Wednesday, 3 December 2008

trails of trouble

This week involved a lot of walking and hiking up mountains, hills and gullies to do special deliveries. And this was no picnic!

Our client I believe is a monk or at least a hermit who has lived up in these desolate inaccessible hills since 1978. His ancestors first settled in this area back in 1866.

The terrain this side of cooktown is very rough and desolate and harsh at the best of times. In the beginning of summer the conditions are a lot worse. The hot humid air makes for labored struggle to walk, even to breathe, let alone to keep going after a only a few meters of trudging uphill. And if that was not bad enough, the ground is littered with loose rocks, fallen logs and branches and the odd hole.

For good measure there are thorns and lantana that appear in certain places.

Now when one is laden with gear and materials of awkward lengths and sizes, some fragile and sensitive packages, and the odd water bottle, the going gets tough.

Am one tuffy not going - well. Am dressed up like a squire, water-logged boots on my feet (from sweating). Thick heavy gaiters strapped on and with gaiters or overboots dragging down like lead on the legs.

Then with one hand (waving free) letting go of the shoulder load for one second, trying to keep the hat on from the burning sun and swatting insects or spiderwebs or green ants falling from overhanging branches. The other hand (not silhouetted by the sea) keeping the glasses from fogging up from the sweat pouring out of one's body; with the third limb twisting here and there maneuvering to keep the load from getting entangled with vines and undergrowth; with the fourth limb trying to maintain footing on the loose rocks and slippery slides underfoot; with the fifth limb going limp –
no wonder one climbs like a wimp.

what another climb? man you must be putting me on!
or is this a mirage?

yonder is a black mountain. i wonder if a wizard lives there. perhaps a lizard does.

Another day we hiked up to the hills on the verge of a rainforest and down to a steep and deep gully. As we were packing up we could hear the roar of thunder and the sky has turned black. And we had to rush out of there before dark.
Every which way looks the same, and any which way we could easily get lost in the dark. There’s good tracks in dem dar hills too. Yes good for kangaroos and dingoes or the odd cow or two too. So that on your second trek up you miss the turn because you think you recognize a feature and you’ve been there and done that, you stop and say: I’m going the wrong way here. Oh that’s orright what’s an extra mile, and a few minutes, and a few liters of sweat? It’s a breeze actually.
What say?
The breeze.
That’s the thing you don’t see.
You know that which blew your hat back down the hill. Now of course when all is cursed and done, one then looks forward to the downhill stroll, with a lighter load too – what a bonus! Got rid of a couple of packages and two liters of water. Suddenly you fall. Your leg’s broken or feels like it’s broken. It has turned to jelly!
Mama woo ooh woo.
And then to compound one's interest, I mean misery – it starts raining. Well It actually started raining on the way up but… no wonder when one’s gone a hundred meters or so-
To make things really hard, tough dried brown and brittle grasses that grow to 2m high are a constant presence. These have stalks that can pierce the skin when hit at an angle. They’re even treacherously slippery if you step on their flattened long leaves. This time of year, the grass are very brown and tinder dry. A grassfire is thus a constant threat and at the whiff of one we’d be out of there in a jiff.

To really illustrate the danger of a fiery menace, there was a bushfire to the south of our site. We paused to observe it soon after we noticed the smoke. The fire had spread linearly along the base of a mountain (black mountain) for about a kilometer within a few minutes. This was aided by easterly seabreezes which sent flames upwards of 20m. The smoke was visible for miles around. Had the prevailing winds been from the south we would have abandoned work for the day. Such is the risk of a hot and dry Australian summer aka bushfire season. And when the country is experiencing very long droughts as it is, the threat of fire is very high and very real indeed.
And now to the news: the southeast of the state (abt 2000km away) has been ravaged by storms all week. These are some of the fiercest storms to hit the southeast in decades and have caused death and destruction along their paths. The storms and rains have now lasted nearly a week.
What the????

So what's the lesson for today then?
a. keep fit
b. find another job
c. don't go to the tropics in summer
d. tell the boss to shove it
e. ________________________
f. take the road well travelled (where?)
g. all of the above
paths of victory
we shall walk.