Sunday, January 14, 2018

Beach path

First day in Melbourne was off to a great start! 
It was hot over 35 C! What better place to be than down on the bay.

I know I'm falling into some very familiar habits but visiting certain places has become a more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane, this little ritual is beginning to forge new memories of my old hangouts. This time I thought I'd extend my range and continue along the beach trail to Mordialoc.

It's such an easy journey on the train. I can cycle to the local train station, take my bike on the train, change lines at Flinders Street (hoicking my bike up the stairs or escalator) complete my train ride at Sandringham and the beach!

The obligatory homage to the Cerberus can be assumed but on a hot day the beach at Half Moon Bay is crowded and somewhat unpleasant with jetskis buzzing around. Busy days here should be avoided. The water gathers a sheen of oily residue from all the sunscreen and coconut scented tanning oil! It really can be disgusting... on the other hand if you're worried about getting burned you can just take a quick dip in the shallows and step out with an even coating of whatever sun-resistant slime happens to be the flavor of the day.

I didn't swim at the Cerberus but decided to explore the coast a little further. The beach road bicycle path passes some fairly interesting little spots and there are a few secluded beaches along the way that don't see nearly as many oil drenched sun bathers. I managed to find a path to the base of the Bluff in front of the Great Southern Hotel where a bunch of pelicans weren't too perturbed by my presence. I had that little space all to myself.

Although I'd been to Black Rock before I hadn't realized just how interesting it would be under water. I had a refreshing swim here and the water was quite clear. I didn't go snorkeling but could easily see that this rocky outcrop with it's sponges and water plants would be a fantastic place to explore.

Wanting to get home before dark I ended my tour at Mordialoc just before the river inlet. I turned around and headed back the way I had come. Rather than catch the train I planned to ride all the way back to Flinders Street Station along the coast. I totally recommend this ride! The path is really well designed some sections even have separate paths for bicycles and pedestrians! 

Plenty of weird and wonderful things to see along the way, not so much in terms of natural beauty but stuff of human creativity and just the humans in general. There's a lot of them and they like to get out and be seen. There are a lot of posers at the beach and they are all so beautiful and ugly at the same time. It's a kind of magic that inspires the primal desire to compete or contempt... ;) 

Being a week day the path became quite busy after 4pm. Cyclists on road bikes come barreling down on you and I noticed several pedestrians become unnerved as a lycra  clad hero wooshed past them at high speed. Thankfully all the bicycle traffic was heading out of town so I didn't have to worry about being constantly overtaken or getting in anyone's way. I was pretty much free to plod along slowly gawking at the freaks, the mansions, the yachts and the posers. 

When I arrived at the station I was able to walk straight through the doors of my train, which departed two minutes later. Made it home with daylight to spare.

Another great day.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Forage abundance

Mobile again.

Last year I was given the news that I would have the opportunity to travel to Geelong to assist with a work conference. I couldn't believe my luck. My family all live in Melbourne, I could spend a couple of days with them  before heading to Geelong.
Whenever I am in Melbourne and don't have the responsibility of managing travel for a family, bicycle is my preferred mode of transport.
Melbourne is a treasure trove of old neighborhoods, lanes and parklands that are really great to explore on a bike. 

$20 bike + $10 backpack (1960s vintage) preparing for commute

As an affirmation of my freedom I always prefer to leave the airport on foot or by bicycle. Several times I have acclimatized to the Melbourne environment by walking from the airport to my sister's place in Kialba, once I tried walking to my parents place but I have to admit my fitness wasn't quite up to scratch and the detours I'd taken added too many foot miles to my trip so I bailed with only a few km to go.

Melb Airport - Fawkner - Watsonia

This time I took an old bike with me and cycled the Western Ring Road, the same path I'd tried walking a couple of years earlier. Riding was infinitely easier and sections which were previously under construction are now open.

After putting the bike together the hardest part of the journey is actually finding a way out of the madness that is the airport carpark and associated roads! While a lot of Melbourne infrastructure is fairly bicycle friendly, the Airport is definitely not!

Although exiting the airport is a bit of tenuous task, once on the ring road the ride becomes much simpler and far more enjoyable.
An example of how cycle paths can be incorporated into existing infrastructure 

Cycling to me is not about sport or fitness, it's just something I do for the sheer joy of it! Basically I get a buzz out of moving in that elusive space between traffic and pedestrian, somewhere in the grey area where registration and insurance don't yet venture, where money does not determine your mobility and alternate routes are the norm!

I love the freedom of being able to explore at a leisurely pace while traveling, virtually free, a journey that would cost me over $50 in a taxi or over $20 on the stupid airport shuttle that would only dump me at a train station where I'd still have to travel back out to where I needed to be.

My favorite part about this ride is the abundance of food that grows along land connected to the ring road. Both wild edible weeds and garden plants that overhang the fences.


Scottish thistle (terrible weed but pretty and edible)

Blackberries are spreading again, yes they  are invasive, if kept trimmed they provide good tucker
Plums overhanging fence

Opportunistic gardens. I have no qualms about taking fruit that overhangs fences but chose not to touch these gardens as they were very well cared for and obviously of higher value to the owner.

There are so many treasures and so much beauty in the smallest of things. If you travel by bicycle, with your eyes and heart open, chances are you will discover treasures that only a cyclist can know.

At this time of year there's a lot of fruit to be found, much of it is still ripening but I was fortunate to find enough ripened fruit to have a reasonable feed. 
By the time I reached my destination I had a belly full of fruit, both wild and domestic! 
Blessed is the life of a Gleaner and a forager.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Buckets and Lists

Dear Blog, Happy 2018.

Finally a chance to do the blog stuff.

OK I'm finally starting to acknowledge that I am approaching the no longer a kid stage of my existence and presence on this planet in this flesh. The mobility vessel that contains my Me is beginning to show it's reluctance to bounce and I may in fact be mortal with a use by date just like the rest of them!

Acknowledging that I have spent a lot of time moaning and grumbling about all the things I don't get to do I also have become determined that if I do not set out to do some of those things despite the difficulty of finding available slivers of time, money etc... I will likely never get another chance.

So the most practical cliche thing I can do seems to  be to create a Bucket List!

The list of all the things I intend to do and plans to make them happen.

After creating said list, when is the best time to start ticking boxes?


Commencement of List:

Walks :

Great Ocean Walk
Jatbula Walk

Other stuff....... (To be continued, probably in private but know that I have started making my plans!)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

King Lake National Park

I think the best thing I ever got to do when I was in school was Work Experience with the park rangers at the Kinglake National Park, north of Melbourne. I'd always wanted to be in the bush and found it difficult living in the urban and city environment. Somehow when I was in year eight I managed to score the opportunity to live and work for two consecutive weeks in Kinglake National Park! I think I may have received some extra help in scoring this opportunity based on my borderline delinquent status...

This was such a great opportunity, my previous work experience had me getting up at 5:30 every day for two weeks in the middle of winter to catch a train and bus to a skylight factory where I was stuck inside all day folding sheet metal and cutting perspex. At Kinglake I got to live in a small cabin in the forest just up the track from Mason's falls.

My work consisted mainly of digging trenches, track maintenance, cleaning toilets and painting signs. Most of it was pretty mundane but I just loved being there, occasionally there were opportunities to go on patrol with the rangers and visit some of the lesser known corners of the park. My favorite time was at dawn before the park opened, lyrebirds and wallabies would break cover from the ground ferns, they'd browse and forage in the scrub right next to my cabin, nobody else saw that!

I really wanted to be a ranger but was advised that if I didn't have straight A's at school and didn't have a combination of multiple degrees and highly specialized skills like mountain climbing or various other extreme sport activities up my sleeve, I might as well quit my fantasy of becoming a ranger. There were no positions for amateurs! (The previous work experience kid was a high achiever from a private school!) So I enjoyed my two weeks in paradise and returned to my destiny as a Pleb. (I was failing dismally at school, I'd never been given any impression that I'd ever be able to attend university) All evidence pointed to me becoming either a sheet metal worker in a factory or a second rate criminal residing in the  "Bluestone College" at Coburg. 

 Kinglake National Park was a place I'd visited several times in my Youth, it was the nearest 'mountain range' (mountain by Australian standards) and only place of that type that I was familiar with. I loved it there but by the time I got my license and became truly mobile I became used to venturing a lot further afield. I possibly only went back to Mason's falls three or four times after I left school.

The Lyrebird was a very commonly seen resident before the fires, I hope my kids can see one here some day

In 2009 After three days of temperatures of over 40 degrees C the tinder dry bushland ignited. On the 7th February 2009 multiple fires spread across the region and the hills burned! This was the day known as Black Saturday. The destruction was extreme, according to the statistics on the National Museum of Australia website 450,000 hectares was burned and 173 people died, 100's of houses were destroyed and thousands of animals perished. Impact on the environment was massive. Non fire resistant riparian vegetation and rain forest was lost.The tree ferns disappeared the earth was left bare and all that could be seen from the grasslands below were the eerie skeletons of 1,000s of dead trees rising above the bare hills.

I had been living in Darwin for several years at the time of the fire and didn't venture into the hills again for a couple of years after. Even several years later Driving through Flowerdale on my way to Bonnie Doon was a devastating experience! I couldn't recognize the landscape! What had once been a thickly wooded shady valley dripping with mountain dew was now a barren hillside covered with the grey and black corpses of dead trees. No foliage. As we turned toward Alexandra my eyes welled up and I began to cry. What has happened here was apocalyptic! It felt like The End! I couldn't stand it!

Yesterday nearly 9 years after the fires had passed, I finally felt OK about visiting the National park at Kinglake. On the way I was shocked to see how much development has spread along Plenty Road. People everywhere, cars, flash houses, the lot! All plonked on top of a land which had it's own spirit. The new comers oblivious to the space they now inhabit, will they ever appreciate the place that lies beneath their roads and streets of houses?

As we approached the park it was confronting to see how the vegetation has changed. The mature forest was gone. There had been quite a bit of re-growth but this was not the same forest. It's taken so many years, nearly a decade, for plant life to begin to restore, but at least it is happening, God knows if it will ever become the wet forest it used to be.

At the park itself I could see that a lot of the tall trees remained, but most of the shrubs and ground cover had been replaced with eucalypt saplings and acacias. The riparian zone appeared to be in reasonable condition, there were actually still a few tree ferns very close to the water and the stream flowed clear. We didn't get to see any Lyrebirds but I have heard there are some around. 

Tree ferns still exist  but there are much less than there used to be

A lot of tall trees were felled after the fires

This is a park which attracts a lot of city visitors, it has always had a fairly heavy impact. The attitude of visitors was particularly obvious to me this time around. After the bushland here had suffered so much through the fires it was very saddening to find that every tree trunk in the visitors area had been defaced. Some fools saw the blackened trunks of these great survivors as nothing more than a canvas for their self indulgent need to leave their mark. Every visible tree trunk had people's names and various other messages and vulgarities scratched like graffiti in the charred bark of the remaining trees! Although this has relatively low impact on the health of the trees, it reflects a general contempt for the majesty of these beautiful trees and a lack of appreciation for just how precious this place is. As I walked the Lyrebird path with my children and my mother I saw other artifacts of spray painted graffiti and wondered who would perish first, the forest or the destructive culture that has altered the climate to the point that such a fire is likely to happen again. 

Every tree in this area had been defaced

Getting back to my original hopes to become a park ranger, I did eventually study to become a ranger in the NT, where there were actually ample opportunities to work in the field and in some very remote and beautiful places. I chose not to pursue that career due mostly to the fact that a large portion of the job involved managing the people who want to use these places for quite destructive recreational pursuits. NT parks, particularly those close to Darwin tend to be used as places to congregate in the bush with a ton of booze and loud music. 
I've chosen for my relationship with the environment to be a more personal affair.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Tubeless Tyres

Just a quick note.

In September I went to Singapore.
There were lots of interesting things but what caught my eye in particular was the fact that tubeless bicycle tyres are already in common use!

Based on the media I've seen about them I thought they were a concept that was being developed. It turns out that Western media sources are way behind the 8 ball.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Water beckons depths call

Rough edge of rock to steady the foot
Water beckons when the tide is full
Distant lights comfort, impossible hope
Focus diminished where dreams only go
What's real is not as it seems from this shore
Fall at your peril and come here no more!