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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 81, December 2015

Oops! I'm not sure what happened but we've lost some emails. If you didn't get a reply to something, please see below.

Most of this newsletter was written before the attacks in Paris. For an understanding you are unlikely to get from the mainstream press, see The Terror Attacks below.

There will be no escape. My trips have offered an escape from the wired world. That escape will soon disappear.

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.

Willis's Walkabouts logo

In this issue

Emails & Phone — What Did/Will Happen

Email — What Happened?

I don't know exactly what happened but I do know that some emails simply disappeared and others were magically transformed into copies of different emails. I use Windows Live as my main email but have a gmail address as a back up. I've managed to find some of the lost emails, but if I don't know what I'm looking for, I won't find it.

If you didn't get a reply to an email, please accept my apology and send it again.. The problem may have been going on for months before I noticed it.

Suggestions for a better email program are welcome. I'm happy to use something like gmail as a back up but want something I can have on my computer as well.

Phone — What Will Happen

While I can answer emails on an irregular basis when I'm overseas, I can't answer phone calls without a very expensive diversion. If I don't find someone to mind the office while I'm gone, the phone will be unattended for weeks at a time. In spite of the email hassles, email is a safer way to contact us than the telephone.

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Wet Season Walks

We can't run trips without advance bookings. Every wet season (December through March) trip, which doesn't have the bookings we need to guarantee departure by the first week in January, will be cancelled. Cancellations for the February ones will begin by 8 December.

Major Expeditions — Last Chance?

The four trips listed below are among the hardest and most rewarding we offer. The first three are now definite departures. Our advance purchase discounts still apply to all but the first. We don't know which, if any, of these we'll be able to offer after 2016.

Easy Trips — An Introduction

I put a lot of work into designing the itineraries for these two trips. Every one who has done the first has enjoyed it. The second has never run in its current form.

General Information

If you have ten or twenty minutes to spare and want a better idea of what walking in the Wet is really like, have a look at our Wet Season page. When you get to the bottom, click the link to the next page. When you get to the end of that, go to the third. The three pages should be enough to dispel some of the myths about what our wet season is really like.


I've used the last two posts on the Willis's Walkabouts Facebook page to promote some of our wet season trips. Click the 'see more' link for the full story. Click the photos for larger versions and information about each.

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Facebook & Social Media

People keep telling me that Willis's Walkabouts needs to be on Facebook. We are. They also tell me that I should be posting regularly but I can't see the point unless I feel that I have something to say. I made a number of posts in August, then one in October and one in November. My feeling is that posting every so often is fine but that turning it into something that becomes work isn't worth the possible business it might generate. My life is more than Facebook. I'd like to keep it that way.

Where will it end? I've seen one possible future and it scares me. Back in my January 2014 Newsletter I mentioned a book called The Circle by Dave Eggers. I finally got around to reading it a couple of months back. It foresees a future where almost everything you do is out there for anyone to see if they want to see it, a world in which a single company dominates everyone's lives whether or not they want to be involved, a world that believes

This is a book which should make everyone who reads it THINK. There are some things in that world which are far better than what we have now. But they come at a cost. Personally, I don't think that cost is worth the benefits. Read it and make up your own mind. I can't recommend it highly enough.


I have a profile on LinkedIn. I have it because I was told it was a good idea. I'm not looking for a job. I have very few jobs that I can offer. I don't know what I should be doing with it or why. Any suggestions?


Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and more. I'd rather spend more time travelling and in the bush than on line (one of the benefits of our trips is that you generally have no choice but to be off line for most of the time). But, if you can tell me why I should be using some other form of social media, sparingly as I don't want to spend a lot of time on anything new, I'd like to hear from you.

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Regrets and Happiness


Regrets, I've had a few, but then again too few to mention .....

When I look back on my life, there is almost nothing I've done that I've truly regretted. It's the things I never did. A study of 90-year-olds found that no one ever regretted anything they did. They just regretted the things they didn't do. (This is a quote from the end of an article in the NY Times Alexa von Tobel of LearnVest: No, Really, What's Your Weakness? * I haven't been able to find the original reference.)

The New Daily recently had an article on The five things people most regret in life. You only have one life. Have a read and see whether your current path will leave you with those same regrets.


Everyone wants to be happy but some are much better at it than others. Here are two interesting articles that might help you get there.

Finding happiness down to three key things. A 15 year survey found out that there is a formula for happiness and the major ingredients are within reach for most people who seek them out.

The Small, Happy Life * is an op ed piece in the NY Times where the author asked people about happiness. "In this first batch of personal takes on how some readers found purpose in life, a surprising theme emerged."

Surprise! Generation Babyless. "The rising generation of kidless couples might be onto something. They've chosen to stay childless and research shows they're happier than couples with kids.

A final point, attributed to Confucius, "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

As for me, at least as I look back on my life, I can honestly say, "I did it my way."

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The TPP — Trans Pacific Partnership

The text of the TPP has finally been released to the public. It's almost as bad as I thought.

There is a wealth of additional information on the GetUp Dirtiest Deal Ever page. There is even a very simple petition to Parliament you can sign. "To the members and senators of the Australian Parliament,
We call on you to stand up for Australian democracy and stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership."

For what it's worth, I've signed the petition and sent emails to both Labor and the Coalition saying that I'd support either if they opposed ratification.

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Our Other Australian Trips

Our 2016 Trip List Will Change

Our regularly updated PDF trip list lists every Australian trip we offer.

The regularly updated Availability & Specials page lists every trip which already has at least one booking. I will do my best to run every trip that makes it there, but any trip not on that list may be cancelled with no notice.

My 2015 experimental trips went well. I will include similar trips at a more realistic price in 2015. To do that, something will have to go.

We have issues with access in some areas. Trying to overcome these problems takes time. If no one is interested early on, I feel that I can use my time better on other things.

So .... If there is any trip that particularly interests you, get your name down as soon as possible or it might disappear and you'll miss out. Not sure what's on offer? Check it out. The dates on the tour pages are correct but some of the detailed pages haven't yet been updated for 2016.


  1. The overseas trip list is way out of date. Major revisions underway.
  2. You can always see which trips already have bookings on our Availability and Specials page.
  3. After a year of no response, I may simply give up and drop all the Mitchell Plateau trips. I will, however, replace at least one with a special trip into the Moran and/or Roe River areas in the Prince Regent Nature Reserve.
  4. One trip needs a special mention. Karijini National Park: 3-16 April.
    Special offer. I'll extend the 20% advance purchase discount for two weeks following the date this newsletter goes out.
    This trip takes you to one of Australia's most remote and spectacular gorge systems. We'll have to confirm or cancel by mid January.

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American Politics

American politics is almost incomprehensible to an outsider. Even though I grew up there, I struggle to understand everything that's going on. The Crisis of the Well-Crafted Candidate explains the phenomenon of Trump and Sanders.

If Americans are as sick of the current system as they seem to be, the next president just might be neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Personally, with the right candidate,I think that would be good for the US and the world.

Whether you agree with him or not, you can't call Newt Gingrich stupid. Earlier this year he wrote some interesting articles about what's happening with politics in America. When Americans see their system as more corrupt than the Russians see theirs, something has to give. If you want to try and make sense of America, I highly recommend these.

Is there a message here for Australia? Perhaps not yet, but I would not be surprised to see a similar strong, anti-establishment movement erupting in the not-too-distant future.

Finally, here's a somewhat different view from Germany. The sky's the limit when it comes to the United States' campaign finance system. "Increasingly, the country's richest sector is gaining influence and control over America's politicals. The development threatens the country's once proud democracy." This article doesn't, however, explain the rise of Bernie Sanders on the left. He remains a very long shot, but he does have a chance.

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A majority of Australians are descended from people who came over from Europe. We still have substantial economic ties there. Europe is big enough so things that happen there affect us here. Here are a few interesting things to think about.

Australians begin to get worried when a few hundred asylum seekers land on our shores. Think what it is like in Europe where they are arriving by the hundred thousand. The Schengen Agreement eliminated border controls between its signatories and created a common visa policy for 26 countries. Times are changing as explained in Europe Rethinks the Schengen Agreement. (The agreement eliminated border controls between member states.) This article was written before the terror attacks in Paris. The agreement has to be under even more strain now.

The political scene is changing. Euroskeptic parties are on the rise. This brings us to The Next Phase of European Power Politics.


Our societies are a product of our history. Pondering Hitler's Legacy is one of the most thought provoking pieces I've read in recent times.

The author states, "After 76 years, it seems appropriate to try to figure out what Hitler and the war he initiated genuinely changed in the world. This is not an easy question, because to arrive at an answer I had to dismiss from my mind the many acts of gratuitous evil that he committed. It is hard to dismiss those, but in a sense they left little legacy to the world except for the realization that civilization is a thin layer over humanity's beastly savagery. But truly, we didn't have to have Hitler to learn that. We humans have always sensed what is beneath our surface."

"Almost all of the consequences of his war were unexpected."

This is an article that makes you think.

Changing Times

The Terror Attacks

Most of this newsletter had been written before the Paris attacks. The mind set of those doing the attacking is beyond the comprehension of most westerners. Our immediate reactions may cause more harm than good.

A final thought about where the danger really lies. "Islamic fundamentalism was not the main cause of terrorism in the West over the last nine years. Eighty per cent of deaths by lone wolf terrorists in the West were driven by right wing extremism, nationalism, antigovernment sentiment and political extremism and other forms of supremacy." That quote is from the 2015 Global Terrorism Index. The link gives you a nice overview. The actual quote is from page 7 in the longer PDF report, link at the top right of the link above.

Wild Europe

There are wilder parts of Europe than I realised a few years ago. I hope to run more trips there in future, beginning with my Scandinavian Christmas trip next year. More on that later.

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Our Overseas Trips

We've now almost finalised our overseas trips for 2016.

Note. None of the discounts which apply to our Australian trips apply to any of our overseas trips.

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Sex and Society

After the last newsletter, I found two more articles definitely worth including.

The World's Problem With Sex Ed *
Disputes over teaching kids about their bodies are only growing. "Enthusiasts of globalisation often confuse it with liberalization. As people and ideas move around the world, the argument goes, ideals of individual liberty will replace the strictures of inherited tradition.
"The story of sex ed suggests otherwise. Globalisation has served to curtail rather than expand school-based sexual instruction. The more the world has become interconnected, the more sex ed has come under attack."

Australia is one of many countries which have an aging population. if it weren't for immigration, our population would be declining. Based on current trends, we may find ourselves in a situation like Denmark where government sponsored ads encourage mums to pay for their kids' sex holidays so that they will be more likely to produce grandchildren. Make sure you click the link and look at the ad.

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Mining the Sea

Drilling for Oil in the Great Australian Bight

BP wants to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. Here's some information from the Wilderness Society about what's happening. Their permit application has been knocked back — for now. Read on and see what could happen in future.

"Just recently, the oil giant submitted its drilling plan. This plan is meant to clearly address all of the impacts drilling could have including what would happen in the event of a spill. The problem is, it doesn't."

"We know that BP has conducted oil spill modelling, but it's refusing to release it. If something like the Gulf of Mexico disaster happens in the Bight, we need to know what BP's plans are for the whales, dolphins, turtles, fish, birds and other marine life that rely on its clean waters." Don't forget the people who earn their living catching fish to put on your table.

"Without seeing the scope of an oil spill, how can we determine the risks? So we've taken the initiative by commissioning an independent scientist to model detailed potential spill scenarios —: because everyone should know the risks. And the results are in; the impact of a spill would be far-reaching and devastating."

"Please watch the video and share it with your friends and family. Together, we can protect the Great Australian Bight from deep sea oil drilling."

The War on Fish

When Humans Declared War on Fish * tells how, "Victory in 1945 meant a new era of violence against ocean life." Unless something changes and changes soon, the wild-caught fisheries industry is doomed to collapse.

Recreational Fishing

In the last newsletter, I mentioned a million dollar fishing competition being run by the NT Government. Since then, several of the $10,000 fish has been caught but the big one and most of the rest are still out there.

Recently NT Fisheries released a new mobile app called NT Fishing Mate, available on both iOS and android platforms. NT Fishing Mate offers anglers a user friendly, one stop shop for information on everything from fish species and possession limits, to restriction zones. Download it now at the Google store or at the Apple store.

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Your Health

Your Diet


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Technology — Good or Bad, It Affects You

Your Phone

There Will Be No Escape

Turn your smart phone into a sat phone describes a new device that can turn some smart phones into sat phones. Now you'll be able to be online all the time anywhere in the world. Useful yes, but once people start bringing them along, it will change the nature of our trips.

Your Identity

Robots and Jobs

In no particular order, five interesting articles.


The invisible network that keeps the world running
"One of the world's most dazzling engineering feats is largely hidden from view. Travelling with a group called Unknown Fields, Tim Maughan stepped on board a container ship to investigate the humungous, algorithmically-controlled network that supplies most of what you own."

This is the short description of the technology that keeps the world's economy running. I can't help but wonder what would happen if someone hacked the system.

Science Myths

It Is, in Fact, Rocket Science *
"Why do we reduce great discoveries to epiphany myths?"
"The mythical stories we tell about our heroes are always more romantic and often more palatable than the truth. But in science, at least, they are destructive, in that they promote false conceptions of the evolution of scientific thought."
"The negative effects of today's ubiquitous media 'include a need for instant gratification.' The Darwin, Newton and Hawking of the myths received that instant gratification. The real scientists did not, and real people seldom do."

While on the subject of science, I couldn't resist this. Try this Science quiz for fun. The average score of the 3,500 American adult respondents was eight out of 12. How do you compare?

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Our Society


Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. "According to a Gallup poll from November 2014, despite dramatic declines in the nation's violent crime rate, a majority of Americans say "there is more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago." The reality is that, in America, "the national crime rate is about half of what it was at its height in 1991. Violent crime has fallen by 51 percent since 1991, and property crime by 43 percent. In 2013 the violent crime rate was the lowest since 1970." That's not the message you get from watching TV or reading a newspaper. Read more at
America's Faulty Perception of Crime Rates or, if you are really keen,
check out the actual statistics. I suspect that the situation is very similar here in Australia.

Fear in Australia

Fear is affecting the trips I can offer. That's why I had problems with my January Kakadu Super Circle. That's why some of the trips we now offer may soon be a thing of the past. When I told a friend who has a long-time association with the tourist industry what was happening, he said, "I think you're right about the absurd level of risk avoidance but it's not helped by the Australian way of wanting to blame someone for everything that ever happens. Nothing is just bad luck any more. I am certainly glad I am not setting out in business in our industry today. It would be quite boring compared to 30 or so years ago eh!" Who knows, if different authorities keep getting more and more risk averse, maybe the only way I'll be able to continue to offer truly adventurous trips will be by going overseas.

Fear and Children

The Case for Free-Range Parenting * asks, "Why are Americans so afraid to give their kids room to roam?" It gives an example of just how extreme things have become.
"Just take the case of 10-year-old Rafi and 6-year-old Dvora Meitiv, siblings in Silver Spring, Md., who were picked up in December by the police because their parents had dared to allow them to walk home from the park alone. For trying to make them more independent, their parents were found guilty by the state's Child Protective Services of 'unsubstantiated child neglect.' What had been the norm a generation ago, that kids would enjoy a measure of autonomy after school, is now seen as almost a crime."
It's not quite as bad in Australia .... not quite. But we are allowing our fears to create a generation who will find it very difficult to cope with the world in which they find themselves.

Contrast this to the situation in Japan. Why Japanese Kids Can Walk to School Alone explains how, "Even in big cities like Tokyo, small children take the subway and run errands by themselves." Japan has problems but raising a generation terrified of their own neighbourhoods isn't one of them.

It gets worse. In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas * explains how, "Universities, rather than being forums for free expression, are encouraging "safe spaces" to protect delicate sensibilities." We are creating a generation scared of everything, unwilling to confront ideas that take them our of their comfort zone. The real world is messy. It is full of things that we may not like. If we can't cope, someone else will.

Social Media — The Downsides


The need to stay connected at all times and inability to tolerate anything that might be considered as boring leads to some remarkable results. Shocking but true: students prefer jolt of pain to being made to sit and think.

According to an article in New Scientist Being bored is stimulating — and useful, too . If we raise a generation who can't tolerate any degree of boredom, our society will pay for it later.

An Aging Society

We live in an aging society. We also live at a time when medical breakthroughs are hinting that it might be possible to add another 10, 20 or more productive years to our lives. The implications are staggering. Life Extension, Culture, and Politics begins, "Though we can only guess at the cultural impacts of societal aging, Iím quite sure they will be manifold and enormous." One simple example, if people start living longer, the money they have put aside for retirement isn't going to last unless they keep working well after the current retirement age.

Financial Insecurity

Middle Class, but Feeling Economically Insecure * explains how, "A perspective that was once characterized by comfort and optimism has increasingly been overlaid with stress and anxiety." The article is about America. We are far better off but if real estate prices were to suffer a drop like they did in the US, things would look a lot different.

America's middle class: Poorer than you think begins with a graph comparing average and median (half above, half below) wealth in different countries. The closer the two figures are, the fairer the society. Australia looks pretty good on both measures. America looks pretty poor on the median figure. If you go about half way down the page, you'll see why we look so good — real estate and superannuation. Most super funds have a lot of money in the share market so if that were to drop the way it did in 2008, things would look a lot worse. The same is true for real estate. It's been something like 25 years since our last recession. Sooner or later we'll get one. I wonder what it will look like.

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Photos & Videos

Amazing photos. Looking at photos like these always makes me feel good — and gives me ideas for new places I should go to and others I should revisit.

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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.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, to you all!!
Russell Willis

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