Stories of successful hikes and epic failures

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Six Months in a Day.

lightning over port philip bay

Where was I? Oh yeah, as you know, I've been away for the past six months. I must admit, sitting down again to write is more of a struggle than I anticipated. As it is, I've spent the past 30 minutes staring at the screen with little result, other than deciding to get central heating for winter. Did you know a new, large space heater costs just as much as a ducted heating system? I may not have achieved much in the last hour blog-wise, but at least I've come up with some solid heating research.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the last post, the next few entries (definitely including this one) will be general waffle, as I bring you up to date regarding my whereabouts and also, it'll be good writing practice in order to fire up my penmanship mojo.

Then again, do you really want to know what I've been up to? A question like this may have the following answers.

A) Have you been away?
B) I don't give a toss. Where are all the posts about walking?
C) Oh yes, you sweat soaked hunk of masculinity, I really really need to know what happened.

Ah, the online world. Stay away too long and everything you've done has ended up as fish and chip papers. By the way, in the last entry I forgot to mention another update regarding the new blog format.

Comments. I'm sorry to say, but I've binned the setting allowing anonymous comments. Why? Well, whilst I was missing in action, quite a few snuck through the tight, Hiking Fiasco defences. In the end, what I have to say is this. What's the go with the Dandenongs? Let me elaborate.

A few years back, I wrote a post detailing a stroll. The Mt Dandenong circuit walk. No problem, right? You'd think so, but I'm wondering if 500 metres of lofty elevation is a little too rarefied for the inhabitants. Does the high altitude make their thinking a little woozy? The reason for my pondering is this three year old entry continues to draw weird comments and abuse. It's quite entertaining and I feel like like I'm running my own social experiment. To explain what I mean, here's one comment in its entirety:-

'Your a total dick. Piss off back where you are from mate. What a whinging guy you are. No wonder your a bushwalker... Very boring person'

Now, I believe this was meant to upset me, but the main thing which left me aggrieved was the grammar, as I think crap English really detracts from the abuse. Also, shouldn't the final, send-off line have some real kick to it? I feel, 'very boring person', is a bit too quaint. Surely I was worthy of something a little more florid?

Oh yeah, that's just one. There are more. Remember all you bloggers out there. Don't take the piss out of the Dandenongs, otherwise you might fire up the natives. Actually, I just thought of something else. 'Piss off back where you're from', is a weird line, as I grew up out that way. Does less than 10 km classify as 'from'? Anyway, this explains the 'no anonymous comment' policy from now on.

What else? Oh, I forgot to say, but this post will have random photos, which have no relevance to the writing. Again, they're left-overs and I thought I'd use them. Briefly, I'll mention the lightning. I'd never captured it before (actually, never attempted), so these are from my first attempt. I must admit, something so fleeting does create a steep, photographic learning curve. Not to mention all of these photos are extreme crops, as the lightning was on the horizon.

In the past, prior to the Darwin wet season, I'd considered a lengthy trip up north, just for potential electrical photography. I've never really had the time though, but now I do. Let me explain after the next picture.

lightning over melbourne

Things have certainly changed lately, as my employer for the past 26 years has retired me on the grounds of ill-health. I know what you're thinking, but don't cough up your Wheaties. I'm not dying. They've retired me on the basis of a condition called, 'fruitycakeitis'. It's quite common where I used to work. As it is, it's a little weird to be 51 and not working, having been employed for the past 33 years.

Early retirement may sound dandy, but it's not easy to qualify for. It took multiple psychiatrists, doctors and two psychologists thrown in for good measure, not to mention a board, to decide to pension me off. Stress is too pissy a word for the process, which has taken months. Do you now realise why the blog was put on the back burner? Anyway, financially, I'm able to access my superannuation as a fortnightly pension, so it'll be interesting to see how it goes. By the way, all of this is new, as it only started in March, so it's early days yet.

Certainly, over 20 years my previous work created some mental baggage. A frequent work observation was the aftermath of suicide and regarding certain methods, they've left me with some reliable impressions. If you hang yourself, I'm sure there's a 99% chance you'll crap your pants. Jumping in front of a train will most likely cause the swift removal of a body part. The head seems a popular choice. If using a gun, then a drop sheet is generally needed on the ceiling, as that's where your brain is going.

All of this stuff has left me rather desensitized. As an example, if I was seated at an outdoor restaurant, ready to tuck into a hearty caesar salad and someone nearby decided to leap in front of a fast moving cement truck with the result one of their hands flew off. Instead of being horrified, I'd probably sit back casually and watch the slowly rotating paw as it looped towards me before landing on top of my crisp lettuce. Non-plussed, I'd reach out and shake it whilst proclaiming, 'G'day, mate. You took your time, but nice to meet you eventually.'

Anyway, things aren't too bad, as the psychiatric system has given me some pointers. Generally medication. I've bounced off a few anti-depressants over the years, but the favourite these days seems to be Pristiq.

pristiq tablet box

It's certainly an interesting medication and I learned early on to only take it first thing in the morning. Any later and I'll be subjected to the most vivid, insane dreams. Real toe curlers. The other thing is, you can't just stop taking it. A bit of a lengthy, weaning off process is needed otherwise one feels like collapsing. This is unfortunate if I forget to load them into my pack for a week-long walk.

I guess they're not too bad, as they certainly level mood swings. There are some side effects though and I had the following conversation with a psychiatrist who prescribed them to me. After some general chit-chat about how I felt, he went for the jugular.

He said, "How's the medication affecting your libido?"
I said, "Well, I must admit they seem to be taking the starch out of my trouser canoe".

He said, "That's fairly common. Not much Boner Appétit?"
I said, "No."

He then reached for another prescription, which seems to accompany all anti-depressants. A script for both Viagra and Cialis.

I said, "Both? Which one do I use?"
He said, "I don't know. Try both and see which one suits you".

Well, as your friendly neighbourhood blogger, always willing to offer advice to the big questions of life, I can suggest the following method.

Imagine you've got a big night coming up and you're holding both a Viagra and Cialis tablet. Which one to take? I suggest the patented 'Hiking Fiasco' method. Stand in front of a mirror with your shirt off, both tablets in one hand and a large, man-sized glass of bourbon in the other. Slip into a solid lat-flare to fire yourself up and then when you're ready, throw both tablets down the hatch and then guzzle the bourbon like a bastard. Breathing is optional. There's a valid reason for this flagrant medicine munching, which I'll explain.

Believe me, before you know it the combination of both tablets will transform you sausage into something resembling a solid Teak table leg. This is only part of it though, as the alcohol is the master stroke. The cleverly imbibed bourbon will act as a numbing agent and honestly, if it was 200 years ago, you could have pioneered the Industrial Revolution and lit cities with the power you'd generate from your piston pounding pecker.

Mm... If I keep this up, the post will stretch out way beyond what I intended. I don't want to overstay my welcome, so I'll cut it short for the time being and resume this meandering next time. Do you want some more lightning? Okay, if you insist.

lightning over melbourne

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's New. It's Shiny. It Almost Works. May 2015.

open road

Do you remember my last post, which was written on New Year's Eve? Did you have a good night?

I also said I'll see you in 2015. If you check the calendar on your fridge, you can confirm I wasn't lying. Okay, the first post for the year has taken a bit longer than I anticipated, but I've got a decent 'no blogging disclaimer', which might be detailed in the future. Right now, all you need to know is I'm still alive. Unfortunately for you.

The next few posts will detail what I've been up to over the past six months. Right now though, this entry exists only to let you know of some changes, so feel free to leave now if you're expecting something amazing. Rest assured, it certainly doesn't exist in the upcoming paragraphs.

Now, that's out of the way. Does the blog appear unfamiliar? If you've visited this stinkin' blog at some point, you should already notice the new look. If you have been here before and don't notice anything different, can I suggest you get your Coke bottle glasses re-calibrated?

Yes, it's a whole new template. Remember when I was going to switch to Wordpress? Ditch this Blogger backwater? Well, I didn't. I looked at it and it did my head in. Unless someone has computer knowledge and they're prepared to sit alongside and tell me each key to press (plus make me a coffee) during the migration from Blogger to Wordpress, then it's too intimidating.

Instead, I got an after-market Blogger template online (which apparently is a direct copy of a Wordpress one anyway) and I'll run with this for the time being.

Firstly, this template will load a million times faster and should be mobile friendly. I've looked at it on the iPad and it seems okay. The whole thing is minimalist. No banners, no anything at all really. In fact, it's overall structure is so streamlined, there's essentially nothing left. At this rate, the blog will consist solely of white space. Imagine how quick that would load? Anyway, have a look to the right. Here, I'll help you out.

finger pointing

See what's over there? Yep, absolutely nothing. Sorry, that was a lot of fanfare for little reward, wasn't it? Seriously (cough, cough) I'm aiming to put something, which doesn't seem to appear in the world of blogs. Actually, it's my online white whale. A bloody index. How the hell do you index nearly 300 posts, containing multiple walks and general bullshit, into a workable list of hyperlinks, so they can be viewed and clicked on within the one page? Apparently, this concept is beyond the blogging hemisphere.

I used to list hyperlinks on the side as categories, which were taken off the individual labels I place at the end of each post. You know, something like the Great South West Walk. You could click on it and you'll get every post I wrote about that walk. The problem is it's fine if you've only got half a dozen labels, but five years worth of crap has produced a swag. If I continue my old system, the home page stretches so far down, it disappears into the ground. Do you know what I mean?

As an example. Want to do the Viking Circuit? Well, it's in the blog, but good luck trying to find it. You'd think Blogger would have a simple widget, which reads those labels applied to each post, wouldn't you? This widget could sit alone as an index link and once opened would include hyperlinks to everything walking related.

Mm... It's not easy though. There is none and in the end, Ben (stuffed if I can work out it out) is going to hunt down some sort of solution. Then again, he says an index is for chumps. He thinks no one will land on the blog and then peruse individual posts via an index. I'm not so sure, but for the time being, if you want to find something in particular, then use the Google search above where my finger is pointing. If you've got the time, the Archive list directly below the search window will give you every post chronologically. Oh, I did think of an overall series of categories, such as 'coastal' or 'alpine', which would then contain all the relevant posts about those themes. More thinking is required...

What else? The home page no longer consists of the latest post in its entirety. The previous system was laborious. These days, everything is about fast loading, especially on mobile devices, so the home page now has my last five posts, but only an intro with a 'read more' link at the end of each entry. Roughly, this is 1.5 million times better. Click away and you'll see what I mean.

Mm... One other point regarding overall page loading speed. I'm aware large images slow things down, but recently I've being sucking the bejesus out of them, so the file size is a lot smaller than usual. They seem fine for casual browsing, but if you zoomed right in, they're very pixelated. In saying all of this, the actual page loading speed is pretty good. On Pingdom Website Speed Test I'm rating 90/100. I think this is okay? Isn't that at least an A-?  

There'll be more tweaking to come, so changes may occur when you least expect it. One notable alteration will be the header photo. Look, I'll point to what I'm talking about.

pointing at computer screen

It's okay, but my problem is I'm kinda sick of it. I think a new photo is needed for an overall freshen up. The trouble is, it may take a decade to find one, which is going to fit the dimensions and still look good. I've got a billion photos on hard drives and it will take some dedicated perusing to get something suitable.

Actually, you've got to admire me for one thing. I've absolutely no idea how the horizon in landscape photos are remotely level (are they?), as the computer screen appears to be on right angles. I don't think my screen stand, consisting of the Yellow Pages and a Dr Martens shoe box, is working too well. Then again, maybe the screen is level and the house is on an angle?

Oh, see the 'stories of successful hikes and epic failures' line? I'm getting rid of that as well and having something new. I've come up with a few words, but I need to do some Google research to ensure someone hasn't already used it.

What else? Up the top, the usual 'about me' links exist. I'm probably going to ditch the 'gear' one, as talking about equipment bores me senseless. I'll leave those discussions for other punters. A couple of other links might appear, such as 'walking companions' etc. Who knows, as the main aim is not to have a hundred items on the home page. Remember, this is the sleek, minimalist world!

Now, look to the left.

showing middle finger

Oops... sorry, that's the wrong photo. Let's try again.

finger pointing

Again, I've got a 100% strike rate, as there's nothing at all. I did consider columns, either side of the posts in the middle, but ended up abandoning the idea. I think this is better. Mm... Does this mean there's absolutely no point to the photo above? Correct.

You'll also notice Ben has funkified the headings. Run your mouse over 'Hiking Fiasco' at the top of the page and you should notice a nice fade from black into white. Who doesn't like a good fade in their online writing?

Well, that's it for the time being. It's taken me six months to write this, so I think I need to put my feet up for the rest of the year. Either another six months or a week. I'll see how I go.

Oh, one last thing. Sorry for not replying to any comments or emails recently. When I go off the online grid, I really go off, so I haven't been looking at the blog or it's associated tasks at all. One thing I've learnt after not logging on for months is my page views have dropped to essentially zero. I must admit, the lack of stats is quite comical.

Okay, I'm heading off to tinker and revitalise a few parts of the blog, including one other piece of enlightenment I learned the hard way. In the future, I'll use minimal links in posts, as it appears my blog is full of dead links and extensive housework is needed to delete or revive them.

Lastly, the opening photo was meant to be used in my 'image a day for December' saga from last year. Unfortunately, I ran out of days, but it probably suits this post better anyway. You know, the traditional, 'heading into the future' cliché? Then again, maybe you prefer, 'on the hot rails to hell' concept? I think both are acceptable.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Under moonlight, Queenstown Cemetery, Smiths Gully.

queenstown cemetery smiths gully moonlight

Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying.Jean Cocteau

Finally, it's the last day of the year and time to reflect on what's happened over the past 12 months. In my corner, it's been a topsy-turvy ride with way too much going on, which has affected regular blog posts.

Looking ahead, I'm hoping the blog will be revamped. I've been researching new Blogger templates and I've narrowed it down to a couple. Essentially, the result will be a faster loading blog with a minimalist home page. All I need to do is set it up and if it's working okay, the first post for 2015 will be under the new look. I can't guarantee anything, but this joint needs a spruce up.

You'll also be free from these daily photo posts. It's been an interesting experiment, which I may or may not do again. Maybe one month a year? I'll contemplate it, but I think we all need a rest from these daily entries for the time being.

On the final day of the year, I considered photos of party balloons and frivolity, but instead I've selected something more my style. Moonlight filtering through the trees of the Queenstown Cemetery in Smiths Gully. It was around midnight when I took this 90 second exposure.

See you next year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Breaching whale, Wilderness Coast, Victoria.

whale breaching wilderness coast victoria nsw

I can't say I've seen this on a hike before and maybe never will again. Whilst wandering on the coast near the Victorian and NSW border, this breaching whale was a pretty special sight.

I'd liked to have a better photo, but my hiking camera lens is usually a compromise. It'd be nice to take a super-zoom or real wide angle, but in the end I usually opt for something which covers a bit of both. My 100-400mm lens would have been handy, but alas it was sitting at home. Oh well. It's an annoying habit, seeking the ideal photo, as in the end it may have been nicer to ignore placing the viewfinder to the eye and instead just savour the moment. A memory might be nicer than a photograph.

I'm reminded of this by a quote I've used before and it comes from the book, 'Everest: The Hard Way' by Chris Bonington. Fabled climber, Doug Scott, writes,

'Speaking now for myself, there comes also the saddening realisation that the view from the top of Everest which I now have in my mind's eye is very possibly no longer the magnificent pure naked wholly coloured vision of the moment, but consequently wholly coloured by the slides I then took and have seen so many times since.'

I guess this leads to a surprising thought. It was only five years ago I started taking a camera when walking. Before then, I'd take in the sights without documenting anything. Times certainly have changed.

Monday, December 29, 2014


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