A taste of ‘The Apple Isle’

It’s known as ‘The Apple Isle’ and for those of you from around the world who don’t know, Tasmania is the little island at the bottom of Australia that’s the butt of quite a few mainland jokes and so often gets left off maps. Apparently it got the whole ‘Apple Isle’ name because for many years it was one of the biggest apple growers on the planet. But I wasn’t there for the apples, although I did eat a few while I was there and they were quite nice. No, as usual, I was there for the trail running and adventure.

Weirdly, while I’ve been to quite a few places around the world, there are still plenty of spots in my own home country of Australia that I’ve not yet visited – and Tasmania was one of those. There wasn’t really any good reason for not having been. I simply hadn’t gotten around to it. Especially since getting into this whole adventure lark, I’ve always thought it would be a pretty awesome place to go, but as is often the case, unless you have a specific prompt to go, it just never happens. The Tassie Trail Fest was my prompt to go. So I did.

As usual, my decision to go was a little last minute and I did precious little research on where specifically I’d be going and what else was around. I basically booked a flight, a car, and turned up figuring I could make the rest of it up as I went along. It’s a strategy that’s worked for me before but isn’t one I’d necessarily recommend.

The Trail Fest itself wasn’t due to start til Saturday, which meant I’d pencilled in Thursday and Friday as adventure days. Thursday I checked out the nearby Myrtle Forest Walk just outside of Weldborough before heading off to St Columba Falls and onto Ralphs Falls. It was my first taste of Tassie wilderness and I absolutely loved it.

St Columba Falls is considered one of Tasmania’s highest and most beautiful waterfalls. I have to say, it probably wasn’t one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen, but then, perhaps I’ve been a little spoiled with some of the spectacular falls I’ve seen in South East Asia. The forest along the way, however, was right up there. They say Platypuses live in the creeks there, although you’d need to be pretty lucky to spot one. You’d have to be even luckier to spot a Tasmanian Tiger – the icon of the Tassie Trail Fest. In days gone by, this area was their prime habitat but they’ve been listed as “presumed extinct” since 1986 – 50 years after the last one died at the local zoo. That hasn’t stopped there being thousands of sightings of them still, including one right there at St Columba Falls by a local ranger back in 1995. Locals are convinced they still live deep in the forests and I hope they’re right.

I may not have seen any platypus or Tasmanian Tigers, but I did get bitten on the back of the leg by something while sitting on a rock by the creek. It hurt like buggery and at the time, I was worried it was Tiger Snake because I am an idiot and a panic merchant at times. I imagined dying a slow and painful death, alone in the wilderness beside that beautiful creek. There’s probably worse ways to go, but it turns out it wasn’t a snake. Or a platypus. Or a Tasmanian Tiger.


Next stop was Ralph Falls – and even though the nasty weather was really starting to settle in by this point, I actually thought this 100m high ‘ribbon’ waterfall was much more spectacular making its way down some fairly decent cliffs. While clear, fine weather is usually what people wish for when they’re out and about, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned it’s that there can be real magic in ‘bad’ weather, and the mist rolling in made for an awesome photo before I had to tuck the camera away to keep it dry.

Ralphs Falls - magical weather!

On the way back to the car from the main lookout I found a turn off on the trail and followed it for a while to the top of the falls, but because I didn’t have a map and the trail was quite over grown, I got a bit sketched out and turned back after a while. OK, I confess, mostly I was worried about being bitten by another killer platypus. I now know it was a nice 4km loop trail and wish I’d done it. But when you’re in the middle of nowhere by yourself, without proper supplies, and scare of Tasmanian Tigers, the last thing you want to do is hit up a trail that goes for who knows how long and who knows where. One for next time!

Besides, with a trail marathon coming up on the Saturday I wasn’t wanting to put too many miles on the legs so I was happy to keep things pretty mild, do some short walks, and say ‘hi’ to a couple of very friendly echidnas along the way.

I spent that first night in one of the event’s luxury tents. It turned out they were so luxurious they came with their own water feature courtesy of 12+hours of relentless rain and a leaky roof. So in the early hours of the morning I was forced to abandon ship and stay warm and dry in my car. Ah yes, adventure comes in many shapes and forms, and sometimes when you least expect it.

On the Friday, again without any sort of plan, I just jumped in the car and headed off, coming across the Blue Tier Giant Trail – a forest trail to view some giant gum trees. Seemed as good an adventure option as any to me. It was raining, but I was rugged up in my ioMerino as usual, so I braved the elements and set off on what was supposed to be a short, easy walk. The Blue Tier Plateau is an exposed, sub-alpine plateau 600m above sea level and this particular walk goes through huge eucalypts, musk, myrtle, mosses, ferns, and a shit load of leeches. Not that anyone mentioned the leeches. And damn do I hate leeches.

I made it to the Blue Tier Giant without any issues. Just a bit wet. And this tree really is a giant. Perhaps not on the scale of the redwoods I’ve seen in the USA, but it is seriously big. In fact, it’s the widest living tree in Australia and takes 15 people to wrap their arms around it. I was 14 people short so didn’t bother trying to test that. instead I just stopped and took a few rain soaked pictures. Big mistake. As this probably gave some blood-sucking hitch-hikers the opportunity get on board. Half way back to my car, I felt the not unfamiliar bite of leeches on my legs and feet, and sure enough I was covered in the little bastards. If there was any good news, it’s that they weren’t killer platypuses. And they were the regular leeches and not the dreaded vampire Tiger Leeches that need a nuclear arsenal to remove. (All jokes aside, Tiger Leeches are a real thing. I googled and it tuns out Leeches are hermaphrodites and devoted parents. Which is kind of cool but I still hate them.) Can’t say I felt all that lucky at the time that I’d managed to pick up just regular leeches, standing on the side of the road, stripped down to my undies, standing in the rain, trying to pull them off my legs and pick them out of my pants, socks and shoes. Not a great look and not my favourite part of this whole adventure thing that’s for sure!

That night I relocated to the nearby Dorset Hotel in Derby. Considering the town of Derby has a population of around 200 it’s fair to say accommodation options there are fairly limited. And with 300+ trail runners and sundry hangers on hitting town for the Trail Fest, I was pretty lucky to find somewhere to sleep at all. After seeing the room, I’m not sure I’d necessarily consider myself lucky exactly, but at least it was dry. Full of spiders and about 30 years worth of cigarette smoke, but dry. I’ve stayed in some pretty shit places in my time, but this may well be the shittest. You never want to write terrible things in case the people you’re writing them about see them – awkward! But in this case, I think it’s fair to say there’s ‘Ye olde worlde charm’. And then there’s… whatever this was.  For anyone considering visiting Derby in the future, I can highly recommend never staying there. But hey, sometimes dodgy hotels are all part of the adventure and the sheets were clean(ish), the shower was warm, and Leonie the publican was actually pretty cool beneath her gruff, chain smoking exterior.

Intentions count. Chill out.

Jamie Oliver recently caused quite a stir by making what were deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ comments about breast feeding. Whether you love or hate him, Jamie’s done some fairly decent things out there in the world when it comes to making sure young people in particular, have access to decent food.

I’m not his biggest fan, so I can’t comment on the finer points of what he’s achieved over the years, but I can comment on intention. And while intention doesn’t count for everything, it does count for something, and I think it’s time people chilled out a bit. Not just over this, but lots of things.

If you spend more than a few seconds before you react to things, you could probably make your world, and the world in general, a lot better, happier place. I know outrage sells, but come on, let’s get real. It’s not difficult to tell the difference between someone who knowingly says or does something negative or that you don’t agree with, (think Donald Trump), and someone who does it somewhat unwittingly, even if they should know better. Sometimes even the best of us can let slip a poorly chosen word. Jamie included. And this is where intention comes in.

Intention is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card to shoot your mouth off without thinking and say whatever you want, but let’s not ignore it completely when things go a bit tits up. Pun intended.

I pose this challenge to you: before you launch at someone for something they’ve done or said, look past the words and at their intention. Whether it’s someone in the public eye, or someone you know personally, it’s usually pretty easy to tell what someone’s intention is. In Jamie’s case, a few poorly chosen words does not justify every man and his dog, or in this case every woman, getting stuck into him. By all means ask for clarity if you need it, but don’t get sucked into sinking the boot in for no good reason. And don’t let a few poorly chosen words overshadow what may actually be a predominantly good, useful and important message either.

These days we seem very quick indeed to look past the good, and to put a ridiculous amount of emphasis on the bad. Maybe it’s because a good rant gets such good traction on social media. Something everyone can join in on with calls to ‘burn the witch!’. Nothing like good old mob mentality. Whereas, for some unknown reason, there’s so much less glory in posting good vibes. Well, I say it’s time to chill out, recognize good intentions, maybe even have a bunch of your own, and keep the good vibes alive.


Footnote: Great to see some more balanced reporting out there in this article.

Is technology making us mean?

Technology has been the source of many amazing things. I can now fly to America in a day and eat bad airline food instead of sitting on a boat for months, eating bad boat food and getting scurvy. Technology allows me to connect with like minded people I would otherwise have never met, and share the joys of random, obscure things. And because of the wonders of modern technology I can send messages across the planet in an instant. It also allows me to be a complete and utter asshole to absolute strangers.

In days gone by, it would have been highly unlikely I would have walked up to a stranger, famous or otherwise, and abused them. I wouldn’t have done it for a number of reasons. Manners. Fear. Common decency. But like a lot of the commons, (common sense is in there also), it seems these character traits have gone the same way as fax machines and vinyl records. Technology seems to have made them somewhat redundant.

Back then, I would most likely have avoided someone I didn’t like and not spoken to them at all. It was good formula. And mum was right when she said “if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Sadly, now, that seems to be more a case of “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, not only say it, but shout it as loud as you possibly can, regardless of the consequences, and share it with the world.”

These days, it’s not at all unusual to unleash a tirade on anyone and everyone, for pretty much any reason at all, or none at all, on the internet. We’ve got technology to thank for that. Kim Kardashian? Watch out, there are any number of people out there who want to tell you what they really think of you. Taylor Swift? Complete and utter strangers have got some very unkind words headed in your direction too. In fact, you don’t have to look much further than ‘Celebrities Read Mean Tweets’ to see what a phenomena this is. And celebrities are just the tip of the unkind iceberg.

What I used to say to celebrities I didn’t like.

When I was younger I used to camp outside hotels to meet my favorite pop stars. It wasn’t a super common past time, I guess most people had better things to do. But for those of us who were big enough fans, we’d wait outside the hotel we assumed they were staying at – (it’s one advantage of coming from a small city where there was really only ever one or two hotels worthy of celebrity visits) – and you know what we’d do when they came along? We’d asked for autographs. And if we were really well off, snap a few photos on our pocket brownies. That’s it. But then, they were the celebrities we liked.

So what about the ones we didn’t like? Nothing. We didn’t wait for them so we could tell them how much we hated their last album. We didn’t write them letters saying how much we hated them personally. We didn’t do any of that. Because we weren’t mean. We weren’t assholes. If we were talking amongst friends, I suppose we’d say who we did and didn’t like and why, but we didn’t broadcast those feelings to the world. Or to that person directly. And you know why? Because we weren’t as mean and unkind as we are now.

Enter technology. And the golden age of unkindness.

Now, I know what you’re going to say, if those people put themselves out there, put themselves in the public eye, they deserve everything they get. Ah, why is that exactly? Surely it’s just as reasonable to suggest we should be kind to people? Whether they’re in movies, on TV, making music, designing fashion or the kid sitting at the desk in class next to you, why do we now feel so compelled to say mean things?

Technology has certainly made it easier, but then, technology has made it easier to have a coffee enema, and we’re not all rushing out to do that. Being an asshole isn’t mandatory.

Some will even justify it by saying they are entitled to their opinion. And, of course, they are. They are also entitled to keep it to themselves. Or stuff it in their ass. There is no obligation to share an opinion when all it does create negativity and misery.

A while back I was quite unkind to someone. Because let’s be honest here, just because I’m writing about this subject now like I’m the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa doe not mean I am immune to this condition. So I was quite unkind to someone, and even though it could be argued it was not altogether undeserved, it caused a lot of trouble. And a lot of heartache. Not only for that person, but also myself. And after much reflection, I came up with the following thought: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Now, to be fair, this is not likely to go down alongside “I have a dream” as one of the great and profound philosophical sayings of all time. But maybe it should. Let me say it again: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Let that sink in. Technology allows us to do many things that we were previously unable to do – but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Don’t be a dick pic.

We can send dick pics now without having to duck down to the local photo processing store, lodge a film, have the poor people who work there see the pictures come out of the developing machine, pop them in an envelope, and post them off to someone. Possibly even a stranger. So it’s much easier to do that now. Whack out the smart phone, whack out your bits, snap, send and voila! Instant asshole. But hey, just because we can send dick pics now, doesn’t mean we should.

You know all those barriers to doing it before? The fact you would likely not do it because it would mean other people would know what you are doing and you would likely feel embarrassed or uncomfortable? To the extent where you probably wouldn’t do it? Those things are clues. Clues that sending dick pics is not a decent thing to do. Even though you can.

And before you ask what the heck dick pics have to do with you when all you’re doing is giving your ‘opinion’ on Facebook, well, if you’re being unkind, it’s the literary equivalent of a dick pic. Except you’re the dick. No one asked for it. It’s not necessarily decent. And just as in days gone by when you would have had a few real world prompts that it was inappropriate, we should probably still recognise being an asshole is as out of fashion as it’s ever been.

I’m also not pitching mass compliance. It’s still OK to have different values. It’s still OK to be outraged by injustice. It’s also still OK to have manners and be polite and be decent and be kind. And it’s still not OK to not be all of those things.

Just because you don’t see the results of your actions doesn’t mean they don’t exist. We can’t see gravity, but we’re all pretty happy to accept that exists. (I’m sitting with my ass firmly planted in my seat courtesy of it right now.) Same goes with how people would react to your actions. Your words. You can’t see it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

What do your words say about you?

Next time you go to tweet or comment or whatever the next big thing is, I’d ask you to consider this simple notion: if the person you’re communicating with, or about, was your brother or sister or mother or father or son or daughter or any other loved one, how would you word your feedback? Would you be decent and kind? It’s highly likely that person, who is most likely, although I suppose these days not necessarily, a human being, is someone’s loved one. How do you think they feel? How do you think their loved ones feel? What do your unkind comments really communicate? Do they say something about what kind of person they are, or what kind of person you are?

And this: What are you actually hoping to achieve by saying mean things? Seriously. What? Are you challenging some monumental injustice? Are you affecting positive change in the world? Or are you just intentionally causing another human being heartache? And in the process showing the world you are mean. Unkind. An asshole.

I started by proposing that technology is making us mean. But you know what, let’s not shoot the messenger. Or in this case, Messenger. Or Twitter. Or Whatever. Technology isn’t the problem. Social Media isn’t the problem. The culture of celebrity isn’t the problem. It’s us. You and me. The ones who have set decency aside to take up the opportunity to broadcast our mean-ness. Yes, technology allows us to do that, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.