Articles

Early Spring!

Blossoms out during the first week in August! Is this a climate change phenomenon, an El Nino effect or the very dry Winter we have just had? Stradbroke Park – a favourite oval near our house in Kew.

Black Wattle in full bloom – sadly, reminds me of “Blouboskraal” this time of year.

The King Parrot – she was agreeable and paused for this moment!


Two regular Spring visitors – safe terrain – want to avoid Gippsland in a few weeks time!

Although Lil B decided on a full charge – met with disdain as these two languidly took off, circled the oval and descended a few meters away – continuing to feed on luscious insects that survived footy boots!

 

 

“The Briars”

 

Don the ‘puffer jackets’, an essential requirement for heading outdoors this time of the year and head out to “The Briars” in Mt. Martha on the Mornington Peninsula! This is what Dedrie and I did last Tuesday with the Port Phillip Probus Club. It certainly was a memorable day – enjoyed by all.

It all started off with an early morning drive down the freeway – in the opposite direction to the morning traffic. It was a stark reminder of days past when we battled the traffic on our way into the Melbourne CBD. The vacant concentration of drivers struck one, as car-upon-car continued at snails pace in the many lanes of traffic to that island of sky scrapers behind us.

As we had about an hour to kill, we stopped at the Lilo Cafe on the Esplanade on the way to Mt Martha, where we enjoyed good ‘skinny flat whites’ and shared an excellent muffin. The view from our table was most inviting, bottle brush and grevilleas adorning the nature strip across the road, many seagulls rising into the wind and gliding into the blue-grey background.

We reached the ‘The Briars’ just in time for the introductory film in the Visitor Centre. This film sketched the lives of the Balcombe family.  Alexander, with his wife Emma Juana brought livestock and settled in Port Phillip in 1842; in 1846 took over the run Chen Chen Gurruck, or Tichingorourke, changing the name to ‘The Briars’. The property extended from the present Mornington to Mount Martha. The property is now managed by the Mornington Peninsula Shire.

 

 

 

Black Rock – Coastal Walk

Our city has much to offer – all within easy reach. Discovered Black Rock again after visiting my sister Marge in the ’80s. The walks along Port Phillip Bay are so well preserved and the revegetation programmes a success. For ‘birding’ enthusiasts – there are many surprises, from the Blue Wrens in the coastal fringe, to the Albatrosses brooding on the tiny black basalt (I think) islands

Coastal walk at Black Rock – many surprises and delights along the way

Banksias in bloom

Heading towards the Sandringham Yacht Club along the seaweed trail

Cormorants and Sea Gulls watching the human panorama on the board walk

Dedrie and Lil B enjoying some respite and a welcome escape from those “oh so fierce” Labradores

The walk back to the car with the promised cold front starting to make it’s appearance

An Albatross bidding us farewell

Bullying!

Bullying – much is occupying our media at the moment regarding this ‘ever increasing in intensity’ social phenomena. My ex-Nababeepian friends have recently touched on this not so delicate subject. Bullying seems to have become a many faceted problem in our Aussie society? Appears to be the same everywhere. Thinking back – Geez bullying was rife in my schooldays, plus a lot of sadism. An incident – never to be forgotten: Just before moving to Nababeep; at Oliver Lodge School – Standard 4. I was a lively kid, but a favourite of Mrs Park our teacher. I got too big for my boots one day and talked as we filed into our class after ‘break’. She was having a ‘bad hair day’ and sent me out to stand next to the door on the veranda. Of course, I nearly freaked, and went to hide behind the open door. Lo and behold – our principal, Mr Kloppers appeared, grabbed my ear and marched me to the front of the class. “What’s the problem”? he asked. Mrs Park said that I was “showing off”. The bastard then grabbed me, grabbed the feather board duster (a huge stick with feathers at the end), sat down on the chair and pulled me onto his lap. He proceeded to hit me with all his force until I started screaming.  I sank my teeth into his leg – which provoked him into a frenzy. He could or would not stop. The teacher started crying, including the girls in the class. He then stopped, pushed me off his lap and left me to get up from the floor; then left the classroom without a word. That day – not a whisper in the class! My parents, on seeing the bruises and open weals, were extremely angry – but – did nothing! Of course, I still have a vivid memory of that day – nearly 60 years on; and irrationally – avoid anyone with the surname ‘Kloppers’.

The B-Double

We set out from Townsville along the Bruce Highway. Another one of those North Queensland days, hot, humid but dry as the car bit into the asphalt along the narrow single carriageway. The driver increased speed as we left the outskirts, heading towards the Nickel Refinery at Yabula.

The highway meandered into a dip where we could see the intersection looming up ahead. Chris, the driver, reduced speed, planning to make a right turn at the intersection. The car came to a standstill as Chris checked the oncoming traffic, waiting for a safe moment to make the turn. Hot, Townsville at it’s best!. The aircon was not functioning as we would have liked….”bloody aircon’s stuffed!” Chris muttered. We all nodded in resigned agreement. I proceeded to wipe sweat off my face and forehead, re-adjusting my posture, sitting forwards so that the back of my sopping wet shirt did not stick to the to the back of the seat.

It was then that I glanced into the car’s side traffic mirror. I could not believe my eyes! Looming larger and larger, hurtling into the dip, occupying the full left lane, was a behemoth of a yellow and orange B-Double Tanker- and it seemed out of control!

In a split second, the tanker was right behind us – it looked as if a collision was imminent. I braced myself for the impact, shouting to Chris, “Oh ….what the…..watch out!”

The tanker veered onto the gravel shoulder and hurtled past us in a blur of yellow and orange. I caught a glimpse of the driver silhouetted in the cabin, frantically hammering his fist against the window. A powerful gust of air shook the car as the rogue juggernaut tried to correct it’s trajectory.

We sat transfixed, gaping at the spectacle unfolding before our eyes. It appeared as if the right back wheels of the B-Double Trailer started to slowly lift – lifting the right hand side of the tanker as well. “This is against the laws of mechanics, surely the tanker should turn the trailer and not the other way around?”, flashed through my mind. This was all contrary to the principle of “energy – out – of – control”, a principle which we risk management people hammered into the heads of our students at the university. The bigger energy always wins!

But it was not to be so. In slow motion the trailer appeared to turn the tanker over. Then both vehicles started to roll – once, twice….. It was then that I noticed that the side of the tanker had ripped open with petrol spraying out of the side onto the asphalt.

Then the only sound was the whirring of the tanker wheels in the air; the tanker now lay in a spreading pool of gasoline. Chris, Daniel in the back of the car, and I scrambled out into the Gasoline pool – into a cloud of stifling Gasoline vapour. Please God! The wheels are still turning! Ignition sources – ignition sources?? Panic setting in, we ran towards the tanker; the driver, the driver!

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the policeman and then the police car. They had seen the incident from the filling station, where they were in the process of filling up-they were at the scene within a minute.

The policemen somehow knew what to do; reaching somewhere in the  vicinity of the spinning wheels, he managed to switch the engine off. “Get away you stupid fuckers!” he shouted; but to little avail, as Chris managed to yank the door of the tanker cabin open.

Daniel and I heeded his command however and sloshed through the Gasoline, certain we were going to be engulfed in flames or within a flash fire any moment! The vapour stung my eyes; breathing became difficult and my head started to spin. Fortunately we managed to get out of the pool, finding ourselves off the road; breathing became easier and the strange “knocking” in my head subsided.

Chris in the meantime had managed to get into the cabin. The driver stared at him, muttering incoherently into a mobile phone. His leg was bloodied; otherwise appeared to be unharmed physically, but had “lost the plot”. “Who’re you, where am I” he muttered as Chris and the policeman dragged him from the cabin.

At this point the Fire Brigade had arrived and were busy applying foam to the flammable Gasoline, covering the area with a blanket of foam – incineration had been avoided! We were alive and survived to tell the tale!

The ambulance arrived, taking the driver to hospital. Paramedics checked us to see if we had suffered any effects from exposure to the vapour. The Bruce Highway was cordoned off and shut for a period of 24 hours. Nearby Yabula was without water as the tanker had managed to sever a main water line to the town, adding to the general chaos. We decided to call it a day and go home.

Yes, there was a sequel to this. During the court hearing, the driver of the tanker kept repeating that he had “saved our lives” by veering onto the gravel shoulder. “Could have smashed you guys to smithereens” he said. He kept his job with the oil company.

A few months after this, we were down in Mackay, filling up at a local filling station, when a yellow and orange B-Double Tanker pulled up behind us. Guess who climbed out of the cabin and walked over to us? “I saved your lives – could have smashed you to smithereens” he said, putting his mobile into his front pocket.

 

Hyenas and Wild Dogs

The risk manager speaks. On our first night in Maghoto - I "wisely" decided to rather sleep on the camp bed just outside the door of the tent which was fully occupied by Dedrie and Hilda, whereas the space on top of the 4 x 4 was fully occupied by Peter and Ella. I reasoned that I could easily creep into the tent if necessary. I settled for the night under my mosquito net and drifted off to sleep - to be woken by a yell from Peter - "Dad watch out, a hyena at your feet!". In the circle of light I saw this huge hyena staring at my scrumptious feet  - licking his/her chops. Needless to say, I jumped off the stretcher and shooed the beast away. From then on, the better option was to share with Hilda and Dedrie. My snoring proved to be less of a hazard from then on.

Oh how tranquil during the day! 
img_0744
We’re not that interested now!
img_0876
We made sure that we were at least 50 m from the water’s edge
"I am waiting
for the foot to slide,
for the heart to seize,
for the leaping sinews to go slack,
for the fight to the death to be fought to the death,
for a glazing eye and the rumour of blood.
I am crouching in my dry shadows
till you are ready for me.
My place is to pick you clean
and leave your bones to the wind".


“With Cat-Like Tread”

As with the policemen in the Pirates of Penzance:

“With Cat-Like Tread
Upon our prey we steal
In silence dread
Our cautious way we feel
No sound at all
We never speak a word
A fly’s foot-fall
Would be distinctly heard”

These cats took our breath away!

Maghoto – “Camel Thorn Tree”

Bless you Loxodanta Africana (Elephants)! We came to visit you in your paradise. And what a paradise it was!

Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
That all was lost.  Paradise Lost. Book ix. Line 782.
These magnificent creatures are fleeing into Botswana – from all the killing going on in adjacent countries. Here they felt safe and so did we – privileged to be among them; they stopped us in the road, walked past our tent and one old matriarch had a screaming session, protecting one of the baby elephants. In the river they swam, played, dived and trumpeted and had yummy mud baths.  Of course they devoured every single Mopani bush for miles around.

 

 

Central Kalahari

img_0881

img_0882

img_0885

Little did we realise what we were getting ourselves into! We were advised in Maun that the road to Sunday Pan was a cinch. “No worries mate” (the local Botswanian advised us in perfect ‘strine’ – “take the short cut to Ghanzi – only about 160 km or so – roads are not perfect – but OK”. We fell for this and set out on a Saturday morning to tackle the Kalahari Central National Park. The first photo leaves little to the imagination – 77 km of straight, virtually impassable sand road – and thatbefore the gate! At the gate, there was no record of our booking; people in Maun had gone home for the weekend, so we left our credit card number with the ranger and set out to our campsite 120 km away. There were no decent signs in the park,roads were a nightmare – but most animals liked the road, rather than the bush.
Beautiful encounters though – which offset our rising sense of doom.

The so called campsites were non-existent. Of course, we didn’t know where the f*&% we were? Panic set in – Dedrie drove the 4 x 4 at maximum speed (5 km/hr)into the setting sun – heading West – ever West!

As the sun set, we drove past an obscure sigh – lo, and behold, a camp, actual existing camp appeared. We cheered, “high fived” and made camp for the night.

 

Namibia 2016

 

We trekked down from Ghanzi (Botswana) to Hobas on the edge of the Fish River Canyon – a 10 hour drive (next time – if ever – will plan this thing better!!) But – a never to be forgotten experience – reliving a 5 day trek through the canyon in 1971.