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Letters from the road
Friday, 25 May 2012
The North
Topic: Australia
The Wharf, Fish and chips on the first night in Darwin


      I'm not a natural flyer. Jetstar gotta get there early or else the Mongrels kick you off. That gives you to much time to think so it's off to the Q Club for a sanga and a quick beer to calm the nerves. Then down to the cattle gates. Get jammed into a large tin can. Metro sexual gives talk on Lifejacket under the Seat in case of a crash  landing on water. Mate Melbourne to Darwin not a lot of water there. Besides if things go arse up a bloody life jacket aren’t going to be much help when your packed into the glove box with 300 of you closest friends. I once heard that the most dangerous bit of a flight is the first two minutes, so generally spend these counting backwards from 120. Only after that can I relax. That's if you call a 4 hour jetstar flight relaxing.
     I've arranged to see my mate Russ in Darwin. I only gave him 4 months notice, so he’s managed at the last minute to get himself a two week contract working bush. The up side is his car is free, and He's just about finished his house reno. Jetstar moved my flight to a 3am arrival from midnight so I’ve begged and pleaded and now arrive at a very pleasant hour in the after noon. His Missus Katie picks me up at the airport, and it’s off to the new Ranch. Russ isn't the greatest in communicators, so I've come with a long list of Questions from his friends down south. We spend the night catching up, and discussing the joys of cohabitation with the Mead.
     I'm only here for a week , Saturday Kate and I are off to the Comedy Debate at Mandorh, It's Wednesday. Time is short. I wouldn't mind going to Kathrine and seeing a friend who lives in Batchlor a 100KM Sth, so I need to get going. Russ has kindly left me his car, a 4-cylinder diesel Toyota Ute. Like most cars it comes with a list of instructions, well only one. It has no key so I need to find some thing to stick in the lock to start it. It’s in the back yard. The doors are open and it has a fine selection of dints. It looks like my car on the inside. The passenger seat well is full of old hamburger rappers, empty stubbies, and bits of building rubble, theirs one other thing, the handbrake is lying on the floor. I jam a screwdriver in the lock and twist. Nothing. Flip the bonnet latch, hook up the battery, twist, Broom Broom, It's a goer. I chuck the swag in the back, and I'm off. Well off to Auto Barn. The blinker doesn't, oils low, and the washer bottle is empty.  New globe, new oil, new water, now the washer bottle is just not working. Two out of three aint bad.
      A couple of hours later I'm at batchlor. From there its only another 30km of dirt road with instructions like turn left at the washout and keep going till you see a gate with a 44 next to it. Somehow or other I find her place. Cinda lives on 75 hecters with her Half a dozen horses, chooks and a nice  old solar powered Queenslander. It's a long way from her suburban Malvern upbringing, the nearest shop is 30 Km away, god knows where I can get a latte.We feed the horses, have dinner and catch up. She's up early the next morning to start teaching at the local school. I wave her goodbye, jump in the ute. Click.
     Bugger now I know why the battery was disconnected. Fortunately I'm on a farm, there has got to be something around here to get it going. I walk over to the shed and find a battery charger, and a lead .Chuck it on the battery and sit down to read my book. An hour or so later the little green light says the battery is charged, Screwdriver in the lock. Click. Bugger. Time for plan B. Cindas told me she's going off for a couple of days with her friend so theirs no use waiting for her. No mobile phone reception so I can’t call the RACV.  The shed has a Fergie tractor in it, I find some jumper leads, and spend five minutes trying to get  it started. I'm just about ready to give up when I remember to take it out of gear. Click, Clack Clack Clack. I park it next to the Ute, and try to jump start it. No Good. Next I change the battery with the one from the tractor. Click Now I'm stuffed. Time for a cuppa. The Farm has a slight hill, maybe if I get the Ute to the top I can roll start it. There aint many other options. Back to the shed for a bit of rope, swap the batteries back again. I'm towing the Ute backwards up the hill, stopping every 10 meters to adjust the steering so it follows the tractor. I get it half way up the hill and the rope breaks. The Ute takes off backwards, I stop the tractor and take of after it. I catch it just as it hits the fence at the bottom of the hill. Bugger. No major damage just a bit of paint barely noticeable amongst the other scratches. Back up , get the tractor , tie the rope back together, try again. I've been trying to start this thing for three hours now. At last I get it to the top of the hill. Turn the wheels so it doesn't take off again. ( no handbrake ), and disconnect the rope. I push it down the hill hoping to get enough speed so it will start. Clutch, Third gear, Drop the clutch, the fence is approaching rapidly, a few revs, clutch "BRAKE". I stop just before the fence. The Bastard,s running. I carefully drive it up the top of the hill making sure not to stall it, then I spend half an hour putting all the stuff that I've borrowed back. Just a couple of gates to negotiate. I have to park across the road since it's go no hand brake and I can't stop it and put it in gear because I can't be sure it will start again.
         At last I'm on the road again. The window winder is broken, so I hit the AC. It dosen't work. The vent knobs are all immovable, and in funny positions . The fan and the radio are also dead. Same for the cigarette lighter so I cant charge the phone. The dash looks like someone has cut it out and screwed a different one in with plasterboard screws. Only the gauges and speedo work. I get back to Batchlor and the engine seems to be running ok so I make an executive decision to head towards Lichfield National Park instead

Things seem to be working again, the donk is ticking over well, so I make a stop on the top of a big hill and turn the engine off. Hopefully I can roll start it  from here if it wont start again. I turn the stick in the key hole and it chugs over straight away. Twenty minutes later I’m at a Buley Rock Hole, a beautiful swimming spot. Still not totally sure of the reliability of the Ute I park  at the very top of the car park, then head off for a swim. There is a series of little rock holes with little falls in between finally ending up in the river at the bottom. Refreshed I start the ute and drive to Florence falls for another swim. Things seem to be working OK in the transport department so I decide head off to Kathrine. Ive got the swag its  only another 200 kms. I stop at Adelade River and fill her up.

      Ten k down the road the dash lights up like a Christmas tree. GEN FBLT IGN ENG TMP, well at least some lights work on the thing. The engine’s still purring over  so I pull up and lift the hood. No clouds of steam, everything   looks relatively normal. The fan belts ok. I push a couple of plugs on the back of the alternator, nothing seems loose, still water in the radiator. Maybe it’s just another old Tojo quirk. I’m just a bit worried that the battery may not be charging. It’s a diesel so it shouldn’t need a battery to run but when you turn the key of it stops. I reckon its gonna stop when the battery goes flat. Stuff it I’m here for a good time not a long time. I admit defeat and head towards Darwin. Two hours later I’m back. I park out the front of Russ’s, and unload my gear leaving the donk running. I move it around the corner, turn it off, the just for interest try to start it again. Click Nothing. I reckon I’ve got out of jail free. I close the door ( it dosent lock) and abandon her in the street.

      Katie gets  home, and tells me the story of one of her indigenous art students. He made $500 selling some paintings, and when asked what he was going to do with it he replied “ I reckon I might buy your husband another car”. She’s boycotted push starting it six months ago, so sometimes when the neighbours are hiding Russ has to bribe the local black fellas with fags in the morning for a push.

      Saturday night we jump on the ferry to the debate at the Mandorh Pub. The book festival is on and the subject is books are better than fishing. It was a close run thing but the books won. I try to catch up with my cousin who’s working in the travel lodge a couple of times. I see Balabo at the deck chair cinema, and have a great steak at the Trailer boat club. I also try to charge the battery on the car and have a couple of go’s at getting it started to no avail.

           Times up. Darwin Airport, Qantas Club JQ62 MEL Engines roar. Wheels up. 120, 119, 118 …



Post Script

Russ got home and fixed his car. He changed the battery, then he tried to push start it, then he got his mate to tow him round the block, then he got his other mate who’s a gun with Toyota’s to tow him around the block several times with a bit of tinkering in between, then he bought a new car.


Posted by bondrj at 1:04 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2017 9:56 AM NZT
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
The French Line
Topic: Australia
Across the Desert



 Vinnie Stuffo and I headed across the French line in 2001. We headed to Delhouse Springs but had to make a short trip to Alice (1 WEEK) due to the rain.Lots of cops with Armalites on the NT boarder, It seems someone had kidnapped a pommy tourist and taken off with her boyfriend. Chambers Pillars, The Gahn Track, Fink, 300 sand dunes, and a week later we where at Big Red. The largest Sand dune in the Simpson. Only 50 Km to go to the Birdsville pub.

Posted by bondrj at 1:31 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2017 9:59 AM NZT
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Lake Tarli Karng 1984
Topic: Australia
On top of the world

It's that long ago I cant remember who was there but Ian Goodwin (Goodie),Mick Schultz,Wes Pope,Mark Hopkins(Hopp), and Goodies dogs all made the cut. This must have been before it was a park as we lit a fire to cook on. We carried 6 beers in each under Wes's advice and had to drink 4 each the next morning so as not to carry them out up the fearsome Mc Farlane's saddle. From memory no fish where harmed on this trip.

Posted by bondrj at 1:37 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2017 10:03 AM NZT
Monday, 12 March 2012
Rule # 5
Topic: Australia

Inspirational Words

You know the story Click the pic.  Warning Adult Language

Posted by bondrj at 11:40 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2017 10:07 AM NZT
Saturday, 3 March 2012
Casey Station 1988-1992
Topic: Antarctica


Casey Station 1992Antarctica , cold and remote. It seems a long way away, but if you live in Melbourne it's closer than Auckland. Between 1988 and 1992 I spent 18 months working and living at Casey Station. I drove lots of big toys, laid carpet tiles, made big rocks into little rocks at the quarry, drank beer, became a Jolly king, heard lots of penguin jokes, and even did the odd bit of electrical work. I lived in a donga,sea iced things,drank homers and drillers,loved Wenesday nights, joined the corgi club, and for a little while was a tunnel rat. Even on the bad days you could just look out at the icebergs, and go things ain't that bad.Click the pic above to learn what the buildings do or this link for some more antarctic pics. Work in progress I'll do a bit more later .  In memory of "Orby" 1962-2005

Posted by bondrj at 11:02 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2017 10:11 AM NZT
Monday, 13 February 2012
An alternate holiday to Phillip Island
Topic: East Asia

Nepali Trails with Sandman Titanium. First Details from Martín Campoy on Vimeo.

Not one of mine but Mads helped this guy get to Everest. It reminded me a lot of the walking trip Mick and myself did to Everest  in 2002. There is nothing like being surrounded by the worlds highest mountains whether you go to the Annapurna Sanctuary, or at base camp. If you want peace and quite I would suggest going while there is a bund (general Strike ) on as it deters the hordes that descend during the walking season and helps you get a bed. Mad's will help you get there, his site is here. If you want to read about me and Micks time in Nepal it's here. 


Posted by bondrj at 10:38 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 February 2016 3:21 PM EADT
Monday, 23 January 2012
Santos Tour Downunder 2012
Topic: Australia


Saturday I don't mind a bike ride every now and then, so when a couple of mates said they wanted to go to Adelaide to see the Tour down under and combine it with a bit of bike time. Hey Pick Me. Jump in the car at 6am, sorry 9 am, sorry go to feed the dog on the way out the door, he's sick ( nothing is sicker than a lab that won't eat) emergency trip to the vet. Get home, write note to dog sitter detailing drug regime the leave at noon. Its only 700km, not a bad drive. I get in at eight. Barry takes me down the Godga St for a feed. Thai green curry in, 10 min walk home Thai green curry out. I hope they recycle around here.

Sunday The other blokes rock up and we head into town for the first race .There is a lot of people here. We watch the teams presentation, then there into it, one hour flat out around a short track. All that riding make me hungry even though I did none of it, so we head off down the mall for some pasta and an early night.

Monday check into the hotel “The Grand Chancellor” on Hindle St. Pretty posh. Good Sangria and Latin dancing around the corner. Thai food across the road, Club X next door , My kind a place. It's a rest day but the lads are keen so along with Jen whose on the trip as well we set off for a leisurely 50km up the Gorge. Map Boy like mountains, Jen and The Dealer are triathletes, I'm just a sucker for punishment. At least I’ve got a bit of time on the new bike now.

Tuesday is our first real ride day. It's a balmy 40 deg, with a gentle 40 Knot wind (88KMH) from the north. Where riding North. The Hotel has a little toaster oven, if you made it bigger and put a big fan at one end, set the conveyor speed to 12KMH and rode on it for 5 hours it wouldn’t even be close to what my day was like. MB and TD decide to set off from the hotel for a 147 KM ride, funnily they can't find any takers from the other 10 of us. I've elected to ride 60km the shortest route offered. Most people chose 100. We get to the first stop every one gets out, every one gets back in. 60 km is suddenly very popular. MB and DK make 80 before there toast and the bus picks them up at Tarlee where I started. I do my sixty, ten before the end the bus pulls up with the lads on it. I offer to let them do the last bit with me, but they just sit there with smiles on there faces licking the windows. Consolation prize, between the three of us we did the whole lot. By the time I get to Claire I'm toast to. We have a nice meal in Claire and watch the Pro's arrive. It's the slowest ride in the history of the tour 32 KMH.

Wednesday we head for the hills. We have breakfast in the hotel and head off to Lobethal. I'm very happy we get to the bottom of the hill and the bus keeps going right to the top . This is more my style. We catch the start of the tour which is doing a couple of circles around some hills before heading off for a couple more circles at the end. With a bit of riding you can see the race at a whole lot of different points. There is a big breakaway by a young Uni SA rider which the peleton can't chase down. I watch the finish and then coast 20km back down hill back to the hotel.

Thursday a quick 35km down the beach before the Hotel breaky. The we pile in the bus to watch the start of the race in Unley. Nothing like seeing 20 Skodas with $150,000 worth of bikes loosely strapped to the roof. Map boy gets his hat signed by Eddy Mecks a 5 times Tour of France winner. Off to Mount compass for a Sprint finish, then lunch, at the pub, with a bit of winery action on the way home. Pick up a couple of Church Paddock for the collection. Drive down a big hill which I'm expected to ride up in a couple of days.

Friday. My knees a bit sore. I think its from carting all the wine around. It's the 136KM Bupa challenge. I pike it and only do 100, this eliminates the big hill that you drive up to leave Adelaide. There is 8000 people on this ride. Bikes every where. My new bike goes downhill really fast, I pass people peddling like crazy, just rolling. Funnily when we get to the uphill bit they are all going faster than me, must see if I can get that fixed next tuneup. I get interviewed by the press they tell me there is another big hill. No one mentioned that. When I get there its only 2.8 KM long and 145 meters high, hey dude I've been to France, they have big hills, this ain’t one of them. I arrive and I don't feel to bad. MB,TD, and I head off to the pub, It's 500 meters past the finish, which we miss. I look up from my pasta to see a bunch of blokes patting Oscar Freire on the back, hes the oldest bloke in the race and he's won the stage. We have the box seat view of the celibrations.

Saturday. We head out to Maclaren Vale to watch the start. We decide to ride the 35KM loop which they do 3 times before the start of the race. Off down the hill to Willunga. Its blowing a gale like Tuesday just not quite as hot, I pike it after 5KM at the first coffee shop, spend a pleasant hour reading the paper, and watching the race every time it comes round. It cant last, MB and TD find me and we head up the category2 climb to the finish line. Old Willunga hill is crowded with thousands of people, and some of them clap and cheer as we grind our way up the hill. At the top there is, hot dog stand, cool drinks, and a giant screen next to the finish. I finally get to see a bit of the race. We settle in and watch a classic hill climb with the finish decided by count back, its going to be a great final day tomorrow but first we have to get there. We have a Legends dinner to go to at the convention centre. The main guest is a true legend. Eddie Merckx , 5 times winner of the tour of France. We quaff mountains of SA's best red, and boogie with the band until late. On the way home we have a wander down the circus known as Hindle St, the Kings Cross of Adelaide. In the Pub a group of Poms are trying to punch the crap out of each other while watching a soccer match. The meanest looking female bouncer I've ever seen, chucks about ten of them out, then the cops roll up and cart them off. Great family entertainment, Who said Saturday night in Adelaide was boring . A couple of hours later we get spat out unhurt back at the hotel.

Sunday. My head hurts. 7am ride, missed that one, hell I has trouble making the 9.30 AM breakfast. MB missed even that one. Check out at 11, It's hot, I seem very thirsty. We head off to the final stage a couple of hundred meters away. The three of us take turns sleeping in the shade while the race cruses past. Simon Gerrans an Aussie wins the race for Green Edge the first Aussie team in there first race. It doesn’t get better than that. MB got a late check out, so we head back to the hotel for a quick swim before I drive back to Melbourne. A few quick goodbye's and I point the Ford up the hill. Petrol a $ 1.50 a litre, thanks guy's. It's only a tad over 700KM from here.

Thanks to Phill, Susan and Ben from AllTrails, for organising a great trip.

PS the dogs on the mend



Posted by bondrj at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 February 2016 3:21 PM EADT
Wednesday, 28 December 2011
Topic: Antarctica

It a Hard Place

 Mick and I went to the Antarctic Peninsula in 2007. We where following in the footsteps of Shackelton on the MV explorer. We  got closer to the real thing than we thought as the boat sank the next year on a simlar trip. We went to Elephant Island, Decption Bay, Fort Lockeroy, and a few other frozen bits of rock. For most peole on the boat Antarctica was the highligt of the trip. For me, having spent to much of my life looking at penguins it was fun, but it did not give me the urge to sign up for another stint with the Ant Div. The penguins where kinda sexy though!!

 Click the Pic

Posted by bondrj at 12:53 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 February 2016 3:21 PM EADT
Sunday, 18 December 2011
Camino de Santiago
Topic: Europe




We went right 2007. Emma, Mick and I attempt the classic 600km walk. Well  we only did about 100km with the help of the odd bus,taxi,donkey cart, whatever but at least our heart was in the right place. I don't know why but the locals kept on telling us we where going the wrong way. We ignored them, and ended up in France, which was not a bad result. Along the way we had the worlds worst Indian meal in Bilbo, Drank sangria in Barcalona, had 3 calls with a local taxi driver to convince him we really did want a cab because we couldn't be bothered walking up the hill, and walked through some charming Spanish villages that havent changed for 100's of years. If you stayed in the pilgrems hostels it was only about $10 for a meal and a bed. If you stayed at the Monesterys it was even cheaper, all you had to do was get up at five in the morning to say Hail Mary's for three hours. We stayed in the 80 Euro Hotel and slept in. After all we where on a holiday not a pilgramage. For the rest click the pic.

Posted by bondrj at 11:26 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 February 2016 3:22 PM EADT
Thursday, 1 December 2011
The Falklands
Topic: Antarctica

Nothing like a nice pillow

Should be more like the land time forgot. Every car is a landrover.Cash only and no ATM's. Devon shire Teas 24/7 sorry 8/5.Even the weather is like England. Rule Britannia. And by the way never, ever, ever, walk on the beach, unless you want to learn to fly.

Click the Pic

Posted by bondrj at 11:53 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 February 2016 3:22 PM EADT

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