Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dune training

The next instalment in the program to get my body into some sort of shape began today. Sally and Sheridan have left to go walking in South Australia so it's just me and Hazel from now on. Sheridan gave me the all clear that he thought I was fit enough, but I'm nowhere near as confident. Afterall, most of our walking has been on undulating tracks with little hill climbing. And when we climbed up from the river edge to the lookout on Tuesday I really felt it.

Knowing it's time to step up the pace I'd decided to add a third day to the regimen, which is Thursdays. And Thursdays will be all about climbing. And what can I climb in this height challenged town/state I live in? Why sand dunes of course.

A half hour walk from home are a bunch of sanddunes. They're pretty busy on the weekends with 4WD buggies, bikes and quads but nice and quiet mid week. Find a steep dune and walk up it, then walk down it, then do it again, and again, and again. And again!! Not sure Hazel knew what the hell was going on.

Buggered!! Explore a few more dunes, sit on a ridge and enjoy the view. Slide down a few more dunes then walk home. I needed that like a hole in the head!

Definitely not fit enough yet. Let's see how many times I can do that dune next week, double it to 10? And I'll take the camera next time, sorry, no piccies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My blog

Today I had a conversation with mum who told me not only was my blog boring but also self indulgent. Nothing like those close to you to stick the knife in!

Of course my blog is self indulgent, I told her, it's meant to be. Afterall it's about me and my travels, it just happens to be posted on a public forum so that my friends and family can follow what is going on in my life, rather than me having to ring or email them individually. Something I won't have the time or the inclination to do once I'm off on my adventure. Admittedly, other people I don't know might come across the blog, and so what? I've read some really interesting blogs of strangers that have both entertained and informed me. I hope that can be the case with my blog.

What hurt me the most was the disapproval of being self indulgent. One of the things that my bout with depression has taught me is that I actually feel guilty for indulging myself. Here I am with a great career, good income, ability to take time off and travel, and I feel so damn guilty!! For god's sake, I've put 10 years of my life into working in Aboriginal Health, I've put up with the physical and emotional hardship of travelling 2 weeks of every month out to remote communities and since I've stopped they are struggling to find anyone who will take up the baton. And I feel guilty!! No wonder I fell into the abyss.

Well I'm not going down that road anymore. I don't actually feel guilty any more for leaving my job. In a way I am angry that they took advantage of me, but I'm probably more angry at myself for letting them. I'm glad that they are at last realising and appreciating all the hard work I've been doing - even if it means clients get less service until they actually sort out the mess. No one person should be relied upon the way I was, something I was trying to communicate for some time before I pulled the pin. C'est la vie.

So now I'm learning to be indulgent. Not in a physical way - I already have lots of toys - but in an emotional way. I'm learning not to hide my feelings behind a wall of wit and sarcasm. I'm actually learning to be vulnerable.

And one way to do that is to write about my life and feelings. It's kind of liberating to just write things down and publish them into the ether. I trust my family and friends to love me for who I am so it isn't a threatening thing to do. And as for disapproval, tough titties!!

For the record, the aim of this blog is to let everyone know about my travels. Starting it early has allowed me to work out the teething problems involved in uploading pictures and writing blogs. But I also wanted to inform people about some of the decisions I am making in regards to travel plans, equipment, pre trip training etc, because if some stranger comes across my blog, some of that information might actually be helpful. Also, a trip always starts with the preparation, which is an exciting time and often something that friends and family enjoy being part of, so I wanted to share that. And finally, if someone out there who is also dealing with depression comes across my blog then maybe something I say can strike a chord with them and encourage them to seek help.

So indulge me!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blister upon blister

The feted McKay feet have struck again!! Thanks mum for that bit of genetic material, which ensures that all shoes give my feet hell.
I've now had the boots for over a month and every time I go walking I get another blister on top of the last one. Only the left heel, the right is basically sorted. I've tried numerous sock combinations, but last Sunday night I hit the wall. I was in so much pain I actually had to take pain killers!! Strong ones!!

Yesterday we only did an abridged version at Greenough, just to Devlins Pool return -5.6km- as my foot just wasn't up to it. S and S then sent me off to sort out that boot.

Well I went to the chemist, where there's all sorts of foot inserts, in fact too much choice I was confused, so I resorted to Plan B. Visit your friendly local podiatrist. Simple solution according to them, a heel insert.
So here it is, inserted in said left boot. Blisters mending, hopefully Sunday will be better (got out of prior commitment so looking forward to Sunday walk up the Moresby Ranges)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday stroll

Tuesday we do our regular Greenough River walk. This is a 17.5km round trip, which was made a bit more exciting this week because we actually had to swim across the rivermouth. The week before we'd opted for caution and just walked 2 hours then turned around and walked back, but this week the river was much lower so we decided to brave the crossing. The tide was coming in, I didn't bring the camera, and we were getting low on drinking water, all reasons not to turn around and walk back for another 3-4 hours. The deepest part went up to my armpits, so some swimming was required, but the current was sluggish and aside from being a bit cold and wet for the drive back home, it was quite the adventure.
Sundays we try a different place each week. Today we headed a bit north of White Peak, to a dirt road heading east off the highway. This road heads up past the original White Peak homestead and through a gap in the Moresby Ranges - the name given to some very non descript flat topped hills just inland from the coast, who the heck was Moresby? We'd done a rece last Sunday, and Sally and Sheridan had done further exploration up the side roads midweek to work out the mileage - roughly 15km all up.
The road is undulating farmland, which is really pretty at the moment with green pastures and native bushes on the road verges beginning to bloom. It may be approaching winter in other parts of Australia, but the flora round here takes every opportunity to put on a show given a bit of rainfall followed by some warm sunny days. Hakeas, grevilleas and some acacias are blooming, as well as the occasional banksia. We began by walking into a strong easterly, which was a little chilly, but kept the flies at bay - as we discovered once it died down. Turning north on Careys Rd we walked past the ubiquitous rocky breakaways that are such a typical part of the mid western landscape, with farms and the uncleared Moresby Ranges on our right. Once we'd reached the end of this road we headed back south again, though were stopped by a local who has offered to allow us access across some private property to the Moresby Ranges. Problem is, we arranged it for next week, then I realised I've got other commitments and can't make it. Sally and Sheridan will have to let me know how it went. Returning to White Peak Road, we again turned east, passing the old homestead, with a wonderful dilapidated old building covered in ancient bougainvillea and remnants of a stone walled enclosure, through the gap and eventually to the end of this road. Great views back to the coast, and across to our pimply friend whom we climbed last week and an undulating walk back to the van. Definitely a very pleasant Sunday stroll.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Time to spare

I am spending a huge amount of time reading books and trawling the internet for information regarding my travels. Everything from exercise preparation to train and bus timetables in individual countries, to photography and travel forums. My knowledge base is quite astounding now in comparison to a few months ago.

Not everyone has this sort of time, or in fact the inclination to actually do a bit of research on where they are going. You discover this by reading travel forums. There are basically two types of people who contribute to forums, those who ask questions, and those who answer them. The ones who do the answering have generally travelled extensively and are very keen to help new travellers. They do, however, get very sick of answering the same questions again and again. Which comes to the other group, the questioner. These people either just arrived from another planet or they've made an effort to do some research before they ask a question. Most I think are just plain lazy, as sometimes the questions they ask can be answered easily by a simple google search or visit to an embassy or airline website. The ones that amuse me the most are when they write in about a scam, one that has been heavily publicized in both guidebooks and travel forums for years, but they still insist on telling everybody about their ripoff. They usually get short shrift from the regulars who tell them, sometimes quite rudely, that it was their own fault that they got into the situation in the first place and what the hell did they expect. I really do think there is something in the adage that many travellers leave their brains at home!!

Of course, the great advantage of someone else asking a silly question, is I get to see the answer without copping any abuse. There are certainly some good threads on border crossings, but it can be quite difficult to get any detailed information about the less travelled routes. Reading people's travel blogs can be helpful though.

The most amusing site I found recently, was for a bespoke travel agency, offering helicopter touring with private chef around Cambodia. I think it was called travel for millionaires!! They mention a site in the Cardamon Mountains that has ancient funeral jars similar to Phonsavan in Laos, found by National Geographic in 2002. A full search of National Geographic and Google reveals nothing. A con??
check it out:

Added to this I am still learning Indonesian, which is progressing quite nicely, such that I think I will be able to make myself understood if confronted with no English speakers. Whether I'll understand them is another question.

I am struggling with removing myself from my commitments at home, mostly in regard to my volunteer responsibilities, since I haven't had any work commitments for months. I plan to pull the plug at the end of this month, come what may!! And there are some serious house jobs yet to do.

So perhaps I should stop banging on here on the keyboard and go and do them!! Ciao...

Monday, May 12, 2008

White Peak

Geraldton lacks altitude. A few flat topped hills euphemistically called the Moresby Ranges and a funny little hummock called White Peak. Once part of a large farm that's mostly carved up into 5 acre lots, White Peak stands out like a large pimple amongst the real estate signs and partially ploughed fields. Still covered in native vegetation and home to a few roos and wallabies, it was crying out for us to check it out.

Early Sunday we parked at the end of the road, just past yet another ugly McMansion with obligatory flag on the pole (real parochial this lot, it was a WA flag!!) and headed off to climb "the peak". We followed a mixture of animal tracks and water flows through the lower vegetation before tackling the loose rubble to reach the summit. That took 20 minutes!! Even with some stops to check out the different plants and gnamma holes.
Having gained the summit we decided we needed to up the ante. So down we went, to the other side of the hill, where we turned around and found another route up to the top and over again. There are some great rocks and vegetation on that small hill, as well as great views up and down the coast. There are even some challenging bits especially descending over the top rubble to the safe zone where the vegetation recommences.
We only did the climb twice, though Hazel spied some movement whilst we were on the summit so I think she made the climb at least three times!!
We'll definitely repeat this climb, certainly close enough to home to use as a regular training walk, and will be interesting to see more of the vegetation in flower.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wishful thinking

There was me thinking I'd be able to go trekking through Asia with a tiny backpack. Well I can if I don't take a big camera and don't plan to be too far off the beaten track. But the more research I do the more I realise that if I take the hammock (which I am) I'll need the sleeping bag as well. A few trial nights out on my balcony on hot nights has shown me that hammocks can be quite chilly, not to mention that mozzies will attempt to bit you through the fabric. Very impressed with the hammock otherwise!!
I have a 36L backpack that I took to Vietnam for 2 weeks in 2002. It was perfect, but I was staying in guesthouses the whole time. Throw in the sleeping bag and hammock and I just can't manage to fit everything else in. Although I'll usually be wearing my camera in a harness on my chest, I'd like to be able to pack it away on occasion. As much as people bang on about not making it obvious you've got an expensive camera, it seems bleeding obvious the moment you pull it out to take a picture. My solution to the security issue is a chest harness rather than an over the shoulder camera bag, the latter being easier to misplace or have taken. Someone would need to get pretty close and personal with me to nick my camera!!
I'd love to be able to just do carryon, but I think that's just not possible. The conundrum is that a carryon size could probably work if I used a squat short backpack, but that's a seriously uncomfortable option for serious trekking. Plus I'd have no room for extra purchases enroute (something I'll definitely need, though there's never a problem buying an extra bag).
So today I purchased a 55L trekking backpack. It has all the options I wanted, some of which my 36L pack lacked. Dual compartment, adjustable harness system, hydration bladder compatible, rain cover, snack/water compartments on the belt, and extendible/compressible. It also has a combination of top and side loading which is great, because top loading can be a real headache. And it's pretty light too. Everything fits, with room to spare!! Just got to do some measurements to see if I can get it into the carryon dimension requirements.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Coronation by foot

Countless times I've driven that road down to Coronation Beach. In the old days it was a hell dirt road with nasty corrugations. In fact one of the funniest acts of vandalism I've seen was when someone replaced the roadsign on the highway with one that read "Corrugation Bitch Road" - too right!!
These days it's fully sealed to the campsite/carpark and a pretty easy stroll. It's 8km each way from the highway, so certainly in the distance stakes for our training walks. Sally and Sheridan have joined me in the walking campaign, as they are planning on heading off to the Flinders Ranges this winter. Sheridan came up with the plan to park at the highway, walk to the beach, have a snack on the new viewing platform then walk back.
We set off at 8:30am. Being Sunday, every man and his dog was on the road heading to South Corros for a surf, as well as the campers heading off, but Hazel was pretty good at keeping out of the way. The creeks have all got water in them, and the farmers have begun seeding so there's a wonderful landscape of freshly ploughed fields interspersed with verdant green. Not something we see alot of around here!
The walk is pleasant, with a few small climbs, and views over the bare fields to the flat-topped hills to the east. Lots of new greenery sprouting up along the road verges, as well as some dangerously deep ditches caused by all the runoff from the recent rains. Rounding that corner up the top of the last sanddune and looking down on the sets rolling in is a real treat for the walker. Usually you're concentrating on the winding road when driving, or counting how many people are already on the water and how powered up they are.
The lookout is a real asset to Coro's. It's got seats halfway up as well as in the gazebo at the very top. I reckon my hammock would fit pretty nicely indeed up there. Of course that's only halfway, we still had to walk back, up that hill which was a good heart starter and back to the highway. A breeze had kicked in by then so it wasn't hot, though Hazel was feeling it being closer to the heat radiating off the hard top. Luckily there was water in the creek near the farmhouse so she got down and dirty as only a dog can!! Don't think we'll do the walk again, not really enough scenery (though maybe that's because we've all driven that road so many times we're jaded), and we'd probably pick a weekday when there's less traffic.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Eureka moment

bootcamp is working, fitness is improving, and i'm not so sore. even the blisters heal in less than 24 hours. Now doing two 15km plus walks a week and recovering well.
huge sigh of relief.
This Sunday we're walking to Coronation Beach and back from the highway, 16km round trip and it's even got a few hillclimbs! The lookout on the sanddune behind the camp area is at last finished, what a great spot for lunch!!