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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 51, November 2010

Our 25th Anniversary. April 2011 will mark 25 years since the first trip under the name Willis's Walkabouts. Time for something special?
If nothing else, after four months, I hope this newsletter is something special. I've been working on it for weeks and could have kept adding and editing, but, in the end, I decided it was better to get it out sooner rather than later. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

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In this issue

Our 25th Anniversary

As mentioned in the introduction, April 2011 will mark the end of the first 25 years of operating under the name Willis's Walkabouts. (The first paying customers were in February 1984 before I had a trading name.)

It's time for something special. I haven't, however, worked out what those specials will be but the August-September Green Centre trips may be a hint. There's another hint in the next section. One possibility is so unusual that it would deserve a special newsletter IF it were approved.

It's time to consider the future. As much as I'd like to be running Willis's Walkabouts in ten years time, I don't think it's likely. Beyond 2011, I'll be taking each year one at a time, possibly shrinking or making other major changes to the program. These newsletters will give you as much advance notice of changes as is possible.

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Wet Season Trips

At this point, four wet season trips have bookings. Every one has something special to recommend it. Given the exceptional early rain and our good bookings to date, this should be the best year for wet season walking in a long, long time.

For now, all the wet season trips from February onwards are still available. Unless we get more bookings that will change before Christmas.

Note. If you read this whole newsletter carefully, you can get an additional discount on three of the above.

What else can you do in Darwin?

We've got some suggestions on our Where to stay and what to do in town page. I've recently found some more interesting things and hope to update the page before Christmas. It's also worth noting that the Wet season is a great time to find cheap airfares.

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The Green Centre

Our two August-September trips were among the best we've ever done. The only problem was that we didn't have enough time to see everything we would have liked.

The desert is in bloom, birds are breeding and, amazingly, it's getting better. August, September and October all set rainfall records at Watarrka (King's Canyon). Alice Springs had good rains as well. Those rains have continued into this month. All of our 2011 trips should be exceptional. We may even be able to add a new one in March or April.

I'm already looking at at least one charter group. I'm also thinking about doing a walk similar to the one described around Mt Giles in the September issue of Wild magazine. I've done the two ends and think I could make it a bit easier than the way it is described. Anyone interested?

Can't or don't want to join us? Go on your own or go with someone else! Central Australia may never be this green again in your lifetime.

More Wild Weather

Alice Springs had the coolest September on record; Darwin had the hottest. Massive downpours in Kakadu in mid October closed Jim Jim and Twin Falls weeks earlier than I can recall them ever having been closed before. That put an end to a couple of trips, but maybe, just maybe, it will allow something we haven't been able to do for almost 20 years. Watch these newsletters for updates.

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Kakadu Bushwalking Review

Kakadu is Aboriginal Land. Unlike most of southern Australia, the local people have never lost their culture. This means that the rules for bushwalking access will inevitably be different from what they are in parks which are not Aboriginal Land. They are very concerned about bushwalking in the park and have encouraged park management to instigate a complete review of bushwalking in the park. That review is now underway. A co-ordinator has been appointed and a steering committee has been set up. I am on that committee. Tenders will shortly be called for a consultant to run the review which is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2011. The time frame is such that there won't be a lot of time for input when the review is truly underway. That's why I thought I'd start now.

If you have ever done a private or club walk in Kakadu and have any comments about the permit process or anything else about your walk, please let me know so that I can pass them along.

How important is it? As much as I plan to be involved in celebrating our 25th anniversary, the bushwalking review will be my number one priority. It's an opportunity that may not come again for a long, long time.

If you'd like to find out more, I recommend you have a look at the current Kakadu Plan of Management. In particular, have a look at

Another important document is the Kakadu Tourism Master Plan. The comments about bushwalking on page 31 are particularly relevant.

Finally, you might want to have a look at the Shared Vision document. This says how the traditional owners and park management would like to see tourism develop in the park.

This review will affect everyone who walks in Kakadu beyond 2011. Kakadu was the first major park in Australia where the Aboriginal traditional owners were given a major role in managing the park. With more and more parks around the country coming under joint management, what happens in Kakadu is likely to affect what happens elsewhere.

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That Glow in the Sky

Have you ever been out on a dark night and noticed a faint glow in the sky that you couldn't explain. That's happened to me on a number of trips — too far away for it to be from a town. Now I have an answer. It's Zodiacal light. Here's a more detailed explanation.

While on the subject of the night sky, I ought to recommend the Heavens-Above website. It's got a wealth of information about satellites, planets, comets and just about anything else you might be able to see in the night sky.

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Vanishing Eucalypts

The 11 September issue of New Scientist had an interesting article about eucalypts dying all over Australia. In some areas it appears that there are too few fires. In other areas, it appears there are too many. The article doesn't offer any definitive answer, but it does ask the relevant questions. You need to subscribe to see the article on the New Scientist website, but

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Overseas: Arctic, Africa and South America 2011

Arctic Spring

The best glow in the night sky isn't the zodiac glow, it's the aurora. The best place to see the aurora is in the arctic. I hadn't been thinking much about the arctic until I suddenly had three enquiries about the Arctic Spring trip in the program. Three possible bookings when I could run it with five — suddenly it's looking possible.

Want to see what it's like? Have a look at the photo galleries from our 2006 trip.

The arctic is changing faster than anywhere else on the planet. The New York Times recently had an article about disappearing ice. If you want to see the area, better go soon before it changes forever.
Note. It's well worth having a look at the links to the graphics and the video in the NY Times article. "A picture is worth a thousand words" so there's a lot of value there.

Southern Africa

I'm currently working on trips to Namibia and South Africa. I've put some South Africa photo albums onto our Facebook page. You don't need to join to view them.

There are "old" photo galleries from four other African walks on our website.

South Africa and Namibia are both very underrated as trekking destinations. They both offer great value for money. If you've ever thought of trekking overseas, you should consider them.

South America

By late 2011, it will have been five years since I was in South America. That's too long. The 2011 trip will be similar to the one we offered this year. I've already had several people ask about the trip. If you might be interested, have a look at the old trip notes and see if it appeals to you.

Given the other things which are happening in 2011, I may have to guarantee departure or cancel the trip by the end of April. Watch these newsletters for updates.

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Facebook and Google


My Facebook pages are a bit confused. I managed to upload photos which should have gone onto the Willis's Walkabouts page onto the Russell Willis page. I find it less than easy to get where I want to go on those pages. In fact, I find it so frustrating that I'd have given up and deleted the pages long ago if it hadn't been for Tracey Dixon's constant help. (Thanks Tracey.)

I'd like to make it easy to find the different photo galleries and the discussions about trips and other things. If you've got any suggestions as to how I can organise things better, I'd love to hear them.

If you are on Facebook, and "like" or "are a friend" of Russell Willis but not of Willis's Walkabouts, go to the Willis's Walkabouts page and become a friend there. That's where the discussions are — or should be.

Google Search

Google recently changed the way their search engine works. When you start to type in something, it now predicts what you might be looking for. That will inevitably make some web sites easier to find and others harder. I'm not sure which category we will come under nor how best to optimise the site for the new search. If it becomes harder for people to find the website, I may have to start phasing down sooner rather than later.

If you have any comments or suggestions about the new Google search, I'd really like to hear them.

Google Cars

Google is far more than a search engine: Google Maps, Google Earth, Google cars ... Google Cars? Have a look at this NY Times story, Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic. This technology may be closer than you think. Maybe Google really is taking over the world.

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Other Trips

Major revisions are coming. Most prices will rise. Beyond May, the Kimberley program will have to change because of new transport arrangements. I had hoped to have confirmation of what's available and what it will cost by now. I'm beginning to think I'll be lucky to have it by Christmas.

Kakadu Circle No. 1: 1-22 May

In the two weeks after the road closed, five different people contacted me to ask about Kakadu Circle No. 1. I had to say "no" as I couldn't put in the food drop with the road closed. However, when I returned from overseas and spoke to the park management, there was a ray of hope. This trip may run. If it runs, there will be a food drop. If it runs, it will be the easiest Kakadu Circle trip we've run in many years. If it runs it will be the first time in 20 years that something like this will have been permitted, a dream come true. I can't say more here, but please contact me if you think you might be interested.

Get in soon and save

Prices. Most of the 2011 prices listed on this website are those we charged in 2009. Many of our costs have risen so many of the prices will have to rise. Anyone booking and paying a deposit before a price rise is announced

Credit cards. It's not fair that people who pay by bank transfer or cheque subsidise those who pay by credit card. To cover our cost, we will be charging a 2.5% commission on credit card transactions from 1 December 2010.

Other trips with bookings

We've already got bookings on the following trips.


Our Kimberley program is in a state of flux. A new company may be able to provide float plane transport. The boat we used to get to the Durack has been sold. We may be able to find another. We have a group who are planning a four week Gibb Road trip. Using our vehicles for that would change some of the trips which follow. There are many things to confirm before we can finalise the program. Assuming that we do find a boat for the Durack, we will have a new trip.

More bookings are arriving all the time. Our Availability and Specials page will always give you the most up to date information.

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Old jumper cables can damage new cars

I knew that cars had been becoming more and more dependent on computers and electronics, but I had no idea that this was a possibility. Have a look at the article Old jumper cables can damage new cars and see for yourself. If you've ever had to jump start a car with a flat battery, this could save you a lot of money.

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Computers and Your Brain

Computers are changing the way we think! Too much time in front of a computer is making it harder and harder to maintain focus for more than a few minutes. There are generations growing up with only a limited ability to "engage in solitary contemplative thought." This short New Scientist article, Surfing Our Way to Stupid is well worth a read.

The NY Times recently had a longer and more detailed article, Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. If you are really keen, have a look at the readers' comments or some of the other links in the article. Generation gaps are nothing new, but maybe this time, the gap will involve "whose brains are going to be wired differently." I find the whole subject fascinating — and perhaps a bit disturbing.
The NY Times article has links to other info if you'd like more information.

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Computer Hassles, a Helpful Hint and a Special Offer

Windows 7 and Searching Your Hard Drive

This one might help you. Windows 7 has a pretty good search feature that will find keywords buried in all sorts of documents. Unfortunately, it ignores some documents. According to New Scientist, if a document ends with ".doc" but wasn't created by Microsoft Word, it is likely to be ignored. That can be overcome by renaming the document as ".txt". Any suggestions on how better to overcome the problem?

Internet access via satellite

With the bushwalking review underway, I may not be able to do any long trips unless I can log on via satellite. I know people do this from all sorts of exotic locations so it is possible, but I don't know how or how much it costs. If you know anything about how this might be done, please let me know.

Walkabouts Computer Problems

Crashes, back ups that don't work perfectly, programs that don't run properly, computers that run too slowly — the list goes on. I'd like to get things running right. I need someone to help me do it or, better still, set it up so I don't have to figure it out all myself. Interested in the challenge?

Special offer. Come to Darwin and sort it out for me and I'll give you a free trip up to a list price of $2500. Or, do it by email and I'll give you a 50% discount on any trip up to a value of $2500. Sort out part of my problems and I'll give you a lesser discount.

Be warned. I've got multiple versions of Windows and run lots of non-Microsoft programs. I've paid local technicians to come in and work on some of the problems with only limited success. If you're interested, send me an email and I'll send you a first draft outline. I've got so many different hassles that it would take me a week of doing nothing else to list them all.

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A Christmas Message

A number of things which have recently happened in my life caused me to stop and pause to reflect on things which really matter — things like family, friends, health and happiness. These are things which seem to be undervalued in our society where the economy seems to depend on as many people buying as many things as possible. But why? What do we really get when we buy more and more, specially when those things are things we don't really need.

I was reading an article on happiness in New Scientist. (You have to register or subscribe to read the full article.) Looking that up on the web led me to a few other websites.

There's lots more out there, all with the same basic message — "stuff" can't buy happiness.

Returning to the New Scientist article, I particularly liked one quote. "Beware consumerism. Buying more possessions won't make you as happy as spending money on social activities or new and exciting experiences. (The Journal of Positive Psychology vol 4, p511)." Back in the 1970s when I was a school teacher, I was able to give away bush experiences, introducing a number of students to bushwalking. Even today, I still occasionally meet someone from those days who tells me that the bush experience I gave them was the best thing that happened to them at school. It's a nice feeling when that happens.

Now, I make my living selling experiences. I hope that those who have shared those experiences over the past 25 years have enjoyed them as much as I have.

My Christmas present to you

Ask and you shall receive — if you ask fast enough. If you are one of the first three people who quote this newsletter when booking any Australian trip within two weeks of when I send 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. You have to ask to get it.
Note 4. This offer does not apply to the four Wet season trips already on sale in the first section.

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News About This Newsletter

The newsletters are sent from walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

Emails sent to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. The program we use to send this newsletter has an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. My newsletter mailing program will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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

Finally, since this will be my last newsletter for the year, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, to you all!!
Russell Willis

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

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