Willis's Walkabouts Top-Level Menu


Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 59, April 2012

Farewell John Easton. Just before heading out on my last trip, I received the news that one of my former guides had died of a heart attack.

Combine that with some urgent information about our coming trips, some of which we may never be able to offer again, and you get this newsletter a bit earlier than I'd planned.

Willis's Walkabouts logo

In this issue

Farewell — John Easton

John Easton

"We have a boil!"

Those of you who walked with us in the early to mid-1990s would have heard that call again and again if you were walking with John Easton, one of our best guides at the time. John loved a cup of tea at every possible chance. Sadly, John died of a heart attack while the Maroondah Bushies were on a week of walking in the hills around Mansfield. He had just climbed Mt Samaria when the sudden and totally unexpected heart attack occurred. We were with 40 other walkers and with all the expertise in the group there was no way to save him. It was incredibly quick. For someone who loved the bush as much as John, it was an appropriate way to go but I'm sure he would have been sorry to have caused his companions any trouble and grief.

His physical strength and his adventurous nature led him into the British SAS, retiring when he was about 36. He then travelled the world before settling in Australia. He said he came to Australia because of his need for the space. He became an avid bushwalker and was one of the stalwarts of the Maroondah Bushwalking Club.

I first met John when he organised a Kakadu walk for the Maroondah Bushwalkers with Willis's Walkabouts in 1989 and then a Kimberley trip for the club the following year. He enjoyed it so much that he decided that he wanted to lead trips for me. I knew what he was like and couldn't have asked for a better guide so I jumped at the chance. He led trips for me for the next six years, more often than not with his dear friend Robin Baillie along as his assistant. Always cheerful and smiling, John was a tremendous asset to the business in those early years.

Even after retiring from guiding, John and Robin couldn't resist coming back as clients. They joined me on a trip to the Charnley trip in 2002 and organised one last big Kimberley expedition for the Maroondah Bushwalkers with Willis's Walkabouts in 2005. The Australian bush has lost a true friend.

I am working on a memorial page for John similar to the one I did for Paul Benjafield two years ago. If you have any photos or memories of John you'd like to share, please email them to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. I'll include another link to the page in the next newsletter and will list it on the What's New page on our website as soon as the next draft is ready.

Return to top

Last Chance

Due to changing booking patterns and access issues, this could be the last year we can offer some of our trips.

We normally can't run a trip unless we have the necessary bookings two months prior to departure. Those who have taken advantage of our advance purchase discounts need to know for sure that the trip will run. The other guides need enough warning to organise time off to lead the trip. The only exceptions are when I particularly want to do a trip and decide I don't need to pay myself as the guide and when those who have booked in advance agree to pay a surcharge to guarantee departure.


Two of our three remaining June trips may have to be cancelled. Both consist of two sections, either of which can be done on its own.

Special offer. I hate canceling trips where people have already booked so I'll leave the 10% advance purchase discount open on both of the above until 27 April at which time they will either become definite departures or will be cancelled.


Our first Vanuatu trip booked out almost as soon as it was announced. We had so many enquiries that we organised a second Vanuatu trip: 10-28 July. On 15 April we needed three more bookings to guarantee departure. On 16 April, it was not only a definite departure — we had only two, possibly three, places left. We can't be certain that we can run it again next year, so this could be your only chance for what should be a truly amazing trip.


Sweden and Norway: mid July to late August. This trip is almost certainly a one-off, never to be offered again.

For years, two of my Swedish clients have been asking when I'd come over to go bushwalking in the northern summer. 2012 is the year. They have kindly offered to do some of the organising and will be coming along on most of the trip. The trip notes have been updated with information they sent me earlier this month. The trip will now begin sometime around 21 July and will finish towards the end of August.

Special Offers

Not sure where to find our list prices? Our regularly updated PDF trip list has them all.


Any trip leaving before 29 July will be cancelled if it doesn't have bookings by 27 April. The following trips already have bookings.

Return to top

Your Mobile Phone Might Steal Your Contacts, Photos and More

"Security — for the information on your smartphone, as well as for the device itself — is a hot topic these days. The truth is you’re packing a lot of sensitive information on your phone, and you should keep it safe." You can read more on the topic at Smartphone Security Blankets. Unfortunately, the programs referred to in the article don't address some of the ways you can lose data.

"The address book in smartphones — where some of the user’s most personal data is carried — is free for app developers to take at will, often without the phone owner’s knowledge." In February, "VentureBeat, a technology blog, reported that dozens of applications for Apple devices were taking users’ address books without permission." The NY Times article, Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission provides the whole story.

There's more. "The private photos on your phone may not be as private as you think." "After a user allows an application on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to have access to location information, the app can copy the user’s entire photo library, without any further notification or warning, according to app developers." You can read the full story at Apple Loophole Gives Developers Access to Photos..

Google's Android system is no better. The NY Times conducted an experiment to see if Android was better and found someone who could design an app that did something useful while secretly uploading a photo from your phone onto a website. Read about it at Et Tu, Google? Android Apps Can Also Secretly Copy Photos.

Think about it: would you be happy if every photo you took with your phone had the potential to be uploaded to some website you might not even know existed?

It's not just mobile phones. "One afternoon in January, a hacker took a tour of a dozen conference rooms around the globe via equipment that most every company has in those rooms; videoconferencing equipment.

And on it goes. We live in a world that's changing faster then ever before.

Return to top

Orienteering and Rogaining in the Top End

Many of our clients enjoy orienteering and/or rogaining so I thought I ought to give our local clubs a mention.

The Top End Orienteers have a monthly program of events and welcome visitors. The biggest event of the year is the NT Orienteering Championships: 10-12 August. If you enjoy orienteering as well as bushwalking, why not consider combining one of the orienteering events with one of our trips.

The NT Rogaining Association has events scheduled for 3 June and 18 August. Again, you might want to combine one of these with one of our trips.

The results of the February Metrogaine were a bit of a surprise. (You'll have to click "results" at the bottom of the event to see them.) The places listed in yellow were the teams that undertook the event on foot, those in green used bicycles. If nothing else, it shows how well really good rogainers might expect to do up here if they can cope with the climate.

Return to top

Palm Valley and Elephants

Amazingly, there is a connection of sorts.

Palm Valley

"The isolated palms (Livistona mariae) in central Australia’s Palm Valley were widely believed to be relics from a great Gondwanan rainforest that perished when Australia dried out around 15 million years ago." Recent research suggests a different explanation; they may have been introduced by Aboriginal people. You can read the full story at Humans may explain the enigma of outback palms.

Elephants in Oz?

While it may be hard to argue with the genetics mentioned in the story above, one of the researchers mentioned in the story thinks that we should let elephants loose in Australia. I'm not sure that I agree with him, but he does have a history of thinking outside the box. The short article from New Scientist is well worth a read. Maybe not elephants but there are other surprising animals already out in the bush. In 2009, a rather unusual animal was mistaken for a pig and shot by local hunters in the NT.

Return to top

Later Trips in 2012

At this point, three trips deserve a special mention.

The sound of the cicadas .... Whisper of the Wild is a NY Times article about the disappearing sounds of nature. Even in the wilderness it's hard to get away from the noise of civilisation. Much of northern Australia is about as good as it gets.

Return to top

The Future of Books — Update

Shortly after I sent out the last newsletter, I came across an article In a Flood Tide of Digital Data, an Ark Full of Books. Not long after that, I found another article After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses.

It's interesting to contemplate what would happen if we lost the digital versions of our books. There are many old electronic forms that are now almost impossible to read. Although I've got hard copies of many things, my earliest electronic files were done on school computers using the Apple Zardax program. Even if I could find a copy of the program and a computer that could run it, the old floppy disks have probably degenerated to the point where they are unreadable. I can't help but wonder how much else has been lost in a similar fashion.

CDs and DVDs should last a lot longer than the old floppies, but even they have a finite life and will need to be recorded onto whatever medium that replaces them if they are to be preserved. And that, of course, means that you need to have a computer that will read old files. Given the speed with which things change, I can't help but wonder how difficult it will be to find such devices. The Darwin climate is certainly hard enough; DVDs stored here won't last as long as those stored in more temperate and/or drier climates. How much less is a question I have no answer to at this point. If you want some more information, you might want to have a look at this article on CD and DVD Lifetime and Maintenance.

People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realising that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks. Finding Your Book Interrupted ... By the Tablet You Read It On explains how you now have a "reading experience that is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity." Some believe that this will lead to fewer people actually reading; others hope that it will lead to more people actually sitting down and reading something substantive. Only time will tell.

Children find e-books far more interesting than printed ones. Bringing Up an E-Reader gives some of the positives and negatives of the new technology. If you have young children or grandchildren, this article is a must.

And, of course there are the things that never make it into digital form. A 1977 science fiction book, Lucifer's Hammer told of the world after it had been hit by a massive comet. One of the most valuable things people had to begin their reconstruction turned out to be a circa 1919 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The technology described therein was technology that could be created with very basic tools. We're a lot far further down the high-tech road now than we were back in 1977. If the world were hit by that kind of disaster, it would be even harder to pick up the pieces now than it would have been all those years ago.

Return to top

What's the Future for Paper Maps?

With more and more people relying on a GPS for navigation, paper maps could become a thing of the past. The Canadian national mapping service got rid of its paper stocks some years ago and now prints on demand — if you can find where to look. The NT Government has gone out of the map business. Although my total map sales are less than $1000 per year, I probably have the largest stock of topo maps available in the NT. Even some of the NT government departments have come to me when they needed a paper map.

On a long expedition, a GPS isn't enough. It can make your life a lot easier but you can't view a large area at a usable scale on a single GPS screen. If the GPS goes down (batteries flat, unit dropped, etc) you are in trouble if you don't have a map and compass. We'll be using maps for as long as I remain in business.

You can see all the maps on our website and find about what we sell on our Map Index and Sales page.

The BBC had a documentary series, The Beauty of Maps which looked at maps in incredible detail to highlight their artistic attributions and reveal the stories that they tell. While the programs are no longer on line, the page does have some interesting links to other information about maps.

Return to top

Willis's Walkabouts in the Press Again

As mentioned in an earlier newsletter, Wild magazine ran a two-page article about me and Willis's Walkabouts in the September issue last year. You can read it here.

In January this year, Territory Quarterly, a business magazine put out by the NT government ran a four-page article about me and Willis's Walkabouts. The entire magazine is online at Territory Quarterly. You can find the relevant article about me on pages 34-37. The full magazine is a huge file, so it may take a while to load.

All those years with no media coverage, and now two articles in the space of five months. Maybe they thought they'd better get in now while I'm still running the business.

Return to top

Male Cognitive Impairment

Why Interacting with a Woman Can Leave Men "Cognitively Impaired"

Believe it or not, there is some good scientific research showing that this is true.

A recent Scientific American article begins. "In one experiment, just telling a man he would be observed by a female was enough to hurt his psychological performance."

If you're really curious, you can read the original research paper here.

Return to top

Climate Change — Update

Almost every month, I find out something new. "February was the 324th consecutive month in which global temperatures exceeded their long-term average for a given month; the last month with below-average temperatures was February 1985." Some of the recent extremes of both hot and cold may be due to the decreasing ice cover in the Arctic. Weather Runs Hot and Cold, So Scientists Look to the Ice tells that story.

Rising Sea Levels Seen as Threat to Coastal U.S. made me think of my own position. Darwin is fairly flat. My house is less than four metres above sea level. Many Australians live right on the coast. The article talks about changes that will affect many people who are alive today.

Waking the Giant

How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes

The above is the title and subheading of a book by Bill McGuire published by Oxford University Press. "An astonishing transformation over the last 20,000 years has seen our planet changed from a frigid wasteland into the temperate world within which our civilization has grown and thrived. This dynamic episode in our planet's history, right at the close of the Ice Age, saw not only a huge temperature hike but also the Earth's crust bouncing and bending in response to the melting of the great ice sheets and the filling of the ocean basins — dramatic geophysical events that triggered earthquakes, spawned tsunamis, and provoked a series of eruptions from the world's volcanoes." I haven't managed to read the book yet, but I have found a good number of links that give additional information.

A Rather Amazing Reduction in Greenhouse Gases

In America, more and more young people "think of a car as a giant bummer." "According to the Federal Highway Administration, drivers aged 21 to 30 drove 12 percent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995." That's a huge shift in popular culture." "Automakers are realizing that if they do not adjust to changing youth tastes, they “risk becoming the dad at the middle school dance."

The quotes above are all from a NT Times article As Young Lose Interest in Cars, G.M. Turns to MTV for Help. It's well worth a read. Considering how much the automobile has contributed to our environmental problems, it is a trend worth encouraging.

Return to top

More on Mobile Phones and Other New Tech


Smartphones like the iPhone can change the way we think. "Anytime we have a spare second, we feel compelled to check what’s going on outside of us." For doctors, "smartphones can endanger bedside manner." Some people fight back by refusing to use them. Some simply manage to use them without the addiction that seems to be ever more prevalent. A Smartphone Future? But Not Yet gives some of the pros and cons. It's worth a read for everyone but if you have a smartphone, it might be an especially good idea to have a read and see how it may be affecting your life in negative as well as positive ways.

"With smartphones changing the culture in so many ways, more and more young people are using their mobile devices to keep track of their health, and the trend is not going unnoticed by advertisers." As Smartphones Become Health Aids, Ads May Follow gives a snapshot of what's happening already.

Are You Being Watched?

In America, Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool. I'm not sure what the situation is here in Australia, but, do you want your every move to be tracked by the police —: or anyone else who has that technology available?

Mobile Spam

"Once the scourge of e-mail providers and the Postal Service, spammers have infiltrated the last refuge of spam-free communication: cellphones. In the United States, consumers received roughly 4.5 billion spam texts last year, more than double the 2.2 billion received in 2009, according to Ferris Research, a market research firm that tracks spam. Spread over 250 million text message-enabled phones, the problem is not as commonplace as e-mail spam. But it is a growing menace, with the potential for significant damage."

I'm not sure how bad the problem is in Australia, but if it's an issue in America we can't be far behind. Read the full article, Spam Invades a Last Refuge, the Cellphone.

There's More to Search than Google and Bing

Ever hear of Blekko? It's a new search engine that

What we have now is pretty good but it's nice to know that something better may be coming.

You ain't seen nothing yet — update.

In my last newsletter, I mentioned that Google was expected to start selling eyeglasses that will project information, entertainment and, this being a Google product, advertisements onto the lenses. Now you can have a peek at the future at A Rose-Colored View May Come Standard. The article includes a link to a video showing how they might work. As I said then, "I can see why some people might want them, but think how distracting they must be. How many pedestrians will get killed or injured because they were looking at their glasses instead of their surrounds. And drivers — I don't want to think about that."

Return to top

Good News and Bad News About the Fish You Eat

Good News

"New efforts to protect marine creatures have gained surprising support from researchers, regulators, engineers and fishermen." Fishing Gear Is Altered to Ease Collateral Costs to Marine Life tells the story.

Bad News

Some fish are worth more if left in the ocean than if they are caught. "An international group of marine scientists is calling for cuts in commercial fishing for sardines, herring and other so-called forage fish whose use as food for fish farms is soaring. The catch should be cut in half for some fisheries, the scientists say, to protect populations of both the fish and the natural predators that depend on them." Too Many Small Fish Are Caught, Report Says tells the story.

All too often our actions have unintended consequences.

Return to top

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 the last newsletter, 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

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

Return to top