Bundjalung NP – November ’18

This is where I belong. On the edge. The active, crashing, ever powerful and changing boundary of wet and dry. Where I cling to the rock around me like the species adapted to do so at my feet. The waves rush over the platform, running out of momentum and receding back into the ocean. On a lower tide and a full moon, only one in eight waves might make it beyond the exposed rocky ledge. The noise doesn’t stop – it keeps your ears full; keeps you craning your neck frequently to check you’re not going to get drenched or worse, swept away by a rouge rush of water. Despite this, today is pretty cruisey, and the entire rockpool is open for enquiry. It’s ready for inspection.

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Here, in the intertidal zone, a totally fascinating mix of animals and plants hangs on for their lives, living through the drought of low tide and flood of high tide – multiple times a day. Come summer, the sun beats down unashamedly, scorching seaweed and bleaching the shells of barnacles and sea snails into a coastal cream colour. As low tide exposes the flats, most hide away and wait for the time to pass. Seabirds drop by for easy pickings, and you might even catch an octopus exploring for stranded fish. At high tide and the flood returns, with a wash of activity. Anemones, barnacles, and other filter feeding creatures emerge in the tide, taking in a feast.

We’re totally immersed in the abundance of life offered by these Bundjalung rock pools, and are some of the highest quality temperate (cold) water pools I’ve ever visually dissected. We loose count of the number of different sea snails and limpets, the hurried crabs, anemones, and different types of fish swimming under ledges. One unfortunate blenny, a type of fish, we found isolated in a divot in the rock, a hole smaller than a clenched fist, and almost empty. The look in its eyes said it all.

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It’s a super special place, yet one we’ve seen multiple groups of people miss out on. Approaching the platform, they gaze out over the storm black coloured rock, then up to the storm grey coloured clouds approaching and filled with rain. They shrug, unsure of what to make of the scene, and head back to the beach or carpark. Yet if variety really is the spice of life, one must immerse themselves in a rock pool to know where it’s at!

Rockpools are the inspiration that directed me into marine conservation. Their abundance humbled my knowledge not once, but always.

Most folk haven’t realised how unique and well adapted life is to live in these conditions. Pete and I came across a stunningly minute nudibranch – a devilishly ornate sea slug. From head to tip of tail it’s a centimetre long, with gnarly, soft spine needles, each a shade of light purple. Its body was ghostly grey, with fluorescent blue streaks glistening like the universe was embedded into its skin. Defining gorgeous.

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Someone had the foresight to protect this beautiful and ecologically abundant pocket of the north coast of NSW. National Parks like Bundjalung are cultural and ecological nirvanas – incredible, special places we can come and learn by glimpsing into the past and wondering about the future. Right here, we have an amazingly healthy system of creatures and plants coexisting in every nook and cranny. Our Parks are places every generation can visit to share near identical experiences with nature, knowing the balance of life is left to its evolutionarily proven ways.

Sadly, the NSW government is very out of touch with quality policy and attitudes to ensuring a healthy environment will exist for emerging generations. Everyone wants those up next to experience a wealth of life in our special places, like these rock pools of Bundjalung. I want the life in our National Parks to continue to thrive and inspire intrigue among everyone who is fortunate to see them.

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With a changing climate and warming oceans altering the range of where the intertidal life can survive – the best chance rockpools or any other habitat has at long term survival lies in its strength. Each habitat needs to be healthy. It needs to thrive, in order to survive.

Over two hours later we’re rambled out, as we pack up for the day and venture north only slightly wind-burnt but completely invigorated by this ultimate ecosystem.

Our National Parks provide the much needed protection our habitats require. Our job now is to protect our National Parks, to learn from them, and to treat them with the  respect they deserve. For now, and for the future beyond our years.


The Bunjalung NP is on the traditional lands of the Bundjalung people.


Act now: The National Parks Association of NSW is dedicated to helping the public stand up for the protection of our special natural places.

Out Of My Depth, At Depth

Snapshot: “My first dive into Victoria’s cool underwater wonderland”

Twenty metres below the surface, I’m resting on my knees on the sandy sea floor of Port Phillip, waiting for my instructor to join me. I’ve descended to depth, whilst the rest are slowly falling from above, their new silhouettes taking a while for me to recognise who is who. At twenty metres below (well, 17.5 to be exact) I’m at this dives deepest depth, and this becomes the deepest I’d ever plunged into the underwater/marine world.

I let it all sink in and catch up to my excited self, letting myself be consumed by the new world around me.

It’s not every day you just drop into a new world for the first time – a new house, building, football field, vehicle – maybe. But dropping from terrestrial being into the marine world of our very distant evolutionary ancestors is as big a contrast in environmental composition as a human can experience on this planet.

Breathing, reliant on cylinders of compressed gas; vision, reliant on perspex windows suctioned over your face; speech impossible, only simple hand gestures remain; smell limited to the faint idea of the plastic of your mask; taste, the dry sensation of canned air infused with saliva and the remnant salt water I consumed upon entering the ocean.

Like nowhere else are the human senses under such abnormal conditions. Surrounded by our aquatic origins, we are uselessly versatile, at the complete mercy of whatever we interact with – and this is oddly liberating!

You’re totally overwhelmed by your immersion.

Much like the iconic inhabitants of our much more familiar above sea level landscapes, the life underwater in southern Australia is just as strongly beautiful and unique. Here, knees on the sandy floor, I explored the graveyard of shells and discarded lives at arms reach – limpets, barnacle particles, bivalves, even fragments of sea star – all bleached white from an age of absorbing the sun in the shallower water, before finding their way to deeper depths. Nearby a soaked underwater escarpment composed of the sharp sedimentary rock identical to the Port Phillip Heads is swaying in synchronisation in the slack tide. Smaller creatures – a fascinating array of colours and shapes – sea stars, sponges and the like, grip hard and some permanently to the rock. I venture over to peer closer, still waiting for my instructor, like a child exploring while waiting for their parents to stop talking. There is enough going on just in front of me to last an entire dive of exploration – or more!

I’m fascinated by the density of life, each square inch of rock is home to sometimes multiple creatures and species. It’s so true that the closer you look, the richer your landscapes become, and you can begin to construct the scene before you not visually but mentally, on the basis of experience and strong understanding. Since this first dive I always begin each drop to depth by aquatinting myself with the community of the small and colourful, those usually ignored and clinging to the rocks.

There’s beauty in the most simplest of things.

Aesthetic beauty and the fact that these are simple creatures living simple lives, of which some, like the barnacle, never move after fastening themselves to the rock. The little and erroneously dubbed ‘insignificant’ creatures.

Loosing my sense of direction in the defused underwater light, I am a complete visitor. Out of my depth at depth. Two thirds of the worlds surface is water. The deepest trench on earth delves to twelve kilometres below the surface. In our oceans there are volcanos, cliffs and desserts, from the shallows to utter darkness under many atmospheres worth of pressure. There are creatures great and small, some existing beyond light and warmth, or next to volcanic vents intruding into the darkness at many hundreds of degrees Celsius. Whale song can be heard hundreds of kilometres away. Octopuses have three brains. Camouflaging cuttlefish are colourblind. Male seahorses give birth to young.

It blows my mind..

We’re Going The Distance

Snapshot: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Your time spent relishing the great outdoors – forest, desert, ocean, mountain – is your never-ending journey. No matter what your skill level, there’s always room to grow, to learn, and go somewhere different. Likewise, there’s always a place for you to begin.

Where do you start? Maybe you’ve seen photos, or heard amazing stories of a natural place that’s caught your attention? To reach this goal, we consider: gear, fitness, logistics, timing etc. What’s needed is very approachable and easily managed when broken down into managable portions.

Today, you might be on a one hour hike on your doorstep. Next year, you could be hiking the Overland, diving in Moreton Bay, or climbing in the Grampians. The year after, traversing the heat of the Red Centre, our wild Top End, or putting in serious k’s under foot on the Bimbleman Track. The world’s your oyster!

Let’s touch on a few of the formative steps of making solid tracks..

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Packing light – Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair NP, Tassie

Leave the kitchen sink at home

Knowing what’s essential to take with you takes practice. The more time you spend doing, the sharper you’ll get at understanding what you’ll be needing. Plus, as things become more challenging, you’ll naturally need to up the quality and strength of your gear. For example, from runners, you’ll need to progress to hiking shoes, which will range in size, weight, and price.

Tip: We’ve formed this list of ‘What you’ll need to take’ to get you started. (Found something not on the list, let us know below!)

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Sand dune tracks – Wilsons Prom NP, Victoria

Finding your potential

Going straight into month long hikes will be a total challenge. But, getting a few weekenders/day hikes under your belt can build your self awareness rapidly. And remember, there’s 52 weekends a year waiting for you to get out and make tracks!

Time your pace and how long it takes you to complete the track. Usually, people average 3-4 kms an hour. Allow yourself plenty of time – don’t rush, that ruins the revitalising impact nature has on people.

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Ready for a solid overnight hike ? – Walls of Jerusalem NP, Tassie

Now where do we go?

Where to go? Best bet is seek out your local state or national park. Get to know those trails closest to you like the back of your hand. Witness your fitness improving as you adjust to the terrain changes, and notice your appreciation of the natural world increases as it offers you something new each time.

Other great spots to find new locations can be sourced from local hiking/outdoor stores. Just stroll in and ask. They’ll love a good yarn and really should know more than most people on where you can check out.

Here’s an example hike breakdown of Making Tracks in your local patch.

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Adding another element to the adventure – Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair NP, Tassie

Also, you can..

Add something extra to give the experience a different angle. Walk with friends or go it alone; take a book; document and share your travels through photography or drawing; take a wildlife or plant ID book; learn rock climbing!

Giving yourself that something extra can compliment and enrich the experience.

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Recapping after a big sunset hike – Wilsons Prom NP, Victoria

When the trip is over

Stretching after (and before) a big day out can do wonders for recovery. So too can a good drink of hydralight/rehydration fluid.

The other side of post-adventure is what you’ve ‘earned’ after a solid effort. The chance to recap whilst: grabbing a cool drink, a minimum chips (maybe a potato scallop/cake or two) with plenty of salt, and breaking up the trip home recapping all your favourite moments.

Tip: It depends on how you get home, but a change of shoes/clothes awaiting you in the car are always a winner.

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Living and accepting the varied elements – Walls of Jerusalem NP, Tassie

Like writing in the rain

The beauty of the natural world isn’t just aesthetics.

Whatever your life involves – the highs and the lows – the natural world is there to sustain you. Grandparents take their grandkids to trees on the edge of forest they stood at half a century ago with their grandparents. Throughout a life of activity, these areas have remained unmoved, weathered through blasting summers, storms, frosts and bushfires.


Be you new or seasoned – nature is best appreciated in the now, not in a book or online. Immerse yourself in it, like getting caught in the rain. Learn how you can challenge your skills, incorporate it into your life. Read about it, talk about it, write about it – live and love it!

Level Up: Minimal Impact, Maximum Enjoyment

Snapshot: Super easy ways you can have a trip which combines minimal impact with maximum enjoyment!

Wilderness crunches under your footsteps. The path narrows, disappears under branches, and tests your skills in the heat. You’re keeping to a barely existent path whilst avoiding vines coated in serious barbs – those type that’ll simply tear your clothing to shreds. The air’s dense, locked beneath a deep green canopy of sub tropical rainforest. You hear your feet stepping, heavy breathing, and the thud of you beating pulse pounding in your ears.

You pause, to catch a breathe and wait for the team to make some ground.

Sudden movement, somewhere in you peripherals. It takes a moment, until you realise you’re eye to eye with a owl who looks just as surprised as you are for a few glances. It’s a rapid stare off, before it silently slides off into the depths of the darkness. Five minutes later down the trail, a lengthy goanna creeps out from behind a massive buttress root.

It’s real wild this place. A trail not often taken. Alone, and surrounded by life.

There’s a tiny clearing between a few eucalypts and grass-trees that looks out over rarely penetrated forest. You pull up at the highest point, and drink in the view with half-full bottle in hand.

How many small actions would it take to put an end to this scene?

Our natural areas are a public asset to be protected. Our national parks – covering land and water – can be the most special spaces on earth, but only if we treat them with the respect and foresight they require.

Having a few simple tricks up your sleeve to lessen your footprint is an awesome way you can help put an end to places being ‘loved to death’.

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Take in, take out – Overland Track through Lake St. Clair & Cradle Mnt NP, Tassie

Walk it in, walk it out

If it’s in your pack to begin with, then it’s there for the trip home. Waste you carry around can be minimised by taking food and items free of plastic wrapping, instead wrapped in paper, and by taking your reusable containers (ie. your own drink bottle). Over time, you’ll know what not to take, and become an expert at low-weight hiking packs!

Tip: Visit a zero-waste food store for packing ideas and foodstuffs before your trip!

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Some paths have been trodden for thousands of years, stick to them – Uluru NP, NT

Sticking to the track

It can be tempting. So very tempting, to search for another view, that other angle, to get somewhere ‘wilder’ and ‘off track’. Chances are, if you’ve thought of it, someone else has too.

But you can’t see everything and you never know what’s under that leaf litter – walking off track could easily disturb minute creatures and plants that are rare, endangered, and potentially dangerous. Likewise you could cause irreversible damage to areas of cultural significance.

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Wildlife’s always fascinating – Wilsons Prom NP, Victoria

Animal, meets human

Wildlife’s the best. Frequently, if not always, your favourite/most exhilarating highlight of a trip is an interaction of some kind with an animal. Be it a snake sunning itself on the path, a pair of kangaroos boxing, a whale crashing down off on the horizon – the story told ‘back home’ is always “and we saw a (insert animal here), it was awesome!”

That’s special, and there’s a few ways to ensure we keep these special interactions awesome for you and the creature. Be selfish, keep your food and food scraps for yourself – wildlife can either become dependant on humans for food, or very sick from what they’re fed.

If the animal is heading off into the bush from you, it’s probably for a reason hey?! Enjoy it from a distance and please don’t touch/trap them.

Tip: Have a camera in tow to capture those animal sightings. You’ll have the moment forever, and the animal won’t even know it.

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Calling it a day in style – Nightcap NP, NSW

By the Firelight

Setting up camp in the bush around a crackling fire is one of life’s most simple pleasures. An experience to be relished. There’s nothing like staring into the flames, passing ’round conversation or a guitar, and forgetting time until the small hours of the cool morning.

In parts, Australia burns like crazy, with exploding oil in eucalyptus leaves that can fill the sky with the densely Australian smell of the burning bush. So be fire smart! When prepping a fire – know if its cool to have one. Is it a Total Fire Ban in your area? Is there a fire pit? Can you pack in your own wood, rather that using native vegetation?

Most importantly: Make sure your fire’s out 100% before trekking off! Only if it’s cool to touch, is it cool to leave!

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Level up and be a star – Wilsons Prom NP, Vic

With great memories comes great responsibilities. After all, we don’t want our favourite places to be ruined for us later in life, or for any generations to come..


We hope some of these tips have helped. If you’re planning a trip, download our ‘Making Tracks: What you’ll need to bring’ packing list to start!

Roadtripin’ the East Coast

Day breaks over the ocean in a golden wash of light. Waves end softly below as you welcome another day on the coast, with a cuppa in hand, hidden in the sand dunes. Typical Tassie.

You’ve been up for halfa, awoken by maggies, cockies, and a myriad of other birds calling you up for sunrise. No Tassie adventure is complete without trekking through the hardy coastal vegetation to arrive at a sweeping beach of gorgeous white sand and the cleanest, clearest waster in the country that makes for the most invigorating morning swim.

Once sun’s up, it’s not long ’til you feel the burn, the summer sun of Tassie. Despite its reputation of short, cold days of aurora australis and snow capped mountains, the state’s east coast summers are sharp and the UV burns through classic blues skies.

This is a starting guide to your East-Coast Tassie Roadtrip – it works best over 4-5 days, taken slowly to achieve maximum relaxation. Don’t let Tassie’s (relative) small size fool you – its a massive place, and one not built for rushing, hurrying, or cramming too much into a day.

After you’ve had a read, check the ‘Making Tracks: What you’ll need to bring’ download and give us a follow on Instagram – its a starting point for the basic gear/clothing you’ll need to consider before hitting the road and camping.

The trip – From North to South..

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Binnalong Bay

Kick things off from St.Helens. This is a top hub to start from – there’s fuel, food, a pharmacy – you name it! Given the sometimes scarce nature of services down the east coast, we find it best to stock up here, especially if you have a fridge with you.

Binnalong Bay, the southern point of the Bay of Fires, is only a short drive out of St.Helens. This is a collection of bays that stretches up the coast, filled with beautiful white sandy beaches in stunning contrast to the red lichen-painted rocks. Back over Georges Bay is the turnoff to St. Helens point, which is equally as impressive! These are both great spots for swimming, snorkelling, or simply catching some sun.

From here, make your way down to the south part of the Douglas Apsley National Park, only a minute or so north of Bicheno. Here you can pull up stumps for the night. Take the coastal route, it’s far less windy, and there’s beaches for everyone and plenty of views to take in. There’s a short walk in to the top little campsite.

Once you’re set up, check out the Apsley Waterhole in summer for an evening dip. Classic. With a bit more time, hike the great half day walk around the Apsley Gorge Circuit.

Note: You’ll need Parks Passes in any of the national parks you visit. When visiting over a few days, pick up a holiday pass. Heaps cheaper.

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St. Helens Point

Start day two right in Bicheno, at the east coast renowned Bicheno Bakery! Then it’s only a short drive and you’re pulling into Friendly Beaches, in Freycinet National Park, and it’s just the beginning. Amble up magnificent empty beaches, or set up for a morning of waves. Eventually head into the heart of the park, and if camping, find your campsite and free up your afternoon. Sites are super popular here, so you’ll most likely have to book in peak periods. You’re not going to want to miss the sunset from here either, it’s always a stunner! Top spot to check it out is the balcony at the lodge bar with a cool beverage, or chilled out on rolled out towels at Honeymoon Bay or Richardsons Beach.

Get a good kip, tomorrow’s world famous Wineglass Bay!

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Friendly Beaches, Freycinet National Park

My tip is to get up early and greet the suns rays as you’re gazing out over the perfect waters of Wineglass Bay. The Wineglass Bay-Hazards walk is an awesome day trek, usually walked in clockwise direction. Be sure to pack plenty of water and time so you’re not rushing it and keeping those hydration levels up. If it’s hot, the western portion packs a punch in the arvo!

A side trek with a bit of elevation is up the gnarly granite bulge that is Mt. Amos. It’s tough (and near impossible to hike if raining/wet, given the slippery nature of the rock), but hands down the best view in the park. If your hiking shoes are going to pay for themselves, this is the hike they’ll do it. Grip=Stability=Good times on the slopes!

Enjoy another sunset from Freycinet or roll down the coast to Swansea or Mayfield Bay campground, and dig the spectacular Freycinet silhouette from another angle.

Note: **Don’t drive at night! It’s stupid!!** By now you’ll have noticed the high amount of wildlife and higher amount of road kill. You might on the mainland, but not in Tassie. The place is lucky to still have an abundance of wildlife – kanga’s, wombats, quolls, and of course devils –  but driving at night is a sure way to contribute to the populations demise. So don’t be stupid – get to where you’ve got to be before the sun goes down!

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Wineglass Bay, from Mt. Amos

An island national park – what could be better?! Maria Island National Park (confusingly pronounced Mar-eye-a) is a half hour ferry ride from Triabunna. Timing and bookings are made here.

You can day trip or stay longer in hostel accomodation in the old goal, or camping at various spots. There’s no cars or food on the island, so pack smart if you’re camping (remember this list as a guide). Plenty of parking at the ferry terminal in town to leave your car too.

Lots of classic Tassie hikes, vistas, and guaranteed wombat sightings here! Stroll on a clifftop overflowing with fossils, walk under the amazing swirling painted cliffs, or climb/scramble the peaks of Mt. Maria or the Bishop and Clerk. For multi-day adventure, walk down to the remote bottom end of the island and have the park to yourself..

Note: There’s a population of Tasmanian devils on Maria Island and you might be lucky to spot them. The numbers of devils have declined dramatically due to the Facial Tumour Disease wrecking havoc on the population. Maria Island was chosen as a site for captive breeding, and 15 disease-free Tasmanian Devils were introduced to the Island in 2012.

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Maria Island, fossil cliffs on the Bishop & Clerk trail

Back on the mainland, still bearing south. Depending on what car you have, there’s a few ways to get to the Tasman Peninsula National Park, be it to Eaglehawk Neck or on to Fortescue Bay for camping. FYI You’ll need to drive on gravel road out to Fortescue.

D’you dive? Eaglehawk neck is amazing diving, largest cave system in Australia in waterfall bay! Give Eaglehawk Dive Centre a call and go check them out, the caves are mind-blowing!

Tessellated Pavement is a little cheesy, but make the drive out to the Blowhole and Waterfall Bay and you won’t be disappointed! Towering cliffs sheering off into the ocean, pillars of volcanic rock and layers of ancient ocean sediments laid down millions of years ago create one of the grandest cliff lines in the country.

When you’re done with cliffs and hikes, settle in to Fortescue Bay campground, and reflect on your journey so far!

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Tasman Peninsula National Park

You’re probably rolling into day six by now, and it’s time to cruise back to Hobart. In Tassie you’re spoilt for good quality local produce – cherries, apples, whiskey, cheeses – keep an eye out for roadside stops along the way and don’t shy off from treating yourself to quality food!

Good luck on your Tassie adventure! This East Coast Roadtrip could easily be longer, wider, quicker, or include more stop offs. There’s boat trips and multi-day hikes, conservation centres, wineries, and so much more.

But in Tassie we roll with quality – remember, it’s not not built for rushing, hurrying, or cramming too much into a day. Take your time, reacquaint yourself with the little things, and be blown away by the island state..


 

 

Grampians NP – December ’17

It’s my first outdoor climb, ever – and it was bloody amazing! After a few months spent in the excessive tropical heat and losing a couple of kilos from continually sweating, this was a kick start the southern summer by climbing in Summerday Valley, in the Grampians National Park. It was great to be back on the vertical and in a cooler climate, exploring a new patch of my backyard with mates in Victoria!

The Scene.

Wind blasted, ancient honeycomb coloured sandstone sits at the top of the rope, whilst sheer rockfaces like the Wall of Fools are a backdrop and echo our voices and laughter around the valley we have all to ourselves. Weathered orange and sun blasted grey rock surrounded us, reminding me of the Arnhem range and spots in Kakadu big time.

The fire damage from recent years has left the place scarred, and yet it’s been long enough that the new growth has thickened up and begun to consume the remnant scorched skeletons of deceased eucalypts.

With our temporary camp at the base of Back Wall, a whole new world was opened up to me, providing previously unimaginable and alternative views after a few moments of scramble upwards.

The Trip.

For over a decade I’ve been venturing around this country – across each state and territory, coastal, tropical and inland. Yet even here in the Grampians – a place I know relatively well, where I’ve spent many days and nights camping and hiking – my perspective of my surroundings undertook a massive change!

I’ve worked on my climbing skills indoors throughout the year, fitting in around three climbs each week at an indoor centre in Brissy. I was hooked on climbing pretty much instantly. After a free trial week, I signed up seven days later. Yet none of that has ever compared to going outdoors for the real thing!

The Scope.

Climbing is another awesome way to explore the great outdoors, giving you a new and different perspective to experience our great backyard – from above!

It’s a solid way to make new tracks with mates, keep fit, and to be challenged by the mental demand of hanging on with your hands and thinking of the next step. And keep pushing those boundaries of what you can make your body do.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking at rock faces and cliffs in a different light. They’re larger, higher, grander. Areas, like the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, are begging to be visited again with rope, harness and carabiner in tow.

Perspective.

This experience has reinforced how much I love the great outdoors, and how powerful and important a different perspective (such as climbing) can be to an individual or to a community.

Each activity incorporates a different approach and a different set of appreciations for an area. When considering the conservation and preservation of an area, any area, these new experiences offer us a chance to appreciate from a different point of view, reminding us that there is always another angle – another way of interpreting something that one hasn’t experienced or yet considered.

It’s another reason to keep watch over our protected areas, and ensure we help these places stand the test of time and remain resilient long beyond these brief years we spend on earth..


Location: Summerday Valley, Hollow Mountain, Grampians, Victoria
Route Name: on the Backwall (unsure of route name)
Grade: 7


 

Kakadu NP – November ’17

Kakadu National Park – what an ancient patch of the world. The land demands your respect, from its rich cultural indigenous heritage to the ever relentless scorching heat. The place is massive – a quarter the size of Tasmania – and the countries largest national park. This size, you feel it – you sense it’s grandeur as the endless kilometres of Top End woodland draws your attention for hours on end. And of course, lurking mostly hidden in every drop of muddy water, there’s the living fossils – the Estuarine Crocodile Crocodylus porosus.

Heading into Kakadu – it’s an adventure definitely worth making the trip north for!

(You can click on the images to get a proper look at them).

For a wider selection of images, there’s another batch of photos from other areas in the park you can check out here.

A glimpse of summer

Power’s out
Really? Geez… getting pretty blowy hey..
Yeah…

The wind batters our window again, making a close pass and catching the slight opening we’ve left for a breeze, rattling the old thing in its track. Consistent, the wind’s growing as the night goes on.

There’s probably a line down or something. Heaps of leaves and what not blowing around down there when I came in.

Laptop closed. The absence of foreseeable power increases the value of what’s stored on the battery exponentially. We’re back onto rations.

Who’d’ve thought, after the day we had yesterday and this morning?! Unbelievable to this in a couple of hours.

More rattling..

Might as well hit the sack hey.
Yeah I reckon. I’ll be off too soon in a minute.

Knackered conversation after a massive weekend. Sentences stripped down. Not offensive, just brief, to the point. Footsteps half sticking to the tiles in the remnant moisture left by the humidity on the large square kitchen tiles. A closing door. Closing a little louder and usual, helped on by the final push given by a still open bedroom window beyond.

It’s crazy how things can change up so quickly.

Catchya tomorrow hey.
Yeah, ‘night mate.

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Haha! You’re kidding?!
Nah, the whole thing. It’s just a burger.
What, after we’d already had lunch!? Don’t know where it goes – look at you, skinny as a rake.
Hollow legs, hey.

There’s a crowd ‘round the corner shops, people splayed out over the concrete or perched in the minimal October shade, propped up on a single row of dark bricks typical to suburban shopfronts of the time – those shops which double as a shop at front and tight living area out back. This tiny stretch of bricks becomes the unofficial seating of the fish’n’chip shop in summer. Usually there’s a simple aquatic scene stuck to the window, like a faded beach or an underwater view of sea characters with (somewhat ironic) smiles on their faces. Just behind the window legs shoot back and forth handling the chips and loading them into the fryer – a role that almost always populates the front of the shop.

Thongs slap. Towels flap. Shoulders prepare for an onslaught of Australian sun, the first real session outside of summer.

The horizon is water – and cooling.

Blue, flattish with only a slight pulse of wave through it. Perfect for entertaining the idea of swimming off the edge of the rocky sandstone cliffs.

Banter bounces to and fro – it’s been a big week for a few of us – the final pre-chrissie rush has really kicked in, or our travels have taken us between Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney in a week. We’re stoked to be hitting the ocean to wash it all away.

Our laughter’s drenched in the need to..

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Everything’s blurry, indecipherable shapes and a basic colour pallet shift and shimmer. Creams, greens and browns adorn what you know are rocks from experience and a lower tide. A dark forest of seaweed and kelp sways hypnotically not too far away in front of you, guarding the deeper water near the cliff edge.

You’re kicking yourself you forgot your mask and snorkel – the visibility would be amazing – with the pre-summer conditions of low off shore winds and low nutrients from the cold, post-winter, southern ocean dominated water. It’s always a winner.

Holding on to breath, you dive deep….. and sign up to my newsletter to see the second half next week (I won’t be publishing it broadly; it’ll be a treat just for you!)..

World turned upside down??

There/here you stand, face to face with one of the deadliest animals to have ever existed. You’re captivated by its colour, its movements, its curiosity as it explores your shared surroundings.

You stand silenced, and wait for it to strike…

***

The landscape at your already sunburnt feet was a seascape over a metre below the surface not too long ago. A spectacle that has to be seen to be believed has since swept across the sea.

Before your very eyes, almost like the plug of the ocean was dislodged when the tide ticked over from ebb to flow, the ocean to the horizon nearly disappears, leaving seabed behind. You sink with the water, locked into a natural swimming pool separated and bordered by coral, sand, rock, and a bustling horizontal wash out.

Endless expanses of lush mangroves around you take a breath, whilst a plethora of coral spews out organic sunscreen to prevent themselves being scorched in the relentless tropical sun. The drying exposed earth, crackling with minute activity, is a roaring chorus when the whole landscape chimes in together as it’s once again uncovered through the daily pull of the orbiting moon.

***

Darting from a vantage point, inspecting its Territory and then darting back to cover. From liquid to air, through plant and rock, its actions are precise, aware, and focused.

Getting closer still, you’re stunned, glued to position, captivated by its fantastic contortions and charismatic flesh.

****

Imagine travelling to a place for over a generation and rarely seeing another person besides those in your company? That’s decades of memories and exploration of an entire land/seascape. A region brimming with tropical life – pods of dolphins, splashes of turtles, the continual unknown whereabouts of crocs, countless birds, and thick schools of fish.

This patch of the world you visit is special in that what is, is pretty much what has always been. The harsh and yet abundant nature of the scene demands all of your sensory attention – the sound of gushing water; the scent of baking aquatic life stuck to the breeze; the taste of salt on everything; the touch of your skin firming up, red from the suns rays; the sight of…

***

Now, imagine something else..

That this site, this place, this magnificent slice of earth now tells a different story.

People have planned a new future behind closed doors and haven’t told you.

In it rolls. The lives you’ve shared the space with are gone overnight. The larger creatures were possibly lucky, able to have evacuated their home to head out of range, yet the smaller others are chewed up, crushed, squashed, and yanked from the water and left to gasp for death in a slag pile of waste. Massive remnant stands of the coastal savour – the mangrove – are ripped up and torn down, snapped and burned in piles larger than some buildings. The ancient seafloor and coral beds are carved up to the horizon. The once deliciously clean water is contaminated; tainted. Noise, slicks, plumes, and fire foul your senses and replace what it was you once lived along side.

***

People destroy these places.

What if this was your own backyard, would you want this to happen anywhere in the world? Would you allow it to happen??

But this IS your backyard. This IS your land and water.

There are no map lines and boundaries in the real world. There is no isolation of damage, despite the maliciously biased impact statements that say otherwise. Because you’ve spent a generation mingling with the region you’ve noticed the coming and going with the seasons, the changes and alteration of species interactions that vary month to month, year to year, even decade to decade.

The impact of destroying an area to the horizon cannot be justified and cannot be undone.

The threats to this very real-life place are very real.

***

The moment’s over – the small, palm sized creature has found a place to rest, shifting shades of colour from near-orange to sand-grey to blend in to the backdrop of coral and seaweed. To think, one bite from the beautiful octopus will have your body shutting down to die in minutes, as the toxin so potent your diaphragm is struck with paralysis and you’re caught short, unable to breathe.

The moment’s over – so you shuffle back to the waters edge, chuck on your mask and snorkel, and make for the boat, just before the tide swings around and flips the world back over..

***

With a tail wind back to the ramp, towards a halted storm cloud penetrating deep into the atmosphere. Behind, the sun’s giving up for the day in the most wonderful of ways.

You’re outwardly smiling and stoked to hold the fresh salty-memory of the open water once again…

…and inside, you hope that there really is such thing as ‘forever’ for the worlds remaining beautiful places.


If you’re in the Territory, you can help this incredible place. Seek out the team at Keep Top End Coasts Healthy – topendcoasts.org.au.

Oils on the Road

It’s night two for us on the road with the band affectionately known world-wide as ‘the Oils’. The crowd has poured in with the insistent rain soaking through to their skins, into a Brissy-green amphitheatre right on the rivers edge. Below them the stage is alive. Around them nearly 10,000 peoples veins are pumping with rock’n’roll. For some, it’s their first oils gig in 30, 25, 20, or 15 years. For others, their first ever. Beams of desert-red light illuminate the falling atmospheric rinse, as a harmonica washes over our heads towards the city behind, instigating an essential Oils hit.

***

I cannot recall what led my 11 year old self to permanently borrow the Oils greatest hits from my folks’s music collection. It’s still there on my shelf, with the red $20 ‘Brashes’ sticker on the front sleeve the only physical reminder I have of the now deceased record store. The band occupy the full front cover, with a centralised Garret in a lengthy blue t-shirt with ‘What’s your excuse?’ emblazoned over it. Maybe that’s what drew me to the music, the idea that maybe the world I pictured as a primary school kid wasn’t exactly as I thought it was. The idea that outside our front living room in eastern Melbourne, some adults weren’t too keen on something.

‘What’s my excuse?’ Excuse for what?? I dunno, do I need one? Most lyrics went over my head those days – fair enough for a Grade 5 kid, but others didn’t. Beds are burning? Even the limited/zero exposure I had on the treatment of indigenous peoples that we received in the suburbs was enough to join the dots there. With a desire to increase my ever-expanding view of what actually occurred outside the front door, the Oils offered – I was hooked on them instantly.

Many years and events later, we meet on the Great Circle tour. The crowd sways and yells in and out of tune to favourites, b-sides and covers, all with the infamous corrugated water tank rusting away stage right of the drum kit. From our stall at the very back of the crowd I dissect the tunes embedded in my sonic memory – the drums beaten to half-death cut through yet meld together so bloody smoothly with bass and guitar it’s perfect. When the rising and rolling riffs of Truganini take shape over the steaming masses, I literally laugh I’m that happy to hear it in the flesh. And of course, there’s the frontman pacing around, elbows stapled to his waist, lanky arms flailing around and all of us clasped in the palm of his hand forever. It’s seriously just how I imagined it would be. In a word: Solid!

To me, the Oils embody Australian rock’n’roll like no other – music that sounds like the landscape that shapes us all. Choruses and words we all know, topics we can all understand, and above all – an over riding sense of the all-inclusive, the potential of a positive future for everyone, not just a select few. It’s wholesome music.

***

We dance into the evening, see out the rain, embrace the double encore, and close our five our stint informing a stream of concert-goers about the plight of our greatest barrier reef, exposing people to the Fight For Our Reef campaign, and how they can get on board and help.

With smiles our faces and a mass of conversations and petition signatures under our belts, we remain fully energised to continue to empower the Australian community towards a cleaner, healthier, and environmentally sound future for this grand landmass.

That’s the power of great music. The power of quality, tasteful songwriting that captures the urgency of the moment whilst keeping you dancing and singing along the way.

***

One vision, one people, one landmass, one ocean, one policy, one passion, one movement, one instant, one difference, one lifetime, one understanding.

One country. 

Where’d we be without the Oils?!


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