Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hiking the Lech River trail – mountains, rivers, cowbells, trout and strudel

Seven days walking from the Lech River source, a spring above Lech and just below Lake Formarinsee at 1870 metres through the Austrian Laps and across the German border to Fussen.

Racing thunderstorms.

One day ahead of snow showers.

Two hot days and finishing just before a deluge.

The beauty of the alps, the rivers and lakes.

The silence of the forests (though I do miss the noise of Australian birds).

The solitude.

The hours of rocks and tree roots up and down, up and down.

The tiny villages and the friendly people.

Did I mention the local trout and strudel? And the beer? I’m no food porn fan so you’ll just have to believe me.

Some photos that cannot do justice.

Oh and I nearly forgot the views of King Ludwig’s fantastic Neuschwanstein Castle across Lake Alpsee.

Formarinsee day one

The River begins and so do I.

Local cowbell ringers

Lech as thunderstorms grumble

The path to Varth

Light above the village church as I leave for Holzgau

Now truly a River

And next the frankly scary Holzgau suspension bridge, 210 metres long and 100 metres above the valley. An early morning Adrenalin fix.

one of many signs of avalanches and massive rockfalls.

A perfect snack spot after a long climb and another hour of ascending to go, high in the forest and nobody in sight.

Tight security at the Austria- Germany border

The stunning colours of Alpsee and across the lake to Neuchwanstein.

Yours truly gazing back to where I’d walked.

Yours truly again at Lechfall, the official end of the trail. The River continues and flows into the Danube.

Happy to have reached the end after a long and hard final day. Sorry it’s over.

Where to next?

Walking the Cotswold Way

Sometimes the path was spacious

And sometimes it was not.

But always it was beautiful and joyfully quiet, perhaps six days of 30 Celsius kept other walkers away so that most of the time it was me alone in the fields except for cows and sheep and in the forest me and deer, foxes(heard but unseen), birds and unknown small animals foraging in the undergrowth.

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Equally beautiful were the little villages,colours changing from the honey brown hues of the north to the lighter more austere colours heading south as I walked from Chipping Campden to Bath.

Not forgetting the Millenium Folly and my destination of Bath Abbey and the plaque celebrating the Cotswold Way.

And of course one sign post for the path.

So, seven wonderful days of solitude and contemplation, plus miles under the boots in July summer days. Oh and let’s not forget much thinking about the final draft revisions of my novel. Walking and thinking go together like – well, you can add your own pairing!

Recommended to one and all.

Outback Australia, one step at a time

2017-05-26 09.49.20The trail never ends, last week was 8 days walking around Uluru, through Kata Tjuta and along sections of the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia. Sleeping in tents or in a swag under starlit skies impossible to comprehend or describe. Campfires at night with wonderful food, drink and company.

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and beauty wherever one looks – rock or water, harsh or gentle in nature.
2017-05-21 13.37.33Sunsets and sunrises
2017-05-25 07.09.40and the iconic, sacred rock
2017-05-17 18.01.46in ever changing colours, especially the red we all know and love.
2017-05-18 07.25.13and looking down from the summit of Mount Sonder, a 3 hour night time ascent with head lamps.
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A wonderful time of reflection in desert silence, no phones, no distractions.
and an ever-growing appreciation of the 40,000 year old civilization which inhabited and managed this land.
Where next? Scotland in July, for ‘something completely different’, but where next
in Australia? That path is unknown.

Like falling out of a window

Yes, it’s been seven months since I blogged. Shame on me, though I do have excuses. It is one year since I had a melanoma removed. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is like falling out of a window [a thousand other metaphors or similes come to mind] and ‘so far so good’ as I haven’t yet hit the ground. My quarterly check three days ago showed NED = no evidence of disease and no need to come back for four months.

You want more excuses? In July I had two related operations, nothing to do with cancer, ‘just bad luck’ consequences of the original melanoma operation. Successful, albeit with a long period of enforced inactivity.

Still not happy? Okay. This week I completed the first draft of ‘Stopping Time’, my novel about the challenges confronting modern universities; that is, the pressure to do more with less and to be more commercial, competitive and ‘relevant’ while maintaining core values of academic freedom. One hundred thousand words of pure gold. Maybe.

No more excuses.

Now it is decision time. Time to cross the river, not the Styx fortunately. The photo is one of many river crossings when I was hiking in the Flinders Ranges in September perfectly timed to coincide with a ‘once in 50 years’ weather event. Three ops and you gotta keep going through flood, storm, whatever.

Anyway, I digress. My decision, my metaphorical river to cross, is this. Which of my two manuscripts do I revise first? ‘Death on the Camino’, the one with potential but needs more work [according to an editor] and which is my first love? Or ‘Stopping Life’, the one which my mentor likes and which is probably more commercial and topical? The heart versus common sense.

Time for a walk in the rain and a spot of pondering…

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Kakadu dreaming and rock art

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Some paintings are 20,000 years old, depicting the creation of the world at the dream time; some depict the spirits at the heart of their belief system and the last are 150 years old and show the arrival of the white invaders and the end of the world they had known for 40,000 – 50,000 years.

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In between I see a kangaroo being hunted and a painting of one of the giant kangaroos which once roamed Australia, plus dreaming characters good and bad, as central to their belief system as ours to us.

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I write these few words from a well of ignorance and a renewed respect for our indigenous culture, the longest surviving in human history. I knew I knew little, truth is I knew virtually nothing of a culture we have done our utmost to destroy.

Humbling. Equally humbling was the experience of hiking for a week through a land which appears utterly inhospitable – bone dry and hot half the year, inundated by monsoons half the year – and learning a little of how a culture flourished here for thousands of years.

A wonderful holiday and a privilege.

 

 

 

The business of universities: a work of fiction

What is a university today?

This –

hallowed halls

or this –

business

Hallowed halls or a corporation? Ivory towers or big business?

Yes, these days a university is both and I was part of that transformation of higher education from the 1980’s to 2007 and as a consultant in Asia and Europe until 2013.

Since I left full time university life, starting out as a lowly fixed term lecturer, later as a professor, Faculty Dean, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Director of various public and private companies linked with universities, I have wanted to write a novel about the massive challenges taking place in universities in the Anglo world and increasingly in Europe and Asia with the decline of government funding, the growth of ‘user pays’ and the treatment of education as a private rather than public good within a broader neo-liberal philosophy where the market rules.

Until now I remained too close to the subject to be able to write a fictional account of the challenges and dilemmas facing Australian universities in particular as governments reduced funding and universities were forced to become entrepreneurial, business oriented and market driven. I rode that wave for 20 years and think I left just in time with a sliver of my soul intact.

My story? A prestigious Australian university has failed to adapt and faces funding shortfalls and the loss of key academic staff and research areas unless it can access external funding fast and lots of it. A Chinese businessman needs to move assets overseas, fast and lots of it. A match made in heaven or is life never this simple?

5,000 words written and loving it – oh and if you’re reading this, you may be in it …