Wednesday 16 December 2009

The Overland Track: lessons learnt, tips for new players

Glad I brought: Ear plugs (for blocking out snoring in the huts), my super-small and light sea to summit day pack, the empty goon bag for carrying water, and my walking poles.

Wish I had: Some wine. A decent wine in one of those soft 1 L plastic bottles would have been great to stretch out over the whole walk. Also wished I had bought a dehydrator and brought more gourmet meals with a variety of veggies. A pack cover or a small screw-gate 'biner to keep the birds out of my pack would also have been handy.

Would leave at home: The Steripen water steriliser and just carry tablets for emergencies. The huts have massive rainwater tanks with beautiful water that doesn't need treating.

Boots vs. trail-runners: My Vasque goretex trail-runners kept my feet dry for the entire walk, were nice and light, and didn't give me blisters. I was worried about the lack of ankle support with a heavy pack, but combined with walking poles I was fine. Highly recommend!

Got (Telstra) mobile reception at: Top of Mt. Ossa and at the Pine Valley hut helipad.

Monday 14 December 2009

The Overland Track: Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair in 8 days

This walk has been a long time coming, so it was great to see all the planning come to fruition. We got into Launceston in the early afternoon, picked up some stove fuel from Paddy's, did some last-minute waterproofing, bought some food from Coles, and had our last civilised dinner at the Pizza Pub. All of that was within easy walking distance from the backpackers. Hot tip: Check the free food cupboard in the backpackers kitchen before you launch your shopping sortie.

Lee from Tiger Wilderness Tours picked us up, and kept us entertained with information about Tassie and the walk all the way to Cradle mountain visitors centre. We picked up our track passes, hired an EPIRB from national parks for $40, paid $60 for a parks car pass to cover all of us (possible if you are staying in Tassie and hiring a car after the track), and jumped back into the shuttle to get to the start of the track.

Day 1: Ronnie Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut

We started at Ronnie Creek at about 9:30, after Lee took some photos 'for the police'. It was a decent climb with heavy packs to Marion's lookout, then kitchen hut. We had lunch in the hut with some daywalkers who were nice enough to carry out some of our rubbish :) We walked up the slope slightly and dumped our packs for the assault on Cradle. We stuck our packs under the scrub a little to protect against the Currawongs, which were eyeing off the bags even as we left.

Cradle was covered in cloud, the wind was really strong, and it was raining slightly - a typical day on the track. A couple attempted the summit before us and turned back because of the weather; we kept going and were rewarded with amazing (but fleeting) views as the wind periodically blew the cloud away.

We picked up our packs and continued to waterfall valley hut, which seemed to take forever. It started raining really heavily for the last few k's and we were really glad to see the hut.

Soon after we arrived, a pack of 9 soaked uni students plodded in - they were our companions in the huts for the next few days. The photo shows some of the chaos of 20 something people trying to dry wet gear on the verandah.

We also met a friendly Frenchman, who walked with us for the rest of the trip, and a Japanese guy who was totally underprepared for the walk and had to be given food by the hut ranger. The rangers walk sections of the track and stay in the huts to look after things. The ranger at the first hut was Bill, who is allegedly a 90 year old(!!!?!) volunteer.

Day 2: Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Hut

We woke up to snow in the morning, which counted out the side trip up Barn Bluff (the cool pointy mountain you can see from the cradle summit photo above). A couple of the uni students tried, but turned back before the summit. It was another really cold, windy day, with sleet on the way to Lake Will. We had a cold lunch huddle on a small beach, partly sheltered from the wind by bushes.

In terms of walking it was a very easy day; we arrived at Windermere hut in the early afternoon despite a fairly leisurely start (getting everyone out of the hut at the same time was like herding cats). Two of our party went for a swim in Lake Windermere - crazy!

Day 3: Windermere Hut to New Pelion Hut

Amazing views today from Pine Forest Moor of the mountains ahead. Left to right they are Mt. Oakleigh, Mt. Pelion East, Mt. Doris, Mt. Ossa, and Paddys Nut with the Du Cane Range in the background. As soon as we hit the edge of Pelion West we entered what I think is the worst section of the whole track. There is very little duckboarding, and we spent hours stepping on slippery tree roots in pools of water and mud in the rainforest.

We were so happy to see Frog Flats. It is pretty tempting to camp there, but Lee warned us about the masses of leeches. We talked to another couple who did camp, and they confirmed that the tent got covered in leeches.

We checked out the historic Old Pelion Hut (built in 1895), before arriving at the new swanky one. This hut is beautiful - it has a huge verandah with views to Mt. Oakleigh, and sleeps 60. That gave us enough room to avoid the loudest snorer, a German guy called Sven(?). Even his friend didn't want to sleep near him - he said to me he didn't want to sleep in Sven's room because 'my colleague, he is always snorkelling'.

There were a couple of guys at the hut who had walked in from a dirt road along the Arm river track, which was apparently only about 4 hours. It would be cool to come in this way and summit Mt. Oakleigh; apparently the views are fantastic. The cruellest part was they had carried in 4 L of goon and were drinking it right in front of us - they didn't even offer to share, and polished off 2 L each. Bastards.

Day 4: New Pelion Hut to Kia-Ora Hut

We climbed all morning to reach Pelion Gap, then dropped our packs for an assault on Mt. Ossa - the highest mountain in Tasmania. It was a tough climb, 500m vertical, and once again the clouds lifted to give us a great view from the top. We found out later that a couple of days after we climbed Ossa, someone got choppered out because they had dislocated their shoulder on the climb.

I got phone reception from the top (5 bars! Telstra only) and called the folks. When I got back down I found the birds had unzipped the top of my pack, picked holes in all the ziplock bags, and distributed my first aid kit around the area. I wasn't silly enough to have food in there, and got everything back, but it was really annoying now that stuff wasn't waterproof. I'd recommend buying a generic pack cover if your pack doesn't have one, purely to protect it from the birds.

It seemed to take forever to get to the hut (again). When we finally arrived, a few people went for a wash in the creek and picked up leeches. Warren from bundy had them inside his raincoat and on his eyelid after putting his clothes and sunglasses on the ground beside the creek.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and quite a few people chose to camp to avoid the noise of the hut and the 'snorkelling'.

Day 5: Kia-Ora Hut to Bert Nichols (Windy Ridge) Hut

Everyone who camped the night before packed up their tents in heavy rain this morning. I'm glad we chose the hut. We set out in the rain, with Em's knee and Achilles playing up. We stopped in at Harnett falls, which were really pretty and arrived at Bert Nichols under beautiful sunny skies. We hung out on one of the tent platforms with a view of the Acropolis and Mt. Geryon and dried out our feet and gear in the sun.

Bert Nichols is a brand new (2008) hut, with a drying room, huge kitchen, and even some artwork.

Day 6: Bert Nichols Hut to Pine Valley Hut

We started off the day with a section of nice, flat, relatively dry track. After the turn up pine valley we were back into rainforest with slippery tree roots. We crossed a few suspension bridges, which made Em nauseous, and her Achilles was winning the pain battle with the Nurofen. We arrived in the afternoon to a really packed hut, but there was still room for us (just). It was raining and the clouds were low, which counted out the two main day walks - the Acropolis and The Labyrinth. I freaked everyone out in the hut with a small sleep walking incident...

Day 7: Pine Valley - The Labyrinth

We attempted the Labyrinth this morning, since it was too wet to think about climbing the Acropolis. The Labyrinth is a high plateau with a beautiful series of lakes that can be reached as a day walk from Pine Valley Hut. When the weather is clear the views are amazing, when it is cloudy or snowy it is deadly - a woman died doing the day walk up there in 2000 and her body was never found, despite many search parties. As an aside, there is a poo tube you can borrow if you are going to camp up in the Labyrinth area since it is impossible to dig your hole far enough away from water. There is something about a communal poo tube that is very wrong...

The track up to the plateau is much rougher and scrubbier than the main track - at one point we walked up a small waterfall. When we reached the high plateau the rain was being blown across the lakes, and we couldn't see more than a few metres in front of us. I turned back with most of our group, however two kept going for a short distance and managed to get some views during a brief break in the clouds. It is easy to see how you could get lost in the area; there are tracks in multiple directions, marked only by small rock cairns.

Day 8: Pine Valley Hut to Lake St. Clair

We had heaps of heavy rain during the night, and were wondering if some of the sections of track out of Pine Valley would be under water. There is a log bridge over a stream that has a wire running beside it to hang onto for just this eventuality.

Fortunately the track was still mostly above water, and we had a quick run down to Narcissus hut, where we saw the Cradle Huts crowd of commercially guided walkers for the first time on the track. We got to Narcissus in about 3 hours and were able to move our ferry booking to an earlier time using the radio.

Narcissus is a terrible hut - it is small, stinky, infested with native rats, and I'm glad we didn't plan on spending a night there. Two of our party picked up leeches right outside the hut.

We were glad to see civilisation when we arrived at Lake St. Clair, and promptly sat down to a beer and some food. I wouldn't recommend that cafe, the food is pretty terrible, even when judged by someone who has been eating dehydrated peas for 7 nights. Luckily our shuttle driver was waiting to take us back to Launceston, a shower, a big meal and more beer. We had a great pub meal and drinks at Irish Murphy's, I rate it.

What was it like?

We had an awesome time, and Em proved she is a hardcore hiker, putting up with an injury and still enjoying 8 days in harsh weather conditions in the wilderness. I took a couple of short movies of the track itself, so you can see what the path was like. I'd estimate less than 5% of the walk is duck-boarded, although if you include the old, mostly underwater, split logs then you might come up to 10%.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Overland Track packing list

  • Stove and fuel
  • Lighter
  • Saucepan, potgrips, green trangia pot lid (doubles as colander and chopping board)
  • Sponge/scourer in ziplock bag
  • Plastic orikaso bowl, knife, spork
  • Sharp knife
  • Plastic mug
  • Meal 1: Pasta and sauce, salami, capsicum
  • Luxury Meal: Indian tasty bites ready to eat meal, cous cous
  • All other meals : Pasta and sauce packet, twiggy sticks/salami, dehydrated beans/peas/corn
  • Packet tuna, mountain bread for lunch
  • Cereal and powdered milk (1.5-2 cups cereal, 1/4 cup powdered milk) individual brekkies pre-mixed.
  • Cup-a-soups
  • Snacks: scroggin, muesli bars, roll-ups, le-snacks
  • Tea
  • Bottle of wine in soft pack?
  • Thongs (flip-flops for any international visitors reading this and getting excited)
  • Down jacket
  • Hat
  • Quickdry walking pants (zip-off legs)
  • Quickdry long sleeve shirt for normal days
  • Cotton T-shirt for really hot days
  • Beanie, neck warmer
  • Small travel towel
  • Raincoat and waterproof pants
  • 2 x Top/bottom thermals
  • 3 x pairs of socks
  • Gaiters
  • Gloves
  • Walking shoes
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Toilet paper in a waterproof bag
  • Handkerchief
  • Sunscreen
  • Antibacterial gel hand wash
  • Camera memorycard and batteries
  • Hootchie cord for general repairs, shoelaces, or a clothesline
  • 1st aid kit
    • Band aids
    • Salt for leeches
    • Something to strap an ankle
    • Adhesive tape for securing band-aids
    • Insect repellent
    • Antihistamines
    • Travacalm
    • Gastro stop
    • Nurofen
    • Stingose

  • Tent
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • Thermarest
  • Spare pack belt buckle
  • Iodine tablets and Steripen for water purification
  • Water carrying (3 L camelback, 1 L Nalgene, 10 L goon bag )
  • Sleeping bag and liner
  • Map and compass
  • Waterproof map case
  • GPS?
  • Waterproof packliner (Kathmandu)
  • Large (20L) dry bag for carrying food
  • Small (1L) dry bag for camera
  • Small (8L?) dry bag for each day's food and for use in day pack for side trips
  • Medium dry bag (13L) for rubbish
  • Whistle
  • Walking poles
  • Sea-to-summit lightweight day pack
  • Poo trowel - bright orange plastic variety

Monday 23 November 2009

Climbing The Castle, and the bug apocalypse in Morton national park

Last weekend we made an assault on The Castle in Morton national park, one of the best walks in Australia, and our final preparation for the overland track. It can be done as a day walk if you start early, but we wanted some practice carrying a full pack, so turned it into an overnighter.

We took the Western Distributor to Yadboro on a fairly rough dirt road. I've taken a 2wd (Hyundai Excel!) down that road before, but I wouldn't recommend it. We were in a serious off-road machine and averaged 50-60 km/h, making the trip in about an hour from the sealed turn-off. One of the long gully road signs is down, a map is a good idea.

When we arrived at Yadboro, we opened our doors into an insect apocalypse. I have never seen so many flying things in one place before - we were instantly covered in thousands of small flying bugs. Thank god they didn't bite. All efforts were focused on getting the tent up as soon as possible and then killing the hundreds of bugs that snuck in as we dived through the door. The bugs hitting the tent sounded like rain. I took a photo the next morning of some that were still hanging around.

The campsite was actually really pretty, with fantastic views to the escarpment. I'd recommend staying at this main campsite rather than the small one at the start of the walk to the Castle.

The next day we walked from Yadboro over the Castle saddle to our campsite at Cooyoyo Creek. The approach to the Castle from Kalianna ridge has been significantly improved by a track diversion around the right of the escarpment, cutting out a sketchy rope-assisted scramble.
I had forgotten how scrubby this walk was, and how awkward some of the sections are with a full overnight pack. Here's a short, nausea-inducing video of some scrub-battling.


The traverse around the base of the Castle is particularly awkward, with lots of high steps over tree roots and squeezing between eucalypts. The whole walk is relentlessly uphill. Em put in an amazing effort, and despite wanting to turn around multiple times, stuck it out and made it to the campsite.

Cooyoyo is a nice little campsite of little clearings hidden in amongst trees at the edge of the escarpment, with a great view from a rock slab. It has a pit toilet and good water. My only complaint is that it is a steep 500m downhill from the saddle - a stretch we covered 4 times over the two days.

After setting up the tents, we grabbed some water and headed up the Castle. There is a fair bit of rock scrambling, a natural rock tunnel, and rope-assisted climbing to deal with, but all well worth it for the amazing views. In the photo Byangee walls are in the foreground, Pigeonhouse in the background, with the Castle on the right. The path is fairly well marked with arrows hacked into rocks. After the tunnel turn right and after the large overhang look for 5 arrows pointing upwards.

The next day we walked out to Yadboro, which was much quicker than the walk up. We were glad to get out fairly early since it was perfect bushfire weather - stinking hot and really windy.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Bushwalking and Camping Checklist

This is a list of stuff I might take when overnight hiking or car-camping. I don't expect anyone to be particularly interested, I thought I'd just post it for my own benefit.

  • Stove and fuel
  • Lighter
  • Saucepan(s),potgrips, green pot lid, and frypan
  • Bucket, sponge/scourer, teatowel, environmentally friendly detergent for washing up
  • Picnic set cutlery, glasses, plates, chopping board
  • Plastic orikaso bowl, knife, spork
  • Sharp knife
  • Plastic mug
  • Meal 1: Pasta, pasta sauce, capsicum, carrot, zucchini
  • Meal 2: Pasta and sauce packet, twiggy sticks, fresh herbs
  • Meal 3: Indian tasty bites ready to eat meal, cous cous
  • Dehydrated beans/peas/corn
  • Packed lunches that don't need refrigeration (packet tuna, mountain bread)
  • Marshmallows
  • Bread
  • Strawberry jam
  • Cereal and powdered milk (1.5-2 cups cereal, 1/4 cup powdered milk) individual brekkies pre-mixed.
  • Noodles
  • Cup-a-soup
  • Snacks: lollies, chips, muesli bars
  • Salt, pepper, sugar, tea, coffee
  • Rashie
  • Boardies
  • Tevas, camp slippers, thongs
  • Jumper/Polar Fleece/Down jacket
  • Trackies, jeans
  • Hat
  • Beanie, neck warmer
  • Towel, beach towel
  • Raincoat and waterproof pants
  • Top/bottom thermals
  • Spare pair of socks
  • Gaiters
  • Gloves
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Toilet paper in a waterproof bag
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Tissues
  • Sunscreen
  • Wet ones or similar anti-bacterial wipes
  • Antibacterial gel hand wash
  • Camera memorycard and batteries
  • Hootchie cord for general repairs, shoelaces, or a clothesline
  • 1st aid kit
    • Band aids
    • Salt for leeches
    • Something to strap an ankle
    • Adhesive tape for securing band-aids
    • Insect repellent
    • Antihistamines
    • Travacalm
    • Gastro stop
    • Nurofen

  • Paper towel
  • Plastic tarp
  • Camping chairs
  • Tent and hammer
  • National Parks Book
  • Book to read
  • Newspaper for fire
  • Beach tent
  • Water for cooking and drinking
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • Tent lamp
  • Thermarest
  • Spare pack belt buckle
  • Iodine tablets and/or Steripen for water purification
  • Water for cooking and drinking (3 L camelback, 1 L Nalgene, 10 L goon bag )
  • Sleeping bag and liner
  • Lightweight pocket knife
  • Map and compass
  • Waterproof map case
  • GPS
  • Waterproof packliner (Kathmandu)
  • Dry bags for wet stuff, or line with plastic for rubbish
  • Whistle
  • Walking poles

Saturday 7 November 2009

Mt. Clear Namadgi National Park

The next in the series of training walks for the overland track. We drove down to Mt. Clear campground in Namadgi national park, camped the night, then shouldered full packs for an assault on Mt. Clear. We didn't make the top - it is about 10 km one-way, if you stick to the fire trails, but achieved the goal of training with all our gear on our backs (although with less food).

We found a bizarre toilet, far from anything resembling a house, complete with cistern that had been concreted in?!?

Mt. Clear is a beautiful campground, with nice views down the valley, although it is fairly cold being a 'frost hollow'. It seems pretty popular, we shared it with one family on Friday night and a few were settling in on Saturday as we left. The dirt road approach is pretty good - our little 2wd coped without any problems. There is rainwater available at the campground.

Monday 2 November 2009

Gibraltar Rocks in Namadgi National Park

On Sunday we walked up Gibraltar Rocks in Namadgi as a training walk for the overland track. The trail is steep, but the view from the top is fantastic.

The rocks are much larger than they appear from the bottom. There were a few climbers up the top when we arrived - don't envy them carrying 60m of rope and a trad rack up that trail in 32'C. We sweated buckets with our packs loaded up with water for training. The Xanthorrhoea's at the start of the trail were impressive, in full flower, and covered with native bees.

Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United and Canberra United

We went and saw the Central Coast Mariners soccer team play Canberra United (womens) and Adelaide United (mens). They were good games, although we didn't actually see any goals scored (who says soccer is boring?) because we were a bit late to the first game and the second was 0-0.

Bizarrely, Canberra Stadium insists on reading out the 'Spectator Code of Conduct' about every half hour. This contains such pearls of wisdom as 'patrons must not be intoxicated'. Not only are we subjected to the stating-the-obvious of the code of conduct, there's the stating-the-ridiculously-obvious of the emergency evacuation plan, which is also read out over the loudspeaker. Let me summarise for you: 'Proceed to the nearest exit when directed'. I'm so sick of this pointless, bureaucratic arse covering. Way to go, fun police.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Magpies, the annual spring menace - a solution to stop swooping!

Man I hate getting swooped by magpies. That rush of air and snap as it cracks your helmet is seriously scary. I've almost stacked on my bike a number of times by trying to outrun the magpie at top speed, turn a corner, and wave my hand above my head at the same time. I've got the cable ties all over my helmet (yes, car drivers, that's what they are for!) but they still swoop. At best they just swoop a bit higher up, away from your head.

Thank god for the CSIRO, who have tried a whole lot of approaches and found one that works!! Basically it turns out (at least in this video) magpies won't swoop if you aren't wearing a helmet. Unfortunately not wearing a bike helmet is illegal, so what you need to do is get a wig big enough to fit over your helmet :)

Not sure this is 100% effective, because people get swooped on foot, and they aren't wearing helmets. I guess you could always do cable ties and a wig.

Can't wait for the end of magpie season...

Update: Apparently it is the shininess of the helmet the magpies go for. I ripped the shiny stuff off my helmet and didn't get swooped, but I think the season is probably over for the year since there were others with shiny helmets on the path and they didn't get swooped. Till next year!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Menindee Lakes - Kinchega National Park

From Mutawintji we ducked back into Broken Hill for some supplies and then headed out to Menindee lakes, arriving before the dreaded sunset roo-suicide time.

Menindee lakes is one of the most depressing national parks in Australia. It has gone from being a bustling water recreation area attracting large numbers of people for fishing, boating, water skiing etc. to a dry scrubby wasteland ('Lake' Menindee pictured above). The caravan park owners are going out of business, all that is missing is tumbleweeds. It reminded me of Lake Natimuk in Victoria, for those who know it.

The three large lakes are all dry - according to the woman in the Broken Hill visitors centre they have been dry for about 14 years. The only water left is in Copi Hollow 'lake', really more of a pond, and in the Darling river.

We drove into Kinchega national park and camped on the banks of the Darling, which was actually really nice. The river is milky due to silt, but is still quite pretty, and bordered by gigantic old gum trees. There were a few campers dotted along the river, and we passed some people fishing.

It was a nice place to spend the night, and the next day we made the dash all the way back to Adelaide and home.

Mutawintji National Park

We spent a night camping in the dust at Mutawintji National Park, about 2 hours NE of Broken hill down a fairly rough dirt road.
It was an interesting park, we ticked all the walks, and barely saw another soul on them:
  • Byngnano Range Walk (7.5 km, 4 hours) loop. This was a great walk through dry creek beds into the gorges, with some great views out over the rocky cliffs. Saw a fair bit of aboriginal art (paint and carvings), which the guys from the Burke and Wills expedition kindly painted over in 1860-61 (blue triangle in the picture).
  • Off-track in the wilderness area off the end of old coach road drive. I managed to convince Em she wanted to walk off-track :) We (I) headed straight for the most interesting rock face I could find and walked/scrambled to the top. Found a few bits of aboriginal art (hand prints) under the ledges. I think you could easily spend a couple of days in this area exploring and looking for art. Water is pretty much non-existent.
  • Mutawintji Gorge Walk (6 km, 3 hours). Beautiful gorge and waterhole at the end. Tons of wildlife. We were the first walkers of the day, so we scared a few wallabies out of the waterhole and about 30 wild goats. Goats are a massive problem in the park - they have contracts out for commercial hunters who sell the meat. They herded and sold 2,300 goats out of the park just in July 2009!!
  • Western Ridge Walk (6 km, 2 hours). Some nice views, but not that interesting. I'd give this one a miss.

The area designated as the Mutawintji historic site can only be entered with a guide. The aboriginal land council used to do tours, but now the only option is the commercial tour companies. Unfortunately we didn't realise this until we were out there, and without mobile coverage or a working payphone there was no way to get on a tour. We talked to a guy who had been and he said the aboriginal art on the tour was quite good, but the best gorge scenery is on the public walks.

Friday 9 October 2009

Broken Hill

We had a great time in broken hill. Em's friend Sarah's wedding was heaps of fun, and we met lots of great people, including some 'A graders'. Apparently in the old mining days preference was given to hiring those who were second generation Broken Hill people, or 'A graders', presumably because they were more likely to live, work, and die in the town. The practice has changed, but everyone in Broken Hill can still tell you if they are an A, B, or whatever grade.

At Matt and Sarah's pre-wedding bash we had the pleasure of trying 'cheeseslaw', which is basically coleslaw with a massive bag of shredded cheese dumped in. Apparently it is a broken hill thing...Another broken hill thing is that two-up is legal every day of the year (what the?) at the musicians club where the reception was. Apparently the only other place you can play it legally outside of ANZAC day is at another two-up 'school' in Kalgoorlie.

We checked out the 'Big Picture' - the world's largest acrylic painting by a single artist, which is a landscape scene of the Broken Hill area. It is roughly 12m x 100m, and is housed inside with a viewing platform set in amongst desert sand and saltbush. It was very impressive, and the surrounding gallery is a massive showcase for local artists. The local art scene is huge and of high quality for such a small town, eclipsed only by the local hairdressing scene - there are about 20 for a town of 20,000 people (and 4 traffic lights). Maybe miners like getting their hair done?

The best art we saw was the famous 'Sculpture Symposium', which consists of 12 hand-carved pieces of sandstone sitting on top of a desert hill outside the town. We went at sunset and were very impressed with the mini Easter-island kind of vibe.

We also made a trip out to nearby Silverton, did a tour down the 'daydream' mine, and checked out the Mad Max car out the front of the pub. A massive number of films, TV series, and commercials have been filmed in Broken Hill, Silverton and surrounds. Some standouts are Dirty Deeds, Mission Impossible 2, Mad Max II, Priscilla, and Wake in Fright.

The mine tour was really worth doing - it was dug by Cornish miners in terrible conditions with hand drilling and blasting. The blasting was performed while the miners were still underground (about 150 of them in its prime) but despite this dangerous practice most miners tended to die from inhalation of the silica dust.

We had dinner at the best restaurant in town - Broken Earth, which is perched on top of the slag heap that dominates the whole town. Great food, although it was kind of sad that we closed the restaurant at 9pm, it was nice spot to take your time eating.

Sound good? You can pick up a three bedroom house in broken hill for $100k.

Adelaide to Broken Hill

On our way to broken hill we detoured through the Barossa.

We were on a mission so there wasn't time (or a spare designated driver) to sample any wines, but it was great to see the area that included many household names like Jacobs Creek, Wolf Blass, and Penfolds. We also ran into an FJ holden club that was touring the Barossa. Cool cars!

The Barossa and surrounds is beautiful country with grass and crops all vibrant, healthy green, and bright yellow canola. There were also quite a few fields full of Patterson's Curse, which apparently is called Salvation Jane in SA because it provides feed for cattle when everything else has died in times of drought.
It is amazing how quickly the land changes from super-fertile hurt-your-eyes green to dusty desert inhabited by saltbush, goats, roos, and emus. The desert was that beautiful reddish dirt, with virtually no trees. 110km/h feels like you are barely moving.


To broken hill for a wedding! We started the journey by flying into Adelaide (saving about 7 hours driving) and stayed overnight. We had dinner at Glenelg and also checked out North Adelaide. Both were really nice areas, although it was pretty cold so we didn't linger. I'd been to Adelaide before, and learnt a few things which I re-learnt on this trip:
  • They have stuffed up their beer sizes. A schooner in Adelaide is a pot/middy everywhere else, be prepared to be disappointed.
  • The light/power poles 'Stobie poles' are SA icons. They are concrete sandwiched between steel and were initially designed to save on timber, but serve on as a really ugly legacy. Broken hill also has a few around the town. There have been a number of art projects that have painted Stobie poles and people have also grown gardens around and up them to try and beat back the ugly.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

I spent a few hours tonight dangling string

I spent a few hours tonight dangling string, so I thought I should have something to show for it...

Sunday 6 September 2009

Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships

We went to the MTB and trials world champs today to see the mens and womens 'elite' downhill as well as the trials.

It was amazing, with thousands of people climbing all over Mt. Stromlo. Saw some amazing riding, and some nasty falls - I thought I was going to get cleaned up by the Swiss guy below, who lost it on the corner I was standing on about half a second after I took that photo...Also saw a Italian guy snap his forks off in the trials rocks course, then proceed to throw his bike because he was so pissed off.

There were heaps of different trials courses including rocky gullies, piled-up skips, logs, pallets, and a tractor (!?)

If you haven't seen trials riding before, put "mountain bike trials" into youtube and prepare to be amazed. Who would've thought a mountain bike was a good choice of equipment to climb a tree with....

Check out the the entire course on helmet cam!

Oriole has arrived

So we decided on Oriole (Ori) after the Baltimore Orioles. She has arrived and is settling into her new house. But enough talk, here's the photos!

Here she is at 4 weeks when we first saw her at her Mum's house

And here she is at six weeks on her first day at our house

Can't get enough of the bit-of-paper on string!

Kitty video!