Myself and my dad, Gavin, on the bus on the way out of Hobart... (hopefully better photos to come after the trek!)
Long time no speak! I have returned from Indonesia and am surrounded by thousands of words of mostly jargon, sprawled over four different devices, two note pads and some toilet paper, that I am attempting to piece together in fairly readable English for you. I’ll get there.
In the meantime, my backpack is full of winter gear and I’m off to meet my old man, Gavin, in Tasmania, where we plan to tackle the famed Overland Track from south to north. It will be frighteningly cold, through 78km of breathtaking Tasmanian wilderness, carrying all our own food, rum and gear, sleeping in little wooden huts with other brave souls. And it will be devastatingly cold.
I will be coming from a flat tropical paradise in the cool, dry season, where temperatures rarely stray below 20°C. Gavin, will be coming from Scotland, where he pretty much just climbs mountains in the rain and snow, all of the time. I’m not exaggerating. On his days off hill walking he pretty much just goes to the gym.
In his early sixties, Gavin, or Scotty as he is universally known, hill-walks four times a week, gym on Monday and Wednesday, and has shed 14 kilos over the last five months, turning him into a lean, mean hill-walking machine.
My training has mainly consisted of the gym and long-distance cycling, although this morning I loaded 25 kilos in to my backpack and carted that around the bush for a couple of hours, but Darwin is flatter than a pancake, so I ditched the track and scrambled over the charred remains of large gum trees, felled by a recent bushfire that had swept through the area. After five kilometres, I ditched my pack in my ute, jumped on my bike and cycled 20km home.
The first day of the trek will be my birthday, the 30th of June, hence the bottle of rum. Any excuse will do, this just happens to be a particularly good one. You can do the track in 5 days, but we set aside six nights and seven days to take advantage of some of the excellent side tracks and climbs. We unanimously agreed that Mount Ossa, Tasmania’s highest mountain, should be on our ‘to do’ list. Yet like everything in Tasmania in winter, it is weather permitting. Conditions at the summit can deteriorate rapidly, and cannot be attempted in bad weather.
It also gives us a couple of days spare in case we hit bad weather and are delayed. It is not uncommon, and a 30-minute session on YouTube is enough to throw in an extra pair of long johns and a satellite phone.
We’ve got gaiters and gloves and gas, clothes and cutlery and cameras, blueberries and batteries and beanies, honey and hoodies and head torches. The list is seemingly endless. I can’t wait, I’ll see you on the other side, and you’ll be sure to hear all about it.
The 6 km (4 mile) wide caldera of Mount Tambora, creator of a deep volcanic winter..
Well, I have some news. I am writing a second book!
In a little less than a month, I’ll be packing my pack and heading to Indonesia to trek some of the region’s stunning volcanoes. From Sumbawa to Lombok to Bali to Java, I’ll be taking in Mount Rinjani, Mount Tambora, Mount Ijen, Mount Bromo and Anak Krakatoa. I might even find time to watch some baby turtles hatch on the beaches of Sukamade.
Now if those names don’t mean a thing to you, fear not!
Mount Tambora: Home of the largest eruption in modern recorded human history in 1815. The following year became globally known as ‘the year without summer’, as temperatures plummeted in a severe volcanic winter, and people from all over the world perished. At 2850m (9350ft), Mount Tambora is still a decent climb while the massive, almost perfectly circular caldera spans 6km (4 miles).
Mount Rinjani: Indonesia’s second highest volcano (3726m, 12224ft) dominates the island of Lombok to the east of Bali. It is possible to see all the way to Bali on a clear day, while views of the lake-filled caldera look pretty damn delicious from the piccies! I’ll be teaming up with Arie from Green Rinjani - the leading operator in the region - that make it possible for visitors to plant their own trees on the slopes of the mountain, aiding Indonesia’s reforestation efforts.
Mount Ijen: It’s time to cheat a bit, four-wheel drive style. So, I have hired Ali from Java Eco Tours to Jeep me around East Java to a certain extent. However, the climb of Mount Ijen begins at midnight, and I hope to glimpse the phenomenon ‘blue fire’, where sulphurous fumes ignite on the earth’s surface, forming brilliant, fluorescent trails that appear randomly from vents on the mountainside. Come daylight you can to see hundreds of sulphur miners, who risk life and lungs to carry down loads of up to 100kg (220 pounds) on their backs.
Mount Bromo: Not the highest but certainly the most famous of the many volcanoes that make up the Tengger massif, Mount Bromo sits on a valley floor named the “Sea of Sands”, rising actively out of the earth. Spectacular views are to be had. Flick ‘Mount Bromo’ into Google and click on Images. You’ll see what I mean. Then please come back and finish off this blog!
Anak Krakatoa: Meaning “Child of Krakatoa”, this volcano is like a big, annoying spot that won’t go away. In 1883, its daddy, Krakatoa Senior, erupted with such violence that it was heard 4800km (3000 miles) away, and is widely agreed to have been the loudest sound ever heard by modern man. Barometers around the world recorded the rise in atmospheric pressure from the sound waves four times. This means that the sound from the culminating explosion travelled around the world four complete times. In all directions. That is just mind-blowing. It ruptured people’s eardrums up to 60km (40 miles) away. It has been likened to standing next to a jet engine at full throttle without hearing protection. Four terrifying explosions launched four unthinkably large tsunamis at the West Java and South Sumatran coastlines. The final explosion blew Krakatoa into oblivion, propelling a wall of water so large that it destroyed solid Dutch-built structures at 41 metres (135 feet) above sea-level. In 1927, where Krakatoa had once stood, a few pebbles began to poke through the ocean. A year later it was a five-metre tall volcano. And it has continued to grow at that rate until this very day. When it gets big enough again, it will go bang! I intend to sneak in, do a bit of camping and snorkelling around nearby islands, then sneak out before the child spits the dummy.
Clearly these are places worth looking at. And if you’re reading a book about this in late 2017, there were no repeats of those cataclysmic events.
Now I’m off to kick Air Asia’s ass! They have, on the same day, rescheduled every single one of my connecting flights to depart before I arrive! Wish me luck and see you soon.
Mount Bromo and Senaru, East Java.. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons..
“What do you like most about Darwin?” My French/ Spanish girlfriend Tara asked me the other day.
I began: “I think the everyday interactions with such laid-back people. And you know, I’m from this land. I love the seasons; the wet and the dry. I love the dense, tropical downpours and the buzz surrounding potential cyclones. I love the dry season and living in paradise for 5 months of the year. I love the challenge of the build-up, working in extreme heat in extreme environments, gasping for breath while shovelling asphalt on a November morning, 34°C, humidity 92%. I love looking at my work-mates, drenched to the bone in my own sweat, winking, and saying: I’m wetter than you mate. I’m working way, way harder than you! To which the response normally begins with a word starting with ‘F’ – followed by the adverb ‘off’. I love the smell of the first rain that drenches a barren, sunburnt country, the sweetness of which returns me to my most ancient of memories. I love the smell of the bush fire in June, that sweeps smoke across the horizon, sending the evening sky into musky colours of pink and violet, replacing the clouds to give us miraculous year-round sunsets of the most astounding beauty.
“I love that we are all a bunch of piss heads. I read somewhere (and the facts are a little distorted by a little rum-induced haziness) that Australia as a nation are the 20th biggest drinkers per head of population in the world. If the Northern Territory was to break away and form its own nation, and clearly we should, we would rank second in the entire world on the piss head index. Then from the mandatory month-long celebrations and fireworks for independence, we would probably gain first.
“I love that the radio tells me that people have begun building boats made entirely of beer cans, that they plan to race annually on Mindil Beach. I love that I can go drink beer, on the beach, and watch crazy people race each other on (sometimes sinking) beer boats. I love that I can then just jump off the beach to the renowned Mindil Beach Markets and enjoy exceptional cuisine from all over the world, while rhythmical sounds of digeridoo-infused drum and bass take hold of the airwaves.
“I love that I can drive two hours to Pine Creek, hook a left, head into Kakadu National Park, tear 30km down a dirt track, climb a huge plateau, and then find my own personal rockpool at Gunlom, crack a beer and watch the sunset over one of the most famous national parks on our planet, that people come from all over the world to see.
“I love practising my kung-fu ninja speed training on blow-flies that foolishly enter my house. I love the croaking of the green tree frogs after heavy rain and I am happy to share my flies with them. I love the first sight of Magpie Geese after the first comings of the rain, their large black and white silhouettes triangularly-shaped across the sky bringing promise of cooler conditions, and the Red Kangaroos that flock to East Point Reserve, only a stone’s throw from the CBD.
I hate the drivers. I think you all need to go back to driving school. The right lane is the fast one people, move out of the bloody way! Why did they spend 42 years building the Tiger Brennan expansion if you’re blocking both lanes?? ‘But I’m turning right in 30km’ is not an excuse!”
I love that we can whinge, but then blame whinging on the English.
Have a great day!
So, you want to write a book? No worries! That'll probably take a little while if you work full-time. It took me two years to write my first one, but hey, I wasn't the most disciplined of writers, going MIA for months at a time!
You've found something you want to write about, and think people will be interested in reading it. You've researched and identified potential gaps in the market, something that will make your book unique. Then you do it.
Then you scramble through hundreds of pages, thousands of words, of unedited manuscript, with potentially dozens of required copyright acquisitions and then you are informed you've forgotten how to spell the word 'amateur'.. thanks for pointing that out mum, you’re a human dictionary!
Oh shit! A book needs a cover, you better start looking through photos and determine which ones will work best with writing sprawled over the top. What else does a book need? A blurb, a biography, copyright, acknowledgements, a bibliography, photographs, captions for those photographs, and that isn’t even considering publishing, advertising, social media marketing and a second edition in US English because all the Americans think I don't know how to spell!
The list goes on. What about gaining reviews, both from a reputable, published source, as well as the general public, from gifted pre-release copies, so that when the book launches it is already well reviewed when it enters the limelight? You think you’ve finished your book. My friend, you’ve only just begun.
It has now been six months since the release of my first book, The Nepali Flat, a self-published, self-promoted non-fiction travel/ adventure set in the Himalayas. And what a six months it has been! Having entered the book-selling world as a beardless baby, I have now graduated in my understanding of the industry to somewhere nearer a bum-fluff-faced teenager. I have much to learn still, and much to improve upon, and there are two billion things I would have done differently if I could republish my book all over again (with all that sweet advertising money back in my pocket!).
If you are planning to write a book and self-publish it, then please talk to me first. I’m highly contactable nowadays.
If you haven’t done so already, jump on to fiverr.com, a website offering the services of people from all walks of life, who specialise in a multitude of different areas that encompass the multimedia scene. The list is huge, but for the sake of this blog, services I obtained were editing, graphic design, black pen sketching, advertising and social media marketing. I find it really quite remarkable that an editor and graphic designer from the United States, a student from India, advertisers and promoters from Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, England and Bulgaria, could all come together to contribute to a project set in Nepal, being pieced together by an Aussie in his hometown of Darwin, having never met each other save for words arranged across a screen. Imagine how much harder it would have been just 10 years ago!
So, this is something I’m doing now. I’m blogging. I’m a mad blogger. It is something I should have done before I published a book, not six months later. Perhaps I would already have had followers that would have initiated a bigger sales push when the book was released, boosting it higher into the sales rankings. Anyway, as I’m new to this, I’ll leave it there. Maybe.. I dunno.. How long is a blog post supposed to be?
Expect to hear more about my recent forays into Asia, learning to surf on the Gold Coast, kayaking and camping around Whitsunday Island in the pouring tropical rain, as well as some of my other passions, such as cooking. Definitely expect a delicious authentic Nepali Dahl Bhat Takheri recipe!
Cheers and catch ya soon.