Dec 28, 2010

Water on the road

Flood As we set off for 1770 the heavens opened and are North-bound trip was beset by rain.

As we headed further North the rain intensified and soon we were driving through sheets of water with lakes on either side of the road where they weren't before.

After a while potholes began to appear on the road and driving boredom decreased somewhat as we dodged around them.

There was a little traffic jam as we approached the first stream that was actually flowing across the Bruce Highway.

A Ute was hanging over the edge of the road on a bridge that we crossed.

Eventually we got to Miriam Vale and took the turn off to 1770. After five and a half hours of driving we were glad to be on the home stretch.

However the home stretch didn't stretch very far as 100 metres down the road it was sealed off with Road Closed and Water on the Road signs.

A few enquiries at the shops told us that we wouldn't be getting to 1770. There had been Big Rain and the creeks were all extremely flooded, and the two roads into 1770 were impassable.

We hastily arranged accommodation at the local Motel. Poor Matilda had to sleep in the car.

We went to the pub where we ate distinctly average but nonetheless welcome food before I walked Matilda, being dragged across the squidgy ground with the Frog Chorus going on all around me.

In the morning Nicole and I drive up the road to check the situation. There were three places where creeks cross the road and all were flooded.

When we got to the first one the flood stretched as far as the eye could see. We were told that the second crossing was two metres deep.

No 1770 today then.

Dec 24, 2010

Happy Aussie Christmas

Happy Aussie Christmas Happy Christmas to everyone, there will be stuff about our recent exploits coming soon... there just hasn't been time with one thing and another.

We have been stranded in floods, under the sea, on the road, on the beach, and frequenting shopping centres far more than is healthy.

Anyway suffice it to say that everyone apart from me is very excited about Christmas (bah humbug). Eloise has written to Santa requesting a violin, a pink teddy bear and a Nintendo DS.

Will she be disappointed or satisfied? Will we make it through the day in one piece? Will we need a surgeon with a needle and thread? Only time can tell.

Dec 9, 2010

Slimms Arrive. Heavens Open. End of School.

Impressions of Rain The senior Slimms arrived on Tuesday night.

I had Eloise almost asleep by the time they got here, after 8 o'clock, but they soon had her awake again and needless to say as usual I had to drag her out of bed at 8 o'clock in the morning.

I had to take the car in for a service, so after Eloise was delivered to school I toddled off up to the garage leaving the Slimms with a small task list, one point of which they achieved before falling asleep.

While the car was at the garage I went and saw a film. Skyline. It was crap.

I walked Matilda whilst Eloise was swimming. The heavens opened.

Today I have forced them to walk around Mount Coot-tha and we have taken it pretty easy apart from that.

It was Eloise's last day at school and her class arrangements for next year have been posted. Only one Prep D kid will be in 1A next year so there will be lots of new people for her to meet.

The day was devoted, for her, to a break up party so we took in half a loaf of Fairy Bread (that's the Aussie Treat where bread is spread with butter then covered in sprinkles and served up as a nutritious snack). Party food consumed all day meant manic Yoga and argumentative tea-time.

Deep joy.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Dec 6, 2010


Wet Dog Smell Rain rain rain.

It's the Wet Season! And, unlike previous wet seasons here, it is... wet...

Warm and wet mind you, but it's raining intermittently most days, maybe just a little, usually at night. Sometimes a lot, in the day.

The garden has gone mental with the rain then sun giving the green stuff all it needs to multiply. Unbelievable amounts of garden waste awaiting munging in the compost bin.

Walking the dog is like dodging bullets, biking to school is an ongoing risky business.

It's forecast to continue for weeks. That should go down well with the visiting Senior Slimms.

But we've got it easy: storms have inundated parts of New South Wales.

Dec 3, 2010


Pliant We're beginning the build-up to the end of the year.

This means things such as:

- The Prep D End of Year Extravaganze where 23 little kids perform a Christmas play (Not the nativity) and sing songs. Very sweet.
- The Rehearsal for the Dance Concert this Sunday during which I walked the dog in the city for the first time ever.
- Birthday parties coming out of our ears
- Shopping for birthday presents
- Oh, and shopping for Christmas presents

We've got two birthday parties to go to this weekend and Eloise is to appear in two performances of the dance concert. Market tomorrow, although the skies here are grey and rain threatening.

Nov 29, 2010

Bring on the Fairy

Bring on the Fairy Eloise's incisor has been wobbling for months. Ever since she stacked it in the playground and face-butted a wooden platform.

The wobble has increased as time has gone by and for weeks now the tooth has been hanging by a thread. She's been wibbling it with her tongue and twisting it around but it has held on for dear life.

Until this evening, when it finally let go.

What's the going rate for the Tooth Fairy?

Nov 24, 2010

En Famille

Western Window Nicole is back and everything is jolly again, although housework has had to become a priority.

Eloise has a tooth that is on the point of attaining its freedom.

Matilda's foot is healing nicely in the absence of bandages. She is back on walks, on the lead.

All is busy-ish.

Cooking remains repetetive and unoriginal.

We had a parent-teacher interview. Mostly Eloise is doing fine but was criticised mildly for flighty indifference and a tendency to inappropriate (although not in the newly misappropriated sense) helping.

Domestically her flighty indifference (read non-listening) is becoming quite irritating.

Nov 19, 2010

One down for the week

All White In Nicole's absence we've been kind of busy... dance on Monday, tidying on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, yoga on Thursday. A class playground get-together today.

Matilda's foot is sufficiently healed for her to go back out again. I think she was going a bot crazy being cooped up all the time.

It's been warm and humid here. I've been escaping into the mountains and discovering new places.

Missing Mum

Tattoo Poor old Eloise has been missing her Mum.

When she goes to bed, after books have been read and fruit eaten and Milo drunk and songs sung, generally she knocks around for a while reading more books and missing around.

Yesterday when she woke up in the morning she was sporting biro tattoos. She's obviously been knocking around with teenagers.

When I asked her what the tattoos were of, she said they were of Mum (on her arm), and Isla (on her leg).

Nov 15, 2010

Blessed Are the Cakemakers

Blessed Are the Cakemakers Nicole has gone away again on business, this time to Melbourne to do something shifty with the Cochrane people, and she'll be away for a week.

All this is a little distressing for Eloise, and she was a bit upset yesterday.

I tried to cheer her up with an offer of playground fun, but instead she said she wanted to make some cupcakes.

So we went off and made a list of the things we needed, went shopping, and when we returned home, she went next door to play with Ben and Mikey.

After I'd extricated her from that, we made the cakes. They were chocolate cupcakes with a ganache topping.

They were reasonably disastrous.

Nov 14, 2010

Multiple Laceration

Inanimus No sooner are the stitches out and Matilda back in full wicked effect, than does she herself another mischief.

This time she has trodden on something sharp and lacerated the pad of one of her paws.

Imagine the sinking of my heart when she returned to me after a two-minute sojourn leaving a monopad trail of blood in her wake.

A short trip to the vet to fetch bandage resulted in the announcement that she needed a visit so that they could demonstrate bandaging technique.

Needless to say a sales attempt was made for general anaesthetic and stitching, but I resisted that opting for natural healing processes supported by bandages.

She has bitten and/or licked and/or teased off four bandages in the three days since then so Nature, it's Over to You.

Nov 5, 2010

Unholy Trinity

Unholy Trinity Glorious.


Hallowe'en A couple of weeks ago Eloise was introduced to the concept of fancy dress when one of her little chums had a birthday party with a Hawaiian theme.

It was a trial attempting to get across the concept of fancy dress parties. Not that she's doesn't like dressing up and all that, but the mental leap to dressing up as a particular thing and everybody doing it and the whole turning up with normal clothes when everybody else is... you've got to love peer pressure by proxy haven't you.

Anyway this weekend, you may have noticed, if it hasn't been banned where you live - which of course it should - was Hallowe'en and fancy dress once again was in order.

We were invited to a friend's house for a party, which neatly got us out of the potentially execrable school disco.

This meant shopping for Hallowe'en stuff. I'm sure you can imagine the ructions.

Nicole had procured some skeleton costumes for herself and me, easy peasy. Eloise had decided to go as a witch, A Good Witch. A Pink Good Witch. Her requirements were certainly atomic and testable.

And unmeetable.

Still in the end it was all good, and a she got a pink wig and a red hat and a red cape. There was lots of kids at the party, all older than her but she held her own excellently. We were treated to the spectacle of grown women facebooking each other on their iphones.

But the garden graveyard, huge spider-webs and other assorted paraphernalia with which the house was bedecked were very impressive.

The next day rather than trick-or-treating Jessica's parents had a ToT station at the front of their house. We hung out there for a while, admiring the enormous pumpkin.

Next year we'll cover off Hallowe'en from the philosophical and historical perspectives, I expect.


Sundown Road I slept the sleep of the untroubled soul in the back of the Ute punctuated every three to seven seconds by the tocking of an unseen frog somewhere down by the waterhole.

The stream trickled away all night, white noise competing against the crackling of the fire.

It was cold.

My mobile phone, switched off, nevertheless sang out its techno alarm at 4.30am, swiftly silenced, and I awoke around the six o'clock mark, crawling out to find Will tending the burgeoning fire ready for baked beans and leftover snausages.

The plan was to go into uncharted territory the next day. We embarked on the 4-wheel drive from hell in Sundown National Park, bouncing over the most uneven stony ground imaginable, to arrive at a camping ground where there wasn't anything much then attempting to drive down to a lookout point only to find we'd been following the instructions from the wrong place and the lookout point as where we had been. Hmmm.

It was kind of fun, in a masochistic way.

We cut our losses and exited, opting instead to take a drive through deepest darkest New South Wales whilst rain clouds roiled around us.

We climbed down to the Rocky River on the slippery rocks, with some trepidation.

We saw a storm brewing over the Border Ranges and followed it under greying skies. Up in Brisbane it produced 35mm of rain in 20 minutes or something but we didn't see any of that. In Rathdowney the sun broke through.

We made it back around seven o'clock. Knackered.

Oct 31, 2010

Down Again

Girraween Flower So we climbed down again and hopped into the trusty Utility to find ourselves a place to settle down for the night.

A 4WD track climbs up the back side of the park and around the back. We ambled along there past kangaroos and wallabies having their evening saunter before arriving at Racecourse Creek and settling down next to a peaceful waterhole and the sun was soon disappearing behind the battlements of the valley leaving us to collect the plentiful firewood, make ourselves some serious canned soup with sausage sandwiches, and drink our respective beverages of choice in a fugue of fragrant smoke.

Down and Up

Girraween Panorama It had taken us an hour, maybe a bit longer to mount the Pyramid.

It took about twenty minutes to come back down again.

We broke out the peanut butter, and the honey, and the bread.

We drank coffee from plastic wine glasses. Someone had forgotten the cups.

We climbed through the forest on the other side of the valley to Castle Rock, which wasn't as difficult a climb, though it still was quite steep... and getting a bit warm. The forest was haunted by big rocks, and wildflowers. The big rocks are quite spooky.

Will identified the most realistic rock we had seen so far. After all, the Pyramid isn't a Pyramid, Castle Rock doesn't look like a Castle and the Sphinx is a bit of a stretch too, not to mention Turtle Rock, which doesn't look like a turtle either. However Bumcrack Rock on the path to Castle Rock is a shoe-in.

After a deeply knackering climb to the top of Castle Rock we once again basked on the summit with views across the valley. We looked across at the Sphinx and though maybe it was best appreciated from a distance.

It was three on the afternoon, after all. We had a campsite to find and food to prepare.


Balancing Rocks The alarm clock went off at 4.30am.

Autonomically the inclination was to return to slumber but semi-concious reflex took over and instead I packed, whilst simultaneously cooking toast and making coffee.

When Will turned up at 5, he informed me in a good-news bad-news type way that his license had expired and that therefore I would be doing the on-road driving. That served as both the good and the bad news. We set off for Girraween.

At 9am or so after a stop-off at Warwick for croissants we arrived at Girraween and paid for our camping permit and all that before sitting down to a coffee in the valley.

The plan was to climb the Pyramid first off then we'd see how we went and maybe go for Castle Rock in the afternoon.

Girraween is a landscape that is defined by granite. It's a rugged place (though strangely no carpets) that is dotted by huge granite domes on top of which site huge granite boulders. Sometimes there are more boulders sitting on top of those boulders.

The elements have worked their magic over millions of years and lichens have eaten their way through stone until some of the boulders are apparently very finely balanced on top of one another.

And the hills are hellish steep.

Still not to be overawed by silly things like steepness, we climbed through the forested hills till we broke the tree-line then climbed the granite dome of the Pyramid. We looked at it across the way and a little eye-protraction said thirty degrees of protracted inclination, inclining us towards slow, careful progress with shoes pointed up the hill.

The Pyramid used to be called the Dome and this seems a better name really, since it isn't a Pyramid... it's a dome. A rocky bubole that penetrates from the green landscape and surges up for a considerable scramble before flattening out to reveal a crown of titan rocks, the most striking and famous of which stands on a tiny little foot and looks for all the world as though it's about to fall over.

The rock on that side of the dome falls away precipitously and slightly gut-wrenchingly into a valley. On the other side is the Second Pyramid.

We hung around at the top of the Pyramid taking in the expansive valley around us.

Oct 26, 2010

Curse Words

Onalog Nicole has returned in one piece and it's jolly nice to have her back.

Eloise is becoming quite foul-mouthed, in an amusingly Aussie kind of way.

She dropped something earlier on in the bathroom. Her voice floating up the hall "Bugger!"

Then shortly afterwards "Pardon my French."


It should be noted that Bugger isn't a swear word here, though of course we don't actually encourage her to use it. Other than by pressing our lips together to suppress our laughter.

Tomorrow I'm off on a little jaunt to the Granite Belt. I'll be sleeping in the back of a Ute. Should be fun. Back Thursday, fingers crossed.


Ngungun Rain.

Oct 21, 2010


Coonowrin Nicole has been away for a few days on a conference to New Zealand, which was nice for her, but of course we missed her.

She left me to deal with the Birthday Party at Stafford Skate City, which of course was dead easy. I went roller-skating. Eloise was less interested in having me help her than other more experienced practitioners, which was fine by me.

I ferried her out to the middle of the rink for the Birdie Dance. I drew the line at dancing. It would have been too, um, dangerous. Seriously.

That was Saturday... after dropping Nicole off at the Airport we'd been to the market in the morning and seen some friends there who live just around the corner. We bagged an invitation to use their swimming pool.

So on Sunday in the afternoon we toddled around there and Eloise had a swim for about thirty seconds in the frigid waters. After that much play was had and we ended up being invited to supper, so that turned out to be a little more major than expected.

On Monday Eloise had the day off school for a pupil-free day so we went for our constitutional up to Mount Coot-tha and did walk number two which works its way past a pond, up the side of a creek before hanging a right over a hill, round the top and back down.

It was round the top that Matilda went missing; we called her for a while but no answer so, having a five-year-old in tow and the priority being on progress, we pressed on.

After a while Matilda caught up, and starting walking along with us. That's pretty suspicious behaviour. She seemed to be limping a bit too, so I thought she's probably twisted her ankle or something, and didn't think too much of it.

After a while she was still with us, and my curiosity got the better of me. I checked that leg out and there were no apparent problems. When I checked a little bit higher up I noticed a little blood on my hand so we looked underneath her torso to be confronted by the mother of all gashes, the subcutaneous fat red and bursting out from the flensed skin, pulled an inch wide and probably five inches long.

So quickly down the mountain, Eloise commendably cool in the crisis, and quickly to the vet, who as it happens is having surgery monday anyway and can get her in within half and hour.

And Matilda picked up at six o'clock, dazed, confused, stitched up, and on no-walking orders with various parts of her body shaved and her chest looking like a furry Frankenstein's monster.

On Tuesday Eloise was back at school for Wilston State School's 90th birthday. I went along for the morning celebration and heard her/them sing the song they've been practicing for for ages. Think Wind Beneath Your Wings. It wasn't that ghastly thing, but it was in the ballpark.

On Wednesday, unencumbered by such commitments, I drove up to the Glass House Mountains and climbed Mount Ngungun. It was steep, but dry.

From the top I saw the approach of rain. I descended, hastily.

Mount Glorious Rainforest

Maiala Rainforest With Eloise back at school, dog-walking leaves just a few hours for useful day-time activity, enough time for a drive up into the mountains, a quick stomp around the rainforest and a very careful drive back down again.

The paths around the Maiala rainforest were damp and several little streams had to be forded, stepping tentatively around woody debris coming down with the wash.

The damp ground had been loosening its grip and several trees had overcome its resistance and come crashing down. Some titans had fallen and taken some others with them.

On the way back the clouds came over the hill and a faint mist started to drift over the forest.

Clear Mountain Water

Clear Mountain Water In further rain-chasing activity one day I visited Cedar Creek for half an hour or so. The road there had just re-opened after the flood waters receded and the creek was in full flow with the waters coming down from the rainforests of Mount Glorious.

Oct 16, 2010

Rain Rain Rain

Wivenhoe Spillway Since our sojourn to the tropics it seems like it's been nothing but rain rain rain.

It can't have been that bad really since we've cycled to school every day, but we haven't seen so much sunshine.

A couple of weekends ago Eloise and I were out walking when the heavens opened. Eloise had had the foresight to bring an umbrella, so she was alright, Jack, but I relied on my Northern Territory hat and was therefore soaked to the skin.

Last weekend it absolutely bucketed down and we had around 50mm in a day, causing flooding and general consternation. Whereasa couple of years ago the reservoirs were in danger of falling below 20% full, now they are at 100%.

In fact at Wivenhoe Dam, the largest of Brisbane's reservoirs there was so much water that the floodgates were opened for the first time in over ten years, so I went up and had a look at the epic amounts of water being released.

For a couple of days the woods were awash and normally quiescent streams transformed into rushing torrents.

A few days later and most of water has gone back to the sea.

Oct 8, 2010


Artist Fine plans we had for our final day until we realised that we didn't have time to realise any of them, what with the car having to be back by 3pm.

In fact, after we'd had our customary morning swim and gotten our, um, selves together, we were hard-pressed to make it back to Darwin in time. It turned out to be very much further than we thought....

However due to some inspired guesswork by Nicole we managed to return the truck with everything ship shape.

With our flight departing at ridiculous o'clock am we had serious time to kill so we went and visited Mindil Beach and the market there for the eating of international foods, the counting of backpackers and so on and so forth, for many hours until the sunset.

Eloise tried her hand at stock-whip trickery and inviegled her way into the tent of an Aboriginal Artist then proceeded to follow her around.

Eventually our time was up and we headed for the airport.

Oct 7, 2010

Gunlom Plunge Pool

Gunlom Plunge Pool Here is the pool in the morning, a hundred metre walk from our tent. Beautifully warm, quiet, peaceful.

Except the fish that bite your ankles.

Oh, and we found an aquatic snake thingy in the rocks that poked its head out for a while.

And there was a crocodile bait there... untouched.

Family Snapshot

Gunlom Matt from Melbourne kindly pointed my camera at us and insisted on taking a photo.

This is the one where I wasn't scratching me ear and we were all actually looking in the direction of the camera.


Gunlom Rockpool In the morning we got up for an early mid-morning swim at the rockpool which was lovely: no-one else was there and I swam out across the pool into the shade underneath the cliffs with the waterfall gushing away nearby until I floated into something which gave me the fright of my life until I realised it was a pandanus frond.

At the shop afterwards buying ice cream we met a family from Melbourne who were spending a year traveling around Australia. They were going to a Park-organised Cultural Activity and we went over to join them doing some pandanus-weaving.

We made little bracelets from the palm fronds which was quite difficult... the fronds had to be stripped to make string and stuffing, very fiddly.

We thought it would take an hour or two but it ended up taking most of the day which was entertaining but meant that the 4 wheel driving got canned.

Instead we climbed up to the top of the waterfall where there were more rockpools to swim in.

We climbed further up and went for a swim in a larger pool with the Melbournians. The pool gave way to a gorge as we swam upstream, Eloise with arms around my neck.

The gorge further narrowed and we ended up in an amazing gorge with water rushing over the wall at the top end with a multitude of tiny frogs basking in the cool spray.

We climbed down again as the sun set and made it down just as it was getting dark.

Good sleeping that night.

Oct 6, 2010

The Road to Gunlom

Dust on the Road to Gunlom We ummed and ahhed a while over what we should do with our last couple of days.

It seemed like there were some nice lagoons near Cooinda but we didn't much fancy camping there with the whole mozzie thing, and we fancied a bit more 4WD action (Nicole did very well driving back, I managed not to bite any nails).

We also wanted to actually stay somewhere for more than a day, so we stopped off in Cooinda for petrol and an ice cream and cash (although I forgot that minor detail) and headed down another fearfully corrugated dirt road to Gunlom, with the idea of staying there and the next day 4-wheeling it to a place called Gimbat.

We got to Gunlom in the late afternoon and after pitching the tent went looking for the local croc-free billabong.

Which turned out to be just a couple of hundred metres away from our campsite... and it was rather amazing: a rock-lined lake beneath another one of those imperious cliffs over which spilled a waterfall, its spray echoing around the cliffs which lit up red us the sun went down.

And with the full moon hidden behind the cliffs the night sky was quite something.

Twin Falls Gorge

Twin Falls Gorge After a spot of food and a trip to the highest toilet ever - both in terms of altitude (it was on stilts) and odour (somebody had left the toilet seat up on the composting toilet) we set off for the falls.

A short walk took us to a little marquee next to a boat on the river. The crocodile signs loomed large.

Not having the right change to pay the ferryman, we negotiated then boarded the ferry. Just before we left the previously stranded rescue-ees of inappropriate 4x4 fame turned up, having managed to cadge a lift.

The boat headed upriver into a spectacular gorge: the cliff faces towered high above and the water looked very inviting until you saw the croc traps which lined the shore. Under the surface were huge boulders, clearly visible in the clear water. Our pilot managed to steer a sinuous course between them, finally reaching a far shore as Eloise handed around snacks to all aboard.

We disembarked then continued up the gorge on what could be described less as a walk than as a scramble, sometimes along sandstone ledges that were only centimetres wide. Over crocodile-infested rock pools. Really. No, not really.

At the top of the gorge was a little beach surrounded by humungous cliffs over which trickled the last gasps of the waterfalls.

A jetty reached out into the water to give us the perfect view. Oh, hang on, actually it was a crocodile trap.

Oct 4, 2010

Four Wheel Driving

Onward There was a semi-palpable sense of excitement, nay dread in the air the next morning as we girded our loins for the adventure ahead.

We had set our sights on Twin Falls Gorge which lay down the four-wheel-drive-only track we had glimpsed the previous day.

With our four wheel drive would we conquer the long dark road that stretched out on the map, the map which warned us not to attempt such a feat without a satellite phone with which to call in the Emergency Services?

Or with our four wheel drive would we become stranded in some unknown country with no satellite phone with which to admit ignominious defeat?

Well, we thought, bugger it. What's the point in having hired said beast if we weren't prepared to give it a go.

We set off down the track which soon turned into an area of dirt between the low forests of gum and termite hills as it wound its way toward the distant cliffs to which we assumed we were headed.

Before long we happened upon a poor lost soul walking up the track towards us. We stopped and bade him hello, and his plaintive call for help was a little worrying.

He was an Englishman who had been told that his vehicle wouldn't have trouble making it down the track but he needed help. His 4x4 was completely stuck with his friends waiting with it and could we help him?

We had no towing equipment so the sorry answer was no, so we topped up his bottle with water and left him walking back to the campsite to get help.

The track degraded into powdery dust which the tank laboured through reasonably effortlessly through we didn't get much out of second gear.

Before long we came to a section where the track split into two dauntingly dust-filled gashes in the earth. In the middle gash lay a van; a Wicked Camper as it happens; stranded like some beached whale.

The girls left behind were a little agitated and we stopped to let them know what was happening. Before long the campsite guy came along so we left them to it and gunned it down the other gash... no worries, except at the end where it looked like we might run out of speed, but the trusty Landcruiser saw us through.

The track wound sinuously across the countryside, the dirt changing from grey to yellow to red and back to grey. We learned that the grey stuff was the stuff to watch out for, powdery and yielding.

It went on for many miles across dried out streambeds before we arrived at a day use area and were then confronted by a river to cross with just a few posts to steer between.

So nerves steeled we slid the truck into the river, the water rising up around us, pushing it in front like a... well like a big car going through quite deep water. It was terribly exciting.

And then a few minutes later we arrived at Twin Falls Gorge. Intact.

Hurrah for us! There was a semi-palpable sense of relief.

Until we decided that Nicole should drive back.

Oct 2, 2010

Rocks and Corrugations

Nourlangie So we skipped away from the border, and went down to the township of Jabiru for shopping (biscuits) and petrol.

Nothing much at Jabiru: a lacklustre shopping centre seemed to about cover it, so we switched onto the Kakadu Highway and headed towards Jim Jim Falls.

We were making good time so we took a little detour into stone country to see Nourlangie Rock and the Anbangbang Rock Art Gallery.

This turned into another hot hike but soon we found ourselves nestled amongst the huge sandstone rocks so the shade and the channeled breezes actually made it pretty comfortable.

The rock art featured mysterious characters such as the Lightning Man who kind of captured Eloise's imagination for a while.

We went up to have a look from a viewpoint and by the time we got back to the All-Terrain Armoured Transport we realised we'd kind of blown our schedule a little and needed to chip off with some rapidity.

So down the Kakadu Highway again until the Jim Jim turnoff where we embarked on a 50km drive down a gravel road, which was heavily corrugated and quite a soporific drive.

Corrugations occur in roads because of the hysteresis in automobile suspension. The wheels hit a bump and the suspension springs absorb the shock but the wheel keeps wobbling up and down for a while. Enough cars, and these wobbles make further bumps in the road. And the bumps cause further bumps, and the road becomes one long crenelation.

It's noisy and annoying.

Still we made it to the campsite before dusk started to gather, nestled in a rather magnificent sandstone valley fringed by cliffs on either side.

The road ran out and turned into a track.

We pitched the tent hammering the pegs in with the rock we'd remembered to pack, gathered firewood, cursed the flies, had tea, watched it get dark while reciting Each Peach Pear Plum.

No mosquitoes. Fantastic.

Sep 30, 2010


Touristique Being near to the East Alligator River, as we walked back to the truck the mozzies started to come out.

By the time we made it to the campsites we were in the midst of a buzz of flies and mosquitoes and midges.

The flies went to bed after we started to get ready for supper, but the biters stayed out and I got an early night.

Nicole elected to tend her fire. Whoops. She was bitten to buggery in the cloud of insects in the hot night air.

The next day were up bright and not that early and headed down to the boat ramp to get on a cruise - only to be told that we needed to book beforehand.

We must have looked sufficiently penitent, miffed and generally inconvenienced because the operators relented and let us on.

And up the East Alligator River we went, spotted crocodiles, of which there were many. But they were all inactive. Apparently they only go fishing at certain tides. But there were some pretty big buggers.

We hopped out of the boat at an Abiriginal Site on the other side of the river, setting foot in Arnhem Land, the Forbidden Zone... by god it was hot.... and got a demonstration of aboriginal spearcraft.

Eloise insisted on collecting the spears, and attempting however inadvertently to poke the eyes out of people stood behind her.

Then back to camp to disassemble and move on to the next fun activity....

Sep 29, 2010

Ubirr and the Need For Water

Rain Over Arnhem Land On our second day we though we'd head up to the border of Arnhem Land.

Quite a long drive along roads where the flood depth signs were there aplenty. The map showed that the plains to our left would be lakes in the wet season. On our right the landscape broke out into majestic sandstone cliffs.

Arnhem Land is Aboriginal Land, off-limits to white folks without a permit, and actually a pretty vast expanse of land. On its border is a little shop, a river with boat tours and a road to a site called Ubirr which boasts panoramic views and Aboriginal Art.

We pitched up at the almost-deserted campsite and picked ourselves a suitable spot in the middle of a forest near a disconcerting promontary of sandstone.

Once the tent was pitched and the flies acclimatised to, we set off in search of further adventure.

Eloise was v. keen to go boating so we went and checked that out, but had missed the last one of the day. We made a note to check back tomorrow and proceeded to Ubirr.

It was belting hot, guessing the mid-thirties, so hats were worn as we set off and before long Eloise announced that actually she needed the toilet so around we turned to perform that function.

Before long we'd set off again and not long after that we'd miraculously drunk half our water.

We were at our second rock art site: Aboriginal naive, dated to around 5,000 years old - when Eloise took a dive and grazed a knee.

Just around the corner though we were treated to the sight of a one-legged park ranger bearing medical supplies. He was a very nice bloke and after raising eyebrows at our hydration policy he gave us some water, with which we proceeded to climb the rocks looking at further rock art which improved as we went round and became actually quite remarkable.

We headed back to the truck to top up our water bottles and got back to the rock for some ranger talks and sunset over the plains.

Sep 28, 2010


Camping Next day we dropped Matilda off at the Doggie Hotel and set off in search of adventure.

We've had a trip booked to the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory for a while.

Bummer that hairyplanes fly from Brisbane to Darwin but once a day, and that's at silly o'clock.

So we hopped on a plane at 7pm and we were off. Eloise is becoming quite the frequent flyer and just takes it all in her strides.

Landed in Darwin at one in the morning (I think) and stomped across the airport to the hotel to collapse for a few hours.

Then across town to grab the 4WD before a very tentative drive East in the Landcruiser, down the Stuart Highway then the Arnhem Highway and to the edge of Kakadu National Park.

The heat was pretty intense. There are two seasons up there, Dry and Wet. We were there towards the tail end of the Dry.

When the Wet arrives, well the name says it all doesn't it? Except that roads get blocked and vast tracts of land flooded. Very Wet. But not for a few weeks yet.

Kakadu is famous for being a huge expanse of unspoilt National Park and as we headed into it, we started to appreciate the differences with Queensland. The trees are much shorter, and interspersed with palms. The ground is red, and rocky. The rivers are wide, or dry.

And here be monsters... the waterways are populated with crocodiles.

So when we left the highway and made our way to Impromptu Campsite #1 at the attractively named Two Mile Hole, we were a little wary as we pitched our tent a little way from the river, but the wariness was soon replaced by mile irritation as we found we were short of a mallet in our camping kit.

We raised our eyebrows a little at the kids fishing by the riverside, but when the nearby campers buzzed up in their tinny and hopped out with a few Barramundi to sling on the barbie, well we thought what a hardy bunch as we tucked into our Hippy Food then got an early night.

Sep 19, 2010

A Weekend Visitation

Elementary Nicole's cousin Josie has come to stay for the weekend.

She arrived early yesterday morning and it was a surprise for Eloise though she took it in her stride after dragging herself out of her pit at nine o'clock or so. She crept up behind her and greeted her with a very large "Boo!"

We went to the market in the morning as usual for our shopping and coffee then in the afternoon we went up to Mooloolaba and walked the dog on the rocks then had a very nice barbie accompanied by the largest $3 chips I've seen.

Eloise fell asleep in the car on the way back... then woke up just as we were getting home, quite surprised to have managed to drive home so quickly.

This was a harbinger of doom as she then proceeded to fail to fall asleep until she'd moved into our bed, waited until we'd gone to bed, and wriggled around for another half an hour.

She then wet the bed, so I woke up in a monster wet patch.


Today the weather was a bit grim, overcast with light rain, so we went down to South Bank for the Valentino Retrospective and looked at lots of very expensive dresses.

Then we had a look around the Douglas Kirkland exhibition with lots of photos of famous people.

Very cultural, quite entertaining.

Sep 16, 2010

The Body Left Behind

Drowned Other than the off-road-tastic experience I can't profess to any remarkable events over the weekend.

I went to the market, walked the dog, jiggled with music, watched some telly, took some photos, missed some sunsets, explored Deception Bay.

Pretty non-productive really. And a little lonely. But, cost-effective.

By all accounts the family had good travel and a nice time in the two days they were in sunny Angleterre. They were back on Tuesday. Which was nice.

Of course I pass my heart-felt congratulations to the new Mr and Mrs Slimm.


Australians Wouldn't Give a 4X4 for Anything Else So it transpired that a certain somebody had failed to read "PM" and no amount of comparing and contrasting the various documentation would allow her to elude her mistake.

So we went to the beach, built a mega-sandcastle and got them to the airport twelve hours later to catch their real flight.

And they were gone.

Leaving me and the dawg.

I'd previously arranged Friday activities... we have a holiday coming up, which is going to involve rugged four-by-fouring, and I don't mean carpentry.

So I'd requested an off-roading lesson from Will and Friday was the day. And off we went on a rainy, misty morning to Mount Mee State Forest where we drove around for six hours up hill and down slippery precipice, half the time scared witless, the other half just scared half-witless.

The trick with the old four-by-fouring is to always leave the car in gear, never release the clutch and let the machine deal with things whilst driving very carefully!

And an amazing machine that ute is. Truly, amazing. It clung ferociously to the ground and even when the ground was too slippery to cling ferociously to, it slid in an apparently intelligent way - that is in the ruts and tracks of the previous nutters.

There was a point, when it started raining and the clay under-wheel became distressingly slippery that my esteemed teacher thought that, as we descended down a ludicrously steep track we might not make it up the other side.

But we did.

Sep 10, 2010

Left to my own devices

Procession Nicole's brother Chris is getting married to Nicky who you'll of course remember from previously.

Without going into too many details, Nicky's an Aussie and her visa was due to expire, so wedding bells have been ringing. Obviously that's not the only reason and furthermore I wouldn't presume to portray their union as anything other than the consummation and proclamation of their undying love that it so clearly is.

You're probably thinking I'm being sarcastic. But no.

Nicole was umming and ahhing.... could she get the time off work at such short notice, could she justify flying half way round the world just for a couple of days, but could she really not be there when ickle Chris tied the knot?

On Wednesday her heart got the better of her head. I said she should go, or else she'd regret forever that she hadn't.... so she booked the flights and on Thursday morning I gave her and Eloise a lift to the airport.

She got the times wrong for her aeroplane, didn't she, the plonker.

Sep 5, 2010

Father's Day

Science It's Father's Day today in Australia. No fuss. I raised a bit of an eyebrow - or would have if I could have - when Nicole and Eloise realised that they'd completely forgotten.

They should have remembered really because there was a big, well little, Father's Day thing on at school on Thursday where the Dads went along to have songs sung to them and poetry read and to indulge in tower-building competitions wearing cardboard ties, which was nice... but they didn't.

You might think I'm sounding sour grapes but I'm not, I really couldn't give a monkeys. Eloise and I had a nice day walking the dog and we went to the Science Museum in the afternoon and had lots of fun.

Yesterday was Riverfire and turned into a Public Transport Catastrophe. Our plan was to catch a bus from the shiny new Hospital Bus Interchange but as it turned out the quite infrequent buses were full and wouldn't let anyone on, so we engaged a plan B and drove down to New Farm, scored a lucky parking space and watched from atop the cliffs as the F-111s screamed overhead dumping fuel as they went.

I can venture without fear of too much hyperbolae that it was indeed an awesome sight as the jet plane roared up the river apparently chased by the brightest torch you can possible imagine with the yellow light passing over the towers of the city and the shadows chasing around them.

Aug 30, 2010

Book Week

Happy Bunny After the Planetarium last week (most excellent success, vomiting aside (nothing to do with us, guv)) we had the good luck to be offered some material and sewing machine time round at little Liam's house.

Why? I hear you ask.

Well it was Book Week and as part of that, no doubt to celebrate everything literary, the kids were to go to school dressed as their favourite book character.

Eloise has selected Lettice, the little rabbit who gets to be flower girl at her dance teacher's wedding. You can see how that might push her buttons.

So for this project rabbit ears were required.

And that is the Why. Material and sewing machine time for to make Rabbit Ears.

Eloise got to learn how to cut material and work a sewing machine which was obviously very entertaining for her.

It all went a little wrong when we pitched up at school though; I think she was a bit taken aback by all the fancy dress and by the perplexed looks she got when she said she was Lettice, the little rabbit who gets to be flower girl at her dance teacher's wedding; of course no-one knew who that was, it not being a popular book, so Lettice was immediately dropped and I was sent home with the basket while she concocted a fallback story.

Aug 27, 2010


For Whom the Tolls Beep While Nicole and Eloise went to have their hair cut yesterday, I went for a wander around the river, crossing it on the Go-Between Bridge which opened a little while ago.

I'd thought that I'd taken ages but when I pitched up at the hairdressers (after two hours) I found that Nicole was still being operated on so Eloise and I went for a walk; Eloise had eaten nothing but cookies and marshmallows and was climbing the walls as well as sneaking up behind hairdressers and goosing them.... not good.

Aug 21, 2010

Election Day

ENG Today marks the zenith of the masochistic boredom-cum-irritation-fest of the Australian Election, where the Labor party ("They're the party that helps us have babies" - Eloise) finds itself, having thrown popularity and momentum to the wind in a spectacular display of political ineptitude, in a close-run battle with the Liberal Party, a carbon-copy of the Tories, except even more nasty.

Nastiness has been their watchword and approach, and as with advertising, a message repeated ad nauseam will stick no matter its content seems to have taken root.

And as Labor seem incapable of responding to the negativity in a positive way, the whole thing has descended into name-calling, history-re-writing and the perpetuation of bogus accusations made from opposition with the media right in there, stirring things up and trying to make a drama out of no crisis.

At least we are free from the obligation to vote. I'd be voting green as there's not much to separate the other two crowds, who have raced for the centre (read right) and frankly have no principles left that couldn't easily fall by the wayside in the quest for Power.

So it's been pretty unpleasant and yet at the same time if not quite fascinating in an absorbing way, then fascinating in a tawdry tabloid way.

As for us, we are getting back to the old routine, minus one, and returning to a new kind of normal.

Matilda seems OK. She sneaked into Paul and Carol's house today and ate their supper which was sitting on the side whilst they were chatting outside. Nicole was mortified.

Food security. A serious political issue.

Aug 13, 2010

It's a Dog's Death

It's a Dog's Death It must be strange to be a dog in a dog's life. Everything's routine and you just kind of go along with things, hoping that the next car ride will end in fun and/or food or that food will be arriving soon or that the people will be back soon.

Like Stockholm Syndrome: you're effectively a prisoner but capitulate to it and identify with your captor to the point of utterly trusting love.

Last night Tiny didn't want to go to bed. She sniffed it and didn't like what she sensed.

This morning she couldn't get out of bed. She just didn't seem to want to move.

So after having discussed we made the appointment with the vet. With her time ticking away, I could only look at her and reflect on a dog's place in things and the trust it places in its keepers.

Eighty minutes left.

And when Nicole waves chicken under her nose as she lies there and she suddenly perks up, gets up, and eats her breakfast of course doubt resurfaces as to whether it really is time.

And when Eloise gives her her last cuddle and says goodbye we wipe away a tear and then walk away to school.

Thirty minutes left.

She's lying on the sofa, not really sleeping, but breathing heavily and her heart beating hard inside her, our hearts heavy. Her head held just so so the super-enlarged glands don't constrict her wind pipe.

We take her out to the car and Matilda is looking through the gate as we lift her into the boot.

Ten minutes.

And as she looks around the vet's place, not really taking things in, and follows the proffered treat into the anteroom and the vet agrees that yes it was a good decision and she really wasn't in great shape I wonder at the power of life and death.

Five minutes.

Lifting her up onto the table she yields and she sits when asked and lays down and her ears are perky like wingnuts like they were when she was young as her leg is swabbed.

One minute.

And stroking her gently, as the needle goes in and she is gently laid on her side, we feel her breathing subside and she just looks straight ahead and I look her in the eye and we cry.

And she looks just the same, as though she was resting, until the vet picks her up and she flops lifelessly and he takes her into the back room and she was gone.

Those Poor Benighted Chickens

Ekka Chick Abuse ... to suffer so at the hands of gleeful children

New Life at the Ekka

Metal Mother Before we move onto the terminal blog entry, a little light relief.

It's Ekka week, which explains the coughs and splutters and general chill that's around at the moment.

Ekka, you may or may not recall, is the affectionate Queensland name for the Agricultural Show we all love to hate to love, the Royal Queensland Show or Royal Queensland Exhibition.

We go every year - at the moment - and marvel at the, how to put it, spectrum of humanity on display as the hundreds of thousands congregate to celebrate all that's Agricultural. Well OK, they congregate to drink beer and go on fair ground rides, but let's be charitable.

Our route round the Ekka this year started off at the Big Oval Stadium Thingy where we celebrated all that's Agricultural by watching a sheep dog going through a trial.

Then we wandered through the sheds of animals, petting things - chickens especially. Poor buggers.

There were sheep and calves and goats and ducks and chicks and all manner of furry four-legged entertainment amongst which swarmed (rather unsteadily) young two-legged devils with cups of food.

I lost Nicole and Eloise temporarily in the dog-and-cat pavilion but found them again after a while in the chickens-in-cages pavilion before exiting to find the Science pavilion by way of the Dagwood Dog stall - hooray! for Nicole, who had to eat the... thing.

The science pavilion was entertaining though and at the QIMR stand Eloise donned a white coat, goggles and hairnet to experiment earnestly, informatively and potentially dangerously with food colouring before topically inspecting cancerous tumour cells beneath a microscope with a scientist who couldn't quite make it down to her educational level.

We then had the pleasure of watching some Singing Females who sang.

It didn't seem like it could be too long before the Showbag Pavilion exerted its ugly pull on us, but we managed to fit in the Ekka Emporium Pavilion where the spending started, and the Woolworths Fresh Food is Good Honest pavilion where we drank coffee and wine but didn't eat fresh food because we were full of, how can I put it, um, junk.

But then we confronted the inevitable and got the Pony Princess showbag in the Heaving Throng before commencing the bribery for an Early Exit because the grown-ups were knackered. The child was knackered too but wouldn't admit it: she was gung-ho for staying for the fireworks.

Sideshow Alley netted us a ride on some dodgems; an eternity spent in the Maze of Mirrors and Eloise a go on the Bungee Ropes. Then we called in ground support and were quite literally out of there.

And that was it for another year.


Omega+Alpha As time plods on it's becoming increasingly clear that Tiny's decline is heading towards its inevitable conclusion.

Her glands are enormous; new swelling are coming up on her legs; her back legs have fluid leaking internally; her heart is beating hard even when at rest; she is afflicted by a wracking cough.

She doesn't want to get up in the morning and is becoming less interested in eating.

And yet give her half and hour to get used to the idea of being semi-awake and she tucks into her breakfast and perks up, looking at you to say "well it's that time of day, let's be off then."

And then she'll plod around the forest or the beach or whatever, dutifully putting one foot in front of the other.

But her heart isn't really in it.

So over the past few days we've been thinking and talking about taking her life in our hands and letting her go whilst she still isn't suffering too much, while she still has a little spark left in her.

So here she is, on her last walk.

Aug 10, 2010

Castle Builders

Fortitude We like building sand castles at the beach.

My speciality is buttressed bridges of fine Venetian complexity.

Eloise's speciality is destroying them.

Aug 6, 2010

Cupcake Princess Twinkle Twinkle

Cupcake Princess This is the moniker that Eloise chose for herself after discussion around nicknames. It had to involve royalty, obviously, and started out as cupcake, that being a replacement for Squeaky which she wasn't too enamoured with.

Aug 2, 2010


Time Tiny's decline is becoming marked.

A few days ago the glands in her throat went through an expansion phase and her cough is becoming worse. She is getting quite lethargic, although she perks up considerable coming food time or walk time.

On walks she's trailing by ten metres or so, and though she can keep up the pace, she's just hanging back there and being a bit minimal about everything.

There are night-time temperatures and sometimes a reluctance to go to bed or to get up. I had to carry her from the sofa to bed the other night.

So it won't be long now... we're thinking that when she stops eating or stops wanting to go for a walk, that's when we'll make the decision.

But until that day comes we'll keep her plodding along.