A Chance Encounter

The ride had started nicely. It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon, my solo riding day; I can ride where I like, explore trails, without having to follow the wishes of the Thursday cycling group. That day I had suddenly decided to explore a new trail, branching off from the main track to Warrandyte, reached by a wide gate.

To my delight it began well; the track was a gently winding dirt one, following the river on my left, so according to my calculations I could casually ride back to Fitzsimmons Lane, a fairly short distance.

However, the track steadily became rougher, steeper and rocky, seeming also to veer away from the river. After a while I lost my bearings, but hoped the track would eventually head back to Eltham. But the track petered out into a steeply hilled area, with power lines leading in a straight line into the distance. Definitely lost, but feeling safe, I reasoned it would be too far retracing my steps, the power lines must lead to somewhere familiar.

A rocky four wheel drive trail followed the pylons. I had to walk up the steep rises and carefully ride down the descents. The thought flashed into my mind about what was I doing here, a seventy year old man in a deserted location, with no help around if anything went awry. My Cyclo Cross bike was certainly designed for severe off road riding, but maybe the rider was not designed for this purpose.

The outcome was predictable. On a really steep descent, I took a chance and began to carefully ride down but lost braking control, started skidding and finally crashed. Fortunately I came to rest on top of a four metre high embankment leading into a steep gully. One metre more and I would have been in serious trouble.

The bike was undamaged, but my knee was badly swollen and painful, I must have knocked it on a rock. The only option was to keep following the trail to civilisation. Finally a fence and house appeared, then another. To my relief, the trail then ended at Beasley’s Nursery, and I rode slowly and painfully home, where after checking the Melways I realised I had gone the wrong way, upstream rather than down, straying into a Parks Victoria reserve. Heading away from Fitzsimmons Lane.

Later that night, I reflected on the event, ruefully realising that it had happened entirely by chance — Why?

Because two months earlier, on the same ride to Warrandyte, at that gate, I had answered my mobile. As I remounted my bike, a man walking past suddenly stopped and started a conversation, mentioning that past a nearby gate, over a bridge, there was a track along the other side of the river that cyclists used. In all my years of cycling this area I had never seen that track, nor seen cyclists on the other river bank, so I thanked him and rode off, convinced he was mistaken.

So on that sunny fateful Tuesday a month later, as I was passing this same bend heading to Warrandyte, on a pure whim, thinking about what the stranger had said, I stopped at the gate, which was normally locked. Now the padlock had been changed to a latch. Naturally I passed through the gate and rode to the bridge. To my surprise, I realised the stranger had told the truth, because a bike trail began. Naturally again, I decided to follow it, as every good cyclist would, with my crash being the unexpected end result.

If my phone had not rung at that exact moment; if the stranger had not appeared at that precise time, if the gate had been locked; I would have remained blissfully unaware of that bloody trail, would have casually continued to Warrandyte and safety home, looking forward to the Thursday ride with the guys.

Instead, as directed by my doctor, who diagnosed a knee hematoma, and prescribed rest, I have been dolefully sitting inside on the healing couch, leg elevated, ice compress in place rather than being cheerfully perched on a bike seat, eagerly traversing familiar and safe trails with the Thursday peloton.

Curiously enough, the topic for the week’s writing group was the expression “chance would be a fine thing.” A fine phrase, meaning ‘it would be lovely if something was to happen, but it most likely won’t.’

It sadly occurred to me that this definitely applied to my unfortunate episode. As I was precariously riding down that steep rocky hill, the thought furiously flashed into my mind was that it would indeed be a lovely thing if I could not crash, but this looked more unlikely the further and faster I descended.

Hopefully, I should be back on the bike shortly, having fun with the Thursday peloton pedalling on our familiar safe trails. The lesson has finally sunk into my

Septuagenarian brain that sometimes it’s not worth taking a chance.

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Jenny Macklin MP honours’ Ken Ramplin


26 January 2018
Australia day awards 2018 for Jagajaga

It was a lovely summer’s day when the awards were presented in the fully renovated mud brick community hall in leafy Eltham. Hundreds of locals and dignitaries attended to witness the awards being presented on this uplifting and inspiring occasion. In recognition of the efforts and sacrifices of ordinary people for the betterment of all other needy persons in Jagajaga.

106 awards were presented to individuals and groups for their long standing efforts some for more than 30 years.

The Australian National Anthem and Waltzing Matilda were both expertly sung by Mandy Lyn Brook, her renditions were riveting.

Ken (now 78 ) had 26 invitees and family attend to celebrate the presentation of his award for establishing the OM:NI groups in Diamond Creek, Eltham, and Hurstbridge where now over 70 men attend on a fortnightly basis to make new friends, reunite with community and build their confidence again.

Ken also has built a riding group to raise funds to eliminate Prostate Cancer known as “Ken’s Pedal against Prostate”

Many photos were taken with family, friends and council reps, and Jenny Macklin MP.

At day’s end Ken went home had an hour sleep, got on his bike rode to town for a pizza and sat with Lorraine to reminisce about what a beautiful community we live in.

We all congratulate you Ken.

A Tribute to Kelvin Kaires *(KOM:NI) – Vale


It is with much regret that the men of OM:NI Diamond Creek reflect on the recent passing of Sir Kelvin (Kel) Kaires – friend, brother and much respected colleague. On 15th August 2017, at the age of 89, Sir Kel passed away peacefully in his sleep at home.
He spent 89 years traveling this planet meeting and inspiring people from all walks of life, excelling in electronics building his first television set and ignition systems still used in cars today, he was a small framed man with an inquiring mind full of wisdom which he graciously passed on to all that listened.
He understood the health issues and remedies of the human body and enjoyed a loving lifetime with his childhood sweetheart Val.
He joined the OMNI Diamond Creek discussion group as a founder member and became our mentor and grandfather/brother, we always looked forward to his input and humor in our meetings. He unified the whole group so much we created the Sir Kelvin Award, this became the annual award bestowed upon other worthy members of whom Kel would officiate having dressed in robes and placing a sword upon the shoulder saying rise Sir?
Illness prevailed over many months and Kel could not always attend OMNI but all that visited him came back with the same message I can’t wait to be with you all again, tell the boys I miss everyone of them and I love them all dearly.


Kel made such a difference at our Diamond Creek Group and he felt his time with us stimulated his thinking and re-invigorated his zest for life. How many times did he re-affirm his love for us and his gratefulness for making the last few years of his life worthwhile.
Ken Ramplin

What sad news that Sir Kel has passed away. I will always remember what a kick he got out of conferring the Sir Kelvin Award onto the next recipient. He always had some wise words for us all and he certainly enjoyed a joke.
Our memories of Kel will live on and always be remembered, may he be at peace.
Tom Hendry

Sad news indeed. A true icon and font of wisdom of OM:NI Diamond Creek. A lovely man, a unique man.
Nick Grange

Yes, sad news indeed. Kel was one of those guys who could always make the group laugh, with his humour and quick wit. He still always found time to listen to the rest of the guys. He will be missed as both one of the founding members plus the elder statesman.
Bruce McCorkill

Yes the sad loss of a real character. He acknowledged all with a cheeky word but an encouraging grin and respect.
A wealth of experience and jokes.
Phillip Davis

…Zebras and 2ltr vinegar bottles will just never seem the same again..
Anon

Sir Kel was at my first meeting, and his intellect and wit epitomized the essence of OMNI Diamond Creek. In return he genuinely loved us all with the humility he possessed and exuded. With great regret, I will be unable to attend Sir Les’s service or Tuesday’s memorial lunch for Sir Kel, but remain in the spirit of love and respect shared by every fortunate member of OMNI Diamond Creek.
Manhug and love to all
Barry Jackson

I met this wonderful man at my first OMNI meeting, and whilst warmly greeted by all present, Sir kel went out of his way to personally and privately welcome me into the group and assure me that I would easily fit in with all the guys as they were such a good group of men.
Over time I got to see what a wealth of worldly experience he possessed and how he was always willing to share whatever knowledge he had that he believed would be of benefit to all the blokes.
One of very few men I have met over my life time that never had any problems saying to another man “I love you”.
Sir Kelvin ,truly loved and missed.
Ron Wright

How lucky was OMNI that in 2011 you walked through those doors and into our hearts.
Thank you Sir Kelvin for role modelling that it’s okay for men to share feelings amongst each other.
That it was more than alright to show joy & pain, to cry and to laugh and to tell someone how much they really mean to you.
When we were looking for an icon to name our OM:NI Awards after, it was a no-brainer that you were the choice.
These are a few of my favourite images of you … and believe me there were many spectacular memories you so generously gifted.
Thank you for the privilege mate.
Larry Cahill

One of my favourite memories of Kel was when the lady journalist from the local paper came to an OM:NI meeting a few years ago to gather material for an article about our group. She asked Kel, “What exactly do you blokes get out of OM:NI?” To which Kel responded, “OM:NI has taught us to behave like women, that is, to talk to each other about the things that really matter to us and to open our hearts to each other.”
…Tim Bruwer

I met Kel some 5 years ago he was always jovial and serious but told many jokes repeatedly including the one about the Zebra; he was inspiring to be with. He also told stories of sailing around the Whitsunday islands off Queensland.
Daryl Morrow

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* KOM:NI – Knight of the Order of OM:NI

Leslie James Robertson (KOM:NI) – Vale

In memory of Leslie (Sir Les) Robertson who passed away peacefully on August 9, 2017 in his 88th year following a short illness. A man who contributed greatly to the Diamond Creek OM:NI group with his humour and poetry.

You’ll be missed Les.

The following poem was the first he ever presented to the group in October 2013.

 

STILL DREAMING

I ran around the kitchen, with a duster in my hand,
The family was coming and I wanted it looking grand.
You could see the footprints clearly, making patterns in the dust,
So, to keep them off my back – cleanliness was a must.

Since I’d been living here alone they sometimes check on me,
They’re doing me a favour, that much I could see.
Since my wife left for better care, that somehow, now she needed,
I also had outside to mind – and keep the garden weeded.

Often, I get lonely here, just me to make a noise,
The dog will sometimes bark a bit but I’ve not lost my poise.
The grass grows long and really thick, I have to use the mower,
Up and down and back and forth – I sometimes think I’m slower.

But I know lots of people who are not as well as me,
“Cos I can jog around the block, with the dog for company.
Now, I’m not as fit as I once was and I have to walk a bit,
And when that’s the best that I can do – I’ll make the best of it.

I’d like to have a woman here, to keep me on my toes.
Not too young and not too old, just middle-aged I s’pose.
perhaps I could just borrow one, if her love life isn’t finished,
She could show me all the tricks – till my love life’s diminished.

Then when I wake up and realize that I was only dreaming,
I wonder why my slow old brain hasn’t finished scheming.
If I’m alive at 105 and find I’m making plans,
I’ll have had a great life, not ever in strife ……
…………as good as any man’s.

Canning Stock Route

GEM OF WISDOM: THE CANNING STOCK ROUTE

 

  1. WHY

Alexander Forest’s 1879 expedition to the Kimberley  discovered vast tracts of excellent pastoral land. The West Kimberley was settled from access to the west. The East Kimberley was settled from Queensland and NSW, with herds of different cattle in the thousands coming from the east coast. Shipping to Perth from Wyndham was expanded to meet the needs of a 5-fold population explosion in WA from 29000 in 1880 to 161500 by 1901, created by “Gold Fever” from Halls Creek to Kalgoorlie.

By the early 1900’s, movement of cattle from east Kimberley and NT to Wyndham was banned due to an outbreak of cattle tick, so the cattlemen were facing ruin unless they could market some cattle in WA. Several cross country routes to ports south of the tick exclusion zone were tried without much success. Finally, under pressure from the cattlemen, a Government expedition across four deserts was agreed to. These are Little Sandy Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert, and Tanami desert.

 

  1. WHO

Alfred Canning, an inspecting surveyor with the WA Department of Lands was chosen to lead an expedition into the feasibility of a stock route from Halls Creek to Wiluna. He was the obvious and ideal choice as he had recently led the successful 4 year survey of the 1900km long rabbit proof fence from Esperance to Cape Keraudren.

He assembled a team of 8 men – 2 drilling/ boring experts, 2 camelmen, himself as leader, Hugh Trotman as his trusted assistant, a general hand, and a cook. To carry the provisions, equipment, water drums, boring plant etc, he determined he would need 22 camels and equipment for them, and 2 horses with saddles. All up including salaries for the men…..Pounds 3495!

Rations per man per week were 10lb flour, 10lb meat, 2lb sugar, 1/4 lb tea. It was anticipated killing wild animals would provide some supplement.

 

  1. WHEN

Canning and his crew left Wiluna on May 29, 1906, with the charter to survey and document a stock route to Billuna, some 1860km north east on the Tanami Desert track – SHOW ON MAP. The remaining 190 km to Hall’s Creek was already established. The track had to be capable of supplying sufficient feed and water to support a herd of 800 cattle. Water supplies were deemed to be necessary ideally no more than 30km apart, the distance it was expected cattle could travel daily. The route had to avoid “poison bush”

They arrived in Hall’s Creek on October 29. He blazed 31 trees on the upward and return journey, marking significant features for the future. He ascertained that 51 wells would need to be sunk to supplement several permanent water soaks. Later this became 54 wells. He used aboriginals he “conscripted” on the way to help find promising water sources, but never took them beyond their “traditional lands”. Surveying a satisfactory route was made more difficult by the need to find satisfactory feed as well as water. Some 1000 substantial sand dunes to cross was also a factor in route selection. The party met some resistance from local aboriginal tribes and his most trusted borer, Michael Tobin was killed (speared) in one altercation.

The party stayed on Flora Valley Station south of Hall’s Creek to let the Summer/ Wet season pass, and set off, re-supplied, on the return journey on Feb 18, 1907. This time, they herded 20 wether goats for fresh meat, and this proved most successful. They mainly returned via the same track they had created, but the wet season had transformed the parched desert into luxuriant grass and herbage. Route changes were made where summer water courses had changed the navigable landscape. More experimental bores were sunk to ensure all 51 wells were identified, surveyed, marked and logged. Again the local aboriginals were very useful in identifying existing and possible new water sources.

The party reached Wiluna on July 1, 1907.

In his comprehensive report soon after, Canning concluded the mission a success, and detailed plans showing a compass traverse of the route and well co-ordinates.

He concluded in typical Canning style – “I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, A W Canning.

 

  1. THEN WHAT – 1908

Canning had returned in triumph to wide praise and adulation from the Premier, all members of Parliament, the Civil Service, and the public.

All but Edward Blake, the cook on the expedition, who was concerned about what he perceived to be ill treatment of aborigines. He pursued the issue with high ranking Civil Servants, relevant Members of Parliament, and a broad based attack in the press.

Eventually, on Nov 15, the Minister for Lands asked for Canning’s comments. Canning responded that the claims were “nonsense”, and because Blake “had little experience with natives”, his perceptions of certain events were wrong. There had been no mistreatment of person or property.

However, Blake’s allegations were quickly picked up by all newspapers, and with pressure building and opinion divided, the Government instituted a “Royal Commission to inquire into the treatment of natives by the Canning Exploration Party”.

The drawn out process of charges and witnesses and cross-examination exonerated Canning and his expedition party of all charges, but the recrimination continued in the press and public domain. The Government allowed the turmoil to subside but still planned for the Canning Well construction Party to proceed.

 

 

  1. WELL CONSTRUCTION, 1908 – 1910

Canning left Wiluna on March 28, 1908 disappointed with the accusations and antagonistic towards the press for not publishing his refutations of the accusations, but determined to accomplish the project aims.

This was a massive undertaking, but with experience from the original exploration expedition, he left well prepared.

“The 73 camels bulged with gear, 23 men plodded out, and Nipper controlled a herd of 500 goats for fresh meat.” This trip, they had to carry heavy boring gear, and well construction material including bracing, windlasses, buckets, and troughing for all the wells, to enable all the cattle to be watered in good time. Routine was soon  established with the well construction team at a well site while the bulk of the party moved to the next to do preliminary work and source suitable timber for well supports and gantry, thus “leap-frogging” each other.

After 31 wells were completed, supplies were exhausted, as were the men, so on July 28, 1909, Canning reported his position and distributed his remaining material up the route before escaping to Halls Creek to rest, recuperate and prepare his return after the Summer/ wet season to complete the remaining wells.

In Feb 1910, the Construction Party set south to complete the remaining wells, with 50 bullocks and 150 goats as auxiliary food supplies. Progress was swift to complete the outstanding wells, but then hampered by damage to the earlier wells by the natives. The team finally arrived back in Wiluna on March 12, 1910, and promptly cabled The Secretary for Mines” in his inimitable style – “WORK COMPLETED – CANNING”

A substantial report followed, giving the depth to water, the storage at the well, and the flow rate at each well, together with cattle feed available at and nearby to the well. He also described the journey between each well and the terrain nearby. He estimated the droving journey with a full herd would take around 2 months.

 

  1. WHAT THEN
  • Only 8 herds were driven between 1911 and 1931, mainly due to destruction of well infrastructure by the aboriginals and lack of maintenance. There was also a fear of the natives, who killed 2 drovers on the first drive in 1911, and another geological explorer later.
  • William Snell led a “Re-construction Party” in 1929, and added 3 further wells just out from Wiluna. Snell was a bushman/ cattleman, and his work was slow and “rough”. The party returned to Wiluna well short of the planned refurbishment. During the layover period, his work was inspected and found so inept that Canning was recalled to re-do and complete the task in 1930. Spasmodic droving resumed, but limited to 600 head.
  • Major maintenance and reconstruction was done after the bombing of Darwin in WW2, as the CSR was seen as an escape route for people and cattle to the south, should the Japanese invade.
  • Last of 30 droving crossings was in 1959, by which time road transport was well established.

 

  1. WHAT NOW
  • The CSR is considered to be the most challenging and remote 4wd adventures of its type in the world
  • Around 300 vehicles attempt it each year. It is mainly over the highest level native title land (right to exclusive possession), and pastoral lease land, so several permits are required and strict protocols must be adhered to.
  • Most of the culturally significant aboriginal sites near the stock route have now been closed to public access, due to the impact of a few idiotic travellers.
  • Self-sufficiency is a must as there is no routine “recovery” available on the CSR
  • Denise and I, with close friends Val and David Edwards are leaving Melbourne on May 20, to be in Wiluna June 5 for our adventure, crossing the Canning Stock Route. We are experienced and well prepared, adventurous but not fool-hardy. We plan to take 3 weeks on the CSR, but are prepared for the unforseen, and provisioned to cope. We are excited but take on this adventure with some trepidation.

Looking Good at 89!


At the Diamond Creek OM:NI meeting today our dear, much respected and loved erudite sage of wisdom, Sir Kelvin, decided to disrupt procedures by having a rather acute drop in blood sugar levels.
Some wonderful & professional paramedics eventually removed him to safer havens (so that the meeting could proceed as ‘almost’ normal) and, thankfully, by late afternoon, we believe was up to his usual cheeky antics – albeit in the care of some tolerant nursing staff.

Get well soon Sir Kel & we’ll see you at the next meeting.
From all the OM:NI DC Blokes.