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Newsletter 67, August 2013 - Willis's Walkabouts

Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 67, August 2013

Special Election Edition. The election will affect almost every aspect of our lives. It is worth while really thinking about your vote.

The Greatest Estate on Earth links to some great videos that won't be online for too much longer. Check them out sooner rather than later.

Willis's Walkabouts is changing. How big and how fast those changes will be is yet to be determined. Willis's Walkabouts — Looking Ahead gives the first glimpse of what's going to be happening.

Note. The NY Times allows non-subscribers to look at ten free articles each month. I've got more links than that in this newsletter so I've marked them with a red asterisk (*) so that you can choose which are of most interest to you.

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Vote Compass

There has been a lot of research which shows that the vast majority of us make major decisions based more on emotion than rational analysis — following that up might be a project for another newsletter some day. But, for now, I'll stick to the election and a wonderful tool that allows you to compare your position with that of the major parties on a number of issues.

Vote Compass is a website which asks you to answer 30 questions, then rate how important those issues are to you. It then compares your answers to the positions of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens. If you want to take it further, you can click on a number of different issues and get the details of where each party stands on that particular issue. That's something you can't get from a one or two minute segment on the TV news. Even the newspapers don't go into anywhere near this much detail. In any case, the print media tends to follow particular lines rather than be truly impartial.

I've done the questionnaire and had a look at my results. Some of those results were no surprise; some were. I'll be digging deeper into the detail before the election. The information I have got and will get from Vote Compass just might be enough for me to change my preferences. It's good to be able to have an impartial source which tells what the parties actually stand for rather than what they are against which seems to be most of what makes the news. If you care about the future of Australia, you really should have a look at Vote Compass.

A final note — where it came from. The original Vote Compass was developed in Canada for the 2011 Canadian election. It got close to 2 million responses. There was a similar Vote Compass site in the US for the last presidential election. That got just over 28,000 responses. The Australian site got over half a million in the first three days. Given the relative sizes of the populations, to me that says something very positive about Canada and Australia and very negative about America. Have a look and see what you think.

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Aboriginal Culture — How Little We Understand

I'll begin with the most important fact, one which should be obvious, but is not for most people. There is no such thing as Aboriginal culture. There are many different Aboriginal cultures. While the different Aboriginal cultures all do have some things in common, they are different. Not recognising that fact does a great disservice to all Aboriginal people. What follows is true of the areas where Willis's Walkabouts goes and may or may not apply elsewhere.

Kakadu — We are responsible for you

Kakadu is Aboriginal land and has been legally recognised as such since the park was declared in 1979. To be sure, there are different levels of recognition involving claims of Native Title and claims made under the Land Rights Act of the NT, but the original proclamation of the park states, "Kakadu will represent a unique conjunction of conservation and Aboriginal interest."

I have long been aware that the traditional owners of Kakadu feel that they are somehow responsible for everything that takes place on their land, whether or not they have anything to do with what happens. In June this year, a man was drowned while swimming with his family in the pool below Jim Jim Falls. The traditional owners of the area immediately had it closed as a mark of respect for the deceased. While they might have preferred to keep it closed for longer, out of respect for the visitors who wished to see the area and for the tour operators who depend on it for their livelihood, they allowed it to be opened again just over a week later.

In early August, the senior traditional owner came to a meeting of the Kakadu Tourism Consultative Committee so that he could express his feelings about the incident. Listening to him, feeling his distress and emotion, took my understanding of the sense of responsibility for what happens on country to a new level. When we visit Kakadu, we are the guests of the traditional owners. We may not be able to feel what they do, but we can try and respect it.

Kartiya are like Toyotas

Kartiya are like Toyotas. When they break down we get another one." — remark by a Western Desert woman about whitefellas who work in Indigenous communities.

"It is mandatory for anyone wishing to work in Antarctica to undergo a physical and psychological assessment to establish whether they will stand up to the stresses of isolation, the extreme environment and the intense proximity to other people. All the same factors exist in remote Aboriginal communities, along with confronting cross-cultural conditions. Yet there don't appear to be any recognised training programs for people who aspire to work in a community, or screening criteria to weed out the mad, bad and incompetent who prowl the grey zone of Indigenous service delivery. The remote community is a kind of parallel universe, where career paths, if they exist at all, travel laterally or downwards. The famous quip about mercenaries, missionaries and misfits has a lot of truth in it, and each type covers a spectrum, from highly functional through incompetent to downright destructive. Under pressure, both strengths and weaknesses become exaggerated, and what, in normal circumstances would be merely a character trait (stubborn, orderly, conscientious, volatile, flexible, timid) can become the quality that makes or breaks you."

The quote above is from an article published in the Griffith Review from Griffith University. The article was sent to me by a friend who has worked and lived in Aboriginal communities. From talking to a number of people who have worked in Aboriginal communities, I think it's mostly a far too realistic picture. We provide substantial cross-cultural training for the volunteers we send overseas. We provide little or none for the people who work in Aboriginal communities where the culture shock might be even greater as few non-indigenous people expect to encounter such a different culture in their own country.

While Kartiya are like Toyotas is a personal story, I believe that it offers a good insight into why some of the problems in indigenous communities are so intractable.

"The contradiction at the heart of the story is that for the quality of desert Aboriginal lives to improve in the terms demanded by humanitarian standards — in health, education, housing and the like — the people themselves must become more like us, and to become more like us requires them to relinquish the identity from which their resilience and sense of self is drawn. Without their Aboriginal identity they are reduced to society's dross: the poorest, the least employable, the shortest lived, the least literate, the substance abusers and losers and wife bashers. And one of the most powerful ways in which they keep hold of that identity is by defining it against white people."

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Tropical Seasons

If you have never lived in the tropics, you probably have no real concept of what our seasons are. Autumn, winter, spring and summer have no meaning here. But not only do we have seasons, those seasons go far beyond the Wet and Dry that most people think of. Anyone who has lived here can immediately identify at least three: Wet, Dry and Build Up. The Aboriginal people of northern Kakadu go further and identify six different seasons. I've lived here long enough and have spent enough time outside air conditioning that I have no trouble identifying those six.

TV weather reports lie. Perhaps that's too strong a statement, but they certainly are misleading. Weather symbols designed for temperate climates don't work for the tropics. TV weather reports make southerners think that it rains all day, every day during the wet season. Not true!

In January, the wettest month in Darwin, it rains only 2 days in 3 on average. We get a bit more than six hours of sunshine every day. That's about the same percent of sun in daylight hours as you get in Sydney! That is certainly not the impression you get from TV weather reports.

We will soon be entering Gunumeleng — The Build Up. While, on average, this is the most uncomfortable season of all, it is also the most dramatic. Storms come and go — warm rain needs to be experienced to be believed. Frogs call and birds sing. The land turns green, almost as you watch. All nature rejoices in the change. Personally, I enjoy it. Why?

Our Gunumeleng (Build Up) trips are the most laid back and relaxed that we offer — early starts, early finishes and long lunch breaks sitting by tranquil pools. I enjoy the lack of pressure, sitting back and enjoying the sights, sounds and scents around me, slipping into a pool whenever i feel a bit hot. Gunumeleng — Build Up page on our website is new. Whether or not you might ever consider a trip at this time of year, it's worth having a look so you can understand what it's really like.

Gunumeleng is followed by Gudjewg — The Wet Season. Have you ever enjoyed being rained on while on a bushwalk? Tropical rain is a pleasure to walk in, something that has to be experienced to be believed. The pleasure of walking in warm rain is a small part of the story. If you want to enjoy Kakadu and the Kimberley at their lush, green, magnificent best, to see spectacular waterfalls like those in the tourist brochures, you need to come during the period from late December through March. As above, whether or not you might ever consider a trip at this time of year, it's worth having a look at our Gudjewg — Wet Season page so you can understand what it's really like.

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Last Chance — First Chance

Before Christmas

Two Gunumeleng trips are still available. Neither has the bookings we need to run them yet. Both will be confirmed or cancelled by the evening of 9 September.

Gudjewg — The Wet Season

All trips are still available. Two trips have bookings. One is already a definite departure.

  • Kakadu Super Circle No. 1: 5-25 January
    This is a major expedition. It is also the only trip where you get to visit Jim Jim and Twin Falls when they are at their spectacular best.
    This trip has bookings but not yet enough to guarantee departure. If we don't get a food drop in by late October, we can't run it.
  • Kakadu Light: 4-16 February 2014.
    Walk the wonder of Kakadu in the Wet. Enjoy the waterfalls and wildflowers by day. Relax in comfortable accommodation most nights, camp next to secluded bush pools after short walks on the others.
    This trip is already a definite departure.
  • Something new. Green Kimberley: 13 January - 1 February 2014
    This trip consists of three sections, any of which can be done on its own. It includes parts of several trips we have run in the past. We think that this new itinerary should be the best ever.

Have a look at the latest version of our trip list to see what else we have on offer.

Overseas — Last Chance for 2013

  • South Africa: 13 October - 13 November
    Our original, two-month trip had to be cancelled. I was, however, so keen to go that I replaced by a less expensive, four and a half week trip doing some of the walks I most wanted to do — everything from a true wilderness trek to a fully accommodated walk wandering from winery to winery.
    This trip will run with as few as two bookings. It is now a definite departure.
    Note. If the links in the trip notes don't work, you can copy and paste them into your browser.
  • Chilean Patagonia: December 2013 - January 2014
    We've had two bookings for months now. Unfortunately, se still need another three to run it. This trip will be based on the trip we did beginning in December 2011. What we learned on that trip should make this one even better. If you want to do some great walks away from the crowds, you ought to have a look at the notes. If you would prefer to join the masses, this trip is not for you.
    We will have to confirm or cancel before the end of September.

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How Hard Are Our Trips

We describe how we rate the level of difficulty on our trips in the level of difficulty section of our General information sheet. We send this out to everyone who books a trip. (If you've never seen it, it's worth a quick read.) Every one of our current trip notes contains a section describing the Terrain and Difficulty. But, try as we might, we'll never get it right. Why not?

It's simple. Some things can vary so much from year to year that our descriptions can never exactly match the reality of what you will find on the ground. All we can do is describe the average. Here are some examples.

  • June and July are part of Wurrgeng or the Cold weather season. After two years of below average Wurrgeng temperatures, this year has been distinctly warmer than the average.
  • After a distinctly below average wet season this year, southern Kakadu was hit with over 300 mm of rain in two days, washing away a road which had been due to open for Easter.
  • The Kimberley had a below average wet season but unusual rain in may and June brought the Mitchell River up half a metre in a couple of days.
  • Fires can and do change the landscape dramatically. If you pass through country just after a fire has gone through, the walking will be very easy compared to the average. If it's been years since the last fire, it might be very hard compared to the average. One part of our last Mitchell Plateau trip was much harder than the last time I'd done it as the vegetatin hadn't been burnt for at least seven years and was far thicker and harder to push through.

We are always looking for ways we can improve the information on our website and the additional information we send out to people who book a trip or simply ask for more. If you have any suggestions as to how we can improve our level of difficulty descriptions, we'd love to hear them. But, until I can figure out how to make that improvement, I'll stick with the statement in our trip notes. "Anyone who does not regularly (average twice a month) go bushwalking carrying a full pack would benefit from doing some pre-trip training. Do this and you will almost certainly enjoy the trip. If you are not an experienced off-track bushwalker and you don't do any training or any other form of strenuous physical exercise, you might feel that the trip is more of an endurance test than the pleasure most people experience." Our trips are most certainly not for everyone. We wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm working on what will become a web page or Facebook photo gallery showing just how big a difference fires can make to the vegetation. Watch for an update in a coming newsletter and/or on the What's New page on our website.

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The Greatest Estate on Earth

The ABC recently ran a series on Aboriginal pre-history called First Footprints. The Age ran a story about it called Rock art paints a different prehistory. The Sydney Morning Herald did a similar one called A black and ochre jigsaw. I've read both articles and have watched the series. They are all well worth while.

The First Footprints episodes are still available on ABC iview. They put the first episode back after it had expired because of the demand. I'm not sure how long they'll be up but a DVD of the series will be available from ABC shops. Click the words "First Footprints" on the iview site and you'll see a list of what's still available.

The final episode is called The Biggest Estate on Earth. This is also the title of a book by Bill Gammage. Here's a quote from a review. "Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked an English country estate."

"With implications for us today, Bill Gammage explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness, revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the damaging bushfires we now experience. What we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind."

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Our Ancestors

From the Aboriginal past in Australia, we can step back further in time. It seems that some of our direct ancestors were not Homo sapiens. We've long known of the existence of Neanderthals. now it seems that there was at least one other human species alive at the time, the Denisovans. The July issue of National Geographic had an article The Case of the Missing Ancestor. In it, we learn that "human genomes today actually contain a small but significant amount of Neanderthal code — on average about 2.5 percent. The Neanderthals still may have been swept into extinction by the strange, high-browed new people who followed them out of Africa, but not before some commingling that left a little Neanderthal in most of us, 50,000 years later. Only one group of modern humans escaped that influence: Africans, because the commingling happened outside that continent." As for the Denisovans, "When the researchers compared the Denisovan genome with those of various modern human populations, they found no trace of it in Russia or nearby China, or anywhere else, for that matter — except in the genomes of New Guineans, other people from islands in Melanesia, and Australian Aborigines. On average their genomes are about 5 percent Denisovan."

There's more.

We've long been certain that humans evolved in Africa and moved out to cover the rest of the world. In May, New Scientist ran an article which began, With the evolution of the genus Homo, our ancestors became distinctly human. Now we have hints that this great event occurred not in Africa but in Eurasia". Our Asian Origins tells the story. While it's far from certain that this is what actually happened, it is not an idea that can be dismissed out of hand. We live in interesting times.

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Destruction — Illusion

"Sometimes what we think of as destruction is just the stripping away of illusion."

When I heard the above, it got me thinking. The idea comes from Hindu mythology and concerns Shiva . Brahma is the creator of the universe while Vishnu is the preserver of it. Shiva's role is to destroy the universe in order to re-create it. Hindus believe his powers of destruction and recreation are used even now to destroy the illusions and imperfections of this world, paving the way for beneficial change. According to Hindu belief, this destruction is not arbitrary, but constructive. Shiva is therefore seen as the source of both good and evil and is regarded as the one who combines many contradictory elements.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought about how this might to apply to our own society at this point. Our economy depends more and more on people spending money they don't really have on things they don't really need. Maybe our economy is really an illusion. How long can that go on? I'm not the only one wondering that.

A recent newsletter from John Mauldin was titled We can't take the chance.. I found it very thought provoking. The following are quotes from that newsletter. What follows is the longest bit I've put into a single newsletter, but I think that the more people who think about things like this, the more likely it is that we can avoid some really serious problems down the road. Read them and think about where we are coming from and going to.

"A fundamentally unstable economic system plus human greed means that market bubbles and crashes won't disappear anytime soon."

"... while we can understand old economic thinking from ancient myths, we can also learn a lot about contemporary myths from modern economic thinking. A case in point is the myth, developed in the last thirty years, of an eternal economic growth, based in financial innovations, rather than on real productivity gains strongly rooted in better management, improved design, and fuelled by innovation and creativity. This has created an illusion that value can be extracted out of nothing; the mythical story of the perpetual money machine, dreamed up before breakfast."

To put things in perspective, we have to go back to the post-WWII era. It was characterized by 25 years of reconstruction and a third industrial revolution, which introduced computers, robots and the Internet. New infrastructure, innovation and technology led to a continuous increase in productivity. In that period, the financial sphere grew in balance with the real economy. In the 1970s, when the Bretton Woods system was terminated and the oil and inflation shocks hit the markets, business productivity stalled and economic growth became essentially dependent on consumption. Since the 1980s, consumption became increasingly funded by smaller savings, booming financial profits, wealth extracted from house prices appreciation and explosive debt. This was further supported by a climate of deregulation and a massive growth in financial derivatives designed to spread and diversify the risks globally."

"The result was a succession of bubbles and crashes: the worldwide stock market bubble and great crash of 19 October 1987, the savings and loans crisis of the 1980s, the burst in 1991 of the enormous Japanese real estate and stock market bubbles and its ensuing "lost decades", the emerging markets bubbles and crashes in 1994 and 1997, the LTCM crisis of 1998, the dotcom bubble bursting in 2000, the recent house price bubble, the financialization bubble via special investment vehicles, speckled with acronyms like CDO, RMBS, CDS, — the stock market bubble, the commodity and oil bubbles and the debt bubbles, all developing jointly and feeding on each other, until the climax of 2008, which brought our financial system close to collapse."

"Each excess was felt to be "solved" by measures that in fact fuelled following excesses; each crash was fought by an accommodative monetary policy, sowing the seeds for new bubbles and future crashes. Not only are crashes not any more mysterious, but the present crisis and stalling economy, also called the Great Recession, have clear origins, namely in the delusionary belief in the merits of policies based on a "perpetual money machine" type of thinking."

"'The problems that we have created cannot be solved at the level of thinking we were at when we created them.' This quote attributed to Albert Einstein resonates with the universally accepted solution of paradoxes encountered in the field of mathematical logic, when the framework has to be enlarged to get out of undecidable statements or fallacies. But, the policies implemented since 2008, with ultra-low interest rates, quantitative easing and other financial alchemical gesticulations, are essentially following the pattern of the last thirty years, namely the financialization of real problems plaguing the real economy. Rather than still hoping that real wealth will come out of money creation, an illusion also found in the current management of the on-going European sovereign and banking crises, we need fundamentally new ways of thinking."

There is a lot more there. The whole newsletter is worth a read.

Australian house prices are among the highest in the world. Many potential homebuyers have been priced out of the market. Rents and house prices in Darwin are ridiculous. When the major construction projects that are fuelling the price rises here draw to a close, we just might have a bit of a crash. Excluding China itself, Australia depends more on China than any of the other 20 largest economies. What happens if China slows down? (China will be a section in a future newsletter.)


Comparing Unemployment During the Great Depression and the Great Recession suggests that "Eurozone unemployment, overall, is materially higher than the best estimates of European unemployment during the Great Depression. " Fox News ran a similar piece, Europe's Great Depression which states, "Unemployment exceeds Great Depression levels in Spain, many parts of Greece, Portugal and Italy, and is rising in northern Europe. Slashing government spending and labor market reforms have neither restored Club Med economies nor their governments to solvency." Prisoners of the Euro * asks "With Europe's unemployment, how long can the center continue to hold?" Perhaps the destruction of the Euro would simply be the stripping away of an illusion.

The Ghosts of Europe Past * suggests that "the European Union closely resembles a formation that many citizens thought they had left to the dustbin of history: the Holy Roman Empire." It offers a very different vision for Europe, but one which might be even less palatable than the destruction of the Euro. I have no idea what will happen, only that some sort of major change is inevitable.

How lucky we are! Australia's current official unemployment rate is 5.7%. Of the 27 countries in the European Union, only Germany and Austria do better. Try and imagine what it would be like to live in a country like Greece or Spain where the official unemployment rate is over 26%. Then think what it would be like if you were young and looking for a job when the youth unemployment is more than double that of the nation as whole.

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Our Technological Society

Technology in Cars — Will It Kill Us or Save Us?

Our cars are far safer than they used to be. if you want proof, have a look at this video of a crash test between a 1957 and a 2009 Chevrolet If it had happened with real drivers, the one in the newer car would probably have been able to walk away. The one in the older car would probably have been dead. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before cars will drive themselves. At High Speed, on the Road to a Driverless Future * explains how "by blending advanced computer vision techniques with low-cost video cameras, the Israeli company Mobileye is demonstrating how quickly autonomous driving can be commercialized." The article contains a link to a short video of a car driving itself on city streets and highways. (Google will turn up lots of references to this vehicle but very few of the others link to a good video clip showing just what the car can do.)

That kind of technology is positive. Other technology is putting our lives in danger. Voice-Activated Technology Is Called Safety Risk for Drivers * gives the results of research which says that "Significant cognitive distraction was seen by researchers who analysed subjects trying to juggle driving with high-tech in-car systems." Car companies give us what we ask for, even if what we ask for makes us more dangerous to ourselves and others. Maybe our laws should reflect the reality that using some of these devices while driving is as dangerous as driving when you've had a few drinks too many.

Google Glass

Google Glass Picks Up Early Signal: Keep Out * Google Glass, a wearable computer not yet formally released, is raising questions about whether it will distract drivers, upend relationships and strip people of what little privacy they still have in public.

Are we losing our ability to think?

"Nobody can think anymore because they're constantly interrupted," said Leslie Perlow, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Sleeping With Your Smartphone. "Technology has enabled this expectation that we always be on. Workers fear the repercussions that could result if they are unavailable", she said. Messages Galore, but No Time to Think *explains that "as more technologies join e-mail in office communication, many workers may be losing the ability to concentrate. Experts offer ways to sort out when to use what."

The "expectation that we're always on" is destroying many of our lives. There are answers, some of which will, I hope, make it into the next newsletter.

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Are We Killing Our Kids?

In my opinion, the answer is yes. We may not be killing their bodies, but we are killing their spirit. The trigger for this thought was an article someone sent me from page 18 of the 19 May edition of the Sunday Tasmanian. It made me think. It's worth reprinting in its entirety.

Those were the days ... not any more for our kids

"Parents who were allowed to roam around their own neighbourhoods until the sun went down are raising children who spend most of their days inside under adult supervision.

"A massive generational shift is seeing today's children kept safe and clean inside, although their parents explored the outdoors by themselves just a few decades ago.

"A survey of 1000 Australian parents with children aged seven to 12 has found fear of stranger danger and worries about injuries mean they keep their own kids from getting dirty or going out alone.

"The survey shows that compared to their parents' generation, kids today have better outdoor facilities — they just aren't allowed to use them much.

"The study commissioned by the power tool company STIHL, and conducted by Empirica Research, shows 90 per cent of parents said they could leave their home unsupervised when they were growing up; now only 33 percent of kids are allowed to do the same.

"And, while parents were allowed to wander two or more kilometres from home alone, only 3 per cent of kids these days are given the same freedom.

"Similarly, more than 90 percent of parents played outside until the sun went down at least once a fortnight, yet only 55 per cent of kids today do.

"Clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack said, 'Parents are protecting their children too much — yes, for the right reasons — but it means that they do not have the opportunity to experience success and responsibility.'"

"Responsibility" — now there's a dirty word!

On my last trip, I was informed that yet another area was being closed to everyone because some people might get hurt if they tried to go there. People "might" get hurt. no matter what warnings you might put in place, people might ignore them. They would be unlikely to believe that they had any responsibility for the outcome. They might even sue. It was better to close the area to everyone than to allow responsible people who knew what they were doing to go there.

While Australia is a litigious society, it is actually less so than many people think. Banning cartwheels: school litigation fears are unfounded tells both of the fears and the reality. If you are really curious, a paper published by the Harvard Law School compares litigation rates in different countries. Reading the whole 44 pages would be a bit much but it's worth having a look at the table on page 5 and the comment about Australia on page 9. (The title page doesn't have a number so page 5 is the 6th page, etc.)

As a society we've allowed ourselves to be so scared by what might happen, that our children have lost freedoms we once took for granted.

Hypercleanliness may be making us sick

May? In my mind there is no doubt. Hypercleanliness may be making us sick, an article published in the Washington Post earlier this year, begins "A growing body of evidence suggests that all the antibacterial-wiping, germ-killing cleanliness of the developed world may actually be making us more prone to getting sick — and that a little more dirt might help us stay healthier in the long run."

There is no question that allergies and asthma are becoming more prevalent. We are to blame for many of the allergies our children are getting. The dirty truth? You can be too clean begins, "A dose of dirt could be the best medicine for preventing allergies in kids who've never had them." The full article is worth a read. If you'd like to know more, do a Google search for "hyper-cleanliness and allergies" and see just how much you come up with.

We're doing our bit to fight the problem

We offer a number of trips where families can come along and allow their children to get unwired, get dirty and enjoy nature. I'm pleased to say that the next one is fully booked. We'll be offering another three next year and are always happy to organise a charter as we did for three generations of one extended family in July this year.

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Nature — A Celebration

This is becoming one of my favourite parts of this newsletter.

Lyrebird song and dance

In June, New Scientist ran a short piece titled The lyrebird that's a song-and-dance man. "The superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae), already known to be a singer of genius, can perform coordinated song-and-dance routines that put most humans to shame." The link takes you to a page which includes a link to a 38 sec video — well worth watching.

Top End Time Lapse Video

Top End Time-Lapse is a three-minute video which highlights some of the Top End. It says a lot about why I live where I live.

Lights Over Lapland

When I looked at the Top End video, I found another time lapse called Lights Over Lapland. The images were taken over the course of three years in Abisko National Park in Northern Sweden. As I'm hoping to run a trip to Abisko next March, I couldn't resist.


Antarctica is a beautiful power point slide show of photos from Antarctica. It may take a while to load.

National Geographic Photo Awards

The 2013 National Geographic Traveller photo contest produced some spectacular photos. When I got to number 11, memories of three truly magic moments came back to me. Look at number 11 before you get to my magic moment.

A Dream of Trees Aglow at Night

A dream or a nightmare? You be the judge. A Dream of Trees Aglow at Night *tells of "a project to create a plant that glows in the dark, potentially leading the way for trees that can replace streetlamps."

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Willis's Walkabouts — Looking Ahead

If Willis's Walkabouts had had to be a commercial success to survive, it wouldn't have lasted five years. It's been going for nearly 30. It will keep going for as long as I enjoy it.


If I could maintain the same level or nearly the same level of business without the advertising, I'd be financially better off without it. I may spend more on advertising as a percent of gross than any other business in Australia. On the other hand, while I don't enjoy the deadlines, I do enjoy my part in creating the ads. In some cases, I look on them as educational as well as promotional.

My ads may be more interesting than most or maybe some magazines are simply more desperate but I've sometimes been offered some truly amazing deals. That's the only reason I've run as many ads as I do. Australia has, I believe, the most different magazines per capita of any country in the world. Print is suffering. That's part of the reason I've occasionally got such great deals.

But my print advertising isn't working. If I can't make it work better, I'll have to cut back. If I cut back, I'll lose some business. Just how much and how much that loss will affect the business is the question. Suggestions welcome!

Personal Priorities

If you saw my April newsletter, you'll remember just how close I came to being killed in a car accident. That's given me plenty to think about. I'm not getting any younger. While I can still do and enjoy the most strenuous trip I offer, I have no idea how long that will remain true. I've decided that when there is a trip that I really want to do, I'm going to do it even if it's not a commercial proposition.

I was disappointed when the summer-autumn trip to Scandinavia fell through but that gave me the chance to do Kimberley Highlights No. 2: 22 August - 7 September. That's a trip I enjoy where the group includes people whose company I enjoy. A good trade. (While that trip is now officially closed, I closed it with only seven bookings. I need a second vehicle to add another so I won't take a single booking but if two or more were interested, I'd consider it.)

When my two month trip to South Africa had to be cancelled, that gave me the chance to join some friends doing some kayaking and walking in New Caledonia. Three days after I get back from the Kimberley Highlights trip, I head to New Caledonia. I'll only be there for nine days, but I expect to enjoy it.

The two month trip to South Africa would have included a couple of things I'd never done before. I was particularly looking forward to those. When two of the four who had booked cancelled, I thought about it for a bit and created a one month itinerary doing more of the things I've long wanted to do. When the other two agreed, the deal was done. I'm going! I'll probably never do a trip exactly like this again but I suspect parts of it will make it into future itineraries. (I've already started making some bookings. If there is any chance you might be interested, please have a look at the trip notes. That costs nothing but a few minutes of your time. If the links in the trip notes don't work, you can copy and paste them into your browser.

Planning — Dreaming

When I'm too old to dream, I'm too old to live. My dreams may change as the years pass, but I'll keep dreaming and planning how I can make those dreams come true. The new Green Kimberley: 13 January - 1 February 2014 is one example. It's a mix of old and new. It might even contain something I've never been able to offer before but I can't even begin to try and organise that until I have people interested.

March is a slow season for me in Australia. My Swedish friends are investigating the possibilities in the Arctic in March. (I've run March trips to Alaska & the Yukon and to Baffin Island before. March is still winter but the days are long enough to be useful while the nights are long enough to see the aurora.) If we can organise a good itinerary and they are interested in coming along, I might even do it without a single paying customer.

I suspect a few more of my dreams will make it into the Walkabouts program over the next few years. One more might even make it in 2014. This is something I've been dreaming about for more than 20 years. I've been told the time MIGHT be right for a trial. MIGHT. Until that go ahead is given, I don't feel I can say more. but, if that go ahead is given, it will go onto the website the next day that I'm near a computer and will be highlighted in the next newsletter. I live in hope.

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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 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.

Dream your dreams and live in hope,
Russell Willis

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