Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At Least Try Hard

Seems the thing lately is when you get injured at your sport, even seriously injured, you become magically grateful for the experience. I'm not sure if this more Millennial nonsense, revisionist history, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, it does not work for me. My minor elbow tendinitis drives me crazy. I have taken 8 weeks off kayaking, 4 weeks off lifting weights, 8 weeks off climbing - and counting. Two months in, as I get weaker and weaker, I'm still waiting to feel the mystic appreciation of the experience.

Pulling that try hard face

If I could do it all again, I wouldn't. I'd do the tedious overhead mobility and stability work that I am grinding through now, before doing all those dead-hangs, lock-offs and pull-ups. For sure not as exciting or immediately gratifying but necessary to remaining injury free and fully functional in the long run. The only thing I do feel grateful for is that I still like trying hard.   

Look at those rolled forward shoulders, no wonder I have tendinitis

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cafe Culture

There are two things that are so ubiquitous in Australian towns and cities that you almost have to wonder if they are related: cafes and people who are overweight or obese. Visiting the local cafe permeates most things Australians do: shopping, biking, paddling, walking, sight-seeing, meeting friends, these things all seem to end, start, or be punctuated with a visit to the local cafe.

Which is great, because loneliness and social isolation are bad for individuals and communities. Sadly, eating sugar, grains and industrial seed oils is similarly detrimental to health, and there is little or nothing on the menu at the average cafe that is not a toxic combination of all three. Left to our own devices, Doug and I would probably never visit the local cafe. We don't eat grains, sugar or industrial seed oils and our budget lifestyle does not run to $5 cups of black tea on a regular basis.

SMH file photo

But I do enjoy chatting with friends after a kayak trip or bushwalk at the local cafe. It is a tradition that is not common in Canada. Our trips in Canada generally started early, finished late, and virtually never included a visit to the local cafe afterwards. On some trips I felt I barely spoke to my companions if the trip was particularly long and arduous apart from grunting "your lead," while handing over the rack. So, I do support the cafe culture that Australia has embraced, but I do wonder if indulging frequently in the sort of food cafes serve does not off-set most of the benefit of social interaction.

A bit late for local cafe

So are cafes and overweight related? I think they are. The food they offer is highly palatable but nutrient poor. It all looks good and is hard to resist but it does not deliver that mix of nutrients (primarily amino acids) that signal satiety. If you've been exercising, there is little doubt that you have over-estimated your calorie expenditure and are soon to under-estimate your calorie consumption - that's just what we all do. You simply cannot out-exercise a bad diet which is why cafes are filled with cyclists who've just ridden for hours and hours, and are still over-fat.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Being Odd: Burrewarra Point by Sea Kayak

It is over six weeks since the Bittangabee weekend, the last time I did any significant paddling, and finally my elbow felt well enough to get back in the kayak. On Friday we went down to Tuross where the usual paddle around Tuross Inlet was subverted by a "bubble and struggle" session, although half the group eschewed the dunking and paddled the regular loop. If you only ever paddle on lakes and calm rivers there probably is not much incentive to learn to eskimo roll. 
Bubble and Struggle

Afterwards, we took our 20 plus year old Feathercraft up to John's place and spent a couple of hours in the sun trying to remember how to put it together. Pretty much every stage was accompanied by a statement in the vein of "Oh yeah, this bit is a tad tricky," and a minor domestic dispute between Doug and I as to what piece we should install next. Luckily, Peter arrived before we had gone too far as he had the all important flow chart which quickly revealed that neither Doug nor I was correct about the construction order. Once the whole boat was together it did look a bit sad, not wearing it's 20 years well, with the cockpit coamings a bit crooked, the ribs askew, and the entire boat faded and no longer really waterproof. John was trying to look positive but I suspect that Mrs Wilde will be less than impressed. 

The feathercraft on a circuit of the Palua Islands

Saturday a subgroup of the usual sausage contingent left from Mossy Point for a return trip to Guerilla Bay and I went along with the idea that if my elbow got too bad, I would come back early. We had an easy exit from the bar at Mossy Point on a very high tide and then headed directly for Burrewarra Point into a light easterly wind. I found that as long as I kept my elbows in and my scapulae engaged I had no pain paddling thus blowing apart any reductionistic theories about my elbow tendonitis being an overuse injury propagated by the conventional medical establishment. 

Heading for Burrewarra Point

When I tell people I have been going to a chiropractor who sensibly takes a systems approach and has been working my strength and mobility upstream (shoulders, neck and thoracic spine) and downstream (wrists and forearms) of the problem they look at me like I have a death wish, just the way I look at them when they admit following conventional medical advice. I guess we do have something in common after all.

Morning at Mossy Point

A solo kayaker caught up with us about half an hour after leaving Mossy Point and travelled with us for most of the rest of the day. Of course, the paddler was the holder of yet another sausage. Women are severely under-represented in the Aussie sea kayaking scene. We had a short break on the beach at Guerilla Bay and then headed back. The haystacks off Burrewarra Point were quite fun to bounce around in and there was a good following sea on the way back. A better kayaker could catch solid rides all the way to Mossy Point but I was fixated on keeping my shoulders engaged not catching rides. 

Guerilla Bay

The bar at Mossy Point looked a bit terrifying from the back with big swells rising up, but Mark had safely got in so I think we all figured it couldn't be too bad. I followed John in and only had to paddle hard for about 30 seconds. Mark had got out of his boat and was dashing along the rock reef trying to secure some astonishing video footage but, of course, on playback it all looked like nothing much at all. 

Now here's a guy who knows about tupperware

We repaired to the local cafe where Doug and I had our usual black tea/coffee, and Mark, in between frothing about paddling backwards over the biggest wave of his entire sea kayaking career let slip that our tupperware lunch containers drive him insane, which, is pretty much the story of our life. Being odd. Sometimes, you've just got to embrace it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Once Again To The Nadgee: Table Ridge, Daylight Ridge, Newtons Beach

After we lost Jessie, the house seemed haunted with her spirit. The routine of my days was disrupted. My morning walks were aimless wanders through the woods. I'd turn around expecting her to be behind me, but she wasn't. Riding home from town, I'd look up at the house, wondering if she had seen me and would be waiting on the water tank to greet me, but the driveway was always empty. Evenings, the "sock" stayed in the cupboard - no one wanted to play tug a war. As always, we went to the woods for solace

Sign at Harry's Hut

I wanted to go the Budawangs, but, four years later, Doug still has not forgotten our minor epic there, and, as the forecast was a bit mixed, we settled on a walk in the Nadgee where the forecast was significantly drier. In early 2013, only a couple of months after the Budawang incident, Doug and I walked from Wonboyn to Mallacoota through the Nadgee Nature Reserve. It was a wonderful trip taking us through dry eucalypt forest, wet rainforest, dense coastal heath, and finally along a wild and lonely beach. 

 On the moors near Mount Nadgee

Merrica River Crossing was familiar, although this time we drove into the Nadgee rather than walked. The reserve was, as often seems the case, deserted. We headed out on the main fire trail, but, instead of turning south down to Newtons Beach, we continued along past Tumbledown Mountain to Table Ridge. Table Ridge undulates up and down eventually climbing to almost 500 metres near Mount Nadgee. After a couple of hours walking through eucalpyt forest, the trail emerges into drier heath land and a view of Gabo Island to the south east, and Mount Nadgee to the west. There was a tremendous number and variety of wildflowers along the way. 

Wildflowers everywhere

Past Mount Nadgee, the trail turns and follows Daylight Ridge down into increasingly wet and lush forest to the dark tannin stained waters of the Nadgee River. A big log provides easy access to Harry's Hut on the south side of the Nadgee River. It's a quiet and secluded spot, but popular with mosquitoes, midges, and red bellied black snakes. Doug bravely took a dip in the river, while I gingerly avoided the sleeping black snake to get water for tea. The evening passed quietly, enlivened only when the black snake woke up, slithered under the door of the hut and went inside, right when Doug wanted to go in to read. I took refuge from the bugs in the tent, while Doug carefully crept into the hut making sure the black snake was not curled over the door frame waiting to drop on him. 

Well fed on the rodents that live in Harry's Hut

It rained overnight, and a drizzly mist was falling in the morning, the woods shrouded in wraiths of fog. In full rain gear, we followed an overgrown track out to join the main Wilderness Coast route near Impressa Moor. The track through the moor is getting increasingly overgrown and we were soaked through by the time we emerged on to the lonely beach near Little Creek. This is where we camped the first night on our last trip and it is beautiful as ever with a small lagoon behind the beach and a tiny steep sand spit wedged between rocky headlands.

Newtons Beach

The weather dried out as we walked through the forest and took a side track out to the south end of Newtons Beach. Walking out on to Newtons Beach was a classic Nadgee moment: dingo tracks ran along the beach sand, the hills behind the coast were shrouded in clouds, dark green woods backed the beach, the ocean was clear, and the only sound was the crash of the waves onto the beach. We had that delicious feeling of complete isolation that comes when you are privileged enough to enter a wilderness. We made tea at the north end of the beach on some sandstone rock platforms, then reluctantly re-entered the forest, hiked back up to Tumbledown Mountain and back to "real" life where a sociopath had become the most powerful man in the world

Crossing the Nadgee River on a huge tree trunk

Thursday, November 10, 2016


In the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election, half of all Americans and most of the rest of the world - with the possible exception of Russia - is waking up to its morning coffee with the equivalent of a gigantic hang-over, head in hands, thinking WTF. Millennials, the generation who are either the best or the worst in history, depending on who you believe, have been quick to point the finger at the Boomer generation, who, according to Millennials are responsible for the just about everything that is currently wrong with the world from global warming to the rise of terrorism. It's an argument that is strangely reminiscent of most of Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric which somehow managed to find blame for all the problems experienced by the US squarely on someone else's shoulders. 


Stereotypes are troublesome things. We all want to be judged based on who we are and what we have achieved not on our inclusion in some demographic sector, and yet, stereotypes often contain just enough kernel of truth at their very heart to convince us of their legitimacy. Millennials are not all lazy, narcissistic, technology addicts, nor are all Boomers consumer driven anti-science pillagers of the environment. The irony of the new Trump presidency however, is that had Millennials actually voted, there would, for the first time in history, be a female in the White House, not just another old rich white guy adept at evading taxes. A nation historically divided along gender, racial and religious lines, is now divided by age. WTF, indeed. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Run Like The Wind Jessie, Run Like The Wind

Dogs, those furry four legged humans that worm their way into your heart through a tiny space in your ribs. Their joy fills your heart until suddenly they leave, and a big hole you never knew you had opens up behind them. You wonder, "how long has that space been there?" and realize just the short time that I knew you. Now you are gone but that hole will always be there. 
Jessie, with your one blue and one brown eye, you chased sticks enthusiastically but never knew you were supposed to bring them back, so I threw them, fetched them from you and threw them again. We swam in the river as the tide sucked in and out. You dug holes in the sand, while I rolled my kayak. Every so often, you'd swim out to me to check I was OK, then back you went to digging and sniffing, and looking for sticks.

When you crouched down I knew it was time to run like the wind. "Run like the wind," I'd say as I chased you, and you ran, with a broad smile upon your face, but never like the wind. You were 13 years old and your days of running like the wind were gone. But we didn't care. We were running like the wind.

Now the north wind blows, and you crouch down, spring, and run, on and on, like the wind. Run like the wind, Jessie, run like the wind.