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Newsletter 72, May 2014 - Willis's Walkabouts

Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 72, May 2014

Bushwalking in Kakadu. What you can and can't do may be about to change dramatically.

Win a free trip or at least a big discount to the value of $4500.

While I think all the links in this newsletter are worth looking at, if you are only going to look at one link, make it The Time You Have in Jellybeans. If you are going to look at two, click the second link in this section.

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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Bushwalking in Kakadu

If you are a bushwalker, did you know that you have someone to represent your interests who sits on a committee which reports directly to the Kakadu board of Management?

The Kakadu Tourism Consultative Committee "provides advice on tourism issues (both commercial and private) in Kakadu National Park. Matters are brought to the committee either by the Kakadu Board of Management or by members on behalf of the groups they represent.

I have probably spent more time bushwalking in Kakadu, both commercially and on private trips, than anyone else. That's why I sit on the committee. The committee meets quarterly, next meeting in August. If you have any issues you'd like me to bring up, please let me know.

Kakadu Bushwalking Strategy

At the May KTCC meeting, the park manager said that the draft bushwalking strategy was about to go to the parliamentary secretary for approval. That could mean that it will shortly be open for public comment. I will send out a special newsletter as soon as I know that it is available.

The park manager described some of the content as "contentious". If it looks anything like an earlier draft I saw, that is an understatement. If you have ever walked in or think you might walk in Kakadu or if you think your children or grandchildren might want to walk there, you should read the draft when it comes out and make whatever comments you think are appropriate.

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Want a Free Trip?

The Willis's Walkabouts website is not mobile friendly. With more and more people using mobile phones to view it, at least some of the pages have to be made mobile friendly, so, while doing that, I will be doing some major content updating. One of the things which needs updating is some of the photos. Send me up to ten photos which you think really tells the story of what Willis's Walkabouts is about and you could win a free trip. #

What makes a good home page photo? I'm not 100% sure so I'm going to offer a selection of photos to a marketing expert. He or she will select the one or ones they think will work best and explain why. If yours is chosen, you get a discount. If more than one is chosen, you could get a free trip. #

What would encourage more people to view more of the important pages? As above, I'm looking for suggestions as to how to get people to read the information which is there. If the market and web design people and I think you've got a good idea, we'll try it and give you a discount of up to 100% of the cost of a trip. #

# If someone can provide the right suggestions and/or photos, they can win a trip to the value of $4500. It won't be easy to win big, but it shouldn't be too hard to win small. Want the fine print? It's too long to put in the newsletter but you can get it here.

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June-September: Last Chance

Save $1000!

Quote this newsletter when you book either or the trips below and take $1000 off the list price. Offer ends at the close of business on Wednesday 28 May for Drysdale 1 and when I'd need to charter a larger or extra aircraft for Drysdale 2.

Super special offer. Do both Drysdale trips for $5995. No other discounts apply with these offers.


We have very limited space available on any of the remaining trips from now through August, but we can still give you special offers on some of them. All of the following are definite departures. No other trip is available before August.

  • Kakadu Circle No. 2, section one: 22-28 June
    Section two is full but one place may become available. Only three places left on section one.
    Guide: Paul Blattman.
  • Durack Explorer: 29 June - 12 July
    Bus and boat to the start of an exploration of one of the Kimberley's most interesting major rivers.
    Special offer. Join guide Donald Butcher and members of the Durack family who have already booked and we'll give you $300 off the list price.
    Only three places are left.
  • Kakadu Family Walk No. 2: 6-12 July
    A special walk designed for families with children.
    Guide: Rod Costigan accompanied by his wife and son.
  • Charnley Explorer: 13 July - 10 August
    Two sections, either of which can be done on it's own. I was so keen to do the first, one week section, that I guaranteed it for only three people.
    This new Charnley-Bachsten page has lots of photos and updated information about one of Australia's most remote and spectacular wilderness areas. Amazing gorges and lots of Aboriginal rock art.
    Special offer. Book section one on its own or the full trip and take $200 off the price after deducting any discounts you may be eligible for.
    Guide: Section 1: Russell Willis; Section 2: Paul Blattman.
  • Kakadu Circle No. 3, section 1: 15-21 July
    Section two is full. Only five places left on section one.
    Probable guides: Section 1: Rod Costigan; Section 2: Don Butcher.
  • Kakadu Highlights No. 6: 27 July - 10 August
    Two sections, either of which can be done on its own. To give more two night camps, we revised the itinerary and made what we think were some major improvements earlier this year.
    Only two places remain available.
    Guide: Cassie Newnes.
  • Kakadu Highlights No. 7: 10-23 August
    A long walk in Kakadu combined with a visit to seldom visited parts of the upper Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park
    Special offer. Since we only recently got the bookings we needed to run the trip, we'll give you $100 off the list price. That brings the price down to $2395.
    Other discounts apply, see our General Information sheet for details.
  • Kimberley Highlights No. 2, sec 2: 25-30 August
    Sections 1 &: 3 remain available but are not yet definite departures.
    If you want to know more about this trip, have a look at the illustrated reports on our 2013 trip.
    Section 1: Ord River Canoe
    Section 2: Carr Boyd Range
    Section 3: Cockburn Range

The other August departures listed in our trip list remain available but any one not having at least four bookings by 14 June will be cancelled.


What's wrong with September?

  • Kakadu Highlights No. 9: 7-20 September
    We still need two more bookings to run this trip which consists of three sections, any of which can be done on its own.
    To try and show you why this is such a good trip, I completely updated the page describing this trip on 7 May, adding new photos, web links and video clips.
    See the trip notes for more detailed information.
  • Kakadu Family Walk No. 3: 28 September - 4 October
    This is one of only three trips where we can offer discounts for children. It is the only one where we can be sure we can get into the magnificent Graveside area. It's reasonably easy with heaps of swimming and goes to the best natural waterslide we've ever found.
  • New Caledonia: September-October
    It's interesting, exotic and close to Australia. This a new trip where the itinerary is a work in progress based on a trip I did last year. While we do have bookings, we don't yet have enough to run the trip. Without more bookings, I have to put my main effort into the trips which will run. Get in on the first trip and you'll enjoy both a sense of exploration and a lower price that future trips won't have.
    Probable guide: Bruce Swain.


Our trip to Madagascar: October-November 2014 still has a few places available.
This a new trip; the itinerary is a work in progress based on a trip one of our guides did this year. We'll modify the draft itinerary to suit the first people who book.
Unless we get a cancellation, this trip is now a definite departure.
The trip notes were last updated on 3 May.
Note. The notes are about to undergo a major update. The trip will be only four weeks. Watch our Availability and Specials page for updates.
Guide: Merel Dalebout.

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Changing Times

Technology is changing our lives more and more with each passing year. As an obvious example, think of the way mobile phones have changed our lives. Here are a few stories looking at changes that you might not have thought about.

The End of Mail Delivery

Late last year, Canada's postal service announced that it would stop delivering mail to city homes over the next five years. * They also plan to substantially increase postal rates which will inevitably lead to fewer people posting anything. It may be a matter of time before Canada's postal service ceases to exist. Can Australia be far behind? There is already no home delivery in regional areas like the Kimberley. How long will it be before that is true for the rest of the country?

Big Brother is Watching You

  • At Newark Airport, the Lights Are On, and They're Watching You *
    "LED lighting systems that can observe people and gather data are being introduced worldwide, but some experts say there is potential for misuse."
    Note the word 'worldwide' above. that technology is coming to Australia if it's not here already.
  • N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers *
    "The agency has put software in thousands of computers that allows for surveillance and can also create a path for launching cyberattacks, according to documents, experts and officials."
    Everything you do on the internet is potentially visible to others. At what point will software allow them to monitor everyone all the time? It's coming.

Jobs in the Future

Many of the jobs that existed when most of the readers of this newsletter began work are gone or going. Others have appeared. What Machines Can't Do * asks, "What human skills will become more valuable as computers take over more and more duties?"
Ask yourself, was the existence of a large middle class and the availability of work for a half-decent wage for relatively unskilled people nothing more than a brief episode in our history? Are we doomed to a society of working poor like the one that exists in the USA?

The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World. *
"The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away."
It's not as bad in Australia, but it is happening here too. How long can it be before we get to a similar state?

Living Longer

Do you remember the Beatles song, When I'm Sixty-Four? A NY Times Op Ed piece by Roger Cohen, suggests that, "If the Beatles sang about getting old today, the age might need to be increased by a few decades. But radical life extension would take the world into dangerous territory." Science may be on the verge of giving at least some of us the ability to live well past 100 while keeping our health and fitness. Too good to resist, but what would it do to society? Would working to age 80 be a reasonable price to pay for being able to stay fit and healthy until age 100?

While on the subject of aging, Spider Drove a Taxi * is a short video that celebrates New York City's taxi drivers through the life of Johnnie Footman, known as Spider, who was the city's oldest cabby, still driving at age 90.

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South Africa

I made my first visit to South Africa in 1999 when apartheid was still fresh in peoples memories. I have been back many times since. I find it a fascinating country. Times have changed. Here are a few interesting stories from or about South Africa including a possible new trip.

Generation Born After Apartheid Sees Mandela's Fight as History *
"Those born after apartheid's end say their determination to look to the future and not the past is the greatest tribute they can pay Nelson Mandela."

There is an amazing Mandela sculpture in Howick KwaZulu-Natal South Africa. The sculpture is made up of 50 poles that symbolize the 50th Anniversary of his arrest in Howick KwaZulu-Natal. The poles range in height from 5 meters to 10 meters. When one walks through the poles, the practical pattern gives the effect of a gunshot which symbolizes the political uprising of the ANC . The Length of the sculpture is 20 meters. The front of the sculpture is a portrait of Mandela, it has vertical bars which represent his imprisonment. The portrait of Mandela can only be viewed at 35 meters from the front of the sculpture when all the poles line up. This gives a nod to the fact that Mandela was so hard to capture. Mandela was dubbed "the black pimpernel".

In a previous newsletter, I mentioned the wonderful Wellington Wine Walk I did on my trip to South Africa last year. Some of the people who created the Wine Walk have now created the Biosphere Breaker Way a three or five day tour which emphasised the incredible fynbos vegetation in southwest South Africa. I'm definitely going to try and include one of the two walks in a coming trip.

Somewhere during my last trip I read an article about how Afrikaans was losing its apartheid connotations and being embraced by a growing number of young blacks. I haven't been able to find the article but I did find a photo I took at the Afrikaans monument outside Paarl. Here's a quote.

"Afrikaans-speakers have initiated a variety of language and cultural projects to free Afrikaans from its apartheid connotations and to profile it as a language which belongs to everyone who speaks it. .... This liberating stance has prompted a revival of Afrikaans music, drama, literature, television and film, electronic and print media. .... The future of Afrikaans depends essentially on the degree of loyalty it enjoys from all of its speakers, their keenness towards the reconstruction of a non-racial Afrikaans social identity, and the eradication of racial thinking through a shared commitment towards protecting, promoting and empowering communities through Afrikaans."

I was left with the feeling that Afrikaans has more of a future than I'd once thought. I found it interesting that Afrikaans seems to be strongest in the Western Cape province where the people, black and white, seem to have more of a sense of optimism than elsewhere. It's also interesting that the Western Cape is the only province which is not run by the ANC.

The NY Times had an interesting op ed piece about the political situation and South Africa's Growing Pains. * Well worth a read if you are interested in the country.

That got me thinking about another trip to South Africa. The original 8 week trip won't run this year so I decided to create a shorter one concentrating on the Western Cape. If it runs, we won't need to carry tents on any of the walks. We might not even need to carry more than a day pack. If you think you might be interested in a trip like this, email us to let us know you are potentially interested.

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Animal Tales

Video: Flying Snakes *
An airborne serpent can be the stuff of nightmares or a delicious aerodynamic puzzle.

Yellow crazy ants are a major problem in Australia. They are a different genus to the tawny crazy ants shown in this video * but if they have anything like the same defence mechanism, it shows why they do so much damage.

The landscapes we see depend on the animals which inhabit them in ways we barely understand. Wolves change rivers is a short video showing how the presence of a top predator in one environment has had a dramatic and positive effect on the landscape.

Only in Australia. Friends playing is a short video of a rather unusual pair of friends playing together.

Dazzling Wildlife is a collection of beautiful wildlife photos. Well worth watching, especially if you are feeling stressed. There is a person in the second photo after the introduction. How would you like to be there?

London's Wild SideSBS recently showed this documentary on wildlife in London. I suspect it would be similar in most western cities. I enjoyed it. It should remain available at SBS On Demand until 7 June. "London is the ultimate urban environment - look out of the window, take a walk down the street, these views can be devoid of any natural life, with everything man-made. But looking again, with the right eyes, you can see that nature is actually here in abundance. This surprising film meets the people who have followed their own call of the wild to establish relationships with city animals, and encounters those creatures that have adapted to thrive in this urban jungle."

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Your Life in Jellybeans

Great Walks included an interesting video in one of their recent newsletters, The Time You Have in Jellybeans.

The video is American so it would be slightly different for Australians. It is only 2 min 44 sec in length. I think it puts our lives into perspective. At the end, it asks a good question, one that we need to ask ourselves more often. I hope you enjoy it.

On a somewhat similar theme, here's a wonderful clip from the BBC. While it is technically a commercial for the BBC, David Attenborough has something to say to us all.

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Just for Fun

Redrawing the map of Europe A light-hearted suggestion from The Economist. It's a pity we can't do things as easily as the short video suggests.

The Spanner Man. Who would have thought you could do so much with discarded spanners — or that anyone could collect so many of them.

A friend sent me an email entitled, Australian Idiot sightings. The seven short stories (a page and a half in total) are not only amusing, they are an indictment of our educational system.

For those of a certain age, you might want to remember the songs of your youth. Music Videos from the 50s & Early 60s. While I remembered many of the songs, I hadn't seen many of the videos. Enjoy.

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A Land of Flood and Drought

More than any other country, Australia is a land of flood and drought. Every bit of serious science about climate change which I've seen suggests that our extremes will get ever greater. (Cyclone Tracy which destroyed Darwin in 1974 was category 4. I hate to think what will happen if we ever get hit with a category 5.) Most of the following refer to America, but they give us a hint of what is certain to come — and, perhaps, a few things we might do to mitigate the effect of the inevitable.

  • Days of Desiccation *
    "California is a precursor of what could happen elsewhere if we think we can out-engineer a fevered planet."
  • The Dust Bowl Returns *
    "What happens when America's fruit basket becomes a desert? Pumping from aquifers is so intense that the ground in parts of the valley is sinking about a foot a year. Once aquifers compress, they can never fill with water again."
    Look in the supermarkets. Australia gets a lot of off-season produce from California. Drought there will have some effect on us here. Longer term, we're doing as or nearly as good a job at draining our aquifers as they are in America.
  • Exploiting California's Drought *
    "The crisis can prompt changes in crop selection and water use. 'Efficiency is imperative: The amount of water available is not going to increase. This drought may or may not be a result of climate change, but the area is likely to become warmer and drier as the effects of global warming increase.'"
    The same is true in Australia.
  • Agricultural exposure to water stress
    This is a graphic showing major crops under water stress around the world. It has links to various crops. Growing food needs water ... the world has a problem.
  • In February, New Scientist ran an article and an editorial about floods in the UK. They are beginning to realise that the only answer to some flooding will be to abandon those areas. We need to begin to consider the same.
    Editorial: Britons need to accept their new climate
    Article: UK must abandon or adapt in face of floods

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Hypercleanliness Kills

If you removed all of the bacteria which live inside you, you would die. That is a fact which too few people recognise. That lack of recognition has almost certainly led to our current plague of allergies, asthma and more.

The prestigious Mayo Clinic in America states "in children with asthma, exposure to germs is likely to do more harm than good." The quote is the final line on their page Does childhood exposure to germs help prevent asthma?.

SBS recently had a series called Life on Us. I found it fascinating. When I last checked, there were still a dozen live links on the page. Every one of them is worth watching.

Here are two quotes from an ABC Catalyst program. "In the last hundred years, we humans have been on a mission to search and destroy any bug or parasites that dares come near us. But given that we co-evolved with worms, some scientists now believe getting rid of them has created new problems." ... "...autoimmune diseases are twice as common as they were 40 years ago." That program went goes on to explain how some people are infecting themselves with hookworms in an attempt to alleviate or even cure coeliac disease. One of the SBS programs showed someone who had apparently been cured.

A certain degree of hygiene is essential but, having done a bit of research and having watched some of the programs in the links above, I am left with no doubt that parents who are too concerned about hygiene are doing their children as much damage as those who smoke in their presence.

While there is a lot of rubbish about this topic on the Web, there is a lot of good information there as well. I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who can give me good web links or stories on this topic which I can pass on in a future newsletter.

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Safely Ordering from Unknown Websites

if a web offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you've ever wondered if something is for real, the Scam Adviser website should be able to tell you whether or not a particular site is safe to order from.

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More on Your Health

Here are a few interesting stories that didn't fit elsewhere.

Rethinking Our 'Rights' to Dangerous Behaviors *
"An alliance of corporations, banks, marketers and others has essentially promoted and benefited from unhealthy lifestyles."

The Fat Drug *
"How humankind unwittingly joined an experiment on antibiotics and weight gain."

Old schooled: You never stop learning like a child is an article about learning and older people which appeared in New Scientist.
"The key to a spry mind in old age may be as simple as a walk in the park." Who knows what you can do if you really want to and try?

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The Economy — Just a Thought

Our economy, like almost all developed economies, seems to depend on more and more people spending more and more money they don't have on things they don't really need — in many cases on things they wouldn't even want if they hadn't been brainwashed by advertising.

Can that really be sustainable? Personally I doubt it. If I'm correct, it will be interesting to see the change when it finally begins.

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My Missing Nephew

In my last newsletter, I mentioned that my only nephew, Harry Devert, had gone missing in Mexico on 25 January. Since then, my sister has made a trip to Mexico trying to follow up some leads. Alas, nothing has come of any of them.

Many thanks to all who have expressed their concern. At this point there is not much more we can do than wait and grasp at any new rumour that we hear. For those who want to follow the saga, there are two Facebook pages.

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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.

Best wishes to all.
Russell Willis

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