Welcome to Elwyn's blog!
This contains a selection of my writing and photos from a number of trips I've made around the world.
The Avon Descent is a two day kayak and powerboat whitewater event on the Avon River and Swan River near Perth in Western Australia. It starts in Northam and finishes just east of the city of Perth. The most spectacular day of the event is on the second day when most of the rapids are tackled.
We went to Bells Rapids to watch the action. Bells Rapids are the last whitewater obstacle before 30km of flatwater before the finish line in Bayswater. Our timing was perfect as the leading kayakers came through the rapids around 15 minutes after we arrived and around three hours after their early morning start. The leading paddlers made the rapids look easy.
As more paddlers attempted the rapids, there were more capsizes. The Avon Descent support crew did a great job of helping people out when required and everyone we saw made it on to the flatwater and the long paddle to the finish.
One pair of kayaks managed to get their rudders tangled across the rapids which blocked the river for other competitors. Fortunately the rescue crew managed to untangle their rudders and both competitors continued down the river.
The powercraft started to come down the rapids but fortunately most of the paddlers had finished the rapids.
We then drove down to the finish at Bayswater to see the finish line. The competitors enjoyed perfect weather and the high river level.
Plenty more photos are in the photo gallery at http://elly.net.au/avon-descent-2014 and in the slideshow below. Enjoy!
I spent most of June in Melbourne for my new job. Fortunately there was time for some sightseeing too. I'd travelled through Melbourne airport on a number of occasions before but hadn't actually seen much of Melbourne itself.
As Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia, naturally I had to attend some sports events.
The National Sports Museum is part of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I had enough time before the football game at the MCG to have a look in the museum. It has a large number of significant sports memorabilia which I was amazed to see in such a small area. The Australian Cricket Hall of Fame is also held here.
The Fremantle Dockers had travelled from Western Australia to play the Richmond Tigers at the MCG. If you don't recognise those names, you probably aren't familiar with Australian Rules Football. The Australian Football League originated in Victoria so there are many suburbs of Melbourne with their own AFL clubs. For example, Richmond, Carlton, Essendon, Footscray and Collingwood.
The Fremantle vs Richmond game was a good one since the Dockers managed a win. By a fluke my ticket was at the right end of the ground amongst the Dockers supporters which made it easier. The MCG can hold almost 100,000 people so it seemed relatively empty with a crowd of about 25,000.
Etihad Stadium was next on my sports agenda to watch the Wallabies vs France rugby game. Etihad Stadium is much newer than the MCG and has a well designed layout so all spectators have a good view of the whole ground. There were a surprising number of French supporters. The game itself was quite boring, only a 6-0 scoreline and no tries. Still, it was good to visit the ground.
We visited a rooftop bar to have a view across the city after the rugby and soak up some Saturday night atmosphere.
Melbourne is also famous for its art. I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the "Italian Masterpieces" exhibition. Many pieces on display hadn't been seen outside of Europe before.
I had a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens. These are well-kept gardens have some relatively fresh air and peace in the middle of the city.
I had a look at the South Wharf, past the Crown Casino. There were plenty of factory outlet shops but I restrained myself and didn't buy too much :-)
More photos of Melbourne are available in the photo gallery.
We went for a sail on the Swan River in Perth today. This photo was taken from King's Park.
A cold front passed over Perth only an hour after we finished, including a water spout over the South Mole in Fremantle. It was definitely worthwhile starting sailing at 8am!
The Bernese Oberland in Switzerland is the home of Europe's largest glaciers. I signed up for a week-long high altitude trek across these mountains. The Bernese Oberland is part of the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch World Heritage Site and therefore includes some stunning scenery.
I managed to catch measles during June 2013, right in the middle of my pre-trip fitness training. This laid me low for a few weeks to the point where I struggled even to walk up a flight of stairs. I was determined to keep my booking and get fit for the challenging trek. I was nervous that I hadn't done enough training prior to the trip when I departed the UK.
After a short flight from London, the ever efficient Swiss trains provided great views across the Alps during the journey from Zurich. I met my trip companions in Kandersteg, a small mountain town near Interlaken. We met our guide and prepared for the week-long trek departing early the next morning. All our climbing equipment and clothing was to fit in a small backpack for the duration of the trek.
Our first day was a climb up to the Kanderfirn Glacier. We traversed across the glacier to Mutthorn Hut. The clear skies provided good views across the mountains as we climbed higher. Some bad weather closed in as we approached the hut. There was hardly anyone there which was unusual for the height of summer holidays as it was late August.
The weather continued to close in the next day. We crossed the Petersgrat which was supposed to have a nice view across the mountains but the clouds, sleet and rain didn't provide much visibility. We didn't hang around in the cold conditions and descended into Falferalp via the Talgletscher. A sharp descent took us to our hotel for the night and we had the luxury of drying out our clothes before a well earned dinner.
Fortunately the next morning was cold and clear for our climb up to Hollandia Hut. We crossed farmland before having coffee and cake at the refurbished Anenhutte. We continued along the valley until we reached the Langgletscher and put our crampons on for traversing the glacier. The air was very still and the sun was warm which made for a sweaty climb up the glacial bowl. We couldn't rest too much as the warming sun was melting ice holding rocks up high which occasionally fell nearby. We made it up to the Lotschenlucke pass and roped up for the steep remainder of the climb into Hollandia Hut. The drop to the left was significant where even a small slip could mean a major fall. Hollandia Hut had a great view down the valley to Mont Blanc and we were treated to a spectacular sunset.
The next morning was a 4am alpine start to allow a summit attempt. We climbed steadily from the Hollandia hut before traversing a large glacial bowl. We didn't stop as it was quite cold. There was a steep climb around the back of the peak with a few large crevasses which we were careful to avoid. A few crevasses required jumping over but our ropes kept us safe. I remembered from my mountaineering training: don't fall down a crevasse! We reached the summit of Abeni Flue around 7am. It was perfectly still so we were lucky to spend some time up there admiring the view across the mountains. Mont Blanc, Jangfrau and the Eiger were all visible amongst others. A great summit feeling!
We descended as the sun got higher and it was very warm as we crossed the glacier. We still had all our warm clothes on for the early morning start so we were soon overheating. It was a relief to get back to Hollandia Hut and cool down and have a well earned brunch. Our route took us down to Konkordia which is a junction of several large glaciers at the top of the Aletsch Glacier. This presented a maze of huge crevasses and rocks. We were roped up initially but soon the Aletschfirn Glacier became dry so we unroped and kept our crampons on so we could jump across the countless crevasses. I avoided looking down the crevasses as they were so deep that I couldn't even see the bottom of many of them. The glacier is around 900m deep in some parts.
After crossing Konkordia, our final task of the day was to climb about 780 steps up a cliff to our hut for the night, Konkordiahutte. My legs were telling me otherwise. Apparently these metal stairs were much safer than the older wooden stairs which we could see strewn over the rockface. They didn't hide the fall below which was a few hundred meters. It's a common problem in the Alps these days. With the retreating glaciers, many huts are now high above the glaciers which makes for a difficult climb to reach the hut which is unwelcome at the end of a long day.
My mountain boots were very stiff which were great for vertical ice climbing but not so great for traversing glacial terrains. At the end of a 12 hour day, it was a relief to peel off my boots and air my feet. This also revealed some huge blisters on the back of each of my heals. I had taped up my heals as a precaution earlier in the day but the boots had worn through the tape to my skin. Our guide drained each blister and we were careful to apply disinfectant to prevent any infection. We doubled up on the dressing by using blistex and trusty gaffer tape. A beer helped numb the pain!
We slept in until 6am when we descended the 780 steps and crossed into a nearby valley for a steep climb up to the pass at Grunhornluke. It was very cold in the morning light but at least the sun was slowly becoming warmer. It was hard ice so we roped up and dug in with our crampons. We saw some other climbers for the first time in a week crossing over the pass. We couldn't understand why there weren't many other climbers around in the peak of the climbing season.
Another descent to Fieschergletscher yielded more crevasse crossings. These were some of the larger crevasses and we had to change our course on a number of occasions as we came to dead ends in our route. As it was another dry glacier we only had our crampons and no ropes.
As we descended we could see across to Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn to the south. We had another climb to the Oberaarjoch and our final mountain hut of the trip. As it was midday, the sun was very warm for our climb. Some jet fighters came out of nowhere to give us an awesome display right above the Studergletscher. The air display lasted for a good 15 minutes and was a welcome distraction from the hot climb we were facing. We continued on towards the hut. The steepest part of the climb was at the end of the day. Then there was the scramble up to the Oberaarjoch Hut itself over a rock crag. Fortunately there was a ladder to assist but again there was no room for any mistakes with the large drop below us.
The Oberaarjoch hut had a terrific view across the glacier we had just climbed and we enjoyed some very refreshing beer as we watched other climbers. This was probably the busiest hut we'd stayed in.
There was mist coming up the valley for our last day which provided very atmospheric views across the mountains as we prepared for our final descent down the Oberaargletscher. It was a straightforward walk down the glacier. We took our ropes off partway down and enjoyed the view which opened up across the valley.
We reached Oberaarsee Lake and saw some day walkers who were the first "normal" people we had seen in a week. A miscommunication with our taxi company meant we had to walk an extra 10km down the road past the carpark to Grimselpass. My feet were very sore in the mountain boots but fortunately they survived. We were at Grimselpass by lunchtime and had shared some beer to celebrate completing our trip. Motorbikes and cars were everywhere which was quite a change from the quiet of the mountains we'd enjoyed for the past week.
A bus and train from Grimselpass took us into Interlaken where our kit bags of clean clothes allowed us to have a shower and look respectable again. We had a good meal that night and sleep well with the satisfaction of successfully completing a challenging trek through the Swiss Alps.
The next morning we had a brief tour around the stunning Interlaken and the Harder Kulm lookout in sunny skies. The pouring rain settled in for our train trip back to Zurich. We were very lucky with the weather!
It was a great trek to complete. We had some amazing mountain landscapes to ourselves for much of the trek and it's always a privilege to experience an alpine environment.
More photos from our trip are in my photo gallery: http://elly.net.au/bernese-oberland
Today is Anzac Day. It's the day the nation remembers those who sacrificed their lives during the war.
We went to the 5pm memorial service at King's Park. My great uncle Lindsey died during World War II in a Lancaster bomber which was shot down over Germany. We always remember him on Anzac Day.
The Ode is read during the memorial service:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Lest We Forget
Penguin Island is a small island off the coast of Shoalwater, a town south of Perth in Western Australia. It's part of the Shoalwater Islands Wildlife Park. Most of this marine park is protected from the large swells of the Indian Ocean which makes it a safe destination to explore with kayaks. Even though it's only a short trip from Perth, I'd never visited the island before.
We borrowed a couple of kayaks to explore the marine park. It was a bit choppy from the swell that resulted from a storm to the south of Australia a few days ago. It only took about 30 minutes to paddle across to Penguin Island. As Penguin Island is part of a marine reserve, there is an abundance of birdlife and sea life on the island. We walked around the island on a nature trail.
There is a penguin discovery centre on the island. Rescued penguins which are deemed unfit to return to the wild live in discovery centre where the public can have a close view of these rescued penguins. We watched a short show about the penguins in the discovery centre and watched them feeding.
We got back in our kayaks and started paddling north to Shag Rock and Seal Island. We came across a sea lion (seal). It jumped out of the water several times only a few metres away from our kayaks. It was a bit alarming as sea lions can be over 200kg but fortunately it decided to keep swimming away from us.
We continued paddling up to Seal Island through the relatively open water between the islands. There was noticeably more swell coming through but it was manageable as we continued into the more sheltered bay on Seal Island. No people are allowed to land on the island. We could see a few sea lions on the beach and a couple of of males were fighting / playing in the water. We decided to keep our distance!
It was only a 15 minute paddle back from Seal Island to the mainland for a well earned lunch. Penguin Island was fun to explore and I recommend visiting it!
Lunar Eclipse during moon rise over Perth, April 2014.
Fortunately there was a break in the clouds at the vital moment.
After travelling halfway around the world, I'm settling in Perth!
Here's some statistics of all my flights from London to Perth over the past few months:
I have a round the world ticket which is valid for 12 months. I can therefore use the rest of my flights before January 2015 to travel from Perth to London, or any places in between.
I've been living in England since 2005. Perth has changed a lot since then so it'll take a while to settle back in. One thing hasn't changed: the weather. It hasn't rained more than about 5mm over Perth's summer.
I watched Stage 4 (Perry Lakes) of the Tour de Perth yesterday. It's not quite the Tour de France but there were some very fast cyclists and organised teams. This group broke away to win a sprint.
Here's a youtube video of rafting the Pucuare River during our Costa Rica Traverse in January 2014.