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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 54, March 2011

The world was a very different place when I started working on this newsletter a few weeks ago. When you look at places like Japan and the Middle East you have to realise just how lucky we are.

We Won! For the first time in 20 years, we have permission to use a helicopter food drop on one of our Kakadu trips. Read on for details.

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In this issue

Kakadu Helicopter

At the beginning of November, we had the bookings we needed to run Kakadu Circle No. 1. Unfortunately, unusually early heavy rain had closed the road and we couldn't put in our normal food drop. As the current plan of management no longer prohibits helicopter landings, we applied to use one for a food drop. Consultations with all the relevant the traditional owners took over two months, but the permission has finally come through. Now all we need are people who want to do the trip.

This is not only one of my favourite trips, the exceptionally heavy rains this season plus the helicopter food drop, mean that this trip has the potential to be the best one ever. The waterfalls should be flowing exceptionally well. Landing a helicopter at Twin Falls means that we can go at a more leisurely pace than was possible on any trip since the late 1990s.

I've been told that this permission is a "one-off" because of the exceptional circumstances. I may or may not be able do this again. I want to run this trip so much that I will

Unfortunately, if only three book, I can't afford to offer my normal past client and membership discounts. However, if four or more book, I'll offer those as well. Please see the PDF trip notes for more information.

Get in quickly. If we don't have the bookings we need to run this trip by close of business on 1 April, we'll have to cancel it.

this trip was cancelled sue to lack of bookings.

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She's at it again!

Over the years, many guides have come and gone. Many of you would have walked with Amelia Hunter who led trips us from 1997 to 2010. (We're hoping to get her back again one of these days.) 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 will be performing her new show Dear Endora at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, 31st Mar - 26th April. Here are three 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 in 2007 and 2010

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New and Changed Trips

The following trips are either new or have had major changes.

All our discounts plus the way we rate the level of difficulty of our trips are listed on our General Information page.

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Climate and Weather

No one can deny that the world has seen some rather extreme weather conditions over the past year. You are almost certainly already paying more for some things because of that. A NY times article Droughts, Floods and Food explains how weather induced food price increases may be one of the triggers for the current unrest in the Middle East. Food remains one of Australia's biggest export earners. If the destructive weather continues, it may have bigger flow on effects than simply the prices in the supermarket.

There has been a small, but significant rise in sea level over the past century. The CSIRO has a good Sea Level page explaining this. It links to lots of other interesting information. Wikipedia has some good information as well.

Most Australians live near the coast. "If sea level is a constant, your coastal infrastructure is your most valuable real estate, and it makes sense to invest in it, but with sea level rising, it becomes a money pit." That quote is from a NY Times article on how some American communities are trying to cope with rising sea levels. If we don't already have similar stories, it's only a matter of time before we do.

Darwin smashed its previous one day record rainfall in February. That happened at a moderately high tide. Less than two weeks later, we had the highest tide I can recall in my 36 years in town. If the rain had hit then, hundreds more homes would have been flooded — including mine. It gives you pause to think.

The Wet is far from over. We broke our all time wet season rainfall record on 4 March. Perhaps we really have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene.

Changing weather combined with our continuing destruction of the natural environment is pushing more and more species over the edge. Here's a link to a gallery of species lost or on the brink of disappearing and another to an article that points out that the very idea of extinction was unthinkable, even heresy, only a few lifetimes ago.

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If you own a mobile phone, this might save your life.

We all carry our mobile phones with names and numbers stored in its memory. If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn't know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency? Hence this 'ICE' (In Case of Emergency) Campaign.

The concept of 'ICE' is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As mobile phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name 'ICE' (In Case Of Emergency). The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents there were always mobile phones with patients but they didn't know which number to call. He therefore thought that it would be a good idea if there was a nationally recognised name for this purpose.

In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialling the number you have stored as 'ICE'. For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2, ICE3, etc.

Please pass this info along to as many people as possible. It's only if it becomes common practice that it will be really useful.

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Definite Departures

When we call something a "definite" or "guaranteed" departure, that does not mean that the trip will run no matter what. Things like extreme weather or a chartered transport provider going out of business could delay or cancel a trip at any time. If it is more than 60 days out, enough people could cancel to make the trip unviable. Less than 60 days out when the major cancellation fees kick in, we'll run the trip anyway.

In 25 years we have never had to cancel an Australian trip we'd called "definite" less than 60 days out. It could happen, but it hasn't yet.

The following trips already have the bookings needed to be "definite" departures.

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Overseas Trips Update

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Kakadu Campsite Photos Still Needed

Surely someone who reads this newsletter has a photo! As I had no response to my last newsletter, I thought I'd try one last time.

As part of the bushwalking review, Parks Australia wants to establish a record of how different campsites have fared over the years. I've been taking photos for over 30 years. Unfortunately, Darwin's climate is not kind to slides or prints. Every single one of my old slides and prints is damaged to some degree. They are better than nothing, but not good.

Most of you who get this newsletter live in climates which are kinder to old photos. If you have, or know someone who has, any photos of campsites in Kakadu from five or more years ago, better still, from ten or more years ago, please send me a copy (preferably digital) saying where and when the photo was taken.

It is only by establishing this kind of a baseline that we can ensure that Kakadu's campsites remain as good in 20 years as they are today.

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Other Trips

Other trips with bookings

We've already got bookings on the following trips — several have been added to the list since the last newsletter.

Last chance! It's taken months but I've finally got the transport quotes I need to update the Kimberley prices. This newsletter took priority over the update so if you are quick you can still get in before the inevitable price rise.

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Exercise Can Keep You Young

The NY Times reported a study which showed that "exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace." The magnitude of the difference between the exercising and the sedentary mice in the study was amazing. I think the whole article is well worth a read.

Exercising your body is helpful, but you need to exercise your brain as well. "You might think it's obvious that one person is smarter than another. But there are few more controversial areas of science than the study of intelligence and, in reality, there's not even agreement among researchers about what this word actually means." Why not take the ultimate intelligence test "Thanks to recent work with brain scanners, the tests involved as much of the brain as possible – from the outer layers, responsible for higher thought, to deeper-lying structures such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory."

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Our Trips Too Easy For You?

I had a few nice comments after this section in the last newsletter, so I thought I'd show you The Pulpit in Norway. The link takes you to a Power Point presentation. It is almost 3MB so it might take a while to download. It's worth it!

Unlike the walk in the last newsletter, I might even be willing to do this one — but not quite as boldly as some.

Even if we had the geology to match this, I don't think a walk like this could exist in Australia. Our nanny state would require lots of barriers.

I'm looking for other ideas along these lines for future newsletters. Suggestions welcome.

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Computers Changing Our Lives — Yet More

Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget?

I suspect I'm preaching to the converted, but you don't have to be connected 24 yours a day. All "too often, people find themselves with little time to concentrate and reflect on their work. Or to be truly present with their friends and family." That quote is from the NY times article which gave the heading to this section. "Too much connectivity can damage the quality of one’s work, says Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and a professor at Stanford. Because of devices, he says, "nobody seems to actually pay full attention; everybody is doing a worse job because they are doing more things."

I think the article is well worth a read.


My computer has been running ever slower so I was interested when I got an unsolicited call suggesting that there was a solution. Fortunately, I was skeptical and did a Google search while the person was still on line.

If your computer is based in Windows, it probably has a program called Event Viewer. "Event viewer can be a source for excellent clues into system failures and behaviour. It can also be a frustrating source of exactly nothing." It is also the beginning point for a phishing scam.

"What do you get when you combine malware, IP telephony and an offshore call centre? A new breed of brazen phishing scam designed to target unwary Windows users. Many computer users are still being swindled by elaborate fake emails from scammers pretending to be their online banking service but new, more personal, attacks now require people to screen phone calls as well." If you get an unsolicited phone call that asks anything about your computer system hang up. Read the link above for more information. You might have to click "skip this advertisement" to go direct to the article.

Computers in our lives

I hadn't thought about it before, but there are people growing up who hardly know what a telephone dial tone or a busy signal sound like. Those are just two of the sounds of analogue technology that are gradually disappearing from our lives.

Google may be a great way to find things out, but you still can't ask it a normal question and get the answer you are looking for. There are websites where you can ask a question. They are still fairly limited, but getting better. It's only a matter of time before they finally make it big.

Remember the millennium bug that caused so much hassle back in 1999 and then didn't arrive. Something similar may be about to happen. Another no show, or a real mess? The world is about to run out of internet addresses. Internet protocol (IP) 4 is soon to be replaced by IP6. Theoretically that's not going to be a problem.... theoretically.

Privacy — What's That?

I'm old enough to find the gradual disappearance of personal privacy somewhat disturbing. For some, however, it isn't the slightest concern — at least not until some post or photo on Facebook or similar comes back to haunt them years later. Where will it end? "A new generation of Web sites like Dscover.me, Sitesimon.com and Voyurl.com is banking on our willingness to take that next step toward taking our lives public: namely, by automatically tracking personal browsing histories for public viewing." I suspect that it will go way beyond that.

The quote above was taken from an article The Footprints of Web Feet. I think it's worth a read. In fact, I think the whole issue is worth further discussion. If you agree, please send me some comments.

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Goodbye Gum Trees

Myrtle Rust arrival in Australia – a major threat to native biodiversity.

The quotes above are all from the Australian Network for Plant Conservation web page Myrtle Rust arrival in Australia – a major threat to native biodiversity.

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Wet season trips — all gone

Sometimes I wonder if the only way for me to get people to come up and enjoy the wonder of our wet season would be to close down for the Dry. You might be aware that Darwin had a minor cyclone and an incredible amount of rain (425 mm in one day at one of the recording stations) in February. You might also be aware that I was out bush with a tour at that time. We had rain, but never too much. It was as easy and laid back a trip as I offer. I think my clients might have enjoyed it almost as much as I did.

Visit Ubirr in Kakadu in the dry season and you might share it with a couple of hundred others. On my February trip, there were only 8 of us there. The places we stayed were nearly empty so the service was good. I hope to have a few photos on the web soon so you can see what it was like and get a hint of why the trip was so enjoyable.

Our last wet season trip for the year left on 13 March. Since I couldn't get out of the office to lead it myself, I've volunteered to run a shorter walk for the Darwin Bushwalking Club. That's my short holiday and that says what I think about bushwalking in the Wet. As the old Tourism NT slogan says, "You'll never never know if you never never go."

Stop press! I may suddenly have one place left on the final two sections of the Kimberley Coast Explorer: 7-23 April. If so, I'll give the first person who applies a $1200 discount (From $3450 to $2250). Contact me for details.

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New computer hassles

My oldest computer recently crashed — fortunately, all data was able to be retrieved. (Good backups help.) As I like to have two computers to make sure that I always have one working, I recently purchased a second one, intending it to be the main one. No such luck. There are too many programs that won't transfer.

Part of the problem is that the new computer is 64 bit Windows 7 and the older one is 32 bit Windows XP. As an old DOS based program happily made the move, that's not the entire problem. If you know a fair bit about computers, maybe you can come up with a solution to one or more of my problems.

  1. The new computer will print to my Epson CX4900 but the software that came with it won't install so I can't use the scanner.
  2. My ancient version of Adobe Acrobat won't install so I can no longer print to a PDF. A new copy of Acrobat costs far too much for what I'd get from it.
  3. I suspect that I won't be able to transfer some of my other programs. For some I have the original CD. for others I don't.
  4. I haven't been able to work out how to get a copy of all my emails from the old computer to the new one. I've been using Windows Live.
  5. Windows Live has been appallingly slow from the beginning. I believe that Mozilla Thunderbird would be faster. Anyone know if this is true?

I'm sure I'll find other issues as I continue. Any suggestions anyone can give would be most appreciated. The less time I need to spend on computer hassles, the more time I can spend on trips and helping other guides prepare for theirs.

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News About This Newsletter


Before I finish one newsletter, I'm already working on the next. I often find that I've got too many interesting things for a single newsletter. I'm also always looking for other interesting items I can add. I'm particularly interested in environmental issues, especially those which might affect bushwalking and in the technology which is shaping our lives. As I said in one of the sections above, Suggestions welcome.

Sending the newsletter

The program I use to send the newsletters is hosted on the same server that hosts our website. 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.

For some reason, some servers block the newsletters no matter what you try and do. I send these in small groups from my normal email. It's not a simple problem. If anyone thinks they might have an idea how to overcome the problem, I'd love to hear from you.

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

Finally, if you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them. The more people who get it, the more likely it is that I'll be able to run the trips which might interest you.

Best wishes to 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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