“Hey, little dudes! How’s it goin’?” My magpie welcoming party always assembles the same way: one sharp-eyed individual — The same one each time? Who can say? — leaves its fellows, takes to the air, and swoops low over the grass to bank and land with breathtaking pizzaz just in front of me: By the time its relatives have spied my approach and joined the party, the first arrival has usually burst into that ecstatic warble that is such a familiar presence in the Australian landscape, rural and urban, beginning before dawn and continuing at irregular intervals till the sun goes down or even later: The tribe takes up position. There are always at least a dozen, usually several more, and several of these will herald my return with an infectious and oft-repeated eruption of glorious song, puffing out their chests till they seem set to explode, tilting back their heads, pointing their formidable beaks at the sky as they sing. It’s the largest group I’ve ever observed — “our” magpies at home form a tight family …
It took more than the usual fortitude to head out the door into the pre-dawn blackness yesterday. For days the weather reports had forecast our first dose of indubitably “wintry” weather: a “polar [or Antarctic] vortex” was bulldozing its way north, with rumours of rare snow in far-southeastern Queensland and (for Queenslanders) a daunting maximum temperature of 15C (59F). It wasn’t the cold that I dreaded, but the accompanying severe winds. Although I hoped they’d whip up some photogenically frothy waves on the high tide coinciding with sunrise, their immediate effect was to dust my eyeballs with swirling grit, and I had to wear sunglasses in the dark till I left my street and cut across the park towards Cabbage Tree Creek. The creek mouth was a disappointment. Although the conditions had left the area agreeably deserted, there was no more froth on the waves than atop your standard morning latte, and I decided to climb the road to the crest of Shorncliffe. I’d been meaning to photograph the pier reconstruction project from above with the …
Somewhere over the mid-Pacific I swapped my camo hunting cap (found dangling on a tree in Pennsylvania while hiking the A.T.) for a beanie, arranged my flimsy, handkerchief-sized blankie and folded myself into an approximation of sleep. I always book a window seat when I can to avoid contact with fellow passengers, and refrain from bathroom trips if possible, a challenge that passes the time while building self-control and Olympic-standard bladder endurance. I managed 12 hours on this trip, I’m proud to say. Just limit your free drinks to a single gin and tonic and try not to look at the ocean.
Hello again, folks. Well, I’ve been home almost a week now, and with the aid of strategically timed beer, my favourite coffee place and 1-3 naps per day, I’m adjusting pretty well to the numerous climatic and cultural shocks. There have certainly been challenges…
This afternoon I collapse onto another plane to begin my Chuseok holiday; a mercifully brief two hours later I’ll be landing at Narita for three days and four nights in Tokyo. I can’t wait.
Well, what can I say, people, you missed the Christmas party of the century here in swinging downtown Yulha…
It was minus 7 C this morning as I scurried, face half-paralysed with cold, towards coffee and life itself, prior to heading to N1 for the second-last time this year. An easy day, three classes, and I explicitly stated that there would be no learning whatsoever, which relaxed everyone immensely.
Hey, all. Some exciting goings-on have been keeping me occupied of late — more on that soon.
I had a great day yesterday.
The balmy weather continues and I hope it hangs in there a while yet, for reasons you’ll learn soon.
Well we got no class And we got no principles And we got no innocence We can’t even think of a word that rhymes… ~ Alice Cooper Band Yup, school’s out — not for summer, not forever, but for 12 glorious days.
Happy Seollal — Korean Lunar New Year — readers! Not only is this the Year of the Dragon, which happens to be my Chinese sign, but this post is also, by some sweet cosmic synchronicity, my 100th on TGTW. My first post was published on January 29 last year. I’m proud to have kept this leaky little rowboat afloat so long in these turbulent times (the turbulence seems to follow me around) and hope you’ve been enjoying the journey.
Maybe, like me, readers, you’ve long been fascinated by real-life mysteries.
I’ve been set free and I’ve been bound To the memories of yesterday’s clouds I’ve been set free and I’ve been bound And now I’m set free I’m set free I’m set free to find a new illusion… “I’m Set Free” ~ The Velvet Underground
GREAT OCEAN WALK: Day 1 I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline ~ explorer Matthew Flinders, on the Shipwreck Coast I settled back in my window seat and felt the tension float free as we shrieked free of the tarmac and began our journey south. Weeks of planning, one final late night frantically trying to get everything in order before a few hours’ dubious sleep…
It’s cold. For Brisbane, anyway. In fact, a couple of days ago was the city’s coldest in 11 years, with a maximum of 12 and a half degrees Celsius. It was also, apparently, the coldest June day here since 1916, when an 11.3C maximum was recorded. Probably a good time to head somewhere tropical and sunny. Not this idiot. Tomorrow morning at 6:55am I get on a plane south, to freezing, windy, coastal Victoria, for a hundred kilometres of solo trudging along the coast south-west of Melbourne. Wonder why I can’t get people to come hiking with me.
A lazy Saturday today strolling with a fully loaded Monkey (all my packs have been nicknamed Monkey plus a number — I think this one is Monkey VII, but I’m losing count) around Sandgate. With most of my kit for the Great Ocean Walk stuffed inside, including five days’ food and four litres of water — more than I hope to carry — the thing weighs in at about 14 kg/31 lb. Not too bad, I suppose.
My trip to Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk in a few weeks is in the works: plane tickets bought, campsites reserved, a week’s leave from work okayed. It’s going to be cold, and windy, and possibly wet — well, my masochistic streak is well documented.
I’m a creature of habit, but I’ve had to do some tinkering of late with the daily pre-work routine. I’m now teaching evening classes, and find myself with the luxury of long mornings to squander on strolls to the waterfront, coffee, books, music and unbridled daydreaming — well, let’s call it “planning”.
A year ago today I was at the Lake Morena campground, settling in with a few hundred other excited hikers for a weekend of fun. The ADZPCTKO — Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick-Off — was underway at last.