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Lamington National Park, Walk 3: Ships Stern Circuit

Start: Binna Burra
Class 4
21kms
Approx 8hrs

This is one of my favourite tracks in the park, and it’s been several years since I’ve walked in its entirety. I tried a few weeks ago, but it was closed because of backburning. It’s the eastern-most track in the national park, and as a result, it has the most diverse ecosystems as the deep rainforest of the centre gives way to sheer cliffs, palm forests and even open dry eucalypt forest. 21 or so kilometers, with an approximate walking time of eight hours. It’s also probably the least shaded of the walks, which is why I ran into some trouble.

We get there in pretty good time (Sarah had a rare day off so she walked with me). We start out from Binna Burra at about 8am, and already the heat is palpable. The forecast was mid thirties (c), but once we hit the slopes of the Lower Bellbird circuit it cools off, but the humidity is still very high though. I’m stopping pretty frequently for photos, but not as much as usual as I’m quite aware we have a fairly long day ahead of us. The rainforest is still pretty dry-looking. None of the waterfalls we pass are flowing at anything other than a distant, buried trickle. We see quite a number of Red-Necked Pademelons feeding pretty close to the track. Timid, yet curious, and of course the birdsong is a symphony.

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The Ships Stern is usually walked in a clockwise direction, and it shares its start with several other tracks, so the first few kilometres are quite familiar- you have to follow Bellbird for a time before Ships Stern splits away to the right. As is usual this time of year. Yangahla Lookout is spectacular, but hazy. One day I’ll get a clear panoramic shot from there. After starting these walks in the cool of Autumn, the heat washing up the valley is like opening an oven door. Directly opposite the lookout, the Ships Stern shoulders out from the valley, a heavily forested ridge scaled with rock outcrops. As usual, the illusion of both nearness and distant grandeur makes it look both easy and somewhat daunting. I’ve always thought it slightly inappropriately named, as to me, the pointed ridge line looks more like a ship’s bow than a stern. Maybe there’s an old story there.

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The track starts with a descent down into the rainforest, then a steady climb out. It’s easy going; humid, but not terrifically so, and the path is nice and firm. The slope gradually increases to a moderate incline that soon as us puffing. We have lunch at Kooloobano Lookout, which isn’t halfway, but it is right at the tip of the ‘stern’ and is the point where the track doubles back along the eastern ridge. Smoked ham baguettes with cheese. Brilliant. It’s a deliciously open viewpoint, looking northward back down the valley, and is suitably dramatic. Rocks are baking, lizards are supercharged with energy. We watch for snakes but with the exception of one lightning-fast green tree snake, they’re nothing more than the occasional disappearing tail-tip.

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We’re wilting after the long climb. My shirt is soaked, and here’s where the trouble begins. I’d rather carelessly overlooked the fact that a long stretch of the Ships Stern is on the eastern-escarpment and isn’t rain-forested. It’s in full sun on the hottest day of the season so far. It’s also just after noon. The sun is merciless, there’s very little shade. A breeze would sometimes kick up from the valley, but it was hot and dry, gritty. Far below us, toy cars threaded silently along the road, just little colored dots. The views are really quite wonderful, and there’s a point, about halfway along the eastern ridge where the path splits in two for a kilometer around a breathtaking rock wall. We choose the higher path (because it looks a bit more shaded). The forest here is open, and last time I walked it, several years ago, a bushfire had ripped through sometime previous so the undergrowth with low, almost heath-like sparse in places. Now, it’s mostly waist high grasses, shrubs and opportunistic young trees making the most of the light. A huge fuel load just waiting to dry out in a month or so, then be sparked into a bushfire by dry lightning or a careless walker. The biggest trees are scarred around their bases, the black char reaching up several meters. These fires are (mostly) natural. An ancient cycle that reduces and rejuvenates the ecosystem.

 

By the time we reach Guraigumai Rock, I’m really struggling. I don’t normally drink lots of water when I walk, but I’m gulping it, sweating and feeling decidedly unwell. Lunch is sitting like a brick in my stomach. We stop for a while, shrugging off day packs (we’d loaded up with waterproofs on top of the usual gear as there were storms forecast for the evening, and in the forested mountains they sometimes strike without warning as you can’t generally see the sky to get warning). It started with just feeling a bit dizzy, but then Sarah was looking at me, and all I could focus on was the darkness that was creeping in at the edges of my vision. She steers me to a log and I plop down. I don’t black out, but I come close several more times. Drink lots of water. According to the map, we have about seven kilometers left, which wasn’t that many, but it’s still really hot and we’re now very low on water, and as I’ve mentioned before, this area is very dry so there are no streams running, so no chance of refilling. So of course once you start thinking about how little water there is, you become more thirsty, and I’m pretty sure I am suffering from dehydration and a little bit of heat stroke, and of course Sarah is hot and thirsty too. But there’s nothing for it. We have to walk out. It’s not a very nice feeling, but you just have to get on with it.

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Rainforest Pools (not the drinkable ones!)

It’s hard to enjoy walking like this, but it’s still a magic area, and once we’re back heading westward, it starts to cool down. I check the map, looking to see if there was any chance of finding water. Nothing we’d crossed so far was running, but I see Ballunjui Cascade a couple of kilometers along the track. I know these falls from other walks, and they’re quite large, and I figure they’ll probably be flowing reasonably well. Problem is, they’re not directly on the track, and it’s bit of a round trip to them. As much as I don’t want to extend the day any more than I have to, by this point we’re out of water, and although it’s not that far out, I’m still not feeling very well and we’re both very thirsty. We take the chance.

I can hear the falls flowing long before we see them. In the forest, water sounds like wind; a low, persistent white noise that seems to fluctuate like breath. After following the thin, dog-legging track down into a gully, we finally see the falls. They’re not exactly the  cascade as advertised, but the stream is flowing pretty well and the water is clean and cold.  I fill one water bottle, then filter it through the microfibre of my floppy hat into my wide-necked Nalgene bottle (microfibre lives up to its name and is a pretty good filter at a push). It takes a while to drip through, but I want to make sure I remove any bugs and grit. I don’t have an active filter with me, and after one of my last walks I’m somewhat reluctant to drink the water untreated, but these falls are quite away from the common areas so they should be fine. There are quite a few blue crayfish in the pools too. The water tastes amazing, as it usually does when you’re very hot, dusty and thirsty, and because we’re not too far from the finish, we drink our fill.

We walk clear with sloshing bellies, and for the last couple of kilometres, the canopy above us is stirred to restlessness by the wind. The light is dropping significantly, and through gaps in the green, I can see grey clouds scudding eastbound. There’s a typical Queensland late-afternoon storm brewing. It doesn’t feel like it’ll hit us yet, but thunder is grumbling on the other side of the range. By the time we emerge at Binna Burra, erratic, fat rain is falling, big drops with enough space between them that they kind of feel almost deliberately-aimed.

The usual flask of coffee awaits us (as do two ticks on poor Sarah), and the drive home is an adventure in traffic as the storms finally hit us on the freeway, but it’s not too bad. Lots of barking and flashing, but little rain.

Lessons have been learned, and I’ll take a bit more care next time.

Elabana Falls

Lamington National Park, Walk 2: Toolona Creek.

Start: Green Mountains
Class 4
17.4km rtn (my GPS tagged it as 22k)
Approx 6hrs

After Confirming my Masters on Friday (which basically means the university like the project and I can continue for a bit longer) I took off on Wednesday at 6:30am, deciding I had enough time to do one of the day walks. Problem I have is getting though first the Brisbane traffic then hitting the Gold Coast right at peak time. It took me over 2 hours to get to the Green Mountains (which are another 30-odd km farther along than Binna Burra). Something to think about when it comes to the long day walks like Ship’s Stern and Mt Hobwee.

Easy drive up, though we had a very nasty little storm come through on Monday, and I wonder if it loosened things up a bit as there were a lot of rockfalls on the mountain roads. Nothing too dramatic. O’Reilly’s was pretty empty, but then it was midweek.

I’ve not walked the Toolona Circuit before. It’s a creek track, following the crease of a gorge, bisecting two points of the Border Track (which spines so many walks here). So it starts on the Border, first on wide wooden decking, then graded gravel. The sheer number of visitors here means damage mitigation is essential, especially considering the beginning of the Border Track leads to the famous Airwalk and then on to the botanic gardens. That’s a lot of feet.

I dip off the Border at the start of the twisty little Box Forest Circuit. Still graded and easy to follow. It’s a stunning day, not a cloud above and the light through the canopy is equally soft and shattered. Oh, I have new boots as well. After much research, I picked up a pair of Scarpa Cyrus gtx. Lovely, lightweight (but still mostly leather) Gore-Tex lined stomping machines that are funky enough that I can wear them around town. I mentioned in the post before that my Deltas are just too big and heavy for 99% of the conditions in Queensland. Well these should be perfect for here and the large amount of urban walking I do (and no I’m not being sponsored by anyone).

First stop of the day is Picnic Rock, which is at the top of Elabana Falls. There’s actually not a lot to see here, the real spot is below, following a switchback and a slight detour. It’s here that I walked over the Red-Bellied Black Snake. Funny thing is, I did actually see it, but it’s been such a long time since I’d seen snake in here that my first thought was one of annoyance that someone had dropped a child’s plastic toy on the path. Then, of course, it moved. It was only a small one, maybe a metre and a bit long, and quite sluggish as it was a fairly shady path. Beautiful though, and silent as it melted back into the green.

Elabana Falls is the picture postcard waterfall of Lamington. I’m looking at a photo of it now, on the map cover. I’ve not been here for a good few years but it’s barely changed (I suppose it wouldn’t, really). I mooch around, taking a few photos. It’s nice to have the place to myself. There’s a surprising amount of crap around. Lolly wrappers, orange peel, and, most alarmingly, little clumps of white toilet paper right next to the water course.

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Elabana Falls

I return to the switchback, and the Toolona Track starts proper. As I mentioned before, this is a creek track, so it’s winding, steep, damp and overgrown. Excellent. I’m not going to list all the waterfalls (there’s around 15), and as it’s a pretty steep gorge, so some of them are pretty high. Birdlife is everywhere, and there’s also a surprising amount of potaroos around, darting off into the scrub, usually nothing much more than little explosions of chaos. I’m the first one through here, at least for today, if not longer. The track is criss-crossed with cobwebs that I break though, mummifying me by microns at a time. The ground is damp, but not really muddy, and through the creek is flowing nicely, it does look a little low. Still, we are coming off the dry season. I imagine in full flood this gorge would be a cacophony.

 

It’s an interesting path. It crosses the stream, doubles back on itself, wanders precariously up the side of the gorge then seems to change its mind heads back over the stream. There’s only one moment of confusion, where a blaze points in a vague direction, but a moment of looking around carefully, I spotted the other blaze, across the water, and upon further investigation I found the track ambling upwards again. Mentally, it’s an easy path to lose yourself on, especially if you’re a photographer. The only time I came to physical grief was because of a fresh deadfall. Now, sometimes these are as simple as hopping over (or under) a trunk, but this one… it was basically like working my way through a horizontal tree canopy, complete with a slick, mossy 1.5m thick trunk. I managed to skin my hands, slipping as I straddled the wood (I imagine the sight would have been a bit amusing). Eventually I had to discard my backpack (filled with camera, lenses, tripod and lunch) to wiggle through a gap. All good fun, if a bit messy.

 

So there’s one thing that happened on the track that I wasn’t sure I was going to write about until just now.If you’re a bit squeamish about bodily functions, skip down until you see the happy photo of the bird. So I’m walking along a relatively flat and level section, boxed in by trees and scrubby bushes, but not that close, pressed atmosphere of the gorge, when I come across a shit. Believe me, I sat here tying to think how best to describe this, but in all reality, it was a huge, human shit. On a rock. On the path. Few days old I guess (bit I’m no expert). There were no attempts to hide it (not even paper or leaves), it was just on a rock that was part of the trail edging. At first I was simply revolted, but as I walked on, I found myself dwelling on it a lot (which is nothing new as my mind turns in on itself when I walk and simple ideas become internalised epics). This wasn’t just somebody caught short, I mean that happens to all of us at some point on a day-long hike. This was a statement shit. I mean, who does that? I’m 10km into the rainforest here, with at least another 7km to go, so we’re not talking about a casual visitor wearing thongs and being a wanker.

I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the mentality behind someone who would do that.

It’s bad enough that on the walks within 5km of the start zones if you stop at a waterfall or a viewpoint, there’s inevitably piles of toilet paper crammed into rocks, behind a tree, or simply just left within a step or two of the path. I realise that they’re stopping points, and if someone is going to feel the urge, it’ll be then, but fuck…  I see it everywhere now. I understand most people don’t walk with a trowel, but how fucking hard is it to bury crap, or at least cover it over far enough away from the track (and waterways) so that people don’t have to see it. I just don’t get it. It’s a World Heritage Site, and other than that pretty important title, it’s a fucking magical place, an inspirational place. I would never drink from the waterways in this park unless I was very deep, and even then I’d boil the hell out of it. I don’t have any answers. I’m not sure that there are any really.

Ok, back to the track, though I imagine the balance between tourism, access and environmental damage is something I’ll have to revisit again.

 

The switchbacks are a bit more frequent (and there’s a special place in Hell for people who shortcut them and score ugly great eroded gashes in the hillside. Right, I promise that’s my last grouch for today). Looking at the map I can see I only have a few more waterfalls left, so at each one I shed my pack and hop around with rock pools looking for a Lamington Spiny Crayfish. These bright blue crustaceans can get to over 13cm in length, and are sometimes found wandering the paths in the rain, hissing and waving their claws at people. I was lucky enough to have a huge one walk over my boot while I was resting on one of my very first trips here, and I was eager to find some more. At the third set of pools, I managed to find a couple of smaller ones (4cm or so). Damn they move quick in the water. I tried to get a photo, but surprisingly the vivid blue didn’t show up too well against the mud of the pools. Another time.

So, out of the gorge and up onto the Border Track. The Toolona Lookout offers a view all the way to the sea in NSW. It’s a lovely clear day and I can even see the white frosting of breakers. Mt Toolona is just off the right, and caps out at 1189m, which is quite respectable for around here. The Border Track is easy, flat and simple to follow (which is lucky as there have been a couple of times when I’ve misjudged how much I fart around with my cameras and have had to walk out in the near-dark). The stands of Antarctic Beeches are just beautiful. They seep age. Lamington contains the most northerly stands of these amazing trees. Whereas the leaves of the Tasmanian ones I walked on recently were small, like pistachio shells, these are broad like the ones in England, though the trunks, seemingly dying from the inside out, remind me more of the colossal grandfather Oaks that dot Hayes Common in my native Kent.

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Antarctic Beech

No real surprises along the Border, although it is a fair bit muddier than I expected it to be and the boots get a bit of a workout. I’ve still not seem another person on this walk. Bliss.

The closer I get to the end, the more abundant the birdlife becomes, and as I emerge back into O’Reilly’s, I bump into a group of photographers making the most of the wildlife. There was a time when I would have envied those lenses the length of my arm, but after walking 80-odd kilometres of the Overland Track in Tassie carrying heavy glass and a big DSLR, I’m so glad I traded for this Olympus system.

After how tired I was driving home last time, I’d made myself a flask of coffee. It was magic just sitting on the grass watching the birds and unwinding. But one final surprise was waiting for me down near the car…

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Carpet Python (I wonder what it ate a few days ago)

Lamington National Park, Walk 1: Lower Bellbird Circuit

Start: Binna Burra
12km (rtn)
Class 4
30 Sept ’16

So. Walk 1 of about 24. Originally, I’d planned to hike the Ships Stern Circuit, which is one of my favourites, but I was a bit late in getting down the coast so I settled for a half-dayer. Turns out the Ship’s Stern was closed because of back burning anyway (a process here in Australia where sections of nationals parks are stripped of potentially dangerous underbrush by the process of burning it back. It helps to protect houses from bushfires in the dry months, but it’s a pretty horrible for people like me with asthma and air pollution in general. There are a lot of pros and cons).  It was the tail end of the school holidays so there were quite a few cars up at Binna Burra. That was pretty much why I’d stayed away from the Green Mountains this time. It just gets too busy up there. As it was I encountered one group on the trip at a breath-taking lookout, standing around playing Pokemon Go. I just don’t get that.

The Lower Bellbird actually shares the first few kilometres with Ship’s Stern. It’s an easy walk, following the ridgeline mostly, and passing the beautiful Yangahla Lookout (there’s a photo from there in the previous post) before finally beginning to descend. The path draws a wavy down through the elbow of the valley then out away to the north. I find  myself crossing the same trickle of a creek a number of times. It’s been dry, but sometimes I can clearly hear water running somewhere under the debris of the dead, moss-sprayed trees and rockfalls. It’s a lovely temperature, but I’m sweating, mostly because this is my first big walk since the Overland Track in June, and I’m quite unfit (the perils of sitting behind a desk writing). I’m also slightly nervous about my boots. Well, not my boots as such, my ankles that are in the boots. During the last couple of days on the Overland, my ankles took a beating, mostly from my boots being frozen solid each night (the story of my Overland adventures will be in a series of stories and a book next year) but also from the continual dropping down large  sofa-sized slabs of quartzite whilst carrying a 25kg backpack (we walked the track in reverse, so we ending up in the mountains). Oh, and also I’m much older than I used to be. Anyway, I’ve not worn my Scarpas since, and because they’re heavy leather Deltas, there’s not much call for them up here in Queensland, short of a very wet, muddy Lamington. But not today. It’s dry and hard, but the boots feel fine. I’m still going to look into a lighter pair though. I really don’t need the Deltas here.

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Wojigumai Cave          ©  P. Brandon 2016
I was trying to recall if I’d walked this track before, but I remembered I had as soon as I hit Wojigumai Cave. Not so much a cave as an eroded fault line, it’s still really impressive. The texture of the contrasting rocks is wonderful, and with the rock face rising above, it acts as a scoop for the breeze. I’ve always loved the hiss of the wind through the canopy. It sounds like something is alive up there, restless. It’s the quality of breath, the way the forest inhales and exhales on a scale far grander than us. Occasionally, as I walk, the wind  will pick up fragments of other walkers talking, or a bark of laughter, on the ridge opposite and carry them across the valley like leaves so that is sounds like they are right behind me.  Other times the sound of the leaves is like distant traffic, but never it is silent.

There are a few open patches of damaged forest, and I seem to recall hearing about a very big and isolated storm out this way maybe a year ago. Where the trees have fallen it hasn’t taken long for the understory to erupt into the new light, and the small cluttered clearing is dotted with flowers and the low, gentle hum of insects.

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Bee, on Approach          © P. Brandon
The track is easy, nothing even remotely tricky, which is kind of nice as it frees me up to look for opportunities to test the new camera. Problem with shooting in a rainforest though is that unless you focus on something specific like a bird, a snake or flower, it’s really hard to convey the sense of depth through the lens.

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It’s also tricky to capture the quality of the light with a snapshot of a moment in time when it’s so fluid and alive.

A couple of hours in and I clear the rainforest, out into an area of cut brush that I assume is for a helicopter. Perfect spot for a cup of tea. Clear of the forest it’s surprisingly blowy. Probably too windy for the back burning, which would explain why I’ve not smelled any burning. The final 3 or so miles are a bit dull -following the road back past the ranger station to where I left the car, but I come across a sullen-looking bowerbird sitting on the verge (I actually saw it sitting there driving in). I can almost hear its bothered sigh as it lifts off into the trees. For a moment I consider following it, so see if I can find its bower, but the day is getting on and its a very scrubby drop.

One last treat awaits me at the car. The bush I’m next to must be giving off some sort of aroma, as its dusted in confetti of little butterflies.

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Right, coffee at Beechmont, then time to hit the traffic home.

 

New Projects

At the moment, music is taking a bit of a back seat as I’m over at the University of Queensland studying for a Master of Philosophy in Creative Nonfiction Writing for the next couple of years (yes there is such a thing as creative nonfiction, but I’ll get into that in another post). Basically, I’m writing a big thesis on the Overland Track in Tasmania, which I walked in June. The opportunity to go and be a postgrad at UQ, and study Nature Writing and Wilderness, a form of writing that has quite honestly been a life-long passion,  was too good not to jump at.

While I work on the thesis (a series of interconnected essays about Wilderness and the Track) I’m basically submerging myself in the genre. I’ll be walking a whole lot more, writing articles and taking a lot of pictures. 

My Tasmanian walking companion, Zane, has inspired me to take up a little side project. Zane is currently working his way through climbing every peak in Tasmania classified an ‘Abel’ (The Tasmanian version of our Munros. Basically, a mountain over 1100m in height with a drop of at lease 150m on all sides -named after Abel Tasman). Zane is climbing all 158 before Winter 2017. His blog is AbelZane Blog and is well worth a read. My little project is nowhere near as grand.

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Beechmont, overlooking the fringes of the park . Mt Warning in the background   © P. Brandon 2016 

I’m going to walk all the tracks in Lamington National Park. There are 24 marked trails, ranging in length from simple strolls through to the 21.4km walk that links O’Reilly’s Guesthouse with Binna Burra. The history of the marking of the tracks is pretty fascinating, and I think I’ll deal with that in another blog post. There are also a scattering of other ‘off trail’ walks deeper into the National Park that I want to take a look at. Most of the tracks are graded Class 4, which means they can be very steep, rocky and there’s not a lot of signage, in all the yeas I’ve been walking here I’ve never struggle to follow the route, and they’re quite highly trafficked. Still, people get lost in this park all the time.

Lamington is a 20,600 hectare area of World Heritage Area (part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia). Most of the park is 900m above sea level, meaning it’s substantially cooler than Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast. It has a variety of ecosystems,  from heathland, to caves, many creeks and waterfalls (over 500) and is primarily subtropical rainforest, and of course the flora and fauna is incredible (I once had a 7-inch long blue crayfish walk over my submerged boot in one of the creeks).

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Kurraragin (Egg Rock) from Yangala Lookout   ©  P. Brandon  2016

 So, I’m not walking these in any particular order, just what takes my fancy on the day. No idea how long this will take (though I think I’d like to try and do one trip down there a week).I’m simply doing this to give myself a bit of a challenge while I pursue this degree, and hopefully give me nice amount of locally-produced writings and photos.

In the Deep Green

This is the stunning photograph that is hanging over my desk providing inspiration for the current story. It’s assembled from a great many individual shots by an absolute genius, photographer Alan Lesheim, and it was taken in the stunning Florentine Valley, in Tasmania. It’s a whopper of a print, and the detail is just boggling (and yes, the Angel is really there, not dropped in).  The artist is Allana Beltran, who can often be found performing at the Salamanca markets in Hobart. There is a story behind this as Allana made an amazing and brave stand against the logging of the Weld Valley. There is some incredibly haunting imagery, and this, along with being in the Florentine Valley over the past couple of years, has inspired the new story.

Wednesday Night Rambles

(This is a republish of a blog from a month or so ago, which I think was accidentally deleted by the WordPress mobile app. I’ve lost a couple that way. Investigating…)

Wow, where did that chunk of time go? I’ve actually been terribly busy with a few other creative endeavors. So far this year, the band has taken me to three states in Australia, and overseas to Russia. I won’t bore you with details, as they’re all here in the band blogs. It’s been terribly fun, but also slightly frustrating as at the moment I really want get some writing done.

I’ve never really been able to just peck away at a manuscript. I’ve always needed blocks of time so I can submerge myself in what I’m writing. This is great, but it’s not always practical, neither is writing at night, which used to be my staple, but has now become increasing difficult considering that’s when the band works. It’s taken me a long time to get my head around just snatching a paragraph here and there, but I think I’m getting the hang of it, slowly.

Thing is, because I took a side-step from writing these past few years, i’ve got a whole bunch of potential stories knocking around in my head, each vying for its own little slice of my attention with cries of ‘pick me, you love apocalypse tales!’ (there are two different calls like that from two different stories), ‘pick me, I’m a quirky village fantasy that will remind you of home…’ and even ‘psst. Hey! Remember me? The follow up from The Wild Reel? You promised!’

But what I’m working on at the moment is a little bit different. I’m not sure that there’ll even be any fantasy in it (though it’s early days, and the possibility is very much there). I’m going to change the header of this page in the next day or so to show the piece of art that is currently hanging over my desk, inspiring me.

Fate

A very dear friend of mine with not much time left looked me in the eyes yesterday as said ‘You know, I think this is Fate.’ She was referring to the turn of events that led to me standing there rather than her dying. I think she’s probably right, after all, if a person in her condition, one of the brightest fires of humanity I’ve ever known reduced to nothing more than the spark can say that, then it might just be true.

I’m suppossed to be at the Woodford Festival for the next week or so, but instead I’m in Tasmania to be with my friend. The Fate she was referring to is that my current story is set in Tasmania, and that I’d been trying to get down there again this year. It’s another inspiration flash story, a lot like Swim the Moon (in the way the ideas and story were initially formed), and that flash happened last time I was here, as we were driving out to a peaceful protest against logging in the Florentine Valley. I told her about it then, and it was the first thing she asked me about when I arrived.

I’ve no idea how long I’ll be down here for. It could be weeks, but somehow I don’t think so. I’ve promised Helen I’ll start the story here, in her beautiful house, and I’ve already spoken to Alan (who took the amazing photo in the blog banner) and we’re heading out back to the Florentine for a bit of off-track rainforest exploring during the quiet times.

I don’t think I’ll be in the right headspace to get much writing done, but I made a promise to Helen, and I’ve started, and that’s the important thing.

Currently listening to: Another Empty Galaxy by Deepspace