28 February 2011


(Wow, this is a bit late!)

Here is a map of the walk.

Here are all the photos we took.

We met E at Essendon station (unplanned) and took the 903 bus to the start of the walk. The plan was to walk up to Brimbank Park, do a loop back to (near) the start, then head downstream around the large curve in the river to catch the 903 bus back to Essendon at Steele Creek.

e, j & d: the before shot

We headed down the side of the valley to the river on one of the unofficial tracks, through shoulder-high grasses, past huge purple thistle flowers and the occasional wild/feral fennel bush.

unofficial path


Once down at the river, it was easy to see how high the recent floodwaters had come, and also to imagine how fast it must have been flowing. Large branches had been swept onto the path, and bushes had been tipped on their sides. The path was also damaged (though no longer wet), with water channels creating small ditches along its length. We walked under the Maribyrnong River Viaduct/Quarter Mile Bridge and had to take a picture of the kissing gate below – so plastered with leaves and twigs that it looked deliberately thatched!

quarter mile bridge 2

under the quarter mile bridge
Check out that concrete, Dad!

flood-thatched gate!

It was kind of unsurprising, then, when we met a ranger underneath the ring road, who told us that the path was actually closed (we hadn’t seen any signs) due to flood damage. “We can’t guarantee the safety of any of the trees or the path,” she told us, and strongly advised us against coming back that way . . . which was exactly what we’d planned to do! Luckily, there is a higher path to Brimbank Park from Western Ring Road (which we’d intended to use on our return trip), so we took that over the top of the valley walls and were treated to excellent views out towards Mt Macedon.

western ring road with shadows

train on the quarter mile bridge

It was pretty cool to see up close some of the geological features that are so obvious when you take a plane out of or into Melbourne (and we saw A LOT of planes!). Around those north-western areas it’s clear that the high parts are not hills – it’s a plain, and the watercourses have cut huge valleys out of it.

Once down in Brimbank Park, we had a wander around and decided to treat ourselves to an iced coffee (or iced chocolate in D’s case) at the cafĂ©. It was perfect weather to sit under the high verandah and consult Google Maps on E’s phone. We couldn’t cross the river to Horseshoe Bend because both the fords were underwater, so we decided we’d walk back to the Western Ring Road, follow the path around to Steele Creek, and have lunch there. From there, we’d decide on our next move.

picnic tables and flood damage
Flood damage and picnic tables

the ford, under a bit too much water to cross!

iced coffee and chocolate at brimbank park

For a little way the Western Ring Road Trail was surprisingly pleasant, but after we crossed Keilor Park Drive it was pretty grim walking to the Calder Freeway, sandwiched between the ring road and various industrial estates and warehouses.


It was a relief to get into suburban streets and then finally descend into the greenery of Steele Creek. We walked a little way from the freeway noise, then downed our bags to sit in the shade, reapply sunscreen and eat lunch.

e & d - LUNCH BREAK!

Consulting the map again, we decided to head down to what Google calls Niddrie Lake, but which seems to be known as Valley Lake on the ground. After trying to follow Google’s map (incorrect), we decided to simply scramble down the side of the hill through an undeveloped plot of land in order to get to the lake. We hypothesised that this used to be an enormous quarry (internet searches tell me we were right). It is quite a bizarre place: a newly landscaped lake with a great big sculpture of a person sitting on a ladder gazing east through a pair of binoculars; huge quarry walls; recently planted trees and unestablished ‘wetland’; patchy development of new McMansion-style estate homes, some perching almost too close to quarry walls for comfort! It will be interesting to go back in ten years to see how the trees have matured and the lake and wetland have become more established.

birdwatcher/stalker/voyeur sculpture at valley lake 1

birdwatcher/stalker/voyeur sculpture at valley lake 2


Although the map said otherwise, we were able to follow Steele Creek right down to Rosehill Road and then to Buckley Street (though we had to do a bit of rockhopping to get to the path on the east side of the creek). Although it was hot, a cool breeze kept it from being stifling, and there were lots of small birds, moths and butterflies flitting about to keep us distracted.

We climbed the path near Buckley Street to get the view over the explosives factory and down to the city, and we sat on a shady bench to enjoy the scenery and drink a cup of tea. From there, it was back to Buckley St and the (wonderfully airconditioned!) 903 bus. Despite not being allowed to do the walk we’d planned, we had a good time exploring totally new places – plus we ended up exactly where our original walk would have taken us!

In conclusion: I wouldn’t be keen to walk the Western Ring Road Trail again, but it worked for us as a link between Brimbank Park and Steele Creek (would probably be less obnoxious to ride it on a bike). We probably all got a touch sunburnt - we were pretty careful, but there really wasn’t much shade on the path. We hadn’t walked with E before, but we all seemed to strike the same pace, and be comfortable with the distance. All in all, a good day!

20 February 2011


We have plans for the rest of the year. Clearly defined plans for now, next week, much fuzzier plans for November, December. This change of focus (to continue with the imagery) is punctuated by a few signposts and events, some more flexible than others. Things to do, in vague order: "mum's birthday in April", "apply for a visa", "my birthday in June", "save some money", "finish painting the house" (we finally started painting the hallway yesterday!), "dad's birthday in August", "finish and submit this dissertation", "prepare to leave the country" . . . then: "arrive in the UK", "D's mum's birthday in October", "go for a walking holiday", "go WWOOFing", "find work and somewhere to live".


Possibly in preparation, possibly as a way of escaping the world of dissertation in my head, I have become a little addicted to reading the blogs of individuals and families who are travelling or changing their lives or merely trying to live in sustainable, green, eco-friendly ways. There are things about these blogs that I really appreciate - discussions of the practicalities of living this way, the ups and downs of a changing/travelling lifestyle, the feelings of freedom and of connecting with people and environment, the philosophies that drive people (some more fully thought-out than others).

One thing I've noticed, however, is that few of these bloggers spend time considering their own privileges: how they feel financially secure enough to take off for a year of WWOOFing and wandering; how their whiteness and heterosexuality means they encounter little harassment on the streets of the towns they pass through; how the exchange rate and their dollars or euros or pounds means they are incredibly rich in comparison to the people they are living with; how they don't have to negotiate being trans or being physically disabled or chronically ill when thinking about accommodation or work or travel. Sure, these things are sometimes mentioned in passing (and some financial aspects in more detail), but it seems that most political, ethical and philosophical thought is reserved for discussions of sustainability, environmental impact, green living.

In some respects this is completely understandable, but at the same time it makes it difficult for me to feel like I can be part of this imagined community - in some respects I am invisible, things that are of everyday practical importance to me are irrelevant, my kind of activism and ethics seems out of place. It reminds me a bit of discussions I've read about racism and classism in vegan/sustainable living communities. I start thinking, is it important for me to ask people to interrogate their own beliefs when they argue that we shouldn't need social networking sites, we should talk to our neighbours, to real people? Apart from enjoying the irony of blogging such thoughts, I feel like saying this devalues the immense importance of online connections to those of us who are marginalised by heteronormative, cisnormative, white privileging, ableist, capitalist, nationalist society. At the most basic, it is hard to talk to your neighbours when you are not sure if they will physically assault you because of who you are. Online networking allows us to find other people like us with less physical danger (if, of course, our domestic spaces are not ones of violence, and if we have access to a computer and the internet).

And I think, do the people who say living off grid is their ultimate goal understand how privileged they are to not need specialist foods, medicines, equipment to live their lives? I will probably never be able to live a life that is free from entanglement with international pharmaceutical industry (see Michelle O'Brien's essay "tracing this body: transsexuality, pharmaceuticals & capitalism" for more on that).

Do the people who want to live with mum and dad and two young kids on a totally isolated farm spare a thought for how they are going to provide freedom for their kids when they get older? I'm sure that these thoughts are there - the bloggers I read are not as irresponsible as all that. And of course, there are pros and cons to all lifestyle choices. But as a person who lived in an isolated house for the first 18 years of my life, relying on my parents to drive me if I wanted to go anywhere or see anyone . . . it can be alienating, suffocating. As a queer teenager, the country offered me very little in the way of support - and this is despite my parents being accepting, despite having queer family friends, despite knowing a couple of other queer kids, despite knowing that it was fundamentally OK to be queer. In some ways I am glad I didn't know/feel/identify as trans when I was a teenager, because I don't know how I would have dealt with that. [N.B. I would ask a different set of questions of parents who plan to live in towns and cities - there is no decision that's 'right' for everyone.]

But! I have gone off track. What I wanted to say is that this style of thinking is very seductive. The images of self-sufficiency and good honest work carry immense nostalgia - for me, some of this is bound up with my parents' own project of self-sufficiency, their (hippie) ethics, my dad's nostalgia for his grandfather's farm in New Zealand . . . it stretches way back. The possibility of living a low-impact life in the countryside gives off powerful feel-good vibes. The idea of being part of this back-to-basics, respect-the-environment community has its appeal. Perhaps my dreaming is in preparation for doing something similar one day.

But it's not as simple as following your dreams. In as much as we are following our dreams in moving to the UK (etc.), I want to be a bit more reflective regarding the political meanings, circumstances and implications of our decisions.

12 February 2011


I'm very glad that my folks' place is still standing after the fires in East Gippsland. Here are a few photos taken by them on the road between Orbost and Lakes.

GIVE WAY (bushfires)

after the rain (bushfires)

REST & STAY ALIVE (bushfires)


So... long time, no write! I blame a number of things. First and foremost, I've stepped up my dissertation-writing a notch and therefore have less time to blog, walk, upload photos, or blog about walking and photos! Second, now that I'm not doing a significant challenge like 2010km in 2010, I'm just not walking as much. My challenge this year is to get out of the house every day (minimum walk: 500m!), which I've managed so far! Third... *handwave*. You know: life, laziness, stuff and things. Hopefully I'll blog about a couple of walks over the next week or so.

First, though, some pictures from the first few days of January, when we went to stay with my folks. (You can read more about most of them by clicking on the image - it will take you through to the Flickr page.)

First sunrise of the year:
first morning of the year

First dinner of the year:
big stack o' pancakes

Small things and details walking in the bush out the back of their place:

hyacinth orchid



little green spider with red and white on the back

raindrops on purple leaf 1

Protea in the garden:
fucking enormous protea!

Photos from a great bushbash we did to find old, overgrown tracks and a random abandoned bridge in the State Forest:
j & e on the track

"the monash"


giant stick insect (dead)

j on the old bridge

come along!

bush tea

little red flowers

Around the house:
guest room


east verandah, looking south

jazz hands!

the before photo

There you are! It was a wonderful, relaxing start to the year.