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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 80, August 2015 — The Grand Finale Begins

If Willis's Walkabouts still exists in three years time, it will probably look very different than it does today. Read on.

Your beliefs are, in part, determined by your biology. If you want to challenge yourself and think about what you believe, read the section on belief below. I was glad I did.

It's back! In my May newsletter, I mentioned the video, Land of the Wandjinna. It has some amazing wildlife footage. It screened again on 9 august and will remain online until sometime on 23 August.

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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In this issue

Willis's Walkabouts — The Grand Finale Begins

It begins with Kakadu Easy Overnight Walks No. 2: 29 September - 5 October. I asked myself what would I most like to do for a second short overnight trip and this was it. The houseboat is there because it's something I truly enjoy and do far too seldom.

The Program

The Walkabouts trip list has looked much the same for nearly 20 years. There will be major changes. Every trip on that list is there because I enjoy doing it myself. But, times change, access rules change, what we are allowed to do changes. We have to change too.

I will do my best to run every trip which has bookings by the end of October. If you are interested in any particular trip, best to get in soon and make sure it stays in the program.

2016 — A Memorable Year

2016 will bring the 30th anniversary of the first trip I ran using the name Willis's Walkabouts.

I have already tied the record, but in 2016 I will become the oldest guide ever to lead a trip for Willis's Walkabouts.

While I remain amazingly fit for my age, I am my age. I am slowing down. (If you're really curious, browse the Darwin ParkRun website results page. You'll find me at #33.)

Combine all of the above and I've decided to try and make 2016 extra special.

It's Time

In the words of the song, link above, "It's time for freedom, It's time for moving, It's time to begin, Yes It's time"

In the words of Oliver Sacks, "There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends."

For 30 years, I have been blessed with being able to earn a living doing something I love. I have visited many wonderful places and met many wonderful people. I have lived a life that most people can only dream about. But the best parts of that life have come at a price.

In recent years, the price for continuing to run Willis's Walkabouts has been more and more of the office work which I have come to dislike. Worse, I am no longer doing that work as effectively as I should. It's time for a change. It's time to concentrate on the things I truly enjoy rather than paperwork. If that means phasing things down a level, so be it.


I was originally going to cram all the trips I most wanted to do into 2016. My list is too large so the Grand Finale will continue through 2017. In at least one case, if I can't get the permit I need to run a trip commercially, I'll do it on a share cost basis, possibly for as few as one other person.

I have no idea what the program will look like, but if I'm still fit enough to lead a few walks, it will contain those I most want to do.

I'll have more in the next newsletter or two.

2018 and Beyond

There is a succession plan. The details have yet to be worked out but unless something goes very wrong, Willis's Walkabouts will still exist but many of the things I do today will be being done by others. As to what the program will look like — only time can tell.

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Visit the NT & Win $1 Million

If you visit the NT and go fishing between October 2015 and February 2016, you could catch a fish worth a million dollars.

Join us on one of our Build Up or Wet season walks anytime from October through February and combine the walk with a bit of fishing and you might win as much as $1 million in a competition sponsored by the NT Government. See The Million Dollar Fish for details.

If you haven't seen it already, have a look at the Tourism NT commercial about the competition. There is only one fish that's worth a million, but there will be 75 others worth $10,000 each.

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Bushwalking, Happiness and a Peruvian Dream

Bushwalkng and Happiness

According to an article in the New Daily "money can actually buy happiness, provided you buy the right things. You just need to spend it wisely on worthwhile experiences, rather than shiny new things."

We offer experiences and memories to last a lifetime — at least that's what some of our clients from more than 20 years ago tell us today. For the full story, see Stop trying to be so happy. You should do this instead. We focus on what quickly fades, when we should be investing in the long term.

Peruvian Dream

On my recent trip to the Isdell River in the Kimberley, I was accompanied by Lani Imhof and Michael Smith, who shared the story of how a bushwalking holiday in South America turned into a life changing experience for them and for a Peruvian indigenous family.

Lani wrote a book about their experience. I bought a copy and was inspired by just how much difference they had made to the lives of the Peruvian family. I suspect that the benefits will eventually spread far beyond that one family. I bought the book and can heartily recommend it.

You can find more information on the Peruvian Dream Facebook page.

If you'd like to purchase the e-book, go to www.lulu.com or, for a print book contact Lani directly at laniimhof@gmail.com.

Note. All profits from the sale of the book go to the charity So They Can.

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Rock Hopping

Some of those who go on our trips have never walked off-trail before. We do have a series of pages which try and explain what is involved. We need to put more emphasis on some of these. They all need revision. Have a look the three below and see what I mean.

Can you help? Any suggestions as to revising the text would be most appreciated. I'm particularly keen on replacing the old rock hopping photos with larger ones. If you have any good photos of people walking on different types of terrain that you think might be suitable, please email them to me.


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Much of what you believe is determined by your biology.

According to an article in New Scientist earlier this year.

The full article is well worth reading.

It got me thinking about some of the problems facing our society and how some people can't seem to accept what science tells them. Reality conflicts with belief so it's reality that has to give way.

That led me to think about dysfunctional governments. We've got problems here in Australia but our problems pale into insignificance when compared to places like Greece or the USA. That led me to a piece that appeared in another issue of New Scientist, Think or Be Damned. One of the ideas is that "many civic institutions, built for a minimally networked world, are unfit for purpose." Again, it's worth a read and worth thinking about.

Morality is rooted in the way societies get their energy

That might seem a wild claim, but Ian Morris, the author of The unexpected origin of human values makes a good case. Read it through to the end. The science is there. Your children or grandchildren may live to see a world where our existing inequalities are nothing in comparison to what may come to pass.

Our brains aren't built to cope with a society as complex as ours

A recent Outside the Box from John Mauldin was titled Europe's Greek Tragedy. In it a Belgian medical doctor who brings a unique perspective to the problems facing Europe, problems which are "too complex to fix in any straightforward or dependable way." I will quote one paragraph in full to show how belief gets in the way of solutions.

"The final and most impactful cognitive deficit underpinning the crisis is the Dunning-Kruger effect, or the inability of people incapable of understanding the situation at hand to recognize their own incompetence. I do not mean to say that Europe's best and brightest are stupid; quite the opposite in fact. But their skills – and the skills of any human brain, however intelligent – are far outmatched by the complexity of Europe's contemporary problems, so much so that they cannot recognize their own limitations in forming a solution and consequently cannot counter the negative impact their unwarranted overconfidence has on European policy."

The points made in Europe's Greek Tragedy apply equally well to many of the problems we find in Australia and around the world. Until we are willing to elect politicians who are willing to admit that they don't have answers to every single question, many of our government's policies will be doomed to failure.

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Your Health

The most dangerous drug on the market

"The government's focus on ice and other hard drugs is misguided, say experts. Australia's 'most dangerous' drug can be cheaper than bottled water, deadlier than crystal meth and more socially destructive than cigarettes; it targets the young, the poor and the most addicted." It's so cheap because of successful lobbying by one industry group. What is it? Find out here.

Soft drinks — it's more than sugar that does the damage.

How soft drinks damage your body in just 60 minutes explains how sugary beverages start wreaking havoc on your health almost immediately after you drink them.

Supplements — What's in them?

If you live in America, the answer to the question is almost anything. What's in those supplements * shows how some of the most popular dietary supplements sold in America had none of the ingredients they were supposed to contain. If you've ever bought some sort of dietary supplement over the internet from America, you might not be getting what you are paying for.

Most supplements sold in Australia are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. I can't help but wonder if that will still be the case if Australia signs up to the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) which I've mentioned in a number of previous newsletters.


Allergy is an increasing problem in western societies. While we may be relatively safe from mislabeled dietary supplements, "there are no controls on alternative allergy treatments, and doctors have warned patients to approach unregulated practitioners with caution."


Sadly, you can't get the maximum benefit without working up a sweat. Here's a short video that shows you how you can get the most benefit with the least amount of time. 4x4 Interval Training.

Here's another interesting thought, Test of Strength: Fitness Apps vs. Personal Trainers. * "As technology starts pushing us to be healthier and fitter, apps like FitStar, Kiqplan and Hot5 are trying to replace personal trainers or even gyms."

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Our Australian Trips

Now Through January

With good bookings on some trips and not enough guides for others, I've had to cancel a number of trips which didn't have any bookings. There are now only five trips available before February.

Probable guides: Russell, Rod, Russell, Russell and Don.

February Onwards

Two Wet Season trips have bookings. There is no one else who can offer amazing trips like these.

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Kitty Genovese — Who?

The Good Samaritan is an endangered species. Here’s why.
"Up to 100 witnesses watched a man being brutally bashed in Melbourne and did nothing. This could be the new normal."

When I read the story above, my mind went racing back 50 years to an incident that showed the kind of society that America was becoming. Kitty Genovese was a young woman who was brutally murdered in New York in 1964. The original report, 37 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police, * was seen as a damning indictment of New York and American society. It later turned out that the report wasn't entirely accurate but, even so, it remains a defining moment in how America sees itself.

The Australian story which leads this section gives a number of reasons why people might not want to get involved. But we have to ask ourselves, if that's true of most of us, is this the kind of society in which we would like to live?

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Trans Pacific Partnership — The Saga Continues

The following is from an email I received from GetUp. This is an issue where they have my 100% support.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations recently stalled after delegates failed to reach a final deal. And can you believe it, one of the key bulwarks was our very own Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who refused to back down over the US' push to extend patents for medicines. 1

Public pressure is working, prompting parliamentarians to voice their opposition to parts of the deal — so much so that media commentators today are declaring the future of the TPP "utterly unpredictable". 2 What an incredible turn of events!

But despite recognising the risks posed by the TPP, Minister Robb is still intent on seeing this through to the bitter end, and will return to the negotiating table as soon as a date is set for the next ministerial meeting. 3 We can help ensure that before he does, he hears a clear message from within his party about the widespread opposition to this dirty deal.

To give credit where credit's due, Minister Robb has heard our concerns over increasing patents for medicines, a move that would risk "endangering the health of millions of people for decades to come". 4 He has ruled out any deal that would increase the price of medicines in Australia — however there are still lots of nasties left in the TPP mix, some of which might still be under wraps.

Lost in the last-minute debates about the price of medicine has been the even more serious assault on the public interest represented by Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses. We cannot allow multinational corporations to hold Australian governments to ransom over laws created to protect the public.

Off the back of Saturday's huge news, and as Minister Robb plans for the next round of negotiations, we can make sure he's feeling the heat from within his own party. Internal tensions are already simmering, with five National MPs threatening to cross the floor over the lack of access the deal offers Australian sugarcane farmers. 5 It seems MPs are wising up to the fact that the so-called "free trade" deal, isn't all it's been cracked up to be.

If you live in a Coalition held electoreate, can you take a minute to email your Coalition MP and ask them to put the Australian community before corporations?

A year ago, almost no one had heard about the TPP, now not a week goes by without it being mentioned in the headlines thanks to GetUp members, like you, and the amazing work being done behind the scenes by other groups.

The future of the TPP is hanging in the balance, now let's knock it off!

PS. In a timely twist of fate, the dangers of the TPP's nasty ISDS provisions are being played out right now. Tobacco-giant Phillip Morris is suing for compensation over Australia's plain-packaging laws, using an ISDS clause in an obscure Hong Kong-Australia trade deal. Our Government is spending $50 million defending them — that's more than three year's worth of anti-smoking ads. 6 This is the first time ISDS provisions have been used to sue an Australian government, but if the TPP passes, it's likely it won't be the last. Call on your MP to put a stop to it.

The failed talks were held on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Even in a small place like that, there were massive protests. Consumers in every single country that signs up will be losers. thankfully, more and more are coming to realise this.

My opinion — anyone who doesn't take the time to make some sort of protest, no matter how small that protest may be, has no right to complain about the increased prices and other costs that they will have to bear if it comes into effect. They have to accept that their inaction means that they should be happy to live in a world totally controlled by corporations rather than people.

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Technology — The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

The Good

Rapid improvements in energy storage systems will make acrimonious renewables arguments redundant. "Investment bank UBS has forecast that off-grid systems could compete with grid connections on price as soon as 2018."

Animal brains connected up to make mind-melded computer tells how "three monkey brains can control an avatar better than any single monkey. For the first time, a team has networked the brains of multiple animals to form a living computer that can perform tasks and solve problems. If human brains could be similarly connected, it might give us superhuman problem-solving abilities, and allow us to communicate abstract thoughts and experiences."

VPNs Dissolve National Boundaries Online, for Work and Movie-Watching * "A security technology meant to keep communications private is being used to do things like stream Netflix in countries where it is not available." People from overseas can use it to watch Australian TV programs which are not available in their countries. You can do the same for programs from other countries that are not available here.

Why SBS is the best place on television right now
"Ten reasons why SBS is the most watchable and interesting channel on the box, or laptop, or smart phone" — combine this with the previous item and my non-Australian readers can see for themselves.

The Bad

Can Students Have Too Much Tech? *
"The wired classroom may actually widen the learning gap."

Why you shouldn't upgrade to Windows 10

The cheap airline ‘trap’ that’s snaring travellers
"According to a recent investigation by consumer advocacy group CHOICE, the direct approach — and not the use of third-party websites — is the best way for finding the cheapest airfares."
"There were a significant number of times when it was actually more advantageous — in terms of price — to go direct to the airline."

The Ugly

Report Sees Weak Security in Cars' Wireless Systems *
"The report to be released by a senator's office also concludes that the majority of automakers do not have systems in place that can detect breaches or quickly respond to them."
Think about what it would be like to suddenly lose control of your car because the computers that run it had been hacked. now think what that would be like in a world where driverless cars are common.

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Finally, how could I possibly resist this — The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. If you are old enough to remember the movie and the theme, you owe it to yourself to click the link. If you're younger, it's still pretty good. It starts slowly but is worth watching to the end (5 minutes).

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Sex and Society

Searching for Sex * — People lie about it, but Google knows the truth. Read the article and you may get a few surprises.

Taking Risks in Love * — Put down the phone and treat romance as if it were a start-up.
"ignoring friends and colleagues is bad; doing so in romance is downright lethal. Technology has become a metastatic force for romantic distraction. One survey found that 70 percent of women said cellphones were interfering with their relationship. The culprit is not technology, but we who pursue virtual escape in place of real life."

From Pleasure to Sin is the first of a three-part series, in which the eminent theological historian, Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch explores how Christianity has shaped western attitudes to sex, gender and sexuality throughout history. Travelling from Israel to Greece, Italy and Ireland, he begins by showing how early Christians transformed sex from a biological necessity into a vice, from a pleasure into a sin. Even though Jesus Christ said very little about sex, Christianity soon promoted celibacy as the Christian ideal, turned sex into something dangerous and made even marriage second-best.

This episode is available at SBS On Demand until sometime on 30 August. The next two episoces screen on Sunday 23 August and Sunday 30 August. If you're at all curious as to how western attitudes toward sex arose, it's worth watching.

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In no particular order, here are a few things I found interesting.

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Living and Dying in an Aging World


We live in a finite world. At some point, the human population on this planet has to stop growing. if it didn't stop somewhere, eventually there wouldn't even be standing room. The question is when, not if. Does is stop while we still have bits of unspoiled nature left or do we concrete the planet and grow all our food in vats?

Bye-Bye, Baby * explains, "Birthrates are falling around the world. And that's O.K."

Many countries, including Australia, would now have declining populations if it were not for immigration. Can you guess which country now has the lowest birthrate? Hint — Japan now has the second lowest birthrate.

A steady birth rate, longer lifespans, and high net migration, have kept the estimated resident population increasing at 1.6 per cent per year on average in the past five years – roughly 400,000 more Aussies a year. So the hours-worked increase is not quite keeping pace.

We live in an aging society. The sooner we can accept that fact, the better off we'll be. Here are a few interesting quotes from an article about health care costs in a publication called Tech Digest.

Our government sort of gets this. On the one hand, the treasurer has called for more over 65s to keep working. On the other, he completely fails to recognise the obstacles which are in the way. The New Daily ran a story about this, Over-65s tell Joe Hockey: 'Get fair dinkum'. It notes that, "The over-65s get almost no access to workers' compensation and income protection insurance, and it's bothering them." I'm pleased to say that I'm quoted in that article.


Dying Shouldn't Be So Brutal *
"Where is the public outrage over needless suffering at the end of life?" If we treated our pets the way we treat some dying people, we'd be charged with an offence.

What would you do if you knew you were dying? Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. He says, "I am now face to face with dying. But I am not finished with living."

"I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming."

"This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands."

You can read his full essay My Own Life * here.

There is a lesson there for us all. We need to focus on the essential, on family and friends and not on the relatively unimportant things which take up so much of our time.

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Australia's North — Old and New

Old — The First Australians

New research gives more accurate dates as to when the first humans arrived in Australia. They did, of course, arrive in the north.

New — The Great Barrier Reef

It would appear that the government is considering spending taxpayer money on a project that would destroy a big part of the reef. Here's what you can do to object. I've made my opinion known. Will you do the same?

New — Develop the North

According to an article in The Conversation, "The recently released white paper on developing northern Australia ignores an elephant in the room: climate change. While the paper sees a bright future for the north (roads, rail, dams and food), without considering climate change we can’t be sure the north will even be liveable." For the full article see Climate: the elephant in the room for developing northern Australia.

The author makes a lot of good points about things that the white paper didn't consider, then he stuffs his argument with some bad statistics, "Darwin currently has an average of 56 days a year where maximum temperatures exceed 35C." According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Darwin currently averages only 11 days where the temperatgure gets to 35C or above. It has never reached 40. (I wouldn't be surprised to see that change.)

That got me curious as to how many 35C days the other capitals average. I went through the climate average tables on the Met Bureau website and came up with the following. It was a bit of a surprise. In descending order: Perth (27.4), Adelaide (14.0), Darwin (11.0), Melbourne (9.7), Canberra (5.4), Sydney (3.0), Hobart (1.2), Brisbane (0.8). Darwin's hinterlands may become too hot to be liveable, but the city itself is unlikely to get as many extremely hot days as some of the southern capitals.

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Photos & Videos

And finally Lost in the 50s tonight. I'm old enough to remember the 1950s. When I saw this, I immediately sent it to all my friends and relatives in America. As the person who sent it to me said, "Some of us 'Aussies' will remember some of this, those with American connections will remember a whole lot more, enjoy!!

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Epilogue — Closure?

Regular readers of this newsletter may remember the saga of my missing, later found murdered, nephew Harry Devert.

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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

While I now send most of the newsletters using MailChimp, I still send about 200 newsletters using a program which is hosted on the same server that hosts our website. In both cases, 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. Both MailChimp and the other program we use to send some of these newsletters have 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. One of the programs will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be sure that you are 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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