Australia, Hiking, Mountains
Comments 4

A Strange Symmetry in the Glass Houses

Firstly, readers, a couple of introductions, starting with the latest addition to my superhero utility-belt:

It’s a Sony NEX-5N, a mirror-less compact, bought last Thursday, the end result of months of maddening research. I’ve always enjoyed photography but for years was merely a dabbler. I’m still a rank amateur but taking pictures on my walks has taken increasing prominence in the last year or so. Something clicked — heheh — in Switzerland last year and since then I’ve been pushing myself to learn more and get better. It’s time to move on from the point-and-shoot waterproof Cybershot (though I still plan on carrying it for bad weather).

And this is Cam, on a hike we did up Kuratake-yama, outside Tokyo, in May 2002:

This clown you know already:

I don’t know if I got dressed in a hurry that morning, or if it was my stylist’s day off. The weird thing is how Cam, who wasn’t a hiker, got it so right, threads-wise, on this, one of his first “real” Japan hikes, while I was still bumbling around in the woods like a multi-coloured jackass…

Cam and I worked together at a large school for Nova, the ubiquitous Japanese English-school chain, the McDonald’s of language farms, now (thankfully) bankrupt and long-gone. He was there in the mothership school at Tokorozawa when I started in 2000 and was still there when I left in 2003; he went back later and stayed a while.

We all go back, at least once. Japan’s a dream you can’t quite abandon the first time. It takes practice to get it out of your system.

Cam’s a passionate cyclist, and raced with a Japanese team. It was normal for him back then to come into work, fresh as a daisy, after a warm-up ride of 150km or so in the hills of Okutama. He was also gifted at burying the frustration that would turn many of us teachers — this one, anyway — into ranting, cynical wreckage. I think he took it all out on his poor bike.

We caught up again in September when he rode out to meet me at Sandgate. Here we are at a local cafe, the same one we’d had a big breakfast at a few years back when I made the mistake of joining him for what I thought would be a relaxing weekend ride:

I’m practising my devil-moves for the Alice Cooper show that night.

Cam rode home, gently declining my offer of a mudflat ramble. We should do a Glass House Mountains hike sometime, we agreed:

Then last Saturday, I got a text. How about that Tibrogargan climb I’d suggested?

Sure — when?

How about tomorrow, nice and early?

How early is ‘early’?

5:00am? I’ll pick you up.

Er…Jesus…five? Er…shit…okay.

It was actually very bad timing. I have a tonne on my plate, gearing up for that Secret Plan of mine I keep dropping sledgehammer-subtle hints about. It’s been ruining my life; I haven’t slept past 4:15am in weeks. But Cam has a car, and I really wanted to try out the new camera…so…

6:30  or so. Tibrogargan, 364m, the Big Monkey itself, with some railway workers in the foreground:

You might remember my last visit, a near-perfect day out, which I wrote about here.

This one was just a weird day out. I’d stayed up late the night before, frantically trying to cram the magnum opus that is the NEX’s manual into my head. Then in the rush, I forgot the polariser, and neglected to change the image-size settings, so all the pictures were huge…

But more crucially, just as we pulled into the still-deserted parking area, Cam said, “Did I mention that I’m afraid of heights?”

No, Cam, you didn’t.

I assumed he was joking, and we stared hiking in…

..and soon reached the base of the gorilla’s spine…

..for an ascent that’s largely vertical or near-vertical:

I was having a blast, but when I looked down, Cam appeared stymied:

He couldn’t do it. I tried to direct his hand and foot placements, but it was no good. Cam had the heebie-jeebies.

“It doesn’t make any sense. If this bit was at ground level, I wouldn’t be worried at all, but knowing we’re so high…”

“Yeah.” You can’t predict stuff like that, nor make sense of it. A few more tries and he gave up, elected to wait for me down the bottom.

“No worries,” I offered. I’m no daredevil, but I’ve done far scarier stuff, not always willingly.

“You can do the circuit track if you like,” I offered. “I won’t be long.”

I raced upwards, enjoying myself, stopping repeatedly to squeeze off my first mountain shots. These were mostly taken on the “Program Auto” setting; I was too intimidated as yet for anything more manual:

Here’s Beerwah, the biggest of the group, and Coonowrin (“Crookneck”), pineapple fields in the foreground:

“The Twins”:

Near the summit; macadamia farms to the south:

I raced over to the gorilla’s brow and played with the timer and aptly named Gorillapod tripod:

The view coastwards:

This is Howard, a local, and his son Adam:

We had a chat, perched near the edge, about human evolution, and a book he’d recently read that critiqued the view of our ancient ancestors as “savages” red in tooth and claw.

“There were only about a million humans on the planet. It would have been beautiful, lush. There was space and food for everyone. It was agriculture that ruined everything, when people wanted to settle and defend the land they’d worked on.” Our own white history in this country, we agreed, had often been truly savage, barbaric and cruel.

It was a fun meeting, and then we realised that he knew my cousin well. “Oh yeah, I know Christine! Her daughter’s a good friend of my daughter!”

But I was feeling guilty, with Cam down there waiting, so I backtracked through the grass trees…

..and raced back down the west face.

Too fast, perhaps. When I got to the ground, my legs were wobbly. I hate descents. But I found Cam, and suggested a drive to Ngungun, a much easier ascent. As he drove, I tried to find directions in my guidebook, and quickly became very, very carsick. And very, very sleepy. A weird combination.

I got out of the car on my wobbly jelly-legs, feeling nauseous, looked at Cam, and said, “Man, sorry, I have to sit down.” Soon I was lying back on a bench, straw hat over my eyes, while Cam climbed Ngungun alone. I floated in and out of queasy dreams, weeks of stress and worry swirling around, and suddenly Cam called, “Yagi!” and was back.

Yagi is Japanese for goat. I sat up, still dizzy but a little better.

“You did it?” I asked.

“Yep. It was great.”

Guess I’ll have to take his word on that one…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Simon says

    Great pics man. Love the panoramic shots. Does it auto stitch them or do you have to align them up yourself?

  2. Guess you two are destined never to climb together.

    That shot of you at the top gave me vertigo!

    At the end I thought you had a touch of the gargoyles coming on for a minute…

    • Those gargoyles are always hovering close over my left shoulder, SW. And I think they took chunks out of my knees; they’ve been in agony since that descent.

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