The Circumnavigation of ORINOCO FLO Part 3 by Rob Ward Marigot Bay, St Martin – Ansedes Colombiers, St Barts (A couple of days in the Caribbean) We arrived at St Martin’s by way of a stonking 13 knot close reach under jib and reefed main to Barbuda from Antigua. And after a Cray filled Barbuda (where […]
(In other words – in the desert – The sun comes up; The sun goes down.) Just a few more shots. I’ve got anything you have sent before today which is Tuesday March 27th. I’m 66 in four days. Please send money. PO Box 82, Dunwich, 4183. It’ll be forwarded to the secret desert hideaway. […]
In a reflective mood This is a toilet – 2 trunkated telegraph poles support the roof structure, they and all the interior fitting are secured to a concrete floor and the cement and sandstone boulders lead in a spiral to a well ventilated flushing loo. Ron says the (?8) loos with their running water, piped […]
This is a bit of a blow. Even under the awning you can (just?) see in the foto below, the light is way too bright for me to see anything on MAC’s screen. So I can’t write standing at the table I made from a panel of Carbon/foam/laminex (Formica), or sit with MAC resting on the little fridge freezer I have on loan. So I’m reclined with MAC on my knees and my head jammed on the walls of the sleeping box on the ute. (The white bit, obviously).
Camp (Castles surf break just over dune) habitation of the Camel Driver, the Painted Dragon and the Honey Eater – the Camel Drivers 2 best mates (read on…) unless you already did. NB Solar panels calculated to spit out photovoltaic energy. Crafty.
Let me tell you about my new best friends: The first and most hilarious is not called a Painted Dragon. There IS a lizard here that IS called that. But the one I’d call a Painted Dragon is called here a Gecko, which it most certainly isn’t. To know why this little guy is my new best friend (number 1) you’d have to know those whom I designate mine enemies. Everyone in England knows what a horsefly is. They’re big bumbling f###ers… we used to shoot them with the elastic garters that held our socks up at the school where the man used to beat me with a stick. They used to breed in the hot tin-roofed classrooms or under the floors or somewhere. But they blackened the windows. Alive and dead. Here they are called March Flies and someone recently announced a theory that were properly called Marsh Flies. Well, this is the Desert, the edge of the Nullarbor Plain. (That means no bloody trees, sport…) And these things have gone forth and multiplied. (You get Biblical in the desert). So I think we can dismiss that radical take on the etymology of March Fly. Since one is covered in flies here from sun-up to sun-down and equally, as the hoi polloi are wont to say in the UK, from “arsehole to breakfast time” – which I suppose to mean, “all over” – the March flies come at you under good cover. And these ones here bite twice as hard as the Queensland March flies, PLUS! they are half the size. So you’ll be walking along trying not to be a woos, lagged in flies like a dinky-di, outback, mule-skinning kind of Ozzie or imagining yourself in one of those pictures you see of bee-trainers (you know the ones where they have a bee “hat” on) and suddenly your composure is shot to buggery by a stabbing pain in – some place on your delicate skin located between your ******** & b’fast time. You look at the afflicted part and sure enough, there is a drop of your very own red, red blude as if you’ve just been donating it of your own free will to the doctor (to check that your AIDS has not come back) or the clinic that collects it for people who need it. Far from it, it has been removed against your will, painfully, in order that this spawn of Beelzebub can go forth (and here’s the irony…) multiply Biblically. Indeed, in plague proportions. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Pharaoh was in these parts before he started afflicting the Jews and that he seriously pissed God off.
Enter the Lizard that should be called the Painted Dragon. He should be called that,
Because it’s a great name and he deserves to be called by a great name
Because his back is a beautiful scaly skin tapestry that is expressly designed to strike dumb your average word-smith. Oh alright! it’s a lace-work of black separating fractal patterns of reddish-ochre split into two broadly parallel lines each about 6mm wide in between a cool mint green patterning tending toward a lemon belly. Of course the overall effect if you don’t get up-close and personal is a light sandy brown. But don’t be fooled. This is the Painted Dragon.
And here’s his trick… it’s amazing and it’s what makes him my best mate. I’m cooking standing at my table. Along comes the March fly (by the way, you’ve noticed the month; just a hint to the radical etymologists (& entomologists) among us, he settles on your foot. And just as he is about to fork in his first mouthful of dinner you feel a delightful tickle on your ankle rather than a stabbing pain and your dragon has nailed him even as he drilled! But these guys are even more proactive than that. This morning I watched one jump a full 100 mm and pluck one out of the air! This may not sound like a great leap to a 1800mm high human being … but just try leaping 1800 mm straight up… these guys are just 100 mm long; probably 15 mm high.
Ron who owns the place these days was just by (we’re friends… I gave him money) and told me of a fellow who was here for a few weeks and became such good mates with one he wanted to take it home. That, of course is NOT ON. If everyone did that this place would be a writhing, knee deep carpet of March flies and there would be not a small number of emaciated once-human leathery near-corpses riddled with tiny blood-stains.
Best friend number 2 is a pretty, social bird with a tinge of green to his wings, a black eye-flash, a sweet unassuming song and a cunning ability to fly upside down into the tiny scrubby bushes here that look identical but actually constitute an eco-system of great diversity (if you get up-close etc…). They say that good art is a matter of ‘mis-direction’. So if this was good writing, you would have no idea at all why this pretty ‘Honey Eater’ (again, crassly mis-named) is my second, new best mate. And I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by mentioning that, while it may seem silly for a bird to fly into a bush upside down, they do have a knack of coming out with their beaks bristling with legs and wings. But I’m not allowed by the conventions of good art to say what the legs and wings are hanging off…
Anyway, enough of legs and wings; let’s get onto cabbages and kings. There was swell when I got in 3 nights ago but I’d driven all day – only 560km, not the 900 of the day before that, so I parked somewhere and braced myself to “make a deal” with Ron, who wanted $10 a night, which is a lot for a toilet when a chap owns a shovel. Ron came round shortly before dark which is about 7:30; sunrise is about 7:30 too so I guess we can agree that Meridian Passage at this longitude and using the rather odd time conventions in South Australia must be about 1:30 pm. For the record, NSW is one hour ahead of Qld. SA is 30 minutes back from that. NSW claim somehow to be saving daylight, eh? I know I wrote that, but it doesn’t seem to me to mean anything believable. SA of course, is – well the way I drove – nearly 3000k further away from sunrise than Stradbroke Island. And, now that we know that the world is round (actually, of course, an oblate spheroid) and goes round the sun (actually, elliptically round the sun) we know that sunrise is something of a misnomer. But more serious than the error of all those phrases is the sad fact that I even felt I needed to know what time the sun did, or didn’t “come up”. I woke at “6:30″ this morning in the dark. I actually went to bed at “7:30″ before dark. But the thing is, which 7:30 did I got to bed with and by which did I arise? The phone picked up SA time back in Ceduna where there is coverage. The computer is on Qld time. But my body is going to have to come round to acquiescing to Cactus time. The, sun rises, the sun goes down. Ca y est! Yesterday I went on to the beach and with no sign of human company did my Salute the Sun. I felt no need to rush. And last night, when I had a stainless cup of red (just found the glasses) I felt no desire to finish the bottle. This is part of why I came here.
The day I arose and surfed Castles. Very badly. In fact rather as if I were the victim of a bit of Jesus healing. You will know the story. A Centurion came to Jesus and said unto him. I am a man of authority. I say to this man “Come!” and he cometh. I say to this man “Go” and he goeth. I recognise in you a man of authority. It is sufficient that you say the word and my servant will be healed. He’s a 66 year old in a wheel-chair and he says he wants to surf.
Jesus said to his disciples, “I say unto you, I have not seen such faith as this in all Judaea.” And to the Centurion he saith, “Return to your servant. Tell him to arise from his wheel-chair. He will surf”. Well, as it went, I rather took the view that Our Lord had overestimated his pull with Our Father who is in Heaven. I surfed, but I surfed as if I were still in a wheel chair. Fortunately, I was alone and I pray, unseen. Later in the day I wandered up to Caves which was firing and offshore. I had wanted a paddle and did not want to mix it with the locals of which there were 12. But Lo, when I went out there in the afternoon there was but one. And I passed a man upon the road who was not young (for he was at least 40) and he was afflicted by poor attitude. He said to me, “The wind is on it. It is wretched”, though when I thought upon that I knew that the man truly had said, “For it is Rat Shit.” Thinking this unbiblical I passed upon my way. Having returned to my dwelling I picked up my 6′ 3″ quad, and girding my loins (read: fighting my way into a full wetsuit for the second time in 10 years, yay it was an struggle and yay I did fall upon the ground as it were possessed by an demon and if he who passed by on the other side of the road in my hour of need because I was a Samaritan and therefore despised, he should have seen me writhing in mine effort later to get out of it in the shallows, for, verily, I did nearly drown.) Long story short, terrific head-high waves running 100M with one guy out. “Carrick”. Good nautical name: the “Carrick Bend”, a particularly complex knot; also the name of a Cornish Council which would be right. Dad has a 100′ boat in Indo chartering. Carrick, after 11 years in Indo now drives a tug in Thevenard up the way near Streaky Bay I think. He ripped, and – you know what? – the healing kicked in. (A prayer, travelling at the speed of light – the ultimate speed of the permeation of force in the Universe – it must therefore take a measurable period of time to get from Judaea to Heaven and back again, so fair-enough!) And verily I did rip too. Later joined by Simon who farmed 7000 Hectares and was waiting for the first rains upon the land that he might plant grain. Simon had been a shearer before his parents gifted him the farm. I said, By Jove, that must have given you a strong back! And he said that it did but that it was a young man’s game. I had taken a look at him and thought he was not only young but hard as nails and I said to him, “And how old are you?” And he replied that he was 37. I said, Verily, verily, you are indeed a poor old f#ck.
And we had a ball.
The sea and part of the Gawler Craton, the granite underlying the sedimentary sandstone and limestone on which the surf breaks and a piece of rock that has neither been been faulted nor folded in 1,450 million years and can therefore be supposed to be “as God intended”. Which I would apply to all of Cactus if God believed in me.
Camel driver seen on walk to Port Le Hunte (That really IS the name) That really isn’t a camel driver…
I’m alive and nobody is more surprised and happy than I am. I’ll only mention one (out of many) reason: Road Trains. Any Australian who has driven outback knows what a Road Train is. Think very big semi-trailer with another one or two stuck on the back. You’ve got the hang of driving fantastically fast, gradually, over the course of five days. The legal limit is 110kph. You’ll be overtaken frequently if you drive at 120. But trucks, “lorries” (UK Speak) more or less confine themselves to the limit. There are now average-speed cameras. Truckies have always known where the cops are and where the cameras are. But this device has them beat, for their own good, sure! It automatically identifies vehicles over 4.5 tonnes weight – that is, NOT a van – and calculates the driver’s average speed over, what? 100 kilometers? So, no good speeding up between cameras. This means for the common ute/pickup voyager that, sooner or later, you will find yourself overtaking a road train. The roads are good. Straight and flat and my fotos give little impression of the fact that you can see to a 30k horizon and sometimes get a hint of further if the terrain permits it. You can on the larger version but I couldn’t send them.) The engineers were Romans. A road train coming towards you usually appears as a water tower in the distance. You’re seeing the white fibreglass wind streamliner that leads the air blast up and over the one-story-high trailers behind the prime mover. The body of the prime mover is hidden in the road’s “mirage effect” at a certain distance. Gradually it begins to make itself visible. First it gets two black legs then it forms itself into a recognisable object and then you start preparing yourself to stay real nice and steady on your side of the road. Of course, if you did do a head-on with one it would be over very quickly and with little damage, including psychological, to the road train or driver. Your engine would pass out through the back of your treasured transport/home with you a hard to-identify something in between One of the many little games you play over these great distances is to start counting the seconds from first sighting to the passage of the vehicle. Then you start trying to work out how far away it was when you first saw it. I found about 30 seconds was common. So, closing at about 220kph, you saw it about 2k up the track.
Anyway, passing an approaching road train is a thrilling but only a brief flirtation with death – the road is just wide enough for two of them to pass each other without going for a wander. Overtaking takes more planning. I overtook 2 in the past 2,300k which I concluded last evening here in Port Augusta. (About 560k to go… that has worked out about 400k further than I expected.) The last one was a bit of a worry. I came up behind it and stayed well back. The first one was a gentleman and perhaps realising how nervous I was, eventually gave his indicators a little flash to say – well, I don’t know what in truckie speak? “OK buddy you can f###ing GO now!” The second, on the 200k dead-straight stretch coming out of Broken Hill troubled me. He had to negociate an approaching Road Train himself while I was behind and he put himself half a metre onto the gravel shoulder. The entire back half, with some 32 wheels whose tyres cost about $1000 each (nothing like my friend who has a gold mine in the Klondike who pays for his earth moving gear $20,000 per tyre – second-hand!) well, the entire back half of the road train was drifting as if to overtake the first half. The driver pulled this off a couple of times and I can’t say if he was alarmed or not. I would guess not. He was down to about 100 and I had, days earlier shocked myself by realising that I had gone up to 130 on overtaking. So I got set to go. No worries about oncoming traffic – the road is empty to the horizon. So you take to the ‘wrong side of the road’ and go. To keep your wheels on the tarmac you have about 300m to your right and – for safety’s sake – about 500-1000mm on your left. It is like driving down a city block in height and extent and the sky does go dark. This is when you really hope the driver next to you does not go skateboarding on the gravel. Actually fear only comes into it before and after. At the time surgical concentration is the mode. Phew, my heart is racing just thinking about it. Hey, if you’ve got a Volvo or a great powerful 4WD that’s another thing. You go fast and steady and you’re by in quite a long! moment. But when you’re navigating your home, 3 surfboards, and a box with enough weight in it on the roof to need a lot of air in your rear tyres to keep them round… different story.
Anyway, let’s get off dicing with death and onto dealing it out: road kill. When I drove with the ex-wife and Jonno to NW Queensland, out past Longreach to Carisbrooke station 3 years ago, there was so much road kill you could go the whole way stepping from one dead animal to the next. Nearly all Kangaroos. Wedge-tail eagles more or less set up shop in groups of 20 or 30. Chatting as they gorged. For some reason, the roads were largely clear of road kill down here, farther south. In the first 1,500k I counted just 2, albeit fat, wallabies or small kangaroos… not sure which. Bit of a mess. I have not seen a single living one in 2,400k. (Had they all gone north and been run over?) However, and this surprised me, I counted no less than six dead European foxes. You’d think they’d be smarter having survived being imported expressly to be hunted. (What did Oscar Wilde say in reference to fox hunting? “The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible”). Just as I was giving up on wildlife in general, I saw a flock of emus, with their lovely brown tail feather drooping quite delicately. Had they been fluffier and a little more erect I could have mistaken them for Ostriches, which my two English surfing friends & I often saw when we cycled along the Garden Route some 1000k to Cape Town. Hmmm, funny how these adventures occur at the end of a relationship! Still, this time round I am not waking every morning miserable. Au contraire!
Of course, I wrote this as I drove, in my head. Or rather, this is precisely NOT what I wrote in my head as I drove. I surrender abjectly before the task of putting into a few paragraphs an impression of the really big bigness of the outback. And that is the impression when driving, almost flying, over it. God knows what the single cyclist I passed was thinking! He shamed me. I had been having thoughts like, “Oh F###. If the beast breaks down, I’m done out here.” Not dead, but I have no money for a tow and, pray tell me, what does a 100k tow cost? Then the repairs? I’d say to myself, Look, it’s done 181,000k There’s every chance it’ll do another 5 or 6, no? The outback passes your eyes hour after hour, day after day. But I should remark that this particular version of the outback trip has been beautiful, rather than bleak and desiccated. At no time was there not water standing somewhere. Thousands upon thousands of square kilometres passed with green as far as the eye could see. Indeed, it only got a little dry as I drove into South Australia yesterday, within 50k of the Spencer Gulf. I passed a farm at Wilmington some 20k from the gulf waters where some Charolais cattle were feeding on hay. I drove past millions of hectares of green without a domestic animal upon any one of them. I was shocked to come upon the actual Darling River in full flood. The colour of Rudyard Kipling’s “Great grey-green greasy Limpopo river”. That’d be the one that tells how the elephant got his trunk, if memory serves. In fact, leaving Gilgandra, at a petrol station, a Kiwi (the national, not the bird) told me that, seeing the surfboards on my roof, he’d guess I was heading to South Australia. I said I was. He told me that a bridge was down past Broken Hill which meant I would be unable to drive directly to Port Augusta, but would have to take a 400k detour via Mildura. Looking at the map I was almost tempted to head directly down that way and perhaps save a couple hundred klicks. As I was driving away it hit me how much pleasure he had in imparting that (bad) news. Schadenfreude is alive and well in the breast of the feral Kiwi. A couple hundred k up the road – I had decided to go the Broken Hill road as it was so straight and good and resigned myself to the long detour – I pulled in for a coffee. A fat girl (the girls are fat, the men are rake-thin outback. Strong arms but no bums, no idea why) a fat girls told me that No, the South Australian engineers were way better than the NSW ones gave them credit for. They had filled the then flooded, now dry, creek and built a road around the bridge. They just didn’t understand, she said, how quickly it floods and how quickly it dries round here. No more the feral Kiwi. The busted bridge was at a small settlement called Cockburn. The locals, (and what gives me any right to bicker?) pronounce the name not as the Scots and English, nor for that matter the Actor, James Co’burn, who chopped out the offending consonants. They pronounce it more as a male venereal complaint. The bridge hardly merited the description. (Of ‘bridge’, I mean of course…) A couple of concrete slabs set up like dominoes both horizontally and vertically which was no match for 2M of rushing mud. But the staunch SA engineers had filled it and faired it and we all drove round the bridge in a cloud of red-brown dust and with nary a care. But still a tad worried about the pronunciation. I did cry something lusty and rude to the Kiwi.
I won’t do the travel guide here but I have to thank Danika for the tip to take the Waterfall Way across the Great Dividing Range. Although the last 5 k uphill to the point where the rivers change direction tried the beast mortally in second and third gears. I realised then how loaded she is. When I took the foto of the tiny Newell falls she was pissing water and coolant all over the road as the radiator boiled fit to blow. After that, brave thing, she has run cool – even at 130kph. Phew. If I can attach it, the picture of the Ebor Falls, does no justice to it. Or the dodgey viewing platform that tenuously held the nervous writer above a 200M drop. Note the camera shake.
Oh just one pleasing note: I knew I was in the outback when truckies started to raise the hand to salute you. There is that sense of being “out there together”. The salute takes a number of different forms from different types of driver. The Common Trucky salute is the right index finger raised (print toward you). It is the Parisian demand for service too: “Service! Garcon…” I found mine was more along the lines of the night owl’s pinion feathers. The left hand, fingers slightly spread in a spiral. (In the bird it works to maintain laminar flow and avoid (noisy, hence warning the about to be dead rabbit) detachment of air as the wing terminates. You know how a pigeon’s wing whistles?) I don’t think mine was so functional but it did serve to express the pleasure I felt in being recognised as being fully “out there”. In all senses. Women were ambivalent about waving but when they did it was frequently the “High Four”. The thumb remained attached to the wheel for very good reasons. I never saw a child in a car. Perhaps they were all in the back working over an XBox 360. Or watching a video. God, speaking of toys! I saw huge rolling homes that actually towed a CAR behind! And I worried about (and finally had to concede I could not bring) my mountain bike.
Last night I took a sleep in a Motel run by a Sikh called Gorinda, here in Port Augusta. Charged the MAC, the camera and the phone. Spoke to Danika who may have been cooking for Sam. I was too amazed to catch her to take it in. Every other night has been by the side of the road in the bush. I got my guitar out at Tamworth in honour of the coming Country Music Festival. I had a good coffee and charming service (made to feel reelly welcome) in Gilgandra at the Jolly Cauli. The six foot transvestite who ran the business proved that hospitality trumps gender perceptions, for me anyway – hands-down. She was not exactly Priscilla Queen of the Desert, nor was she the Lebanese one who gave Danika her lift up this way all those year ago. But the tradition is strong. In Willcania, next to the Darling river, a nice Country Women’s Association type gave me coffee and a home-made cake. The shop was called the Elliott sisters. When I enquired about the sepia print of two very beautiful young women – although the adjective ‘handsome’ contends with ‘beautiful’, she told me they were the original sisters. She told me this story. The older sister Isabel had been engaged to a local farmer for 18 years. One day she took her courage in both hands and said,
“Fred, have you thought about marriage?”
“Yes, but who’d have us?”
And on that bombshell, Luvya,
Elite Clique Surf Club – I can’t quite remember how it went but evidently we weren’t allowed to compete for a reason that still escapes me, so John Ainsworth, perhaps Len and I started our own club in about three days and had it ratified by the British Surfing Association – if that was the name of the umbrella organisation. We competed and I think we might have won. It was a bit of politics and I honestly can’t remember who was behind it and what the motivations were. But I think the IW surf club had made it difficult for us to enter and be a part of the contest. That would have been about 1969. I was on my way to Australia.
What we did was silly (the name was intended to be) and to make a point.
I can report that the inverter works the coffee grinder. Tomorrow I’ll charge the MAC on it and after that, the world’s our oyster.
When I built the canopy for the ute, I bonded-on 2 20-ply bookshelves. Today I loaded an unfeasibly extensive line of books and had heaps of room for more! Rog Mansfield met me first when I was camping at M, Etchegoan’s valley and he was the reciprocal guest of Francois-Xavier Moran, the junior French champ, I think. He’d been a friend when we lived at the Villa Baccharis on the Chemin des Falaises. (Cliff Road.). Etchegoan was a lovely old dipsomaniac with a tiny herd of Friesians that used to wake me with their lovely cold, wet, black noses when they peered through the tent doors. I was under instructions from my friend Douglas Jardine (then in his late 60′s – he died in his 90′s) to leave the old dear a bottle of Martinique Rhum. Which was done. I can’t remember what the little pair of left and right reefs was called… ooops (‘Seniors’ Moment) it was Cenitz. I had a tent full of books then. Among them Arthur Koestler’s “The Act of Creation”. I must have been afraid that tent book-critics wouldn’t take me seriously as I also had Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy”. My reflections were sophisticated: “What the f### are they on about?” Roger later credited that as a guiding moment in his ambition (to beat me?) into print!
Busy day, setting up solar panels, getting inverter to work, 3 board repairs, loading box on roof with long-term food-stuffs.
I’m hoping to get off some time after Monday. If, by any chance, the ‘blog’ – if that is what it is – gets a bit raw, it will not be to provoke but merely where I may happen to be (“at”, as American hippies used to say.) I hope I may have your collective indulgence. One needs to trust those whom one imagines one’s readers to be. And yet not alienate. It’s hard to guess where that line might be with people one has not met. And looking at about 4 months alone on the road or in the desert (though not by accident but of free will) it is not always possible to anticipate how it may go. This is by way of a wavering and uncertain pre-emptive apology if things go a bit pear-shaped.
On a lighter note, I leave the light on where the basin is during the nights so I can find my way there from the ute where I sleep without, perhaps, stepping on a snake. Yes, it can happen! I came out of my office to find a large Brown snake 3 paces away and quite alarmed. (The snake, actually). It could get no traction on the concrete so spun its wheels for a bit before it was able to gather some composure. It slid off and out of the building by descending one of the small tunnels made by the corrugated steel overlapping the concrete slab. Finding itself in bright sunlight, which perhaps offends a snake’s delicate sense of privacy, it immediately returned to the shed and finding me not much of a threat, relaxed for a while before having another go at outside. But that’s by the bye. The light has been attracting some lovely insects. Today a 6″ long stick insect. It can’t feel very comfortable against the white paint. On any of the ten million trees that cover this Island it would be invisible. The two previous days a couple of bright green mantises wandered in, intent to make the most of the sterile surroundings. If you watch them closely they swivel their triangular heads this way and that and it is impossible not to conclude they are having a very good look at you. They also oscillate from side to side at about 3 movements per second. Whatever it is they grab and eat (head first if it is a mate) perhaps struggles to decode this endless movement. A good friend called Neil Harding, kept preying mantises wrote two books, one of which was called “Bizarre and Macro Mantids”. He was obliged to learn German as the main field work had been done by German entomologists. (Always a struggle to know if one means to say “etymologist”).
And that leads rather smoothly to a joke. Since I can only ever remember one joke at a time I rather hate to tell them as it is more or less inevitable that my audience will have heard it. That’s always assuming I don’t fluff the punch line, which happens often. Far safer to write them:
At a convention of philologists in Costa Rica (obviously this was suggested by the reference to etymology… IF I have that one right… my 2 volumes of the SOED are somehow packed in the ute) a Latin American philologist addresses an Irish visitor to the convention.
“Tell me, por favor, senor (sorry can’t do the enya!) do the Irish have a word equivalent to our “manana”?”
Looking up from his pina colada, the Irish man replied,
“To be sure, oi don’t think we have a word with quite that pressing sense of urgency!”
Going back, finally to snakes, I have never suffered a desire to kill them or throw things at them. DH Lawrence wrote a shamed poem about a snake who visited him in his garden in (?) Corsica. He heaved a stick at it and the poem was born of remorse. I have a picture of myself taken by a Cornish friend at Cactus 40 years ago. I am playing chess and have my head in my hand looking at the board which is supported by a Post Office cable spool serving as a table. As I straightened up I looked down to my right and there was a Red Bellied Black snake curled up asleep touching my right thigh. I was delighted and said to my friend, “Hey, Tris, look at this”. Unfortunately this disturbed the snake which quietly slid up the small bush-covered dune at my back. Two friends and I had a more serious brush with a large Western Australian Brown snake locally called a Djugait. These are really poisonous and, with the quantity of venom they pack, out-kill (measured in units of hypothetical dead sheep) the King Cobra. We had been diving for fish and were walking back loaded with wetsuits, lead weights and spear guns. We were chatting about the fish we had missed and in so doing, in a clearing with lawn-short grass on it, found ourselves on top of this 2M Djugait, whose head was raised about 300mm to strike. My friend on the left managed to get out one word,
We were in a diagonal line, he was behind me on my left and my other friend was less in harm’s way to my right. I did stop, with my bare right foot in the air above the snake. For the longest time (at least 3 seconds!) it was a stalemate. I had plenty of time to admire the beauty of it. A lovely fox red-brown with a belly of lemon yellow, clearly apparent from its raised portion. It moved off slowly in quite an odd manner, with its raised head remaining so and slightly turned back toward us. There wasn’t a moment when any of us felt any fear, which perhaps tells us something about the nature of fear. It is only useful in preparation for an event. In the instant, it has no use. Last week a friend, (Doctor) Ross Shiel was surfing when he looked up to find himself being charged by a large Tiger Shark. He told me about it 2 days ago. Astonishingly he reacted perfectly in the instant. He paddled hard AT it. It stopped 1M from him and he was able to gauge the width of its body at twice the width of his board, that is, it was a full metre wide in the body. I guess there was a moment of stand-off and the thing took off, thrashing water into Ross’s face, almost one imagines with childish pique. Tigers are scavengers and I have seen a documentary showing young Tigers trying to get the hang of catching and eating seabirds afloat on the water. It was far from impressive, but one finally got a bird down its neck. Well, I’d better not follow this line of discussion as Stradbroke has too many tales. In fact you can see some of them around you. Bruce, who drives the small car ferry to Moreton Island (to the N) has one leg. He was surfing at Main and a Tiger shark took his other leg. He tells of the relief when his leg came off as he was on the bottom and close to drowning.
Rob has now made it down to Cactus but before he left I asked him how he was getting on with his preperations for the trip and about the early days of surfing cactus during the 1970′s and if he ever met Paul Witzig (Surf movie maker during the 70′s) who bought up alot of […]
Ian Pacey is half way round the world enjoying some great waves and living the life. Ian and SJ have so far been to Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and are now in New Zealand. Here are a few images and comments from Ian. I will update as and when Ian uploads more, or you can check out all of Ian’s pics on flickr. Ian Pacey Pacey Psychedelic Surfer SJ New Zealand Australia Indonesia Bali Indicators Raglan Ruapuke Indi’s Manu Manu Bay Shipwrecks Shipwreck Bay Pataua Cover up Cover-up Noosa Dolphins Bottlenose Dolphins Alexandra Bay Broken Head Narrabeen LennoHead LennoDawn Patrol Dawn Coofs Harbour Manly Sydney Freshwater Beach Palm Beach Bondi Bondi Lineup Dee Why Warriewood Humpback Humpback Whale Cape Solander Cronulla NSW New South Wales Queensland Victoria Johanna Winkipop Uluwatu Wave machine Racetrack line up The Peak Ulus Ulu’s Cutback Air Psychedelic dancing Balangan Belangan Impossibles Sick Bingin Glass Glassy Lembongan Low tide Nusa Lembongan Medewi Balian
The sport of Hawaiian kings originated using huge Redwood boards is now practiced on a lighter more manoeuverable piece of equipment , made of plastic and fibreglass, and the challenge is as great as ever. The greatest surf is found where the final issue of the storm at see expends its might; the steep sloping beaches of the world. The beautiful North Shore of Oahu, the middle Hawaiian Island. The rocky Pacific coast of Peru; Australia’s Queensland coast-noted for cyclonic surf; the misty California coast. The Basque coast of France where the gulf of Gascogne leads the continental shelfto within a few miles of the land capturing swells from the North Atlantic depressions. Here are the Eigers of the surfer. Here men can still play a dicey game of catch with nature itself, ptting coolness of mind and fitness of body against the inscrutable wrathchild of storm and sea; the wave.
The most sought after wave is the long lining glass green swell held steep and smoothed by an offshore wind. It peels fluently along its length as it is tipped by an underwater point, a reef or sandbar. Good spots where the sea bottom disciplines the swell correctly are not common and are well known throughout the surfing world. Their names are often poetic. The aboriginal beach names of Australia: Avalon, Cronulla, Narabee and Dee Why point. Hawaii’s Waimea, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. California’s urbanely tagged beaches – Los Angles 42nd Street, Pacific Pallisades, Huntingdon Pier and further South the Spanish names of Malibu and Rincon del Mar (Little Corner by the Sea). This wave, produced by storms thousands of miles distant, smooth, regular and powerful is a far cry from the local wind swells for which a surfer has no love. Especially if the wind is still blowing on-shore the wave is rough, flat and slow. Meaning to the surfer no speed, no place to go – the wave breaks everywhere.
Let us go to the home and paradise of surfing; Hawaii in the winter. In the North Pacific storms are churning angrily, like big hands dipped in the sea they send out gigantic trains of swells. The swells march south and waiting for them is the coral-volcanic bed of Sunset beach. From the south the Trade Winds blow over Monaloas blunt peak. Milleniums ago a fault formed a deep channel at Sunset which runs directly seaward. To the right of the channel the swells are refracted and concentrated on the under water point. They are peaking four hundred yards out. They tremble, hiss as the offshore wind tears spray back off their tops and finally collapse, hurling their burdens forward. The waves are tubing as they break, trapping a tunnel of air which compresses and blasts a cloud of water vapour out of the tube. From the shore one hears a continuous roar punctuated by canon shots from the outside reef. The surfer is standing on the beach, his 11 foot board under his right arm. He is scared – this is big even for Sunset.
He waits for a lull – throws his board in and paddles hard. If he is caught in the hard breaking shorebreak, board and body can be damaged. A rip current is running from the right to the left, hitting the channel and runninf out to sea at four or five miles and hour. He paddles into it. Waves seldom break in the rip.
He strokes out until the waves are breaking inside him. He paddles further yet. He is familiar with the bluebird or loomer twice normal size that sneaks in and plucks him from his board. The resulting ‘wipeout’ may throw him twenty or thirty feet under water leaving him starved of air as the rest of the ‘set’ of maybe five waves repeats the process, then there is the swim in.
Now he examines the ‘line-ip’ carefully. Watching the waves as they peak up, feather and crash down. He must position himself in the Lion’s mouth if he is to take a wave. Now is the time when he must really desire to ride a wave. If not he will certainly call discretion the better part of valour and paddle in. The noise is tremendous, the wvaes obscure the horizon, as they march in. The people on the shore are no bigger than sand crabs. As he gingerly paddles into the line up from the channel, he rises and falls as a set goes through and explodes inside. Outside the sea darkens in four green lines and the horizon shudders as if shaken by an unseen hand; it is the top of the biggest wave of the set. The first wave rears , its face wind hollowed and sheer, to fifteen feet. It threatens to crash down on him. Judging that the wind will hold it he paddles across to the point through which the peak of the crescent swept through. The wave holds and collapses ten yards inside, drenching him with spray. Number two is his wave – it lines up like number one but it is bigger. Some fourteen seconds behind number one giving him just enough time to paddle out ten yards to meet it. He swings round to face the shore. Prone on his board he paddles for all he is worth. Now the critical seconds – the surfers moment of truth. A glance over his shoulder tells him that he is well lined up, he feels the swell lift him, strokes down the face. Suddenly he starts to drop – almost free fall. He has swung to his feet. He hits the bottom of the wave and leans right hard; the board sweeps into a turn and the wave drops where he was a second ago. The wave is peeling fast and below him. The wave threatens to break ahead, the surfer walks two paces down the board and crouches into a ball – he accelerates through. He walks back and kicks off the now flat shoulder of the wave. He screams with exhilaration. The initial thrill of surfing won’t have worn off yet, he’s only been at it for five years.
This is Surfing. Skiing a fluid mountain carved for you only once by nature. An avalanche on a moving mountain of green glass. A unique experience – no two waves are the same.
Mark you it is not always like that. Sometimes conditions are bad. Sometimes the waves are small as to be puny. This is when surfing becomes more light hearted fun. No crushing wipeout to fear. No half mile swim. Now the surfer concentrates on hard turns, a radical style of surfing. Walking on the board, noseriding – controlling the board from the front tip; touchy and fun. So surfing has chameleon moods and surfers talk the common language.
It is hard to capture on paper the ethereal excitement and poetry of surfing. But if you want tangible proof, take a surfer down to the sea on a good day and feel his pulse. Better still, take a board and join the club. You’ll never look back; there is no such thing as an ex-surfer.
The Isle of Wight Surf Club
About a year ago six or seven young people on the Island realized the possibility of surfing locally with Malibu boards. They formed the Isle of Wight Surf Club on April 11th. Roger Backhouse was chairman and his surfing fiancée the club’s secretary. Rodney Sumpter the British champion accepted an invitation to become the club’s honorary president. He has brought much prestige to the club by becoming 5th in the World Championships at San Diego in California. The founder members were John Ainsworth, Colin Burgess, Geoff (Ned) Gardner and Rusty Long. Now only 8 months from its conception the club numbers at a cool 74.
Every Friday the club meets at Clare Cottage, Springhill in Ventnor, but now they face the task of finding new premises as the cottage is required by its owners. Any suggestions? The meeting is invariably held in audible enthusiasm whilst Roger clinging precariously to the chair reads the weeks correspondence and outlines the coming weeks business. From time to time there are films. The last met a full house of eighty (in one small drawing room!) The rest of the meeting is not “organised” and generally one can find members chatting about the past weeks surf, the possibilities of the weekend to come, wrangling over the finer points of board design or recalling ‘hairy’ wipeouts. When it comes to shop talk surfers leave golfers and sailing types cold.
Many of the club are planning trips abroad to surf and viable targets include France and Ireland. The U.S. is on the list too and some members have had good fortune to surf in South America and South Africa.
From the Virgin Islands they traveled onto America, working their way across to the west coast. They stopped in North Carolina to stay with Barney’s sister Rosie who was at university there. Word had got around about Barney and Chris’s travels through Europe and across to the Caribbean and onto the U.S.A. and the university president had questioned Barney’s sister Rosie where they would be staying. When he found out that they were staying at her small flat he made arrangements for them to stay at his mansion. The staff were never to remember Barney and Chris’s name properly and they soon became known as Bonnie and Clyde by the them.