Friday, 9 August 2019

Gut Instinct Part 1

Gut Instinct | Long way there

We embark on the road trip in the familiar way, cramped and folded into the car, tetchy, complaining and excited. The Hubby, The Girls and I decide we wanted to see the Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia, cheaply, car camping style.

This was in September 2016. The date is significant and has a wiki page about the events that chased our heals from one National Park to the next.

Getting to Wilpenia Pound was tiresome, however, upon arrival, it was surprising, awe-inspiring. The expected dry desert had recently blossomed into a rich pallet of colour. The backdrop of vivid blue intersecting red clay cliffs shaped setting up camp into an integrated mindfulness pleasure.

We decided to confirm our trip plans after visiting the local knowledge center, Wilpenia Pound  National Parks and Wildlife office, where a local man named Terrence (Ringo) Coulthart worked, and you can't get much more local than a family history of 60,000 years and counting.

Ringo, seeing the Husband's bracelet in the colours of red, yellow and black, says "You Aboriginal?" to which the Hubby replies "yeah why?" I stood by wide eyed as this was the first time in our lives (and I have known him since I was 4 years old) that he voiced this hidden family history.

"Wanna come up to my country? I am there for a few days from Saturday onward." Sure we say. Maps out, route organised, we don't make hard plans but wave a "See how things go" on the way out.

The youngest daughter is smitten, it was the thought of horses and a property and a friendly face, but to be completely honest, it was a shower that she was really thinking of. So she worked hard in her very gentle way to get us to bypass Flinders Ranges National Park and go straight up to Gammon Ranges, Iga Wata. How she does it is one of our family's mysteries, but there we were the next day on the road, bypassing Flinders - the place that we had traveled so far to see.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Concussions, Marilyn and Sunsets

Sunset Evokes Memories

Adventuring Pre-Mobile Phone

Trust Manifest

Watching the sunset transforming  sandstone into gold, an adventure from pre-children was evoked. We were at Baerami Bush Dance weekend. This is a lovely annual event where a terrific bunch of mixed aged people come together to share food dance or play acoustic melodies with their roots firmly planted in traditional Irish, English, Scottish and European folk tunes. A long standing friend was inviting us on a walk in the Mount Olive region. The sun was setting, and the memory flooded back...

Baerami Creek sunset on sandstone

The hubby and I were recently married. Our only method of transport had broken down. This is a problem in Aussie rural areas as there is no public transport. So we decided to hitch-hike (this was back when I trusted without thought). Off we walked, in a set of shorts and tea shirts, a hat, a bag with cooked potatoes (for dinner), water and joyful hearts. Not too much later, along comes our ride; an older man (probably my age now!) and as it is a country road, says hop in the back. Now let me set the scene, the car is an old worn out  flat tray ute and the dog guarded viciously the passenger seat in the front. The tray was uncovered and full to the brim with a bunch of eclectic items, ranging from tools to tea pots. And, like the prestigious personality she was, a bigger than life statue of Marilyn Munro, skirt flying out in all directions and eyes seductively inviting us to sit at her feet. We decided the car would only do a couple of kilometers per hour up those mountain trails, so the risk of crashing seemed minimal compared to the risk of lung cancer in the cab with our train smoking driver and cranky dog. So we jumped in, as Old Mate shouted out the window over his shoulder, "Now don't forget to hide if we come across any coppers." Sure we thought, under Marilyn's skirt!

We arrived at the end of the road without incident,  thanked old Mate from a safe distance from Blue Dog's snapping jaws, blew Marilyn a kiss and started out for our friends place through the bush.  Arrived as the sun was setting with a story, had missed all the day's activities making mud bricks, and was just in time for music, fire and our cold potatoes. We slept in the back of another ute, starting to think we must really like utes, under a greasy tarp. Wow, how far from this have we now come. Our adventures involve minus degree down sleeping bags with silk liners and lightweight mozzie proof tent. Back then we cuddled up cozy and happy as two doves in a nest, still intoxicated with our recent Baha'i marriage ceremony and drunk on love.

After a lazy beginning, we started to make our way, across a mountain range to meet a friend who was spending the day trail riding on motorbikes in the next valley. Yes Good Friend had said Friday night, "yeah, we'll be there to pick yas up and take you back home." 

This had been at a chance meeting in Wallsend, Newcastle. Now I'll need to explain this story in a story in a story. The hubby was playing music at Mount Olive on the Saturday night, but he needed his guitar. His guitar happened to be over an hour away in Newcastle, so after work on Friday, he gets a lift to Newcastle with a colleague. After picking up his guitar, he happens to pop into the local Tavern where old school mates get together. There he meets Best Friend from years and years ago. After chatting, Best Friend and Hubby realise that they will be relatively close on the weekend, as Best Friend is riding motorbikes in Mount Royal National Park, not too far from where we were going on Saturday. So they come up with the plan for getting us home on the Sunday, the only thing is it involved us walking through the bush across ridges and valleys to meet up. The Best Friend pops home to get the topographic maps so a randevu point can be set. All good says Hubby, see you Sunday on sunset. 

The Hubby then set out for home, hitch-hiking. The night was wearing on and a man (who becomes Best Friend for the Future) stops and picks the Hubby up because as he tells the story, he had a guitar. Future Best Friend brings the Hubby all the way home at about 4 am, sets a date to catch up and play music together and says goodbye.

Now back to the original story, Sunday morning at Carrowbrook;  we walked through bush all day, minus potatoes but still with hat and water. 
We walked from Carrowbrook to a Valley in Mount Royal National Park

We walked and walked and walked.

The sun started to set, and I can't remember if it was lovely as I was worried. There would be no ute and tarp that night if we didn't make it to the next valley. And what if Best Mate had left. "Nah' says Hubby, "he'd never just leave us out here. Don't worry, we are nearly there." But, I countered, you hadn't seen him for about 10 years.

He was right, before the sunset had changed to ink purple and mauve, we arrived in the valley that had all the bike trails hatched along next to the creek. Good, I remember thinking, we have water.

We smelt the 2-Stoke before we heard the sound of an off-road bike revving along the track, at high speed it seemed. The Good Friend skidded to a stop, smiled through the helmet and said "Good you're here, gotta go quick, you first and then I'll be back for you soon." On I jumped (no helmet, what was I thinking) and hung on to hat and Best Mates waist. Why the hurry I absurdly thought as we got air over a jump. After dumping me at the car he left without a word. Still shocked, I stood for a while looking at the final sun's rays stroking the sandstone. Until I heard groaning from the back of the car. What? Oh yeah, there was another bike on the trailer, must be Best Mate 2. In I went with a cheery, "Hi". Best Mate 2 didn't answer as he was concussed after falling from his bike. I paused, what was it you do for concussion and bleeding head wound again? Vowing to myself to get a first aid certificate I tried to make him comfortable. What seemed like an eternity later, Hubby and Best Mate came skidding to a stop, worked together like a machine to get the bike secured and buckled up as we drove off to the closest hospital. Turned out OK, Best Mate 2 was fine, after a couple of days.

I asked Best Mate 1 why he didn't take him to the hospital straight away. He answered that he considered it, but as he seemed OK and the weather report had said there was a cold snap that night, he thought he'd get us and then get Best Mate 2 to help, anyway, he said, I'd told ya I'd be there.

Future Best Mate did come and play music with Hubby, they played so well together that it was the beginning of a friendship that has had them in all different bands over the years and are still playing together.

And as for Marilyn, we never found out where she ended up, but are grateful for the afternoon spent together breathing petrol and dust in the Mountains.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Snowy Beauty

Moving on from workplace trauma

Adventure with loved ones helps

Sharing my personal story

A while ago I was involved in a workplace incident that left me gasping for normal clean fresh air, for a few years. Worried for my well-being, the Family decided to take me on one of the first adventures since the incident and this proved to be one of the turning points in the multifaceted healing process. 

It was an overnight hike into the back-country ski fields in Kosciusko National Park. The Family showed a united symbol of support and swapped their usual back country snow skis to trudge along in snow shoes with me (a non-skier).

It was beautiful. We left from Guthega Power Station and arrived at Horse Camp Hut. 

The most amazing part of this small hike was the fact that I started it with absolute trepidation and yet I completed it. I had lost all confidence in my ability to, well, to do anything actually. I felt totally out of my depth, found it extremely difficult to trust myself, even more difficult to trust others, including my dear loving family. This is what trauma can do. It picks you up, shakes you about until parts fall away and then you need to spend time looking for those parts and carefully putting them back into place. Some are lost and need replacing, others are broken and need fixing, and some parts you completely forget you ever had. This rebuilding needs helpers.

So The Family encouraged me when I was finding it difficult, made me laugh when I was overcome with fear and sat quietly beside me when I laid in the snow sobbing.

When we reached the camp, the 4 beds were taken by some young men. The rest of them were camping. They saw us and left the beds for Mark and I to have. What lovely young men! Not only that, they spent the next 2 days entertaining us with their snow antics, kept the wood fire going and cooked Mark a meat pie on the wood stove, which they had kept frozen in the snow.

In payment, the Girls and the-Best-Ever-Son-in-Law slept in their tents in the snow and we all made an igloo for the young men that had left the beds for us to sleep in. When they put the light on in our purpose built igloo, it transformed it into a sparkling opaque ice palace. Now I get the Disney Frozen Palaces.

The first night that I slept in that humble hut in the snow was the first night in over a year that the Hubby and I had slept without me waking us up with my nightmares.

Our Refuge


Portal into the Igloo

Finding my courage
Warm and Cosy


Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Animal Love

Looking out for Wild-lings

Gratitude to the Rules Interpreters of our Adventure World

We love all the animals we have encountered in our outdoor adventures, so much so that we want them to continue to multiply in the wild for outdoor goers like us to enjoy for generations to come. And we want to put our faith in the wonderful scientists that study these animals and make rules to help protect their lives. However, somehow this hasn't translated into our Adventure Practice. We have been perpetrators of breaking the rules. Now as unintentional Rule Breakers, we are ever grateful to those other outdoor goers who are looking out for us, well most probably looking out for the animals.

Firstly we want to thank our daughters, for their dedication to protecting all manner of native wild-lings and for scolding their parents for breaking-the-rules. The story told is from our point of defensive view.

We were in a wonderful part of New Zealand's East Coast, not too far from the lovely city of Dunedin. Our exploratory drive around the small coastal roads led us to a high point overlooking the ocean. There's a track the Daughters said, lets go! So down we went. Down we went for over an hour. Seriously, is everything BIG  in New Zealand, even the sand dunes were incredibly steep and high as our mountains in Aus.

The Hubby and I were discussing just how hard it was going to be to get back up to the car and the Daughters were saying but it will be worth it to see Seals and Sea Lions. No, there were no animals on that beach, we realised as we took a break to scan the beach from our high vantage point. Then we stumbled onto the deserted beach, both puffing from trying to keep up with the Girls who had raced ahead (as usual) and were looking at the rock platform at the end of the cove.

I headed over to a man-built humpy-like structure where The Hubby was picking up a giant (of course it would be soo big) piece of seaweed. As he turned to show me just how big it was, I started yelling "It's moving." Yes he replied, dumbfounded, because I am picking it up! NO, I yelled, the rock that I am about to step on is MOVING!!!!!

And it was, as it wasn't a rock but an enormous Male (yes we could tell) Sea Lion. Oh MY, I exclaimed as we backed away slowly.

Next minute, the elder of the daughters was running up the beach saying "How could you! I am up there yelling at some tourists for going within the 20 meter radius of the seals and I turn around and here you are, my PARENTS, doing the same thing!!!!"

I don't think she has forgiven us yet.

The BIG BOY from the 20 m radius

The next wildlife warrior we were to encounter occurred when we were canoeing around the secret fishing spot, locally known as The Sticks.  Shh it is near Corrie Island Port Stephens. The Hubby was having a lovely time fishing for Flat Head near the island along the sand flats. I was lazing in the canoe, not even bothering to paddle as he had wrapped the anchor rope around his waste and was dragging me along. The old Ferry Christened "M V Tea Gardens" in 1943 during WWII came chugging along. The Captain hollowed from the helm "You are fishing in a Sanctuary, NOT ALLOWED THERE." Just at that moment the Hubby was reeling in a giant Flat Head, who upon hearing the captain, promptly spat the bait and hook out of his mouth and swam indignantly away, yelling "how dare you" over his dorsal fin. The local Shag that was watching us from the safety of the old dead tree felt sorry for us and flew over regurgitating an enormous Catfish onto the mud, and flew off. 

Thanks Ferry Captain

No way you'll lose me!
Thanks Thoughtful Cormorant (Shag)

OK so we intend to do research before the next adventure.

 "Be infinitely tender and loving to animals" - Abdu'l Baha


Sunday, 21 April 2019

Trail Riding the Dunes

Riding with packs

Exploring dune ruins with bikes

Reminiscing our childhoods, tearing around our home suburb on our push bikes, we decided the next adventure trial would be Bike-Riding-Renaissance.  So the Hubby found an old bike at our local rubbish tip and he bought me a brand new  all rounder bike with shock absorbers, fat tyres and an extra large comfy seat.

We packed and packed and packed. For some reason we had the idea that we could take everything, because after all we were not hiking we were RIDING. We imagined flying along the flat coastal trail near Mungo Brush, cooling coastal breeze blowing through our hair. The Hubby said not to worry, yes pack the 6 pack of non-alcoholic beer, the whole packet of biscuits, the glass container of cheeses, the potato, pumpkin, onions and carrots, the bottle of milk and packet of cereal. He said don't worry about the light weight this and that as we were riding, after all, the bike does all the work. Consequently, we had packs on our backs, pannier bags, bags tied on the back of the bikes and bags tied on the handle bags.

We got on the bikes at Boomeri Camp and I promptly fell off. Yep it was never going to work. Don't worry, says the Husband (should have learned from the first don't worry), I'll put the pack tied to your handle bars into my luggage.

What a hilarious sight. You could hardly see him from all the luggage that rubbish tip bike was carrying. The trip in was an easy track, flat, well formed and for the majority shady, making for an easy 10 km ride. Well that would be for most people. For me it was hard. I had to get used to riding again (why didn't I practice on the tar road first without the added packs). I had to get used to the feeling of the rough dirt surface and the way the bike seemed to plane across the rills. And I had to get used to falling off as the pack's weight caused me to overcompensate.

Boomeri Camp Ground | At the start of the coastal trail

We made it in good time and put the drinks in the water to cool while we set up a very comfy camp at Shelly Beach Camp ground.

Shelley Beach Camp

Went for walks, swam in the lake, made dinner and watched the sunset over the water. Better than any motel view. 

Well rested, we were ready for our pack free ride to Seal Rocks. We packed up camp, put the pack on for the first 2 km to the start of Shelly access road. After stowing the packs in the scrub, we set off feeling free without the weight. Our goal was to reach Seal Rocks. Easy thought I, after all no packs. I found the ride harder. The hills were exhausting going up and terrifying going down. The bike seemed to slip and slide along the gravel and the bigger rocks would bounce you this way and that. The Hubby taught me to stand up for balance and steering and this helped. Legs burning, we rode past a sign that said Midcamp Fire Trail. Good I thought, don't have to keep going along this road, only need to convince the Better Half. Had the argument all worked out. Well it turns out that he had always wanted to look at the place where there used to be fishing houses and huts. Terrific, our bike ride will be shorter and I could feel that cool beach water already.

Finally I thought, we get off the slippery gravelly road and onto nice soft white sand. Now I can hear many of you laughing, but for the ones like me that are ignorant, nice soft white sand is VERY HARD to ride on. The track started out straight, flat and made of dirt. It turned into stick stippled sand dunes at just the point where it was too far to turn back. You know that sweet point where you don't want to waste all that work that you have done, just to turn back and when you are just not too sure how far there is still to go.

So all that can be done is to soldier on.

On some parts of those dunes, I was hurtling down getting air, albeit only 5 cm, and screaming. Yes literally screaming. Screaming so loud that the flock of Black Cockatoos that had been swooping us were shocked into silence. Those pesky birds were enjoying the spectacle, and mischievously throwing Banksia serrata  seed pods down annoyingly in front of our bikes tyres. Thinking about it in hindsight, we were amazed at how they timed it, to do the most damage to putting us off the line we had chosen to take. At this stage I was following the line that the Hubby took. Skidding through the sand he slid through, dropping over the branches he dropped over and careening through the mud puddles that he careened through. Having been sent sideways by the hurled seed pod for the last time, I decided to veer from following his path. Then I realised how exhausting the level of thinking that was needed while riding over sand dune trails.

Moments before I was about to give up, damn the amount of effort I had put in, we reached the true sand dunes and had to jump off to push the bikes. Not far and we reached the ruins of the old fishing community. 

We were amazed and humbled at how little remained of the people's lives. Nature was working hard to break the water tank, stove, plates and glass bottles back into usable resources.

Lets go this way!
Small pieces of lives left

The way back was easy until we got to the packs. By then a strong sea breeze had whipped up and pushed it's hardest against us making the ride back to the car quite exhausting.

Lesson learnt: pack light, pack light, pack light.


Thursday, 4 April 2019

Adventure | Defined for Middle Aged Couple


What is it?

We've come to the point of defining what is adventure, I mean if we need to get "adventure ready" we have to work out what adventure is. My neighbour, for example, finds going out on his front veranda such an adventure that a good feed and relax afterwards is required.

So we went to a few Adventure Film Festivals.


They were exhilarating, exhausting and awe-inspiring as we watched amazing humans push the constraining physics laws onto a knife's edge. 

We looked at local adventure FaceBook pages.


So I asked the youngest daughter, "What is adventure to you?"

Her reply: 

"Well, it's like when you are doing it you really hate it, it hurts, I mean really hurts, or is so uncomfortable that you spend the time imagining laying down in your warm bed at home watching movies. And then you get to the end, and a couple of weeks later you look back and say WOW I DID THAT! I AM AWESOME."

Both the Girls said: "It's called Type 2 Fun, the BEST type of fun"

Look up:

OK, so research done, the common threads seem to be going outside, having fun and using your body, aided by specialised equipment. I think that the fitter you are, the more enjoyable the activity may be, to a certain point. So we have put together a list, being middle-aged, we like a good list:

  • Get moving (well that is actually for me as the Hubby is already fit)
  • Try different activities to find the right one
  • Join a group to learn skills from others
Any other suggestions? Please leave a comment for us!

Saturday, 30 March 2019


2,200 Steps and Counted!

View of the Majestic

Apparently Aoraki is often visited but not seen. High mountains are often like this, clouded, shrouded and mysterious. After finally convincing the Husband to leave his beloved Australia, there was no way we could miss seeing the highest mountain of New Zealand, even if it meant glimpses as the snow laden clouds drew apart for a second.

Camp Cooking

That night we slept only after we became acclimated to the rumblings of glacial melt reverberating off rocky cliffs. When we woke from our restful sleep  under the shadow of Mueller Glacier, we were greeted by Aoraki standing proudly in sunshine and blue sky.


Not content to view this omniscient mount from the relative comforts of camp, we decided to go higher to take a look, and more to the point, 2,200 steps higher.

When one lives many years in a small N.S.W rural village, one of the best things about doing-the-tourist-thing is the wonderful people you meet as you all congregate in unity sharing the warming experience of being awestruck at the grandeur of the world. Well walking up those stairs at my pace provided me with ample time to enjoy this diverse bunch of mountain viewers. Now as humans are typically hilarious with all their comings and goings, I had ample to chuckle about (mind you, this includes me!).

When faced with an overwhelming challenge, my dear husband and my year 10 art teacher (thanks Mrs. Jones) taught me to break it down, so 100 steps and then reflection time (well gasping and crying time mostly, interspersed with amusement).

So we started out, me counting my 100 steps, the others racing annoyingly ahead. Feeling a bit deflated that the hubby had got fitter, I determinedly plodded on. Then a slightly younger English couple came quickly up behind me, obviously wanting to get past me, I cramped aside at the next bigger step and nodded politely when they provided encouraging words of "you can do it". This was extremely irksome as they had not even broken into a sweat and we were up to 150 steps already, and the lady's lipstick was still as fresh as an English rose. They bunched their gym toned legs, leaped up the next 2 steps and said see you at the top! Deflated as ever, I took a humble pill and leaned on those walking sticks for the next 50 steps until rest time. By the time I had reached 450 steps, the English couple were well out of my head, I had moved on to much more interesting humans. However,  at this time, the English couple appeared around the cliff corner, walking very slowly back down. Hi I said, (too jovially I thought!) and tried to congratulate them on going all that way and back before I was even half way up. They said they hadn't gone much further and realised it was just too far. Then I really looked, the poor lady's lipstick was smudged, her hair messed, and sweat dripped unabashedly onto her designer hike tea-shirt. Yeah, I said it is 2, 200 steps, we are only at 450. They hobbled past, leaning on each other. I swung my walking sticks into gear and positively pranced up the next 3 steps.

The next interesting tourists were a gaggle of young European women (couldn't place the language). They ponytailed past me with a plastic bag filled with chips and beer, a couple of small sleeping bags, and with smiling accented English informed me that they were camping at Muellers Hut tonight. I was gobsmacked and could only pray they survived. We all had a chuckle back at the camp that night when we saw them slink back into camp, ponytails between their legs. For those, like me that are unaware of Mueller's Hut, all good, there are warning signs everywhere about what type of equipment needed to stay at the mountaineers refuge. And by the pictures on the interpretive signs, "mountaineer" doesn't include climbing up a hill and taking selfies for Instagram in your best shorts, shirt and fashion mountaineering boots!

Back to those stairs and after the half-way celebration, my enthusiasm was slackening when I met an old Dutch man. He was using a slower (yes, true) pace than I and his doting son was with him chatting happily away. I was told later by the husband and daughter that they had made it to Mueller Hut, had lunch and were on their way back down! Now that is the type of support that gets you through hard times, well done Dutch son.

My beginning career as a free photographer started about 3/4 the way up the stairs with the first of many Asians asking me to take the photo that the 2 meter selfie pole mustn't have been able to get. I loved the way that these young Asian couples were still immaculately dressed and hair in place. I didn't love the over use of the camera, especially because it involved me and interfered with my important work of counting. They gestured very politely for me to move up and down the steps to get just the right angle. This left me trying to add and minus the stairs that I went up and down, and with my oxygen deprived brain, I was sure I made mistakes. This was vindicated when I arrived at the top having counted 2,300 steps!

A young Aussie family of Mum, Dad, and two sons rushed past at about the 7/8th point. Wow, they were keen! Dad had nearly EVERYTHING on his back, Mum had everything else and boys had energy. I could see they were determined that no children were going to stop them from adventuring! Hey they said as they buzzed past. About 15 minutes later, one of he sons comes running full pace down the stairs. What the... oh, as he wafted past I realised, a toilet or perhaps shower, maybe even a hose was needed and no amount of tissues was going to help. About 10 minutes later, subdued flushed parents and other son came along, head down, gritting their teeth.

Finally, I made the top and sat with the family having the most picturesque picnic ever imagined, interrupted only intermittently by my unpaid employment as Asian photographer. I mean seriously, why did they only ask me?

It was exhilarating so worth the effort.

Back at camp, just on dusk, we watched 2 young couples with supermarket plastic bags (the thick ones!) and 1 tent that you open the bag and toss it and it sets up. We wondered where they could put that up before dark on the never ending stairs? What made it OK was that the clothes that the women had on would impede their journey and they would be forced back to camp safety. This satisfied our anxiety enough to enjoy the spectacle. The women had hijab on and you could see tiny beautiful slip on be-sparkled shoes under the black. These alone would force them back, and not too long after our musings of "what are they thinking?!?" we saw them safely back in their hired 4 W Drive and heading to their motel. 

We ate to the sound of climate change.


Gut Instinct Part 1

Gut Instinct | Long way there We embark on the road trip in the familiar way, cramped and folded into the car, tetchy, complaining and ...