Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Joanna PIII - Otways

Driving through the ranges, taking in the beauty of nature as it goes about it's business in the face of modern life & times.  The little things which show so much colour and will for life celebrating in their diversity of form provide for visual relief from the deep healthy green of the majestic ferns and fronds.

Cascading waterfalls zesting the air as the minute spray cleanses the air and soothes the soul.  Is this why we love them so much or is it the grandeur in their freedom of flow and timeless efforts to keep pushing ahead ?

Overcoming obstacles, finding new ways and bringing life and renewal wherever they go ... or maybe it is just that you might be thirsty !

Looking around and it is easy to see how vibrant the natural world is and how balanced it can be.  Now though such places are in themselves few and far between such that the Otways are one of the last great refuges for many Australian plants and animals.  In this 140,000 Ha sanctuary we find 97 rare and threatened species of flora and 77 rare and threatened fauna.  Among our furry friends are the elusive spotted tail Quoll, bandicoots, possums, Koalas, Kangaroos and more all guaranteed to bring wonder to the visitor from near and far.

Alas even here though we still see scars on the face of such beauty in the form of felled trees, their base still bearing the evidence of how simple and easy it is to destroy.  In a manner of hours something which has lived for 100's of years is brought to the earth to breath no more.

Given time to think about this and it starts to raise questions in my mind ... is there a sustainable way we can live and maintain these environmental qualities ?  What are the root causes and can we fix the system ? It seems we as a species are ingenious, dedicated and obsessed with improving our life in the obvious way through cars, houses, gadgets and such that we have become blind to the real value which we are destroying.  

 I guess when it is all said and done ... 

'life goes on'.  

But life would it be without these natural gifts and places ?

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Joanna PII - Otways

Named after Captain William Albany Otway in 1800 by Lt James Grant.  Grant was on his way to Sydney to hand over the 60 ton survey vessel ‘Lady Nelson’ to Mathew Flinders.

As fate would have it Grant was delayed on the way out and tasked to confirm the presence of a passage between Tasmania and the Australian mainland.

This he was able to do becoming the first European to navigate the entire passage West to East.  However lacking provisions and talent for serious survey work no detailed maps of the coastline were forthcoming, arriving in Sydney on the 16th Dec 1800 only to find Flinders had already left for England.

Sailing along the coast Grant would have been amazed at the beaches wriggling with seals, penguins, oceans brimming with fish, dolphins, and the air a haze of birdlife.  But possibly the most dramatic view would have been of the coastline itself.  Something straight out of the Jurassic Park movie set.  Steep sandstone cliffs rising in the air, paler limestone formations standing apostle like in defiance of the tempests which batter the southern coastline and vegetation dominated by giant flowering trees (Mountain Ash) dating back to the days of Gondwana kept company by sprawling stately tree ferns.  
Mountain Ash, Tree Fern lined road

A dense cacophony of life.

This is the Otways. 

More accurately this was the Otways.  Now 215 years later there have been a few changes.  Most notably extensive land clearing for a variety of purposes over varying time scales.  Consistent throughout and dating back to the 1840’s the desire for timber has had the biggest impact.  Initially harvested in response to gold rushes, fuel and construction materials in more recent times it has been clear felled as a source for woodchips.

Clear felling is the most destructive form of logging resulting in the decimation of the flora and fauna of the region, many of which exist only in this environmental refuge.  It is also said that logging in the area produced marginal if any benefits, socially or economically.  

Fortunately public concern and action led to a ban on such logging of native forest in 2008.  However plantations of pine (Pinus radiata) and blue gum (eucalyptus globulus) still dominate many vistas and contribute to catchment wide issues such as the spread of Myrtle Wilt Fungus and downstream water quality issues.

Having halted the destruction of native forest this was a win for the environment in the area however the industry is still lobbying strongly in other regions and there is now pressure mounting from investment in the dairy industry from overseas interests.
Pine Plantation on the Turtons Track, Otway Ranges

Dairy farming sprouted following the second world war when returned soldiers were offered parcels of land to transform into profitable farms under the ‘Soldier Settlement’ act.  Many failed but not before large areas were cleared and burned.  Since then farmers welfare has risen and fallen on the price of milk with recent times being particularly tough as a result of price wars between the major retail outlets.

Dairy Farm water trough and cleared pasture land
looking west across the Otway Ranges
Enter the overseas investors. Their catch cry is ‘increase efficiency’, ‘Increase productivity’ which usually translates to intensive farming practices.

SO what does the future hold for the Otways?  I don’t now but today is a beautiful day to explore!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Otway Ranges & Great Ocean Road 5th Feb 2015

Joanna P1

This weeks bright idea saw us go for a 2 day and 2 night camping trip around the Otway Ranges along the Great Ocean Road.  The destination was Johanna Beach which is an area which has claimed it's fair share of ship wrecks over the years and also a popular surf spot for established and not-so surfers. We were going there for the view and the history.

In order to do it though required an 11 pm departure from Melbourne (leaving after Trace finished a tour to Wilson’s Prom) and a 2 hour drive to our first camp site.  Not a big deal as I had all day to pack and was eager to get back out there.

So picking her up we made our way via Winchelsea, down though Deans Marsh, meeting up with the Great Ocean Road just east of Lorne.  A little bit concerning along the way was the rain and drizzle which didn’t seem to appreciate that we were on holiday and was making every effort to turn the normally relaxing winding roads into something of an adventure in their own right.

The idea of putting up a tent in the rain at 2 am was not something that was screaming appeal to either of us as we debated the merits of finding the first dry spot to erect our refuge. 

The initial plan to head straight to Johanna Beach was abandoned due to a moment of lucidness and realism and instead we set our sites on our own private little camp site right next to the GOR.

This site is something that seems to be a very well kept secret from just about everybody as there is never anyone there and it truly is in a remarkable place.  (Unfortunately I am not able to disclose its exact location however it is somewhere between here and there).

Pulling into our home for the night was a reward we both deserved and were greeted by dry skies and the lulling sound of waves breaking on the nearby beach. 

5 minutes to put the tent up, unroll the beds, brush the teeth and off to sleep ZZzzzzzzz

I'm Back :)

Long Time No ...

Well an apology is order I know.  Almost 12 months and nothing !  No pictures, no blog nothing!!

Well I guess that tells a story in itself.  If you had been following us on Facebook then you would have seen that we started our tour operations in Darwin last year and had a fantastic, albeit full on season which left us little time or energy for blogging that’s for sure.

The problem being that I am a Virgo ... which means I want to do everything perfect (including blogging) or not at all.  This required time and energy I did not have and to be straight up I would rather be out ‘doing’ than writing about it.

SO here I sit working out what kind of blog to do after so long.  How to catch up ? What to catch u ?  Should I catch up ?  And most important what can I do to try and make it so I don’t neglect it as I have done thus far and yet be worthwhile for all concerned.

My answer .... Randomness J

Trace and I lead a pretty random life and our adventures follow that schedule.  With this in mind I will be attempting to include bits and pieces of adventures when I get the chance.  Probably not full stories but enough to give you an idea of what’s going on.   If by chance you want the full story by all means give us a shout and presto !

So ... no catching up.

Simply here we are ...

Monday, 7 April 2014

Wet Season Waterfalls

Check out our website for more action www.ethicaladventures.com and Litchfield National Park Tours and Adventures.

So a few weeks back when I was up in Darwin for a quick visit we decided to check out Litchfield National Park and the Daly River Region to see what the wet season had done and is still doing to our favorite places.

Lee & Jenny had told us that the worst of the flooding was over next to the Daly and the river had retreated enough that maybe, just maybe the Barra would be on the bite .... so that was it.

Straight down to BCF we went and stocked up on lures and rods and advice from the professionals. This included lures that were near impossible to snag, rods for quick easy cast and lifelike cheribin lures which look good enough to cook up and eat myself.  And the word on the street ... keep to the deep.

Into the back of tGDM with it all, some provisions, music, smiles and we were off.

First stop was to check out Litchfield National Park.

Driving along the Stuart Highway the lush green grass tells the story of a good wet season.  So far we have had 1600 mm since Nov 1st 2013 which has had the usual effect of closing roads, washing away things that are transient such as bridges and pathways and turning the tap up on the waterfalls.

Humidity still in the 90's, air con on and life is good.  On approach to Wangi Falls we can see the usually controlled flow has gotten a bit excited.  Gushing over the top of the 84 m cliff are twins of white foaming joy which by the looks of it had caused quite the fuss in the area.

Checking out the vegetation on the fence lines, the scar levels on the trees  (where bark has been ripped off) and the consistent lean of most of the trees in the area and the indications are there that things got a bit wild recently.  

With the water level being still a bit high and the current pushing strongly through the vegetation Wangi has been fenced off to the public.  Too many people have drowned here over the years to take chances.  Of course there is also the possibility that a saltie has moved into the spot during the high water levels.  Time to move on.

Tolmer Falls ... the highest waterfall in the park (102 m) and home to a couple of endangered bat species (orange leaf nosed bat, ghost bats)  this area is best viewed from the lookout provided by national parks. From there we are greeted with more evidence of nature in action as the high flow cascades over the rocky lip to the deep forest fringed pool below.

From here we cruise past the tabletop wetland ... access closed (of course) and then to Buley and Florence.
Buley has changed.  The high flows have ripped out the tall shade tree at the top of the rockpools and cleared the path of the creek.  This has resulted in more water going down the left hand stream creating little rapids along the length of the rockpools.  Some appear to be a bit quick for a relaxing wallow whilst others are just right.  Something for everyone still.  Looking at the right hand stream feeding into the top pool and the the smaller one below and it is possible that as the season dries up it's recharge may also dry up.

Having braved the rapids and refreshed ourselves we head to Daly River (next post).

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

ethical adventure brochure & trip to St Bees Island

Check out our website for more action www.ethicaladventures.com and Litchfield National Park Tours and Adventures


Yes I know, it has been too long (again) since our  last post however hopefully you will forgive us.  
Time just seems to get away J

It is hard to believe that it is now almost April and we are ready to roll with our tours.  Vehicle is ready, itinerary is awesome, brochures are in the printers, business cards done, online marketing happening and the big one ....the website!  We finally finished it.  Made from all our own photos and built by us.  We are happy with it (www.ethicaladventures.com ) check it out and tell us what you think.

ethical adventures brochure page 1

ethicial adventures brochure page 2

And to top it all off we have our first booking!  Here we go!!!!!

But what have we been up to?

Well in between getting the business ready we have been back and forth to Melbourne, into NSW and even to Qld catching up with family, making business contacts and checking out opportunities for our environmental programs.

Last year our friends Jules and Bobby were visiting us in Darwin and they were contemplating a change in life.  Specifically they were thinking of leaving there comfortable existence in Armidale, NSW, pack up their bags and just go ... A fairly big step.  No destination in mind they were thinking it was perhaps time to go gypsy.  Having made the decision they looked online to see what sort of work was out there for people such as them and found an ad for a volunteer caretaker position on an island.

This sounded promising they thought.  Checked it out and applied and 2 months later they took up the role on St Bees Island.  Immediately on arrival we started getting messages of how lovely it was, how the wallabies are so cute, sunsets sublime, koalas, owls and ospreys and the list goes on.  They painted a picture of paradise with their words.  And now having been there we understand what they were talking about..

St Bees Island is found just of the Mackay Coast next to Keswick Island.  As part of the Cumberland group of islands it is in the southern part of the Whitsundays (home to Brampton and South Mole Islands) and as such is capable of getting cyclonic weather during the wetter season but for the main has a mild tropical climate.

At approximately 1000 ha it has woodlands, rainforests, grasslands, mangroves, reefs, streams and a variety of animals and plants within each ecotype but most importantly no deadly snakes!!!  Can you believe that? It is an amazing feeling to walk through long grass in the Australian bush in summer and NOT have to worry about snakes (little things make me happy).

Since 1920’s it has also been home to a healthy introduced Koala population which sprung up in the face of rampant hunting on the mainland and fear that the poor little critters would soon become extinct (luckily for them hunting ceased after the market for Koala fur dried up in America towards the end of the 1920's).  These now form the basis of ongoing research being conducted by San Diego Zoo and Qld NPWS.

Throughout settlement time St Bees has also had a private lease arrangement on the island which began back when the island was being used for farming purposes (1907).  The big things here were sheep, cattle and horses which it has been said were often swam from St Bees to Keswick for grazing and provided for the occasional feast for Mr Shark that lives nearby.  

Although the island is now a national park it is said that there still may be the odd cow getting around.  What is for certain is that there were thousands of goats running rampant on the island up until 2007 when they started culling them.  Although kinda cute goats are incredible forages and can completely denude any landscape if left unchecked (see islands of Norfolk) so they are now in drastic decline and the native eucalypts which the goats devastated are making a comeback ... more food for the Koalas also!

Unfortunately nothing ever is that simple and what appears to be happening on the island is weed species such as lantana and prickly pear are now spreading as the grazing pressure from goats has been removed. 

Enter QNPWS who along with the Koala research are now experimenting and implementing a fire management strategy which to date has shown remarkable success.

I did say a private lease arrangement exists.  Actually around 4 ha is private lease and the rest is national parks.  The leases have the title for another 20 years after which...?  And it is their interests that Jules and bob look after.

So what did we do with ourselves on what is essentially a deserted island? ... a day in the life ...

0600 open eyes and peer through the open doorway to the beach scene beyond from the comfort of my double bed ... wallabies grazing on the grass ... rays of light beginning to light up the bay

0700 get out of bed, wonder down to the centre house and catch up with bob & jules, breakfast on the beach ... the solitary seagull pays his respects...

0800 pack some supplies and head of into the hills for a half day explore ... koalas, tree snakes, lizards, goanna’s, owls, wallabies, roos, a couple of goats ... follow coastline back to base

1300 lunch with bob & Jules ... a bit of a read ... afternoon nap

1600 wonder down to the rocky section of the bay ... watch the fish as they swim by and the small sharks racing through the water and the little creatures of the sand.

1730 back at base for a couple of gin and tonics... sunset, dinner and starlight.... and a foot spa !!!

2100 ...zzzz

I don’t care what you say I would live on an island forever if I could. 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The wait is over !

Check out our website for more action www.ethicaladventures.com and Litchfield National Park Tours and Adventures.


After 4 years and many hiccups along the way we have finally got the 'Green Dream Machine' (tGDM) accredited as a tourist vehicle and can now take any and all on adventures if we so choose :)  For Ethical Adventures the season will begin in April 2014 !!!!!!

4x4, Sky Lights, Captain Seats, Dual Air Con ...
.... and all the rest...
'The Green Dream Machine'
Until then Trace and I have got a few adventures that we need to/want to do first.  Starting with last weekend when we headed out to Fogg Dam and Daly River for Trace's birthday.  She had told me that she just wanted to catch a Barra for her birthday and that was it ... what a girl ! So I thought that I would take her on a surprise fishing trip down to the world famous Barra spot of Daly River.  We have been down there a few times and pretty much fell in love with the place such that we will be trying to include it in some tour/adventure for EA in the future. Trace had met a lovely guy, Lee who worked at Casuarina pool some time ago and they got to talking and it turned out that he and his wife, Jenny had just started building a camp ground and caravan park down there.  From that point we have made it our mission to get down and visit as often as we can and enjoy their hospitality and fruits of their labor.

So this trip I had organised us to stay, and on birthday day it was 'pack your bags Trace for 2 days we are off on an adventure !'

Photo taken from Fogg Dam Wall with Lotus Lillies
and Spike Rush adorning the water
Needless to say she was pretty shocked as she thought we were just going to go for a day trip somewhere ... so off we went, firstly to our favorite bird watching place (Fogg Dam) for some viewings and walks and then to Daly River.

Fogg Dam is always interesting in that it is always changing.  Water levels rise and fall with the seasons which impacts on the type and number of birds that are present and what they get up to (more on Fogg Dam in another post) and also on the plant life.  It is incredibly rewarding to take a walk along the Rainforest Walk or Lily Walk and notice the changes.  Trees in fruit, flowers, growth ... all bring depth of appreciation and understanding for what was previously unknown. 

Buchanania obovata
Barringtonia acutangula
Some of the cool trees such as the Freshwater Mangrove (Barringtonia acutangula) and Green Plum (Buchanania obovata) are in flower and beginning to fruit, native bees getting around harvesting their bounty, lichens and fungus performing their role ... love that place !

Trace after the Barra !
From there, onto Daly River via Adelaide River township.  Took us about 2 hours before we were driving through the gates of Lee & Jenny's and the rest is all about us kicking back and doing that thing called ... relaxing :).  

For the record we will give a full account on Lee & Jenny's and Lee & Jenny themselves later on and of course details the results of the fishing :)  For now though I figure this is enough for one blogg ! 
Lee & Jennys Signage out front ...
tGDM in the background