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Letters from the road
Sunday, 6 April 2014
Updates
Saturday night, nothings on tv, I must be bored. Photobucket improved there website by making it less user friendly, and as a consequence most of my old links stopped working. I've been back through the blog and updated all the photo links so they now work for me. If you own an Ipad you will need to download the photobucket app. Its here

Posted by bondrj at 12:00 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 5 April 2014 11:06 PM NZT
Saturday, 5 April 2014
The Five Iron Classic
Winners photo 2014-04-03220806.jpg

 

Yes Gents,

                  It's back, Bigger than Texas and, Crazier than a paranoid schizophrenic with a megaphone hollering at a manic depressive with a chain gun. Thirty years ago the inaugural 5 iron comp was played by a band of brave golfer warriors on the royal and ancient Morack course. These brave path finders pioneered  the modern game of golf as we know it today.

    In honour of these great men a game of golf using the historic original 5 iron rules will be played. True lovers of the game are invited to take place in this grand reenactment which will be followed by a awards presentation ceremony and BBQ.

 

Where        The Royal Public golf course

When         Thursday the third of April.

And so the call went out to the faithful.
    Fourteen men answered that call, and eleven actually turned up. The first five iron was first played in 1984. Thirty men would turn up on a Wednesday night once a month armed with little more than a pocket full of golf balls, single club, pair of blunnies and a six pack. The carnage was huge and legendary.
    For the
Uninitiated The five iron rules are simple.

    1. Every shot must be played with the same club, putting included.
    2.Three steps must be taken before teeing off on the last hole.
    3.A full six pack of beer must be drunk between teeing off and putting out. Beers opened before your first shot are social  and do not  count.


The Results were as follows. Most of us play better with a single club than a full bag. Burt who can count a seven deck shoe of cards can't count 8 holes when he's had six beers. Des can't either and was forced to scull three beers on the seventh hole after Burt told him it was the eighth. Some peoples running tee shots are better than their standing tee shots( some aren't ). The old fathers who used to play in the 80's were younger than we are now, mind you there still soft as none of then turned up. Six cans of beer doesn't help your game.
     and for those of you who are interested Des and Pastie won.
Click the pic for more photos and the link below for a bit of running tee shot tutorige.

Posted by bondrj at 3:11 AM NZT
Thursday, 6 March 2014
Rafting the Franklin

Rafts on the Franklin photo Rafts.jpg 

        Some times Mick has a few to many lattes at the lounge room and comes up with something out of left field, travel the Silk road, bike around Europe, Axis of evil Tour, pogo stick across the Sahara. generally as the caffeine level drops he comes to his senses. Some times they stick. Raft down the leach filled ditch in SW Tassie made famous in the 80's by the Franklin river blockade seemed to fit perfectly as another loopy idea. What's in it for me? Cold water, Bugs, and no room service, surly he would come to his senses. Allas no.
    So it was on a cold March day I found myself out side a hotel in Hobart meeting my fellow condemned travelers. A few I already knew, Fitzy the property developer, Jimmy the mining engineer, myself the idle tradie and Mick the latte king. Apparently the greens where invited but they've lost interest since it's been turned into a national park.. As this is a guided trip, I put in much more perpetration than usual, reading the packing list and finding out the meeting point. This was more than Jimmy who having arrived with family from Canada the day before had assumed the start date was two days later. This gave him ten minutes to explain to his wife he was leaving her in charge of a uncompleted new house, three year old, and eighteen months worth of bills. Some people like to live on the edge. At the meetingWw tried on a couple of wetsuits and,got given a stack hat, spray jacket and rubber bag for our possessions. We where also given a luxury thermorest, two words that should not be used together, to sleep on. We then headed off to try and stuff all the rest of our gear into what space was left in the bag before our 6am start.
    Back out the front of the hotel the next morning we quaffed one last latte before jumping into the bus an heading off. By this stage our party had grown to ten. Frazsi and Elias our guides, Micheal, Larrissa, and Adan, fellow rafters and the bus driver. A quick stop at Ouze for a pie, Derwent bridge for another pie and by one we where standing under a bridge in the middle of nowhere. Watching the bus drive off.
    Fortunately our guides are very experienced rafters. They have done this trip many times before, and in no time we have the rafts pumped  up. They are also telling us useful things , like what to do when you are floating down the river under an up turned raft bouncing of rocks. We don our wetsuits and kiss our ass's goodby. Last night there was a 150mm of rain so the Collingwood river which we start on is quite full. This is good, the last trip took 4 hours to get to the Collingwood/Franklin Junction. We jump in the rafts loaded with 300kg of gear, and 23 minutes later, after a few small drops,we are at the junction. One the way Franzi informs us there is only one driver and she is it. We only need to remember a couple of things, paddle forward, back paddle, over left, over right, get down, hang on, and paddle forward said with  a really loud an anxious voice.
    At the junction I relax. Floating down the river is quite pleasant, the water is not that cold, the rafts seem pretty stable even with all the gear. Its about 40 min to our first campsite. We leave the junction and drift into the first little drop. All of a sudden its dark, cold, and  I seem to be bouncing off hard things with a raft on top of me. I have vague memories of some one talking about this earlier in the day. what was I meant to do. "Stick with the raft", all of a sudden this seems like good advice. After a while I surface, which is an improvement. I have still go hold of the paddle so I swim to the raft which is heading rapidly down river. Elias drags me up on top of it, good. The next rapid seems to be coming up very qiuckly. Then he tells me we are going to have to flip the raft because it is upside down, Bad. We stand on one edge holding on to straps attached to the other side, it comes, up we go down, I'm wet again, I get dragged back into the correct side of the raft,paddle forward in loud voice, and soon we are in a quite little eddie. I cough up my first taste of lovely Franklin water, Micheal and Larrissa the other evicties have been picked up by Franzi. Possibly a bit more excitement than I needed, but we all seemed to have survived. I promptly christen Elias "stunt driver".
    With no more impromptu swims, we soon arrive at our first camp. It's a natural set of small caves in an overhanging cliff face surrounded by the forest. While I'm getting changed, Happy hour is called. A couple of fine Tassie cheeses, dips, and a bit of cask red to wash them down with appear. The Guy's have a couple of stoves roaring, Hot drinks appear, and stuff is chopped and tossed into the pots at regular intervals. We are informed that we all have weird dietry needs, Not one of us is Gluten intolerant, vegan, lactose allergic, dislikes the colour orange. A first. They have never catered for a bunch of freaks like us before. Shortly a green chicken curry and rice is produced, as good as any I have had on Victoria street. Over the next week we get, Penne Arrabiata, Steak, and veg, Veggie Curry, Spaghetti Carbonara, Man soup and a whole pile of deserts like Tiramsiu, and cheese cake. I'm not going to get thin. I head off to my cave and spend a pleasant evening reading a book I pinched off Jimmy,"The Wit and Wisdom of Keating". I'm soon dropping off to a sound sleep.
    Over the next couple of days, the rapids get bigger and we enter the Franklin Gorge. We have a rest day and climb Frenchman's Cap. Some one needs to explain to our guides the meaning of rest. This is apparently the hardest day walk in the universe. 1400 meters of straight up/down climbing, all condensed into a short 12km trip. The weather is brilliant and the view is well worth the pain. Mick hopes to be walking again by 2017.
    Every now and again we get to a rapid which is unnavigable. These have names like The Churn and the Calderon. Generally we walk around them, and the guides "line" the rafts down them by attaching a rope to the front and back of the raft and guiding it unmanned through the rapids. Sometimes we all have to lug the full rafts over a couple of rocks, and once we had to unload the rafts and manhandle them down through the drop. Because the water is relatively high we only have to do this half a dozen times the rest we "shoot". At first all is calm, then you hear a gentle roar. Your floating at a slow rate towards a line of water that seems to end abruptly. Franzi starts to give instructions like "paddle forward" then "Relaxxxxx" a bit more frequently while trying to get the raft lined up for the first drop. The you go over the edge, the front bounce's back  as you hit the bottom, the load hits you in the back, the water splashes everywhere. Vaguely in the back ground someone is yelling "getdown,hold on,Paddle Back,stop,Paddle forward. Depending on how things are going you may be giong down the subsequent drops forward, sideways, backwards or all three. Think of a pinball and you get the general idea. At the bottom it's paddles up for a high five and you sit back to watch the next boat plow through.
    As we get further down the rapids decrease and we paddle more. Our biggest day was about 30km, Every night we stop and either put up tarps or sleep in natural caves. Most of the campsites are spectacular. In the mornings we have pancakes,cereal, toast and espresso coffee, brewed in a classic Atomic coffee machine. So much for toughing it. We stop at the Rock island Bend made famous in the Peter Dombrovskis photo and indulge in a group pic. Finally we hit the Gordon river, and drift the last ten Klicks to our final campsite.
     A boat ride and we're back in Straughn. The world returns, mobile phones become mobile again, money is more than worthless paper, the group goes it's separate way's. Things are the same but we've changed. Thanks Guy's.
   

We went with Franklin River Rafting who where Fantastic, you can check out there website here.


Posted by bondrj at 11:23 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2014 11:27 PM EADT
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Cruising the greek Islands

Lavadi Harbour photo DSC02694.jpg

I had a hard choice to make. Mick was headed towards England, Ireland, cold pubs and warm beer. Spring is my favourite time of the year in England, the tourists have gone, and the weather is the same as the rest of the year. Crap. I really want to go with him but my hearts just not in it. Sorry Mick. Cry

                Who am I trying to kid. You couldn’t get me out of northern Europe fast enough.  Sailing around the Greek Islands is one of those fantasies that I think everybody dreams about.  Fitzy and Kate had sent their boat over on a big Freighter, and had spent the last couple of months exploring the French Riviera, Monaco, and the Italian coast line. Greece was next,  “Pick Me”.

                This is how I found myself on a windy afternoon in Corinth Harbour, talking to the customs bloke and looking for a dot on the Horizon. Eventually the dot turned up and that’s where I joined the Yacht "Loki" and my crew for our jaunt around the Aegean. After convincing customs that I really didn’t want to escape the country yet, we headed off through the Corinth canal, and into the sea of Islands. We spent a couple of days cruising down the coast stopping at the little towns at night for dinner, breakfast and a bit of sightseeing on the way.  Then we turned east and out into the Aegean proper. Our first stop was Kythnos, and the little fishing town of Loutra.  The crew did an excellent job of birthing us at the wharf while I supervised, then we headed the 20 meters into town for a coldie and a bite to eat. The next morning we caught a taxi up into the hills to check out the main town. They built them up here in the first century to deter the pirates, they where lazy bastards who couldn’t be bothered walking up the hills. There is no shortage of hills here. It’s hot, but the town’s all have a cool square with vine covered walkways and little cafes off them.  After lunch, it’s a bit more sightseeing round the island with a local history lesson from the taxi driver. Back to the boat for dinner, and then off to the next island in the morning.

The Aegean can be very windy. The local breeze is called the Meltemi which sort of sounds like bad wind in Spanish but god knows what it means in Greek. It blows from May to September then vanishes. We missed it by a week, consequently  we do a lot of motoring, sticking the sail up when the is the odd hint of breeze. The islands make the winds blow from all directions, and very inconstant, so by the time we get the sail up the wind is generally gone. Our taxi driver tells us this is the best time of the year, the tourists have gone, the Meltemi has gone, the weather is good, and the locals are cruising to the end of the season before packing up and heading back to Athens. 

We follow the same pattern for a week, then I’ve got a plane to catch. I leave the crew to find a berth for the boat in Turkey, while I fly 2000 KM in the wrong direction to catch a plane which flies back over where I’ve just left. I tell the guys to notify me immediately if they find a Greek Island which is not, hilly, covered in houses with white walls and blue windows, has trees, or doesn’t have perfect weather.  I’m still waiting for the call. Click the Pic

 


Posted by bondrj at 2:24 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 24 November 2013 10:38 PM EADT
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Corinth Canal
 photo DSC02481.jpg aaa

The Corinth Canal
It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland thus forming another an island because the Greeks need another island. You can also get small ships through it cutting of a couple of hundred klicks on the trip to Athens . It is known for it's steep sides, narrow width and shallow draft. This means mainly pleasure craft use it. It is also the most expensive canal to use in the world per meter. In fine Greek tradition the Emperor Nero started digging it in the first century, and it was completed relatively quickly for a Greek construction job in 1893. After a short defect rectification period it got into it's full swing in 1940 just in time for the Germans to blow it up in late 44, dumping a couple of spare locomotive in it just for good measure. The Yanks finally got it open properly in 1948. Fitzy and Kate picked me up at Corinth Town in their yacht Loki and we sailed through the canal on our way to the Greek islands.  You can see some of Kate's fine photographic work here     Click the pic for more

 

Posted by bondrj at 2:15 AM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 September 2013 2:20 AM NZT
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
Athens Days
Street life photo DSC02369.jpga> 

       I was last in Athens 26 years ago. My friend had the runs and we had to spend a week here getting her stopped up with anti poo meds so we could head for the Islands. I spent a lot of time walking around town, she didn't, but I digress.  I've booked a hotel next to the metro downtown some where. Criteria, Breakfast and a pool. The Stanley fitted these, and also has a very nice bar with a view over town. A 5 am Paris start, a stop at Zurich, Athens Metro, Find the hotel, a bit of pool therapy, and its time for lunch. My memories of Athens food are oily salads and souvlakies with not much else. My friend couldn't eat these due to her doggy tummy so I remember finding the one Chinese in town on one of my walks. Fortunately I feel like salad and souva so I head out. I came here via the subway so I haven't really had much of a look at town from under 5000 feet. First impression Zombie town. Most buildings are either half built, half pulled down, or covered with shutters and graffiti. Rubbish is blowing down the street. The people that aren't begging are sleeping something off.  Twenty six years, nothing seems to have changed.

        I'm about a mile from the main square so I head towards it. It's hot here, damm hot. I pass ice cream parlours, baguette shops, a tea house, and the obligatory golden arches but not one souva shop. Most places are shut, I know it's Sunday but there are a few people in town, and damn it, I'm hungry and I know what I want. Half an hour later I'm at Sygmarta Square, Greeks protesting about something outside parliament. Maybe it's the lack of Souvlakie in town. I could get a decent souva quicker in Woomera. I turn west and finally find some life with lots of nice cafes and shopping, I'm just about to give up. I've only eaten plastic aircraft food and it's getting to late in the afternoon. Then I look down a lane, there are people eating down there. My eyesight is starting to fade from the lack of food, I stagger towards the light as it fades to a point, then darkness. When I come to I'm in Heaven . Souvlakie Heaven. Tables with plastic cloths, towers of pita bread, people yabbering in Greek, things rotating on spits as far as the eye can see. I lunge towards the nearest tower of rotating mammal flesh, and for 2 euro I have my prize. Some times the best things in life take a bit of work. Click the pic for more. 

Posted by bondrj at 9:02 AM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 August 2013 9:31 AM NZT
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
The Bunker

Top Secret photo DSC02172.jpg

I was feeling bored with swimming and eating one day so I decided to go for a walk and check out the view from one of the local hill tops. It took about half an hour of brisk walking to get up to the top and as I was catching my breath and enjoying the great view I noticed the patch of concrete I was standing on. I wondered who would be crazy enough to cart concrete up such a steep hill and got on with admiring the view. Eventually I looked turned towards the mountains and saw a ruined house hidden on the rear of the hill so I went to investigate. What did I find when I got there. Well you'll have to click the pic to find out. By the way the place is called Puig de la Morisca at Cala Montjoi


Posted by bondrj at 5:50 AM NZT
Saturday, 27 July 2013
Eygalieres Days
Mick at Work photo DSC02055.jpg My cousin has a shack at Eygaliers in Provence.  After riding Alpe d Huez we need a little R n R so along with a couple more people we headed down there for a week. Steven, Andrew, Bev, Doff and Victoria would head off to see the sights at the crack of ten, leaving Mick and I free to get up and start our busy schedule.  Bev being an early riser would have walked to the bakery  and acquired croissants which Mick and I would then consume for breakfast. A bit of procrastinating followed by a quick dip in the pool, and then the major decision of the day, Which restaurant should we consume " Le Menu" the all in set price French lunch. A bit of Bike riding, lunch and then back to the pool for another quick dip and a spot of Stig Larrson or John Krakauer depending on the mood. Late in the day the others would return from a hard day of Museum, Market, Sightseeing, whatever with food and wine for dinner . Ive just about recovered from the arduous days on the mountain but I have to go now and slip a bit more pool and book in just to make sure.

 

Provence Forecast

Pool temp 30 Deg

Weather Hot

Sky Sunny

Every Day

Click the pic for more


Posted by bondrj at 2:43 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 27 July 2013 3:30 AM NZT
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
From lile-de-France to Little Somalia.
Paris photo paris.jpg

 

My mate has hired a place in l'île de la Cité for a week. Its the  kind of place that you would to imagine all Paris is like. Its in on an island in the trendiest part of town, looks out over the Seine on one side and over a Cafe, Boulangerie and a Tebac on the other side. There are 20 cheese shops with in 200 meters. The cafe down the road does an excellent petite dejunier  with waiters who just have the correct amount of French arrogance. His place is on the first floor so you can hear the street life below, the Emir of Qatar owns a palace,  just down the road, and you expect to see some one making one of those eat pray whatever  flicks when you walk out the door.           

Meanwhile Shane and I are holed up in Little Somalia just down the road physically, but another world away in reality. Our twin room in the Best Western has a whole 13 square meters of space. Pace it out sometime, its almost big enough to get two single beds in if you stack all the furniture in one corner. Its on the first floor and comes with a great street view, off a wall.

Little Somalia has 10,000 hair beading shops on one street. The streach from Gare d Ost three blocks to our hotel.Apart from Kebab shops they seem to be the only industry apart from the worlds oldest profession along with the worlds oldest practitioners. Forty euros buys you a lot of experience around here.  Its not all bad though, When every thing is shut in real Paris you can still get a Kebab and chilli sauce with the crazy people wandering the streets down here. They have real shops selling stuff people can afford and you don't feel threatened even late at night. Go to the Kebab shop twice, pay, and don't talk to your imaginary friend, your a valued customer.
    In between the two worlds around the Pompidou centre there are some great bars, full of life late into the night. We propped here a couple of times after a hard day of site seeing for a couple of draughts and the odd Calvados. The best part is no matter how late it is you can always grab one  of the free Velieb bikes spread around town to get yourself home

Just remember they drive on the wrong side of the road, even at night and you'll be fine.

Thanks to Mick for the photo

 


Posted by bondrj at 11:13 AM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 July 2013 11:43 AM NZT
Sunday, 24 February 2013
I've been to Bali too

 

 

 

 

Bali.

                 Muslims’ to Mecca, Aussie’s go to Bali. Young blokes get on the end of year footy trip. Girls go for the shopping.  Then OS to the Oktoberfest.  When I first started travelling, planes used to refuel in Bali so I always thought I would go there on a stop over, then planes got better, no more stopovers. Cancun, Goa, and Thailand got ticked.   Never played footy so I missed out on the first bit.

                Cue Linda, she lives in a tropical resort and runs a hotel complex already so if she wants to relax the last thing she needs to do is invite a bunch of free loaders to Noosa.  I’m checking my email one day and here’s a invite to a birthday in Bali. They thought they would maybe get 15 people. The word goes out, there is a bit of networking on the airfares, and for $500 I’m in. So are 60 others, and the quite birthday party goes out the door.

                In my head I know it’s not true but in the back of my mind I’m still thinking of Bali as that mystical island in South Pacific the musical. Waves break on golden beaches while grass huts house the locals under coconut trees. I pick up Mandy on the way to the airport, we Qantas club it appropriating some coke for the 200ml scotch bottle I’ve bought in the duty free. Bloody budget airlines, once upon a time the free booze was the only upside of flying.  I’m a Bali virgin, Mandy on the other hand is a seasoned professional, Twenty Five trips plus some. We ignore the final call have another scotch then wander up to our gate. They start loading and when the queue thins out, we join the end only to hear our names called out. What’s the problem, we are in the line two hardened travellers with a thousand flights between us, and where getting on a flight to, Auckland. Opps. We rush off to our now empty correct gate. The Lady who checked us in looks at Mandy with a smile and says “I knew you were a trouble maker”.

                Six hours later we are there. The rest of the crew have been at Club Med for the day. Sixty bucks for all the parasailing, diving, surfing, swimming, waterskiing, booze, bikeri____________ Did someone say “Booze”.  The bloke handing out the towels will recover after being crushed in the stampede to the bar. The staff where heard to mutter later on in the day “There worse than the Russians”  No one is up to meet us when we rock up at 10pm except Dicko who joins us but has a coffee.

                Where in Seminyak, which I was told was a bit out of town. The hotel is modern, lovely and everything works. It could have been dropped from space to anywhere in the world and you would have no idea where you were. It has two pools and some grand villas which the birthday girl is ensconced in. My dreams of beaches and palm trees have evaporated to be replaced with memories of suburban Mumbai, traffic included. Taxi’s are cheap which is good as most of your time in them is spent standing still. Just outside the door is a great little strip of cafe’s, tee shirt shops , Bars, and Viagra sellers. In my youth I was offered Tiger Balm, now I get hit with “Viagra, Cialis, Cheeeep” every ten feet.  One pleasant surprise is the food. It was all great. I ate everything including the salads and fresh fruit which is generally a no no in these sort of places. You could get whatever you want. Fresh Sushi, Greek food, Mee Goring, Satays, Cesar Salads, Steaks. There were even a large selection of KFC’s, Macca’s, and Burger Kings for the blokes on footy trips.  That night we have the big birthday in the villa. The Couple renew their wedding Vows, and Cheese presents his wife with a My husband is awesome tee shirt. The sixty of us are treated to sucking pig, fire dancers, cocktails and Bintang for everyone.  When I leave there is only the troublesome girl from the airport and the birthday girl drinking cocktails left. The next day is vague.  Linda is a event planner in her spare moments, so those interested head off to Golf, Mountain biking, Rafting, Potato Head, and the Rock Bar. With sixty of us here there is always someone to do Lunch, Shopping, Beach , Drinks or all of the above with.

                After five days Dicko and I head off to Legian. Its only a couple of Km’s away but the Hotel Jayakarta is on a different planet, old style Bali, on the beach. The rooms are crappy but the grounds are full of carved sandstone and shingled buildings. Breakfast  is hit and miss, with staff passing empty food containers in the buffet until prompted by the guests to refill them, but the staff are nice. The pool has a bar in it. Out the front the beach  is full of little bars and sun lounges with one or two people in each. We invade one of these with the rest of the crew one day and Bintang ourselves. We go swimming and watch the local surfers cut the waves to bits.  The little bar doesn’t open for the rest of our stay there. The rumour is the owner has retired on the profits.

                I brave the constant traffic jam and head to Kuta to go shopping but my heart is not in it. Knockoff NBA/AFL shirts, watches, and DVD’s. Hundreds of shops selling all the same crap. Business is not good. Everywhere new hotels are being built. I buy a MP3 player disguised as a bintang can, and an Uncle Norms tee shirt. I head up to Ubud a town made famous in Eat,Pray,Shop to go mountain biking. After a couple of hours driving we get great views of the volcano and a nice 40km downhill cruise with the odd stop for a  bit  of local culture. Nice to be out of the traffic with the local kids chasing you down the hills through the rice paddies. I drink weasel poo coffee and have a pleasant local lunch. Its monsoon but the weather has been good, but it can’t last. It starts to rain. Most of us are heading back to our day jobs so the crowed of friends are slowly thinning out. I spend the last couple of days reading and dodging the rain. Dicko and I leave straight from Uncle Norms to the airport, through the traffic and the building sites. Bali tick.

                Thanks to Linda and Tony for putting on a great time for all of us, and giving me an excuse to finally go to Bali. I’m sure they needed a rest when they got home. Thanks to the rest of my guides for just showing me the good stuff. Now I’ve been to Bali too.

 

Posted by bondrj at 3:56 PM EADT

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