July 22, 2014
A Paddle in the Whitsundays?
Aint nobody got time for that!
In 2006 I read an article in Wild Magazine about a lady who went to Queensland and hired a kayak from Salty Dog Sea Kayaks and spend an amazing time exploring the islands of the Whitsunday’s. I was hooked, both on the idea of a paddling holiday in the Whitsunday’s and on sea kayaking, something I had never, at that point, done before.
Well the trip to Tasmania came about first, then we got distracted hiking in Tasmania a few years later and then last year snowshoeing in Victoria. So this year the dream became a reality, a 7 day 6 night paddling adventure circumnavigating Whitsunday Island and along the way visiting Hook, Hazelwood, Henning and Hamilton Islands. Lance (Timor Leste), Stuart, Jame and myself (Perth) and Neale (Melbourne) managed to paddle about 120km in near picture perfect weather from July 4 – 11 2014, this is our story…
Friday 4th and Saturday the 5th July – Perth, Melbourne to Dugong Beach Whitsunday Island QLD
I got put on standby! Stuart had his flight on the wrong night and had to pay over $2000 and all his remaining points to get a business class seat and James…well James was relaxed and ready to leave Perth an hour and a half before we even arrived at Perth airport! Neale and Lance were already overnighting in Brisbane. I managed to land a seat at the very last second – we were all on our way to rendezvous in Brisbane before flying to Proserpine and busing to Shute Harbour, to pay for our boats and ferry to Dugong Beach Whitsunday Island.
We were speechless as we rounded the hills toward the Shute Harbour, the turquoise water shimmered in the morning sun, hardly a ripple broke the surface. My memories of working here on Daydream Island 22 years ago flooded back. We were talked into leaving on the 1pm water taxi instead of the 2pm to please the company, it was a mad rush and we really didn’t get the briefing we’d hoped for. We would have asked more questions like “Where are the promised sails?” But all in all the boats were in very good condition…apart from a worn rudder rope, and their was hardly enough wind to fill a sail.
The taxi was filled with gear to the roof, not ours, but a group of young people who were camping at Dugong Beach for the week, more gear than I’ve ever seen for a week of beach camping!
We set up camp but Stuart, James and I had one missing ingredient for a happy week – Food! We had a plan, the 5 of us climbed aboard our kayaks for the first time and paddled a couple of kms south to where Stuarts friends had their boat moored, they had carried our food from Perth. The lovely Catamaran was the home of Mike and Chrissy who played host to us for an hour of great chats, banana cake and tea.
As we returned to camp we encountered our first of many big sea turtles lounging in the bay.
The sun set on our first event-filled day.
Sunday 6th July – Dugong Bay to Curlew Beach, Hook Is.
After a perfect nights sleep (other than the scuffle of the native rats) we awoke around 6.30am, breakfasted and headed off on foot to summit Whitsunday Peak which sat above our campsite. A 3 hour return walk with spectacular 360º views of the Whitsunday group of islands. We were back for an early lunch sitting by our kayaks overlooking what was still a glassy flat ocean…or Coral Sea to be precise.
We finally loaded up our boats and headed off to our campsite some 11km to the North West on Hook Island. The paddle was beautiful, picture perfect, and we arrived to an empty peaceful campsite.
We emptied our heavy loads onto the beach, most of the weight being made up of water, as we had taken on an extra 25L at Dugong in the form of a jerry can which was strapped today to Neale’s deck. Water was a stress at first but needlessly so as it turned out. We thought we may need over 4L per person per day and we only used about 2! This saving was due in part to the fact that we had many pre-hydrated meals that only required boiling in the bag, so the water was then used for tea or rice etc.
After emptying the kayaks we headed out to explore Naro inlet, the site of some aboriginal cave paintings.
The Whitsunday area is the traditional land and sea country of the Ngaro (Naaro) and Gia people. The traditional owners maintain a strong and ongoing connection with the area and have made access points that tourists are welcome to explore at sacred places around the islands. This is what we discovered here at the base of the inlet. A walking trail to this sacred site with audio stories to listen to, reflective areas and a viewing platform to see the cave paintings. This, we all agreed, was ‘a moment’ on our trip. Satisfied and moved, we paddled the 5km back to our camp, passing huge sandstone rocks carved out by weather and with the orange glow of a setting sun. We made sure our food was stored safe in the kayak hatches to avoid the mice getting into it all…well most of us did that :-)
Monday 7th July Curlew Beach to Crayfish Bay, Hook Is.
An 8am departure into another picture perfect day. We kept looking at each other asking “can you believe this weather???!!!”
We paddle for just one hour to the beach adjacent the rear of the abandoned Hook Island Wilderness Lodge. We spent a fun hour exploring old buildings, finding huge lizards, trying to knock down green coconuts and eventually descending into the derelict depths of a disused underwater observatory, sadly the windows were mostly covered with algal growth. Upon return to our boats we discovered the tide had left us well and truly high and dry. A long drag followed!
Not only had the tide changed, but the weather too, we spent the next two hours paddling with a strong tail wind and following 1.5m swell. Not all of us enjoyed the extra waves and chop but some enjoyed the messy waters by using them to catch some surf. We probably spread out a little too much in uncertain conditions today and agreed to be within a shout of one another in future in case some of the less experienced paddlers got in trouble.
We rounded a large headland and found Crayfish Beach to be sheltered and idyllic under the towering peak at the head of the bay. So beautiful that it had attracted the presence of some (we deemed as) ‘illegal campers’. We made peace, but it was cramped, lucky they were nice :-)
The 5 of us scrambled up the rocky face of the nearby cliff for some pretty spectacular views of the bay and surrounding headlands. Upon return from our walk we managed an afternoon of snorkeling and seeing some incredible coral. As the sun rested behind the peak, dinner was served, along with some fresh crayfish…it is Crayfish Bay! James was AWOL – there was a recently arrived French ‘beauty’, he headed out to ‘assist’ in securing her kayak!
Tuesday 8th July – Crayfish Beach to Peter Bay, Whitsunday Is.
Last night was a great night chatting with new friends. They took our rubbish, our empty jerry and served us crayfish…they were definitely feeling guilty about being at the wrong campsite! The big 10L bladders Salty Dog gave us did leak a bit but we were doing ok for water. The bigger worry was 2 broken rudder lines. We took an hour fiddling with fishing line, then another hour at lunch but ended up ringing for help to Neil from Salty Dog who replaced the more damaged kayak the next morning.
After fiddling with rudders we headed off across yet another mirror like ocean which didn’t last too long today, we were pushing into a 10-15kn headwind before too long, it was a good fun, challenging paddle but didn’t last too long, we were back at the beach opposite Hook Island Lodge to rest, lunch and summit the Whitsunday Cairn…well not all of us :-) We had phone coverage here, so while James ran the peak, we chatted away to friends and family. Upon James’ return he took a dip and was nearly lost to us all in the very fast-moving current rushing between Hook and Whitsunday! 9km in the morning, 9km in the afternoon, still into a light 5-8kn headwind and small swell. According to Stuart …
Scott screamed like a girl…
when a giant manta ray swam under my boat (‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’ said Lance), this added to a daily dose of large sea turtles and other fish and dolphins it all made for entertaining paddling.
We paddled into the very long and shallow Peter Bay for our fourth night’s campsite. We had to stop paddling 400m from the campsite due to the low tide. The campsite was all our very own! It had a rustic feel to it after being destroyed by a cyclone in the last season, but we liked it a lot. It was here that my bowels finally kicked in and started moving! We could have had our own tropical island this camp felt so remote. The bird calls sang to us us we sat quietly on the beach absorbed by the evening atmosphere.
Wednesday 9th July – Peter Bay to Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Is.
I had an average night’s sleep after waking to a scratching noise that turned out to be a rat sitting in my cup eating the remaining hot chocolate in the bottom!
I had an amazing time of yoga/stretching and meditation on the little island in the middle of our part of the bay. Small 5cm waves rolled in past my feet. I invited James to join me and we experienced this sacred space for a few moments – mesmerizing!
As we were about to head off when Neil from Salty Dog arrived with a new kayak for James. Neil and Hayley are such great people running a great business, he even brought out heaps more water for us. The water here today was like glass, so transparent, you could see 20 feet to the bottom! The coral was a blaze of colour and fish swam everywhere, again, turtles frequented our path every few hours. A large Mackerel put on a show right in front of our boats jumping many feet out of the water chasing flying fish. A pod of dolphins crossed nearby. At one point I entered a huge cavernous crack in the cliff face in my boat and sat in there listening to the swell rise and fall through the cracks in the rock, it sounded like the cliff was breathing! It would have been a blow-hole in bigger swell. Another turtle swam beneath us and bays filled with sleepy yachts appeared as we moved along the balmy coast of Whitsunday Island, east side.
We stopped at the popular tourist spot in Tongue Bay, creatively named Lookout Beach. We waited until the throngs of people thinned and climbed the lookout for some memorable views down onto Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. Sadly the promised Geocache hidden here never showed itself and my Travel Bug tag remained in my pocket for another search on another day and another island. We returned to our kayaks and ate our now regular ‘second lunch’.
“Second lunch?” yelled Lance, “Aint nobody got time for that!” (with only Scott laughing hysterically)
The 9km paddle to our Whitehaven Beach campsite at the far south end of the beach was nothing but surreal. We felt like we were floating on air the water was so crystal clear on pure white sand.
That afternoon we spent walking beaches or paddling to nearby Hazelwood Island and snorkeling amongst huge coral bombies and not so huge ref white tip sharks!
Dinner was eaten down on the squeaky white sand of Whitehaven Beach until the whole beach went pinky orange in the dusk glow, not a breath of wind was felt.
It was decided upon sunset that…
‘there has NEVER been a better day…EVER’
Thursday 10th July – Whitehaven Beach to Henning Is.
My day began at around 4am (that’s what happens when you go to sleep at 7.30pm!) I slipped down to the beach with my sleeping bag and watched the morning star rise and an elderly couple pack their double kayak and get ready to head off for a weeks paddle. At around 6am the others arrived, it turn out Stuart had been awake much of that time too, just watching the beach from his hammock. We helped the couple with some photography and waved them off laughing to ourselves about Lances ‘photo bomb’…him not realising it was their camera! The sunrise was second to none, in fact it was heard said that it…
‘was the best sunrise – EVER!‘
Again the morning paddle was like something from a text-book on kayaking – absolute perfection, a sea of light blue glass, towering cliffs, palm and coconut trees to the water and coral under our boats. We met some headwinds and power paddled a good strong paddle into a small beach on Whitsunday Island in the channel between Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands. We ate our ‘first lunch’ here and headed straight on to Henning Island against a strong tide, some of us were ready to put down paddles and eat second lunch but some still had the paddle bug running through their veins.
So a challenge was laid down, ‘can you (Scott) and Neale paddle the double to Hamilton, find a Geocache on top of One Tree Hill, buy us beers and ice and return in two hours?’ The challenge was on, James followed in the single. Well we did amazing time over and back but Neale and I were distracted by a) a massive hill climb and 2) a lost Geocache and James was distracted by…well lets just say, it was coffee…or the one who served it! So we added an hour to the challenge, but timed our return perfectly to see a Humpback Whale playing in the passage off our campsite. So as the sun turned yet another afternoon to evening gold we drank our Coronas and watched the whale do his (or her) thing!
We had hit the 100km mark on our journey, a good hard 30km achieved today, so as the full moon rose over the islands we all crawled into our warm (except for Lances) sleeping bags and slept well despite the cool crisp air.
Friday 11th July – Henning Island to Nari’s Beach Whitsunday Is.
A great finish to a great trip! We awoke to a firm breeze blowing in our favour towards Whitsunday Island. A 7am start across the turbulent waters proved a fun and somewhat challenging start to the day. It was our roughest time on the water, but great to have paddled in such challenging conditions. Water was rushing through the channel creating standing waves and whirlpools and the like. We all agreed that
‘this day was the most challenging paddling – EVER!‘
Shouts could be heard as some chose to ride the sloppy swell, and as we pulled around the headland on Whitsunday Island it all disappeared back to its former glassy conditions, we headed straight for the shelter of Joe’s Beach then around one more tidal rush into Nari’s Beach, our taxi pick up point. We explored a mangrove covered bay along the way and also added one last little ‘extra’ paddle around to the next bay where we had collected our food from Mike and Chrissy a week ago to make it a full circumnavigation of Whitsunday Island. There we were back in Dugong Bay where our adventure had begun just 7 days ago.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we hit the open sea in the water taxi, this 2.5m swell and wild wind could have eaten us for breakfast had we not decided to use the taxi!
After unpacking the boats and repacking our bags, we thanked Neil and Hayley from Salty Dog very much for making our dream a reality. We caught the local bus into town and checked into the Beaches backpackers, had a few beers, a cheep meal with Mike and Chrissy and a good sleep.
The next morning saw us jet setting off to our respective next destinations – Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Gold Coast and ultimately East Timor.
We were deeply satisfied with what we all agreed was…
“THE BEST TRIP – EVER!”
April 18, 2014
For many years I have half joked about the fact that on my bucket list was this; that I would be arrested for doing something righteous, Christ-like, aka – not drunk and disorderly conduct!
I guess in some ways that motivation makes this ‘all about me’. Other than the fact that my desire was for it to be for something Christ-like, aka – ‘all about others’ :-) Following?
We could stop and have a long discussion about what percentage of my motivation was ‘ego’ (all about me) and what percentage of my motivation was ‘all about others’, but I am thinking that this is hard to measure, and is not my purpose here, I will make some related comments later, but first – some history.
I have been disturbed for some years on Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Even more so with Abbott’s “Stop The Boats” and “No Way” campaigns. But in 2004 the challenge to the Government from the Human Rights Commissioner was to release children from detention, see this amazing challenge from them here. And what has disturbed me is that, today, there are more kids in detention (1138 kids in detention) than in 2004.
This issue of kids in detention seems a bigger issue than the more general and much ‘hotter’ topic of stopping boats, detaining asylum seekers or off shore processing. It seems a no-brainer that kids don’t belong in detention, the results are horrific; (from the 2004 report)
There is a 14 year old boy still in detention in the Port Augusta residential housing project. Between April 2002 and July 2002, the boy (then detained at Woomera) attempted to hang himself four times, climbed into the razor wire four times, slashed his arms twice and went on hunger strike twice. This boy’s mother was hospitalised due to her own mental illness during this whole period.
Then there is the case of a 13 year old child who has been seriously mentally ill since May 2002. This boy has regularly self-harmed. In February 2003 a psychiatrist examining the boy wrote: ‘When I asked if there was anything I could do to help him, he told me that I could bring a razor or knife so that he could cut himself more effectively than with the plastic knives that are available.‘ Mental health professionals have made more than 20 recommendations that this child be released from detention with his family. But he is still there.
Human Rights Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski, OAM. Published in the Courier Mail and the Newcastle Herald, 10 June 2004
When I saw that some Christians had approached the Minister for Immigration’s office in March of this year (2014) demanding an answer as to when kids would be released and were arrested for their actions, I was excited. Not only was someone screaming loudly about this issue but it was a group of fellow believers including a mate of mine, Jarrod McKenna.
When the opportunity came to be involved in a similar event here in Perth at the Subiaco office of Julie Bishop (Deputy PM and Minister for Foreign Affairs), I didn’t have to pray and contemplate for very long at all.
2 training sessions took place prior to the event and articles were shared with regards to the philosophy and theology behind such an action as was being planned. The historical basis for this type of thing goes back a-way…We could go back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the book of Daniel in the Hebrew scriptures who refused to obey the laws of the land as they served a higher law – God’s law, they were willing to suffer whatever consequences. We could jump forward to Jesus whose life was one political protest after another, whose teachings were subversive and his final punishment a result of his refusal to obey the laws and shut up about his insistence that he was God. Jesus resisted in a non-violent manner, he refused verbal or physical abuse or acts of violence towards his fellow humans…although if you were a table in the temple in those days you were in trouble :-)
In fact it was King’s model that was referred to in much of the training in the lead up to this event. We were encouraged to read the letter King posted to christian leaders who were critical of his actions in being repeatedly arrested for his stance against segregation.
He encourages 4 steps, all of which have been followed in our recent case;
1. Collection of the facts, is this really happening?
2. Negotiation. This has been happening for a decade with no response as to when kids will be released.
3. Purification, times of prayer and preparation for those committing to the action, particularly around committing to non-violence and peace.
4. Direct Action. This took place last Monday in Julie Bishops office
In his letter Kings writes;
“You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”
One of the questions many have asked me, even challenged me on since the event, was around the ‘showing off’ of the event on social media. Every newspaper clipping posted on someone’s site, every mention of it splashed around the Twittersphere – were they not just another way of saying “look at me, I got arrested”? Were they not just a form of ego massage?
For me? YES!! and NO!!
I would be a liar of I denied that there was ANY sense of self back patting in this past week. I would be a liar if I hadn’t felt the ego swell when yet another text or Facebook message came in.
BUT – as a team, from the very beginning we named this, we held each other accountable, keeping our celebrations in check and focused on the issue, and more than once a text or call has been shared at an accountability level since the event.
This was a drama and we were the ‘lead actors’! This was meant to gain maximum media coverage and attention. The bigger it was the better it was. This was not about 11 people being arrested, this was about WHY 11 people were arrested, WHY 11 people trespassed on Federal Government land – This is still about 1138 Children in detention centres!
We did not come in a spirit of self-righteousness or condemnation. We do not judge the Minister or her staff. In fact, we pray for our Foreign Minister in her difficult role. The friendly police officers were just doing their job, so we did not resist arrest. (quoted from here)
Did you have to take it to the point of arrest, why not just get kicked out?
One of the police officers asked me this after we were offered the chance to get out and chat with the press via a “move on notice”. I responded by saying that if we were there protesting bad recycling practices in our local suburb or some other such lesser issue we may take the offer. But this issue – kids in detention – was too big for a move on notice, it required an arrest and we would stay until removed by arrest. It is interesting to note that the officer agreed with me. We were arrested. We were taken to Northbridge lockup for the afternoon. Processed (finger prints etc) and released on $0 bail with an order to not approach Ministers of Government until our court appearance on May 2.
Are there not legal avenues to get these kids out?
In July 2002, the Family Court of Australia ordered the release of five Afghan children from Baxter Immigration detention centre. The children were being held there with their mother (and later their father was also detained). The children were released into community care, separate from their parents who remained in detention.
[But] the Minister appealed this case on the grounds that the Family Court had no jurisdiction in this area. This was upheld by the High Court in 2004 (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs v B and B  HCA 20). The children’s ongoing detention was deemed lawful under the Migration Act. It was found that sections 189 and 196 of the Migration Act make no distinction between unlawful non-citizens who are under or over the age of 18 and such matters were not relevant to the Family Courts.
In October 2004, without having to address any areas of Family Court jurisdiction, the High Court again found that it was lawful to keep children in continued immigration detention in the case of Woolley (Woolley; Ex parte Applicant M276/2003 (by their next friend GS)  HCA 49).
After mounting pressure, a report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (A Last Resort, 2004) [referred to above] and numerous medical experts providing evidence of the detrimental impacts of detention on children – legislative change was made. The Migration Act was amended in 2005 (Migration Amendments (Detention Arrangements) Act 2005) and section 4AA now states:
- The Parliament affirms as a principle that a minor shall only be detained as a measure of last resort.
In February 2011 there were 990 children held in immigration detention. (as of March 2014 – 1138) The Immigration Minister announced in October 2010 that ‘the majority of children would be out of detention by June 2011’. Despite section 4AA of the Migration Act there are no measures in place today for the arrival of children seeking asylum by boat other than to detain them as a first course of action. (Source – State Library of NSW)
What Would Happen to These Kids If They Were Released?
A great question that must be asked, and one of the most often asked questions to me since the event last Monday.
As we wrote in our media explanation of why we did this;
The Uniting Church in Australia has offered to care for all the children currently in detention on Christmas Island.
The Baptist Churches in NSW have offered hospitality to over 80 people being transferred from Villawood.
The reality is that churches in Australia have more than sufficient resources to facilitate community-based care for all the children currently behind bars.
Our elected leaders only need to respond to our invitation. Australian people of all faiths and none will respond with creativity and compassion.
It is my understanding from precedent, that Children with parents are released with at least one parent into what is referred to a as APOD (Alternate places of detention) or community detention. Here are some further details for you, some further children are reportedly in detention taking totals to what we have been told are 1138;
- 1106 children locked in Australia’s secure immigration detention facilities,
- 356 of these children are detained on Christmas Island
- 177 of the children are detained in Nauru
- 1579 are detained in the community under residence determinations.
- 1816 children are living in the community on Bridging Visas which mean their parents have no work rights and very limited access to any Government support (this is an increase of around 100 in one month, indicating moves out of locked detention or out of community detention) (Italics mine, indicating something positive in all this…maybe?)
The statistics do not give a breakdown of how many children are unaccompanied vs how many are with adult family members.
You may be troubled by our actions. But ask yourself which is more troubling – the peaceful tradition of Christian civil disobedience, or the 1138 children who are in prison indefinitely?
If you are as troubled as we are about how we are ignoring these children, we invite you to do one thing. We invite you to start a conversation. Talk with people at home, at work, at the football club or on Facebook. You may be surprised just how many people are troubled too. Let’s make sure that children in our detention centres can no longer be ignored. Will you join us? (Taken from WA Today Op Ed piece)
There will be another gathering, a show of support for the 11 arrested as they appear in court, but most importantly a stand against our Government’s decision to keep 1138 children in detention centres.
We will gather outside the court on May 2 at 7.45am. 501 Hay St Perth. I recommend a half day training event on Thursday 29th April 9.30am – 12 at Westcity Church Wembley.
July 16, 2013
It began about a year ago when I read Andrew Bishops account of a wild winter circuit around the Bogong region one winter.
Ever since a walk across the high plains from Falls Creek to Bogong when Gavin and I were teenagers, I had always wanted to return in winter. Andrew’s comments made it all the more ‘do-able’, so that was the plan…
Scott Vawser (Team Leader – Perth)
Day 1 (Saturday 6th July 2013)
After logistics and planning were complete we headed to our rendezvous point in Bright in our borrowed ute. We found Ross and Dave wandering the wet streets of town looking for a good spot to eat before heading off to Mountain Creek campground just past Mount Beauty.
Our Mountain Creek camp was established on the same evening that a group of Scouts were being evacuated from a car park just a few km from Falls Creek in a wild snow storm. The weather had unleashed all its fury in a giant snow dump with some massive winds.
Back down in Mountain Creek we wore just the tail end of this bad weather in the form of constant all night rain…rain that was later to turn to ice as we pitched our tents outside of Ropers hut on our second night on the trail.
Day 2 – Sunday
Our car was left at Mountain Creek to be picked up by friends in Bright and parked somewhere safe for our return there in a week. We headed off into a cloudy day with light occasional showers. It was not long before we saw our first snow. We needed to fit our snow shoes at Bivouac Hut where we encountered 2 day-walkers deciding to stay or go, the weather was turning, the temperature dropping.
The decision not to ‘peak bag’ was a good one, people were wet tired, very cold and Cleve Cole hut was a welcome site after walking from 9 to 5…a good days work! My great lesson from the day is that Seal Skin socks keep your base layer warm and dry! I loved them.
Day 3 – Monday
The day was cold yet clear. We didn’t take off until 9.30am and lost all yesterdays altitude by descending deep into the Big River Valley. It was here that Gavin gave us the best laughs of the trip by inflating a pink “Barbie Raft” to transport his pack then himself…almost successfully across the 1 foot deep, biting cold river.
The other side of the bank introduced us to the other side of the valley and a steep painful climb back up into the snow line. Ropers hut was small and occupied by a lovely German couple in ‘old school’ ski gear.
We pitched our tents and I personally experienced the coldest night of my life. The temp was -5. My shoes froze, my water froze…everything froze, especially our wet tent! Stuart managed to eat something that ‘disturbed’ him. He spend the night with vomiting and diarrhea.
Day 4 – Tuesday
We left Ropers at 8.30am into an even more stunning day, long views of snow for as far as the eye could see. Stuart dragged himself around with nothing in his tank after such a violent night. He still had diarrhea and nausea, we pumped as much hydro lite into him as he could take. He loaded up his pack and just walked and walked and walked, at lunch break he laid in the snow and slept for 20 minutes in the warm sun. We were aiming for Wallace or Cope Hut, but were all feeling the pinch of a very hard days walking in steep and deep conditions.
When Stuart saw the sign indicating ‘just’ 5km to go until we reached the hut his F******* exclamation summed up what we all felt…that although we knew we had it in us to make the hut, a walk in after dark would just be a killer that we didn’t need. The decision was made to set up camp at the Langford East Aqueduct SES emergency hut.
Tents were pitched, toilets dug and some wood collected for a small fire to keep us warm before heading to the tents. Stuart…missed the fire part, and the dinner part, he was sound asleep after a full day of running on empty in what he referred to as “the hurt locker’! He slept 12 hours through a -7 degree night! Gavin and I chickened out and decided freezing on the floor of the small hut was better than freezing in the tent.
Day 5 – Wednesday
Gavin woke and packed but was tentative, a sore groin and knee and no doubt a weary mind, battling the decision to stay or go for some time. We were on the track by 8.30 and by 8.50 Gavin made the decision to turn back to the exit point at Langford Gap West, The Bogong High Plains Rd into Falls Creek. Some deep emotions felt as farewell ‘man hugs’ given and we went one way and Gavin went the other.
Not long down the road we came to the impressive Scout Chalet where the group left from last Saturday and were evacuated from Langford Gap Rd just a few hours later. We chatted with one of the residents for a while and turned down a look inside in favour of keeping up our new found momentum and pace. This pace continued into the stunning day.
Through the deep clean powder we saw many footprints, we think we saw roo prints, deer prints, many rabbit prints and even a horse print, but rabbits were the only animals we encountered ‘live’.
After some discussion around the interpretation of the map we turned left (not right!) and into what is known as Ryders Yards by 2pm, a beautiful picturesque campsite with about 3 tin shacks, one good for food prep and staying warm around the fire, one normally locked and another good for sleeping in. Here we met Pete alecturer in computing at TAFE who was a great talker and even out talked me! He loved his light weight outdoor hiking gear and prided himself on staying warm in dangerously cold conditions.
Day 6 – Thursday
We headed off at 8.30am. After filling up from the aqueduct and blasting the water with our Steri-pen we moved on into yet another blue sky day, Ross singing a song for every comment made, me trying to work out which band it was, the album and the song title.
After a few minor malfunctions Dave’s snow shoe broke and so did his patience. Whilst taking a 2km short cut across a beautiful snow covered plain Dave dropped back and sorted out his shoe…and his bad attitude :-)
We came across 2 Park Rangers on snow patrol who pulled over and told us how impressed they were with our journey, took our photos and asked if they could write our story in the next Vic Parks Magazine.
Day 7 – Friday
After some strange antics and video making, we headed up Swindlers Spur at 8.30, a final killer climb into Hotham, not before some spectacular view of Feathertop and a relaxing ‘last supper lunch’ sitting in the smart looking Derrick Hut. We placed every last bit of food on the table and had a feast.
Day 8 – Saturday
We fare-welled Dave, a great new friend and a valuable guy to have in the mountains. We drove back to the airport to meet Neale Meredith for dinner, he had arranged our vehicle.
April 17, 2012
A letter from Simon Moyle via Jarod Mc Kenna
January 13, 2012
To start, a story.
A few years ago a female student wanted to visit with me about some difficulties she was having, mainly with her family life. As is my practice, we walked around campus as we talked.
After talking for some time about her family situation we turned to other areas of her life. When she reached spiritual matters we had the following exchange:
“I need to spend more time working on my relationship with God.”
I responded, “Why would you want to do that?”
Startled she says, “What do you mean?”
“Well, why would you want to spend any time at all on working on your relationship with God?”
“Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”
“Let me answer by asking you a question. Can you think of anyone, right now, to whom you need to apologize? Anyone you’ve wronged?”
She thinks and answers, “Yes.”
“Well, why don’t you give them a call today and ask for their forgiveness. That might be a better use of your time than working on your relationship with God.”
Obviously, I was being a bit provocative with the student. And I did go on to clarify. But I was trying to push back on a strain of Christianity I see in both my students and the larger Christian culture. Specifically, when the student said “I need to work on my relationship with God” I knew exactly what she meant. It meant praying more, getting up early to study the bible, to start going back to church. Things along those lines. The goal of these activities is to get “closer” to God. To “waste time with Jesus.” Of course, please hear me on this point, nothing is wrong with those activities. Personal acts of piety and devotion are vital to a vibrant spiritual life and continued spiritual formation. But all too often “working on my relationship with God” has almost nothing to do with trying to become a more decent human being.
The trouble with contemporary Christianity is that a massive bait and switch is going on. “Christianity” has essentially become a mechanism for allowing millions of people to replace being a decent human being with something else, an endorsed “spiritual” substitute. For example, rather than being a decent human being the following is a list of some commonly acceptable substitutes:
•Going to church
•Spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting)
•Going on spiritual retreats
•Reading religious books
•Arguing with evolutionists
•Sending your child to a Christian school or providing education at home
•Using religious language
•Avoiding R-rated movies
•Not reading Harry Potter.
The point is that one can fill a life full of spiritual activities without ever, actually, trying to become a more decent human being. Much of this activity can actually distract one from becoming a more decent human being. In fact, some of these activities make you worse, interpersonally speaking. Many churches are jerk factories.
Take, for example, how Christians tip and behave in restaurants. If you have ever worked in the restaurant industry you know the reputation of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth.
I exaggerate of course. But I hope you see my point. Rather than pouring our efforts into two hours of worship, bible study and Christian fellowship on Sunday why don’t we just take a moment and a few extra bucks to act like a decent human being when we go to lunch afterwards? Just think about it. What if the entire restaurant industry actually began to look forward to working Sunday lunch? If they said amongst themselves, “I love the church crowd. They are kind, patient and very generous. It’s my favorite part of the week waiting on Christians.” How might such a change affect the way the world sees us? Think about it. Just being a decent human being for one hour each Sunday and the world sees us in a whole new way.
But it’s not going to happen. Because behavior at lunch isn’t considered to be “working on your relationship with God.” Behavior at lunch isn’t spiritual. Going to church, well, that is working on your relationship with God. But, as we all know, any jerk can sit in a pew. But you can’t be a jerk if you take the time to treat your waitress as if she were your friend, daughter or mother.
My point in all this is that contemporary Christianity has lost its way. Christians don’t wake up every morning thinking about how to become a more decent human being. Instead, they wake up trying to “work on their relationship with God” which very often has nothing to do with treating people better. How could such a confusion have occurred? How did we end up going so wrong? I’m sure there are lots of answers, but at the end of the day we need to face up to our collective failure. I’m not saying we need to do anything dramatic. A baby step would do to start. Waking up trying to be a little more kind, more generous, more interruptible, more forgiving, more humble, more civil, more tolerant. Do these things and prayer and worship will come alongside to support us.
I truly want people to spend time working on their relationship with God. I just want them to do it by taking the time to care about the person standing right in front of them.
Richard Beck is Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. He is the author of Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Mortality. Richard’s area of interest — be it research, writing, or blogging — is on the interface of Christian theology and psychology, with a particular focus on how existential issues affect Christian belief and practice. Richard’s published research covers topics as diverse as the psychology of profanity to why Christian bookstore art is so bad. He blogs at Experimental Theology, where this post originally appeared.