The Island

Pic courtesy of National Geographic

There’s you, here’s me
Two islands in the sea of humanity
Surrounded by rocks and cliffs so sheer
The lasting scars of hurt and fear

These towering cliffs protect me
From the onslaught of the sea
But occasionally there’s a tourist
Who takes the time to see
What’s behind the cliffline
What it is that’s me

And from the passing tide of people
There’s always some that stay
They come, they see, they conquer
They feast like birds of prey

And when they go they do not go
As completely as they came
After their occupation
Things are never quite the same
The cliffs are somehow steeper
The rocks are sharper too
Which makes it so much harder
Harder for me and you

My love lies on the clifftop
Waiting patiently
Waiting for a traveller
To come across the sea
And build a beachhead sturdy
To take me completely

My life waits on the clifftop
Looking out to sea
Wondering where the island is
The one who’s meant for me.

(circa Jan 1990)


Bushie Bill

Illustration by Trevor Paul – taken from Metroland Online

Bushie Bill they call him
He lives upon the land
His home is where his feet are
Just as long as he can stand

His possessions in his bedroll
Strapped loosely on his back
That’s how he came to town that day
That’s how he walks the track

He never seems to settle down
He never has the time
And when you ask him how he is
He’s always in his prime

Bushie’s life is always wanting
For nothing but a start
He often makes friends along the way
And they just as often part

But that don’t bother Bushie
He likes it best that way
Never an angry word they have
Too short the length of stay

But his friends are always with him
He wears them in his smile
There’s no pretension there in Bill
There’s no deceit or guile

And Bushie Bill’s the man to call
If you need a helping hand
He’s quick to aid, he’s quick to help
To comfort and understand

Some think that he’s a gentleman
Others say a clown
But no matter what, I’m happier when
Bushie Bill comes through town.

circa Jan 1990

The Power Of Negative Thinking

Pic from:

We hear so much about the power of positive thinking that I wanted to write this to put a case for the other side, based on a recent experience of mine.

Now Father Time is no friend of mine (or anyone else’s I surmise) and so I have been wanting to do a few things just to see if I still could. You know, that horrible feeling you get as you age, when you haven’t tested yourself for a while, and you start to think that you aren’t up for some of the things that you used to do. Especially when you have been enjoying more than a healthy share of food and wine and not enough exercise!

Well last year I set myself a goal to do a 100km cycle before June this year. I also had a goal to cycle to Mt White, just north of Sydney. I measured the round trip from home to Mt White cafe and although it had a lot of hills it was only a bit over 80km so these had to be two separate goals. (Damn! twice the work!).

I went into training – softly – just doing regular cycles around home and getting things moving in the right direction physically. However, I then had a little setback. One of those annoying little injuries one can get which aren’t much at the time, but which have the potential to completely derail your plans if you don’t pay them due attention.

So I stopped cycling, and any other form of exercise for a few weeks. Then I had a trip to New Zealand for about three weeks. Shortly after returning I did a three day cycle from Bright to Wangaratta via Beechworth and realised that this 100km cycle was not going to be easy, even on the flat, and I pretty much gave up as I was getting niggles from the old injury.

Pic from:

Anyway the end of May was racing around and Sydney was blessed with some truly nice weather. I decided that I would try to cycle to Mt White as I didn’t want to get to the deadline without even having tried to reach one of my goals.

I even convinced myself that cycling to Mt White would satisfy BOTH goals as the expectation when I set the 100km cycle was that it would be reasonably easy going (ie flat) and the cycle to Mt White, as any Sydney-sider knows, is anything but easy for cyclists.

I was so convinced that this was going to be a disaster that I even put the bike rack in the car and gave my wife instructions for a rescue and asked her to stay by the phone. In my mind I was fully expecting to be struggling to make it to Pie In The Sky cafe (about 25km), but I really needed to try, just to keep some self respect.

I was so concerned about my ability to make a respectable distance that I went slower than I normally do. I set off on a foggy cold morning just before 7am taking it very easy. Even getting to Hornsby was a drama, with steepish hills (though short) and a lot of traffic (it was a work day). My thighs were already feeling the pinch and I’d only just started.

My fear about failing too soon, prompted me to take it even slower. Up some of the hills I was down to little more than a walking pace and these were the babies.

For the less experienced cyclists out there you will appreciate that when you engage the very low gears (the granny-wheel) there is an apparent compulsion to spin the pedals faster as if there is a direct link. Whenever I caught myself doing this, I backed off and forced myself to slow down.

Before long I was at Cowan, feeling pretty good, and so I stopped to have a break and a drink. My plan had been to stop at Pie In The Sky (PITS), a bit further on, but I was concerned that it might not be open. Sure enough, when I went past at 8:45am it was not yet open, so I thanked my good decision and just kept going.

From PITS there is a massive downhill followed by a steep climb for 10km up to the Mt White Cafe. I coasted down from PITS reaching about 44km/hr and then started the real ride. Using my slow technique I was doing only between 5 and 6km/hr over the steeper sections. I even stopped for a while half way up.

By the time I got to the Mt White cafe I was still feeling so good that I just sailed right on past thinking that I would get extra kms under my belt before I stopped. Once they were done there was no taking them away. If I left them to do once I had returned home it never would have happened. If they proved too much, I still had the car pick-up option.

Anyway, I cycled out until I reached about 51km, just to give me a little margin. I was so elated that I pigged out on a toasted sandwich, chips and a coffee when I returned to the cafe.

After a good feed and a break I headed home again, sticking with my slow strategy as there was still the climb back to PITS and several other hills too. The descent was steep – I got up to 57.5km/hr, just coasting.

The day had warmed up by now and home beckoned, but I resisted the urge to push and go faster. PITS was another welcome rest after the climb up, and I treated myself to another coffee and feed.

Ultimately I arrived home just before 3pm, feeling pretty good still. My average speed whilst cycling was 16.8km/hr (I guess those fast long downhills helped with that!). The entire trip took 8hrs with a total of 101.7km! I not only had cycled to Mt White Cafe, I had also reached my other goal of cycling 100km. Even the next day I felt pretty good with my bum being the only sore spot.
So this story is an example of how (at least sometimes) negative thinking can help. I was so sure of failing that I went extra super cautiously, and not only achieved both my goals in one go, but did it in style in that I was not physically devastated for the next few days.

Queenstown – adventure capital

There are many who believe that Queenstown, New Zealand, is the adventure capital of the world. Whether or not you agree, one thing is for sure and that is that there is so much adrenaline pumping adventure available in this small remote town.

You wont be in Queenstown long before you see, if you look up, parachutes descending, apparently onto the town. With its steep hill behind, accessible by Gondola, Queenstown is ripe for the parapenters.

But its not only Queenstown itself. Nearby there is also Coronet Peak. A winter  playground normally (read skiing and snowboarding), in summer it too is used for launching hang-gliders and parapenters.

Check out the pix.

Morning Promise

Pic courtesy of blog “Orthodox in the District”

The morning mist stirs gently over rocks and over sea,
Textured swirls of fairy floss, ethereal tranquility.
But beneath this fluffy cover the surging waters hide;
Repressed though rampant, savage, the eternal flowing tide.
Incessant, but infertile, a surrogate sublime,
The mother of all life on earth, but none of direct line.
Trapped by land and surface tension, it struggles to be free
Elastic, plastic, deforming; molding to reality.
This great primordial soup swells and ebbs with pregnancy,
Perpetually in motion, giving birth to expectancy.
Then as if in silent Blitzkrieg, the sky explodes in hues,
Casting colours on the water, now the mist must pay its dues.
Rushing, trapped in vortices, excited by the light,
Chaotic and yet synchronised, it disintegrates in flight
Leaving bare the torrid ocean to fight the sun alone,
Pounding out its anger and frustration against stone
With all its might and energy, until it learns with dread,
That for all its might and energy it really is quite dead.
Then upon the tide some dolphins glide, bringing life and bringing fun
Bringing to fulfilment the promise of the rising sun.

circa 14 March 1990

Milford Track (Days 3 and 4)

After a very wet Day 2, we started day 3 with a light drizzle but much thinner cloud. Very promising. After an hour or so it was definitely clearing up and we were getting glimpses of the tops and the pass we had to climb over. Once again we could see that there had been a good dusting of snow on the tops, nearly down to the level of the pass we were crossing.

We were truly blessed as the weather continued clearing, and so quickly that by the time we came to ascend the pass it was beautifully clear blue skies and a nice warm day. Rather than freezing we were more in danger of overheating during the ascent and following descent to Day 3’s “Hutel”.

The views whilst crossing the pass are extraordinary – see below.

Day 4 also turned on quite a display of fine weather for us while we undertook the longer, but easier walk out to Sandfly Point. This wonderful track walk is completed with another boat trip, taking us from Sandfly Point to Milford Sound where we rejoined civilisation.

The full guided walk is 5 days, but the 5th day is just a bus trip back to Queenstown and the return of all the borrowed equipment.

Milford Track (Days 1 and 2)

Walking the Milford Track in south western New Zealand had been “on my list” for such a long time that when an opportunity to do it with some friends arose I jumped at it. Of course we did it the “gentleman’s” way – ie we stayed in catered, hotel-style bush huts and only carried day-packs; our overnight luggage being transported between the “Hutels” by Ultimate Hikes, our walks tour provider. Oh … and there was probably some wine in there each evening as well.

The walk started in Queenstown with a group meetup and the distribution of essential gear and an explanation of the walk. When all were organised and arranged we boarded the bus and headed for Te Anau at the southern tip of Lake Te Anau. Luckily for us, we were fed and watered before boarding a boat to take us to the north of the lake and the start of the walk proper.

All through the morning and lunch the weather had been getting progressively more foreboding. Now during the boat trip it looked positively like rain and a very cold, wet walk.

We disembarked right onto the bush track with a very fine sprinkling in progress as it tried very hard to rain on us. Luckily the first day’s walk was only 1-2km to get to Glade House, our first night on the track.

After settling in we were taken for a short guided walk around the local bush, to get acclimatised and to be told a bit about it. We were very lucky because it still hadn’t managed to rain properly, but it sure seemed to be trying.

No such luck for the next day. After a cold night we woke to a very cold wet morning. During short breaks in the clouds we could see that a small amount of snow had fallen on the tops during the night (this was the middle of summer!).

They say that the Milford track is at its best when it rains, and to a point, from our experience, that could be true. Rain and stormy skies seem to go with this country and just as well as it is one of the wettest places on the planet.

Our first full day of walking was rather cold and at times very wet but there were periods when the rain eased or stopped, allowing some photos and views. The country really does have a charm in these conditions…

Lost Love #2

Image courtesy of:

The Autumn leaves do wither, but there’s beauty in their dying
And their use is just beginning on the ground on which they are lying

As all these leaves will feed the trees
Which give such good abiding

The Winter snows weigh heavy and the trees exposed are bowing
But underneath th’enshrouding mantle are new lives in the growing

And all these seeds will become the trees
Which give such good abiding

So now our autumn is upon us and our Winter lies ahead
And like the leaves our hearts must build new ones in their stead

So many leaves must feed the trees
Which give such good abiding

Let us not forget the seasons are all cyclic in their quarters
Life’s Spring will soon return anew and with new loves rich reward us

And so these seeds become the trees
Which give such good abiding

(circa 1985)

Image courtesy of:

Peak Desire #1

I have a fascination with a mountain I knew when I was young. Then it was Mt Egmont. Now it is Mt Taranaki, having reverted to the original Maori name. This extinct volcano is located on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, and boasts being the second most “regular” volcano, after Mt Fuji in Japan. Anyway it rises about 2300m (~7550ft) from the surrounding land to a total elevation of 2518m (~8260ft).

Its been a while since I have climbed it. In March 2011 I went with some friends to have a go. Initially I was excited as the weather looked like it was going to actually be fine. However the fine weather followed on the heels of a short cold snap which we found had deposited a layer of snow on the upper reaches. A bit unseasonal, but quite the normal weather for this mountain.

Undeterred by the snow we set off before sunrise, expecting that with the now warmish weather, it would melt or at least soften before we got there. Wrong! Unfortunately the heat never quite eventuated and when we reached the snow it was still hazardously frozen showing no signs of yielding to our desires.

Oh well, another attempt failed. Still, there is another year…

NZ 201103 - 028

Mt Egmont/Taranaki before sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki at sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki at sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Mt Egmont/Taranaki after sunrise

Looking back from our turn-around point

Looking back from our turn-around point

Mt Egmont/Taranaki from the water tower in Hawera

Mt Egmont/Taranaki from the water tower in Hawera