Sunday, December 14, 2008

Random Beauty - L. Casta

1: NGC654 supernova or some incredible space thing.
2: Bud, my climbing partner in Chamonix, French Alps 1999.
3,4,5 Sigh. Laeticia Casta (see below). middle one - with Yves Saint Laurent.

Once in a while, I'll post up some random photos of beautiful things. I'm quite visual, and enjoy art and photography.
Laeticia Casta - model, actress (the Blue Bicycle) and representative of all that is beautiful in French women. Plus she believes in chastity (a rarity these days). Incidentally, the true meaning of the word "chaste" is not abstinence, but sex only when Love is present. Quite a few marriages are not chaste by this defn.

Sunsets and Big Sky country

1: Sunset at rest area sth of Nerandera - the best things in life are free..
2,3: Rainbow sth of Ardlethan
4: Frodo's Hobbit van
5: Big Sky country sth of West Wyalong (sth west NSW)
6: Next to the laundromat at Cowra

Thur 11 – Mon 15 dec

Blue mnts – West to Bathurst – Cowra – South to Nerandera (Newell hway)

Friday 12 dec
Blue mnts.
It’s raining pretty constantly. I decide to walk anyway, from Govett’s leap carpark towards Pope’s Glen. I pass rock “Pagoda” formations, tree ferns, beautiful flowers, pools with tiny sand beaches along the creek.
I test out my nylon “softshell” with an umbrella. Works fairly well, you sweat a lot less than with Gore-Tex.
I’m at about 1000m altitude. Good for sports training… like Flagstaff in Arizona, Or Boulder, Colorado, or the Vercors In France. One of the towns up here is twin city with Flagstaff, Ariz.

Then decide I better get moving to avoid falling on my relatives and family friends in the middle of Christmas. Down a short steep road, onto the gently rolling hills West of the citadel of the Blue mnts.

City versus Country - thoughts

I arrive At Bathurst, Home of Holden V8 grand prix races on Mt Panorama.
Buy a new digital camera – Canon AS590 IS , for 140 $ (gd price). Pretty amazing features for such a price: manual exposure possible, 4x zoom, optical viewer (like old-stlye SLRs) . All in all, great to have a hi-qual camera with which I can capture and share the displays nature puts on for us (see sunsets above).

I get a pair of polyester long johns and some freeze dried food at the BCF store
The girl behind the counter has that sweet country look, like the mechanic-girl on the sci-fi movie “Serenity”. People in general are relaxed and down-to earth here – the country feel. Makes a nice change from the ghost-like Goths and other costumed city-fauna at Katoomba, which feels like a suburb of Sydney (I’m told there is a knifing per week on weekends in Katoomba – oh for Rudy Gulliani to apply zero-tolerance to Aus cities and reduce assault and homicide by more than 50% as in NY City ).

“Ragged” is the word that comes to mind when I think of people in Katoomba. Ragged youth who don’t take care of themselves, who have little to look up to except the local drug dealer in his flash car. Ragged mature people who’ve drunk too much or seen to much violence. Definitely not Scandinavian athletic types. Where are the bronzed Anzacs who work hard and play hard and are brave and enthusiastic? They’re out there, but not in inner cities.
I feel like getting a group of them and taking them on a wilderness walk, gradually increasing the difficulty. Or yachting. Get them to know the joy of using their bodies in the clean sunny air, the joy of work, the joy of swimming in ice-cold creeks, the free-ness and sacredness of nature’s beauty, including their own. Plus we could work on a farmer’s property, with horses etc.

The country life is definitely healthier, physically and mentally. There’s too much disconnection from reality, your body, nature, others and posing in most cities. City kids could spend 6 month in the country as part of their curriculum – so they can at least get at taste of reality, seeing where their meat comes from, giving birth to foals, working in the mud, getting old cars going… come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind working on a farm for a few months.

Sure, I can understand the attraction of the city lights. And I’m sure country kids need a bit of city from time to time. But the what with wireless internet, mobile phones, downloadable movies etc, the country is much less isolated than it used to be.
I’m reminded of Harrison Ford, who lives on a ranch near Jackson Hole, Idaho. Next to the amazing Grand Tetons mountains. I agree with him that LA life corrupts – especially kids, who fall right into the drugs and all the rest culture of LA.
Get to small rural town called Balney. Dogs in pickups, dusty streets, Big container rail terminal . I like it. Fuel’s going abnormally fast, some power surges. Van due for a service. Plus I’m out of fuel… and all the fuel places are closed at 6pm. So I stay the nite.

Sat 13 - Cowra, Ardlethan

Next day, get fuel, but no service possible. So go on to Cowra – bigger country town.
Nice historic towns before Cowra.
Not pos to get service there either. Shop at Coles, Move on towards town of Nerandera. Now in flat country – easy to drive, except for strong wind that buffets the van. After West Wyalong – it’s “Big Sky” country like Montana. (see photo above).
Golden Fields, almost Billard table flat. Stop at rest area after Ardlethan.
Go for a run up road, then dirt track. It’s good to feel my body after hours driving.
On return to the van, I am greeted by amazing double rainbow and the other end going into the ground (where the treasure is). (see photos above).

Sunday 14 - Nerandera

I arrive at Nerandera 140 km on a fill… half of what I ususually get. Decide to wait for Monday so I can get a service.
See a real Tiger Moth biplane at small museum . This area used to be the training are for pilots in WW2. 1000 pilots from here alone were killed in that conflict. One who survived was Australia’s only Aboriginal pilot, who flew a fighter. It seems to me Aboriginals had more opportunities back then than they do now… what with the victim industry constantly encouraging them to feel like perpetual victims. At least Aboriginal leaders like Noel Pearson don’t agree with this pandering.

In the library, I talk to the librarian about the WW2 training airbases. I mention my grandfather was in the RAAF in WW1, and killed in the R101 airship crash (1930), just north of Paris (in a strange coincidence, I ended up growing up just 200 km or so south of the crash site…) . She has just seen a doco on airships, including the R101.

WW2, Islamic terrorism, The will to win

Regarding WW2, I often wonder if the modern public would have the stomach for defeating Hitler, Mussolini, the Japanese empire if they were transported into the past. 400 000 American servicemen dead…. 50 000 dead in the German Ardennes counter- offensive alone… the 4000 or so dead in Irak recently seems like a mere blip.

The islamo-fascists count on western resolve crumbling, with time and wear. I hope for the sake of the future of kids today that they are wrong.
Personally, I would rather die fighting than endure the living-death of life in the shadow of a global Islamic dictatorship, Teheran-style.
“vivre libre ou mourir” – “live free or die” was the motto of a Captain of the resistance in a small high plateau near Chambery, France. He held out, until the end of the war when the Germans sent up forces on skis.

At one stage, he tried to recruit French people in towns around, but met with little enthusiasm. In fact, a documentary made in the 50s showed that most French were resigned to, even collaborating with Nazi occupation. This doco was banned for decades by De Gaulle, who wanted to perpetuate the resistance mythology… true there was resistance, but it was a small minority.
It seems that little has changed, and the French and other Europeans would rather submit and raise the white flag of surrender than fight Islamic terrorism in it’s bases abroad (Afghanistan); when it tries to take over a state or scuttle democracy (Irak). And verbally on their own soil, despite books like “Londistan”, denial and appeasement is still strong in the elites.
“The price of freedom is perpetual vigilance” (and blood) I forget who said that.
Out of Nerandera, I get bogged doing a U-turn. 2 farmers turn up with their machinery, and gladly pull me out with their ute. Country hospitality.

Monday 15

Sun at last ! but chilly wind.
I find a mechanic to do the service, go to the library to update my blog.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Climbing and Walking Blue mnts

0: Gil the Quebecois, Marie, Me (not a very good shot of me!)
1: Rowan on the slackline
2,3,4 : Views of bridal Falls and track

Monday 8 dec

Walk down to foot of Bridal Veil Falls, from Govett’s leap parking.
Awesome fall, lots of moss on the cliff walls, very nicely built track down the cliff.

I do a bit of scrambling on boulders at thee base of the falls. Then Run/walk back up.
Shop at Katoomba, meet up with S&R and do “slacklining” with them in a park (see photo above). Rowan has awesome balance. I can only hold on 2 seconds or so.

Camp at the top of Shipley’s cliffs, and see S&R’s campsite just along a track.

Tue 9 Dec

At 730am, do Yoga, stretching and pushups with S&R. These guys are only just out of high school and are truly dedicated climbers. I’m impressed. Later I watch them climb like insects on hard overhanging routes.
Rowan explains how he learnt about “supermarket dumpster diving” at Arapiles. Climbers from all over the world camp for 2$ per nite at Arapiles, and climb for up to a month, with expensive gear (where their money goes). This is the Australian equivalent of “Camp 5” at Yosemite, USA – where climbers in the 60s and 70s pioneered “big wall” climbs where one uses etriers and such on mirror –like cliffs.
Several of these climbers went on to manufacture climbing equipment, which is now used worldwide.

So Rowan and others in the Katoomba area go to the Coles supermarket dumpsters and pull out intact packages of spaghetti, bread etc, which are past thier due-by dates.
They can thus climb for weeks on very little money.
It’s funny to see his state-of the art tent and headtorch etc. Reminds me of what was said of the famous French sailor Eric Tabarly - that he used the same old piece of soap for months, that he would pick up a discarded pair of shorts at the marina and re-use it. This was a man who was one of the best sailors in the world, winning world cup races with his uranium-keeled yacht “Pen Duick IV” . He had the money to have the best yacht because he was so thrifty in other areas….

A lesson for us all – find out what you really want to do and focus on that. Don't waste energy keeping up with the Jones... The social pressure to keep up appearances is there, but is it really worth the effort in trying to please others ?

Is authenticity not a better option for all - authentic climbing hobos ; authentic white collar yuppies who value luxury above all; authentic businessmen who provide products, make money and create jobs (give me a break with "corporate responsibility" ahhhhg ), authentic tough cops (not nanny-state PC enforcers) etc.

I climb my first Blue mnts climbs with Gil. I lead an “18” , then Gil does a “19”, which I top-rope, with difficulty. The edges of the rock are sharp, and I’m out of practice at climbing at this level.

We stop at lunch. Evening: I run along the track overlooking the Grose Valley – sun setting on red cliff-faces.

Wed 10 Dec. 08

Climb with Ricky, whom I met thru Marie. At Bordsen’s lookout. Short climbs which get my forearms pumped. I take a fall towards the top of one – about 5m. the rope and belay device does it’s job and I come to a stop. Scary, but as Ricky says – it gets it out of your system. Fear of falling makes one climb less well, and in sports climbing, falls are usually anodyne (except when there is a ledge underneath).

On another I almost fall and get quite uncomfortable desperately hanging on in a difficult overhung posn. , trying to clip onto the anchor at the top of the climb. I finally manage to secure myself. A lot of mind games in sports climbing. Prefer mountaineering with it’s easier routes , resting places , great views and mixed ice/rock terrain. But sports rock climbing is fun in itself , not just training for “trad” routes or mountaineering. It’s just that you get scared when you are pushing the envelope of your skills (even though you are usually safe). Even Pros get scared when at the limit of their abilities.

Thru Northern Rivers, Tamworth, to Blue Mnts (Sydney)

1,2: re-enactemnt of British soldiers with real muskets, at Windsor west of Sydney
3: Sunset at Govett's leap, Blue Mnts NSW
4: The Van at Uki, Northern Rivers region, NSW

Friday 5 Dec. 08

350 km today
NSW border – Muwillnbah – Kyogle – Tenterfield – Glenn Innes

In the morning, the sharp ridges of the scenic rim to my left and right are mist shrouded, and I can see 2 eagles soaring.
I drive down towards Murwilembah thru very cute tiny country towns. Eg Crystal Creek with its Hippie cafes and shops.
Horse agistment centers, amazing mountain surrounds.
I am aware that I am approaching my old 2005 stamping grounds – déjà vu is to be expected. I go thru Mbah – poverty is apparent – rundown house, olds shops.. I’m not quite sure why this region is fairly poor. Mt Warning in the distance – an amazing volcanic shape, straight out of a Tolkien book.

I stop at Uki on the and walk around a bit, nice town. Then go on and take a small diversion to lake xxx – where I used to take dad , and he used to lie on a recliner . Amazing views of pines, lake and Mt Warning in the background.
I have lunch there.

Then I drive on, past the turnoff to Nimbin, on the long hilly road to Kyogle. Great vistas but hard driving. Finally reach plains area of Kyogle, and then easy driving to Casino, and Tenterfield (with a big mountain pass before the latter). At Tenterfield , I turn South onto the very easy to drive New England Highway. Very little traffic, huge vistas of slightly rolling plains – great farming country.
Just after turning of, I go thru some amazing hills strewn with large boulders. The more plains. I sing songs, feel joy at being on the road, a free spirit in a Vast Great Southern Land.

I stop for the night in a rest area just after Glen Innes , now in “Celtic lands” with scottish names – Glencoe etc.

Sat 6 dec

Go past Moonbi – just nth of Tamworth. Hills with nice boulders.
Walk around Tamworth – home of a major country music festival. Guys with big cowboy hats , swank main street with shade trees , a bit like the south of France.

Drive on , past Huge horse agistment centers - “Emirates” agistments. Thru town of Scone – australia’s premier thoroughbred breeding center.

Then past 2 huge power stations and a whole area of enormous open cut coal minefields. Then Singleton, fairly uninspired town. I take “Putty road” – through wollemi nat park – conical hills with pockmarked boulders like wild west. Very windy, narrow gorge. Then long stretches of straighter road. Camp jst Nth of town of Colo. I see I am next to Blue mountains area, and just 60km or so from western Sydney.

450 km today

Sun 7 Dec. 08

I know Gil the Quebecois is in the blue mountains, so I call, and it turns out he’s climbing near Katoomba. So I decide to make a small diversion to see him and his girlfriend Marie-Eve. I take route 40 (Bell rd) from Windsor. At Windsor, I stop briefly as there is some sort of celebration. It’s for the 198th anniversary of Founding of the the “5 towns” (Windsor, ..) by governor Macquarie.

Clydesdale horses, lots of families. A re-enactement of British soldiers with muskets. They know their stuff – I am shown how a 1800s musket is loaded. They fire them (no bullets) and also a small canon, which sends a shockwave over you like a wave…
Very pleasant.

Then drive past RAAF base with Hercules transport planes, along Bell rd – steep sections, then amazing views of the canyons of the blue mnts. I was here with my parents in 1989 or so, but I am spellbound by the huge cliff faces and wild valleys.

Arrive in Blackheath (near Katoomba) early afternoon, browse and see amazing view into Grose valley from Govett’s leap . then Meet Gil and Marie-Eve at a pub. Marie-Eve has just spent 1 month climbing (trad style) at Arapiles, nr Grampians. Now plans to climb and work with Gil in this area.
While we are there, Stefan and Rowan (S&R) turn up. Small climbing world – Marie met them climbing at Arapiles (vic). Stefan is from Germany and Rowan from NZ.

They are camped “ wild” in a tent just above a crag, in the bush down the road, live very cheaply, have the best outdoor gear and are excellent climbers, as I see Tuesday.

Mist and chill in the evening – strange to feel chilly after Queensland’s barminess.
Camp at Govett’s leap parking and look at photos on my laptop with G & M.

Kerouac Jules’ Road Diary

1: waterfall near Binna burra lodge
2: Lookout
3: secretly, Jules is a Melbourne Maoist, posing as a CIA-funded neo-con warmongrel.
4: one of the huge fig trees
5: On a 16km walk with river crossings
6: waterfall

Poet, Warrior, Lover, Magician/ Technician, Travel writer, Court Jester and general pain in the butt. Drink less Coffee and read more Jules. The Hippie Conservative Libertarian with a climbing harness and an M16.

The outdoor instructor season is finished for 2 months, so Jules has set of southward with his mobile office, gear loft, kitchen and dorm (van). Many adventures and meetings are to be expected.
Thurs 4 dec 08

I have just had 3 great days at Binna Burra, Lamington Nat Park – at 700m altitude.
Hosted by Caz, a fellow outdoor instructor whom I met on a camp. She also guides adults on walks from Binna Burra lodge, a great old-style lodge that has been there since the 1930s. The jungle valleys and steep sides are covered with a network of tracks short and long , and she knows most of them, as well as the Geology, History and Botany of the site. It’s great to have a knowledgeable guide.

It’s a garden of Eden, with Crimson Rosellas (red), large Skinks, Woompoo birds that echo in the jungle, and huge fig trees with buttressed roots and matrixes of roots, big waterfalls , creeks with pools… The area is often covered with mist or rain, and can be up to 10 degrees colder than the lowlands. Just inland from the Gold coast and all it’s skyscrapers and feral animals. The road is long and windy enough to dissuade those who are not committed to walk in the jungle.

It lies on the “Scenic Rim” – a rim of jungly mountains 1000 m or so high which divides Queensland and NSW. With a few passes where roads get over.

I drive down to Nerang in the lowlands and load up my eski with food for my trip down south. I go to a net café where I catch up with my emails and send replies. Also look at my bank account online.
Then I drive the scenic way south, past the “Natural Arch” up to a very obvious mountain pass where the view opens up to a huge vista of the Northern Rivers area of NSW – my old stamping grounds when I was taking care of Dad in 2005.

I talk to a local who has stopped with his bike – it turns out he has cycled around the world, in about 4 years, staying with tribes etc. his website:
philosophy bit follows:
We talk a lot about various issues- dictators and how to deal with them etc, and finish up with Evil – I reckon Evil is inherent in all of us and we can choose or not to tap into “demonic forces” , and there is a continual battle between Good and Evil – as all cultures from Buddhists to Hinduism to Christianity to Pagan ones have believed. As well as writers such as Tolkien and CS Lewis. He has this post-modern idea that if only we could get to the “root causes” – better parenting/education in young years etc, we would not have to deal with the likes of Saddam or Milosevic or serial killers, and go to war.
Mmm yeah, and how is that going to happen ?… even if we has everything provided as in the sci-fi movie “Logan’s Run”, there would still be evil, though less. The sci-fi movie “Serenity” also postulates that when you try to anaesthetize people to much, you end up with a portion of the population becoming crazed killers, as a reaction, or side effect.

The main problem with his idea is that it denies the reality of the imperfect present, and the need to deal with an imperfect world and protect our loved ones, and democratic western civilization, via warfare and law enforcement, which itself is imperfect.
It’s a bit like saying to a cancer patient that we won’t be treating this cancer because it’s too messy and has too many side effects, and better luck in the next life when we will have this wonderful Utopian Brave New World where everyone is nice nice and no-one gets cancer. And pigs will fly…

Had Belgrade infrastructure not been bombed (circa 1998) for 6 weeks by Clinton and Blair, Milosevic would be dictator of greater Serbia and probably hundreds more thousands would have died in Serb ethnic cleansing…..
Some people object that a school bus, a passenger train were hit (by mistake) during this bombing amongst other civilian casualties, so “War is not the Answer”. Bollocks – what’s your alternative – watching ethnic cleansing go on undisturbed ?
As Margaret Thatcher would have said “There is no alternative”.

As it was, due to the lateness of the Anglo-US intervention, 200 000 civilians died in that civil war… and the toothless UN forces watched on as Serb snipers around Sarajevo shot old ladies and 14 yr old girls going out to collect water... I’ve talked to Serbs whining about how they were set upon by the anglo-US forces… whine away guys, I have very little sympathy – next time you have a maniac like Milosevic, form an armed militia and get rid of him instead of sitting passively.

All the unspeakable civilian tortures and mass killings of unarmed civilians by Serb death squads (Arkan and company) and regular forces happened 2 hours flight away from Paris, where I was at the time. Also ,I had visited the country in 1989, and knew several of the areas where fighting was occurring. It made me mad and sickened me, and even gave me nightmares. Mad at that clown Chirac for being all talk and no action. It was a turning point for many Europeans in the realisation that Europe could not even stop ethnic cleansing in it’s own backyard… and basically stood for nothing but empty talk (Blair being an exception to this).

Bah.. back to my road diary … had to get that off my chest tho.

I jog then eat some canned food and salad. Then sleep.