No Human Witnesses

There was a great annual gathering of all the birds, animals and insects at Upper Lurg to celebrate Christmas, after the humans had migrated to Melbourne.
The 25th December had arrived and the sun was just spreading its warm rays of light across the mountain tops into the rich valley of 5 acres covered in trees, flowers and a muddy water hole.
The Kookaburras were awake and excitedly laughed and called out “Come on the Suns up” lets party, in moments there was a great gathering of Cockatoos, Corellas, Blue Wrens, Firetails, Yellow Breasted Honey eaters, Swallows. A Black wallaby, a Golden Hare, Rabbits, an Echidna, Bluey the Blue Tongued Lizard and a Black Angus calf with his Wooly Lamb mate, to mention just a few who live in this little forest they call home.
Just inside the main gate in the middle of the gravel track stands a Giant Ant’s nest the home of the vigilant Red Soldiers that guard the bushland from unwanted invaders.

There is a large metal shed set amongst the trees and this year two men erected a veranda along one side this gives us shelter from the wind, rain and sun, the Swallows, smiling said this will give us a perfect structure to build our nests after collecting mud from the dam, for our next season’s chicks. The shed door had been left open, giving access to water from the dripping tap over the sink, and all the kitchen benches, furniture, tables and wood stove, and well stocked pantry what a wonderful Christmas this will be.
All the mums and dads brought along their babies from last Spring to celebrate and meet all the residents of the their common home along with food for the festive lunch, there were worms, grubs, grass seeds, insects, nuts from the gum trees plenty of porridge, weeties, cake, sugar, and a bottle of Port left in the open pantry that helped lift the spirit of all concerned.
But what about some music? several Field Crickets jumped on the back of the couch along with a few vocal Cockatoos, for the drum effect the Echidna rolled around in the empty four gallon drum, all the smaller birds, Blue Wren, Firetails, Willy Wag Tails danced to and fro through the limbs of the Red Flowering Gum which had been allowed to grow through the veranda roof.`
The Yabbies’ from the dam got a ride up on the back of the Blue Cranes from the dam and we filled the sink with water so they could stay and join in, one drank some Port and started doing cart wheels around the sink and pinching the females on their bottoms, we had to put him in the kettle for an hour or two till we could get him craned back to the dam.
There was great stories told about how and where to build various nests to raise the young, stories of the joy when the young hatched and when they could take to the wing and fly freely across the sky and land safely on the limbs.
The shed was decorated with local flowers some golden some red, pink gum leaves and dried Flowering Gum Nuts, the day was long and hot ,most of the young were tired and curled up together on the bed and were sound asleep even though the Cockatoos were screeching and complaining about the lack of cold Champagne.
It was a great Christmas enjoyed by all but now the shadows were lengthening time to go home and put the babies into their comfortable feather beds. We cleaned up the shed did the dishes swept the floor dumped all the rubbish. Then we sat for a while on the deck chairs reflecting on what Mark has done for us, this was a vacant bare 5 acres, he planted all these native trees and shrubs made sure they grew into the habitat were we could live and call home, he protects this oasis and asks only that we visit him, sing some songs, show him our dances and keep the balance and harmony of the bush.

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Where do I belong?

Where do I belong? For me this is a fraught question, as it is for many migrants.

When the migrant ship Australis slowly manoeuvred out of Cape Town’s docks in December 1974 and set off for the open sea I stood on the deck and watched as the majestic Table Mountain, under the shadow of which I had been born, receded into the distance. I felt an enormous sense of relief and I vowed never to return. Then the mountain disappeared over the horizon and I felt as if I had escaped from a prison. I couldn’t stand the place, with its racist, authoritarian government and its ultra-conservative, pious Afrikaners, who had as much compassion for people of colour as a predator has for its prey.

I have now lived in Australia for more than sixty percent of my entire life, so this is clearly where I belong, right? The places of my youth have changed beyond recognition, so surely I now no longer belong there. And yet, I am not always sure where I really belong. The place where one has lived as a child and as a young person is indelibly engraved into one’s psyche, regardless of the passage of time. Its tendrils retain a firm hold over the years. And so it is with me.

What is it that binds us forever to the places of our youth? It is the landscapes, the shape of the trees, the native flowers and birds and animals, the smells. It is the accents and the unique local sense of humour of the people. Even after forty years away my heart still soars when I hear Cape Coloured people speak their distinctive Kaapse Afrikaans, or when I hear the clicking sounds of a black person speaking Xhosa or Zulu.

A few years ago I borrowed my brother’s car and drove along the road between Gordon’s Bay and Hangklip, near my home town of Somerset West. The road winds its way between the ocean on one side and steep mountains on the other. As a young man I went there nearly every weekend, having barbecues with friends or girlfriends, snorkelling and sunbaking.

I spotted some wild proteas on the slope of the mountain, near the road. When I stopped and walked up the slope I suddenly smelled the aroma of the fynbos, the local vegetation, and was overpowered by the familiarity of the smells. I can’t even remember having ever registered these smells when I was young. I was so excited that I kept sniffing at the plants. Then I realised if anyone spotted me they would probably think I had escaped from a mental institution.

During the forty plus years that I have lived in Australia I have naturally grown to love the smell and the shape of the gum trees and I adore the sounds of the warbling magpies and currawongs. They have also become a part of my psyche.

When I was working at the Glen Waverley Library five years after I had arrived in Australia, I came across a book called Wild Australia: a view of birds and men, with paintings and drawings by the Australian artist John Olsen. His illustrations struck a strong chord within me and I realised for the first time the extent to which Australia had become “my place”.

At the time I was a complete ignoramus as far as art was concerned and I had never heard of Olsen. I wrote to him that same day and explained how I had struggled to come to terms with Australia’s animal and plant life and landscapes, which differed so much from that which I had grown up with. I told him his art work had captured the essence of Australia’s places and it had made me realise that I really felt at home in my new country.

Olsen responded:

John Olsen letter 11.2.80

Ironically, when I am traveling in South Africa these days and I see a eucalypt or a callistemon with its red bottlebrush flowers, I immediately long for “home”. Such is the ambivalence of my belonging.

A couple of years ago I caught up with Johan, a university friend, in South Africa. It was the first time I had seen him since I had left my homeland all those decades ago. We had lost touch with each other when I departed, but now we were overjoyed to meet again.

“It’s so good to see you again after all these years, Tiens. I had heard somewhere that you had gone to Australia and I’ve often wondered how you were going there and what you were doing.” Then he added, “So when are you coming home?”

And for a little while there I felt I was ‘home’.

The writer Gillian Slovo, daughter of a South African political refugee, described this ambivalence perfectly in an article in The Bookseller of 31 January 1997:

North London is where I’ve lived most of my life. But there are things about South Africa that feel more like home to me … I have to deal with the fact that, like most exiles, I am at home in two places, and a stranger in both.

My children do not suffer from the same ambivalence as their father. When my son Neil was six years old I took him and a couple of his little mates to the local swimming pool one day. They were all sitting in the back of the car. I overheard one friend asking Neil, “Why does your dad speak so funny?”

“How do you mean?’ asked Neil.

“He doesn’t speak the same as us Aussies.”

“Oh,” Neil replied. “That’s because me dad’s an Afro. And me mum’s a Pom, but me – I’m an Aussie!”

Another Marvelous day in Marvelous Melbourne

The threat of rain was passing and the sun was venturing out as several OMNI men sat at the Eltham station waiting to catch the 8.32am train into the city to participate in COTA’s 3 monthly meeting at 9.30am. As we chatted and laughed away the back yards and homes slipped quickly by as the sun sent search lights and flashes from the high rise windows as if saying “come on the suns up.

We stepped out onto the platform at Flinders St. Station and quickly crossed into Elizabeth St heading to Block Arcade – 98 Elizabeth Street, passing some homeless people asleep on the footpath, it was only 8 deg c. Up the lift to the 4th floor of this iconic building that was sold last year for 110 million dollars. There was a buzz of activity as men jostled for coffee and biscuits. We sat around the large board room table and listened to the reports the reps gave from the various Victorian groups.

The success was applauded with great enthusiasm plus some laughter here and there, biscuits and tea for morning break followed by a video of promotional activity created by the skills of older men with ideas. Followed by a lovely lunch of healthy rolls and more coffee, mixed with exchanges of ideas, hand shakes and we vaporized into various directions and modes of transport with the exciting thought of all meeting again before Christmas. BUT NOT AT THIS VENUE.

We were informed that COTA was moving to a new address because of the rising rent required, so we are going to a lovely spot in Little Lonsdale Street near the Flagstaff Gardens and the underground station.

So guess what, the three Omniteers Ken, Nick and Daryl went exploring again along Elizabeth St., left turn into Little Lonsdale St and there was a high-rise crane suspended above the traffic lifting huge buckets of concrete several stories above extending the height of the city’s skyline whilst a man suspended from a single rope and a small platform was painting the outside of a skyscraper with a roller some 10 stories above where we gazed in awe.

Onward to the future home of COTA, Council On The Ageing, and as the photo will show this high-rise dwarfs the single level brick dwelling beside it, which has a brick front, lane-way down one side revealing a long blue-stone wall, very mysterious perhaps it was a Cobb and Co station when Melbourne ran on horsepower.

We met three lovely ladies having coffee on the sidewalk they took our photos and helped us with our iphones and enlightened us with the current history of our new meeting home.

We dared each other and went up by lift to have an optic and were invited in and given some lovely biscuits by a very sweet young lady. There is a nice coffee shop on the ground floor of which we partook and a blackboard therein chalked a message “what did the wig say to the bald head?” …….. I will leave the answer up to you!

Around the corner down the steps that lead below the foundations of Melbourne’s sky scrapers and onto the City loop train heading back to Eltham and Diamond Creek. We engaged in conversation with two Ivanhoe school kids on the way and asked them how many times can you fold a piece of paper in half. After a guess of 7 times we gave them an OMNI brochure to fold but the best they could do 6 times. We asked if they could recognize any one the OMNI brochure and in a flash the boy pointed to me, asking in a cheeky manner we said and what’s his name the reply was Daryl. This set us back a yard or two asking how did you know my name? The answer, he said – “it is on your name tag in the photo!”

His said his father is aged 45 so we gave him the brochure to give to his Dad with an invitation to join OMNI when turns 50.

10,000 steps

Now that I am at the stage of my life where I can faintly discern the skeleton figure holding a scythe in the distance, I have started thinking about where I would like my ashes to be laid to rest. My daughter told me she was going to keep them in an urn in her house. I can’t think of anywhere worse to end up than being cooped up in an urn on a shelf, gathering dust, so I had to start thinking of more palatable alternatives that I could foist onto my family.

My initial idea was to have my ashes scattered in our garden. Then I recalled disposing of my father-in-law’s ashes in their lovely rose garden in the village of Marlow in England, only to find some years later that the new owners of the house had converted the rose garden into a boring lawn. In any case, the thought of ending up in a garden eventually owned by total strangers does not appeal.

Having considered the matter further, I decided my ashes should be taken out to sea and scattered at the Devil’s Cauldron in the ocean at Hermanus, a small coastal village in South Africa where I had spent many happy holidays with my family as a child. The Devil’s Cauldron is a group of small rocks jutting out of the sea. Through all the twists and turns in my life over the years, this was a constant familiar sight to me since early childhood. One of the first things that I do whenever I visit Hermanus is to stand on the cliff and gaze at the Devil’s Cauldron.

099 Hermanus 5 - The Devil's Boiling Pot

The Devil’s Cauldron, Hermanus

A while ago I met up with my old aunt, Mara, who lives in Hermanus. She is a born again Christian who is well aware of the fact that I am an infidel. When I told her of my wish to have my ashes scattered at the Devil’s Cauldron, Mara looked me straight in the eye and declared, “Yes, that would be right!”

But recently I changed my mind again when I came to realise what bureaucratic and logistical hurdles and expense I would burden my family with if I insisted on the Devil’s Cauldron as my final abode. I was still trying to resolve the matter of my ashes in my mind when I met my friend Alan the Wandering Philosopher earlier this week on my daily walk along the Diamond Creek.

*

My obsession with walking 10,000 steps per day started fourteen years ago, when I was working at Moreland City Council in Melbourne. Our CEO had decided to encourage the members of the corporate management team to adopt a healthier lifestyle by walking 10,000 steps each day. He gave us each a step counter to wear on our belts so we could monitor our number of daily steps. At that time my job was all consuming. I spent most of my time sitting in meetings or in front of a computer at my desk. Due to work pressures I normally worked through my lunch hour and rarely ventured outside.

The first three days I wore the step counter I barely made it to 2,000 steps each day. Horrified by this result I started going for walks at lunchtimes and after dinner. I also began to park my car at the far end of the car park at the supermarket, instead of as close to the entrance as possible. Over a year or so I gradually changed my habits and increased my number of steps until I averaged 10,000 steps per day.

My wife calls me obsessive and I am not denying she has a point. “I’m just popping outside for a few minutes,” I would say after dinner.

She would roll her eyes and ask, “Still a few steps short of the 10,000 for the day then, are you?”

To which I would reply something like, “Yep, I still have another 327 steps to go. I’ll be back soon.”

When she remarks on my obsessive bent I tell her, in my own defence: “At least my obsessions are healthy ones. I could have been obsessed with chasing other women, or with getting drunk, so don’t complain.”

As part of my daily routine I walk along the Diamond Creek footpath every day. There is a spot just past the crest of an incline, before a long sweep in the path towards the west, where the local Council has done some repair works to the footpath. There is a cross-lying strain-relief groove across the path and the colour of the path changes there to a lighter shade of grey, where a section of the path has been replaced. It is exactly 4,800 steps from the car park to this point. It is here that I turn around each day after carefully stepping over the groove, in the knowledge I would make up the rest of my daily 10,000 steps by going to the supermarket and through normal other daily activity.

Alan the Wandering Philosopher, whom I often run into on my morning walk, knows all about my obsession. He texted me recently:

“I was walking along the creek path this morning. When I reached the exact spot at the path where you always turn around on your walk I couldn’t help wondering whether obsession might not be nine tenths of the law.”

“Closer to 99% in my case”, I texted back.

Earlier this week I ran into him again along the creek path and we walked together. When we got to the spot where I always turn back, he joked, “Make sure you step right across the groove before you turn back, eh.”

Suddenly a light bulb flashed inside my head.

“You know what? I think I’m going to ask my family to scatter my ashes right here after I’ve carked it.”

To which he replied: “Good idea! Just make sure they know to scatter them on the far side of the groove.”

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The marvels of modern medicine

In 1983, while working in Port Moresby at the National Library Service of Papua New Guinea, I contracted a terrible ear infection. In time the pain almost drove me insane. Blood, pus and black goo leaked from my ear all day and night. I had to sleep with my head on an old towel and I lost my hearing completely in the infected ear.

Over the next two months I tried two types of ear drops, went to see the doctor five times, underwent an ear syringing, completed five full courses of four different antibiotics and had three injections, with absolutely no effect.

An acquaintance at the University of Papua New Guinea, who had heard about my ongoing problem with the ear infection, rang me and told me that a certain Dr Ghosh, an Indian ear, nose and throat specialist, was in town on a temporary training attachment at the Port Moresby General Hospital. I promptly went to see my doctor and asked him for a referral to see this Dr Ghosh.

On a steaming hot day in March, nearing the end of the wet season, I walked into Dr Ghosh’s office, introduced myself, and told him, “I’m getting really depressed about this ear infection, Doctor. The damn thing appears to be incurable and the pain is driving me around the bend.”

Dr Ghosh raised both his hands as if to fend off my words. “Depressed? Depressed? My dear fellow, there is no need to get depressed. This is the Twentieth Century, after all. We can now cure almost any infection!” I nodded and kept my disbelief to myself.

The doctor proceeded to peer into my ear. “Ha!” he exclaimed triumphantly, after a minute, “no wonder the antibiotics have had no effect. What we have here is a fungal infection, not a bacterial one. Oh, no, no, there are no bacteria in that ear. Only fungus.” He then proceeded to tell me with great merriment how he had recently cured a young fellow’s nose problem by advising him to get married! It was with difficulty that I managed to hide my lagging confidence in the good doctor.

He wrote out a prescription for anti-fungal drops, which he handed to me. He noticed that I was looking a tad sceptical. “Oh,” he said, brimful of confidence, “you use those drops and within three weeks’ time you will say to yourself, ‘My goodness, Dr Ghosh has cured me!’”

Having no alternative but to hope desperately for a miracle cure, I thanked him and set off to the chemist to get the anti-fungal drops. As I was leaving his office he shouted after me, “Depressed? Oh, no, my dear fellow, no need to get depressed! This is the Twentieth Century, after all!”

The prescription I collected from the chemist was for Tinaderm drops. I carefully read the instructions on the label, which stated that Tinaderm would cure things like tinea, foot rot and crotch itch. There was no mention of using them in one’s ear.

I had little choice but to trust Dr Ghosh, so I gritted my teeth and put a few drops into my ear, repeating the process the next morning and the next evening. After two days I woke up in the morning and discovered to my amazement that my ear infection had vanished completely.

“Oh, the marvels of modern medicine,” I mused to myself. “No, no, there was no need to get depressed.”

 

From the eyes of a frog

** Repost from June 2016

IMG_2232CRASH and vibration as the plough Ponds-lakes-Bulldozing_1059849_imagesank into the fertile mud of our home, a large swamp, all the inhabitants looked on in horror as the machine moved forward and we saw our life blood, water, starting to gush away. Our home had always had still water this allowed the reeds and grasses to grow and form a ring where the water and earth met and was where insects worms and aquatic life had happily lived. High in the rushes and reeds the dragonflies darted to and fro, spiders knitted together the swaying reeds and the water lilies seemed to float on the water and in spring would burst into the most beautiful yellow flowers. Speeding water beetles would dart in an erratic fashion amongst the humus which gave life to all the plants. From the treed forest around our water’s edge the fauna gasped in fear and shock the roos, wombats, rabbits , foxes, owls, kookaburras, swallows, so many more could be mentioned. All would have to move away, no more drinking water, food, shelter – nowhere to house their spring children no mud for the swallows to construct their nests.
33b345b03a23707d669f5df49c159ec1US FROGS had lived here for many generations in what was just perfection –  plenty of food and protection. We loved our neighbours and on moonlit nights we would put on a concert and sing to everyone and all around the swamp there were frogs who would join in. During the day time we would swim out to the floating lilly leaves to sunbake and smell the flowers sweet perfume. As I was growing up I spent many hours learning and talking to my grandparents, they had skills to pass on and I was eager to absorb their wisdom. My parents looked after me from when I was an egg waiting to be hatched and even more so when I became a tadpole, they taught me right from wrong, what was safe to eat and how to survive. Dad showed me his crippled leg where an owls claw had pierced the leg muscle, he was lucky to live. Mum always made sure I got the best food so I would grow strong and be able to have strong children when the time came.
PANIC everyone who lived here was dashing and darting escaping their destroyed homes. Mum and Dad said \”Hop away before you are killed.” I had never experienced fear before so I asked my grandparents what to do Granddad said when we were young disaster found us and we escaped to a little stream on the other side of this forest. We are too old to go with you and your dad is to crippled to go and your mum will never leave your father. Time heals everything and some day you may be able to come back, travel safely our future race depends on you.
Yes I was young and strong but with tears in my eyes I bounded into the unknown forest. It is much easier to swim than hop a long way over logs, bracken ferns and thick grass plus avoid the snakes and owls. I had hopped for two days before I found the little stream. I jumped in and relaxed my aching muscles then tried to find food and a safe place to hide – somewhere to be able to observe my new surroundings as I was scared and alone. It was not a place to be happy in, running water and very little still pools to relax in and food was very scarce also.
Two winter floods later as the last of the high water was subsiding, I was feeling very much alone when I saw some movement on the edge of the rushing water and heard a splash. I could not believe my eyes a beautiful green frog the same as my race slowly hopped towards me.frog1 She was so pretty, lovely big eyes, slim figure with long fingers and toes and  I could not help but fall in love with her. We talked for many hours, could have been even a day or two, about how she escaped the SWAMP disaster and somehow found the same little creek and lived alone for two years also. We spoke of our parents and grandparents and what a wonderful home we used to have. Yes, we were homesick so we decided to take the risks and hop back for a look at our old happy home.
Hop, hop, hop, back through the forest we went, being careful of the dangers of predators and injury. It was just on daybreak when we reached the edge of our old home. Across the swamp I could see the burnt out shell of the farmers log hut (home) a blackberry plant was strangling the remains as if to make sure they never returned. The plough was overturned and broken it would never destroy our home again. Many of the former inhabitants were there that morning rejoicing that our Swamp was returning to its former beauty. The man-made drain that let the water out had become soft and collapsed stopping the water from escaping and with man’s interference gone nature was able to resume. All the plants and animals could rebalance and live in harmony together as they did once before. I remembered what my parents and grandparents had said with the passage of time nature will restore what is good. All the animals and insects decided that day to stay and look after all the plants and with patience restore our struggling home. Katie my lovely soul mate said to me we are going to stay as well, look there is water and some lilies growing, we will stay and have our family here we owe it to our species and our parents to start all over again.
During the next spring there was immense activity the water was a full capacity all the plants had revived somehow. There were flowers on the lilies spider webs and reeds water bugs and beetles animals came to drink once again. Swallows were digging out the mud, kookaburras were laughing and Katie and I were swimming and diving off the lilly pads.
It was a full bright moon and I was singing my solo song to all my friends, but I was stressed as Katie was nowhere to be found. We usually sang a duet after my solo great sadness entered my heart as I sat alone every one tried to find Katie. We looked everywhere, as daylight started to break we gathered together with heavy hearts. Then, with a noisy splash, Katie jumped onto my Lilly Pad and called out to everyone the frog species is assured I have just laid our eggs to hatch in a secret spot so they will be safe until they become tadpoles. So life starts again.
I then remembered my grandparents saying, when our home was being destroyed, “Put your faith in nature to restore everything.”

It will try and try and try again, in the end it will succeed ……

…………………………………………yes,  LOOK IT HAS!
Toad-Tadpoles-67616
16/June/2016

Pioneer trip into the heart of the Great Dividing Range.


………….10 whiskery and wiry men saddled into 5, four-wheel drive vehicles, 80 series Toyota, Land Rover, Ford dual cab, Prado Toyota and a 100 series Toyota. With photos taken they left the Kangaroo Tower at 9.10am and headed through the green hills and valleys of Christmas Hills and turned left up the Melba Highway at Yarra Glen.It was a lovely sunny morning, low wind, farmers were baling hay and cows were being milked. Onward past Yea through the road works to Molesworth, a one pub country town, then on again stopping in Yarch a lovely little pit stop town. It was now 10.45am with no time to waste as the mountains were beckoning.

By 11.25am we were in Mansfield having passed through Merton and Bonnie Doon on the banks of Eildon Reservoir.

Early lunch and coffee was sought at Mansfield. With the excitement of the challenge in front we soon turned towards Mt.Stirling. The mountains had a blue aura about them backed by an inviting blue sky, this reminded me of the “story of the spider and the fly”. Reaching the foot hills we turned left at the fork in the road towards Telephone Box Junction. 3The snow field shop and change area was closed for the summer season.
In single file we headed into the forest of tall timbers now on a gravel road, lots of the trees had died having been burnt during the 2006 fires which burnt over a million hectares. Nature was re afforesting the lower stages of the mountain with wattle now in yellow bloom, but the floor was littered with thousands of fallen trees. Life and death hand in hand.

Down Western link track twisting and turning heading for a camp site by the river, when a warning came via the UHF grader on the track. These tracks are very narrow and graders are wide and big but with patience and skill we all passed unharmed.No one tooted their horn we simply waved thanks to the grader driver.

4Down, down we went and were then faced with a river crossing and a steep gouged bank to negotiate on the out ward side. Harry called “Quick Daryl, jump in with me and take some photos” as the others crossed. All crossed okay and we found a beautiful base camp to set up ready for the next few days of 4 wheel drive exploration.

This site is known as Pineapple Flat and is on the banks of the King River the home of the King Parrot with its crimson  chest and very friendly nature.In much haste these five vehicles spun around and around seeking out the best Real Estate sites for their tents encircling the camp fire, like a modern John Wayne western movie. With great speed and skill tents erected, camp fire started (poor wood), tables erected and chairs circled around the would be fire, men sat waiting for Lou to serve up our first meal. A small dead limb fell on to Marks 80 series and dented the mud guard, a warning of the danger of limbs falling. After a lot of chat, Marks homemade beer and some reds, we settled down for a very welcome snooze.


6th Tuesday (2nd day)
Up at 5.30 am (some of us) stirred the fire, wash, weeties, corn flakes and raisins and a cuppa. Half the crew packed and ready set out for Craig’s Hut used and built for The Man From Snowy River film. 12It was a grueling climb along Burnt top track from the camp, more evidence of the forces of nature and the devastation of fires. The ridges have dead trees standing after ten years and the thousands of fallen trees and many more leaning against those still able to stand. Still new beauty can be seen everywhere. We found Craig’s hut high in the mountain on a plateau. 8The weather was perfect and with clarity the view extended as far as the eye could see. The rest of the sleepy team caught up with us here. There was 1 bar of telephone reception to be had here. We had a nature walk of approx 1 kilometer.

We headed down the southern side of the mountain and climbed the Bindaree Water Falls and we were able to go behind the water fall itself which was like a see through sheer curtain. 9Some great photos were taken. After a count of 10 heads we headed to Bindaree Hut and had to do another river crossing of the Howqua river in the Alpine National Park.We had lunch there from our car fridges Greg brought all his bush fly friends along but they only seemed to like Mark’s and my sandwich – back across the river and headed back to Pineapple Flats Lodge.

We collected much better fire wood and were able to create great coals for cooking, much to Lou’s delight. Camp ovens came out from every tent, every would be cook gave advice, every man had a poke at the fire even when it was perfect. Lou cooked with Harry’s help (camp oven bread) a great roast beef and roast vegies all washed down with Marks beer and some fine reds. As we sat ringed around the warm campfire, Him Plurry Fine Fella Mark Dellar, started reciting the poem written by Thomas E Spencer – The Day McDougall Topped the Score. With animated enthusiasm and a captivated audience nearing exhaustion at the second last verse he swung quickly to his left and standing behind him were four travellers. He started to ask can I help you? And the good-looking blonde said please don’t stop now we were so much enjoying your reading, and without further ado Mark completed his poem to a hearty applause. The travellers were from Germany, USA and? 4 in total they wanted help to cross the river to set up camp and yes they had 10 helpers – Aussies are good.

Another great day was discussed around the fire and a good night’s sleep was had by all except at about 3 am as Jim was sitting on the throne, a long hearty bellow was heard, was this relief or an animal warning.

Wednesday 7th Dec (3rd day )
Up about 6.30am, nearly a full house for brekky when a King parrot 17sat on Harry’s car near our tables H slowly walked over with a cracker in hand and fed the parrot. It stood on one leg and held the food and fed itself with the other, many photos taken. Sunny skies and low wind favored us as we had wood fire toast and peanut butter with Billy tea. We were all off again across the King River up the mountain twisting and grinding away and onto Speculation Road down to the river where a herd of Angus beef were crossing the bridge. We stopped as they drank and ambled across toward us. I got to talking to the owner, a Mr Bruce McCormack 11and his dog Tully, he spoke of the 2006 fires, the permits needed to graze cattle and the bond of generations of cattle families some who ride the horses to muster the cattle when needed. I was sad to have to leave Bruce and Tully and the many stories I would have enjoyed.

We went on to King hut and the camping grounds then headed up the Stair Case Rd to Cobblers Lake. This road would have broken a black snakes back as it zig zagged back and forth climbing all the way over bare rocks. So steep with fallen timber left like discarded pole vaulting poles, the sideways thrusting tested the seat belts all the way it was with relief when we reached the top but still bumped heavily till we reached the heavily lake Cobbler and Cobblers hut. The water was mirror like very large and edges protected by bulrushes. We had a car boot lunch here and by now getting rather hot, we then headed back past some large water falls cascading down the cliff face from Cobblers Lake overflow. The road back was much smoother and we passed Rose River back to Pineapple Flats Lodge.

With lots more good wood the camp fire was creating very good coals for Lou to cook up his lamb stew and vegies and H’s bread. Phil said to try this drink, whisky and water, good for a woodsman. That was okay, later with our team bonding by then I had little feeling as I drank and laughing at the same time the straight whisky fumes stopped my breathing, I think I will stick to water for a while. Jim showing how much he respects cleanliness jumped into the river. On return and shivering he returned to our camp only to observe the two lady travellers in bikinis heading to the river for a tidy up, his remark “I landed to early.”
This Plurry Good Fella Mark Dellar came back into camp again and started raving about Mulga Bill’s Bicycle by Andrew B Patterson, again it captured everyone’s attention to the last line. Then a good night’s sleep, but again Jim at 3.00 am –  yes on the throne again, heard this loud chesty noise in his haste to seek the protection of his tent his torch battery went flat, he was a trembling wreck by the time he found his tent again. By morning the travellers had packed and gone onwards trekking around Australia.

8th Dec our last day
Up at 6.30am and looking around the camping circle with no one to be seen only Peter the Great’s Akubra hat hanging head high on the tent pole, waiting patiently for Pete to arise. Then slowly each pioneer emerged from their warm beds to welcome the dawn to the music of several Kookaburras and the smoke of the camp fire and a face wash in cold water.
A hearty breakfast was devoured expanding our ribs for the energy needed for the days challenge ahead. 4 from the team of 10 were heading home today, tents being folded. Mark gave his demonstration saying it only takes 5 minutes or 20 if being watched – yes it took 20 minutes. Cars were packed securely and a quick check around to make sure everything was picked up and including our rubbish so leaving the bush in pristine condition as we had found it on arrival. Those staying decided to escort us out to Telephone Box Junction and then explore more of this wonderful region.

At 10.00am, with motors warming up, we were heading out when the rain started plus the temp dropped. In single file we crossed the King River climbing upwards toward Circuit Road when the lead car radioed back tree across road. Well, Whisky Phil with white flashing eyes unraveled a chain saw just ahead of Miss Daisy Greg with his chainsaw. It was raining heavily by now and Peter stood with camera in hand. Under the shelter of his Akubra hat he recorded this event with helping hands clearing the logs off the track.
After that we soon passed Fork Creek with Mark D and O Wise One following. As tail end Charlie’s we followed on and by 11.05am we all arrived at Mt Stirling café (closed for summer season) being 1230 meters above sea level. It was very cold now, raining with possible snow predicted by Jane Bunn 5 days ago. We left 6 tough guys all waiving to us and wishing us a safe trip over their UHF’s as we headed past Mt Stirling café to Mansfield where we stopped for a pie and coffee before heading towards home. Before Bonnie Doon the rain was so heavy that driving became difficult but it cleared away and the rest of the trip home was very pleasant.

A hot welcome shower and first shave for 4 days and a couple of hours sleep and ready for a home cooked meal  to reminisce with Lady Florence over this great adventure. All of the remaining 6 made it safely home the next day; they went to Mt Bulla but were clouded in.

………………They should have listened to O Wise One.

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Cast:-
Jim G……….Swimmer
Harry M… …Team leader
Gordon B… B and B
Leon H…… Swag Man
Greg M…… Miss Daisy
Phil D. …….Whisky
Peter T. …..Akubra
Mark D. ….Plurry Nice Fella
Lou F. …….M.K.R (cook)
Daryl M…..O’ Wise One

*** Written and reported as experienced by Daryl Morrow  – circa 2016