Sunday 23 December 2012

A Christmas Offering

With Christmas comes a bit of fun inspiration, I've spent the last couple of days working on this, I hope everyone likes it. For our international friends, feel free to ask for translations of the aussie terms used. :)
If you wish to share, please post a link to this Blog, do not copy and post elsewhere, if you decide to ignore this request then please make sure you keep my name attached.

Santa’s Aussie Saga

With all prepared for Christmas, Santa’s feeling rather bored,
He thought he’d treat the reindeer, with a holiday abroad.
A different view he’s craving, he’s tired of snow and ice,
He spins the globe, sticks a pin, and thinks; ‘Australia might be nice’.

He checks the weather, packs a bag, he’s set to go next morning,
A worldly man like him need read no trav’ller’s tips and warnings.
Reader, take heed if you should choose Down Under for your vacation,
For Santa’s pride will soon result in a costly education.

First to go was Blitzen, when he wandered off the track,
A big black spider, fangs agleam, landed heavy on his back.
Comet next as in the bush, Santa thought to stay
An Eastern Brown ambitiously chose venison for prey

A moment’s quiet for their loss, then to the sleigh made haste,
This bushland Aussies dearly love, clearly not his taste.
A change of scene this vast land, could surely still supply,
A sandy beach upon the coast was just the thing to try.

He lays a towel down on the sand, then strikes the native pose,
Beer resting on his belly, and zinc upon his nose.
The reindeer run off to explore, quick to get away,
A Speedo wearing Santa, a sight just too risqué

The cool blue waters first invited Dasher for a swim,
The only warning sign he got, a large and silent fin.
Cupid played with an octopus with pretty, bright blue rings,
And Dancer found a jelly fish, with a million barbs that sting.

The reindeer gather round at once, to break the fat guy’s slumber,
With a snort he wakes and stares, at their diminished number.
Four reindeer heave a sigh as to the sleigh once more they race,
Santa still not giving up, tries yet another place.

A river’s edge now, cool and calm, a shady bank to rest on,
And sporting at the waters’ edge, a quirky Aussie icon.
An otter’s body smooth and sleek, a bill just like a duck,
Webbed feet and beaver’s tail, it seemed a creature down on luck.

Such a strange and muddled animal, shows Mother Nature likes a joke,
But Rudolph wasn’t laughing, when a poisoned spur returned his poke.
Vixen folds down to the ground, feeling rather sick,
Her exploration of the coast, had found a paralysis tick.

The remaining two now glance around, feeling rather frightened,
‘To the city’! Santa cries, his mood once more has brightened.
They eye the sleigh, the two of them, feeling disconcerted,
Their choice is clear, still pull they must, or risk being deserted.

The city lights draw nearer, as through the air they trudge,
A maniacally jolly fat man, and two reindeer with a grudge.
Their landing in a laneway, a little rougher than was needed,
Our intrepid duo scarper off, Santa’s voice no longer heeded.

Santa gazes blankly round, decides there’s one thing left to do,
He wanders to a nearby pub to consult a beer or two.
The gathered locals listen on, as he pours out his woes,
And pretty soon he’s made firm friends with Dazza, Nev and Jo.

‘No worries mate’ they tell him, and ‘she’ll be right you’ll see’,
‘Just shout us all a few more rounds, you’ll find mateship comes for free’.
Morning comes with bleary eyes, and a pounding in his head,
‘Good onya mate’ Nev shouts out loud and leads him stagg’ring to the shed.

They all squeeze into Dazza’s ute, for the drive back into town.
They swear they won’t give up the search, till those pesky deer are found.
A rumour reaches Jodie’s ears, to a dark club they go together,
There’s Prancer dancing on the stage, with muscled men in leather.

News of Dona now they find, with a tale that’s just as grim,
He’s made friends with a union rep, there’ll be no more work from him.
Santa’s mood swings once again, as he realises he’s stuck,
Survival here, he begins to fear, is only down to luck.

‘Lighten up ya blouse’ says Nev, and lands a manly slap upon his back,
‘We’ll see my old mate Baz, he’s got a farm down Deadmans Track’.
So in the ute once more they go, stopping by for Santa’s sleigh,
Held down with a couple of ockies, it perches proudly in the tray.

They drive for hours in solitude, on the track with the ominous name,
It seems to him monotony might be how it got its fame.
The air is still, the dust is thick, the sun glares fiercely down,
Even the trees look dead to him, all in shades of grey or brown.

Then they crest a hill called ‘Devil’s Thrill’, with a view to set hearts racing,
Too late he sees their lunacy, with each in their own way bracing.
Jo wriggles back on Neville’s lap, her feet braced on the dash,
‘Yeeha’! They cry, and down they fly, he knows they’re going to crash.

From rock to rut, they bounce and bash, the pace is getting scary,
Flat ground at last, they slide and stop in front of ‘Bazza’s Dairy’.
With a resounding thwack, the ockies snap, the sleigh flies overhead,
While Santa pale and shaking, utters words best left unsaid.

They guide his shaky steps inside, and to keep him out of strife,
Leave him in the kitchen sipping tea with Bazza’s wife.
Odd sounds reach him now and then, there’s hammering and nailing,
Then they lead him out the front to see the great unveiling.

The crew stand round their handiwork, their chests swelling with pride,
‘We hope you don’t mind Santa, but we Aussied up your ride’.
Flames are painted down the sides, a sheepskin cover for his seat,
A stereo with 12 inch subs, and an esky by his feet.

But best by far, they’d rounded up replacements for his deer,
‘You beaudy mate’ shouts Dazza , as he handed him a beer.

So when you’re listening out for Santa, forget the sound of hooves o’erhead,
This year you’ll hear the bouncing thud of a dozen ‘roos instead.

Mel Hanley    ©2012

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Saturday 4 August 2012

I'm Back!!

We are defined by what we do, both by choice of occupation and by leisure activities. When there is a sudden restriction placed on our activities, we are affected not just by the lack of a favoured pasttime, but can feel like a large part of our lives, or of our self, is missing. With a long term back injury flaring up earlier in the year, plus some other health issues, it’s been a few months since I’ve been able to get on the water. Wayne, not to be upstaged has just had surgery with the removal of two discs and the fusion of three vertebrae. (He won the race to the neurosurgeon, going from consultation to surgery and then to a follow up visit with the surgeon coming up this week, while I am still waiting on a second appointment for my specialist with some slightly worrying MRI results that left me a number of interesting words to google J). While Wayne’s recovery is going well, and the outcome has been a lot better than we had hoped, it will be some time before he is allowed to do anything too active.
Without my weekly kayak fix I’ve realised just how big a part of my life it has become. My kayak, too long to fit in the garage, has its own room in the house, and has been sitting in silent judgement each time I pass it. While there have been many times I would have loved to go out, the simple inability to lift the kayak has left me spending the last few months pondering the question - just what do non-paddlers do with their time??
Sometimes, it seems that all the planets have aligned for once, and some opportunities cannot be passed up.  When you get a winter’s day that is sunny, pleasant, and with barely a hint of breeze, the call of the kayak just can’t be ignored, combine that with the fact that I actually made it through a week at work without aggravating my back and I just had to give it a shot. Wayne urging me to get out there and managing to sound only a little jealous helped too.

With the wonderfully intelligent street design in our suburb,
 I beat Wayne to the park.
A bit of interesting planning had to go into getting to the water, with both of us limited on lifting (Wayne can’t do any lifting, and I can’t lift anything above about hip height), there is no way we can currently get the boat onto the car’s roof-racks, so alternative plans had to be made. I was able to manoeuvre my boat onto a cart and out of the house, from here I was hoping the walk to the water would be manageable (distance is not too bad, and downhill all the way J). This would allow me to get to the water, but there is no possibility of fitting the cart into the Tahe’s tiny hatches. Solution - my gear was loaded into the car as usual, which gave me less to haul. I then walked my boat through the streets, while Wayne drove down to meet me at a park we used to use as a regular put-in when we lived a little closer to the water. Once I was set to go, the cart went back in the car with Wayne and he would come to meet me again later.
Absolute serenity! A perfect day for a return to the water.
 The moment I dipped my paddle in the water I felt like I had returned home. It was both reassuring and satisfying to feel the paddle finding the perfect angle as it entered and passed through the water, to feel the familiar, comforting rhythm of paddle-stroke and leg drive and to be able to gaze out at the sunlight dancing on the water. I have always loved paddling in winter, on most days you have the water pretty much to yourself and on a calm day, everything seems that little bit crisper and clearer.  With no offence intended to Wayne (he got me into kayaking and we have paddled together for many years) I love paddling alone, there is certainly enjoyment in paddling with the right people, but paddling alone is a very different experience and I enjoy it for so many reasons. Being out there on my own this time gave me a sense of reconnection with the natural world that I love. It is sometimes hard to explain to non-paddlers some of the things I love so much about kayaking. We have spent a lot of time walking lately as an alternative that we are both capable of, and while I love bushwalking and our walks on the amazing beaches we have nearby, as a walker I feel a little more like a spectator. Being in a kayak gives me a much stronger sense of connection, I am not just looking at a scene, I am part of the scene. I have heard it described as bushwalking on water, but I think there is something much stronger, much more personal to kayaking than bushwalking.
Wayne drove onward to surprise me as I passed a jetty shortly after my start,
 on my own after this.

I have found some interesting changes in my paddling since I started in Greenland rolling, I had always felt that kayak guides who insist on rolling during every trip were just showing off, but since spending so much time in the water rolling, sculling and generally having far more fun than you would expect to have just staying in one place, I have discovered that every time I’m paddling I have an overwhelming urge to roll. The water calls to me as I paddle, almost like a partner inviting me to dance and it can sometimes be a hard urge to resist. I realise how much of a disservice I was doing to a number of people over the years – they weren’t really showing off, rolling is just so much fun it’s a constant temptation to simply lean in and dance with the water. I resisted the urge this time, while nowhere near the temperatures our Canadian friends endure, the water is still a bit chillier than I like at this time of year.
About a hundred Cormorants who were occupying a rocky reef,
usually a favourite spot for Pelicans, but it seems to have been invaded.
I spent the next couple of hours being pleasantly reminded of so many of the things I love about kayaking. With no destination set, and knowing I would be nowhere near my former speed, I took the chance to just cruise and enjoy, stopping to take a few photos, or watching the many birds who seemed to have emerged in numbers to enjoy the spectacular day. My company included Ducks, Pelicans, Cormorants, Sea Gulls and Terns, a pair of Sooty Oyster Catchers watched me warily and gave their shrill cry as I paddled past their rocky perch and a pair of Black Swans surprised me as I rounded a small island and found them gliding along on glass smooth water in their own private little retreat. The call of a Whistling Kite drifted across the water, one of my favourite birds, but I had to be content with just its’ voice today as it remained out of sight. It was such an enjoyable day, even the unseasonal appearance of a pair of jetskis failed to annoy me. 
The breeze picked up as I headed back and I got to enjoy a very rare experience for me – a tale-wind (it doesn’t matter what the forecast, or where we are heading, we almost always get headwinds J).  I returned to the put-in feeling pleasantly fatigued, a few muscles reminding me that perhaps I’m a little out of shape, but not feeling too bad. The GPS reading gave me a modest 11.8km, a distance I would previously have scoffed at, but was quite happy with today. I also had the walk back to look forward to – did I mention that the walk to the water had been all downhill? Wayne played shuttle for my trolley and gear again, meeting me at the park once more and I admit to feeling just a little guilty after having so much fun while he can’t paddle, but it was just too good a day to let guilt spoil it.
Ready for the walk home - Uphill all the way :) 
The excitement of being back on the water and the enjoyment of such a perfect day has given me a new drive to get out there again, and nature has worked her magic and left me feeling a lot more positive.  I still have an upcoming appointment with my neurosurgeon, and have to hope for a simpler fix than Wayne’s dramatic surgery, but I intend getting back on the water as much as I can (and I’m sure Wayne will be joining me as soon as he’s allowed J). As they say, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and my time off the water has given me a much stronger appreciation for the many, many magical experiences I have had paddling over the years.
Of course, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom since my last post, we have still had our share of fun and I hope to make amends for my neglect on my blog with a bit of a catch up on some fun events in my next post. For those sitting at home making excuses about the weather, or too tired/lazy/busy – Get Out There! There will be times when you are unable to and you will regret every time you rolled over and slept in on a cold morning instead of getting your kayak fix J.
Some of my companions for the day.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Greenland Rolling Day

 When I first started exploring Greenland rolling and paddling skills it was purely for my own enjoyment. Initially, my goal was simply to get a more reliable roll, then I discovered just how much fun it was and I began pushing myself to learn more and more techniques, finding that the more I learned, the more it improved other paddling skills and added even more enjoyment to my paddling. My love for tradition and culture led me to explore further and I love learning more about Greenland and its surrounds and the culture that gave us the Kayak. My desire to learn more led to making contacts with other Greenland enthusiasts overseas, which in turn gave us the opportunity to participate in some amazing Greenland paddling events in Canada and Japan.
When I began that journey, my goal was simple – learn as much as I could in the short time I had so I could bring those skills home and continue working on my own progress. These events had some extra lessons in store for me, which I wasn’t expecting. What I encountered at each of the events made me realise Greenland style is about far more than just learning techniques. At each event, we made friends with an amazing group of people. There is a strong sense of community that goes with Greenland style, a friendly, open atmosphere that promotes a sharing of knowledge and experiences. It was the people, rather than just kayaking skills that made these events unforgettable.
In Australia, Greenland rolling or even just paddling with a stick is fairly new. There are certainly pioneers out there who have been doing their own thing for quite some time, but interest has been slow to grow. Instead of the open, sharing sense of community that we encountered overseas, we have scattered individuals or small groups practicing in relative isolation, with little or no contact with other enthusiasts and a somewhat dismissive attitude from other kayakers. My goals began to change, instead of just pursuing my own interest, I wanted to share the warm, friendly atmosphere we had encountered overseas, and see the growth of Greenland paddling in Australia in a positive way. There is of course the option to just sit back and complain about the attitudes of others, but complaining never changes anything. If I want things to change, I have to be willing to take action myself, and so I found myself facing some new and unexpected challenges.
I have always been a very private person, with a dislike of being in the public eye and a hatred of photos and videos of myself. With camera shyness and nervousness to combat, it has been an interesting journey J.
When we were approached by Mark Sundin of Expedition Kayaks with the idea of having a free Greenland rolling day, I thought it was a great idea and was more than willing to be involved. With Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson of Kayak Ways coming to Australia shortly, he thought it would be a good way to generate some interest and get more people to take advantage of the rare opportunity to train with some of the world’s best teachers. With Expedition Kayaks and Greenland Downunder teaming up for the event, we would be able to present a variety of techniques, share our own experiences of Greenland kayaking events, and hopefully see everyone have a lot of fun. It would seem our video clips, blogs, and incessant talking about Greenland rolling have caught people’s attention and I was very surprised when Mark told us a week or so before the event that some people were signing up just to come and see me, I was definitely feeling a bit nervous as the day approached.
Gathering on the beach
With a three hour drive to Sydney, we were off to an early start, loading boat and gear in the rain hoping the weather would improve as we drove north. It rained almost all the way, giving us some cause for concern, but it eased off as we neared our destination. We arrived to find a crowd already waiting on the beach, with more still coming. As we waited for the final arrivals, I spent some time chatting with a few people, surprised to find that there were some attending from as far away as Newcastle, with two people travelling all that way just to watch. It reminded me of the reasons why I travelled all the way to Canada, there are so few opportunities to even see Greenland rolling here. It was very humbling to know people had travelled so far just to see our little event.
With a few concerns about the weather and unfortunately, water quality (something we never suffer in Jervis Bay), we braved the conditions with 20 people in the water for three hours of rolling and fun. We began with a quick chat and an introduction from Rob Mercer, then it was into the water for a demonstration.
A great group of people
After injuring my back a month ago, I have not been able to practice as much as I would like. Feeling a little nervous, I plunged ahead with my demo, wanting to give everyone a good understanding of the basics as well as being able to show some of the more advanced rolls. While a few of the rolls felt a little stiffer than usual, all went well until I got to the elbow roll, one I have had a lot of fun with and have been very confident with, but this time just wasn’t going to happen. It is impossible to not feel disappointed when things don’t go to plan, but none of us are perfect, and I certainly don’t claim to be an expert yet. Having a roll fail before an audience is embarrassing, but I have seen some of the top names in Greenland rolling blow a roll and shrug it off, these things happen, mistakes keep us humble.
Rob and Mark helping with Balance Braces
After the demo and a couple of quick drills we hit the water, with Mark and Rob taking a group through balance braces and lay back rolls while Wayne and I took the remainder who were interested in forward finishes or working on specific rolls. With so many people working at different levels and with different goals, it was an interesting challenge to try and make sure everyone was getting something they wanted. I found myself alternating between standing in the water assisting people through their rolls and jumping in my boat to give quick demonstrations and explanations of details. It was great to see everyone having fun, trying out new rolls and running through their own repertoires. The last part of the session we spent helping with an assortment of rolls, from balance braces, to hand rolls and a variety in between. As everyone started to feel the cold, and with some feeling a little fatigued after repeated rolling, the crowd began to thin as people headed off to get dry and warm with the last few eager people taking those last few minutes to spend just a little more time on a few final rolls. Once out of the water, I spent a little time talking to people, happy to answer their questions about our experiences overseas, finding myself one of the last people off the beach. We quickly loaded the boat and gear as the rain made a re-appearance, then we joined everyone in the sailing club for some warm food and good company.
Rolling, rolling, rolling......
Thanks go to Rob Mercer and Mark Sundin of Expedition Kayaks, and to all who attended for a fun day. Good luck to everyone in their progress with their rolls, I am eagerly awaiting Cheri and Turner’s visit and look forward to taking advantage of their expertise, I strongly recommend everyone take this opportunity – they are amazing teachers and great people. Happy Rolling J
Cheri Perry, Maligiaq Padilla, myself, and Turner Wilson at Ontario Greenland Camp 2011

Friday 27 January 2012

Australia Day Fun!

We Aussies are a laid back bunch; to many outsiders, we have no sense of patriotism, a weird sense of humour, and take a greater sense of pride in our dangerous fauna than our country’s achievements. We look at the enthusiastically overt, flashy displays of patriotism put on by many other nations and respond with a ‘No worries mate, we’ll do it our way’. We do have our own quiet sense of patriotism and pride, but as with our people, it is laid back and fairly relaxed (unless you’re talking about cricket).
Australia Day is a day which does stir a bit of patriotism in most of us, and while there is still some debate over the choice of date for this day, for most of us it is simply a day to celebrate who we are. Unlike other public holidays, where it is perfectly acceptable to have ‘a bit of a bludge’, it has become an almost compulsory part of our culture to get out and do something you enjoy on Australia Day - no matter what the weather J If you’re not at least trying to do something fun, then you are running the risk of that ultimate insult – being un-Australian. Un-Australian includes many cultural faux pas such as - disliking lamb chops or vegemite, knowing the second verse of the national anthem, not scaring tourists with stories of drop bears and yowies or at least snakes spiders and crocs, not helping your mates when they need a hand, not using derogatory nick-names for your best mates, drinking foreign beer,.... to name just a few of our social complexities.
With national pride on the line, we had to go out and find some fun!
Common Australia Day activities include barbecues, back-yard cricket or days at the beach, usually in sweltering heat. Unfortunately, the day dawned rather dim and gloomy. We got up and it rained, had breakfast and it rained some more, spent the morning pottering about with some chores while the rain became sullen and moody alternating between light showers and heavy downpours. Finally deciding after lunch that the weather was not going to improve, we went and loaded the kayaks on the car (in the rain) and headed for the water. We decided to make it a rolling day – the rain wouldn’t be able to make us any wetter.
Living only a few minutes from St Georges Basin (an estuary lake open to the sea via a narrow inlet) has made us a bit lazy and ‘the Basin’ has become our favourite location for rolling sessions rather than driving the fifteen minutes that would take us to Jervis Bay (absolutely beautiful for paddling, but last time I took part in a rolling demo on the bay it was with wind, swell and the water was full of Blue Bottles – still a fun day but flat, calm, stinger free water also has its appeal). We cruised past Palm Beach as a possible location, not our usual spot but it has the advantage of a car park and some undercover facilities. As we approached, the rain began its real assault and for a moment we entertained the idea that this may not be the best of plans. Arriving at the park we found a few sorry looking groups of people huddled under shelters in the rain and wind, some scurrying to pack up their barbecues while making futile attempts to stay dry. A couple of die-hards were in swimming, determined to enjoy their day at the beach, but not looking too happy about it. We decided to drive on to our favourite spot a bit further round the Basin where we would be more sheltered from the wind. As we headed into the national park, we left the rain behind and found our favourite spot to be its usual secluded, calm little hide-away. 
With a trio of Black Swans gliding past, a Grey Heron hunting on the shore and a Pelican cruising the shallows, we felt like we were in a different world. The water called to us and with boats, tuiliks and paddles ready we were going to have some fun! Joined by our new Australia Day mascot, we spent over three hours rolling and playing with bracing, sculling, balance braces and lots more rolling. Playing with a camera mounted on my front deck allowed us to catch some of the fun on video, although after watching the clips, I do have to remind myself to smile occasionally when we film the rolls – really I am having fun!  I’m one of those people who really doesn’t like being in photos or videos, but as my interest in Greenland rolling and paddling has increased, video has been a great way to share with our friends overseas and pick up tips and advice from people who are more experienced, there has also been a bit of friendly rivalry with friends coming up with new techniques and variations and challenging others to try which is a lot of fun. I must admit, when Wayne first put a clip of me on Facebook, I instantly ordered him to take it down, I guess I’ve gotten a little more used to it now, but still need to work on it J
With no serious goals in mind for the day, it was a lot of fun just playing with different rolls and techniques. Recovering from a shoulder injury meant many of the forward finish rolls have been off my list for a while, with no pressure to actually get everything perfect, it felt good to just play with the techniques and get these working again. Towards the end of the day Wayne finally managed to pry me out of my boat and had his first turn in the Tahe Greenland, discovering very quickly that it is a much easier boat to balance brace than his high volume Aquanaut. Deciding to give myself a challenge, I tried out his boat for a while, playing with sculling, balance braces and a variety of rolls. While I have finally acquired a Tahe to make some of the more advanced rolls a little easier, I love being able to challenge myself and try different boats, the Aquanaut is a much higher volume boat than I am used to (and fitted out to suit Wayne) which gave it a very different feeling to roll and balance in, really making me concentrate on technique and not getting away with any of the short cuts that the Tahe allows.
A misty view across the 'Basin'.
With the light fading and our energy dwindling, we called it a day, having had more than our share of fun, playing and rolling and enjoying the amazing wildlife this beautiful location brings – a brief visit from a Stingaree, Sea Eagles soaring overhead, Black Cockatoos, Herons, Swans, Ducks, and ending the day with a lone Kangaroo hanging around quite close to our car as we quietly packed up.

I hope everyone else had a fantastic Australia Day!