I know that many of you have heard me sing the praises of the Blue Mountains, which is about an hours drive to the west of Sydney, many times before, but let me just say, I’m singing its praises once again.
It is such a beautiful area where you can hike, climb mountains, or if you’re more inclined, just kickback in one of the many cafés and relax.
And we did all of those things this weekend!
We were fortunate that my parents, Brian and Fay, who are visiting for Christmas, were able to join us for a weekend of fun in the mountains…
I did some abseiling and rock-climbing to keep my skills current ahead of my mountaineering trip in New Zealand this coming January.
And I had a great time doing that.
We had intended to climb Tom Thumb, however a slightly later start than planed, and weather that looked questionable had us making other plans, so Gemma Woldendorp, from the Australian School of Mountaineering, and myself headed off to an old favourite, Boar’s Head.
Boar’s Head is a multi-pitch abseil, and a very easy climb out in a very scenic part of the mountains, and only a stone’s throw from Katoomba.
And it was such a great day, for not only were we out and about in the mountains, but we talked extensively about Gemma’s trip to Greenland earlier this year, when she, and good friend Natasha Sebire climbed many peaks, and Para-glided off them in a very remote area of the country.
Janet already wants to sign up for the next trip!
And when the climbing was over for the day we headed to the Carrington Hotel, arriving, oddly enough, just on the cocktail hour…
Of course, it was a very lazy start to Sunday morning. But isn’t that what Sundays’ are all about?
One of the wonderful things about participating in outdoor activities with your mates, whether it is recreational or in competition, is the camaraderie it engenders. The struggle, the hardship, the good, and the bad, it is there to be shared, enjoyed as a team.
I am fortunate to have spent many years pursuing outdoor pursuits and activities with brother-in-law, Ray Tong.
Let’s just call him my partner in crime.
And just so there isn’t any misunderstanding, we aren’t fugitives from the law, it’s just a figurative saying us “down under” tend to use to describe a good mate…
Okay, Ray is a Kiwi, but hey, he’s still a good mate none-the-less…
Now we’ve participated in many things together, mostly recreational, with a smattering of competitive events here and there. And yes, there is always an underlying competitive streak between us, but that’s just good old fashioned Aussie versus Kiwi rivalry…
You couldn’t expect anything less!
Anyway, we tend to spend a lot of time out in the bush, walking and trekking and many of these have taken on mammoth proportions. We’ve walked from Sydney to Newcastle together, bush-whacking it 240 kilometres through the “scrub” – mind you if you drive, it is only 140-kilometres along the freeway.
We’ve spent countless hours on the water together…
I chased him from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast, a journey that saw us cycling, running, and white-water kayaking the 240 kilometres over two-days.
We’ve run rapids in our kayaks together, and even struggled through the mud in “Tough Mudder” helping each other to the finish.
We’ve pursued paragliding and skydiving…
And then there is the most dangerous of them all, the notorious Newcastle Bike Ride.
The “NBR” as it is known colloquially…
It isn’t for the faint-hearted.
This is an invitation only event open to those who can demonstrate superior time-trial qualities on a bike.
It covers a two kilometre sprint on a racing bike from Ray’s home in Newcastle to the Albion Hotel, followed by an endurance test of being able to drink at least half-a-dozen schooners of beer with lots of bellowing laughter, the city and back home.
The ride home is always used as a warm-down and should be done at a leisurely pace, unless of course you’ve stayed for one too many had a few flat tyres out on the road and your arrival is long overdue. In which case, the every man man for himself rule applies.
Many have tried, few ever rise to the occasion…
On the many trips to the pub time-trials we’ve done in Newcastle we’ve had plenty of time to solve the problems of the world.
As one does!
Nothing is sacred, all topics covered.
Okay, we don’t touch Rugby ‘cause it always upsets the Kiwi’s when they lose the Bledisloe Cup, and there was one time when Ray wanted to discuss a problem he had after a “real” bike ride where we spent a long time in the saddle – haemorrhoids.
I told him I couldn’t touch that one and best to take it up with Leah, his partner, the sister of my partner, Janet.
Did I get that right?
Confused myself there for a ‘sec.
What I tried to say is we married two sisters, Leah & Janet…The “Fawthrop Girls”.
Yes, “The Fawthrop Girls”…
So anyway, perched atop the bar-stools down at the fountain of all knowledge; The Albion Hotel, our bikes during these training sessions we’ve covered many time favoured topics.
On our last NBRonly a week ago sometime back we started comparing notes on what we share in common.
As you could imagine there was plenty of back-slapping and congratulations going on as we reviewed the impressive list, after all we were on our 3rd 6th schooner of beer each…
Good looking – tick
A physique many would give a left-arm for – tick
Modest – TICK
Have a sister named Debbie – tick
Adventurous – tick
Competed in the Coast to Coast Race in New Zealand – tick
Kayakers – tick
Extreme endurance hikers and adventure racers– tick
Almost fallen off the same ledge on a mountain – tick (True story! Mt Tibrogargan in Queensland before we even met each other)
Climb Mountains – tick and half-tick (Ray was too traumatised to climb again sissy)
Both have flown under skydiving canopies – tick
We’re both cookie cut-outs – WHAT?
Strewth, we’ve been cloned, we chorused together in unison as we considered the similarities.
Kneaded expertly and pressed with a cookie cutter; a cutter passed sister-to-sister, a cutter revered like one’s very first training bra.
Okay, yes, somehow I came out the better looking of the two of us, you know, a bit like pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, some are perfect, others possibly a little overdone and a touch rough around the edges...
Anyway here we were, seemingly virtual twins…
To be honest, I took some comfort in this as I was a little worried that Ray might have been thinking he should have married me given we had so much in common.
I mean, he gazed looked at me just a bit too longingly for my liking as we waited for our next beer to be poured. But I just put it down to the beer haze fogging his mind a tad…yeah, that’s what it was, a beer haze, yeah…
And as we rode sprinted home on our bikes, the wind gusting so hard that it’d blow your dog off its chain, the most favourite Fawthrop Family saying resonated loudly…
You don’t know how lucky you are!
Yep, there is no doubting it, we are both partnered to Angels, and we’ll put that to the top of the list, for sure…
And while you’re here hang around and take a squiz at this You tube video…a little bit of that “cookie cut-out” adventure!
It is some footage of Ray flying a sky-diving canopy on the East-Coast of New Zealand in the early 1990s. It was quite out there at the time, for a Kiwi anyway!
And following is what us Aussies do, jump first, then fly…
Just pulling Ray’s leg…what they were doing was ground breaking at the time. He is wearing the white helmet!
Adventure, comes in many forms, and you’ve just gotta love it!
The other day I came across an inspirational story, the story of Andy Campbell.
On 7 June, Andy left London to travel 30,000 miles around the world in a wheelchair, a journey that is expected to take two years, will cross four continents with environments ranging from oceans to deserts, an odessy that has never been attempted before in which he will ski, scubadive, kayak, and even paraglide.
Eight years ago Andy had an abseiling accident, a fall from a rock-face that left him paralysed, losing the use of his legs.
But, in his own words, he kept his “ life and his ambition”.
“The more I tasted freedom the greater my appetite became and I realised the only way to ensure something’s impossible is to not try, to accept failure and physically stop”.
Motivated by a desire to escape the concrete jungle and urban environments that often confines those in wheelchairs, Andy has continued to pursue what he enjoys most, adventure. Following the accident he went on to learn the skills necessary to be able to ski, sitting down, kayak, bike ride, scuba dive, and even rock-climbing again, all without the use of his legs.
Andy will use his journey as a way to help increase the accessibly and enjoyment of the outdoors for those with spinal cord injuries.
His vision is simple, “to help create a world in which people with a spinal cord injury are not restricted from active participation in outdoor recreation by a lack of access to adequate equipment.”
His goal, “to raise 1 million pounds.”
Good luck Andy, you truly are an inspiration, a great example of how ordinary people, achieve great things!