Sunday, March 08, 2015

An important notice!

Dear reader,

Please note, as of March 2015, all new posts from the Green Bogey Down under will feature at:

gbpilgrim.com


Sunday, February 08, 2015

A mountain to climb

In another week in which the Australian political landscape imploded in much self-generated excitement, it is hard not to be drawn into contributing more electronic graffiti about levels of douchebagness and the chaos and disorder that is certainly not happening again like it did with that other bunch. Nothing to see here, move along now. However, while the world really doesn’t wait with baited breath to figure which “adult” is in charge of the Knightly Order of Her Majesty’s Commonwealth of Australia, the natural landscape is in much less turmoil (unless you listen to those wacky “scientists” with their corroborated, peer-reviewed “research” and years of undisputed empirical “data”). There are, clearly, mountains to climb and some are easier than others.

The Snowy Mountains are very old – older indeed than a snoozing Senator – and have been worn down over millions of years. If they were several millions of years younger they would be more akin to the New Zealand Alps or the Himalayas, but because of their age they have mellowed; they are more rounded, worn down and weather-beaten, skin baked by summer sun and scoured by winter ice. They are, perhaps, the Brecon Beacons down under, with classic U-shaped valleys, remnant moraine and small, glacial tarns.

Having digested various parts of the mountains over the years – embedded deep within Kosciuszko National Park – a one-day walk finally appeared to stitch together the different threads of footsteps past. In particular, the Main Range circuit, nudging 22km in length and looping around the highest country. This included a stretch of six kilometres or so that I had not been on before and which, undoubtedly, was the most spectacular.

So, in pursuit of clear air and with the captain’s picks of two friends for company, let me guide you around the trail in a mostly factual, pictorial and certainly not chaotic or disorderly fashion...


Starting off from Charlotte Pass (1,837m), the track drops substantially to ford the Snowy River (1,717m). The river rises somewhere amongst the boggy marshes 5km upstream, and has gathered enough water by this point to make a crossing on stepping stones sometimes hazardous. Today – still reasonably early on a crystal clear February morning – all was rather placid and safely negotiated without wet feet or soggy sandwiches.




From the river crossing it is unsurprisingly onwards and upwards; in fact the climb, while never too steep, is quite incessant and longer than I remember! However, with altitude the views start to open up, including the sight of Hedley’s Tarn and the ridgelines of the Main Range’s highest peaks.  



After some 300 metres of ascent and four kilometres from the start a view of Blue Lake is attained. Today it is lacking much of a blue colour and the glaring morning sun and a wind whipping across the surface are photogenically challenging! From here though it is not too much further to reach a saddle with the first views of more spectacular jagged mountains and the ranges of blue spreading west. A perfect opportunity for a morning food stop taking in a homemade sausage roll and spot of middle-class hiker’s quiche.  



From this point, the trail is all new ground for me and the morning sustenance is useful for the slow climb up to Carruthers Peak (2,139m). The spectacular views continue, and the summit itself affords the first look at Club Lake, as well as the trail following the ridgeline to the rather bland summit of Mount Kosciuszko.  






The ridgeline is a joy to follow, with remnant wildflowers, the prominence of Mount Townsend to the right and deep ravines carved by Lady Northcote’s Creek, the mountains seeming to tumble sharply west. I have no idea who Lady Northcote was but if her character was anything like that of the landscape in which she was named, she was probably a bit of a looker, though occasionally bleak and somewhat cutting.


  
Before too long Albina Lake emerges, tucked in a sheltered valley seemingly conducive to an array of wildflowers and other alpine plants. The lake looks quite inviting in the warmth and would prove a nice spot for a picnic. It’s about nine kilometres into the walk now, and with the summit of Mount Kosciusko just a few thousand metres distant, we resolve to head on and join the masses carrying their lunch to the top of Australia. On reflection, the best part of the walk is over...though this may be in part because familiar paths will soon be rejoined. 
Unfortunately we seem to have gradually descended a little, and the hoick up to the main summit thoroughfare is probably the steepest of the day. We’re not talking rock climbing here, but frequent steps and, by now, quite a penetrating sun. The junction with the main summit trail is like emerging from a country lane onto the M1. Mostly originating from Thredbo, families, fitness freaks and old fogies join us in a steady stream coiling up to the top (2,228m). A medley of Aussie flags and fluoro leggings congregates around the summit marker, and lunching is de rigueur. With homemade hummus and more quiche ours is perhaps one of the more pretentious of picnics!  


Apart from a little blip it is all downhill from here, some eight and a half kilometres back to Charlotte Pass. From Rawson Pass (2,119m) – which is something akin to the base camp for the summit climb and apparently includes Australia’s highest public toilet – a sedate, well-graded trail makes it all the way back. This is the old summit road and I read that a shuttle bus used to ply along here, part of me wishing it was still running. The open scenery is not unpleasant, but in comparison to other parts of the track and given the gathering weariness this part is a bit of a drag. Markers every kilometre break it up, as does Seaman’s Hut (2,020m) and a more comfortable bridging of the Snowy River with four kilometres remaining.


Approaching Charlotte Pass, signs of civilisation re-appear – a chairlift and the occasional dark grey metallic huts populated by visitors in winter. The Snowy courses to the left and from across the valley the earlier, upwards trail to Blue Lake looks like an impressive climb! Snow Gums also cluster here, stunted and bending with their striped, smooth bark of chocolate and sand, of black and white. Afternoon clouds are building and the risk of storms hypothesised look as though they will be realised. But, after six and a half hours and 21.9 kilometres, we reach the (relative) safety of a Subaru Outback. Accomplished and relieved, invigorated and weary; trundling another 220km back to Canberra (577m), via Jindabyne caffeine and Cooma steak. From the real Australia and back to the bizarre.     

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Greenish and Golden

There comes a point in January when people pause to consider what it means to be Australian. This usually occurs on or around the anniversary of a few hundred boatpeople from Great Britain arriving to “nothing but bush” (to quote the minister for Indigenous Australians and His Lordship Prime Minister of the Monarchical Colony of Australian Subjects). Considered writings of pride, of angst, of hope, of uncertainty litter the newspapers and infiltrate the electronic graffiti of the twittersphere. For the common man – let’s call him Shane – the Australian essence is commemorated through the bite of a lamb chop from a gas barbecue the size of a truck, a youthful discussion of rising intonation about the best 100 songs involving people with beards lamenting at life, or a day in front of the TV watching tennicrickcycletfooty with a so-cold-it-hurts beer.

While I could brave a venture into the question ‘What does it mean to be Australian?’  I neither have the will nor the current brainpower to go down this path. It may be I am suffering from that particularly laconic strand of Australianism that arises specifically at this time of year – the can’t really be arsed is it still the holidays period. I’m also in the dubious position of not really being a proper Australian, not really, even though the flag of my country of birth is still emblazed like some badge of imperial approval upon yours. All I can say is that I feel lucky, immensely lucky, to be a part of you, attached to your deep blue skies, your sandy shores, your withering white gum trees, and your mostly generous and progressive people.

I feel lucky, on most days, to be in Canberra. Yes really! A capital you have built in little over one hundred years from sun and frost-baked plains and bush-tangled hills. You really ought to be a little prouder of this achievement, especially because you have left some of those bush-tangled hills alone. The sweeping roundabouts and nationalist edifices now scattered across the plains are looking particularly fine as well, what with the regular stormy soakings keeping the grass nice and green. A summer of such generous rainfall that it could almost be British. How soothing.  

Despite such impertinence, the sun still shines most days here, and for that I am grateful. The slight irony is that I write this looking out of my window on grey accompanied by a cool 17 degrees only. But this is surely a blip, for other days have offered ample warm sunshine before the storms. Conditions in which I can enjoy your verdant lawns and embrace your rising humidity. To climb bushland hills and swing golf clubs very amateurishly. To cycle alongside the water and sip coffee with the hipsters. To be that most Australian of creatures and watch sport; and not just any sport, but cricket, and cricket in an atmosphere of cleverly articulated critique of the opposing English team. Pommie-bashing I think you call it, and too bloody right.


Despite being curiously enamoured here, I feel lucky that Australia is a very big country beyond its capital. Just up the road, a mere three hours, is where – if you conveniently ignore 50,000 years of human occupation and quite ingenious cultivation and care of the land – it all started. 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, Australia. Ah Sydney, that icon of iconic sights on iconic marketing campaigns that seek to invoke envy. As much as I try to find holes in it, to unstitch its veneer of perfection, to cut down such a tall poppy, I stumble upon its harbour shores and return to a state of complicit adoration.


It’s been a little while since I have seen you Sydney, and I enjoyed your company. I enjoyed seeing friends and playing in parks and being temporarily transformed into a mermaid at Greenwich baths. I enjoyed nine more amateurish holes of golf and the cold beer that followed. I enjoyed Bondi lunch and Coogee brunch and Crow’s Nest salted caramel gelato (on two occasions). I enjoyed getting on a boat at Bronte, but, alas, not making it out onto the open sea. And I really, really enjoyed catching the ferry across the harbour on a warm Saturday night and having a few drinks as the sun set behind the old coat hanger and reddened the discarded prawn shells atop its giant typewriter.


From excess the next morning was consequently less enjoyable, as was the traffic on Military Road, and the frequent T-shirt changing humidity, and just the general busyness of beachside suburbs on warm and sunny January weekends. Such congestion in a continent with vast emptiness is a stark juxtaposition. There is no doubt comfort in this metropolitan hubbub – a civilisation, a taming, a sense of being and belonging to others. Perhaps it is a feeling of security and protection from the wild endless uncertainty of what lies inland that keeps you – that keeps us – mostly clinging onto the coastal extremities.

As a more recent entrant upon this giant landmass I feel blessed that I can maintain a comfortable, civilised, and invariably cultured urban existence while still being easily belittled by nature. I can live in a clean, safe, prosperous city scattered with sweeping roundabouts and take one of the exits towards nothingness. Though for nothingness read abundance. An abundance of gum trees and hills and high plains in Namadgi, from which rocky outcrops pierce an abundant blue sky. A plethora of grasses and wildflowers emerging in swampy hollows, the weeds also thriving in a show of acceptance and egalitarianism. A setting for black cockatoos and butterflies to float in the air, riding the breeze upon which small white clouds cluster and vanish. 
    

Clouds which may gather again to water the lawns around the National Gallery, or dispense rain into falls and gorges around Bungonia. Landscapes that were once seas and took 450 million years to come to this. Wildness and natural drama that is but 30 minutes from a coffee and a peppermint slice and an inexplicable giant concrete sheep. The developed and the untamed, living side by side in something hopefully approaching harmony. This is the fortune I feel at being in this place at this time, around Australia Day.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Twelve Ways of Christmas

On twelve days after Christmas, my true love gave to me, another serve of leftover Christmas pudding with valiant Tasmanian attempts at clotted cream. By then it was 2015, and I was thinking that this indulgence really needed to come to an end. But the Australian Christmas seems a more elongated affair, blending as it does with summer holidays which creep all the way to Australia Day at the end of January. I say this every year, but Christmas in Australia is still somewhat bizarre and while I adore the lazy holiday feel and the addition of fine seafood to the agenda, a large part of me craves a good windy winter storm and a good windy dose of roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

While there are obvious differences between the Australian and European Christmas experiences, both are obsessed with a crazy excess of food. And so a day or so prior to Christmas I had acquired an esky full of crisps and nuts, chocolates and puddings. A fridge full to capacity with ham and sausage rolls and cream and cheese and (just for a touch of balance) fruit and salad. Longevity was the name of the game for the ham, and the hidden orange Christmas pudding (serves 10), took me alone a whole week to devour. In some way I was glad to see them go, but also a little wistful that they were no longer a part of my life.

Christmas Day itself was a suitably multifarious affair, bringing together the Australian, the Anglo, and the Italian. The day commenced with what any good day should – a walk up Red Hill in preparation for calorific overload – before a relaxing hour of reading and an early shandy with nibbles at home. From then on the eating proceeded with a mostly seafood lunch involving the largest prawns ever created, sweets, desserts, nibbles, barbecue, sweets, snacks, more nibbles, etc. Presents were unwrapped, outdoor chairs were reclined, family discussions were robust. And to cap the day, I came home for a touch more nourishment and a little drink to lubricate the Skype calls to Europe.



By New Year’s Eve, some food stocks were depleting and I needed to buy more provisions from the supermarket to prepare salads and desserts for an excellent few hours of outdoor pool soaking, meaty barbecuing, and, well, dessert-eating. It was here that the tiramisu I made delivered everything I wanted and more; better than the Italians’ creation (soaking time was important after all) and more satisfying than watching the Sydney fireworks on the TV. Is it me, or did it sound like someone was just shuffling through their iTunes playlist and skipping tracks they didn’t like that much while some crackers went off to fill the night sky with smoke? There was some discussion on the news the next day (post 11am) that London may be giving Sydney a run for its money in the New Year firework stakes. Again, the natural advantage that is that beautiful harbour may well be a cause of complacency.

There have been some natural and arguably more spectacular fireworks anyway. The hot dry summer which occurred in November has now been usurped by a north Queensland period of sunny, sultry mornings building to climatic storms and downpours later in the day. The pattern has been so recurrent that the days are becoming almost entirely tediously predictable, and so activities (unless they involve storm-chasing) are almost best undertaken in the mornings.


Fortunately, for the prospect of my cholesterol and obesity levels, I have been able to engage in decent amounts of exercise over the holiday period. In part, this is merely an extension of my normal life and having lots of time to do things in, rather than some hyped-up resolve to get fit. Local walks are a normative feature of the days. Most frequently of course this has involved trips to Red Hill reserve, where all is well with just about everything and everyone. But such has been the excess of free time that I have even sought out walks elsewhere!


One such place was Cooleman Ridge, which obviously is not as good as Red Hill but – being on the western edge of Canberra – has a more pastoral aspect. Hobby horses and scattered cows dot the fields, still relatively golden despite the stormy interludes. Somewhere yonder the brown waters of the Murrumbidgee laze, splitting the tamed grassland with the bush-tangled upward thrust of the Bullen Range. Further west and the larger mountains of the Brindabellas hit the sky, ever-present and ever-enticing.


It was up into these hills that a more substantial adventure transpired in between serves of Christmas pudding and tiramisu. A mountain walk along the high borders of the ACT and NSW, taking in the summit of Mount Gingera (1,855m), offered the perfect antidote to Christmas torpor. And it wasn’t even too difficult – the first six kilometres along a fire trail with interruptions for forest views, bird sightings, flower-filled glades, blue-tongued lizards and lunch beside a rickety mountain hut.







The remaining kilometre to the rocky outcrop capping the mountain was a more steadfastly uphill affair, the trees giving way to grasses and sphagnum moss and more flowery glades and the odd snow gum. The views increasingly opened out to reveal vast wilderness stretching west and south, and even east, at least until you could see the tack-like tower atop Black Mountain, looking diminutive in comparison to the ridges of bushland lain out before it.  


Being in the interlude between Christmas and New Year, the feats of energy required to climb a mountain were intrinsically counterbalanced with a delightful stop on the journey home. Emerging from the car fridge three cool beers, trophies of conquest to accompany crackers, cheese, ham, nuts, dips, vegetables and pickles. Extra weight to provide extra grip as the car wound back down the gravel of Brindabella Road.  

Beyond the walks, the bike continues to receive attention and while the category 4 climbs have been a bit absent of late (attempted once in the midst of the Christmas pudding / tiramisu period with less than impressive results), it has been nice to venture lakeside and use a bicycle as a functional means of attaining coffee and shopping. A day spent re-visiting some of the national attractions was ideal by bike, and trips to town are scenic and satisfying, despite the fact that this means entering stores glistening and red-faced.

And if all that wasn’t sporty enough, golf has become a feature on the agenda of late, aided by the light evenings and cheaper twilight rates. Surprisingly, my game has been passable and there have even been a few shots to remember. Alas, such is golf that it seems the more you play, the more the bad habits return, and the memory of why this is such an utterly infuriating but addictive endeavour becomes real again.

So it seems that the holidays have been reasonably active, but for every climb up Red Hill there is an afternoon nap. For every pedal along the lake, a stretch out on the settee, reading and infrequently observing cricket in the background. I enjoy this time but also feel sometimes like I should be using it more productively. This is when writing may kick in, whether something inarticulate about my boring life over the Christmas holidays, recollections of trips of the past, or deliberations on the month of January. I’ve found some of the writing to be particularly pleasurable in an old-fashioned pencil and notepad kind of way, from a blanket in the Botanic Gardens to a bench down by the Cotter River. However, the scale of my endeavours has been, at best, average. Prolificacy bears no correlation to time availability.


Part of the problem has been other distractions. Distractions that are entirely self-created and – if you were to analyse it – may symbolise a deliberate intent to enhance procrastination and delay doing something that sounds like it could entail hard work.  Morning coffee is a distraction, particularly when it has involved trying to find an alternative venue while your regular favourites are closed over the holidays. Visits to the Westfield shopping mall are a distraction, though I feel only I am partly to blame here, having been kindly provided with vouchers to spend. And technology, always a distraction. More so when you spill a whole cup of tea over your iphone and unfortunately have to upgrade, and then spend several days visiting the Westfield shopping mall to get a protective, tea-resistant cover (picking up a takeaway coffee whilst there).

Alas, the interference from technology and its associated expense may mean that time availability will have to decrease at some point reasonably soon. Living off my pre-Christmas earnings will not last forever, as much as I want it to. This is not helped too with the purchase of a new body (for my camera) and an almost slavish desperation to travel to some places sometime in 2015. But still, I have a day at the cricket, a trip to Sydney, and it is Australia Day weekend soon enough. No need to do anything too drastic just yet, the year is still but a baby.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shorts Non-Personality of the Year

Yikes it’s nearly Christmas. It doesn’t feel like Christmas, but there is the smell of smoke in the air so it must be. And 2015 is just around the corner, up the hill and across to the right a bit. One year closer to impending doom from Islamist wind farms and Europhile selfie-taking teens throwing ice cream buckets over old ladies in the concrete parking lots of the Tarkine wilderness. Or something. I get confused from what Rupert tells me I should think.

One thing I can be sure about is that 2014 is coming to an end. If 2013 was the year of unbridled travel, 2014 was almost as static as a static caravan stuck in the mud in Stuckhampton, wearing a fuzzy jumper while watching a crackly TV transmitting a documentary about the Van de Graaff generator and appropriating humour from Blackadder the Third. I daresay 2014 was almost a year of work; there was incontinence to deal with and tax and depression and parents doing things with their kids and interesting accountants and books for sale and other things I probably should not go into too much detail about mainly because I don’t really remember.

But I did travel and I did escape, it was just no 2013. Who knows, maybe odd-numbered years are for being slack and the evens for work? Only time will tell. But as for 2014, what were the highlights, lowlights and fairly average lights in between...

Best stay: Center Parcs, The Lake District

Log cabins in a pine forest, sun dappling through the trees, a red squirrel darting across the branches. Even the shrills of wild children and hypersensitive smoke alarms cannot dampen the environment and your temporary spot within it. Plus a bedroom to myself with a real bed...a relative luxury on trips to the motherland.

Best warm fuzzy moment with vague memories of childhood thrown in: Plymouth Hoe

Sun out, jumper off, cool breeze from the Sound, jumper on. The Gus Honeybun train clacking along with the occasional clang of a bell. Crazy golf, children running around like long-lost maniacs, ice cream with raspberries and clotted cream. So much of my own childhood now being lived out by the next generation of treasured little pirates. Sausage and chips in the gutter with seagulls to fend off. Janners and Frogs blending over Jasperizers. Real street food. Priceless.


The Remind Me Why I’m in Australia Again Award for Self-Satisfied Contentment: Mollymook Beach

May was a month when winter patiently waited and the outstretched hand of summer never quite let go. Dragging myself away from the glorious technicolour of suburban circles under a bold blue sky, the waters of the Pacific caught me unawares with their warmth and placid demeanour. Mollymook Beach is good at the worst of times. On a calm day in the mid-twenties, with winter around the corner, it is hard to not pinch yourself at the good fortune of being, feet planted in antipodean gold as crystal waters roll caressingly in. 

Best meal: Trois Fromages d’Areches

I love fondue. I love Raclette. J’adore Tartiflette. Ménage a trios, anyone? On a rainy summer’s eve in the heart of Alpine cheese country, what better than to be warmed by concentrated lactose blocks and fermented grape juice. A backdrop of French hubbub and je ne sais quoi charm. Cheese to the left of me, fromage to the right, and here I am, stuck in the middle with you and positively wallowing in it like a hunk of stale bread relinquished to the fondue pot. 

The Bethany White Commendation for Services to Selfies: Titlis Suspension Bridge

Selfies, selfies everywhere and not a shot to think. Being the only person not from China and not owning a telescopic selfie propulsion system I nonetheless grappled with iphone controls and pouty expressions all the while swaying slightly above a five hundred foot ravine in the snow, ice, and thin air of a Swiss Peak. It sounds like an endeavour worthy of Scott and Mallory, of Fiennes and Kardashian, a feat of suitably slavish worship to the filter in the sky.

The Lance Armstrong Medal for Performing-Enhancing Ingestion of Substances Related to Cycling: Kingston coffees and cakes

Inspired by two wheels in the Lakes, I bought a bike and discovered that exercise is nothing if not a cake enabler. Reluctant to become a middle-aged cliché on two wheels, Lycra still escapes me. But a post lake loop topped with a Kingston coffee and some combination of caramel slice, cronut or wagon wheel is the new norm. Every bite eating into the calories my phone tells me were lost; every sip making me more charmed with those who provide it. 

The Pengenna Prize for Cornish Wondrousness: St Agnes Bakery

Sausage rolls are the new pasties. Well, almost. All I can say is that if ever you find yourself within a 5o mile radius of St Agnes in Cornwall, do yourself a favour and pop into the tiniest bakery in the tiniest high street and pick up a sausage roll, plain or flavoured with herbs or onion or garlic or chilli or, well, whatever satisfying variation has been baked that day. Even better, pick up two for the extra energy required to hike over the Beacon and along the tin-scarred, Atlantic-carved, enduringly timeless coastline of this magical corner of the world. And don’t ever go back to Greggs and expect to be happy again.


Destination of the Year: Canberra

Well, would you Adam and Eve it? The world’s most boring, berated, slated and abhorred capital amongst those who have never been there also happens to be one of the best places in the world to live. Yes, as a tourist destination it is perplexing at best; yes, it could do with a little more caution in its drive to transform everyone and everything into an identikit apartment-owning, pulled pork eating, coffee-sipping post-hipster pop-up; and yes, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if I had been to – say – Torres del Paine or the Maldives or if it hadn’t rained in Switzerland for the whole of 2014. But I came back to Canberra and je ne regrette rien. Yes, it has a natural sense of space and air and light and changing seasonality that lends a continual beauty to its setting; yes it still fulfils me when one of its resident rosellas darts past or its roos bound into the sunset; and yes, it provides good coffee and pulled pork post-hipster pop-up environments in which you can at least temporarily pretend that you can afford to own one of the identikit apartments rising up from the ground. 


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gee, 37

It has been a while! As Mum reminded me on the phone recently. It feels just a little like a scolding but one understands that not much has happened; or has it? The sedate cosy green of spring has been baked off, culminating in a top of 37 degrees on the day that a pasty, sweaty-faced David Cameron came to town. Haha, douche. I am not sure if this is just some false summer heat build up that then disappears and transitions to cool dreariness, or yet another sign that we are set to break numerous temperature records, burn to cinders and face encroaching desert sand for our gormless self-serving leaders to bury their heads in.  

Meanwhile, in other news, it is a pleasure to write about things that come from my head without having to back them up with a reference (Stafford, 2014). Hay has been in the making while the sun has been shining and escapades too far out of Canberra have been put on hold. My yearning for a trip is gathering like the heat, building until it suddenly relents with one welcome bounty of thunder and lightning. I think both will come very soon.

Red Hill has been poetically inspirational, offering as it does an escape to the country within five minutes. At certain points the suburbs disappear, the ugly tall building in Woden hides behind a tree, and a background composition of the Brindabella Hills frames the golden waves of grass littered with rosellas and galahs and the head of a kangaroo poking above like a marsupial periscope. Here, the green of October is now a yellow brown of November, and the westerly sun of an evening is warmly alluring with undertones of menace.

  
Elsewhere, my longings for a road trip take on gentler forms, with small forays out into the fringes of Canberra. One Sunday evening took me out and up to Mount Stromlo; the observatory here a brilliant white egg shell, sitting under the kind of blue sky that extends forever past the moon and into deep space. More down to earth, the landscape of the Murrumbidgee corridor has a touch of African Savannah to it, as rolling flaxen grasslands and clusters of trees congregate between looming hills and ridges.


And a trip to space and Africa would not be complete without a sunset beside a big, tepid lake, teeming with beasties and smells and otherworldly things that probably shouldn’t belong to this earth and which you would rather didn’t chew on your legs.


Further outings have been on two wheels, four wheels or four wheels plus two wheels with the added option of two legs for little side trips. Inspired by getting in the saddle in the Lake District and approaching that period when you become middle-aged and suddenly decide that you look good in Lycra, I made the decision to purchase a half decent bike. A bike certainly better than my previous bike, because the lumps and bumps of this town seem a lot easier to navigate, albeit at times still requiring a begrudging grimace. I did not buy any Lycra with the bike and am so far resisting, for middle-age can wait just a while yet please.

The bike offers a different means to pop out a get a coffee, to buy some provisions from the supermarket, to become engrossed in maps and altitude profiles and speed statistics. It is a tool that has empowered a re-appreciation of Lake Burley Griffin, with its blessed 28 kilometre cycle path and assortment of inlets and monuments and riverside meadows. It is a magnet for magpies, but they have calmed down somewhat now.

It has taken me around Tidbinbilla, which is a 17 kilometre ribbon of despair and then delight. The despair coming from a succession of what would seem gentle jaunts uphill in a car but feel like the Pyrenees to my pair of knees; the delight the remainder of the loop, through beautiful bushland rarely disturbed by cars. Just the birds, roos and views for companionship before plunging downhill in a mixture of exhilaration and dread. And still no Lycra.

This very morning it was a bike that made it to the top of what I consider my first genuine hill climb. I was wheezing (Lance, hand me some EPO in a coke can, quick!!) but the bike was just fine ambling in the lowest possible gear. Up to the top of Dairy Farmers Hill in the National Arboretum. I climbed it and, after recovering one hour later, could see what I had never seen before: the appeal of going up a hill in a bike. But still no Lycra.

Tracking my rides and speeds and climbs and – supposed – calories burnt, the bike has undoubtedly become a cake and / or ice cream enabler. So, even if you can’t appreciate cycling or would never consider climbing a little hill on two wheels, appreciate it for that. Any positive savings I may have made are generously counteracted with a treat. Sometimes handmade, others times bought.

So, you see, not a lot has happened over the last month really. Just pictures of trees and kangaroos and sunsets and – why of course – cake to blog about again. And all that is just perfectly fine thank you.