Friday, 13 June 2014

Misty Mountains

Mountains are fun places. It's so hard to be bored as the scenery constantly changes from one moment to the next, no two corners are the same, switching between crests and valleys. The stark contrast to the wide expansive plains of the outback only serves to heighten their beauty. How blessed am I that I am free to travel to places most people will only read about? 

It is hard to convey just how quickly and sharply this landscape changes. Even though my photography is improving, the depth of field is still resisting my best effort to capture it. Perhaps this image of a truck in low gear crawling down the main highway can give you a sense of how steep some of the roads are west of Cairns.


Trucks Must Use Low Gear
MacAlister Range, Kennedy Highway
The constant dampness of the wet tropics enables the flora to grow and thrive all year round. Luckily this same dense undergrowth helps to hold the soil together and prevent land slides from closing the highway. 



The sudden and rapid change in altitude from coastal plains to burgeoning mountain peaks transports us from a hazy overcast day into the midst of the clouds. Half an hour before we could feel the stinging burn of the sun through the haze we were now at the mercy of the water droplets being blown sideways into us. As we drove along safely cocooned with the metal cage that is our car, we listened to a man talking about business and his parable struck me because of the location we were in.



When winter comes most people in rural and remote communities are likely to be chopping wood for the fireplace to warm their homes. Can you imagine leaving this task until the last minute? The bitter cold and moisture penetrating every fibre of your being as you strive against nature to swing the axe with every ounce of strength you can muster. Swing after swing, blow after blow, only stopping to see your families faces pressed against the foggy kitchen windows. You summon all your strength in an effort to keep the pain of frostbite from the fingers of your loved ones. 

Harder and harder you swing the axe, with an ever increasing work rate the wood seems to be frustrating your every attempt to split it into manageable chunks. In your frantic last minute rush to cut some wood, your strained mind cannot recall sharpening the axe. But you are unable to stop, being spurred along this futile path hoping against hope that your actions are enough to chop some wood, any wood. You have managed to convince yourself that you are too busy to stop and sharpen your axe.

Busyness was the order of the day, dear reader, busyness not business. Are we too busy chopping wood to sharpen our axe? The axe doesn't necessairly have to be a farming implement, it could be your finances, the kids, workplace relationships, etc. Are we too busy following protocols and procedures to care for the means of production? Are we obsessed with meeting targets and overlook feeding workplace relationships? There are many analogies that can be drawn from being too busy chopping wood to sharpen the axe.


Misty Mountains
Not the Highway

Knowing we still had some 350 kms to travel before arriving home, we decided to take a detour. What the heck :\ ? You only live once right? Travelling along a dirt road without a name, we wound up at a place called the Misty Mountains. Misty alright. This one lane track is crowded in on both sides by dense tropical vegetation and shrouded in an eerie mist that only reveals the track one corner at a time. No orcs, dwarves, or elves jumped out, though that would have made our journey quite unique. But I did spy a wonderful wife underneath a fern that had grown taller than both of us. 


Tropical Ferns

Now I'm not a lumberjack so I don't own an actual axe, so several days after returning home I am still looking for my axe. I guess my will can be honed daily, wish me luck there :)

Let's Drive
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Friday, 30 May 2014

Fierce Beauty

There we stood on the edge of an isolated coastline and the spray from windswept waves filled our nostrils with salt. The howling cries of air rushing through, what was left of, the leaves of low lying coastal vegetation and palm trees. The force of the wind was so strong, not only were we being physically pushed around, but the trees could be heard moaning in agony too.



Storms like this often pass along the coast of nothern Queensland. It is just the geography and the way it interacts with winds that have traveled several thousand kilometers across the Pacific Ocean, now the Coral Sea. Sometimes the winds blow for days, other times, like this day, they only lasted several hours. Lucky for us then, that there was a pub not far back down the road which provided us with a sensational lunch. (seafood of course).

After the wind had passed we ventured out and decided to ascend a local lookout.
Whitsunday Islands
The turquoise colours of the water now returned after the previous seaweed green during the storm and the local island chain was again visible. In amongst the waters are a myriad of coral reefs which can be seen as the dark patches in the water. What was not an hour ago hidden from view of the human eye, is now revealed in all its beauty. Where we were clutching at each other to keep our balance, we are now pushing each other away to stay cool as the sun beat down upon us as fiercely as the wind so recently had.

Yet looking down into the undergrowth on the inland side of this lookout were flourishing flowers, soft and delicate as they come.


How does such simple beauty stand in the face of this incredible force? Typical of the human condition many of us fold under the pressure of social force. Call it  peer pressure, bullying, intimidation, look we all know it is not easy to stand up straight in the face of pressure, let alone retain our beauty. 

This quote, wrongly attributed to that fake rapper Eminem, about sums up what is going on today. "I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you". Simple as that. This is a real 'do worse unto others as they do unto me' mentality. Somehow this gives people licence to hate someone who does not agree with their opinion. To bandy about terms like offence, insult, humiliation, even bigot, to reinforce their own brand of retribution. How could we remain steadfast in character when the winds of derision howl across the social landscape?



The flowers can do it in naturally sheltered pockets. Jesus did it in full view of history, indeed commending us to "love one another as I have loved you". Yet our culture has been segmented and individualised, not only by greedy corporations, but also by self promoting politicians eager to exploit and wedge our differences. 

The removal of pain is one if the highest motivating factors to our human character. To hide, indeed run, from pain and persecution, whether it is real or not. This is the hope offered by our modern cultural leaders, the removal of short term pain. Imagine Nelson Mandela thinking this way? No, me either.



So we all huddle on the leeward side of the mountain and enjoy the view, which at this time of year is quite serene as the cane fields are almost in full bloom and within weeks will be ready for harvest. Where there is fierceness there is also beauty. I hope whilst we huddle in shelter that we regain our sense of self, not in order to remain at rest and relaxation, but to once again stand together against the ferocity of the onslaught.

The world is an amazing place dear reader and together we make it a better place. Until next time. 

Let's Drive
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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Across The Highland Plains

Recently I had the opportunity to travel north of my home and visit a famous little fishing village in Queensland. To climb up and down coastal ranges for about 3/4 of an hour, to arrive at the edge of the inland plains and still only be 4 metres above sea level is weird. You can see the rain filled clouds stuck on the edge of the mountains.


It is peaceful driving around up here, this time of year. Overcast skies mitigate the burn of the sun. The grass is green and the cattle are content to lie around, all having full stomachs. The strong breeze carrying enough moisture to cool the air and the scents of thriving flora and fauna. Though the roads are narrow and full of pot holes the atmosphere is incredibly calming. This is in complete contrast to the outback desert plains I drove through only two weeks ago. 

So relaxed and unhurried was I, that I took the time to stop and help old mate turtle who had two crows on his back trying (I'm guessing) to peck its eyes out. Interfering with nature I know; but why not help the struggling? Especially as it was in the middle of the road probably doing the reptilian thing and trying to get heat into its body from the bitumen. So it was promptly deposited into the nearest creek bed, about 200 metres down the road, which is probably a years journey for a turtle?


Having said all that, I'd be fairly miffed if some giant turned up and put me under a bridge #perspective. Anyway, off we go up and down some more coastal mountains before the road begins to open out onto the highland plains. 


The highway now winding its way around the foothills instead of climbing up and over the mountains. The expansive Australian bush laying its subtle cloak of timelessness over the travelers on the Mulligan Highway. Cares and telecommunications are left far behind out here, but that's OK, because they are readily replaced by bugs. Not your everyday bzzzz-ping types but you know those kurthunk-splat kind?

15.460739, 145.255149
Cooktown, Queensland, Australia
A few more hours driving and finally I arrived at this famous little fishing village. Apparently Captain Cook beached his boat here after holing the hull on a coral reef. In case you are wondering, yes that is the whole township in the picture. Cooktown has a population of around 2,000 people, that's it. So don't expect to travel here and get your mail delivered on time, but do expect your seafood dinner to be succulent and fresh. The wind blows fast and fresh up this way, with many a tourist losing their hats at the lookout - lol. In fact Cyclone Ita passed through here only a few weeks ago taking the roof off a 140 year old historic pub.

West Coast Hotel, Cooktown
This laid back approach to life really has a lot to offer over the hurried busyness of modern life. Ask a local what time it is? Time is measured in days up here - not hours or minutes.  Fun and games. But as always in this great land there is the constant threat of nature.

Don't feed the Crocodiles

<insert boring business section>

Anyway time to head back to the hotel. Another small journey of about 320kms, which by the way, was the same road I'd just come in on. Yep, I had to turn around and go back the exact same way now that business (and a seafood lunch) was concluded. 


I suppose I could whinge about going all that way for one appointment. I could moan about the lack of infrastructure up here. I could even rant and rave on about the loneliness and isolation. But lately I feel so blessed to be experiencing this great nation and it's people for what it really is. So thanks boss for the opportunity to venture out across this great nation. It was great to drive on a bitumen road, as opposed to a dirt track and I took the time to enjoy the serenity. Stay positive and enjoy the journey (sounds so cliche doesn't it?)


Let's Drive,
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Friday, 16 May 2014

Opposites

What is it about our society? Why have we elevated negativity to such a high status in our culture? What on earth makes us believe that by focusing on the problems, we will find a solution? The ethos of deconstructionism has not only taken over our media, but also our lives.

Case in point; the other day I was reading a blog post a friend liked, titled the 22 Habits of Unhappy People. Now I can see the point of investigating what makes people behave certain ways, if it is done to find solutions. I can understand this from a scientific stand point where they trial certain treatment techniques, drug therapies, even surgical processes to cure people's afflictions.

Investigate a problem to develop a solution. Tradespeople do this everyday. You take your car to the mechanic because it is leaking oil, making strange noises, going sideways down the road, etc. You call a plumber because you taps leaking, the sink is backing up, or there's an unexpected water fountain in the front yard. We look to find a solution, not to focus on the problem and then whinge and complain endlessly about the situation. Tradespeople fix problems.

My Aren't Those Weeds Beautiful
What are we saying to ourselves?
  1. My, Aren't Those Weeds Beautiful,
  2. Damn those weeds grow faster each season,
  3. Round Up will stop those weeds growing back,
  4. Let's remove those weeds and replant wild grasses instead.



But the media do not do anything remotely close to providing positive solutions. They do not see that as a part of their social contract. They see their cause as to pull down, to deconstruct. Maybe one could argue that they are unwilling to advance any positive solutions because then they themselves would be under scrutiny. 

This model of short-term thinking has pervaded the majority of our public institutions. People with solutions are now far and few between. The aforementioned blog post brought this into sharp relief for me. Whilst the list of negative mental habits of unhappy people is a great resource, imagine how much better it would be with just as much emphasis given to the opposite, the positive mental habits. (6 to 7 lines about the problem and only 1 line about a solution).



We require a different focus in our daily lives than the one so prevalent in media driven culture. We need to take our focus off the problems and put it onto the solutions. Even better we could look up and see the entire landscape of our lives to prioritise our objectives?

So are we able to encourage people in habits we agree with instead of complaining about what we do not agree with? Can we vent our frustrations and then move on, instead of being bound by them? Can we celebrate diversity and allow each other to choose without mandating our view point as the only way? Will we have the nous to choose the road less traveled?



I believe we all have free will. I believe we have the ability to make choices about where we live, who we are friends with, what we eat and yes - even what we think. So I encourage each and every one of you:
  1. Smile,
  2. Dutifully tend your field of dreams,
  3. Guard your mind against negativity and overwhelm,
  4. Look for positive aspects to each and every day.

Until next time dear friends.



Let's Drive
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P.S. Guess I will have to take my own advice from now on hey?