Monday, March 22, 2010

Money is a renewable resource, time isn't

I'm home, arriving this morning in Orlando at 5:30 a.m., where Jamie picked me up. You've just got to love a friend who will rise at 4:30 a.m. to pick you up at a place an hour from their home and then drive you to a place yet another hour beyond.

Jamie hung out as long as I could stay awake (until 2:00 p.m.) then made the two hour drive back to her home on the coast just below Cape Canaveral.

This evening (awake again) I've just read her blog entry posted yesterday in which she comments,

Science Daily reported recently that buying life experiences is much more likely to produce long-term happiness than buying material possessions.

No wonder I always feel so overwhelmingly blessed.

I live in a trailer (when I'm not living in a tent or a car or on somebody's couch). I've just spent five months in Australia and only brought back a couple of hand-made mugs from Beechmountain Pottery and a really cool 12 volt portable shower pump (thanks, Scott!).

Ah...but the experiences. Priceless.

Life is good.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Strzelecki Lookout maybe I'm not finished with my Australian adventures just yet. Scott and I scoured the local sites this afternoon and found that only at Strzelecki Lookout were the winds were right.

I launched first and Scott soon followed. In the air I found that Scott, one of world's top pilots, was doing everything but flying backwards to get some in-flight pictures for me.

A few more days of errands, goodbyes and such, and I'm off to the USA...for only about five weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yengo National Park

Biamie, the Aboriginal's creation god

For my last adventure in Australia before returning home, Scott took me for a weekend of camping and mountain biking just west of Newcastle. Here I had the chance to view a side of aboriginal culture that few non-Aussies get to witness; the stone carvings and cave paintings of Yengo National Park.

These aren't historical sites you'd find in a guide book. In fact, Scott pointed out that there usually weren't any signs indicating where a road lead until you'd driven a small distance down it. You had to know what you wanted to see and where it was beforehand.

To view the cave depicted in this photo, Scott parked at a campground and, after we set up our tents, suggested we go for a walk before it got dark. We moved to one end of the parking lot and, after Scott indicated to me that a path started where we stood (I never would have seen it), he said, "You go first." After I'd walked a very short distance, he said, "You missed it." I turned around to see him indicating a cave only a few meters off the path I'd just walked.

If you don't know someone who knows, you'd never find any of these fascinating sites. Scott believes this is intentional, designed to protect these culturally significant sites from the fools such as the ones who'd carved their initials next to aboriginal art thousands of years old.

Yengo Mountain, Biamie's stepping stone to heaven.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I picked up Chris at the Sydney airport at the crack of dawn Saturday, returning from her assignment with the U.N. in Chad, Africa. After three months of austerity on a level most of us cannot conceive, her first thought was fresh seafood fresh seafood fresh seafood.

We went straight from the airport to the fish market in Sydney and filled a eski ('cooler' in the States) full of seafood to consume over the next few days. The first order of business upon reaching her home here in Bathurst was a feast of prawns, oysters, crabs, and something I'd never seen before called Balmain bugs (next to the crab in the photo). They were kind of like small legless, armless, clawless lobsters with less taste.

These last few days have been unusually rainy, leaving Chris content to rest, recover, and slowly reabsorb the joy of her own home. I'm content to read, study, and write and enjoy her company for a bit before my last few adventures in Australia finish up and I head home.

I'm a bit sad to have missed all the snow in the northern hemisphere this winter that I've been reading about (be it in the States or Europe). Even so, these days of endless gentle rain here in the comfort (both spiritual and physical) of Chris' home have left me in much the same peaceful mood so exquisitely depicted in this beautiful movie of snow in Moscow.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Friday night, after flying back from the Gold Coast, I resumed my living-in-a-car existence and drove to Brighton-Le-Sands, a small town on the other side of Botany Bay from Sydney's airport. There I could spend the night on the street in my car and be well placed to pick up Chris the next morning upon her return from Africa.

Strolling the beach along Botany Bay in the evening's light rain before I turned in for the night, I found a place that seemed most fitting to enjoy a glass or two of wine.

I most often prefer to spend as much of my time as possible in a setting like Jonny's home town of Beechmont: in simple buildings surrounded by forests and hills with perhaps a significant city no closer than an hour away. There are times, however, when being amidst a conflagration of civilization actually does appeal to me. There are some places/settings/feelings than cannot exist without a massed population to justify them. So often, lately, I've thought about how much I miss something like a good dinner with a good friend on a sidewalk cafe on a summer night on Washington, D.C.'s Connecticut Avenue, just north of Rock Creek. life.

Sitting alone tonight in Australia's late summer amongst the subdued ambiance of an exquisite restaurant, I got a hint of that feeling. Additionally, I felt a great sense of my good fortune in life to experience such moments in such diverse places around the world. Opposite me out an open window the sand was only a few meters away with a tranquil bay of seawater at its edge. The quiet and almost non-existent lapping of the bay's water on the narrow beach running along to my left was equally as evocative a kind of music as was the murmur of peaceful conversation all around me to my right.

I was alone but I didn't mind. Perhaps it would have been impossible to coordinate my emotions of the moment with another. Solitude, while not particularly sought, does occasionally have it's advantages.

I don't know Sydney well but I do now know a place I'd return to on some summer night just to be there...just to sit...just to absorb a kind of energy that makes me feel blessed and content.

Australia's Gold Coast

Until 2006, I'd never been to Australia. Until last November, my complete Australian experience was three visits to Fremantle.

As much as I enjoy Freo ("Fremantle" in local speak), so many other friends who've traveled in Australia or actually live here kept telling me that I haven't really seen Australia until I'd been to the east side.

One of the reasons for this extended stay here these last few months was to explore all the places I've been hearing about. Prime among these was Jonny's region; the Gold Coast.

The view above is from Jonny's back porch, looking down from Beechmont to the coastal city of Surfers Paradise. Below his parents, Jon Sr. and Judy stroll on Palm Beach, with Surfers Paradise in the background.

In addition to the natural beauty of the coast, hills, and water falls (photo at right: Purlingbrook), I was also fascinated by the ubiquity of grey headed flying foxes; huge fruit eating bats with wingspans over a meter wide. Months earlier one evening in Newcastle, I'd seen the sky full of them moving from their roosts to nearby fruit orchards. It looked like the flying monkey scene from the Wizard of Oz.

Jonny knew the location of a colony near Cannungra and took me there to see them.

There were hundreds in every tree I could see on both sides of the road for a few hundred meters. While Jonny and his sister Gemma remained in the car, anticipating a barrage of guano if they all took flight in the same instant, I walked down the road awestruck.

My stay was brief and, though I brought my hang gliding harness, the weather brought either pouring rain or adverse winds, so no flying was done. I did, however, get to at least see where I might have flown, had the conditions been right.

Beechmont launch

Byron Bay launch

Next time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Boys Toys

Scott and Monica hosted me once more for a long weekend of fun in Newcastle. One of the coolest things we had the chance to experience together snorkeling in a large tidal pool full of temporarily captive fish. It was like having one's own private aquarium as big as an Olympic pool.

The last time I was in Newcastle it was mid week, which limited Scott and Monica's ability to play. This time around I came on a weekend specifically to play, be it fly, swim, surf, sail, or whatever else came to our minds.

Two other friends of theirs from Germany, Ernst and Sylvia, just happened to be in the area as well so it was a weekend of a fivesome waking up in the mornings as a group and pondering just what kind of fun we would have that day.

Something I got to do that I've always wanted to try but haven't yet (on an imaginary list of probably 100 things) was welding. While Scott and I worked on a modified electric bike that he was constructing from various parts (some of which he was fabricating and welding himself), he gave me the chance to try to join two pieces of metal. I did, yet when I finished, he took one of the pieces in his right hand and pulled it off. "That's not welded." I tried again. Same result. I tried again. Same result. The fourth time I poured so much molten metal on the joint that the two pieces glowed for some time after I'd finished. When it cooled off enough to touch, Scott tried to separate them and couldn't. High fives. I'm a welder now. No matter that the two original pieces were distorted by all the heat they'd been forced to endure. They were welded.

Ah...boys and their simple pleasures.

The winds and weather didn't cooperate during the weekend but on my last day there, the morning I was flying out to Queensland's Goldcoast, everything lined up perfectly. Scott and I jumped in his car, let some air out of the tires, drove out onto the dunes near his house and squeezed in an hour or so of dune gooning on Redhead beach.

I had my own helmet in his car but once we set up his glider (mine is still being repaired), he just handed me his helmet and said, "Go."

Scott has created harnesses for both his cairn terrier and beagle that enables him to take one of them along on flights (hence, the helmet's ornamentation). Once airborne and horizontal, his dog will just climb onto his back and enjoy the ride.

We played until I blew a landing and broke a downtube. Scott, ever the gracious host, offered to run back to his garage to get another but my flight up north was only a few hours away. It was time to finish playing with all of our toys.