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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 44, October 2009

I wonder as I wander. When I heard a song of that name, I thought back to my recent family walk. Children, especially younger children, have a sense of wonder that all too many of us lose as adults. Walking with children can help bring that back. The 8, almost 9, year old, had amazing writing skills for someone so young. Here's what she wrote in my comments book. Now that I've shared that, on to other things.

The format of this newsletter has changed. Please make sure to have a look at the last section.

Willis's Walkabouts

In this issue

Art, Photography and Willis's Walkabouts

I recently got a phone call from Alice Buscombe who told me that she was a friend of a former guide, Andy Peart, and that she was having an exhibition of photos from the Graveside area in Kakadu. She asked if I could give her exhibition some publicity. I thought, "Why not?" And then I thought, "What about the others?" We've had many professional and semi-professional artists and photographers on our trips over the years so here are some links to a few. If you know of others, please let me know so I can mention them in a future newsletter.

Current and Coming Exhibitions

Photographic Trips and Guides

We have three possible guides for special photographic trips like the Kakadu & Nitmiluk Photographer's Special mentioned below. Given enough notice, all are available for special charters.

Another artist

Josephine Lawrence, a prize winning artist from Queensland, came on our Baroalba-Hill 420 trip in 2002. She and her husband Peter wrote a story about that trip, and she gave me a small gallery of her drawings to put on the website.
Many others have brought sketch books and have done drawings and paintings on our trips. If that's something that interests you, please ask what trips might be most suitable.

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New Trips

Finally a Kakadu Build Up trip is happening! This one began as a charter but the two people who booked it said they were happy to have others come along. I've already got a probable third.
Special offer. Since I want to do the trip myself, I've dropped the price to $900 if three people book, $800 for four or more.
Note. No other discounts apply with this offer.
Click the link for details. Kakadu Special: 16-21 November.

Russell's Light Wet Special: 24-30 January.
More details in the next section below.

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Special Mention

There are a number of trips which deserve a special mention.

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Northern Rivers and Water Shortages

The latest issue of Nature Territory, the monthly journal of the NT Field Naturalists has a short article about northern Rivers entitled Plenty of water? Our rivers are highly seasonal and cannot be developed without major environmental changes. (As an example, the lower Ord today bears little resemblance to the river before the dams were built.) It's worth a read.

The NT Environment Centre has produced a short video about our rivers. It's only four minutes and well worth watching. (There's a one minute version as well.)

The Wilderness Society website has a page called Crazy northern schemes torpedoed by reality check. That page contains a link to a CSIRO site which in turn links to a detailed report.

Another interesting report is the 16 page Tropical Rivers Futures Forum report. We don't yet have all the river problems that are prevalent in southern Australia, but many of our politicians refuse to learn anything from the mistakes which have been made elsewhere.

Although I live in one of the few parts of Australia which doesn't have a water shortage, population growth and wasting water is likely to force the NT government to build yet another dam to serve Darwin. If we could cut the amount of water we waste, we'd be a lot better off. I found a book Every Last Drop by Craig Madden and Amy Carmichael which seems to have some answers. The link here takes you to a review of the book. One place you can get it is Clouston and Hall, $9.95 plus postage. If any of you have actually read the book, I'd be interested top hear what you thought of it.

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Environmentally Friendly Campfires

The latest issue of Wild was devoted to green issues and had an article about campfires. Conditions are so different in the north compared with those in more populated areas that I wrote them a letter. Here's most of what I had to say along with a bit more.

We use campfires, not stoves, on most of our trips. Most of the areas where we walk in Kakadu and the Kimberley get burnt every year. Few places don't get burnt at least once every two years. Most fallen wood is destined to be burnt whether or not it is burnt in a campfire. Here's a report about prescribed burning in Kakadu which was recently circulated to tour operators.

Trees grow quickly in the tropics. Annual wet season floods pile dead wood up along the creeks where we walk. It is a renewable resource, all the more so when you are talking about campsites that get used only a few times a year or even only once every few years.

Up north, firewood is an abundant, renewable resource. Gas, metho, shellite and other stove fuels are not. Refining and transporting those fuels requires energy. The containers in which they are sold use more energy as well as valuable resources that could be used elsewhere. Most of those containers wind up in rubbish dumps. Using a renewable resource in preference to carrying stoves keeps pack weight down and avoids wasting irreplaceable fossil fuels and other natural resources.

Bushfires in the Top End and Kimberley are nothing like those down south. They are no where near as destructive - I've walked through dozens of bushfires over the years. Some northern bushfire organisations light more fires than they try and put out. The Savannah Explorer Website has some interesting information on Kimberley fires as well as lots of other information about the region which stretches from the Kimberley across to Cape York.

I'd eventually like to do a web page about our bushfires. Unfortunately, I haven't taken many photos of fires and recently burnt areas. If you've got Top End or Kimberley photos of northern bushfires and/or recently burnt areas that you'd be willing to share, I'd love to see them.

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Kimberley Environmental News

On August 21, an oil/gas well being drilled from the West Atlas oil rig off Australia’s north west Kimberley coast blew out, uncontrollably spewing oil into the ocean. Almost two months later, the leak has yet to be plugged. The Wilderness Society is looking for help to turn this disaster into greater protection for the Kimberley. I all for that. Click the link and take two minutes to add your name to the petition.

The oil leak is the immediate problem, but proposed developments go far beyond that. The proposed LNG development will have a huge impact on many of the places we love. The Wilderness Society lists ten reasons why the development should not go ahead. Even the economics don't stand up in the long term,

"The value of an unspoiled Kimberley far outweighs the benefits of short term industrialisation - The Kimberley is one of the world’s last great wild places and has one of the least impacted coastlines in the world, comparable only to the Arctic and Antarctic. In the 1970’s Australia said ‘No’ to oil and gas mining on the Great Barrier Reef and went on to put in place one of the world’s largest marine parks. The park now contributes $6.9 billion dollars annually to the Australian economy from sustainable industries such as tourism. The Kimberley is equally significant and has the potential to be a similar international icon. Incredibly, none of the Kimberley’s coastal waters are protected in any form of marine park. There are currently over 500 Indigenous people working in the Kimberley tourism industry and 24 Indigenous-owned tourism operations. This is a major growth industry for Indigenous communities employing far more people than are ever likely to be employed in the LNG industry.

The oil leak is just one of many environmental issues facing the Kimberley. Environs Kimberley is a local environmental organisation fighting to protect the Kimberley and educate the public as to what the real issues are. Their campaigns page has a good summary of some of the current issues. Their whole website is worth a browse.

Finally, we hear a lot about CO2 emissions and global warming, we don't hear a lot about methane, the main component of natural gas. Methane only lasts about ten years, but it is a far more potent than CO2 when it comes to trapping heat. According to the New York Times, some "scientists say it accounts for as much as a third of the human contribution to global warming." If the Kimberley gas project is anything like most similar projects around the world, tons of methane would be lost into the atmosphere. In fact, so much methane is lost to leaks that it "has the warming power of emissions from over half the coal plants in the United States." Doing something simple like plugging existing leaks could buy us valuable time as the world grapples with the problem of CO2 emissions. I can't help but wonder if it's simply inertia or some vested interest that keeps us from doing this.

Here's a link to the New York Times article.

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Help! The saga continues

The computer and email saga continues. I've been doing daily drag & drop back ups from one computer to another and weekly back ups to an external hard drive. Even so, we may have lost some emails. If you sent an email which should have received a reply but didn't, please send it again.

Email programs and needed solutions

Back ups

And, if anyone knows a simple and fast way for me to do back ups, please let me know. But, please bear in mind that one of the computers I use is 8 years old and fairly slow. (I hate the thought of throwing out a working computer and adding to the hazardous waste in the local landfill simply because new software demands ever more computer power. (As far as I've been able to find out, Darwin doesn't have any recycling facility. If someone knows otherwise, please let me know.)

Thank you.

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No Leave, No Life

Willing Slaves - that's what too many of us are becoming. Tourism Australia's No Leave, No Life program aims to unlock Australia's staggering 123 million days of stockpiled annual leave. It provides employees and employers with the tools they need to take leave, discover more about great holiday experiences; getting you on your way to your next Aussie break.

When I had a look at the poll on the No Leave, No Life website, I could hardly believe what I saw. More than 40% of those voting, said it was important to work more hours and not take leave because of the current economic situation. That's the kind of result I'd have expected from the US rather than Australia. Do we really want to imitate the Americans or do we want a decent lifestyle.

Money isn't everything. To quote from the No Leave, No Life website, "The stockpiled leave affects the health of employees who choose to stay at work rather than taking a well-earned break, and affects the performance and morale of the companies they work for. The challenges faced by employers include reduced motivation and productivity of personnel, as well as difficulties in retaining skilled staff and increased financial liabilities."

If you're one of those losing the Work/Life Battle, you owe it to yourself to visit the No Leave website. Do it before 9 November and there's even a chance to win a holiday and up to $2000 in airfares.

I stole the "Willing Slaves" from the title of a book, Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives by Madeline Bunting. It's based on the UK, but I suspect it applies equally well to Australia.

Final thought. How many people have you heard of who reach the end of their lives saying, "I wish I'd spent more time working and less time with family and friends"?

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Still Wild, Still Threatened

I recently happened to come across the April 4-5 2009 edition of The Weekend Australian Magazine which had an article about the Tarkine region of Tasmania. The heading on the cover was, "How long can it last? Tasmania's Tarkine looks like a hidden paradise -- but the state government has big plans for it."

The author of that article did a walk with Tarkine Trails one of the few organisations that offers walks similar to some of ours. If you've ever thought of bushwalking in the Tarkine, I don't think there's a better way to see it. (Rainforest navigation is rather more challenging than bush navigation in our region.)

After reading the article, I went in search of more information and found the Tarkine National Coalition website and a bit more information about the proposed road which would destroy much of the wilderness values which make this such a special place. Places like this need our help if they are to survive. Summer is coming and that's when construction is likely to start. I urge you to have a browse and think about what you might be able to do.

In thinking about the Tarkine, I was reminded that one of my guides, Ed Hill, had been active in an organisation called Still Wild, Still Threatened which seeks to protect some of Tasmania's other endangered forests. Again, these are places which need our help if they are to survive.

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NT Insects

This is not cheap, but it is so good, that I couldn't resist it when I saw it.

At long last, there is a good reference to the insects of the NT. It's a CD available from the University of Queensland bookshop.

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Special discounts - combine them and save even more

Book now and save! As in the past, if you are one of the first three people who quote this newsletter when booking any Australian trip within two weeks of when we sent it out, you will get an extra 10% discount on any trip where your total discounts are 10% or less. You'll get an extra 5% off if your total discounts are 15% or more.

Note 1. There has to be a limit. The maximum total discount on any trip is 35%.
Note 2. This offer does not apply to trips where the special offer specifies no other discounts apply.
Note 3. It's amazing how few people take advantage of this offer. You have to ask to get it.

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News About This Newsletter

We've reformatted the newsletter to make it more like the pages on our new website. Hopefully, it's now a bit easier to read. We've also changed the way some of the links work. If you have any comments, positive or negative, about the new format, I'd appreciate an email letting me know what you think.

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May you all maintain at least a little sense of wonder as you wander both through the bush and your life.
Russell Willis

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Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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