66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.


The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.


I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track


My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bedroom visit was most unwelcome

If there’s a better way to start a day than this, then I’m all ears.
After a few hours’ kip, a cup of tea and a smoke, Liam suggested that we visit his fish pond.
“Fish pond,” I asked. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s where I often go after work or first thing in the morning with a cuppa. It’s like a little coral grotto with all sorts of coloured fish in it. I sit there for ages just watching them.”
The water was its usual 28 or so degrees … it doesn’t or can’t get a lot better.
The three of us headed for and early lunch at The Summit, a restaurant/garden sanctuary not too far away. It’s a very steep driveway, sometimes demanding four-wheel-drive, but worth it when you get to the top … just for the views and the gardens.
It is 20 hectares (probably swapped for a new Hi Lux ute) of beautifully landscaped gardens. The boys enjoyed pizzas while I tucked into a prawn wrap … both set us up for a drink at what was Liam’s work farewell party.
It was great to see all the blokes he’d worked with over the past five years or so … a lot of then made speeches, while a couple gave him very special wood carvings that they’d done. There were other gifts, plenty of beers, the strongest kava I’ve tasted and lots of love in the air.
Pretty soon it was wrapped up and we three were headed for some Chinese food where after a good meal, I offered a card to pay. “Sorry, the phone lines are down. Can you pay cash?” said the woman behind the counter. I had no cash so Liam took care of it before we headed home for a good sleep to prepare for the farewell party.
The whole day was just gearing for a party that didn’t take long to get into full swing. The band was belting out lots of loud music, drinks of all sorts were being downed at a rate of knots.
I spent a goodly amount of time in the pool, also getting wet on the inside courtesy of small buckets of vodka. The rest of the party was getting off its face courtesy of some mushrooms from Russian bikie chick Paulette.
I reckon the vodka almost did me in, so I thought perhaps an hour or so napping would give me a new lease of life. I headed off to my bedroom.
Sleep came pretty easily. About 45 minutes into the nap, I heard the bedroom door open and two blokes discussing gang rape. “This is not good,” I said to myself and I stood up from the bed. The two blokes, one a Ni Van, the other (I think) an expat Aussie, kept walking towards me, so I suggested that perhaps they should stop, turn around and leave.
The Ni Van bloke had raised his fists, so I raised mine and said to him: “Mate, don’t be stupid cos I’ll kill you.” Then I offered a fist in the face of the white guy and I said: “Same for you, now fuck off.”
It took a bit of sweet talking on my part to convince them to go. I followed them outside, again putting a fist in the white bloke’s face and saying: “If my fist is gonna be this close to your face again, it’ll be travelling fast enough to sit you on your fat arse.”
I had my new lease of life and reacquainted myself with the pool and the vodka bottle.
Then the karma gods kicked in. The local visitor to my room took a tumble and ripped open his forehead. There was blood everywhere. Then he fell again and busted his arm. Luckily there was a paramedic at the party. OK, almost luckily. Although she had arrived there in the ambulance, she was off her trolley on mushrooms and had misplaced the keys.
All’s well that ends well. The keys were found, the paramedic did an excellent patch-up job and all was well with the victim being whisked off to hospital. His wife drove into a tree on her way out of the party.
Yeah, it was a big night in many ways.
Sampson, the gardener, and I were the early starters and got the 7203 bottles and cans (it could have been more) into boxes and basically cleaned up. I managed the dishes and the sundry shit inside the house.
Liam finally surfaced with a girl called Zoe, who had camped somewhere in the house for the night. Cups of tea and coffee all round and then hew set of to take her home.
He was gone for ages and I figured he was getting a “thanks for driving me home” lay.
Not so; the car had overheated on the way home and he had to get his mate, Matty, to come and pick him up. Joel, Liam and I spent the rest of the day lazing, recovering, having a quiet beer and watching DVDs.
The next morning involved a return to the grotto to have a last hurrah with the coloured fish. It was an experience made the more worthwhile by the appearance of three sea snakes in various spots. Beautiful creatures all. It was a very special moment to be up closed and personal with them.
I was packed and ready to go by lunchtime … so too was the car ready … it was back in town and so were we as we caught up with Matty for a farewell lunch before I had to flee to catch a flight to Oz.
Duty-free shopping involved getting for booze (some Jack and some Ricard that was $19 a litre), then some Chanel Egoiste for me (my favourite aftershave … you can’t get it in Oz) and some Estee Lauder Beautiful for the love of my life.
The Air Vanuatu flight was, as usual, good service although, in a shock twist, I couldn’t vouch for the quality of the wine. It was my first alcohol-free flight (OK, alcohol-free anything) .
The usual shit fight ensued at Brisbane after clearing Customs … getting from the international to the domestic terminal. Thank god the flight was delayed … the pilot eventually blamed the weather and air traffic control in Melbourne.
So there I was outside having a quiet smoke, killing some time (and no doubt myself) waiting for lift-off.
The relative quiet was shattered by a fishwife … I make no apology for saying that … who, with her family, had just got off a bus. With a baby-laden pusher she bolted towards the terminal. The other child, aged about four, was having none of mum getting away and ran after her.
The fishwife stopped, turned and screamed (and I mean screamed) at the little girl: “You bloody well get back there and help your father with the bloody luggage.”
The little girl looked devastated. I really felt for her as I headed for the terminal.
Everything about the Qantas flight (it was my first in a lot of years) was fabulous … the staff, the smile factor, the service, the whole kit and caboodle.
It was a great way to end a four-day extravaganza.     

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yep, they really forgot the plane

Ah, Vanuatu, what a land of contrasts you are.
My son, Joel, and I were Vanuatu-bound to celebrate Liam’s farewell party after five and a half years there. At check-in, we snaffled emergency aisle seats, a must given that we are both tall units. Then after a final smoke (not, thank god, for Joel who is also a teetotaller) we did the right thing and breezed through immigration and onto the strange mix of bargains and bullshit that is the duty-free precinct.
I say strange mix because the prices on certain things are, well, sometimes no better than you can get outside this supposed fantasy land of bargains.
Given that I’m no stranger to wine shops (regular readers will be only too aware) I reckon there were more than a few drops that were priced as much as, and sometimes more, than I could have got them at several places.
No matter. I wasn’t buying vino. I was, however, buying a couple of litres of vodka for the party and some tobacco and papers.
I grabbed the vodka, then a five-pack of Champion Ruby and made a beeline for the checkout, where the till man did his thing. I handed him my debit card as he scanned the vodka (20 bucks a litre) and then one pouch of tobacco. He then said to me: “Is that credit of savings?” I thought he said that’s incredible savings and I agreed with him. Joel choked back some laughter as I paid $17 for five 50-gram packs (about $200 in the outside world). Score. Had it been a stallholder at the local market or a shopkeeper, I would have pointed out the error of their ways. This time, no, I took the goodies and ran.
With the 60-odd bucks in perceived savings, I decided to buy a Swatch watch, something that would handle the rigours of camping and being dipped in rivers, etc. Done.
A good Thursday night flight with Air Vanuatu (they usually are) and we were scheduled to touch down on time … at 2am in Port Vila … which would be drink o’clock regardless of how I felt.
Joel and I managed to be in about fifth spot in the queue in Immigration. This is gonna be a breeze, we thought. Not so, on so many counts.
After about 10 minutes standing there waiting, finally someone appeared to explain, aided by a huge, pearly white smile, that there were no immigration staff available and would we mind waiting for five or 10 minutes. I asked him somewhat grumpily whether we had any choice. Pretty sure the F word slipped out.
It seemed that they’d forgotten there was a plane coming in and had sent the staff home. It was half an hour before someone finally got their arse into gear and an unpleasant half hour it was, given that all the ceiling fans in the area were switched off (maybe they forgot to pay the bill, who knows?) and everyone was hot, especially under the collar.
Finally we got through Immigration, I collected my case (Joel’s had gone missing) and through Customs to light a welcome cigarette after giving Liam a hug. Joel’s bag finally made an appearance after 20 minutes; it was (I think) found on the plane … of course, they’d forgotten to take it off the plane.
We did the only sensible thing and headed to Liam’s house for a few hours of catch-up chat and some strong drink before being pillow bound by about 5am. Yeah, it had been a long day.

Sheepyard Flat a cracker site

I gave the camping gear a hit-out with friends Maria, Harb and Max at Sheepyard Flat, a super spot just a short drive out of Merijig. Reckon it’s about 17 kilometres off the main road on a dirt track that probably wouldn't be a lot of fun in the wet.
We snaffled a spot right beside the Howqa River and, as you can see, it's beautiful. I'm pretty keen to get my kids there before the big cold settles in.
It was good to shake down all my gear and it only served to make me even keener to get back on the road. More (much more) to come on that score.
But first, there's a trip to Vanuatu for my son Liam's farewell party. He's heading back to Oz after five and a half years there.