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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When that little bit extra is unwelcome

Well, it’s 12.25 and that’s breakfast out of the way … OK, it was blunch. It was breakfast themed – bacon, eggs, mushrooms and a cuppa – but the time suggested otherwise, hence blunch. Reckon it’ll catch on?
The weather is pretty shitful … I actually put on a shirt this morning (yeah, over a blue singlet), such was the biting wind as I was enjoying the first cuppa and smoke for the day.
It was actually cold enough, and rain was threatening, for me to grab a tarp and spread it across the rear and partially up the side of the annexe. Now, it’s like being in my old lounge room but with the benefit of fresh air. After yesterday’s heat, this morning’s cold was a rude awakening.   
The sunshine yesterday was the perfect opportunity to do a job that has been bugging me for a while … draining one of the trailer’s two water tanks and giving it a bloody good flush. I know how much better I operate after a good dose of fibre. I reckon the tank flush became necessary when I started to notice little extra bits in my cups of tea. “That can’t be good,” I said to myself.
And given that I was having a guest stay for the long weekend, I had to clean up my act. So, out came the toolkit and I hit the horizontal i.e. flat on my back under the trailer and pretty soon I had disconnected the bottom-most pipe into the tank and placed it in my drainage hose, which runs, yeah, to the drain (gravity fed, of course.
After about 15 minutes of draining (yeah, it was draining for me too), it stopped running. Time to put the fresh-water hose into the tank and, running at full bore, I gave it a flush.
After a while, I did an extra bits check and they seemed to have disappeared. Job done, I thought, and again hit the horizontal (this time lying in a pool of water), replaced the hose and all was well with the world.
I went into the annexe to check the sink supply and Jesus wept, the extension cord on which I am running the laptop, fridge and lights was, like me earlier, lying in a pool of water. This can’t be good, I thought, and it was with some trepidation that I picked up a handful of wet plugs and then moved the fridge to dry ground. There was no shock, horror. Until, that is, I ran the tap over the sink. The extra bits were back, although not as plentiful as before.
Perhaps it’s just as well that my friend is now not coming for the weekend. I’m sure she would not have liked the extra bits. Anyway, that’s not a problem because I’m heading to her place in Melbourne for the long weekend.
It was time for a cooling drink of water (from a bottle, not extra bitsville) and to make a call to see how son Liam was getting on. He’s busy renovating my niece’s bathroom and not too far from finishing. But wait, there’s more. My niece, Lisa, and her husband, Shannon, are in Las Vegas and had been on the phone to Liam. Seems they were impressed with the large plasma TV screen recessed into the wall of their hotel bathroom and they want one. So, he’s back to the drawing board.
Liam was just leaving for the hardware shop to buy more supplies. He rang me, not long after he arrived, with welcome news. “There’s a product right in front of me and it has your name on it. It’s called Pour & Go. It’s for flushing out water tanks in vans or whatever.”
I thanked him and headed to the Apollo Bay hardware shop, where I now have two mates, Christos and Rohan, to get some.
“Sorry, we don’t have it, said a helpful girl. “I’ll check with the boys out the back and see if we have anything similar.” No go, it seems. Then another helpful girl had a check of the interweb thing. “You can get it at Mitre 10. The nearest shop is about a three-hour round trip.” Shit.
Then she tracked down a distributor, Farmers’ Warehouse, and a 1300 number.
I thanked her and rang. “Sure,” said Sam, the helpful girl, “We can get it delivered to your campground. It’s $49.95 for a bottle plus $15 postage and it will take about 3-5 days. There’s enough in the bottle to treat 22,000 litres of water.” “Done,” I said.
I pondered how long it would take to use 22,000 litres of water. Now, to put it into perspective, if I was to drink three litres of beer a day for the next 20 years (yeah, I know it means cutting down) that means that in those two decades I’d have consumed 21,900 litres of frothy stuff. That’s a lot of water and I reckon it was money well spent.
I was sitting around on the weekend (there’s a surprise) reading a book (another surprise) when I was surprised by a big cuddly koala wandering across the campground. I high-tailed it in pursuit and followed him up the steps that lead to the Great Ocean Road (not a good place for a koala). My main job was to stop him heading to the bitumen and to try to convince a woman who tagged along to stop trying to feed it bread. I thought about suggesting she try a gumleaf sandwich (without the mustard), but she was an English tourist and I’m sure it would have gone through to the keeper.
The little fella stayed away from the road and spent a good deal of time trying to climb a Lavazza coffee sign, at which point I grabbed my phone and snapped a few more pictures. Finally, he went bush and I returned to my digs. As I walked past my neighbours, the bloke (a truck driver) said: “They’re nothin’ but a fuckin’ nuisance on the road.” Nice, I thought, what a caring, sharing soul you are.
I was sitting in the tent looking at the pictures and I thought, why not send them to Lavazza to see if they want to use them in, say, a funny caption competition or something. For a fee, of course.
I finally snagged an email address and sent them off. The response was quick. Yep, the PR bloke was interested in buying one and asked me how much. I suggested it was his job to know stuff like that and that he should make me an offer. Now, I’m waiting.
My son, Joel, suggested asking Lavazza for a sign and taking it on the road and photographing it in all sorts of rugged, beautiful places or with odd things (there are plenty out there). I may just do that. For a fee, of course.
Dunno what the score is in Melbourne, but by my reckoning all its flies are holidaying at Skenes Creek. I’ve never seen so many. And they stick like shit to a blanket. There’s even a couple of dozen that are, like me, addicted to my tobacco pouch. Then there are the ones that have figured my cup of tea is the campground pool, so they join the extra bits.
I can tell that they’re holidaying because every night at about seven they give me a break and go home to bed. Or perhaps they go out to dinner.
They certainly would have enjoyed mine last night. Beef and burgundy snags, potatoes in their jackets, with lashings of butter and parsley, and steamed carrots, broccoli and bok choy … oh, and a none-too-small bucket of shiraz-cabernet.
It was the flies’ loss.
And speaking of dinner, I suggested a few days ago to a backpacker bloke that we have a barbie at the spot near my tent and a couple of jars. Done.
I spent some time late in the afternoon making a tossed salad and dressing and an excellent potato salad with spring onions, wafer-thin celery, boiled eggs and mayo.
We’d arranged to meet at 6.30. At about 6.45, one of the girls wandered by and said he has already cooked and he’s eating and that he was at the other end of the campground. Oh, that’s nice, I thought. I wandered up there and there he was tucking into a couple of barbecue lamb chops, some bread and about a pint of tomato sauce, all washed down with a litre of Coke.
I put my dead beast on the grille and offered him some salad as I poured myself a large glass of red.  
It seems the English have a different idea when it comes to having a barbie.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beasts, bits'n'bobs,

 Shapes of all kinds ... there's kinda a bit of moonscape if you forget the water.
I just like the symmetry.
 Just shapes that I like.
 Is it a very old sandal print etched into rock or maybe a fishy thing ...
People pay shitloads to have ponds such as this is their gardens ...
 OK, I reckon this beast got snap-frozen in time when he crawled out of the water ...
 A nice round thing ... maybe even an egg cup, y'now a dinosaur egg cup 
 My favourite ... a jellyfish in a rock pool ... it has a McDonald's M (I reckon it's for Mick) proving the the golden arches have been around for longer than we thought.
 Again, straight out of the water and frozen in time ...
 Just nice things ...
 The sea was angry that day, my friends ... although quiet in the pool
 A croc, no doubt, and long before the footwear came along ...
 Surely, Like me, you can see the giant lizard ...
 OK, something I may wear in my hair ...
 An ancient rock painting? Or too much booze for the photographer ... Yeah, like that'll ever happen.

The dog that did this is the straightest walking dog around ...
A very old brain embedded in the rocks ..

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hippie days are here again

A welcome visitor at the weekend

The habits of a lifetime are hard to break.
I have spent my first few days at Skenes Creek consciously fighting the thought that I should be doing something … to go for a drive, see stuff, go fishing, practise tying fishing knots, cut back on the drink (yeah, like that’ll happen), go for a long walk on the beach (OK, there have been a couple of short walks) – you get the picture. Instead I have been setting up and re-setting up various parts of my tent. It’s been a pack here, a rationalisation here, a tweak there. I’ve been eating when I’m hungry, drinking when I fell like, sleeping when I feel like it and all the time I’ve been driving home the fact that I don’t have to do anything unless I really want to… I have the rest of my life for that.
This morning was a good example. I woke at seven and thought “nah, too early”. I went back to sleep and woke again at 9.30. It was time to get up, put the billy on and make a cuppa, roll a smoke and ponder the day.
The only things on the agenda were to go to Apollo Bay and buy dead beast to cook for dinner tonight and, of course, to buy some incense, something I always have in my tent. At last, an oversight in the packing department.
I had a follow-up cuppa and cooked bacon and an egg, which I had in a beautifully fresh multigrain roll … and just a smidge of tomato sauce.
Shower time, I thought, but I’ve also instituted a new rule unless it’s absolutely necessary or I have company … a shower every second day, so I was free to hit town on the incense trail.
Glory be … the Apollo Bay Music Festival is on and there is an open-air market to go with it, which included a lovely woman selling her handmade incense.
Ten bucks lighter in the pocket I was armed with 40 sticks of lemongrass, lavender, sandalwood and frankincense, myrhh and cedar wood and now the tent is all the better for it.
I may head into town to check out the music later in the day, but I reckon beers and sleep will win the day. I made a tentative arrangement to head in with some Brit backpackers after having a couple of jars last night with a young fella called Louis. He’s just bought his second house with a mate back in Yorkshire so he was in the mood for a celebration. Not a bad effort for a 25-year-old.
I have ventured onto the beach a couple of times for a wander and to get the feet wet. First up I was armed with my camera and a can of beer. The rocks at either end of the campground are worth the price of admission. Beautiful shapes, lots of rock pools each with a varied collection of beasts of different persuasions, and the mostly violent swell belting the bejesus out of the extremities … the tide was out. At full tide it goes really hard, up close and personal with the rocks.
I hammered away with the camera, picking out shapes that looked like a croc (not the footwear), another that had a perhaps prehistoric family connection, perfectly formed circular holes, bits of seaweed … I had a crack at whatever took my fancy … even some terrific doggie prints in the sand.
The sun was warm, so too the water (OK, it was get your feet wet warm, not swimming warm) … the last time I was here I was thigh-deep in the very same water trying to relieve the ocean of a fish or two and it was freezing.
I was all walked out and headed back to the tent to replenish my beverage all choice when the phone rang. It was Liam, checking in on my progress. “I’ve just been walking on the beach taking a few shots,” I said to him. “Bourbon or vodka,” he responded. Yeah the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree. It just made me want the time to fly when he has finished his work and we can hit the road.
Yesterday at about 4pm I again hit the beach, yeah, armed with a beer and followed by the campground’s two resident border collies, Oscar and Roxy.
Now, Roxy is as mad as a meat axe. She loves chasing and retrieving rocks that people throw (I tried a stick, but, nah, no interest) … along the sand, into the water, whatever. She runs like the wind, skidding to halt much like a bogan in a ute dropping rubber on the road. Oscar, although enthusiastic, is just along for the ride. We wandered for about a kilometre, checked out the rock pools before heading back.
There were plenty of other dogs on the beach. By now they were all sharing a ball thrown by a brave young bloke called Richard, brave because he actually went for a dip. The woman who was with him, Jane (she may have been his grandma), stopped for a chat with me. “I’ve just walked from Apollo Bay,” she said (it’s about seven kilometres), “It’s such a beautiful walk.”
“Yeah, it is a lovely drive,” I said. She laughed.
We got to chatting about our respective backgrounds and what direction we are heading. I told her that in about three weeks I’ll be heading to the Grampians and setting up camp at Pomonal. “We’re in the Grampians,” she said, “You’ll have to come and visit. We have Mount Zero Olives in Horsham. It’s about a 50-kilometre drive from Pomonal. The road should be open by then … it has been closed because of the fires.”
We chatted for about half an hour … it was one of those chats that make travelling worthwhile … a wonderfully interesting person willing to share.
It’s a date. I’ll be Mount Zero bound in a few weeks.
Apollo Bay is blessed with one of the best fruit and vegetable shops around, right at the far end of town near the pier.  
Every time I have been down here, I seem to eat better as I’ve made a beeline to the place because its produce (it all comes, I’m told, from Colac) is first rate … and the staff is the same. There’s always time for a chat, always a smile and always pleasant demeanour and, compared to the produce on offer at each supermarket in town, a no-brainer.
I’m still easing into the cooking in the tent thing. The past couple of nights have been stir-fried eye-fillet, lots of vegetable and noodles, chill, coriander, garlic and ginger. I’ve even used chopsticks. But more importantly, I’ve (most mornings) been having cereal and fruit … and sandwiches or rolls with greens and various dead beasts.
About the only real downside has been the wine intake. I’ve taken to drinking cask wine (OK, it’s easy to store, it’s cheaper and it’s easy to get before you start with the Philistine comments) … and for the record, the best I’ve found so far (and I’m pretty sure my wine writer mate, Ben Thomas, gave it the thumbs up) is WineSmiths tempranillo and to a lesser degree, the chardonnay. Both are about 17 bucks for a two-litre cask and I’m pretty sure I’ll be packing a few tempranillos in the trailer somewhere. Anyway, it’s 3.50, I’ve had a couple of beers and now I’m going to have a snooze. Some habits are just too hard to break.