Matthew's News and Gossip

Matthew's News and Gossip

A man with no talent, but armed with a digital camera, can waste lots of bandwidth

Monday, February 17, 2003

So I've escaped from Tasmania and a very hectic few days in Melbourne....I'm now sitting in Sydney in Stephen Burley's barrister's chambers clogging up his office Internet connection by uploarding all my photos from Tassy (without bothering to reduce the size as the connection is so fast!).

So where was I when last I left you a few weeks back? Oh yeah. Singapore. City of rest and idleness, for me. Other people though had other things to do than just get drunk out of their mind. These other people didn't include JB, but did include his wife Rebecca who decided that the perfect way to celebrate my arrival and departure (I was only there a few days) was to bring Skye into the world. Skye is the one on the left in this photo. Rebecca is the one on the top in this one. Skye is the only one in this photo. JB tried hard to avoid being with Rebecca while she was in labor, but to get to the birth he eventually left the dinner Peter Simpson (Simmo) was having before he left Singapore to go skiing for the season in Val d'Isere. Nice work (work?) if you can get it!. However given that Simmo paid for dinner AND my taxi home, I can't exactly complain!

I also caught up with MunKew Leung for a quick lunch. Munkew was haveing a hectic time as his nanny had to go home to look after her son who'd been in a road accident, his wife May was working flat out and he had just got "promoted" and had to do three months work in a week. But he still found time to buy me a lunch which I owed him....this will get expensive when I get back to the US!

After a not up to scratch flight in business class on Qantas (stick with Cathay if you get the choice!) in which I sat next to a British hydrology professor working in Singapore who told me that desalination was cheaper and easier than finding fresh water, I arrived (via a $4 intra airport transfer), in Tasmania. This was a decided chage of pace from Asia.

Joanna Ellison was/is one of my best friends at Cambridge but she has lived quite an exciting life while the rest of you (well, me) have been boring humanity. She spent most of the late 1980s and 1990s wondering around tropical islands checking out the mangrove swamps and the last time I saw her (which was 1997!) she was having a wild affair with a boat captain in Queensland and sailing off to Papua New Guinea whenever she got the chance. However, she's put all that behind her, gone to Tasmania, where developed a list of what she wanted in a man (various) and a life (lots of horses) and has stuck to it! She now has a husband called David who is pretty much a wild mountain man with hair and beard to match, and three, four or five horses depending on the week. As soon as I arrived we put the horses in the back of the "float" (Australian for horse trailer) and headed to the Mountain Cattleman's Gathering in the middle of very rural Tasmania (near the number 5 in the very center of this map). Like it sounds, this is pretty much a collection of Aussie cowboys showing their stuff.

At the Mountain Cattleman's lots of people and gee-gees went on a long ride. I hadn't been on a horse for several years but Punter ,despite being a racehorse only 6 months before, behaved very well. Stopping for lunch with about 300 horses was quite a sight. Later that day I watched the whipcracking festival, in which a rider rides by a piece of newspaper stretched between two clips and tries to slice it in half with a bull whip. After a very cold evening in which a lot of drunken Aussies kept bumping into me as we watched a rather fun band playing Travis Tritt and AC/DC covers (they were all wearing T- shirts while I was wearing a big coat!), I staggered out of the rather comfortable camp bed that David had arranged. This day was devoted to watching Joanna in a couple of competitions, and seeing some stockhandling and barrel racing. The most fun was the relay race in which the last section had two riders galloping into the finish on one horse bareback. Almost all of them fell off as they tried to stop!

All the pics from the Mountain Cattlemans' are here

For the rest of the week I nursed my very sore bottom, hung out with Joanna and David, watched TV in a language that I understood and ate lots of interesting meat. In fact the distance between production and consumption was very short. I went wildlife spotting one night; that meant I shone a big light until I found wallabies in a field and David shot 'em. He actually bagged two, but after driving around for a while we couldn't find the second one. David gutted the one we did find and sliced it up right there in the field. He threw the fur, guts and bones away. "What'll happen to that?" I asked. "It'll all be gone by morning" he said. "The Devils will take care of that an dhte one we can't find!" We took care of the one we did find the next night for dinner and very good it was too! In fact all the Australians that I met who know about it said that Australia would be better off farming Kangeroos rather than sheep or cows. I also spent a fun day looking at rivers with David (he's a river engineer), spotting one platypus, and helping him survey some swampland--proving that I can hold a pole as well as the next man (shades of Yosser Hughes in Boys from the Blackstuff).

The second set of Tassy photos are here

I also had dinner with Amanda who I met in Vietnam. Her dad runs an opium plantation, or something similar, but this one is owned by J&J (Tasmanian Alkaloids) and is a little more legal than the ones I saw in Laos. Still like the kids in Laos, Amanda's summer job was picking poppies! I did some other minor tourism to an old and now reopened gold mine, to the Launceston Gorge, and a couple of long drives; one to Ben Lomond, a ski resort with a dramatic road called Jacob's Ladder going up to it, and the other out to the Cradle Mountain National Park in the west of Tasmania. All of those photos are here

The most fun was the ride Joanna took me onto the beach in Narawantapu national park. This was a long ride ending up on a 5 kilometer long beach which we galloped down, Joanna rode Punter (as she was rightly scared that I wouldnt be able to stop him as he galloped off) and I rode her steady old friend Vinny. This was one of the most beautiful days I had on my trip, and on the way back we got very close to some Forester kangaroos. But a 26 mile ride for an inexperienced unfit old man, meant that I ached for three days afterwards!!

Herea are the beach ride photos. Off to Melbourne in the next episode.

posted by matthew  # 8:33 PM
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