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Letters from the road
Monday, 19 January 2015

Freeways photo 20150114_105502.jpg



swimming pools, movie stars

dirty streets and dirty cars.

    My first trip to La was a bit hectic. Within 24 hours, I'd bought a car , drunk a pile of beer, and ended up outside a bar at 2am talking to a Nam vet who was smoking some killer hooch and, talking about flying through the jungle at night while someone shot tracers the size of basket balls at him. Twenty Four hours after that, I had been to Disney land (closed for winter), the Pinto had blown up, spraying the windscreen with greasy anti freeze, whilst refusing to run when stopped at the lights, and I was, in a hot pool In the Sera Nevadas with a girl I had picked up at the airport.

     I've been here plenty of times since then but nothing has lived up to those first couple of crazy days here more than thirty years ago. I declare right here I like Los Angles, but it can be a bit daunting for the new comer. My very first impression of LA was this place is an absolute dump. Sure everything is covered with a fine dust, the houses all look the same, every where is a 3 hour bus ride away. Hay, there is still some great things to do here.

     I left Melbourne at on a Monday and arrived in LA about five hours before I left. This meant I had to stay awake after a sixteen hour flight for another nine hours at least, until my hostel opened at three. Fortunately there are plenty of low stress things to do here. I heeded to the Pantry café in downtown La for a classic breakfast. Five bucks gets you scrambled eggs, toast coffee and grits 24 hours a day the same as it has the last 90 years. A bit of a wander around downtown to pick up a few things I'd forgotten then off to the bright lights of Hollywood and Vine. Hollywood used to be a dump for the down and outs when I first came here, now its just a tourist trap. Still worth seeing, try your foot prints in Fred Astair's, Check out Marlin's star on the sidewalk, catch a latest release at the chinese cinema where they hold the Oscars.

      LA is the land of cars. It's criss-crossed by huge freeways that seem to crawl along 24 hours a day. Never driven in the US. LA is not the place to learn. Fortunately there is now an alternative, there is a great metro system here. Don't worry, LA is huge, but you can relax on the subway while you cruse around. Buy a TAP pass ( $1 take note Myki) stick in some extra cash and you can jump on and off the Metro all day long. There are now trains from the airport to downtown and plenty of other places you don't want to go, Buses take you everywhere else. Your never lonely as there are always plenty of people talking to themselves. The bloke behind me at breakfast was having a loud conversation on his phone for half an hour. It was only when I went to leave I realised he did not have a phone. Don't want to talk to your self, most people are quite happy to have a chat. Spanish seems to work most of the time, occasionally English too. WASP,s don't take the bus.

     From Hollywood it's the 704 bus to Santa Monica through Beverly Hills. This is where the mythical Californian's live. Unfortunately you, I, and most of the rest of LA can't afford it. Fortunately the express bus whisks you past Rodeo Drive in a flash so you don't realise what you are missing. Once your at the beach you can stare down at the stars houses beside the Santa Monica pier. Walk south to Venice beach. I don't recommend swimming as the water is about 10 deg all year long. Grab a cheese steak/ beer combo, then watch the roller blader's /gym junkies watch themselves.

By now it,s 6PM and being winter here dark. I've just missed the 33 bus so it's a twenty minuet wait, freezing my arse off out side a 7-11. My new home is in Crenshaw South Central. LA. Home of rappers and Drive by's. “What was I thinking when I booked this” . I get off the bus, grab a burrito, and walk down a relatively quite street to the hostel. No cruising dudes in lowered caddies, no tooled up 13 year old's in hoodies on street corners. The hostel looks like an old southern mansion, it has two huge Fan palm trees with there tops lit up in the front yard. It's fairly new and purposely built by the owner an older black gentleman who greets me with “James Bond we've been waiting for you”. Being two stories it's out of character with the surrounding neighbour hood of small low rise bungalows. It even has a swimming pool, and my favourite part a full breakfast. I find out the lit palms help you find the place at night, you can see them from a mile away. I crash and sleep soundly.

I'm actually on my way to Mexico, so LA is just a rest break in the flight. The next day I check out the La Brea Tar pits, and the farmers markets. The pits provide a lot of the fossils world wide to museums with the best on display there. You can watch while they dig them out “very slowly”. The Market is LA's top tourist destination apparently. I can tell you they have a happy hour and good food. Mean while gotta fly. Voy a Mexico. Click for more.

Posted by bondrj at 9:14 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 24 January 2015 12:08 PM EADT
Monday, 1 December 2014
The Heaphy Track and the Able Tasman Park

bay photo 27view.jpg


     I've got a Kiwi mate who lives in  Queenstown. He's a mad keen cross country skier, paddler and deer farmer. Well actually keener deer farmer. At the camp where we worked together every one else would be reading Playboy except for Flip who would be checking out the centrefold in deer farmer monthly. I was in-between swings and looking for something to do, so a quick jump across the Tasman for a bit of fun seemed in order. The great thing about NZ is you really don't really need to adapt too much on holidays. The drive on the same side of the road, almost speak the same language, and have a health disrespect for all Aussies. 

         Flip lives in one of the most scenic spots on the globe, snow covered mountains rise behind the beautiful lake Wakatipu. The golf course is next door, and his deer farm is on top of the hill. One hundred and eighty acres of prime velvet raising country. Fortunately I'm not here to go farming. Closest I get is a night out with the pump action fixing the local feral problem. The next day we hop into Flips 4 wheel drive van, and head to the top of the south Island, past miles of hydro schemes and endless ranges.

           We are planning to walk the Heaphy track which is an old cattle track that goes 80 KM from the east coast to the west coast across the southern Alps of NZ. Being a cattle track it doesn't really have a lot of scenic highlights as it sticks to the valleys and low passes. As a matter of fact it's actually a better mountain bike ride, unfortunately at the time they had just turned it into a National Park so such fun was now verboten. We had to walk. I say it hugs the Valleys but the first day is a 1000m climb to Perry saddle hut. Bad news. Good news, as they say in the classics it's all down hill from here. The walk takes about 6 days, we are staying in the mountain huts which have the usual selection of mostly foreign backpackers.The first night we meet Bob who is a 80 year old organic farmer taking a couple of 20 year old female Scandinavian woofers on a walking adventure. The hill nearly killed me, my feet are really sore and blistered, and my pack seems to weigh a ton. Bob is as fresh as a daisy, must be the organic food. We spend a pleasant night chewing the fat and talking deer farming with the visitors. 

    We take off early next morning but by lunch time my feet are killing me. I can't go any further. It seems like my feet have grown a size since I last wore my really comfortable Rossies, and now in the middle of the walk I have come to realize they do not fit any more. Fortunately Flip has a pair of sandals, looks like I'm going to do one of NZ's major walks in thongs. As it was a cattle/bike track the surface is pretty good and my feet get better out of my boots. Over the next couple of days we wind our way down towards the coast. When we get to half way we find a tree full of worn out boots. Seems like I'm not the first. I add to the pile. Finally we get to the coast and a place where we can catch the bus which we have booked back to the nearest town. There are a bunch of Japanese tourists and a few other hikers there. After a wait the bus turns up and the Japanese jump on. They haven't booked so the bloke has only bought out the small bus. We wait an hour till he returns. 

    A night at the local pub, with a real bed, parma, and a hot shower does us wonders. All we have to do is get back over the hill to the car. There are two choices, a $40 bus ride that takes four hours or a shuttle flight that takes 45 minutes. After six days it would be kind of nice to see all we had walked over in 15  minutes. We get to the airport and the Japanese are already there filling up the plane. There where a couple more than he thought there would be so he apologises and tells us he will be back in a couple of hours. So much for the short trip. The field is half an hour from town so we sit down to wait in the luxurious tin shed terminal. The plane returns, we get in and head up the track, but the cloud has closed the pass. "We don't fly through clouds as they tend to have hard centres" our pilot tells us. No worries we will just go around. Our 45 minuet flight turns in to a hour and a half tour around the top of the South Island. Priceless, we see seals, whales and a whole lot of beautiful coast line.

     That night we are back in Motuaka having dinner with one of Flips mates who builds boats. John builds custom made wooden canoes for hunting lodges and sea kayaks for adventures He has a model he sells to rental mobs, and his first prototype is sitting in the shed. Why don't we take it while where here and paddle round the Able Tasman national park. Why not.

    I walked the Able Tasman a couple of years before, it's spectacular. All great coastline with beautiful bays. You can go diving off the beach for scallops. Sea kayaking is much more civilized than Tramping. You get to take chairs, and fresh food, in an Esky, and beer. The weather is great. We spend about five hours a day paddling between camps, with Flip taking the odd fishing break. I don't remember him catching any thing. In the after noon we pull up on a deserted beach, light a fire, pull out a deck chair and watch the sun set. The only thing missing is a beer. Hold on we have a slab of cold VB, Carlton is dumping the stuff here and its cheaper than the local beer.  We paddle about 100 k's over 5 days then hitch back to get the car. Highly recommended.

PS you can now mountain bike the Heaphy track again, as they have changed the rules. You can hire sea kayaks at Motuaka.

Click the pic for more photos

Posted by bondrj at 1:00 AM EADT
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Killing Time In The Freezer

A fantastic video from the current doctor at Casey station. The doc's generally don’t have a lot of medical stuff to do apart from the odd bit of amateur dentistry, this bloke has put his spare time to great use. Thanks Grant.

A collection of time lapse video's taken over the first half of the 2014 winter season at Casey Research Station, Antarctica.|By GrantJasiunas

Posted by bondrj at 1:53 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 November 2014 2:09 PM EADT
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
Island Life
Samantha photo Samantha.jpg
      Winter in Victoria, It's cold  wet, and ugly. The Dee's start tanking for draft pics, Richmond is looking like winning just enough games to get them to ninth on the ladder, don't even get me started about the Saints. You can either stay here and freeze and die or do what the sensible people do and  head to warmer climes. Mildura, is good, Queensland even better, The ultimate quick break is a pacific island. You know, sun, sand, warm water,  tropical fish for dinner every night, bungalow on the beach. A week of rapid defrost to get you through to the finials series and warmer weather.
                   There are plenty out there, Bali, Fiji, Vanautu, are the main ones. A package costs under a grand and you are generally plonked in a resort with your neighbours, 4 walls, and 10'000 children screaming 24/7. I shopped the location around with my friend and she chose the Cook Islands. Now I must confess I know nothing about the Cook islands, apart from, the're Islands, but I kind of like that about a new place to travel. And so it was after a delayed flight, we found ourselves landing at Rarotonga at 3AM in the morning. The duty free was open for a bottle of Jameson, and a very professional customs crew whisked us out into the warm tropical night.The Cook Islands are quasi New Zealanders so we are asked all the questions as if we are intending to immigrate permanently, to this 38 km round spot in the middle of the Pacific. Even this vast tract of land is to big for us were off to a small Island called Atatuki in about 7 hours time. We  jump the bus and get a couple of hours kip before heading back to the airport. 
           My friend hates planes, but her general theory is the bigger the better. She has been worrying  about the next leg on a thirty seater so is delighted to find out that due to Air New Zealand's non flight a couple of nights ago the 30 seater is booked out, and where getting on a 6 seater. Their still trying to get the crush marks out of the arm rests.
                  We land on an old WW2 airfield after flying over a picture perfect coral atoll. Our accommodation is a couple of huts on the beach, complete with palm trees, giant clams, tropical fish hammocks and canoes. Vogue is shooting a swimwear feature and the models are lazing around the pool in their spare time. 
            The resort only has about 30 people, the island about a thousand. I can ride around the island in about 30 minutes, including a stop at the takeaway's for a fish burger and a chat to the locals. Island life is pretty slow. Most people go fishing or work for one of the small resorts. Everyone owns there own plot of family land which they are forbidden to sell. A small shack with a few relatives buried in the front yard, a non working car, and a old fishing boat is standard.. There are no dogs allowed because one bit the local chief in the old days, cats rule. The weather is meant to be good this time of the year but an unseasonal storm is  playing havoc with my beach time. At least the rain is warm. I do hammock time and read 4 books. In between showers I go  swimming, riding and takeawaying. We could have happily stayed here for a month, but our return flight  back to Rarotonga is calling. This time it's the 30 seater with 4 passengers.
         Back in the big smoke we arrive to an empty airport. After a few phone calls one of the local New Zealand ex-pats takes pity on us, and drives us to or new home at the Edge Water resort. This place is huge with 500 pensioners and almost as many children running around. It's still raining and getting a bit more tropical  in strength. We check in to a perfectly functional room that looks a bit like a housing commission flat. It has with a luxury view over the car park. Breakfast is served with 300 of our closest friends. I hire a pushy to try and do some riding but between rain and flat tyres I only get about ten K in 24 Hours. On our last day a small break in the clouds appears.We get a scooter to go round the island and check out the scenery. I drive, I'm told it's nearly as much fun as riding on a small plane. Somehow we find a Vegan restaurant for lunch, but dinner is much better in a little local bar near the airport. You always find the good places on the last day.  We head to the airport and catch up with the models from the beach. Six hours later were a back in Sydney catching a taxi from the terminal 2km to the carpark because the buses have stopped running. Home sweet home.

Posted by bondrj at 12:27 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 15 October 2014 10:09 PM NZT
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Cancelled photo 2014-08-09182854.jpg


John Mellion had a famous dislike of Melbourne, this was his right as a Sydneyophile. I personally think Sydney is one of Australia's greatest dung heaps, and try to avoid it at all costs. Funnily enough though the  Airlines insist on sending me, and a lot of other's there at great expense both to myself and them. My friend and I where going to the Cook Islands which only has one direct flight a week, from you guessed it, "Sydney". That's why I found myself driving into the second worst airport in the world on a chilly Saturday night. I'd done the homework and decided to park at the Blue Emu carpark. Book online $99, expensive but cheaper than the other options. We park at the far end, and hop on the free shuttle bus to the domestic terminal. There we find the only way to get to the international terminal is a $5.50 five minute ride on another shuttle. After a ten minute wait,I fork out more of my hard earned and end up with a pocket full of shrapnel to take out of the country. Running Parking cost total $121.00. 

            Hey, in 6 hours we will be sitting on a beach, soaking up the sun rather than standing here in the rain. We are 2 hours early,  so we amble in and check the flights screen to find out what counter to go to. My eyes wander down the screen. 19.35, Check, Rarotonga, Check, Cancelled, Chec_ _ _ _  WTF.  FF to the counter where a frazzled Air New Zealand lady tells us it's cancelled due to bad weather and points us to a long line. We get to the counter, get told it's cancelled due to maintenance issues. Why didn't you ring us? We tried came the answer but somehow managed to miss the two hundred people at the counter. As for the poor suckers that came from Sydney they get to go home and wait, at least there going to put us up for the night, The bad news is the next fight is tomorrow arvo, and it goes via New Zealand. Be out front for the bus ride to the hotel in half an hour. We get 30 dollars in vouchers to spend on a meal while we wait. Two beers thanks, sorry you can only buy food and drink. But beer is both food and drink I plead. No good. I settle for a latte, and a muffin. 

         Out front, we wait with the mob in the cold for the bus. The mood is ugly, it's cold wet and where meant to be on our way to a tropical island. If the New Zealand rugby team walked past I think the pensioners would have ripped them to bits. The bus is meant to  be there at 9.20 to take us five minutes to the hotel. 9.30, 940. 9.50. The bus rocks up, we wait, 10.00. 10.10, the mob is about to head inside and rip the Kiwi's to bits. 10.20, I go inside, a bloke is pointing out to the frazzled lady the bus could have driven to the hotel 6 times by now. It's going shortly she says. 'Get your act together', he storms off. The bus driver sensibly has been hiding, finally he starts the bus. The idea of spending 20 hours at an airport hotel is not growing on us. Fortunately everything we have been told so far has been wrong, and so is the location of the hotel. We find ourselves at the Menzies a classic hotel in the heart of Sydney just around the corner from the Coat hanger. We check in and get a $100 room credit, which we head off to the piano bar to drink. Later on I wander out and take a few pics of the harbour. Big breakie, in the morning, and a bit more of a lie in until checkout. We wander down the rocks and check out the market. After lunch we jump a cab and head back to the airport. I check the screen, It's going and on time. I hand over my taxi receipt and get informed I need to ring customer service tomorrow then fill out a form which they don't have. Did you know I'm meant to be on a beach in a foreign country sipping Pina colada's by then, actually I'm meant to be there now. I get the costomer service number.

           A week  later. Sydney. It's still bloody raining. After a bit of searching we are at the eleven dollar shuttle stop. I check the schedule. It stops at 9.50. It's ten. We walk back to the other end of the terminal and catch a taxi. $17.10 plus a $4.00 fee for getting a taxi from the airport to the airport. If a virus started killing investment bankers I doubt anyone would bother to look for a cure.

The cab driver drops us off at the entrance to the car park  for the five minute walk in the rain to our car.  Total Parking cost total $142.10, not bad for 6 square meters for a week. 

Posted by bondrj at 10:41 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 August 2014 11:16 PM NZT
Sunday, 27 July 2014

Mona photo P7141549.jpg


The Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA , sits buried in a old vineyard on the outskirts of Hobart. The sign on the front of the building says Sunny Dale shopping centre, the bright reception area would be at home in any corporate office. It's only once you've entered, getting sucked down into the cavernous concrete bowels that you start to realise your in for a different sort of experience. Once you,ve decended to the bottom, you slowly work your way back up through the meseum towards the daylight. The place is full of challenging art, spread out so you never feel like your in a gallery, or crowded out by other punters. There is the pulse room where 200 lights throb with your magnified heartbeat thumping as a backing track, Water fountains spitting out meaninless words. Caverns of display screens full of random data, or unique art from someone who I hope is firmly locked up at night. There is even a whole room dedicated to a huge scientific machine that turns food into poo. I have two of these in my backyard already, and they don't need 3 people to oversee them. The building itself is equal to the works, contrasting and amplifying the experience, full of little nooks and follies, it would be worth the visit even without the exhibits. David Walsh punter mastermind behind it has created something unique and special.

A perfect place for an evil genius to plot the conquest of the world. Sleepy Hobart, who would suspect a concrete fortress, armed with evil death rays hidden under pyramids sheltering yuppie art lovers. Sure the top three basements are an excellent art museum, but we really know there is another ten floors below hiding rooms full of technicians plotting the overthrow of world order. You heard it here first, after all I should know, I am 007.

More pics here.

Posted by bondrj at 12:01 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 27 July 2014 1:56 AM NZT
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
The Mine
Whirly Whirly's photo x1Stitch.jpg



Hot,  Damn Hot. 
That's how I remember the mine site. Twenty Eight deg before the sun comes up,  smoko  past forty, lunch forty five/six/seven , still in the low forties after the sun goes down. An egg takes ninety seconds to cook on a black grate, want a cold shower,water comes out the cold water tap at 42 degrees, at least it was easy to dry your washing. My mate rang me, "Do you want to come do a couple  of months work in the Territory". It was late October. "No, to bloody hot, " was the reply. "Think about it, it's dry heat, and I need you here by the end of the week.' Dry Heat a NT euphemism for not that humid your brain starts  to rot along with your boots and cotton work gear. So I found myself at Tulla, with 30 Kg's of tools, three sets of shorts, a stubbie holder and a pair of thongs. A couple of hours to Alice, time for a beer, then back on the tarmac to Narrajimita Air's finest.  Six seats, two fans, a dozen  instruments most of them marked unserviceable ,two other idiots, and a pilot. We weigh ourselves, our bags, and climb in. I weigh 96 Kilos.
The flight time is two hours, The flight heads NE over the Macdonald ranges past the spy base and out into the desert. Not much to see from 10,000 feet, the odd survey line, a glimpse of the dirt track that passes for a road out there. Lot's of red dust. I glimpse over the pilots shoulder at the clock, almost three, were just about there. fifteen minutes later I look again, almost three, "of course", the clock is not a flight instrument, it doesn't need an unserviceable tag. Finally my new home appears in the distance. A few large hole's, a few big  tanks, a few of pipes , a few dongas, and couple of large lakes chokers full of cyanide tailings. There's a flat bit beside the camp that passes as a runway. The pilot cranks the gear and the flaps down, surprisingly they both work. As we pass one hundred feet I remember thinking it's not that hot, the temperature shoots up 20 degrees in the next 20 seconds. We taxi up to a couple of fuel drums. Home sweet Home.
I'm here to build a mining camp, so there isn't much more here than a pile of blokes living in tin sheds working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. That's the good part because there aint much else to do here. First job build a shed, to build some other stuff. The only problem the shed isn't here, neither is the other stuff. We are at the end of a 3000km  supply line, every thing comes from somewhere else, via somewhere else. We pass our time throwing rocks at other rocks, and watching long lines of caterpillars crawl around in circles.. The routine is get up at five thirty in the dark. Off to the mess for breakfast, cereal, bacon and eggs coffee, ect. Make lunch, Limp salad or Peanut butter sandwich, dealers choice. Fill 5 litre water bottle with hard undrinkable water. Add ice to make drinkable, Safety meeting, start throwing rocks, Smoko , Lunch, refill empty water bottle, 6pm ,Knock off, wet mess, beer, dinner, back to the ally, sleep. At night we play basket ball and bocce, talk, and drink. Well mostly drink. Our donga line , named by the cleaners, has gone from Barcon Ally, to Beer Can Ally, to Baygon Ally. Any thing to pass the time, I lend one of the guy's my hair clippers one night, the next morning I walk into the mess to find 30 bald heads. We sneak off one night to Rabbit Flat, 50km down the road. petrol and beer triple the price of Alice Springs. You can get away with that if you are the only bar for 400 KM. Time marches on, What day is it ?, doesn't matter it's groundhog day, every day.
Why build stuff out here at all you ask. We are 680 km up a corrugated dirt road, Any thing that gets here has to be rebuilt because it has fallen to bits on the journey. . We tried getting a pre built site office sent up. Before it had reached the Alice Springs outskirts the room air conditioner had fallen out of the wall and gone under three trailers worth of ten hundred truck tyres. By the time it got to the site both the window and the door had fallen off somewhere along the track, and the ceiling was on the floor. Eventually our work shed and some other stuff turns up. Not what we need but at least we can get started. The boss flies en to give us a rev up. I get  yelled at for cutting up studs to make noggins so we can start building walls. I apologize, we spend an hour looking for noggins, Boss apologizes, I cut up more studs. Some how the new camp starts to emerge slowly out of the ground. It rains, it's three weeks till we see another supply truck. One night we have a fantastic view of a passing comet.
While we are baking in the sun the rest of the world goes on with its business. People have children, my brother buys a house. This presents problems because I'm the trustee of my mothers estate, and I need to sign stuff so he and I can get a loan. The mine has one phone line that gets switched over to the public phone box after 6PM. There are 120 blokes in the camp, and a long line for the phone. It's 1995 the internet is yet to arrive. Fortunately I have just invested in a bit of new technology called a Fax. Just about every day some one  drive over from the mine office just to hand me a new fax. I can  see fifty kilometres but my world has been condensed into a small square. The only time we leave the site is to go to the dump, an old mine pit we chuck all our rubbish in. We take to calling this the therapy run. After 11 weeks I head of to Darwin for a couple of days of sanity. I weigh myself and bag on to the plane and tell the pilot his scales are wrong. He jumps on and says there OK. I drop the bag and hop back on, I weigh 85 Kilos.
My work mates all have names like Dicko, Choko, Rosco, Davo, and Rambo. Dicko is the boss, Choko is the blackest black fella in the camp, Davo's name eventually changes to Crazy Dave, Rambo has been in three plane crashes flying to mine sites, he's as calm a a bag of cats at a greyhound meeting. Every one except the black fella's come's from somewhere else, though most of them call them selves "Territorians", a status that takes about three weeks to acquire. Their all good characters, most of them have spent way to long in the bush, and all have plenty of stories to tell to pass the time. Compared to the miners they are almost sane. The cleaners are pointing at me one night at the bar, so I wander over and find out what their talking about. Seems I'm weird as I have some photos in my donga of stuff that they have all checked out while their cleaning. A waterfall in Mexico, some snow and ice in Antarctica, some friends, you know stuff to  remind you there is a real world out there. Normal stuff, I thought. A couple of weeks later we have to go back and fit some AC units to the newly occupied miners quarters. About have a third have one photo of a wife/child/motorbike. A third have a poster Harley Davidson, cylinder heads 1947 to 1965, the classic years. The other third just have a large fruit can full of cigarette butts. Out of boredom I try talking to the miners every now and again. Conversation goes like this. What you doing on your swing (week off). "Go Harley shop , then get inked up". No need to mention they would be pissed and stoned for the whole week. Can't really add much more to that. We've all been drug and alcohol tested before we started, one guy failed after partying for 48 hours straight, he got a warning. Fortunately were never tested again. 
Eventually we get into the swing of things, The first building took 2 months to build, by the time we get to 17 they take 2 weeks. My two month stint has turned into five. Strange stuff happens, the mine starts production, most of the construction guys slowly leave. Two weeks before I leave, I borrow a jumper from my mate  in Alice, in my last week I turn on the hot water tap in the shower for the first time. On my last night I wear long pants to the bar. We pack up the truck and the last five of us drive the 600 odd kilometres to Alice, just so we can say we did it, I don't weigh myself , time to get out of here, it's to bloody cold.

For those of you interested the Tanami mine site is here, 120 km past the Granites on the Tanami road. 

Posted by bondrj at 3:53 PM NZT
Thursday, 12 June 2014
Light Keeper for a Day
The Light keepers quarters photo 2014-06-08144855.jpg



   I can't remember how many times I have been to the Wilsons Promontory Light Station, but it's still is one of my favorite trips. My first trips there where with "Uncle Reg" on his old cray boat in the 70's. At that stage the Light was still a manned light station and you where only permitted to visit on a prearranged trip. The light was on open Tuesdays and Thursdays, ten till two. A crusty old light keeper would begrudgingly show you around the place after opening the gate at the bottom of the hill. If you where lucky you got a ride up the last hill to the light in his land rover. As I got older we walked in, and camped at Roaring Meg Creek. You'd get up in the morning and race off for the hours walk to meet the Light keeper, and trudge back to the campsite for another night of sleeping on rocks and dehydrated food. My aunties once walked all the way there and back in one day. Not a bad effort as the walk in is 19km, 38 return, Lanie said she was a wee tired after that one. It would of killed me, but they made them tougher back then.

      In 1995 AMSA automated the light house and handed the site over to the parks service. Shortly after we walked out and spent our first night sleeping in the old keepers quarters. Chris the ranger was not happy. He had been a the last light keeper there, and had transferred to the parks service when the light was demanned. AMSA where hopeless, but the parks where even worse. "They had no idea how to run a lighthouse." Lighthouse keepers are generally solitary creatures, so the addition of regular visitors to his schedule probably didn't help his day. He was full of great stories about the light, and the daily life of the keepers, if you agreed that the parks where a bunch of no hopers you'd get on fine with him. 
    The great thing about walking to the light these days, is it's bush walking without the hardship. You stay in old buildings that are a bit like farm houses. They have a big cosy kitchen, lounge and a couple of bunk rooms. Hot showers, 24/7 power, remoteness,and great all round 360 deg views, make it unlike any other campsite in Victoria. Standard walking supplies for this trip are, a leg of lamb, a cask of red, and a supply of good cheese and dips. Rock up ,chuck the lamb in the oven , hot shower, entr'ee, red, and you've forgotten about the walk in already. Book a doona and you don't even have to carry a sleeping bag. We stayed two nights, gives you a day to check out the place and recover. Then gentle walk back to the car, and a real coffee. Whats not to love.

Thanks to Mick for the logistics, and Emm, Hoola and Brendan for the porterage services.
The photos are Crap as I coulden't get the SD card to work in my real Camera and my phone was taking low resoloution photos. Sorry                                                                                                                                  007

Posted by bondrj at 2:22 AM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 12 June 2014 2:28 AM NZT
Tuesday, 3 June 2014
Grand Ridge Bike Ride
more signs photo 2014-05-31105414.jpg


     When I organize a bike ride I generally Plan the route, get the food, supply the transport,cook the food and drive the support vehicle. When Mick organizes one he plans the route, and I do the others. Don't know how this happens, good delegation Mick !   There is a election on the horizon so my brother though he would do the right thing and have a bit of charity fundraising for his favorite political party. A weekend riding along the Grand Ridge Road from Ellen Bank to the Tarra Vally Guest House, Total distance 80km over 2 days. Throw in a bit of food and luxury camping in the bush, small donation for costs, profits to the party, whats not to love. 6000 emails later, and no takers we decided to do it anyway.

    The Strzelecki ranges are a low lying group of hills in between the Latrobe Vally and the coast. They contain towering mountain ash trees, a temperate climate, matching rain forest, and winding dirt roads.Even though they are only a short way from Melbourne, most people don't even know they exist. Once populated by hill farmers, and remote saw millers, they are now mostly State parks and forestry reserves. Through the center of all this runs the Grand ridge road, Victoria's only (mostly) dirt highway.

    Wave goodbye to the dogs (no car space), and four starters packed into the wagon for the hour long trip up the hill. The forecast all week had been rain,rain,rain, not unusual for this area, so we where pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a sunny day when we pulled the bikes off the  carrier at Ellenbank. The next couple of hours where spent gliding along the rambling road, past farms and old sheds,to Mirboo North and lunch. It's market day, and the center of town is full of people selling eveything from old tools to healing crystals. Lunch consisted of a snag in bread from the CWA van, followed by a couple of beers at the Mirboo North Pub, and  cake n coffee at the bakery. A diet designed to keep those calories up for the strenuous riding ahead. A couple more hours meandering through the hills and we arrived at Turtons Creek our stop for the night.

    Set up the bedding, Light the fire, nibblies, a couple of heart starters, send Frank off to clear the track, right, lets hit the pub for dinner. I can recommend the Exchange Hotel Foster. Eye Fillet on the menu, Footy on the telly, Frosties on the Bar. Next day after, a fine nights sleep, a shower, and, the breakfast smorgasbord, we head back to the hills. To day is much less rural. We ride through the high mountain ash forests, with sweeping views appearing now and again through the trees. Every now and again there is a sign to a community long gone. A school here, a hall there, all that's left is impenetrable bush. No pubs or Markets today, so we stop at Ryton Junction for a break. We see three cars along the road all day, and  one of them is stuck in the bush after taking the corner to fast. Finally we come to the end point Balook and the Tara Vally Guest House. Hot Coffee and a Sunday Roast before 3pm. Whats the time, 3.30, Oh we well Settle for the Scones and Cream. We pack ourselves into the car,and head down the hill towards town. It starts to rain, got away with that one.

more pics here

Click here for the route it's also good drive if you don't want to ride it.

Posted by bondrj at 2:51 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 June 2014 12:46 AM NZT
Friday, 23 May 2014
Start at the center
The Geographical Center Of Victoria photo 2014-05-22120738.jpg


We started off at the center and worked our way out. Mick had agreed to orginize a bike ride route for the Greens senetor elect, to tour her new terrtory, on the way to her new job. I got the job of driver. Keep off the main roads and see the real people was the brief. We got lost, almost bogged, had plenty of small town coffee stops, and we saw a lot of nada. Shep to Benella is going to be a ripper. There is still time to jump onboard ride leaves 15/6/14.

 photo greens.jpg

Bendigo Advertiser Click the pic to read the story

Posted by bondrj at 12:51 AM NZT
Updated: Friday, 27 June 2014 5:06 PM NZT

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