was correct, since leaving I have returned twice, once for work in the mid 1990’s, and the second to walk the Kokoda Track in 2006.

I have always had a deep interest in Australian Military history and the Anzac Spirit; the Australian commitment to one’s mate that is legendary and unique amongst the World’s fighting forces; on the sporting field, anywhere for that matter. And it was with that in mind that I found myself walking the Kokoda Track with a ‘mate’ in 2006.

 

 

We visited many battlefields; sang ‘Danny Boy’ in honour of Butch Bissett at the site that his brother, Stan, nursed him to his death, and stood in silence to the fallen at Bomana War Cemetery just outside of the country’s capital, Port Moresby.

The countryside was amazing and the people warm and welcoming.

Ten years later and I am to ‘return’ once again.

In May next year I will be travelling to Papua New Guinea, this time to trek the Black Cat Track in the country’s Morobe Province.

Yes it sounds like a long time off, but time flies, right, especially when you are trying to get your fitness “up to speed”.

Partnering up with a group of like-minded people we will be guided by Aidan Grimes, an Irishman with a great sense of humour and who now calls Australia home. Aidan’s experience and knowledge of the battlefields of this region are unparalleled and with this knowledge in hand he will help us retrace the steps taken by those who fought in this region over 60 years ago, expertly guiding us through the jungle and over mountains.

Although we will never be able to walk in the boots of those that trod this region during the War Days……

The Black Track Cat starts in Wau and winds its way down to the coast at Salamaua, with many suggesting this track makes the Kokoda Track seem like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park.

It is not an established track like ‘The Kokoda’ on which thousands of trekkers regularly tread, but a forgotten World War ll track that passes through what has been described as some of the toughest and most-hazardous terrain in the world.

In an account of his experience in The New Guinea Narrative 2001, Signalman Lloyd Collins, 3rd Division Signals, explained;

“…there was little conversation. You neither had the time nor the inclination. Talking required energy and energy was a scarce resource. When passing a mate you sometimes glanced at his face, a face dull from fatigue and dripping with perspiration. You saw his sticking clothes, his muddy boots and trousers. You noticed the heavy pack and you could hear his heaving breath as he struggled past. Then, as you pitied him and felt sorry for his plight, you realised that you looked the same to others. Even though no words were spoken the silent glance conveyed sympathy and understanding…”

This hardly sounds like a holiday I hear you say, perhaps it is more of a test of one’s own ability to draw on inner-strengths, to be inspired and stand in awe of those that fought to protect our country; laying down their own lives so we may enjoy the freedoms and way of life we do today.

To add to the adventure we will raft down the San Francisco River from the village at the end of the track to Salamaua on rafts made locally before resting overnight and completing our journey back to Lae by sea.

It is said that Salamaua is one of best kept secrets in the world and one of the most idyllic places you will ever go!

Those that follow my expeditions into the magnificent Australian Outback will know that I enjoy a camp oven roasts, scones, and Janet’s dampers, not to mention the odd beer or two. And whilst maintaining a high level of fitness it is fair to say that I am back in the gym, rowing, and weight training as well as spending time much time in the “hills” the Australian “bush” with my backpack on…something that I need little encouragement to do!

Cheers, Baz – The Landy

The Shed…

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…

Crikey, bring it on!

Baz – The Landy

(Photos: Janet-Planet)

 

 

 

 

 

Suitable only for Masochists and Israeli Paratroopers

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…

Grey's Peak

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

Such is the life of a desert dweller…

Wow, 7-weeks in the Australian Outback, travelling this wonderful country of ours in a customised four-wheel drive may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but hey, for the adventurous, you’d love it…

And for the less adventurous amongst us, crikey, come on get on board, it is about time you got out of your comfort zone and gave it a go.

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…

Sand Dune Crossing

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…

Outback Australia

 

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. 

Lazy days on Australia’s East Coast

Scarborough is a small village situated on the northern end of the Redcliffe Peninsular where the fishing fleet brings its daily catch to market and the days move at a slow pace; perfect!

I always have a sense of returning home as I drive along the Esplanade with its sweeping views of Moreton Bay to the east and Bribie Island to the north – wouldn’t be dead for quids, hey!

Photo: Baz, The Landy

Reality – It is what we choose to believe

Mountaineering

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…

Climb-on!