Saturday, 31 December 2011

Mt Nebo Festive Fatass trail run 2011

I heard about this running event going up a mountain: the 24km fatass trail run to Mt Nebo. 
"That’s for me," I thought. Coming from the Cordillera mountains, anything with ‘mountain trail’ sometimes piques my interest. The event was scheduled for the 27th of December. Good to sweat off some of the extra weight I had put on during Christmas.

The previous day (boxing day) was quite warm. Even until late in the night the heat was still there, and I could not get to sleep until after midnight. Sometimes mountain runs make me anxious. It shouldn’t though because I race mainly with city slickers/ runners from the big smoke. Yet one of the mysteries of my running life that I’ll never understand is how everyone goes faster than me. Maybe i’m getting soft and slow in my old middle age. Maybe they're just slick.

On the day I turned up early and eagerly for the start at around 5:30am. I joined the group gathering at a makeshift carpark on the grassy verge of the junction of Payne Road and Dillon Road in the suburb of The Gap. 

The sight of these battle-hardened elite mountain runners was very intimidating to a newbie funrunner attempting his first run up Mt Nebo. I said hello to a couple of familiar faces and met a few more runners who posted in the coolrunning forum for this run.

This run is along 'south boundary road' in the southern section (formerly Brisbane Forest Park) of the 36,000-hectare D’Aguilar national park. This national park in Brisbane is the only park this large just 12 km from the CBD of any Australian city.

Some 20 to 25 runners turned up for the run. A couple of the veterans gave instructions and directions for the route. Others kindly dropped off water and drink replenishments up along the way, and at the end of the route, 24 kilometres away in Mt Nebo. And as we started it was then that the real difficulty of this run hit me. It wasn’t just 24k, it’s a full 48 kilometres up and down!

It was too late to organise a lift back so I thought of doing 12 or maybe 15km and then walk back. That was the plan. And it was a good plan - at the time. Good I had all day.

The folly of the plan immediately laid itself bare. First of all, this was the first time i had to run with so much extra weight on, and not just from indulging excessively in some rich Christmas fare. I had a 2-litre hydration backpack. On top of this was two 250ml smaller bottles (one with water carried in hand, and the other with juice in the pack), a digital camera, mobile phone in belt pouch, energy bar, gel pack, electrolyte sachet, extra pair of foot pads and socks. Everyone else had packs on, but I bet I had the heaviest. And they’re veterans, I’m just new at this. And this was not a stroll on some paved path down the road to a park. This was a mountain run with an elevation gain of some 450m (1225m ascent/775m descent) over at least 20km.

The start was okay. I plodded along and settled into my pace. But almost immediately started panting and sweating profusely.

Craig a very coolrunner, kindly stocked up an esky with plenty of ice and water at the 6km mark off Hillbrook Road. I thought I was okay for water so I just left an empty 250ml bottle for when i got back. Soon I got to some familiar trails, part of the Pinnacles classic last April. I did not really recognise too many landmarks of the 4km or so trails common with the pinnacles route, but that’s how it is with running.  When running in a race, you’re usually simply intent on putting one foot in front of the other, and not notice too much of the surroundings. But at about the 8- or 9-km mark, I could only walk up the ascents. And so from about one-fifth distance I walked the uphills and jogged the downhills of the rest of my eventual 40km journey.

Craig was waiting patiently at the 14km mark to make sure we didn’t take a wrong turn towards lake Manchester in the south. He also advised to take a left turn at a shed near the 17km mark on Scrub Road.

This is the 14km mark. You can make out Craig's makeshift right-turn arrow.
 I noted all the instructions at the race start but thanks indeed for responsible people like Craig. This being a fat ass event, he did not have to worry about directing other runners and providing water for them, yet he did, so good on you mate. May your tribe increase - at a fast rate.

At the start of the race I ran with Keith who I knew. He did not seem too well and gave me a handicap start. I then tried matching it with Nikki, but after a couple of kilometres I could not stay with her, so I told her to go for it. I then alternated with a couple of speedy ladies who were not impressed with me pretending to sprint past them once or twice. They eventually got so far ahead of me and left me to my own battles with just the serenade of the bellbirds for company.

I managed to keep pace with Jeff/Geoff for one or two kilometres before he scooted off into the rainforest where now we are deep in. Boombana is a dry type subtropical rainforest with eucalypt woodland commingling.

Chris and another runner went past me at the 17km mark. Then the backmarkers also eventually caught me near the 18km mark, and so I brought up the rear as usual. The reluctant rear guard was put in his place, on his post and on his own again.

Sometimes I turn, there`s someone there, 
other times it`s only me.
I kept an eye on my watch to just past the 20km mark, at a junction in the tracks on 'township break' where I stopped, rested, then turned back.

KP20. Township break junction.
My outward run/walk took almost 3 hours which was fair enough going generally uphill, but the return also took about 3 hours!

Just after turning back I met Keith who kept on soldiering on though he was obviously not well. He wished me the best of 2012, but really he should have stayed home. Dare I say it but Keith is the epitome of a runner – of the never give up kind. I simply said ‘see you later’.

I would have settled for a glass of milk, but this is the land of no-milk and honey
(amidst the home of honeyeaters), just off the trodden track.

On the way back I did take time to look around and about. I even took a few photos. I wasn't resting, no.

The bush camp at Scrub Road junction near the 17km mark.
Somewhere down the road, a girl runner went sprinting past me a like a gazelle. I believe she won the race if anyone cared to note. A few minutes later, another runner (male with his shirt off) went scooting past. And then at the 12km mark, I was putting on my extra pair of foot pads when a third runner  (redshirt) came past asking if I was alright.

See, running’s not always about winning or getting a PB.
Many a runner I met over the short three years I have been running, have always lent a helping hand first and foremost, before worrying about their finishing time. If the general society learned this attitude from the running community, life would be so much better.
So ladies and gentlemen take up running, you’ll unleash the better angel inside of you. And if you're already a runner, you should have this event on your must run list. You'll discover things about yourself.
The Gold Creek/Lake Manchester junction.
I was parched and wobbling in the legs but the only way home is down by the trail of aching parts of this forestry road, where nobody's hiding their fears. My body had stopped sweating and I feared dehydrating. Did someone say no fear? I still had a little water left but I was mindful not to drain the pack dry. I have resorted to a walk/jog tempo since the 8km outbound mark (walk uphill jog downhill) and on I walked and jogged.

Under the powerlines looking south towards Gold Creek Reservoir. Had I looked north I might have caught a glimpse of Camp Mountain or bellbird grove where I went to watch the 2011 Australian Mountain Running Championships back in May. I was in the box seat, I mean the backseat, way way way back.

Back at the 6km mark off Hillbrook Road, I stopped to see if there’s any water left in Craig’s red esky. There were still two full 600ml bottles buried in ice. I filled up the 250ml juice bottle I left earlier that morning for a cold slaking drink. Ahhhh. And then I trudged on down the road...

I paused to take in the sights of the Enoggera reservoir now and then and to rest the wearied legs.

I composed a couple of shots of this body of water near the 3km mark. With 2km to go I squeezed out what was left in my hydration pack. I got in a choking fit when I started sucking water droplets into my lungs.

a choker's cap and slow time.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The wild wild west

This is the second of two parts.
See Part 1 here: Native wildlife

Non-native (introduced) wildlife of the Western Downs (Queensland, Australia)
The words used to describe introduced/non-native animals eg “feral”, “pest”, “noxious”, “vermin” or “invasive” are usually negative and non-complimentary. I wonder if we applied the same to ourselves in this country of immigrants... This also fails to acknowledge that we immigrants are responsible for the introduction of these animals here. We brought them here, and are therefore responsible for their welfare. There are now non-indigenous animals in Australia that have been here generations. Some species (h. Sapiens) came from Europe, others from Asia and elsewhere, as the anthem goes: ‘from all the lands on earth we come’. 
But this is about wildlife- right.

Some species were initially introduced intentionally or accidentally as wild species: rabbits, foxes, cane toads, rats and mice. Still others are domesticated animals which have escaped or were abandoned: cats, dogs, pigs, goats, horses, donkeys, camels, buffalo and carp. We cannot feature them all here. There's not enough space - no photos really. I have pictures of that wild species homo sapiens, but you know what they look like.

Wild animals cause damage to the natural environment and to agriculture and vegetation. They degrade the land, cause soil erosion, feed on most of the available plant species including pasture species. They destroy crops and pasture, as well as habitat for native plants and animals. They spread environmental weeds and could transmit and spread exotic diseases. They ringbark trees and shrubs, foul waterholes, and compete with native wildlife.
Who are these pests? It's amazing that they do exactly as the natives do!
Yes, when in roam...

Camels are not native to Australia but are perfectly suited to the Outback environment. Australia's wild camel population is the biggest in the world.  
Once I travelled miles and miles to near Miles for work. Then I walked 47 miles of barbed wire. Marty, who do you kid? Okay, maybe it was 47 miles of pipelines- alright, maybe just one mile, but "I'd walk a mile for a Camel!"
Hey Cam. Pleased to meet you.
I met this flock at a floodway on Sherwood Road near Condamine. 

Camels were imported to provide transport through inland and outback Australia, and they have since made it their domain. They were used for riding and to supply goods to remote mines and settlements. Camels don't need roads and don't need to be shod like horses.

They are ideal as draught and pack animals (grown bulls like Cam here can carry up to 600kg) and were used for exploration and construction of rail and telegraph lines. Camels were integral to the construction of the overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin, the transcontinental railway and the Canning stock route among other big projects.   

Cam and Mel trying to trick me with a 2-headed camel.
Feral camels have no natural predators in Australia and can live in the wild for as long as 40–50 years. Feral camels have some value as a resource. There is a pet-meat trade and a smaller camel meat trade for export for human consumption.

Feral camels are the only large browser in Australia. Camels damage trees and shrubs when browsing and can severely defoliate preferred trees, shrubs, and vines.

Feral pigs are environmental and agricultural pests. Domestipigwere broughto Australia athtimoEuropean settlement as a foosource. Initiallythpigthaescapeowere allowetwandeThey spread rapidly mainly alonwatercourses and floodplains —Today, there's more wild pigs than there are humans, up t23.5 million feral pigs are spread across about halothcontinent.
Many creeks in Bundi (west of Wandoan) hold a bit of water and tend to swell with significant rainfall. This pig met its fate near a small bridge at Horse Creek.

Feral pigs are not found in the dry inland becausthey neeto drink daily.  In howeatherthey are usually founnear  water.

This was somewhere along a stretch of Chinchilla-Tara Road between Condamine River (at Chinchilla weir) and Wambo Creek.

Pigs breed like rabbits and can increase a populatioby more than 80 pecent eacyear in ideal conditions. Feral pigs cause damage througwallowing, rooting for food and selective feeding.

Text Box: BIO57.0610
The feral European rabbit is one of the most widely distributed and abundant mammals in Australia. Domesticaterabbits arrived in Australia witthFirst FleetToday, feral rabbitoccur throughout Australia, except in thnorthernmost areas. Theprevent regeneratiobeatinseeds anseedlings.  

On a section of Burunga Lane near Guluguba and Wandoan.
Feral rabbithavcontributetthe decline in numberof many nativplants and animals, and may havcausethextinctiooseveral small ground-dwelling mammals of Australias arid lands. They are night-time grazers, preferring green grass anherbs. They also dibelow grasseto reacroots anseeds

Deer were introduced into Australia from Europe in the 19th century as game animals. Populations are expanding and deer are invading new areas. Feral deer can have major impacts in parks and reserves by destroying native vegetation by trampling plants and grazing. Red deer prefer open habitat and grassy glades in forests. I have seen them in the wild but I don't have a photo of feral deer. But here's one I prepared earlier, from a deer hunt from a deer farm.
Red and rusa deer in a deer farm in Mt Samson.
Other feral animals in the great south land are goat, horse (brumby), water buffalo, european red fox, wild cat, wild dog. All these animals 
have been brought into Australia from somewhere else in the world.
I encountered a cheeky little red fox off the Kogan-Condamine Road once, but everytime i tried getting closer for a photo, it would run off to the bushes. 
As for the others, I'll keep my eyes peeled. There's always a chance of spotting ferals in the jungles of Brisbane. And if I cannot take a photo, well it's 
not the picture, but the face-to-face.
Happy huntin'. And do as the roamers do!
Now, about that murder that I saw...

Monday, 12 December 2011

the wild west

The western downs regional council in southern queensland was a home-away-from-home in 2011. The two-weeks-on and two-weeks-off work cycle meant that i spent nearly half the year out here (or there). During that time, I got to meet many of the local wildlife that have found and made their home in the forests and grasslands of the western downs, where now they are extracting for coal seam gas. From the coalmines near Condamine, to the Wandoan sun, many bared the secrets of their souls...
The western downs, like any other place on earth, is inhabited by indigenous and non-indigenous populations.

First the natives:
The largest living bird in Australia (2nd largest in the world) is the emu.
Emus live on wild fruits, berries and grass leaves and small insects.
They grow up to 2 metres tall but they cannot fly.
I met this emu dad (mum) and his chicks on the little-used and little-known dusty Crowsdale-Camboon Road in the deep south of Banana shire.
Endowed with good eyesight and hearing, Emus can detect predators in the vicinity.
They live in grasslands all over Australia.
Late in the day these emus look like a painting on the landscape, but no work of art, no photograph, can depict the thrill of seeing them in their natural environment.
Sometimes they are as one with their surroundings.
Emus can live up 20 years in the wild. They are predated by eagles and hawk dingos and igoys.
The koala is not a bear but a marsupial.
They live in eucalypt trees, feeding on the young leaves. Koalas are good climbers but slow and clumsy on the ground. They sleep most of the day in the fork of a tree, foraging for food at night.
The name Koala comes from an Aboriginal word meaning "no drink", as Koalas get enough fluids from the eucalyptus leaves they feed on. 
Koalas are very placid and do not move around much, but this one got startled  and climbed up a small tree. It probably hasn't seen or heard a car or even come in contact with humans before.
I was not expecting to find this fair-sized koala, and was pleasantly surprised to meet it in a forested road reservation off the Goombi-Fairymeadow Road in Greenswamp.

Australian Bustard
Bustards, which weigh 14 kg, are the heaviest flying birds in Australia, and amongst the heaviest in the world.
A wet and wary bustard off the West Myall Road/Roma-Taroom Road junction near north of Roma.
These huge birds reach heights of 120 cm and wingspans around 2 m. Bustards prefer to walk because of their bulk, though it is quite a spectacular sight to witness them in flight.
Near construction works in Chinchilla-Tara Road.
Australian Bustards are found on dry plains, grasslands, in open woodland and low shrublands. 
They are vulnerable to predation by introduced predators such as dingoes, cats, foxes and igollotes.
Off Greenswamp Road.
This species is also called the Plains Turkey or Wild Turkey.

Goannas or monitor lizards are a common sight in Australia. 

Goannas are darkish in shades of grey, olive or brown and most of them show lighter coloured patterns. These are white or yellow spots, or stripes. One day I almost ran over a brighter coloured (orange-striped) goanna, but wasn't fast enough to take a photo before it ran off into the bush.
Goannas are predators with sharp teeth and long claws. They forage and hunt for lizards, snakes, insects, birds and eggs and even small mammals. Like most native fauna, goannas are rather wary of human intrusions into their habitat, and will most likely run away into the scrub, or up a tree like our friend here.
Goanna off Greenswamp Road.
Recent studies suggest that goannas are venomous. Keep away from them.

The Echidna (or Spiny Ant-eater) is one of only two surviving monotremes, (link between the reptiles and mammals). Echidnas are widely distributed throughout Australia. They live in a variety of habitats, from dry deserts to humid rainforests.
They rest in hollow logs, under stones, clumps of vegetation or in short burrows. The Echidna is not an aggressive animal but has remarkable defensive ability when it feels threatened. It rolls itself into a ball, with prickly spines out to protect its soft under-parts.
Apparently echidnas are falling prey to feral cats, dogs and humans.
We met this spiky creature whilst zooming along the Warrego Highway between Miles and Roma. I thought it was hitch-hiking. We didn't have any room in the car anyway, so we directed it back to the bush.
The kangaroo is Australia's largest living marsupial and national animal. Kangaroos of different types live in all areas of Australia, Kangaroos are herbivorous, eating a range of plants. 
Most are nocturnal but some are active in the early morning and late afternoon. 
I spied this beauty as the sun was setting. It tried to hide behind a fence post.
At the Argoon-Kilburnie Road in Callide.
There is no farming of kangaroos but they are harvested in the wild by licensed hunters. Harvesting of kangaroos for export started in 1959. Today kangaroo meat and skins are exported to more than 55 countries all over the world. Kangaroo meat is one of the finest healthiest and leanest game meats with fat levels of less than 2% and is high in protein, zinc and iron. Its appeal stems from its delightful well-flavoured, slightly gamey taste.
The other threat to kangaroos aside from cullers and hunters are the roadkillers - vehicles. 
Off Mooga-Mooga Creek, Roma-Taroom Road.
Estimates vary but every year hundreds of thousands of kangaroos end up as roadkill. Many kangaroos (and wallabies) get killed when they go to the roadsides to feed.
Near Juandah Creek, Wandoan.
Rain and roads promote grass on the roadside verges. 
Dawson Highway, just below Specimen Hill on the Callide range.
Bitumen roads draw in heat from the sun during the day then in the cool of night creates condensation causing green grass to grow. These grass attract the kangaroos  usually in the early mornings and at dusk.
Off Inverness Road, Callide range.
This poor roo must have died a slow and painful death. Its legs got tangled up in a barbed wire fence trapping it.
In a matter of days, especially in the hot sun, it was just skin - no, just hair and bones.

 A very sluggish carpet snake off Crowsdale-Camboon Road. We hiked in about 1km, along a meandering creek when I heard my mate, who was about 100m back, yell out. I thought 'uh-oh. I hope he hasn't rolled an ankle.' I walked back to find him excitedly showing me this photo.
A red or brown and very dead snake. 
This was a roadkill on Greenswamp Road.

The Brigalow scaly-foot is a legless lizard, lead grey to greyish brown in colour that grows to approximately 60cm.
From the rolling hills of Woleebee.
Blue-tongued lizards are prey to cats and foxes.
This lizard was in three parts, perhaps attacked by a fox. It was in a drain of the Kogan-Condamine Road.
Rocket frog? I'm not sure. I found this sharing a home with some green frogs in Paradise Downs Road.
Whilst at the wild west, I also witnessed a murder, but that's for another blog...
There's more pictures of wildlife of the western downs here: locals-of-the-crossroads.

The immigrants: see part 2. the wild wild west