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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #055

Editorial

If I ever needed confirmation that we're doing the right thing — and by that I don't specifically mean we quit work and hit the road, just that we're doing exactly what we want to do — we've recently had one friend operated on to remove a tumour from his back, another has a tumour in her pituitary gland, and a third has been diagnosed with leukaemia.

Whoa! where did all that come from? As far as we know we're doing OK, but maybe we're like the fellow who fell off the roof of a ten-story building and was heard so say on his way past the fourth floor, "So far so good".

So my question is, are you doing what you want to do, and if not, then what plans have you set in motion to "Make it so"?


Mailing list.

I know it must be a pain to constantly check for updates to the chronicles only to find no change week after week, and I have had requests to implement a mailing list or RSS feed. I'd like to do it proper but will never get the time so I've decided to just maintain an informal list myself.

So, if you're one of my avid readers that's sick of checking in all the time here's your chance. If you could both email me I'll put you on a mailing list and set you free to check other stuff on the web.

 

Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Wed 11 Nov 2009

We leave our spot at the rear of Lanyon Station at Tharwa and drive south towards Yaouk. I ring our friends at about 11 to say we're on our way and should be there in a couple of hours.

Boy was that optimistic.

Because half the road is dirt and all of it is steep it takes us 3 1/2 hours to get there.

On our arrival Marshall and Dianne come out to meet us and we spend a while deciding where to put the truck. If we go up near the house we can plug into the power but will have no view as they live right in amongst the trees. So we elect to park out in the field with great views of the mountains, anyway that will give us each some space.


Our room with a view. That's Mt Sentry Box in the background, not the summit but the high point you see here is still 500m higher than our campsite.

We then adjourn to the house for a very welcome turkey sandwich, we haven't eaten since breakfast and I'm starving.

Thu 12 Nov 2009

We take a walk to inspect M&Ds new house site, it's a great spot with commanding views over the valley and just a few hundred metres from the existing mud brick residence.

As to whether the new place will ever get built is another story, it's so expensive to build these days, they've been quoted figures in the order of $400,000 for what is really a fairly modest house.

Later in the afternoon the farrier arrives to trim the horse's hooves.


Marshall and Diane bring the horses up to the house for the farrier.

Sat 14 Nov 2009

Marshall and I walk part way up Mt Yaouk to a rock ledge he's fond of frequenting. We spend some time observing the valley through his binoculars then I hear a currawong's call getting nearer by the second.

Thinking this is somewhat unusual I face the sound of the approaching bird only to see a wedge tailed eagle burst from the bushes with the currawong in hot pursuit.

The eagle lands on a rock not 20 feet from us then decides he would rather face a small bird than two humans so he returns to the air.

Now there's something you don't experience every day.

Sun 15 Nov 2009

I poke around with a macro lens looking for something to photograph.


A slender sun orchid.

I also take a few general shots around the place.


A carpet of green at the base of an old fence.


The shed, pretty flash eh?


But I didn't think it was quite flash enough.

Tue 17 Nov 2009

We all four go into Cooma today, then having done our shopping we drive out to the town of Adaminaby and from there along the Snowy Highway.

The 2003 bush fire devastated this area and the affects are still obvious, mostly because the mountain ash apparently doesn't regenerate from suckers, it has to start from scratch.

We don't get home until after our normal beer-o'clock and so we elect to forego the hitherto daily ritual and each head to our respective homes. Chris and I sit on the deck and watch as the shadow of Mt Yauok creeps along the valley floor and up the slopes of Sentry Box like the rising tide of a new dam.


Shadows creep along the valley towards Mt Sentry Box.

Wed 18 Nov 2009

At happy hour Marshall and I get talking about retirement projects and he tells me that his goal during retirement is to fully understand Einstein's two theories of relativity, that is the "special" and "general" theories, not just "the theory of relativity".

Apparently the original theory was put forward by one of the ancients well before Einstein's time, Galileo or Copernicus or some such I forget now, and it goes something like this.

It's impossible to tell how fast you are moving, or even if you are moving at all, when you are inside an enclosure. (Presumably that's as long as your velocity stays constant).

So far I can keep up, but then Marshall says that after two years working on it every day he has almost grasped the the concept of the special theory and is now working on the maths. He stopped working on it for a while because—as he said— his brain hurt; but he's willing to describe the concept in terms that even I should be able to understand.

Instantly I start to founder, but I think it goes something like this.

Apparently "they" can prove that light emitted by super nova at different times arrives on Earth at the same time, now how can it be that light departing over a period of time and travelling at a constant speed arrives at the same time?

Well you got me there, I'll need a few more beers to figure that one out.

Moving on then, apparently another part of the theory is that there is no such thing as "simultaneous", ie no two events can ever happen at the same time. Oh yeah, try telling that to one of my ex girlfriends who caught me with someone else, she came home at exactly the same time I was...well that's another story.

Anyway the theory goes that if two events occur say on different planets you cannot say they occurred at the same time because you can't communicate the fact instantaneously and therefore can't verify that they did .

Now it's here that I have a lot of trouble, just because you can't communicate the fact that something has happened doesn't mean that it didn't. Why can't two events happen simultaneously just because you can't tell anyone about it?

I'm going to have to revisit this.

It's at this point I feel I should reveal my retirement project, which is to build a really good model train layout.

Thu 19 Nov 2009

Marshall and Diane have been talking about setting up a B&B and they've been working tirelessly on preparing the guest's accommodation. It's still got a way to go but I think you'll agree it's starting to look good.


Two views of the new guest's accomodation.


And for something a little different.

Fri 20 Nov 2009

For some days now I've noticed that every time I walk past a certain tree there's a wattle bird in it. Thinking that there's probably a reason for this I investigate and find a nest not 7 feet off the ground.

I climb up to look inside and two tiny chicks greet me with mouths wide open. And here's me without a worm. I'll leave them be for the time being but there has to be a photo opportunity there.

Sat 21 Nov 2009


A white-naped honeyeater on the bird bath rim.

As I walk to the house for a shower I encounter a bull dog ant. They are the most viscous of creatures who thankfully only measure one inch from jaw to sting and a tenth of that from side to side.

We observe each other for some short time, then proceed on our respective ways, each arriving at the conclusion that the other is of no import.

Sun 22 Nov 2009

"Yaouk, where the crows fly backwards." That's what they say about this valley and, although all black birds observed by me lately have been making fair progress in a forward direction, I can believe the saying after today.

What a howler we've been having, still it was good for drying the washing. Those items we managed to find we're totally devoid of moisture.


The truck in 'bad weather' mode, with the deck closed but the window shutter open so we can still look at the view.


Get a load of what the wind has done to the trees.

Tue 24 Nov 2009

And speaking of birds, I finally got around to putting a ladder up against the birds nest tree to have a good look at the wattle bird chicks.

My they have grown, at this rate they'll leave home before I get a photo so I grab my camera.


Long as I got you babe I'll always be warm.

Isn't that cute, who says I don't do baby photos? Kinda puts me in mind of a song that was popular in the 60s, let me cher it with you.

I got you babe

I got you to make me fly
I got you to just say hi
I got you to squawk with me
I got you to gawk with me
I got you to keep me warm
You got me to mow the lawn
Here we are beak to beak
I need to pee don't take a peek
Now that you mention it, where do we go?
I don't know, no, oh no, oh well
Oh well!, that's gonna smell
Can't be helped, couldn't get to the edge
Sod the edge, when do we fledge
When I got you don't worry 'bout weather
When I got you...hey that's my feather
Listen, just flock off

Wed 25 Nov 2009

We have no connection to the web where we are so today we decide to drive along the valley and see just exactly where we can get a signal. As it happens we only have to drive about 6k to get a weak but useful signal, and 8.4 to get 2-3 bars which is well good enough.

So hopefully from now on I'll make an effort to check my email more frequently.

While on the road we continue into Adaminaby to collect our mail and maybe buy some food. Well the mail was there just fine but food prices see us leaving with almost nothing. How's $5.98 a kilo for some moldy black bananas? From now on I think we'll give Adaminaby a miss and go to Cooma.

Thu 26 Nov 2009

A car drove passed today, Toyota I think.

Fri 26 Nov 2009

Another car drove past, or was it the same one coming back?

Sat 28 Nov 2009

Marshall and I walk up to Mt Sentry Box mountain, it's a 500m climb over about 1k and therefore very steep, and the air is thinner than I'm used to up here.

What a slog, still we're at the top in two hours and none the worse for wear. We don't stay long though, the wind is so strong we can hardly stand up straight, and it's blown in a humongous amount of dust so we can't see much anyway.


The view from the top such as it is, that's the truck in the centre of the first photo. That's the 'main road' running along the bottom of the left photo and through the right photo.


Marshall trying not to be blown over by the wind.


Eventually the wind blows much of the dust away.

I check on my baby birds a couple of times during the rest of the day.


The wattle bird chicks seem to be doing OK.

Sun 29 Nov 2009

Once again I go to see the birds, but it seems they already have a visitor.


The wattle bird chicks are entertaining a bulldog ant.

Mon 30 Nov 2009

Today we had planned to drive into Cooma but the trip was soon escalated into a Canberra sojourn, mostly because Chris wants to buy some cold-weather clothing, but also because I need to drop into a decent electronics store to get some components and there is no such store in Cooma.

We spend most of the day browsing the bushwalking stores until we finally find something to keep Chris suitably warm, then it's off to Jaycar to buy my electronics bits.

This also takes quite some time as I need about 30 small items and they can be difficult to find in the store. While here though I spot a nice little CRO (Cathode Ray Oscilloscope), oooh I have missed having an instrument that will show me a proper analogue waveform. No, I've spent too much lately.

When I get back to the car I just happen to let slip "Jee there's a nice little oscilloscope in there, and only $148".

"So why didn't you get it then?" says Chris.

I'm out of the car and across the road so fast they're probably still removing scorch marks from the bitumen.

It's not the full bottle, just a single channel 10MHz CRO but that's a lot more than I had before. I generally work in the digital world but occasionally one has to deal with the real world and that's analogue where a tool like this oscilloscope will be very handy.

When we return home I go to check on the birds.

My babies have gone!

I hope they just reached the age where they can leave home and have done so, although I would love to have watched them learn to fly. I can see no signs of fowl play though so I'm assuming they didn't come to any harm.

Wed 2 Dec 2009

Still getting over my 'empty nest' syndrome, meanwhile I think it's important to keep busy so to take my mind off things I drive down the valley to upload some web site stuff, check my email and do some browsing.

This I do parked on the side of the road with the laptop in the back of the car and me facing away from the world. After a couple of hours I'm done so I turn around to see a great-looking sky. Why didn't I bring my camera?

I pack up and head home. As soon as I arrive I swap computer for camera and head off again.

Over the next few hours I do what I probably enjoy the most, just wander around looking for photos; and a sky like this is just crying out for the old black-&-white-with-red-filter trick.


OK so I left some of the colour in this one.


The panorama treatment often causes things to curve unnaturally, but this creek really is curved (see next photo).


See, it's not me, honest.


Another old photographer's trick, ie the twisted-dead-tree and infra red look.


And now for something completely different, from wide pano to 400mm tele.


I found a new baby to photograph, just a little larger than the last ones. Both mum and daughter could do with a shave though.


An idillic cottage in an idillic valley.


I seldom 'do' sunsets but occasionally I can't resist.

Tue 8 Dec 2009

I really feel I must complain to management, this place was billed by our friends as being "quiet" and "peaceful" but today I counted four cars driving past, four, I kid you not. I know you're aghast at this amount of traffic, as indeed am I, how is one supposed to get some peace? Where's the serenity?

It's only the fact that our hosts are close friends that stays my tongue.

Thu 10 Dec 2009

While having high tea up at the big house we notice a huge hairy moth in the bath tub. It's too good an opportunity to miss so I duck back to the truck to get a camera.


Amazing moth on the bath tub.

On my return I notice that the sky has become very interesting.


Cloud formations.

Fri 11 Dec 2009

The weather here is quite unbelievable, in the morning I set up the car's solar panel and as you can see it's bright and sunny.


Nice and sunny.


While out I notice these beetles, have a look at the colour of them.

The solar panel is required because we've bought so much food lately that we've had to use the fridge in the car to hold the overflow. Not an hour or so later here's the (almost) same scene.


Not so sunny any more, and I had to wait for the rain to stop to go outside.

Note that the winds are so fierce around here that we've had to tie the truck to a nearby tree.

Mon 14 Dec 2009

Chris is sitting pensively looking out the hole in the side of the truck we call a window.

"We've been married 30 years..." she says.

Well I know that, um, well I'm certain it's been longer than 20, and fairly sure it hasn't been 40, so if we take the mid point.

"...and in the last ten I've never been happier" she continues.

There's a short moment of silence while we both ponder, she about being happy and me about what's for lunch.

"I think the reason is that I don't have to deal with idiots any more"...another short pause..."well only one but I can handle that".

A banana sandwich, that'd be nice, or maybe a bacon wrap.

"Sorry, what was that dear?"

Wed 16 Dec 2009

Not much to do today except watch a praying mantis lay eggs on the rear shutter.


Praying mantis laying eggs.

Yep, another big day in downtown Yaouk.

Thu 17 Dec 2009

There's a howling gale today and in the afternoon quite a lot of smoke obscures the mountains. While we've been staying here Marshall and Diane have been dividing their time between here and their other property and they usually return here on Thursdays, but today they don't show.


More crawlies in the bath tub, this one's not going to fly out.

Fri 18 Dec 2009

We hear on the radio that there has been a fire at Michelago and nine houses were lost. That's not far from M&Ds property so I walk up to the house to use the phone and see if they're OK.

They are but spent yesterday clearing fuel and cleaning gutters. They should be back out at Yaouk today.

I haven't been writing much lately for two reasons, one is that I haven't been writing much lately, and the other is that I've been too interested in dicking around with some electronics. There is a new electronics diary which you may be interested in, although if you're not into embedded processor design then you'll probably be bored witless.

Wed 23 Dec 2009

We drive into Cooma today to do some shopping but also hopefully to pick up some photos I've had printed and mailed to the Post Office. We have the tracking number for the parcel and according to the Aus Post web site it's been delivered to Cooma.

So I rock up to the counter and ask "Any mail for Gray care of the post office?, it'll be an Express Post satchel".

Several minutes of searching and consulting with the "lady who handles Express Post" fails to find the package so they ask if I can give them the tracking number.

I can but not right now as it's in the car.

Some time later I return to the Post Office and immediately see my parcel on the counter.

It is addressed to "Rob Gray" on the address label however written in large letters across the satchel with a red marker pen are the words "Rob Gray Nature Photographer".

"It was stored in the wrong place" the counter lady says. Well that's understandable I suppose, given the large red writing I'd possibly put it under 'P' for photography as well.

"It was filed under 'F' for photography" she continues.

Sun 27 Dec 2009

Both Diane and Marshall used to be interested in photography and Diane is now getting back into it, with a view to doing some macro. To this end she's just bought a Nikon 105 macro lens and as I noticed that the bush next to the truck is swarming with bugs we decided to have a go at photographing some of them.


Shield bug changes leaves.


Christmas beetle has a rest.


Ants attack a hairy caterpillar.


But it gets away.


Two more beetles.

Mon 28 Dec 2009

Over the last week or so I've been noticing some massive dandy lions in the field, but with the ever-present wind they are usually half blown away by the time I spot them. Then this morning I see a fine specimen and manage to get a few photos before the wind arrives.


A massive dandy lion.

One subject that is not affected by the wind is a large spider that lives in a hole at the bottom of the truck's steps. It seems to like basking in the sun but every time we approach it scurries back down its hole, mostly I think because it sees a huge dark shape against the sky.

I have however sussed out how to photograph it, I come out at night and shine a torch onto the spider, now it doesn't see me, just the light and it seems quite happy to sit there no matter how close I get. I still have to tread carefully though because it's very attuned to vibrations in the ground, but the technique seems to be working.


Spider in a hole.

Tue 29 Dec 2009

It's foggy this morning and when I look out the window I see Tamanang (one of M&D's two horses) standing rather forlornly in the gloom. It's too good an opportunity to miss so I grab a camera and head out to join him.


Tamanang in the mist, and he will be missed.

He's not been himself lately, in fact the other day while up at the house for a feed he stumbled on the smallest of bumps. Marshall's been very worried about him, especially since a growth appeared a few days ago, and the vet is due to make a visit today.

The vet arrives at 2 and we're anxious to hear what the verdict is but don't want to get in the way so we leave them to it.

A couple of hours later Marshall and Diane walk down to the truck. The look on Diane's face says it all.

The vet reckons Tamanang had one of several problems including cancer and/or liver failure, he's 30 which is old for a horse and he says there isn't much to be done for him, so they've put the old fella down.

For thirty years Tamanang has taken sustenance from this valley and now he's giving back to it. Tamanang lived and let live in this valley for his entire life, it's no better or worse for him being here, he didn't "improve" anything and he didn't ruin anything; he just was.

Would that we humans could do the same.

Rest in peace Tamanang.

Wed 30 Dec 2009

Doris, the other horse, is alone now so I decide to create some friends for her.


I create some friends for Doris.

While sitting in the lounge room watching nothing in particular a familiar-looking Landcruiser turns off the road and heads up the driveway. Still not sure what I'm seeing I walk up to the gate to intercept the visitor. It's Col Ellis, local Canberra landscape photographer. The vehicle is familiar because it used to be mine, a 75-series Landcruiser Troopcarrier that Col bought from me when we left Canberra.

Apparently he drove past the other day on his way deeper into the valley, he saw the truck and thought it might be us although of course it's different now and that threw him a bit.

On his return he saw Marshall and Diane spraying weeds in the field and asked them if it it was us up in the truck, they said is was because it is and he drove up.

We chat for some time, partly about photography but mostly about futility of trying to sell photographs. I used to have a small gallery adjoining the markets, it did quite well and Col took it over when we hit the road. He's done quite well too I believe but the last couple of years trade has really fallen off. I've noticed the same thing on the web site. I guess in these digital days everyone thinks they are a landscape photographer.

Thu 31 Dec 2009

I'm mostly working on electronics stuff at present, specifically a network to be used to connect sensors around the truck so I can tell at a glance how my batteries are doing, the fridge temperature, state of the solar system, etc.

It's coming along quite well, here's a sample of the network interface circuitry.

As I said before, if you're not into electronics you won't find this very interesting, but if you're a motorhomer maybe you have some ideas as to what can be monitored or controlled around the vehicle. If you do let me know.


Some bugs in a nearby bush.

Sun 3 Jan 2010

This afternoon I do my every-few-daily drive down the valley to check my email and get an internet fix. While there a tourist drives past, he stops to ask if there's any fishing to be had around here but I'm no help as I wouldn't go fishing to save myself from starving.

Then a local farmer stops, presumably to see what the hell I'm doing loitering around here every few days.

Then I hear footsteps, who is it this time? It's Chris, she's walked the 8.5k from the truck all the way waving her fly swat around in a futile attempt to keep the little black insects from her face.

Tue 12 Jan 2010

One of the main reasons for us coming down here to the mountains was for me to do some walking in Kosciuszko National Park, and so far, after two months, I've walked exactly 0 kilometres in KNP.

As it's really approaching time to leave I suppose I should get my skates on and do at least one walk. So to this end we've organized to meet Marshall and Diane in Cooma next Friday, they're going to a Jazz festival in Thredbo and as it happens that's just where I planned to do one of my walks from.

So today I get my walking gear out and have a bit of a sort.

The other big news is that yesterday we had summer, a lovely day well into the 30s, but it's back to normal now.

Fri 15 Jan 2010

All packed up and ready to go, we're in town by 8:30 so Chris does some shopping while I order some electronic parts on the interweb.

At around 10 we walk over to the main street to meet Marshall and Diane, after a quick cappuccino we decant my back pack into their car and it's off to Thredbo for us while Chris returns to Yaouk for three days of peace and quiet.

Diane has been looking at the weather forecast, it looks pretty good she says except on Monday.

What about Monday, "A four-letter word starting in 'S'" chimes in Marshall.

"That'd be 'suny' wouldn't it?" I say and while Marshall counts the letters in sunny I wonder about how warm I'll be in my tiny 150gm sleeping bag.

Another hour or so and we're in Thredbo, M&D book into their hotel then they see me off on the chair lift. It's $29 for the ride, $22 to go up and $7 to come back down again, a bit pricey but better that walking up to the top of the range.


Middle station (I think that's what it's called, I haven't skied here for a very long time), where you might get off in the winter if you didn't feel comfortable going to the top.


The top or 'Eagle's Nest' as it's called.

I have no real plan apart from to wander around the Ramshead Range until I find a good camping spot then drop anchor for three nights and come back. I've been to the area a couple of times over the years but always had bad weather and a large-format camera. As the two don't mix very well I've never got any good photos and I'm hoping to fix that with this trip.

It's only about 2 kilometres or so from the top of the chair lift but it takes about an hour to find the spot I had in mind, mostly because I get chatting to a couple of campers. I grab a few "insurance" shots while the weather is nice then set up camp and relax for a while.


The main rock feature of the valley.


I find a good camp site.

It's a pretty good spot, possibly not as sheltered as I'd like but it'll do.

Before long I'm restless though so I pick up camera gear and go looking for photo angles that may be useful later when presumably the light will improve.


The creek near my camp.


These strange celery-like plants are everywhere.

NOTE: My tent is in the above photo (the landscape one of course). Can you find it?

I walk over to the escarpment to look down on the steel pathway the day trippers use to walk to Mt Kosciuszko. I walk along the cliff line and clamber through a couple of rocks with no particular purpose other than to look around.

And then I then find it.

Oh no this is terrible, I've just found the world's best campsite. A perfectly flat patch of grass tucked in amongst the rocks on the side of the cliff, with great views over the valley and on the east side so it's sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds.

Now what do I do?

I decide to move camp tomorrow and continue my search for likely photo locations.

I haven't walked a hundred yards though when I change my mind and decide to move now, pain that it is I may as well do it before I really settle into the current spot.

Rather than properly pack everything I move my back pack across the valley, then the tent, and finally my camera gear. To save effort I try to move the tent without dismantling it, I get about 30 yards before deciding this is a bad idea in the wind.

I've pretty much lost control and with tent poles flailing in all directions and the fabric billowing between my arms and over my head I must look like someone learning the bagpipes, with the drone of nearby crows to complete the picture.

I finally get everything under control and in place at the new location and can relax again for a while before having an early tea.


Cooking dinner with a view.

Then heading out to photograph the main rock feature in the middle of the valley.



This is the valley's main rock feature, it's been photographed by every man and his dog, still there's always the chance of getting something different I suppose.


Looking the other way towards the west.

On return to camp I make a cup of soup and settle in between a couple of rocks to enjoy the view in the gloom.


Looking towards Thredbo, the overall glow is from the village while the lights and infrastructure are the top of the chair lift where it looks like the restaurant is open.

Soon the stars start to appear. Sirius (aka the Dog Star or alpha Canis Major) is first which makes sense because it is the brightest of all stars. Then the seven major stars that form Orion, and before long they've all joined the party.

I look at the stars with my $3 binoculars and am as amazed as I was when first looking at them as a teenager. Back then I had a telescope and was right into astronomy, however it didn't last long because I hated the frustration of looking at things I'll never get to see for real. Plus of course astronomy is a very cold hobby and I don't do cold.

Sat 16 Jan 2010

Landscape photography is also a very cold hobby which probably explains why I don't have that many dawn photos, preferring to shoot from bed if possible, which is exactly what I do this morning.

I'm woken by the sunlight on the side of the tent, I open the flap to see the classic orange-ball sun on sitting on the horizon and manage to squeeze off a couple of shots without getting out of my nice warm sleeping bag.


Sunrise from bed.

Then I notice the wind. I thought this camp was supposed to be sheltered. I get up and stroll around taking a few shots of my camp.


Some photos of the campsite and my guardian rock.

Then head towards the other side of the boulder pile I'm camped in. Within 30 yards I can hardly stand up for the wind so I guess the site is sheltered after all, despite this (actually probably because of the wind) the light is changing second by second as the clouds whiz past and it looks great. This type of changing light is what landscape photographers love and I spend the next hour or so being buffeted by the wind in the name of fine landscape photographs.


Some great light in the valley behind my campsite.

The clouds lower and are now racing past at eye level or below, sometimes obscuring the sun and sometimes allowing it to make an appearance.



All these are taken within a few minutes of each other as the light changes.

No point using a tripod here, it'll only blow over anyway and I'm thankful I no longer shoot with a large-format camera as it would not have been possible to get one single photograph under these conditions.

I return to camp for breakfast then settle in to watch the day trippers walking up and down the steel walkway. By mid afternoon I'm bored and decide to brave the wind again.

As I round a rock I see a deer and get such a shock I instinctively recoil to hide behind the rock I have just rounded. What the hell is a deer doing here?

I only have a wide angle lens with me so have to rush back to camp for my 70-200, not that a 70-200 is really suitable for shy wildlife but it's all I've got.

When I return the deer is still there and I grab a quick insurance shot.

It starts to walk to the left and as I follow its projected path I see three more sleeping on the lee side of a huge boulder.

My current hide is another large boulder about 50 metres from them, slightly up wind and with open ground between us. I don't think I'll get much closer from this side and anyway the wind may carry my scent to them. I can see a better approach further to the south so I back off and flank them at a safe distance on the other side of a rise.

When I'm in what I think is a position in line with the hide rocks I plan to use and re approach the deer, slowly, rock by rock I approach, still not knowing exactly when I will round one and be revealed to them.

Eventually I poke my head around a rock to see them, still about 50 metres away but this time I have rocks to cover me as I approach closer.

By now they are all apparently asleep, but they have big ears and much of the foliage here is very dry and/or dead so a careless footstep can cause a cracking noise that will go straight to those ears.

I get to the last cover rock, maybe 30 metres from them, for once the wind is working in my favour as there is no way the deer can smell me against it, and also I wait until there is a gust to take each step and the noise of the moving air helps disguise the sound of human boot on dead twig.

I take another photo in case that's as close as I get. One deer is up on its feet by now and looking my way, he's not sure about me and I leave the camera to my face for a minute so as not to look too human. He loses interest and lays back down so I continue stalking.

I'm totally in the open now and quite visible to the deer, but they mostly have their heads down. I'm crouched so as not to present much of a profile when a head is lifted. Still using the wind to disguise what sound I make I get another 10 metres or so having to stop and freeze every second step as one or other of the deer raises it's head and looks my way.

After twenty minutes I get bored with this and anyway I think I'm close enough, so when one of the deer once again stares directly at me I assume the photo-taking position and don't attempt to blend with the landscape.

He either finally recognises me as a human or—if he had already done so—decides I'm close enough and he stands, as do the others. I now have just a couple of seconds to take some photos before they scarper.

Well that was an unexpected bonus, I've never seen any large wildlife in this park and now I bump into four deer.

At around 4 I have an early tea because I know I'll be out until well after dark. Then at 5 I head out, I have a plan to find a good location on or near the peak called Ramshead North but don't know how long it will take to find a spot, so with the light getting interesting at around 7:30 I figure I'll give myself a couple of hours to find a location.


Rocks on the side of Ramshead North.

I find my spot within half an hour so settle in to wait. Fortunately the location, although being quite high up, has a wide ledge so I spread myself out and have a snooze.

An hour or so later I wake, I scan the valley and spot someone on the far side. I swing my lens in that direction and it seems that the other person is also a photographer, judging by the tripod and the fact that he is spending long periods in one location obviously waiting for the light as well.

Anyway, back to business. It's cloudy now but, as is often the case, there's a gap in the clouds near the horizon which means that the sun will shine through at some point. It's just a matter of waiting for that point, which I do.

Eventually the sun does burst through the clouds and I take some photos.


Not as good as I'd hoped for though, mostly because the sun is still too high and hasn't yet taken on that orange hue it does when near the horizon. There's another gap in the clouds, so I wait again.

NOTE: I later realise that the other photographer must have been in one of my shots so after processing them I have a look and sure enough there he is. Can you find him in the above photo?

Unfortunately, even though the sun does break through again it has no strength and even less colour, so that's it for this location. I can see that the other photographer has headed back to his camp and I have a mind to do similar. I quickly pack my gear mindful of the fact that I have yet to climb down and walk across the valley and I've forgotten to bring my headlamp.

I don't know why I get so paranoid about such things though, within 5 minutes I've climbed down and there's still an hour or so of decent light to see by.

Rather than cross the valley I contour around the side which as it happens brings me close to the other photographer's campsite. As I round I boulder he's standing there watching the sky.

Paul is his name, he was staying at Charlottes Pass with his family when he heard the bad-weather forecast and decided that he should be out in the thick of it. Being a landscape photographer he knows that bad weather = good photos.

We chat for a while but then it does start getting dark so we retire to our respective camps. Once again I sit in the half dark with a cup of soup, there's quite a lot of lightning in the distance, maybe that's the storm that was forecast.


Lightning in the clouds.

Sun 17 Jan 2010

I sleep in and miss the sunrise. While having breakfast I notice a walker heading down the track, I can't make out of it's Paul but I hope not because I wanted to chat a bit more.

I stroll around to his camp to find him packing and we chat for some time, between ourselves about photography but also with a passing walker about the crowds we like to avoid.

Paul heads off and I wander around looking for photos. It's still blowing a lot and the light isn't fantastic so I don't hold out much hope of getting any shots and just grab a couple of macro photos of plants in sheltered places behind rocks.

And a couple more shots of the valley's main rock feature and creek.


Note the grass, I used an 8-stop ND filter to get a 6-second exposure. If you can't beat the wind then join it.


A B&W version.


The main creek that runs through the valley centre.

I continue to walk right around the valley and down to a spot overlooking a potential photo location I noticed last night. It was too late to do anything about it yesterday but if I scope out a position now I can be in place at sunset today.

Having sussed my location I return to camp to relax, eventually nodding off. I wake in the mid afternoon and sit around watching the day trippers again, then think about dinner. I usually have tea at 4-5 because I know I'll be out until after dark and by then I'll be starving if I don't eat first, and apart from that I hate cooking in the dark.

At around 6 I'm back out, I take up position on the ledge I found earlier and wait for the light to do something interesting. It takes an hour or so but is worth the wait I think.


That's the peak I noticed last night (in the middle of this shot).


That's not frost, it's dead trees from the 2003 bush fires. Some will never regenerate.


While waiting for the main photo I look behind me so see the rocks where I'm camping look pretty good as well.


Then finally the light is right, this is what I saw yesterday but was too far away to photograph.


I pack up then notice the last glow of the dying sunset.

On my return to camp I make a cuppa and settle in to watch the valley in the half light, the temperature drops markedly though so I soon call it a night.

Mon 18 Jan 2010

4:30, thunder, lightning, rain, Hmm looks like I'm in for some weather.

6:10, still raining I can see water pooled on top of the tent in the pre-dawn gloom, then the "pool" breaks away and slides down the side of the tent. Hang on, rain doesn't slide down the side of your tent, but snow does.

It hasn't been raining at all, it's been snowing. I unzip the tent and peer outside to see, nothing, it's almost a total white out. Well it was forecast but still not totally expected, after all it is the middle of summer.

Nothing to do about it now though, I may as well snuggle down into my bedding which, despite my fears of the other day, is quite warm.

6:45, it's getting heavier, what if it doesn't stop and I get snowed in?

6:50, bugger it I'd better make a move. I boil some water and make a cup of soup while attempting to pack my gear without exposing any of it to the weather. Not that it matters that much, the snow is quite dry.

6:57, time to brave the elements. I grab a camera and head into the snow to at least get a couple of record shots.


My camp is covered in snow.


It looks good though.


Gee I'm glad I brought that can of spray paint, it's come in useful this trip.

It's very windy even in my sheltered spot and therefore difficult to pack up. Still this is the end of the walk so I don't have to worry about a neat pack. I got most things into the pack before I left the tent so all I really have to do now is pack the tent itself. Using my poo trowel I dig down to the tent pegs and stick them in my pocket one by one. When the tent is almost free I remove the fly and unceremoniously bundle it into my pack, snow and all. The inner, poles and groundsheet follow then I drag the pack around to a more sheltered spot under a rock and finish the job.

From my camp it's only about 2k to the chairlift and normally I would walk along the range then drop down to the lift at the last minute to avoid the crowds on the walkway. But with the visibility varying from quite good to three-fifths of five-eights of bugger-all I elect to walk the short distance straight down the mountain to the walkway and along that. I don't think I'll have to worry about crowds this morning.

Half way down the sun breaks through and it looks like it would be great up top, so I walk back.


Sun's out, things are looking good.

Then the clouds close in and I walk back down. Half way down the sun comes out again but I'm wise to its tricks now so I just continue to the walkway.


Sun's back in, things are still looking good.


That's my campsite up there near the top of the righthand peak now shrouded in cloud.

When I get there the sun is out again and I start thinking maybe I should go back, but a look up the hill dispels that idea, I haven't got the energy.

The walkway is made from an open-mesh steel grate so the snow hasn't settled on it and I have a dry location to get changed from my cumbersome foul-weather gear and back into shorts.

This I do then head down the walkway, even if the weather turns bad again I haven't got far to go and I'll just put up with cold legs.

The weather turns bad again.

In the distance I hear a single crow...FAAAAAAARRRK it wails. Your not wrong there mate, I was just thinking the same thing.


Near the chairlift now so there's more and more infrastructure.

I get to the chairlift head to find the attendant breaking the ice from the pavement, the wind has intensified and I wonder about a long cold ride down into the valley. Maybe I should walk down. Still I've paid my $7 for the return half of the ride so I might as well get my moneys worth, I climb on the chair and shoot out into the air.

As it happens the ride down is quite pleasant and I hardly notice the wind, it's snowing but the overall affect is nice as I float down the mountain with the snow flakes.


Floating down to Thredbo, that's the village down there in the fog.

On arrival I've barely had time to get myself organised when I see a familiar face, it's Marshall, Diane saw me on the chair from the hotel room window and sent him out to meet me.

They still have an hour before checkout so I accept the offer to finish off the remaining coffee satchels in the room, after which we bundle ourselves into their car and leave Thredbo. It's still snowing even down here in the valley, but I'm finally warm.

Wed 19 Jan 2010

Boy did I catch some UV while in the mountains. I had the sense to cover up most of me but forgot about my head and now I'm peeling so badly I look like I'm falling apart at the face.

Nothing to do about it except let nature take its course and hope I don't have to be presented to the Queen any time over the next few days.

Wed 27 Jan 2010

We plan to leave this Sunday so we've started packing up, we've been pretty restless for a while now and it will be good to be back on the road.

Sat 30 Jan 2010

All ready, we'll have a farewell dinner with Marshall and Diane tonight then tomorrow we're off, first stop Adaminaby to upload this chronicle (it's not a very large town but I assume it has mobile phone reception) then we'll camp along the road somewhere near Kiandra.

Sun 31 Jan 2010

That's it then, we're off. It's been lovely sitting here in the valley for a couple of months and we've really enjoyed Marshall and Diane's company, but as always the road is calling and has been for a while now so it's time to move.

As I drive down the track I wonder if we will ever return to the Yaouk valley, I hope so.

 

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