Monday, April 18, 2016


I know it was over a year ago, but I've only recently finished putting my notes together. So here's a few words about my time Australian Venture 2015.

Day 1: early start to get to Sydney airport as independent travellers and make our way to Adelaide. Caught the airport train something you can't do in Melbourne!

Got to Adelaide airport, just happened to see some Viccon shirts heading out of the terminal towards the bus, so tagged along.

Arrived at Adelaide Arena and checked in. It was obvious that the temperature was rising both inside and out. The check in process was quite simple, but it took a long time waiting on each contingent to turn up before the opening ceremony (as lacklustre as it was) finally started.

Once the opening ceremony was complete we waited for our exped leader. Jay finally showed up about 45 minutes later and then the whole exped kicked off.

We loaded the trailer and then headed out towards Hindmarsh Island - up the long hill on the highway heading east from Adelaide. The original plan was to camp at the Tanunda caravan park and ride at the Cuddlee Creek MTB park the following day, but bushfires were threatening that area. The severe heat and our loaded bus and trailer meant we had to wait on the side of the road twice while the bus cooled down!

Once at Hindmarsh Island we set up camp and bumped into the Hindmarsh Island Getaway units at the same WEOA campsite. We had a lovely BBQ dinner followed by a bit of 'get to know you' before chilling out and turning in for the night.

Day 2: After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, we packed down our camp with the intention of moving on after the day’s activities of riding along the bike path from Hindmarsh Island, through Goolwa to Victor Harbour. The ride went as planned and we stopped for lunch at Port Elliot where one of the Venturers took ill and was not feeling capable of completing the days ride. He and I joined our guide Moira on a road trip to Victor Harbour to rendezvous with the remainder of the group. While at Victor Harbour the Venturers made use of the nearby shops and purchased some refreshments. We were also treated to some thrilling scooter, BMX and skateboard tricks at the local skate park, while others took to the beach to cool off.

Once the bikes were loaded on the trailer it was back to Hindmarsh Island for another unplanned overnight stay. After setting up our camp again, it was time for dinner and a bit of frisbee'ing before turning in. While Hindmarsh Island was not our anticipated camping spot, it was very comfortable (apart from cold showers).

Day 3: A somewhat lighter breakfast this morning was followed by once again packing down and then finally heading off the Island. Our destination was Craigburn Farm MTB Park. This park is set in the middle of some recent housing developments in Adelaide's southern suburbs. The trails are quite open and they cater for all skill levels. I had my first 'over-the-bars' moment for the exped here while attempting NOT to drop off the track. I was successful in NOT dropping off the track but less so in braking without lifting the back wheel and ejecting myself! No drama, just a bump and a scrape and hopped back on. The few Venturers that saw this effort were quite impressed (i.e.: laughed a LOT!). We spent all day here and had two sessions on the trails, broken up by a lunch break. These trails were a good intro to trail riding for those that hadn't done much (any) before. From here we headed off to Douglas Scrub Guide Camp to camp for the next two days and use it as our base for more trail rides. Dinner while at Douglas Scrub was cooked using Trangias on both nights and there was quite a debate on how to pronounce Trangia between one NSW Venturer and the rest of the exped crew. He wasn't persuaded! After dinner and the washing up, we headed over to the other side of Douglas Scrub to visit the tree-dwelling Venturers - those adventurous souls that chose to build and live in tree houses during their exped. There were some amazing tree houses and the ingenuity on show was fantastic. Some even had LED lights strung around the rails, with two levels of platforms! Awesome.

Day 4: This morning we headed off to Kuitpo Forest to blaze some pine forest MTB trails. Some of these trails were quite technical and narrow which was a real challenge for most of us. Most of us came out unscathed, except for one Qld'er landing on his chin after not taking enough speed into a double jump and another Qld'er being bucked from the same jump and landing heavily on his wrist. Later on that day one of our NSW brethren took a fall and it was thought that he may have fractured his arm. A visit to the ED found that this was not be and that he had merely bruised his nerve around the elbow. Ouch. That night we were back at Douglas Scrub and after dinner paid a visit to the rock walls for some bouldering.

Day 5: We farewelled Douglas Scrub and headed to Eagle MTB Park on the outskirts of Adelaide. In some pretty hot conditions (my Garmin registered 40+ on the trails) we were treated to some sweet trails, including a trail that has been used as the National Downhill track. It was hot, damn hot, but for those brave enough to tackle the conditions they were paid back in spades by the awesome technical track and wicked descent! The view from the top over Adelaide was pretty good too. After a lunch break we packed up the bikes and headed to the beach for a dip and the chance to raid a convenience store for a slurpee and ice cream. After a refreshing dip we made tracks for our accommodation for our last night on exped - Flagstaff Hill Scout Hall, in the suburbs of Adelaide. The hall was well appointed and spacious - even having shower facilities. The overnight low of 20+ made for an uncomfortable night no matter the location, so it was a weary crew that awoke the following morning.

Day 6: After breakfast and cleaning up the hall it was off to City Dirt - an inner city pump track that offered another chance to test ourselves on the bikes. It was another hot day and after a few hours at City Dirt and a bakery lunch in a nearby park we headed to Woodhouse to join up with the other exped groups and begin the onsite part of AV2015. We ended up being first on site which was quite odd. At least we had the chance to use the shower and laundry facilities first! Once we set up our tents (on our sloping site) the next buses started making their way on site. It was great to see the sea of hike tents start to pop up and the site start buzzing with the hundreds of Venturers about to start the next part of their adventure. Once on site there was no need for cooking - all meals were catered for at the catering marquees. The queues were quite a sight!

Day 7: The first full day on site was totally on site. There were carnival rides, flying foxes, hands-on activities, all manner of games and every opportunity to socialise. This is when the weather started to turn. Although it made some things a bit more difficult (like drying clothes), the cooler weather was welcome respite from the higher temperatures both for us and the fire fighters battling blazes across the state. Today provided a great opportunity to catch up with our unit, those Venturers from our District and some familiar faces. It was also the beginning of making new friends.

Day 8: The Sherbrooke Forest contingent decided beforehand to embark on a coach trip to the Monarto Zoo. This is an open range zoo and you take a tour aboard your coach (or one of their coaches if you didn't bring your own). This was a very relaxing half day tour and the inside of the air conditioned coach was the place to be on yet another drizzly day. The size and composition of the meals from the onsite catering brigade had started to take a downward trajectory by now. Scouting organisers should realise that you can get away with a lot if people have full tummies. Keeping teenagers hungry (underfed) is NOT the way to get them on side. Luckily for them the leaders were being treated the same and we went into bat for them with the organisers. The result wasn't great, but it was better than it had been. That was the one lowlight for this camp.

Day 9: This was a day I chose to stay on site and recharge the batteries that were just about well and truly spent. I caught up with several leaders and Venturers I knew, visited the contingent headquarters and bought a few badges, checked out the lay of Woodhouse and just chilled out. The Venturers were doing any number of on and off site activities and coming and going as necessary. It was great to see the Venturers being (mostly) mature and responsible and getting on with their own things either with others or on their own. After more than a week living in close quarters with even you closest mates, you need some space. Some took the opportunity to go shooting or undertake activities like laser tag or even go to the beach on organised. There was loads to do - even though we were in Adelaide!

Day 10: I headed out on a leaders trip of the Adelaide Hills. We visited a car museum not far from Onkaparinga, the Giant Rocking Horse and associated wildlife sanctuary and had lunch at the local cafe. After lunch we visited a chocolate factory (and the visitors shop) and a few other local haunts before heading back to Woodhouse. The day tour was a bit underwhelming, but the company was good - a break from the kids!

Day 11: After spending the morning on site and catching up with people I took a trip into Adelaide city for the afternoon. After being deposited at Rundle Mall I went for a walk. Nothing really took my fancy so I headed to the Casino. I duly located the sports bar, ordered a beer and watched whatever sports happened to be on the big screen for a couple of hours. It was a very relaxing afternoon indeed. Once back on site it was time to start getting my gear together and making sure the Venturers were also making a start on packing as tomorrow was departure day. After dinner tonight was the closing ceremony. This was meant to be outside, but a last minute decision saw it moved into a very large marquee as the rain continued to fall. There were presentation about AV 2018, The Moot 2017 and some other scouting events coming up. Compared to a Jamboree closing ceremony, it was very small scale. But when you've only got an audience of 1,200 people you can't really lash out.

Day 12: Up at sparrows and searching for Patrick to make sure he was up and getting ready to depart as well. He slept in Declan's tent which wasn't in my plan, but after finding him it was all good. We packed up in the rain which meant our tents weighed a bit more than when we arrived! We bummed a lift to the airport with the NSW contingent (since we were independent travellers) and checked in for our flight. Upon checking in I was notified that my bag was now 1kg over weight - thanks to the rain soaked tent no doubt. I was able to move a pair of shoes into Patrick's bag and we were good to go. Now it was just the wait at the gate lounge. It was a great adventure, and my first national large scale scouting event. Angus will be 16 for AV2018 which is being held in Qld, and it will be interesting to see how that goes!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Around the Bay

Well, it's been done. I rode the 100km Melbourne-Frankston-Melbourne route yesterday with thousands of my closest friends. 

The outward journey was wind assisted (woo-hoo), meaning the return journey was wind-hindered (boo-hoo). 50km into a gusting headwind is quite the challenge. 

Including a 30 minute break in Frankston I managed a time of 4h 24min over the journey. Pretty happy with that. 

There are heaps of touring rides such as the Around the Bay. Most are just as well organised and are not as crowded. Many also present a more challenging course. I don't know at the moment if I'd do the Bay again or find a new challenge. But one thing I do know is that I thoroughly enjoyed being out there :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back on the bike

I bought a new bike! Mind you, it was back in July, but hey! It's an alloy framed, carbon forked, 20 speed road bike from Cell Bikes. And I love riding it. Here's a stock photo. 

I've already clocked up over 1,000km since I've returned to my cycle commuting adventures and this coming weekend I'll be riding a further 100km in the annual Around the Bay in a Day ride. I'm doing the Melbourne-Frankston- Melbourne route with some friends. Can't wait. 

While I'm talking about cycling, I'm currently riding in The Great Cycle Challenge during October to raise money for kids cancer research. I've already raised over $400, but they can always do with more. You can go here to donate:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What's been happening?

The week after I wrote my last post I was hit by a car while cycling home from the train station after work. It hurt. Today marks my first day back at work since that fateful day. 

I was travelling along Morris Rd (about 1km from home) and a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction turned in front of me to turn into his street. I sustained a broken arm, broken finger, lacerated knee, a cracking concussion and multiple other minor injuries. The bicycle and helmet are also cactus. 

I was transported by ambulance to the Alfred hospital where I underwent surgery on Anzac Day to put me together again. They did a pretty good job ;)

Luckily Karen's parents were visiting from Sydney at the time and were able to extend their stay. Once I got home there still wasn't much I could do. 

Karen, her parents, many friends from scouts, bowls and the community in general have been great and I thank you all. We're extremely fortunate to be part of such a caring community. 

Fast forward to today and I'm on the train returning to work for the first time since the accident. It's feel like I'm starting a new job, but not quite so scary. 

In the days and weeks to come I'll be building up my strength and purchasing a new bicycle with a view to continuing my commuting. Slow and steady. 

Thanks for listening. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Camping at Grenville

At Easter we were very fortunate to be invited camping by good friends of ours, Adam and Jenny.

Jenny's extended family has a 1,000ha merino sheep property at Grenville. For the uninitiated, Grenville is just south of Buninyong which is just south of Ballarat.

We packed the camper with our belongings and headed out in convoy with Adam/Jenny and Phil/Kerrie. The three carloads of us would meet up with Jenny's parents and her sister and brother in law. 18 people in total.

I couldn't find my way back there unassisted. A combination of being over the other side of the Westgate Bridge and a whole bunch of country back roads meant I had no idea where I was nor where I was headed. Thank goodness Adam and Jenny were leading.

About 10 minutes from our destination we came across a bloke who had managed to get his 4WD twin cab ute stuck by going off road in an attempt to go around a tree that had fallen across the road. Lucky for him there were three strong blokes and a chainsaw to help him out!

Shortly after doing our good deed for the day we arrived at the farm and set to work establishing the camp site and putting up the camper. Thank goodness we elected not to bother with the annex this time. Job done in about 20 minutes :)

The property is not totally cleared, so there are several areas that are perfect for camping. We were nestled in among some gum trees and a great big spread of ferns. It was lovely.

Apart from breakfast, Jenny had put together a menu and catered for everybody. This made meal time very simple and communal. Jenny went as far as to bring a few house bricks and two tubs of clay from her back yard. What for, I hear you say? To build a wood fired pizza oven. And it worked a treat. Wood fired pizzas, in the bush from a newly constructed oven. Magnificent.

Jenny's father, Tim, is a keen shooter and was kind enough to teach Patrick how to shoot a rifle and shotgun as well as to reacquaint both Karen and myself with firearms. First was an afternoon of clay target shooting at which we all managed to hit some targets! Bonus. Over the course of the weekend we went spotlighting for rabbits using a .22 rifle. Karen and Patrick both tried their hand at rabbit shooting, however the offending rabbits were spared their lives on this occasion. While I didn't take a turn at shooting rabbits I did manage to catch 3 - barehanded. What a thrill!

During our visit we took a drive to Buninyong for lunch one day, rode our bikes around the property and the kids made their own fun just like we used to do as kids. It was a great way to spend the Easter break and for that we thank everybody for their hospitality and friendship, especially Jenny and family for inviting us to share Easter together.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Summer 2012/13 - a retrospective (part 4)

Patrick's trip to the orthodontist was full of happy news. On our return from Tidal River, Patrick would have his braces removed and be fitted for a retainer. One happy little 14 year old.

A couple of days later, after the kids had caught up with friends, we headed to Tidal River at Wilsons Promontory for 9 days of camping with our good friends Leisa and Kevin with their kids Hamish and Siobhan. After the hectic nature of the previous month, this camping trip was our time to rest.

Apart from from one very windy night (in which Leisa and Kevin's tent was destroyed) the weather was generally good and we had a great time. It was the second time we'd been camping there and it was just as enjoyable this time. We managed to take in more of the walks and even made use of the outdoor cinema on occasion. It's a lovely place and we'll be going back again. We even bumped in to our neighbours. Small world.

So that was our action packed summer and it's only taken me until late March to get it all on the blog :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Summer 2012/13 - a retrospective part 3

Upon our return from Wollongong Viv, Brian, the kids and I took a trip to Taronga Zoo. That place is always being renovated, like most tourist attractions, and it was amazing to see the changes since we were last there.

Over the next couple of days we just tried to stay out of the heat and one day went to see a movie and just hung out.

Karen and Patrick returned at about 7am one morning after a massive road trip from Maryborough, and they were both glad to be home. We were all keen to hear their stories and they were keen to catch up on some sleep and stay inside in the cool after the heat of tropical Qld. By all accounts they had a great time.

After a couple of days it was time to head home for Patrick's orthodontist appointment and our 9 day family camping trip to Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory.

More to come in part 4.