mount abrupt

30 12 2012

It was Gooch Week once again.

So called for being the inconsequential part between two important things. Those being Christmas and New Year’s presumably. (Look, I didn’t invent the term, I just think it’s awesome.)

A time for catching up with the family (did not), watching the cricket (it finished early) and for many hospitality workers, earning huge pay packets due to penalty rates (I quit my job).

So…what to do? Something cheap, utilising existing resources. An activity to take my mind off the fact I have a three week Sri Lankan trip coming up and no means to pay for it.

Head for the bush then, eh? Why not?

After calling the Grampians park headquarters to confirm not too many people had the same idea, we headed west. It was only three hours out of Melbourne, through historic Ballarat where they sold me a new gas bottle and the wrong size hose, which would eventually prove problematic.

Our planned 7am departure (beat the crowds, yeh) saw us arrive at the Grampians around 1pm, due to various factors which won’t be discussed in this forum, but luckily those forecast crowds were nowhere to be seen so after cruising a few campsites we pitched the filthy Meredith tent and settled into his ‘n’ hers hammocks. Mine was actually a mattress on the grass, but whatever.

The next few days were spent poring over maps, scrambling up mountains, swimming in creeks, cooking over fires and generally getting into all that good outdoorsy stuff that makes you feel so damn alive, but which you never seem to do often enough.

“It’s good for the soul to get up here,” proclaimed Sharyn as we looked north over the sweeping hazy-blue peaks of various unnamed hills  enormous mountains.

And right she was. It’s too easy to hang in Fitzroy drinking beer, riding bikes, blah blah blah.

But it doesn’t take much effort to throw a tent in the car and head into the eucalypts to burn jaffles over a gas stove of a morning.

Chuck in a stovetop coffee pot and you’re sweet. Even if you don’t have a job anymore.


Looking up through my polarised-sunglasses filter.

Looking up through my polarised-sunglasses filter.

*FOOTNOTE. We also spent four or five hours climbing Mount Abrupt. Best name in the Grampians, better than Mount Difficult, for sure. Rising 460m (is that all?), you think you’re nearly at the top, then round a corner to realise you’ve been looking at the wrong hill all along. Lucky we had tuna wraps, and yes Rhys, the packet was opened in the correct manner. All shots from there…

View from the road in. Promising!


HDR about halfway up

HDR about halfway up

Refusing to stand TOO close to the edge. Understandably.

Refusing to stand TOO close to the edge. Understandably.

Tree fern looking a lot like some sort of Maori carving

Tree fern looking a lot like some sort of Maori carving

Cropped shot of peaks to the north. Not sure about the 'vivid colour' setting.

Cropped shot of peaks to the north. Not sure about the ‘vivid colour’ setting.

Obligatory 'look, we're up a mountain' shot.

Obligatory ‘look, we’re up a mountain’ shot. Sharyn actually not that short.

Boom. The money shot.

Boom. The money shot.













A Pilbara Snapshot: Two

21 07 2012

Consider the case of Goldsworthy.

What?                   Where?

Exactly. No one even remembers it any more.

But Goldsworthy was home to the first iron ore mine in Western Australia, established in the 1960s just outside present-day Port Hedland.

At its peak, the town was home to 700 residents, including my sister’s partner who grew up there among the red iron hills and tree-lined creeks of the Pilbara.


But then the ore ran out.

So in 1994, in accordance with government policy to ‘avoid ghost towns’, the streets were torn up, buildings removed and a whole town was wiped off the map.

Like it was never there.


Many people who call Port Hedland home have probably never heard of Goldsworthy.

But they ought to think about it when considering their own future.

Because what will happen to Port Hedland when the Pilbara’s ore deposits run dry?

You can be damned sure the mining companies won’t stick around.

Why would they?

Gina Rinehart and Twiggy Forrest are only concerned about the bottom line, not about building sustainable futures


You only have to visit the Port Hedland garbage dump to see the scale of their excesses.

Apparently there’s no money in fixing old appliances anymore. Not for the local electricians who work out of town on-site and not for the cashed-up miners who just buy a replacement.

One section of the town dump is reserved solely for retired whitegoods –   a soaring pile of fridges, freezers and washers which probably just needed a tweak.

The plasma screen TV pile is only slightly smaller.

Waste. Excess. Wealth. These are just a few of my favourite things.

Actually they’re some of the reasons I moved to Melbourne.

And not because I envy the rich.

I realized long ago that I value lifestyle too highly to ever become wealthy.

But because I’m sick of hearing about that vacuous shit.

You hear a lot about it in Western Australia.

Who has that job, how much are they making, how big is their TV…

Never mind that these people are living right on the edge of one of the country’s outstanding areas of natural beauty. As featured on Foxtel.

Because, the thing is, the Australian wilderness isn’t friendly.

Spectacular, yep. But harsh, too.

And as Calvin – my sister’s partner  – pointed out, The Bush is simply alien to so many people who have moved up to the desert country in search of their fortune.

Spiky, dusty, dry, long distances;  you gotta earn those views.


Happily, my family in the Pilbara is right into getting outback and getting amongst it.

Hell, they used to live 300km from the nearest supermarket, so an hour’s drive outside Port Hedland was nothing.

Calvin drove us out past Goldsworthy where he grew up, to a deserted river bordered with twisted ghost gums where the only crowds were roaming Brahman cattle.

The kids ran wild in the water, we drank a few beers in the shade of the paperbarks and never once wished we were rich miners watching 52-inch plasma screens in Hedland.

But what do you think, dear readers? This is just one poor, non-miners opinion.

Is it a positive move that we’re tearing holes in the outback and sending our dirt overseas so a small part of the population can become filthy rich?

Should the traditional owners of James Price Point stop whining about a few faded rock paintings that stand in the way of progress?

Or should we just accept all this as the new future while we continue to drive round in petroleum-fuelled steel cars and keep our damn mouths shut? Over to you…………


Hilariously, this is just a small portion of the many, many people who have been banned FOR LIFE from the local pub. The Wall of ‘Fame’.

Wild passionfruit bush snacks

Brady killing it on the soccer field. More or less.

A Pilbara Snapshot : One

16 07 2012

In case you hadn’t heard, Australia, or more specifically North Western Australia, is in the midst of a resources boom.

What does this mean? Simply put, huge swathes of our red desert dirt are being sent to China to be turned into steel so that they can take over the world. Probably.

Closer to home, it also means every second person in WA is earning six figures, pushing prices and rents through the roof, particularly in those towns  lucky enough to be near a mine.

Port Headland is one of those towns. Flat and dusty, there’s not much to recommend it except as a hub to visit some of the incredible country further inland.

And that seems to be how the big mining companies view it too. Not as a bustling coastal community to house their legions of workers, but just as a necessary train stop on the way to more mining dollars.

The town, which comprises Port and South Hedland is simply functional. There are few restaurants or cafes because no one can match the mining salaries.

Ore trains rumble non-stop through town and a salt factory dominates the main road. Every second vehicle is a yellow-striped mine truck and a high-visibility uniforms dominate. It’s like you’re inside some sort of remote industrial plant yourself.

The thing which really struck me was how it seemed no one was looking ahead. There’s been no community investment in the town by the Big Miners who earn so much from it. When the minerals are gone, they’ll pull out and Hedland will have no reason to exist.

It’s just a shame they couldn’t spend a few more bucks to give their workers something nicer to come home to.

Just out of town near an abandoned mining settlement.

Action Week

2 08 2011

Last week a friend from NZ came to visit.

A snowboarder from the ruined city of Christchurch, this young lady was no stranger to adventure, so I took it upon myself to organize some kind of Super Itinerary, positively bursting with desirable destinations and outdoorsy pursuits.

This had the dual benefits of showing Erin a few choice pieces of WA real estate, while providing me the chance to piss off from work and have some holiday-style fun myself.

I think we did ok.

In just  two weeks we cycled the Swan River, toured Freo, found a BYO jazz bar, watched The Nextmen at Villa, cruised to Rottnest and back, hit Margaret River, spent three days in the forest around Walpole, played volleyball, attended a festival in Perth and went mountain biking in the Ferguson Valley. All while consuming our body weight in red wine.

Maybe I should be a tour guide. We sure had a ball. Check some pics.

near gas bay, margs

oh my, the brakes have failed...

karri tree carry on



walpole farmhouse still life

cottesloe beachfront

breakin' bones

elephant rocks, denmark

the tropical north

1 08 2011

Cape Range behind our campsite

One of the very best things about living in Western Australia is the rugged, warm north of the state, a lazy 15 hour drive from Perth.

Even the most bleak winter is quickly forgotten when you cross the 26th parallel and enter the tropics proper, where red desert meets teeming blue ocean.

And there’s so much damn wildlife up there. You almost expect David Attenborough to bimble into shot, explaining why echidnas love crossing the highway at around 5pm.

Around our camp at Yardie Homestead, there were countless roos, emus, wedgetail eagles, wild horses, goats, goannas and yes, echidnas.

In the water was equally startling. As well as the fish we regularly hauled in, there were turtles popping up everywhere, huge sea snakes, sharks chasing our tuna, rays in the shallows. One day, I’d love to see a dugong.

These shots are from a couple months back when we travelled to Exmouth for a friend’s wedding and even looking now, makes me feel wistful.

Hope you feel similarly inspired.

My favourite left in the world. Mike would disagree.

a very Australian wedding scene

on the way

the author and friend

pretty, deserted beaches? check.

A girl caught the biggest fish. A GIRL!?!

fishing, beer and sunsets. a lot to like.

summer lovin’

14 09 2010

The white yacht was anchored off the beach again.

For more than a week it had sat there, occasionally disappearing at sunset, only  to reappear the next morning.

And like clockwork, the yacht discharged its British guests to the beach daily, where they crammed in amongst the plump brown Greeks and Italian families on holiday.

But in the same way the British distinguished themselves with their pasty skin and Cockney accents, the yacht and its passengers were never truly a part of this carefree holiday scene.

The yacht’s position off the beach was far enough to deter nosy swimmers and only just within the reach of the most determined locals on pedal boats.

Because even from the beach, it loomed huge.

And the curious holidaymakers couldn’t help but be drawn in by the size, the gleaming white hull, the assumed importance.

“Whose is the yacht? Is it a king? Hollywood?”

Those same wondering locals might like to have imagined the visitors added a degree of glamour to their beach, but truly, the yacht added nothing.

vessels changed to protect the innocent

Staying actively apart from their fellows, the British had meals delivered on gold trays to the beach, even going so far as taking their own drinks ashore. To the beach bar.

Each morning a dinghy would slip ashore and quietly dump another dozen bags of garbage into the roadside bins and every night, when everyone was in bed, clouds of filth would quietly seep out of the yacht into the clear Aegean waters.

Even the cheerful delivery of the Brits to the beach was a lie.

“Have a great time, sir. Enjoy the beach, guys. Byeeeee…”

Smiles hid grim faces as the crew returned from the beach run to set about preparing the yacht for the return of their owners.

Yes, the ‘owners’ effectively held possession of their crew along with the yacht.

Ever cheerful on the outside, each white-clad worker secretly despised their employers for their sense of entitlement, ignorance and neediness.

The reality was that the British had rented themselves 16 friends for the summer, friends who were apparently only too pleased to work 14 hours a day for 90 days straight.

So the British could have a holiday in the sun.

But luckily, summer doesn’t last forever.

Soon the sun would be gone and with it, the British.

the other greece

29 08 2010

No islands for us, mate.

No whitewashed churches, blue-domed roofs, cute islands and all the rest of it.

We’re on the … mainland.

You never really think of mainland Greece. Or at least I never do, unless there’s a report of more riots in Athens.

But it’s there and it’s pretty big. And dry. And dusty.

Jumping off from Keffalonia in the Ionian group, we headed south rather than transiting the Corinth Canal and went around the bottom leg of mainland Greece.

Not much grows down there. Some olives, providing the only shade of green on otherwise barren hills, but that’s about it.

Limoni in the south of Greece

The architecture that hasn’t been leveled by earthquakes is vaguely reminiscent of Egypt or the middle east.

The arid grey-brown landscapes and rocky shores look a little like north-western Australia. (For the record, Oman and the Cape Verdes also look like WA. See: desert meets crystal ocean).

Small remote villages and the odd bigger regional town are scattered along the coasts supporting domestic tourism. God only knows what they do thru the winter.

Sort of interesting, but not something I’d come back to. Which also goes for Greece as a whole.

kind of middle eastern, right?

cute up close, but a long way from anything. Limoni