Monday, May 30, 2011

Like a Coiled Spring

On the eve of flying out to Anchorage I feel ready and keen to get out on the open road. The excitement of anticipation of what lies ahead.....Anchorage, riding north, Denali, riding away from Bears, riding into Moose, Stampede Trail and all that lies beyond.

I almost sucumb to the temptation of a grand project that would have grounded me at home, in the form of a castle. It was such a great little castle with a stone tower, flagpole for the skull and crossbones, a dungeon and a tunnel to the church. A week of castle fantasies and I decided against it. With that decision made, a calm desended and my focus returned to the North American oddysey.

The past week has seen me buy more and more gadgets, that I convince myself I will need, but in reality are little more than a psychological security blanket. The latest is the Power Monkey solar charger. A tiny pair of solar panels that will charge the ipod and phone. The bike got a good clean and oil last week and under clear blue skies I pushed off for a ride down the Huon Valley on Saturday. It was magic but I could only imagine what lies ahead. It is now crammed into its box and weighing a little to much I fear. Iam just hoping for some sympathetic check-in staff.

It is time to go. All that is left, is the doing now.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Island Wanderings

As the L'Astrolabe honked its horn and headed home, my mind was already packing for a hike down the island to explore this world heritage wonderland. Lovely Helen had arranged permits for us and Jamie took charge organising the gear and logistics. It is such a treat to just get carried along sometimes.

We headed down the isthmus and then climbed up onto the plateau, where dead rabbit carcasses littered the way. The work of the rabbit eradication program was already showing dividends but the damage of these rodents was all to clear. Stumps stood where tussock grass had been and their warrens made honeycomb of the slopes. Low visibility persisted as we skirted the lakes unable to even see the other shore.

As the darkness fell we descended into Bauer Bay where a hut sat waiting for us fully stocked with food, sleeping bags, a guitar and everything we could need for very comfortable living. Four bunks and seven guys meant the floor was well patronised.

The next morning we justified our excursion by conducting the monthly marine debris survey at the Bauer Bay site. There wasnt much by global standards but still disapointing to find plastics strewn across such a remote beach. Work done, Jamie took us south, down the west coast to show us Aurora Cave where legend had it, that shipwrecked sailors had survived eating birds that they caught. The cave would have been a great find for a shipwrecked sailor and it was not hard to see how you could survive on the local wildlife. It was all so tame and I will remember for a long time laying down on the spongy grass and having Giant Petrels sweeping down over me to determine whether I was dead enough to eat. I wasnt that dead but was glad to see the hut as darkness descended again.

Heading out the next day we walked east across the hills to Sandy Bay, where Helen had a bit of work lined up for us bundling boardwalks up for airlift up onto the plateau. A beautiful day and Amber who was with her, had made us some fantastic slice. Scum yum delicious, thankyou Amber. Job done, we headed down to the beach and found the king penguin colony. The chicks were getting vocal but their voices hadnt broken, so they just whistled away to each other. Undettered by our presence they didnt take long to surround me when I sat down on the beach. They edged up to me, curious about my odd plumage but suspect that they didnt want to eat me like the Giant Petrels the day before.

Wandering north along the east coast Jamie continued to fill us in on interesting facts. The penguin digestors, left over from the days when penguins were boiled down for oil, still sat where they were placed in the 19th century. The tide met the cliffs at the Nuggets and a few quick dashes around rocks between waves saw us in sight of the station. In sight but a steady head wind made us work hard for those last miles. The Aurora Australis wasnt far away and our minds shifted to the upcoming operations. It had been a special opportunity to get out amongst this heavily protected wilderness jewel and I am very grateful for all those who made it possible.