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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 47, March 2010

A sad day for Australia. I had not planned to send out another newsletter so soon, but I felt that I had to pass on some sad news that arrived in my inbox on Tuesday 2 March. Chris Baxter, one of Australia's greatest advocates for both bushwalking and wilderness is dead.

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In this issue

Sad news — Chris Baxter is Gone

Here is the test of a Wild newsletter. "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Chris Baxter OAM, founder of Wild Publications and tireless promoter of Australia's wild places.

After a protracted battle with various forms of cancer over the last decade he finally succumbed to leukaemia on Sunday 28 February. He is survived by his beloved wife Sue.

Chris published the first issue of Rock in 1978 and the first Wild in 1981. Both were formed through Chris' huge passion for the outdoors and the fact that they have gone on to be the longest running outdoor adventure magazines in Australia is testament to this drive. When not running the magazines Chris spent most of his spare time in the bush or overseas. Not only was he a keen walker, but he was also a prolific climber, putting up thousands of new routes.

The funeral will take place at St Jude's Church in Carlton at 11.00 am on Thursday 4 March.

A full obituary will follow in the forthcoming issues of Wild and Rock. Personal tributes can be left at The Age online."

Chris Baxter lived his dream — and allowed me to live mine. It was a small ad in Wild back in 1985 that led to my first commercial trip under the name of Willis's Walkabouts. In 25 years, I've never missed an issue. The Australian environment has lost one of its greatest advocates, an inspiration to many. He'll be sorely missed.

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Darwin, 19 February 1942

Although 19 February is one of the most significant dates in Australian history, it is almost ignored. The news coming out of Darwin on that day was so bad that the government of the day censored it to the point where the true scale of the disaster remains relatively unknown to this day.

251 people were killed when the Japanese bombed Darwin that day, one of the largest losses of life in a single event in this country. Suddenly the war was not something far away, it was here on our soil. It marked the point where Australia could no longer depend on Great Britain but had to but had to depend on itself — and on the Americans.

The Darwin Military Museum has put out a short press release outlining what actually happened and making a suggestion as to how the event might be properly commemorated. If you have any interest in our history, click the link. It's well worth a read.

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Dehydrated Foods

The bushwalking meals we serve is such a highlight for many people that I've often been asked to produce a cookbook. That isn't likely any time soon, but a recent issue of the Sydney Bushwalkers Newsletter alerted me to a dehydrated food website which is full of good information on bushwalking food and on drying your own. I've had a look. It's well worth a browse.

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Last Chance — Four Trips

There are only four trips still available between now and June. One is almost full. The others still need one or two bookings to run without a surcharge.

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Walking Poles — Pro & Con

A lot has been written about the value of walking poles. Although I've used them myself on good tracks, I find them more of a hindrance than a help in rough terrain. Page 6 in the spring 2009 edition of The Bushwalker, the magazine of the NSW Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs, has an article in which the author suggests that they're almost never worth while. If you are thinking about buying some poles or if you have them and find that they are a bit of a hassle, it's worth a read.

The link brings up the full magazine. You'll have to scroll down to get to page 6.

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Trip Update — June Onwards

Every trip is still available.

Definite or Nearly Definite Departures

The following need only one or two more bookings to become definite departures.

Other trips with multiple bookings.

The Green Centre

Central Australia had more rain in the last two months than in the previous two or three years combined. The waterholes will be full and the wildflowers should be spectacular making this the best year for bushwalking in a long, long time. All of our central Australian trips are still available.

The Chilean Earthquake

The southernmost part of Chile where most of our Patagonia trip takes place doesn't seem to have suffered much damage. However, Talca, our base for the Condor Circuit, was very severely damaged, possibly to the point where we may need to change this part of the itinerary. It's far too early to know for sure.

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Adventure Activity Standards

The debate continues. Things don't seem to be too bad in NSW, but it is conceivable that Bushwalking Clubs in Victoria are going to be badly affected. Here's part of an email I received from a bushwalking editor in NSW when I asked about it.

The idea that there should be Australian Standards covering Adventure operators is good — more or less the same as Guides Association standards in other countries. It might bring some of the more erratic school group 'leaders' under control — they are the ones who create much of the Search and Rescue."

"The idea that volunteer clubs should be enmeshed is both stupid and malevolent. Stupid, because club members are just not going to bother, and so will either refuse to 'lead' trips any more or will lead them in supposed breach. NO country anywhere else in the world with professional Guides Associations makes any attempt to regulate volunteers. Fortunately, it would seem some common sense has prevailed in NSW — I think, so far."

Malevolent in Victoria, where some of the hidden drivers of the AAS regs were Adventure operators who were excluded from some National Parks (probably from running 4WDs all over them), and had developed a real hate for the volunteer clubs who were not so restricted. The war became very dirty there. Very dirty. Other States have learnt (to varying degrees) from the Victorian experience and are approaching it with a bit more sense."

For a bit more information, see pages 13 & 14 in the summer 2010 edition of The Bushwalker, the magazine of the NSW Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs. When it comes to the requirement that all guides do a TAFE course, the editor states, "I actually oppose this aspect of the standards for commercial operators as well as for amateur clubs. Small operators in remote rural areas without access to TAFE courses, or a large population base to provide a pool of job applicants, will find it virtually impossible to meet this section of the standards. Clients naturally will prefer 'accredited' tour operators, so will gravitate towards the larger citybased tour companies rather than the local tourist operators, who have intimate knowledge of the local landscape and a lifetime of bush skills to apply to it." The link brings up the full magazine. You'll have to scroll down to get to page 6.

Amen to that. Darwin may have TAFE courses, but there is no one employed there who has anywhere near the bush skills of my guides. When I have to do a formal course which is supposed to teach me skills that I already have more of than the instructor, it's time for me to retire. Fortunately, neither the NT nor WA seems to be doing that way — yet.

Most of my recent information has been from NSW. If you can give me an update from another state or from a different perspective from NSW, I'd very much appreciate it.

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Amelia Hunter

If you're going to be in Adelaide in the nest ten days, you can still catch Amelia's performance. Here's the info from the last newsletter.

Over the years, many guides have come and gone. Many of you would have walked with Amelia Hunter who led trips us for for eleven years, 1997-2007. If you saw her out bush, you'd hardly recognise the photos on her website but you would remember her sense of humour.

That sense of humour is alive and well today. Amelia was one of the team captains on "The Squiz" a sports-comedy quiz show on SBS last year. She's also performed at many comedy festivals both in Australia and overseas. She told me that, "my origins in comedy began on those remote area walks telling stories about you." I'm not really sure how to take that.

Amelia will be performing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, 2-14 March. Here are a few links for those who are interested.

Amelia looked a bit different out in the bush. Here's what she looked like on the Mitchell Explorer in May 2007.

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Website Update

The Navigation Menu

I didn't get a lot of feedback about the possible change to the navigation menu, but what I did was unanimous that the drop down menus were better so we'll be changing over shortly. If you have a few minutes to spare and would like to comment, please have a browse using the current menu then using the drop down version, then let us know which you prefer. In the drop down version, holding the cursor over an item in the top menu gives you a list of clickable choices.

New Testimonials Page

I've done a fair bit of work on the Testimonials Page since the last newsletter but there is still more to come. If you haven't had a look, please do and let me know what you think.

I still need help! I have very few recent comments from people who did trips with other guides. I'd like to have more. If you did a trip with one of the other guides in the last few years and would like to write a comment for possible inclusion on the Testimonials Page, please send me an email with your comments. Better still, include a good photo of yourself on the trip you are talking about.

Many thanks to all those who volunteered themselves on our post-trip questionnaire. If anyone else who didn't fill in a questionnaire would like to volunteer or even give us some delayed feedback, click the link above and download it. You can email it back or post it to
Willis's Walkabouts
Reply Paid 67729
12 Carrington St
Millner NT 0810
(The free reply paid post only works within Australia. If you want to post it from outside the country, you'll need to use a stamp.)

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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

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If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them.

Best wishes to all — and condolences to all who knew Chris Baxter.
Russell Willis

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

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