10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART X: FLOATING IMAGES HOT AIR BALLOON FLIGHT OVER IPSWICH

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The balloon upon landing. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

My wife Karen has always wanted to go Hot Air Ballooning since I can remember. Last Friday on her birthday she finally did.

An activity dependent on the weather conditions I booked our flights well over a month earlier, told her to keep the day free and tentatively waited to see if everything would go ahead. I called Thursday evening and was told to meet at the Ipswich Country Motel at 5:45AM the next morning – we were a go.

By now Karen had an inkling what was going on which made me more anxious to have it all come off without a hitch. She was awake at 3AM and me at 3:30AM to make the drive from the northside of Brisbane to Ipswich. We arrived at 5 o’clock roughly and parked, Karen’s excitement was now truly a joy to behold but what if I was late? What if it was 4:45AM? I relaxed when another car pulled up in a motel carpark at 5:15AM. No way was somebody early for the business conference. Either we were about to go hot air ballooning or see a crime be committed.

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Karen with her Canadian mittens waiting at the Ipswich Country Motel about to have a lifelong dream come true. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

It was still dark and quite cool in the winter morning as we introduced ourselves to ground crew Gary, later we were joined by a trailer and Toyota Landcruiser. There were two more passengers another couple, another ground crew Pearce and the pilot Graeme Day. We bundled into the back of the Landcruiser which had been converted with seats along the side just on top of the floor. We drove to a football field in a park which Graeme had the keys to enter, Graeme has take off sites and landing sites all over the place that he has arranged to have access to – good relationships are important to his business.

The basket was rolled off the trailer and I offered to help as per the suggestion of the website but they let me know when I was needed. Later me and the other male passenger held up the balloon as fans blew air into it. When we were ready we climbed into the basket using footholes on the side of it. The pilot radioed to nearby RAAF Amberley to get the all clear and then with the flames burning we ascended.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Graeme has 27 years experience in hot air ballooning having worked all over including Canada and France. He has the quiet confidence of a true professional who loves what he is doing but takes it seriously. It puts you at ease.

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First photo I took from flight. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We took off and I looked around but kept my hand on the basket handle. I’ve abseiled off Kangaroo Point and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge but I find even at two or three stories I am more and more uncomfortable with heights. The pilot advised me I could relax noting I was holding onto that handle. I told him I was fine but I did grow more comfortable as the flight went on. In the balloon you travel with the wind so the only movement comes from the passengers moving which is not much. I did find myself at one point quite comfortably leaning out over the basket and taking a photo with my phone.

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Leaning out. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Speaking of, you’re allowed to take as many photos as possible which makes for a nice change from other activities where you usually have to pay the vendor for one photo they take.

Years ago working at the hospital I would see hot air balloons ascending into the sky in the early hours of the morning. It looked cool but little did I know miles away in Canberra was the girl I was going to marry planning to take such a ride and having it fall apart. Years later she’s finally lived her dream and I was very blessed to take it with her.

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My hometown off in the distance. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Hot Air Balloons don’t fly over Brisbane anymore, there are those who fly over the Gold Coast CBD or close enough and there are vendors flying over the Gold Coast Hinterland and Byron Bay. The things that attracted me to Floating Images was the experience of the pilot, the locality to Brisbane, the low key vibe I was hoping for and that the views would include Mt Tamborine, Mt Cootha, the Great Dividing Range and the Brisbane CBD. I think it would be interesting to check out the other vendors but everything I was hoping Floating Images would be they turned out to be perfectly.

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The skyline of the Brisbane CDB. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

As we took off we could see mountains everywhere and the sun rising over the Brisbane CBD to our East. We flew past RAAF Amberley the lights flashing along the length of the runway like pilots get to see them. Off in the distance was a clear view of Toowoomba lit up by the rising sun on a beautiful orange palette with still the twinkling lights of the town not quite out yet. A view Graeme advised you don’t get on every flight due to timing and fog and so forth. We saw how landscapes had been changed by flooding, the Bremer River, the Borallon Correctional Centre, Ipswich of course and as I had hoped mountains and beautiful landscapes.

Our certificates state we reached an altitude of 2,200 feet and flights are scheduled to go for an hour. We twisted around during the flight allowing passengers to face all directions at one point and flew in a wide left hook utilising the wind to fly further. At one point the gas flames burned for several seconds allowing us to realise why people wear caps on hot air balloon flights, Karen pointed out to me she was closer to the flames than me as well.

Graeme radioed to the ground crew about two possible landing sites, he weighed it up in seconds and then advised them he was going for Fernvale. Having noticed the ground being now more comfortably close I asked him how high up were we now and he told me 1,200 feet. We flew for several more minutes at this height to Fernvale and then gradually descended. Ordered into brace positions we landed in a farm field hitting the ground gently, rising once and then coming to a landing permanently. We stayed in the basket until the ground crew arrived and then proceeded to pack up with them. The field belonged to a farmer and his wife who was now widowed. A bottle of wine was left on the patio at the front door by Floating Images.

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All smiles upon landing. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Then we drove back to the Ipswich Country Motel, a drive that seemed much longer now given the brevity and beauty of our flight over the same distance. The staff were great at the Ipswich Country Motel as we enjoyed a Big English Breakfast and non-alcoholic champagne with Graeme and talked.

During the flight we learned from conversation over RAAF Amberley that the other male passenger he was a former soldier. Unlike me he’d leaned over the basket comfortably for long breadths taking in the countryside below.

His partner was the only passenger who’d gone hot air ballooning before, over the Brisbane CBD in 1987. She told us they took off from the West End and landed in St Lucia where she told us the basket had tipped upon landing. Later talking to my parents I found out my aunt had taken a balloon ride in the 1980s from St Lucia. Not for the first time did I wish I could talk to her about her adventures in the years since her passing. The other female passenger asked me to take a picture of her with her partner early on in the flight and then kindly returned the favour for which I am very grateful.

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Karen and I on top of the world. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Graeme has a 10 person capacity basket as opposed to the smaller one we flew in that morning and advised the limit in Australia is 24 with overseas vendors carrying 30 passengers at a time. I much preferred how it had gone for us with just four passengers. I would recommend Floating Images without hesitation.

I was reflecting this morning, I’ve taken 19 flights all up as I approach 40. Two light aircraft in my childhood out of Archerfield, some lower airline flights over regional NSW and then jet airliners whether domestic or international. The flight in the hot air balloon offered a new perspective, I had 360 degree view of my surroundings and could take them in at leisure. I could hear dogs barking on the ground below, Brisbane and Toowoomba separated by a four drive could be both be seen at once. I suddenly realised how close Brisbane would be for an aircraft like the F-111 Aardvark flying out of Amberley. It made the place I grew up in both more closely bound and grand at the same time. And it was nice to do something that made my wife so happy. You savour moments like that.

-Lloyd Marken

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.
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10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IX: ROAD TRIP TO NEWCASTLE

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Karen overlooking the sea on Flagstaff Hill. I like how this photo echoes the Romanticism period of art. Copyright Lloyd Marken

I was married the 10th of September, 2011. The following week as newlyweds my wife and I stole away for 3 days up in Maleny where we had spent our first holiday as a couple three years earlier. We both came down sick by the second day, that was six years ago. We’ve had nights away, gone to many events and driven out of town for a day. In late 2012 I drove to Port Macquarie to see my best friend while Karen worked. We had dinner and played board games and drove back home the next day. But for me my honeymoon was my last holiday for six years until this October. This October I threw caution and savings to the wind and drove down to Newcastle. We set off early morning on a Saturday, driving from the north side of Brisbane to the Gold Coast and finally crossing the border and going past Coolangatta. These are familiar sights and places often visited so it was not until getting into New South Wales that the journey begins to feel adventurous and new. These are still roads I’ve travelled before but less so. The coastal area of New South Wales is beautiful and for me there is something that you get out of road trip that a plane flight can’t replicate. Driving really makes you feel like you’re getting to escape and you have wrested control of your destiny. All bullshit of course, the tedium of driving back is never far from your mind but still there is something beautiful in the lie as you grip the leather steering wheel of your 2003 Toyota Camry Sportivo and the horizon lays off in the distance.

We stopped at Ballina for breakfast to catch a glimpse of the Big Prawn. Travelling down the coast from say Brisbane to Adelaide or Brisbane to Sydney certain stops are well established due to distance from each other. Ballina is such a place, we parked at the latest Bunnings Store which now stands next to the Big Prawn. When last here in 2012 the Big Prawn of my childhood was in bad shape, a pale pink due to neglect it now stood proudly repainted and hovering above the parking lot. I assume that Bunnings paid for it and restored it but who knows. It is near a roundabout and a set of shops and petrol stations where often people will stop, refuel, grab a bit and leave. Given that Bunnings often have sausages on the barbie for various community organisations raising money I’d say the Big Prawn can only help to entice customers. Karen and I though walked off to the shops darting through thick traffic with no lights nearby to slow them. We stopped in a local bakery and ate egg and lettuce sandwiches the way they used to make them. As a kid travelling around on school excursions or holidays I lost count of the number of times I ate egg and lettuce sandwiches but these days people put too much mayo in the egg and it’s not the same. At this little bakery they were perfect. Perked up by our coffee we made our way back to the car and continued driving.

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Just after breakfast walking back to the car at Ballina with the Big Prawn in the background. Karen kindly posed. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

The next stop people will often head to at this point is Coffs Harbour and we were no exception parking at a massive shopping mall just down from The Big Banana. The Big Banana and The Big Prawn are representative of novelty landmarks that became popular in the 1980s for enticing business to small towns along the way of road tripping families. The Big Banana though is an actual tourist attraction where bananas are farmed, it serves as an “educational showcase” and a fun park. As a kid I went there in 1992 and quite enjoyed it. This time I drove past and stopped in at the mall to get KFC for lunch. I try to avoid fast food these days so maybe it was time passing but I found the KFC at Coffs Harbour better than most of the stuff I’ve tasted in recent times of my local area. As mentioned there is something beautiful about the NSW coastal area and I continued on without stopping for the rest of the day. As night time neared our petrol tank started to get close to empty. We live near the Brisbane airport which has several hotels nearby. It feels off by itself but not yet isolated from the places in town you want to get to. I booked late and didn’t have a lot of options and so picked the Mercure at Newcastle airport hoping it would be a similar thing. As we turned off the main highway the sign said Williamtown and I realised we were headed to a military community. RAAF Williamtown was obviously close to Newcastle airport, a massive four wheel drive on a two lane road came up behind me sitting on my arse as I drove the speed limit exactly. Terrific I thought we’ll be surrounded by hyper aggression our whole stay but of course I know military people better than that. We found the gas station and just down the road the Mercure hotel. The staff were excellent, the lobby had a few people that looked either military or ex-military. Next to the car park were buildings fro Boeing and other defence contractors. We were obviously staying in the same place they would for business trips. We went down and ate in the hotel restaurant and then went back to our room and caught some shut eye.

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The view from our hotel, we were facing away from the airport and had gorgeous countryside. We got there obviously just before sunset. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

The next day on Sunday we set out for Newcastle. Newcastle is host to many a fine thing, it still exports coal to the rest of the world, historically it was a major steel producing town and boasts some beautiful beaches. I travelled through there as a kid but had no real memories of it. It is also to home to Fort Scratchley. I was interested in Newcastle for a few reasons, it was in range of our three day trip but would mean I had driven further than I ever had before (Port Macquarie) and with Fort Scratchley I had a place to go to that would take no more than a day to visit and take in. The stage was set, Fort Scratchley features the only land based guns in Australian history to have fired in anger.

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The guns that fired at the Japanese submarine I-21. A part of Australian military history. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Original construction completed in 1882 the Fort was intended to protect against a possible Russian attack. Instead the Fort would see action during the shelling of Newcastle sixty years later. Rather than a gung-ho recap of the incident the Historical Society reflect on both perspectives. The Japanese did their job, positioning themselves well and getting off 25 shells before managing to escape successfully. When the guns at Fort Scratchley bracketed them, they left and the shelling stopped. After the war it was home to the 113 Coastal Battery Royal Australian Artillery which was a unit of the National Service Scheme. The Army left the site in 1972 and the it now functions as a Museum since 2008 with a great deal of support from the Fort Scratchley Historial Society  who have made it into a first rate place to visit. These volunteers are always happy to give you space or alternately inform you of any part of the site’s history. Additionally they man the guns that are still fired for ceremonial purposes. The two 6-inch Breech Loading Mark VII guns still get fired by them, these were the guns that were used by the Fort from 1911 to the Shelling of Newcastle and after until about 1962 when the Fort switched to Bofors AA guns. Additionally they also fire 80 pounder gun in its underground casemate and a Nordenfelt 1.5inch gun which may be the only working example left in the world. They also fire a Two Pounder Time Gun most days at 1pm which we were lucky to see on the day we were there.

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The Volunteer Staff about to fire the 2inch Time Gun at 1pm. In the background as pointed out by another volunteer staff member is a coal carrier making its way out to sea. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

If you have no interest in military matters the Fort is still high up on a hill with panaromic shots of Newcastle and is just a nice place to visit. Some things may surprise, in addition to the various displays of medals and small arms there are stories that move. A radio plays war time messages from the Australian Prime Minister metres away from a piece of shrapnel that tore through a young boy’s bed after his mother took him out of his room during the shelling minutes earlier. Alongside medals are a German helmet that had a bullet go through it fully implicating the horrors of war. Simple mementoes sent to home or from home from people facing death and missing their loves ones. Badges given to widows and mothers of slain young men never to come home. Peace time memories too of men who made a career out of the military either part time or full. Building the fort or upgrading it but always focussed on the men under their command. Treasured gifts given to them upon retirement handed over to the museum from families who know they will be valued here.

In addition the Fort is part of the history of the Australian Women’s Army Service during World War II, where several female soldiers learnt to operate searchlights, anti-aircraft equipment as part of the nearby 18th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery. This would have been an opportunity for these women to learn a trade and be at the sharp end of a service that had to fight so hard to even get sent overseas. These opportunities were only made possible by the increasingly shortage of available manpower and we owe these women a debt of gratitude for leading the way. Over 30 women served at Fort Scratchley during the war mostly as radar operators.

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Artsy Fartsy Shot? From Darling Harbour. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

We bid farewell to Fort Scratchley mid-afternoon as I made the decision to head to Sydney. Karen’s family lived in Sydney for year when she was 8 and so we headed off to there. Coming into Sydney there are so many beautiful mountains and the freeway travels over many valleys. When we got to where Karen grew up all the houses had been renovated and it felt unfamiliar to her twenty nine years on from where she was last there. It has often been a running gag for me that she missed World Expo 88 in Brisbane as part of the bicentennial celebrations. Between Expo and the Commonwealth Games of 1982, Brisbane went from being a “town” to a “city”. Often I will remark that the First Fleet Re-enactment in Sydney in 1988 was “a couple of tinnies in the harbour.” I’m trying to funny but Expo was a big deal and I’m sad that she missed it. Travelling to where she lived during that year though allowed me to have a sense of why she has fond memories of it and how much fun it would have been for a kid. On a whim we drove around looking for the nearby corner shops. When we parked in them and she saw they had barely changed she was thrilled and I will remember that moment with affection.

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Driving over Sydney Harbour Bridge. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

The day was Grand Final Weekend in Sydney for the National Rugby League, not knowing how traffic would be in town I decided to head towards Darling Harbour for dinner. I think I had an idea of going to the Casino but we never made it. Following directions as best we could the traffic proved not too hair raising and we found ourselves on track to drive over the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was a secret thrill for me. I can still remember my Dad taking us over it on rainy Sydney day in 1989. We made it to Darling Harbour but kept on getting lost and finding ourselves back in the tunnel crossing back to the other side. When we returned to Darling Harbour I spotted the car park area for the Sydney Convention Centre. Karen was none too pleased at the going $29.00 rate to which I replied “Honey we’re here.” Coming out of the car park I stood in the square and saw Centrepoint Tower.

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Sydney just outside the Convention Centre. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We were here indeed. It had been nine years since I’d been to Sydney just before I met Karen and for a tank of gas I could’ve come here all along. In that moment the world became a little bit more full of possibilities. I told myself that while I still have things to save up for I am not much closer to them now than I have ever been and maybe six years between holidays is far too long especially if you don’t get to reach your other goals. We wandered down along Darling Harbour and eventually found ourselves a restaurant with staff who were very kind and the food was good too. We would’ve liked to stay but the long journey back to Williamtown beckoned and it was almost 9pm.

 

Sydney traffic proved to be light and easy to get through but as we came out of the citybounds onto the freeway that snaked through all those cliffs and over deep valleys there were few street lights. I flicked my high beams on where I could but often there were cars in front. Sometimes it was comforting to just park behind them and follow along but sometimes they went too slow and I decided to be a bit brave and strike out on my own. Cars came the other way not switching off their high beams and the road swerved on tilts as the darkness was ever present. More aggressive drivers went past. As time went on I could use my highbeams more and eventually the road levelled out to flat countryside for miles. The rest of the journey passed in relative peace despite remaining darkly lit but I will not lie that I had been tense there for a bit. If one of our tyres had gotten flat I would’ve had my wife stranded in the countryside for a few minutes while I changed it late on a Sunday night. I had been somewhat reckless but we had come through the other side getting to see Sydney as well. Perhaps sometimes you have to make a play for it all, we did. We drove through Newcastle well past midnight with young people out about making their way from night club to night club, some heading home. We drove down deserted roads and past orange lights and back across Stockton Bridge passing all the industry of Kooragang Island. It was quite a sight to see and share with Karen, just being somewhere I hadn’t been before, seeing something I hadn’t seen before. Needless to say I went straight to bed when we got to the Mercure.

It had been tempting to stop in at Fighter World near RAAF Williamtown on the way out where many former RAAF planes including CAC Sabre, F-111, Mirage 3, MIG-21, Hunter, Meteor, Vampire, Fokker Triplane and replicas of Spitfires and Bf 109s. A friend of mine who served at RAAF Williamtown advised me the café was nice. Alas we had a long drive ahead of us and I was feeling it. Monday was a public holiday but I planned to be back at work the next day. Fighter World will have to wait. Instead we ate breakfast at the hotel like we had the day before, an extra expense I felt well worth it as it allowed us to fuel up and get underway with full bellies and minimal hassle.

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The Historic Courthouse at Port Macquarie. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

The trip back, as they often are, was more tedious, I wanted to show Karen Port Macquarie since she missed out in 2012. It was raining and would remain raining for the rest of the day. Driving to Port Macquarie would take us off the freeway and take up time but we stopped for lunch there and I showed her the Historic Courthouse that still stands in the town. We headed back to Brisbane shortly after where I stopped at Grafton to fuel up. It was now coming up to 5pm and the sun was setting shortly after we passed Ballina. It continued to rain, the road stretched out into the darkness again but now in the wet. I turned my high beams on and concentrated. We got past Bryon Bay and as we neared Coolangatta and the Gold Coast the roads became well lit but the rain came down heavier decreasing visibility. Most slowed down, water piled up on the road, hydroplaning was a possibility. Some drove aggressively but most wanted to get home in one piece. How ironic I thought if something bad happened while we were now back in familiar surroundings. Just short of 9pm though we pulled up in our driveway with Red Rooster and concluded our first holiday together in 6 years having driven 1897 kilometres since leaving our driveway on Saturday morning. I felt very grateful for the holiday and reflected that not everybody gets to have them which makes me only more grateful. I hope you’ve enjoyed this recap and a shout out to the Fort Scratchley Historical Society and the excellent work that they do.

-Lloyd Marken

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This tickled me pink on our way to Fort Scratchley so just had to share. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

 

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART VIII: GOMA UPLATE MARVEL EXHIBIT

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The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art opened in Brisbane on the 2nd of December, 2006. Often my friends and I have gone to it and the Queensland Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery for various exhibits over the years. Between all 3 there has been an Andy Warhol exhibit, a David Lynch exhibit, an exhibit of 20th Century art and architecture and a retrospective collection of Valentino’s collection. There has also been an Exhibit about lingerie which was just the best! But we’re not here to talk about that today, we’re here to talk about the recent Marvel exhibit.

There is a program called GOMA Uplate which my gang regularly attend where the Gallery will be open on a Friday night and have entertainment and booze. I enjoy these because often the exhibits as less crowded than during the day on weekends and there is a different vibe in the air. Can still get pretty busy.

20170811_201159Throughout last year filming of Thor: Ragnarok took place in my home state of Queensland mostly at the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast but also for a few days in the Brisbane CBD. People from London, New York, L.A., Chicago and Toronto will attest what a pain in the arse this can be for locals. I was working out in the burbs at the time and felt a little sad to miss the commotion. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston went and greeted crowds warmly on the streets where production had closed off traffic. Later they went in costume to the Children’s hospitals to spend time with sick kids. I can agree with cynics that this is good PR that would have melted any curmudgeon’s complaints about traffic issues but anybody who has spent time around sick children will tell you there’s no way in hell Hemsworth and Hiddleston didn’t genuinely enjoy giving something back and I think there can’t be enough of such things being done. This follows Johnny Depp and Christian Bale doing similar things and the value it will bring to a child’s joy you can’t put a price on.

The scenes shot in Brisbane are standing in for New York city and I chuckled when I saw the film. I don’t care how many New York yellow cabs drive by in the background, I know those pavements and what a thrill to see them on the big screen. 750 Queenslanders were employed in the making of Thor: Ragnarok. I don’t know how much this played into GOMA getting the Marvel exhibit which featured so many props and costumes from other Marvel movies but it was real joy to have it at Brisbane.

Ten Pics from the Sticks has traditionally been about hiking but we’re branching out with this and maybe subsequent entries which may make the title a little odd but so be it.

Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe Exhibit ran from the 27th of May to the 3rd of September, 2017. It featured various props from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, certain classic comic book issues in glass shelves (this included the first Spider-Man comic from 1962 and I believe the first Captain America comic book from 1942), a lot of costumes and pre-production artwork. This included concept art of the Guardians of the Galaxy that was shown at San Diego Comic Con. 20170811_201902People forget how Guardians of the Galaxy was seen as a risk because it was such an unknown title at the time. That concept art which looks quite a bit different from the eventual look of the team is what sold me on the idea. When the teaser trailer came much later I was all in telling friends this could be the Star Wars of a whole new generation. So I got a picture of me with the concept art. One exhibit showed the artwork, the storyboarding, the pre-viz animation and then the finished product. Another part played a scene where you could dial up or down various sounds effects and music to see how all of those things are layered onto the final soundtrack and how each component plays a vital part. Other areas allowed patrons to stands on mats and appear on screens as various Marvel characters controlling their movements although this was a bit wonky in its execution. Guardians Karen and LloydOne part that I got a real thrill out of was dressing up in props and appearing in front of a green screen where we were overlaid one of the movie posters. We got a really fun group shot of us as the Avengers but out of deference to my friend’s privacy I won’t post this on a public forum. We also ate some snazzy meals down at the Café. While I didn’t take part there was a place for people to draw their own comic books.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

There are usually speakers at GOMA Uplate and our night was no exception.  Local artist and scenic painter Camille Serisier did her talk titled ‘All In The Details’. Some speakers had worked on Thor: Ragnarok and some had not, Camille being one of the latter but she had done for the Australian ballet and various other productions. Her talk took place in the Asgard throne room area of the exhibition (which sounds dodgier than it was – get your minds out of the gutter people) and pointed out various things. She talked about a lacquer of props to make them appear aged, the throne itself was made out of wood but a lot of other elements were plaster applied over Styrofoam blocks. She also talked about the themes of stories and how production design can support this. It was very interesting to hear her speak and I found myself nodding in agreement at some of her insights. I had just come from my interview with Palace CEO Benjamin Zeccola for the Italian Film Festival and was on such a high from that I uncharacteristically approached her after the talk to ask one further question or too. She was lovely to speak to.

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You can see much better pictures of the Exhibit form QAGOMA’s website here https://blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/tag/marvel-creating-the-cinematic-universe/https://blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/tag/marvel-creating-the-cinematic-universe/

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Having worked on smaller scale film productions I was not surprised to find this out but everything you see on film looks vastly different in real life than it does in the movies. Unlike say the dresses from Valentino which looked gorgeous in real life the costumes for films even ones as expensive as this are made with functionality always in mind. How they look under lights, how they will appear in close-up, how the stunt man can do his work in them is always of high priority. That’s why multiple versions of each costume are made for different purposes. Amazingly through the power of movies you often don’t notice these things even when you know about such tricks. That’s not to say these costumes and sets are not made by artists far from it. The level of thought and creativity that goes into this work is really moving. 20170811_203100It was also neat to see the original costumes worn by such stars as Hayley Atwell and Scarlett Johanson and also um gee what are their names uh Greg Evans, uh Greg Humpdump, Joey Rendering, um Bobby Down Senior and Mick Buffaolo. I don’t know I mean Hayley Atwell is the big star I remember. It was also quite a thrill to see so many props form the film Thor: Ragnarok which had not yet opened in cinemas worldwide at the time. This included various weapons, Hulk’s bed from the movie and as a centrepiece the Throneroom from Asgard.

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After our tour through the giftshop where I will rue not getting a door mat that said “I Am Groot’ on it with a picture of Baby Groot I caught up with my friends who were observing the live band performing that night. A Melbourne duo called Habits had a certain group rocking away to electronica. My friends and I kept our distance from the gender fluidly dressed boy and girl who conveyed such raw sensuality. Nothing made me feel more 36 then my lack of free spiritedness compared to these youngsters but the truth is this wasn’t my bag when I was 17. When I was 17 Billy Joel hadn’t released an album in 4 years and he was my favourite while others rocked out to Frenzal Rhomb etc. They may not have been my bag but they were talented as fuck, absolute jets playing their instruments and working the crowd. Something else too, they were appreciative of the audience and engaged with them, the lead singer going down into the crowd and writing on the floor provocatively. There was an older man getting into it and I couldn’t help but admire them for their joy in the music and their commitment to be themselves.

That about wrapped it up for us as we stole away into the night having had a wonderful night with cherished friends at a rare movie themed exhibit in my hometown.

-Lloyd Marken

Captain America Karen and Lloyd

 

 

 

 

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART VII: MT BITHONGABEL AND 3RD TIMES A CHARM

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The entrance to the Main Border Track, Lamington National Park. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Those who follow this blog will know I have done quite a bit of hiking around the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk in recent years. In 2016 I decided it was time to seek out new trails. To the south of my hometown Brisbane is the Gold Coast and nearby rainforests of the Tamborine mountains. I started thinking about finding a trail in that area when a quick internet search turned up the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. From there I looked at various tracks before settling on one at Lamington National Park on the Main Border Track. It would take me 6kms down the track to Mt Bithongabel for a return journey of just over 12kms with differing vegetation. It was said that from Bithongabel one could see the path Bernard O’Reilly‘s journey when searching for a lost Stinson aeroplane in 1937. O’Reilly’s Retreat an accommodation and picnic ground site is located in Lamington National Park and was started by Bernard and his brothers. In 1937 a Stinson airliner enroute from Brisbane to Sydney went missing. Bernard a bushman and author suspected the plane had failed to clear the McPherson range due to heavy rain. He went looking for it and found the survivors of the crash.

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A Replica of the Stinson that was used in the 1987 movie The Riddle of the Stinson starring Jack Thompson onsite at O’Reilly’s Retreat. Copyright Lloyd Marken

On the 10th of April, 2016 Karen and I set off from the northside of Brisbane to get to Lamington National Park. It can be tricky sometimes driving out to Lamington. A wrong turn on those mountain highways cannot always be remedied by a quick 3 point turn. I took such a wrong turn and it cost us time. Eventually we knew we were on the right path as we ascended a mountain with sections of one lane only and two way traffic. I’d never driven on such a road before and found it exciting to say the least. Part of it has been carved out of rock which is quite neat to drive through. We arrived halfway through the afternoon and started down the Border Track at 3:09pm. Where I can become obsessed-Karen can see reason. We walked for 3kms together through beautiful rainforest that included ancient Antarctic Beech trees (some examples have been known to have lived for over 12,000 years). Yet having walked through a rainforest at night Karen sensibly turned around at that point. I knew I could push further but knew time was not on my side.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I walked on at a much quicker pace alone passing more parties on their way back with looks of puzzlement at the direction I was heading in. Onward I went checking the time unsure of how far I had come. Could it be just around the corner? When up on the path ahead lay a collapsed tree, as I went to step over it a reptilian head darted around an opening. Was it a snake or a lizard? It didn’t seem to have ill intentions towards me and I figured it was probably a lizard.

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Very friendly and probably a lizard. Copyright Lloyd Marken

The sun was setting. What would it be like to come back across this tree when it was dark knowing there was potentially a snake nearby. Keen readers will note I have been in rainforests before when it is dark. I stepped over the tree and kept walking.

 

The time I planned to turn around and go back came and went. Fifteen minutes past it. Half an hour. I reasoned with myself what was the new time to go no further. That time came and went too, the sun was low, the path was becoming gloomier and the rainforest noisier. I came down to the end of a long path hoping for a sign. I knew I was close to 6kms. I looked at the terrain, where did the land stop to rise? How much further could the path ascend? I was walking to a mountain lookout and it didn’t seem the ground climbed much further. I walked down a long straight path long after the point of no return, my blood was pumping, my T-shirt stained with sweat but my body was working in a rhythmic exuberance. I wasn’t tired, I was possessed. But at the end of that stretch, the path winded around to another stretch. Bithongabel could be a mere five hundred metres ahead but it was too far. My wife was waiting for me and it would be dark before I made it back.

I pivoted and walked back frustrated to have travelled so far and yet to have not planned it better to have given myself enough time to reach my goal. Coming back I moved even faster knowing the path now and with a bit of downward slant for the most part. Having only just walked it for the first time that day I could not judge where all landmarks were and how much farther I had left. I just pressed on but when I became sure I was close I saw an opening in the rainforest on my way back with a sunset sky. It was the closest I came to a payoff that day.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t have a working torch that day as I usually would so I was glad to see the dirt path turn to red concrete as the rainforest became dark. The red concrete told me I was near a path to nearby villas and had less than a kilometre to go. Possibly much less.

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Karen at the entrance to the Main Border Track. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Finally the light at the end of the track and Karen came into view. I had made it but I would need to return and reach Bithongabel next time.

 

Life stepped in though and I never set out again for Lamington until the 23rd of October. Karen couldn’t come so I set out alone without my navigator. Google maps was not my friend that day going offline up in the mountains. I corrected my course but at some point found myself on my way to Mt Tamborine. I knew I wasn’t going to make it in time to get out and there and back before dark. So I headed for Tamborine and stopped on the side of the road at one of those mountain car parks where people will stop and take photos together of the view.

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The view from Mt Tamborine 23OCT16. Copyright Lloyd Marken

My plans were a bust. I turned and saw across the road one of those touristy themed eateries and heard my stomach rumble. Trying my best to be a impromptu weekend traveller of windswept interest I sauntered into the German themed restaurant and asked for a table at the back. Beautiful red flowers covered the outside, inside was fine wooden furniture and out the back a pretty water feature. I sat down and looked at the plastic laminated menu and saw a variety of schnitzel and pork loin meals. A fan of neither I asked for the loin with a helping of mashed potato. If you love your German schnitzel or pork loin I cannot recommend this place enough but sadly as I gave up finishing my loin and polished off the mash I felt complete failure in my endeavours for the day. I couldn’t even order the right food for myself. As I headed for home I let Karen know I would get pizza on the way from a southside place I had grown up on. The day would not be a complete bust but I was now more determined that ever to achieve my goal. Next Sunday I would go to Mt Bithongabel.

 

Sadly again Karen could not come so I set off alone with a different path to O’Reilly’s. Unsure of how this would play out. Google maps at one point pulled me off in the opposite direction at Yatala and then directed me around in circles through an industrial area. I knew we were in the wrong place and losing time but as I continued to drive I found myself on a familiar road and my hopes were raised. Eventually I came to the same mountain driving cautiously through the one lane sections. I passed an abandoned car at the top off to the side of the road on an angle. Noting traffic around me I went on and let the volunteers at the Information Centre know whom then called the police. A reminder that these roads were dangerous. It was still later than I could afford it to be but the sun was setting later this time of year and I bought a brand new torch from the O’Reilly’s gift shop and a fridge magnet for my Mum before setting off in earnest.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I had not gone long down the path when I saw a massive tree had collapsed with its giant stump lying next to the path  which was sunk in. Six months had passed and there were many new sights as well as familiar ones to take in. The rainforest was alive and constantly evolving. Along the way I passed a guy who asked me where I was headed. I answered ” We’ll see.” knowing the sun was descending to which he helpfully pointed out ” It would be dark soon.” He was not the only one as I moved forward and I can’t blame them but at least I had not set off as late as I had in April even if I knew it should have been earlier than it was.

 

Eventually I reached as far as I had come – now I would see how much further it was. The track moved into a more open area with pine needles everywhere and a chance to turn down another path. I racked my brain, I had turned off my phone due to the google maps  having drained most of its power on the way up. I was on the Main Border Track and surely I remained on it to get to Bithongabel but if I was wrong then this decision would cost me any chance of reaching my goal destination. I went forward fairly confident and the path ahead went along the side of the mountain. There was a golden sheen to the vegetation as the lowering sun pierced the canopy. It truly was beautiful but I began to worry. I had already reached a point where I was glad I had turned back in April. There was no way I would have made it to Bithongabel before it was dark that day but now I wondered if I had taken the wrong path. The sun was fading and the path started to dip. We were going down the mountain and I had not reached the top. Had I taken the wrong path after all?

That’s when I saw it and I knew it was it.

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At the end of the path to the right is the sign for Bithongabel. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Bithongabel on a simple wooden sign. I had made it but there was no lookout to speak of. Where was I supposed to look out to retrace Bernard O’Reilly’s steps? I reasoned it could be a bit a further down so I stomped off down that way but soon I had gone several metres without anything in sight. I knew not much further along was the Tooloona lookout. Bithongabel had disappointed me and I needed a prize for my efforts. Once again I found myself bartering with my better angels about when to turn back. The path became muddy and my sneakers squelched and slipped through some pretty big puddles. I continued to descend not sure how much further I could go when I saw a young man up ahead with a camera. I stopped where he was standing and looked out. This was Tooloona lookout. What the hell was this guy doing out here in the middle of nowhere? Didn’t he know the sun was about to set. Maybe I wasn’t an idiot. He was staying nearby at the campsite at Bithongabel. Oh okay so I was the only idiot present. He left me to it and I took a picture. Mist came off a nearby peak and with the setting sun it truly was a beautiful sight. My phone gave out at that point. I smiled grateful for the photos. I moved off back to Bithongabel where I looked for the campsite and found it down from the sign along with the young man I had met at Tooloona lookout.  We discussed the lack of a lookout and I went further and climbed over some boulders to the edge of the outcrop. From there you could imagine seeing much if the rainforest hadn’t grown up some trees blocking the view. Maybe this had offered better visibility in the past, maybe I had unfairly expected more. No matter I was pleased with the sights I had seen. I bid the young camper farewell and headed for what would now be a long trek home. On and on I went and the rainforest again came alive and the shadows grew darker. With a torch now available and picking up a wooden stick I feared not but it was a long trek back and my camelback came close to being empty.

 

As night came I once again reached the red concrete and knew I would make it. Up ahead in the dark I saw a light flashing and wondered if a Wildlife Ranger or someone else had waited for me after hearing tales from other hikers of some fat bozo with a shopping bag walking up the Border Track mid-afternoon. I turned my torch on just in case but as I walked on I came to realise no one was there. I turned my torch off and kept walking. On the ground I saw what appeared to be a red light flickering. Odd I thought  and walked up to it and turned my flashlight on it to see what was there but there only leaves. I turned off my torch again and this little light flashed again. Then I turned on my torch and saw a little creature move. I turned off my torch but no further light shone. Many years ago I had gone with my wife to a tourist attraction of the Glow Worm caves at Tamborine Mountain. I say Glow Worms but technically they were Glow Maggots but you can understand why the place wasn’t called that. I’m 36 years old and have gone camping on and off for various organisations throughout my life. I found the Glow Worms caves interesting, was I seeing something similar now in the wild? I’d never seen anything like it before.

I turned and walked down the path and a flickering golden light lit up and off dancing in front of me. It danced around my whole body in a full circle and then lit up the sky directly in front of me. With my phone dead there was no millennial impulse to reach for it to take a photo. What technology could possibly capture this as beautifully as it looked right there in real life without the use of special effects. Here was a special effect from mother nature herself. This expression gets overused a lot but ‘It was a moment’. One I wished I could have shared with Karen but Karen may not have allowed herself to be stuck in a rainforest after dark…again.

I had spent recent months more bound to a desk than I have been in most jobs and glued to screens in my downtime. Here was a unique and rare reward for getting out and moving through the world and all it had to offer. A reminder that life was to be lived for such moments. I came out of the entrance not many more metres after that and headed home. On the way back I checked that the crashed car was empty and ended up behind a convoy of vehicles going down the side of the ranges which made that part a lot easier. I arrived home that night to my lovely wife with a fond memory. Bring on 2017.

-Lloyd Marken

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The view from Tooloona Lookout. Copyright Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART VI: PICAPALOOZA

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In this entry for 10 Pics from the Sticks we’re going to break the cardinal rule of only having 10 photos. I’m throwing restraint out the window as I show extra photos from hikes already written about and hikes that have not been covered but cover familiar tracks.

We’ll start with photos from Mt Tibrogargun hike which took place in early 2012. With a full back pack we hiked the steep ascent of up Tibrogargun and back down before covering by comparison the much more flat 6km Trachyte Circuit.

From there we go the well worn track of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. We first walked this track in 2009 covering Lake Baroon to Baroon Lookout before turning around and heading back to the carpark. A nice hike of just over 4kms. Next in May 2012 we covered from Lake Baroon to Flaxton Mill Road 14.5kms away. In July 2013 we hiked just the 11kms from Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls and again in May 2015 and October 2015.

Usually we’ll park one vehicle up at Kondalilla and then one at Lake Baroon.

You can go off track to the Narrows Lookout where in late 2015 I was a little adventurous and went off the track to get a better look.

After about 2kms walking up hill you come to Baroon Lookout, the view alone from there is worth it for those who don’t want to hike much more than 4kms.

If you go beyond this point you soon find yourself descending into the rainforest. Sometimes we stop for a snack when we reach the creek at the bottom.

From there you can continue on. At the halfway mark there will usually be an opening with a pretty view.

Sometimes it can be hard to judge how far you have to go until you arrive at another creek where you can sit and eat.

Then you start to really get into deep rainforest where the temperature drops. You can hear the waterfalls before you see them. There are beautiful stone steps that lead down to the base. On recent hikes this section has been closed due to safety concerns. The ascent up while still steep is not as hard on the alternative track but you are not able to see the pools at the bottom of the falls and you see less of the falls themselves during your ascent. There is a new look out thought that does provide spectacular views.

Usually at this point we will get in one of the cars parked near Kondalilla and drive back to pick up the other one at Lake Baroon. Last year when leaving in our car at Baroon having already started the engine I noticed a little visitor on the passenger side window. While our new friend flew around quite a bit, he quite graciously flew back to our window a few times giving me the opportunity to grab my phone and take some photos.

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In May 2012 when we hiked all the way from Baroon to Kondalilla we continued along Flaxton Mill Road for approximately another 2-3kms. Essentially this last part was a hike along country roads until reaching another rainforest track that heads towards Flaxton Walkers Camp. In 2013 we did a hike that started at a small car park at the entrance to this track.

 

This track was to be about 12kms and I set out to hike it with roughly 23kgs on my back. A kilometre in I started to feel the pack and the rest of the hike for me physically was essentially a slog. Some of these photos clearly show sunshine but as we descended down to Baxter Creek Falls it was already raining and the dirt ground turned to slippery mud.

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The Falls themselves located close to a Suspension Bridge are pretty and usually not crowded. This is a path less taken and essentially with it brings its own rewards. In July 2015 my little sister was back over from England and with my brother and his wife and Karen we hiked to here and then back again to Flaxton Mill Road rather than go the full 12kms.

© Copyright Karen Marken, Rebecca Marken, Lloyd Marken.

Back to 2013 we trekked uphill to the road.

Where we came to Mapleton Falls lookout for the first time. There’s a road and car park on site so sometimes since we’ve driven people there after a long hike at Kondalilla Falls but on that day we hiked there and it felt like an appropriate reward for our efforts. There have been times when we drove to Mapleton Falls lookout only to find the walkway shut. I’m happy this was not the case on the day I hiked 6kms in the rain with 23kgs on my back to get to it.

On the way back we came across an echidna in the wild which has remained a special treat from that day.

Going back was particularly tough that day in 2012 but we made it back to the car just after the sun had set and the rainforest had become dark.

In July 2015 I was eager to set off from Mapleton Falls itself for a hike further along the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. 7kms in from Mapleton Falls would place it at the Ubajee lookout and a 14km hike was certainly something we were capable off so we sent off with my friend Tim and Karen. It currently is the only time we’ve done this trek.

Mapleton Falls Lookout was still closed at the time but we made use of the nearby Peregrine lookout.

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When we got the main rainforest track it was quite built up and dense but we soldiered on enjoying a path less taken.

Then we passed into more open terrain.

When we reached level terrain I know we couldn’t be far from the Ubajee Walkers camp site. Not long after we found a little sign and walked down to a simple seat on the edge of a mountain. We had made it. The trek and lack of crowds again had made this view feel more earned.

We retraced our steps seeing much of the same sights but this time we arrived at Peregrine Lookout as the sun was setting.

Well that concludes this special edition of 10 Pics from the Sticks. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to catching up on everybody’s blogs real soon. I leave with a few pics from the nearby Geordi Lane which serves the best savoury muffins and chutney I’ve ever had and whom my siblings introduced me to. On a clear day you can see the ocean from the mountains on their balcony where they serve tea. And of course Capriccios pizza.

-Lloyd Marken

©All images are my own unless stated otherwise.

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART V: LAKE BAROON TO KONDALILLA FALLS

 

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Baroon Lookout with the Lake in the background. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

My little brother got married in August 2013, my sister Nadia, a teacher working in England came out for the wedding with her long term partner Dave. It was the first time we all got to meet each other. Nadia’s trips to Australia are EVENTS, a tense trade off between family, friends and former colleagues all wanting to catch up with her and also not fatigue her with overscheduling. Since it was Canadian Dave’s first trip to Australia as well meant that naturally having shelled out money on such airfare they hoped to see a little bit of Australia while they were here. Oh yeah and there was a wedding going on too. They did a good job. There were trips to the Olgas, 4WD Beach driving, I was best man at my brother’s wedding which was a joyous occasion and Mum and Dad went to Hervey Bay with them to do whale watching where my mother discovered she was capable of becoming sea sick while out on the ocean. This was a couple who’d sailed along the Nile, been to a wedding in Gibraltar, taken in the beauty of Angkor Watt and half of Europe. Let alone their recent adventures in Oz. I wondered what we could do together that would be impressive and memorable. Who the hell is going to sit around and reminence about that time we went and saw Tron: Legacy? How many times will I get to spend with these people over the decades? Such moments will create ties that will bind us together. I decided the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk would be interesting enough, a sentiment that continues I guess after all why do you think the only blogs from my personal life relate to Hiking? Believe me I do not hike regularly for fun.

We set off to Kondalilla and parked one car there before hopping in my vehicle and going to Lake Baroon, the turn off to get there includes a spectacular elevated shot of the Lake before you drive down to its carpark. Nadia knew the local area well, many years earlier her championing of Maleny and Montville had led to me taking Karen there for our first holiday together. I had decided we would do the same track we did with Rosie and Sandro in 2012 only this time without the last bit to Flaxton Mill Road. Having recently struggled with a full pack at Mapleton I didn’t want to appear fatigued in front of Dave so I just took my webbing and camelback. We set off in good spirits and after Nadia noted Karen’s walking stick Nadia and Dave got their own walking sticks. The ascent to Lake Baroon lookout went painlessly and quickly and we all enjoyed the view.

We reached the valley next and I weighed up whether we should stop and eat by the creek. It was lunch time but my memory played tricks on me and I reasoned it wasn’t too far ahead until we would reach the rocks where we could also have lunch. A year on from last doing the track all I remembered was lantana before hitting deeper rainforest. We kept hiking, I’ve done this track four times and each time the pacing can change or your perception of time passing can alter. On that particular day it seemed we walked a long time through the centre of the trail. Last year I got us to eat at the creek and it scarcely seemed too long before we hit the rocks. There were no fungus on trees, no mud or lantana and I began to wonder where it all changed and how far we had to go. Part of the purpose of the hike was to give us some time together with no distractions to catch up and get to know each other, this was where Nadia who had been blogging a bit impressed on me that she thought I should start a blog perhaps reviewing films if I liked doing that. By the end of the year this blog started with a review of About Time and I have Nadia to thank for that.

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A perfect place to have lunch. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

As time wore on I worried about dragging everybody through the bush with no clear idea of when we would reach the rocks to have lunch. In mid-afternoon I called it that we would sit down on the path and eat. I think Karen was the first to point out that it was very possible just a little further on out of sight was the rocks and we all heartily agreed it was a very real possibility. Nadia and Dave had picked lovely treats from a local deli and thanks to them we enjoyed pumpkin scones with delicious chutneys amongst other things. Near the end of our meal we noted a thin worm like leech climbing over my pants and got to our feet. Thorough checking that night by both couples revealed this was the closest encounter we had with a parasite.

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At the rocks just after lunch. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Karen’s words became prophetic as we literally walked no more than 100 metres down the path to come to the rocks and creek. Happily have just sat we all sat again and took it in. I was mindful of our pace and the steep uphill conclusion to our hike but there was time.

 

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Nadia and Dave with their walking sticks in the rainforest. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We now entered the thick rainforest where the temperature drops and spirits were high as we reached the bottom of Kondalilla Falls and explored the pools below. In the times I have been back to Kondalilla Falls this part has been closed off due to land slides but I hope once again it will be open to the public as it is really quite beautiful.

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The famous stairs near the Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
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Along the creek near the bottom of the falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
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Kondalilla Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Last time we hiked up the Falls, Karen had felt it and this time Nadia grew fatigued much like I had when climbing with my pack at Baxter Creek a month earlier. While not enjoying her distress I was happy to see that Dave knew how to deal with it in the way that partners always do. I had just met the man but he had been part of my sister’s life for 3 years. As always when we reached the top and the hike ended we all felt relief. It’s nice to get out there and do it but at the 10km mark it’s done and you’re ready to chill out.

 

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At the end of our hike. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We got in their car and drove to Mapleton Falls and arrived at sunset. Dave has a habit of sitting down at such places, almost like his body is making a declaration that he will take in this moment, I remained on my feet but appreciated the spirit of such a gesture. I had hoped they would enjoy the sights and not find them lacking after all the wonderful things they have seen around this beautiful world of our’s and such gestures suggested I had nothing to fear. Others came up the walkway to enjoy the sunset too. They were foreigners taking in the view and struck up a conversation with Nadia and Dave. All of them were citizens of other countries, living and working far from home ironically maybe even in the countries their ancestors had left to chase a better life. Is it really ironic though? There have always been travellers and I in my 20s always had plans to see the world too. I’m glad that my sister has gone one step further even if I do miss her.

When I stayed at Maleny with Karen in 2008 I saw across the road a brick building with a pizza sign and fairy lights. We went there for dinner, there was a beautiful mural across the entire wall of an Italian coastline. Out the back was a fountain and lights. Karen and I sat at a small table and a young kind waitress looked after us all night remaining polite and friendly throughout. We had pizza and cheap cocktails with frilly decorations. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a perfect night like that again at Capriccios but it was a moment for us and the pizza is good and so we like to share this special place with our friends. That night we shared it with Nadia and Dave and I felt for a little bit like I got to know them and their lives a bit and vice versa. Sometimes I worry that will sadly prove to be a one-off but I will treasure that day hiking for a long time. The ties that bind.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. If you enjoyed this hiking blog check out the awesome Cindy Bruchmann’s blog for her Five Shots series.

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Nadia and Dave at Mapleton Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

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Mapleton Falls Lookout with Karen at sunset. Copyright Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IV: FLAXTON MILL ROAD TO MAPLETON FALLS AND BACK AGAIN

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The view from Mapleton Falls Lookout. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

In July 2013 another need to get fit reared its head and I found myself driving up to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk with Karen to do another hike. This time I had recently gotten fairly fit training for a Half Marathon and decided I needed to take a full pack of 23kgs approx. We set off rather late in the day to cover 14.2 or 15.8kilometres approximately, about a kilometre in my pack became heavy.

 

Wanting to try something new that would still equate to roughly 15kms I had looked up a path that began at the Great Walks Entrance on Flaxton Mill Road where we had finished on our last hike which looked to have an interesting amount of the various things you look for on a hike. Changing vegetation, scenic views and perhaps a waterfall. When we arrived it was fairly sunny and we set off. Starting off from where we parked we travelled 2kms to Flaxton Walkers Camp where the path at times becomes a road. The second section of Sunshine Coast Great Walks begins here. Past the camp you start on a narrow path as you descend into a gully. 1556

Setting off down the gully. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

Already getting fatigued I could only look forward to how much fun it was going to be when I had to ascend the other side. By the time we reached the bottom it had started raining and the path became muddy. Karen slipped once or twice but thankfully was not worse for wear. We were both wearing boots as well which was good. I did this path with my siblings last year and for any Australian readers, note the path then was not muddy but rocky and uneven, make sure you have good comfortable shoes.

 

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Karen at Baxter Creek Falls. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

 

1572Karen Crossing the Baxter Creek Suspension Bridge. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

At the bottom we came a bridge where only one person is allowed on at a time. We went to the side as well to get a closer look at Baxter Creek Falls. Not as spectacular as Mapleton Falls or Kondalilla Falls it is often deserted and can be a calm pretty place to relax. Unfortunately we didn’t stay long this day as I was mindful of time and excited to show Karen where we were headed. The hike up was really where the mud got slippery and of course it was our first serious up hill part of the day. Pushing through this we got out to more open ground and while remaining overcast it stopped raining as we lost the canopy of the rain forest. The trek eventually moved into wider roads and big houses on hills that seemed to be eroding precariously.

1576I loved the red of these trees against the blueish-gray sky that I had to get a picture. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

We reached the open road of Obi Obi Road and even walked on footpaths as traffic whizzed past. Turning off and walking along Mapleton Falls Road we knew we were close to being halfway. While everything was wet and overcast rain was still minimal. My shirt more wet from all the sweating I was doing, I have to admit nothing really beats how great your shoulders feel after you’ve hiked with a full pack. I mean they feel shit but it feels good to have done something that pushed you. Along Mapleton Falls Road are horses and barns and then as you get close there’s bus parking spot for tourists to be dropped off. We’ve driven up to the Mapleton Falls several times since to show friends, one time I drove Karen’s grandfather up there and we sat out there with him on his walker eating brie cheese and drinking tea out of a thermos. He was 92 years old but he made it all the way from the car park to the look out without a problem. About 7 months later he passed, sometime later we took him for a drive around town for an hour. When he went to Mapleton Falls we were probably right on the edge of the last few days he could make such a journey. I’m glad we did.

1590The view from Mapleton Falls Lookout. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

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Mapleton Waterfalls © Copyright Lloyd Marken

There is something to be said though about hiking up to a spot that most people drive too and that was how we first saw Mapleton Falls, probably the most spectacular look out on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. I took my pack off at this point and enjoyed the view but was mindful of the time. Soon enough we were back off again but as my phone started to run out of battery power on Mapleton Falls Road we came across an echidna in the wild. This was a special treat and one of our best hiking memories.

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Echidna in the wild. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

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Echidna in the wild up close. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

Those were the last photos I took of the hike but it was more of the same. As we headed down the gully due to the rain, the late hour or our quietness I can’t say but birds uncharacteristically fluttered about more freely and undisturbed by our presence. We got to see a few more up close and in detail then we ever have. Another treat to boost our spirits. Once crossing the rope bridge I began to find it particularly tough hiking up hill with full pack. I shudder to think how I would go now in my current fitness. I’ve hiked steeper and longer but maybe only once further and over such trying terrain. I definitely struggled to maintain a pace but I just kept pushing forward. We soon enough went past Flaxton Walkers Camp as the sun set. This let me know there wasn’t far to go but even so as we reached the last part we were back on a narrow path in thick rainforest and eventually it was dark, sounds of wildlife buzzed around us but I was very fatigued and did not want to bother taking off my pack to get a torch if it was a handful of metres left. Our pace quickened and at the point where I may have looked for the torch to ease Karen’s mind a single lamppost appeared in a clearing near us. We had made it. I don’t think we managed Capriccios that day but it had been a terribly rewarding hike. Maybe one of my favourites.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. This series of posts was inspired by Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots. Check out this fantastic post of autumn leaves in Arizona canyons. Just beautiful!

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A View from Mapleton Falls. © Copyright Lloyd Marken