Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 20th

Day 17... on the road... resting... signing autographs?... The Mums report having had a very busy day today. They have been re-grouping, re-organizing, planning the balloon launch tomorrow and also preparing for the final walk into Birdsville on Monday morning. It must be so hard to be this close to the end of such a big journey, and still have such a lot to do and still more kilometres to walk.

Birdsville is abuzz with talk of the four crazy women who have walked across a desert – a desert which most find tough to drive across in their air-conditioned four wheel drive vehicles with windows firmly sealed against the dust, heat and flies.

The Mums have had a constant stream of visitors driving out from Birdsville to see them, talk to them, congratulate them - as well as those who have travelled from the west and spotted their footsteps in the sand for the last 392 kilometres.

The two days of reprieve have given the Mums a chance to gather their resolve once again (not that they lost it), and they are now very much looking forward to reuniting with loved ones. No doubt, those thoughts are foremost in their minds. But first, there is the big event – the launch of 2500 balloons at about 10am tomorrow morning. There was little time for any sort of information from the Mums tonight, as I gathered Denis was pushing for some assistance with the organization of tomorrow’s event – getting the troops into order would be a priority. Contraband was probably ‘BANNED”.

The balloon launch is a mammoth task. The idea was born towards the end of last year during the preparation for this walk. While the image of hundreds of pink balloons rising into the sky (one balloon each in memory of the women who lose their lives every year in Australia to breast cancer), the actual deploying of such an event was a bit of a puzzle. Den nutted it out and came up with the idea of huge nets to hold the inflated balloons until blast off! What type to get ……where to get the stuff…… how to put it together……? He ended up with huge lengths of nylon netting that had to be hand sewn into two giant tubes fastened at each end, with a hole through which each balloon was pushed once inflated. Well, the proof will be in the pudding tomorrow morning! We worked on these nets together for a couple of days and they stretched from one end of our home to the other – Den stitched as I fed the copious maze of nylon into his hands – naturally we went off course at one stage and ended up with everything awry – my fault (naturally – I’m a wife…..need I say more?). Anyway, the finished product was perfect!! Photo attached.

Today was quite windy, which was something Denis hoped not to have for the launch. Thousands of balloons all contained together would provide a huge resistance against the wind, so fingers crossed that the morning is relatively still. Sunrise will no doubt see all hands on deck inflating balloons from the helium gas cylinders and hand tying them so as not to leave anything behind to degrade the landscape – the four Mums, the three support crew and Ed and Janice who are also there to lend a hand, will be taking turns with the tying. What a sight it will be – I would so love to see it – hundreds and hundreds of balloons rising skywards in celebration of the lives of those who are no longer with us.

No doubt, the Desert Mums will have an audience tomorrow morning - both the townspeople from Birdsville and the tourists who are lucky enough to be around at this time would not wish to miss something like this. I hope someone is taking the donation box around!

But we have to wait for their report…………until tomorrow, good night from The Desert Mums

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 19th

Day 15...resting...(oh, bliss!)... The Desert Mums report “After such a fantastic and emotional day yesterday, it was a real treat to be able to sit on top of the biggest sand dune in the Simpson Desert and watch the most spectacular sunrise full of so many amazing colours. Then as we made our way down for breakfast, the Aussie salute began two hours earlier than usual! Bugger!!!!”

Such was the beginning of the Desert Mums first and much needed rest day. This day was spent chasing the shade of a gum tree, enjoying a hot shower (courtesy of Den’s solar heated bush shower, and only the 2nd in two weeks), and waiting anxiously for their support team (Andrew & Kathy) to return back from Birdsville with their long list of urgently required contraband – anything not in a tin.

“The liquid refreshment contraband is required for medicinal purposes (yeh, right) as we all have a case of desert tinnitus – similar to normal tinnitus (or ringing in the ears), except this is a buzz in the ear.”

Denis headed for Birdsville today to collect the trailer with the balloons and gas bottles and took the opportunity for a shower and to do some laundry. Andrew and Kathy also hit the track for Birdsville a bit later in the day on a mission (shopping list in hand) to scour the Birdsville General Store for goodies for the Desert Mums (and no doubt themselves!). They too took the opportunity for a shower at the Birdsville Caravan Park and to do some of their own laundry. The poor Desert Mums, the ones that have done the REALLY hard yards, had to stay back at the base of Big Red in the heat and dust and entertain themselves – I guess they weren’t complaining – at least they didn’t have to walk today.

The Mums are looking forward to another rest day tomorrow before their epic balloon launch on Sunday morning on top of Big Red. Now that they are only 40 kilometres from Birdsville, they are tasting victory. No one will give up at this stage – that’s a given - they’d have to be at a point where they needed to be carried out on a stretcher, rather than give in now. Not happening.

Further comments from the Mums:

PS “Still no camels

PPS “Please – anyone - let us know the names of the Griswald Family –( Lampoons Vacation)”

(Clearly, we need to get our girls back home after this question!! - that desert sun must be a killer! – or what else do you talk about all day with the only pressing matter on the agenda to find some shade and beat the bloody flies? – perhaps they could have had a competition on how many of those little suckers they could kill – nup, that game wouldn’t have an end!)

Throughout the entire walk…… the heat, the flies, the dust, the pain, the dreadlocks and no icecream…… the Mums have never lost sight of the reason for their journey……..let us not forget either…….if any of you wish to support their effort and make a donation for breast cancer research, or indeed enter the “number of steps” competition, please go to their website at and follow the prompts. You can click on either “donate”, “pledge” or to the right of the page, “competition”.

Until tomorrow…………The Desert Mums say goodnight after a VERY restful day…………..

I have attached a photo supplied by Ian Shuey from the Balloon Artists & Suppliers Assn of Australasia (BASA). Ian suggests that this hat is good for protection against the hot desert sun (questionable) and keeping the flies away (well………I’d be scared if I saw anyone wearing this!)

Big Red.. a celebration of the Simpson Desert


It is late afternoon
I stagger to the top of this red dune
It is a journey I’ve made many times before
and hopefully will continue to make for many years to come

It’s a special place, my high perch
where I sit cross-legged facing the setting sun

To the north and south of me
domes of windswept sand protrude like pimples above the ridge line
each one fired like a glowing poker
while below me
the shadow cast by the westerly dune
inches its way across the interdunal flat
intent on extermination.

The eagle makes a long low graceful run to view the intruder
then catches an updraught and rises effortlessly into the sky
How I envy him his range of visibility, his perspective, his freedom
The sun, now a fiery ball
makes a mockery of the colour chart
as its light dances over the scattered clouds to the west

An artist is at work here splashing, dabbing, continually changing
working his paints on the largest canvas in the world
Then in a frenzy, the final burst
............ and it’s finished
A masterpiece has been wrought by the fire of life

Sadly I watch this moment of art, this original
as it struggles in its death throes
to be obliterated forever by the curtain of night

Darkness falls on Big Red

Denis Bartell 1980

(Nappanerica sand dune near Birdsville named “Big Red” by Denis Bartell in 1980)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 17th

The Desert Mums – Update May 17th
Day 13...walking... As Robin Williams in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam” said – HOT…… DAMN HOT!!!
The Desert Mums had a feeling that today was not going to be pleasant when the flies came out earlier than normal. The desert heat is remaining fierce even though most of the rest of Australia is enjoying cool Autumn weather.

Another 31 kilometres was bowled over today and the Mums report that they are “delirious with aches and pains”, but oh so happy that they have only one more big 31 kilometre day to go. They will then reach Big Red and can then settle back for two days of well earned rest before the balloon launch.

More wonderful, generous tourists were encountered on the track today and they stopped for chats and photos with the Mums. Ed and Janice also returned with a full gas bottle to ensure everyone could have the hot meals to which they are now accustomed – cold juice was also delivered which reported as being “beyond delicious!”

As I mentioned last night, I was going to ask for some personal insight from each of the Mums as to how they were feeling about the journey so far. I was hoping for something really gritty, deep, insightful………but they are keeping “mum” (no pun intended). Anyway, here are their words:

Margot: “It seems the desert attracts the most generous tourists.”
Carolyn: “My determination is writing cheques that my feet can’t cash!”
Debbie: “Shoo Fly”
Susie: “This is tough….incredibly tough, but as Ian (husband) predicted, when you think the tank is empty, it is not even sitting on half!”

Okay, at this point, any thought that I may be even halfway to a good reporter is dashed! I can’t even elicit a modicum of personal, deep feelings that I can share with you (sorry Coach Grant – check the Debonator’s response!! – if that wasn’t giving me the “flick” …oh, no, that’s only for the flies, isn’t it?) No doubt everyone closest to these courageous women will have a much better insight into the personal emotions they experienced during this trek once they are back in the loving embrace of their families and friends.

The support crew and Kathy also added a few comments:

Andrew: “I’m improving my golf swing and plotting to move Susie’s tent closer to everyone else’s (as well as any other mischievous acts I can come up with)”. (Note: the entire crew snores, so Susie moved well away!)

I am planning to have photos of the entire crew in the final newsletter after the Mums have reached Birdsville, so that everyone receiving the 300 plus emails that go out each day can put faces to the names that must now be becoming so familiar. I have a photograph of Andrew that, after reading his comments, I am SO tempted to use!) PS: If I don’t use it...I can be bought!

Kathy: “I knew the Mums were tough – I attempted to walk another 10 kilometres with them and due to the heat, had to bail out at 2 kilometres. They’re four incredibly tough women. (Can’t kill the videographer until after Birdsville – it’s in the rules – the documentary has to be finished!)”

Denis: “The journey is nearing its end and despite a few rocky moments, the girls have powered on and I’m terribly, terribly proud of the whole lot of them.”

The Desert Mums are now just short of 30 kilometres from Big Red. They have “officially” walked across the Simpson Desert National Park from west to east. They saw the sign on the western edge of the desert and have now also viewed the sign on the eastern edge – they still have a bit further to walk to get to Big Red as it is out of the park, and as well and there is a further 15km to plod before they enter the township of Birdsville, but WOW, they have walked across the Simpson!!!!! What’s another few kilometers after the distances they’ve done!? (They could slap me for saying that……..but, hey, I’m out of range).

“Til tomorrow... love from... The Desert Mums...

PS Andrew IS now sporting a beard!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 16th

Day 12...walking... The Desert Mums all felt so good after their early start and finish yesterday that they thought they’d do it again today. Re-cap… word is, they are NOT doing it again tomorrow! It was very, very, very cold this morning and horrendously hot this afternoon. (Such are the extremes of the desert temperatures). I do not have the readings, although I asked, but I don’t think anyone has a thermometer with them. Suffice to say, it can be pretty uncomfortable at certain times of the day in the middle of the Aussie outback.

They learned last night that the smell that had been assaulting their nostrils is not from a camel carcass……..or from each other – it’s the trees. They are called “Stinkin Gidgee”. Sounds wonderful……..…not!

Janice and Ed (from Toowoomba and friends of Denis & Jeanne) met the Mums for lunch and brought them some fresh fruit – such a treat and very thoughtful. Ed and Janice had planned from early days to meet Den and the Mums on the track close to the balloon launch date at Big Red. This is to occur in 5 days time on May 21st at approximately 10.00am. Janice and Ed will assist with the inflation of all 2500 pink balloons and I am sure that the extra hands will be really appreciated. The crew will be hand tying all the balloons so as not to leave any clips or ties to litter the environment. Of course, the balloons are 100% biodegradable latex and the tiny pieces that are left after they burst in the high, cold air decompose at about the same rate as that of a leaf which falls from a tree. The hand tying, however, is drying and painful for the fingers and hands, exacerbated no doubt by the very dry atmosphere experienced in the Simpson.

After completing yet another 31km today and after 8 or 9 hours walking for the twelfth time, the Mums lurched and shambled into camp along with the unmentionable little flying creatures that had been following them all afternoon. They rewarded themselves with a rest under what little shade a tarp strung between the two vehicles can provide, and nibbled some of the stashed “feel good” yummies that were smuggled in, extra to their standard daily rations. It was too early for dinner, so chief cook and bottle washer, Denis, snoozed under the meagre shade of a Stinkin Gidgee. Oh joy.

The Desert Mums are currently 62km west of Big Red sand dune. They have a small window of opportunity here to take the next couple of days a bit easier if they need to – provided they are allowed I guess - Denis had planned two days rest at Big Red before the balloon launch. He has to drive into Birdsville after arriving at Big Red to hook up the trailer, which is loaded with the helium gas bottles for the balloons, and get them back for the launch on Sunday. This should be a magnificent sight, one I would love to see………but not to be for me, nor sadly for all of you receiving this email tonight, however, Kathy will have the whole exciting event on film.

I received very little gossip from the Mums tonight as the phone line was really poor, and I had the feeling that they were pretty tired. I have tried calling again, but maybe the satellite is off doing its thing somewhere else – hhrmph, no consideration! It was impossible under these conditions to relay all of today’s email messages to them, so they’ll get a double whammy tomorrow evening. During the morning tomorrow, I intend to phone Den (if I can get through) and give a few instructions: I think we would all like to hear personal thoughts from each and every Desert Mum – that will give them something to think about while they push through the pain barrier while knocking off the last few days of their incredible journey.

Lastly, if anyone is trying to phone from Canada or the US, please phone 0414 291 851 as this number seems to be able to receive calls from these countries. It’s a complicated issue to do with Telstra in Australia, our telecommunications giant. Their industry rival, Optus, has provided the wonderful (and necessary) satellite communication for the Desert Mums. Telstra appears not to be open to assisting Optus, despite the unselfish contribution the Mums are making to help raise funds for Breast Cancer Research.

Two more days of walking (or a little bit more if they decide to stretch it out) before a rest at Big Red – they’re on the home stretch now! They WILL make it for sure!!

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 15th

Day 11…walking...

What a morale boosting day!! The Mums started walking this morning by torch light at 6.30am. They followed a beautiful flat track along the side of a long salt lake. Such terrain was wonderful after tackling the many hundreds of sand dunes the Simpson is famous for.

The Mums knocked off 13 kilometres very quickly before their rest stop for morning tea, which meant only 8 kilometres in the dunes before lunch.

After plodding a full 31 kilometres today, they came into camp at 4pm having made fantastic mileage. This of course meant two hours of “down time” in daylight – and still being daylight meant they spent a great amount of time employing the good old Aussie salute to the twenty million flies, while trying to enjoy a contraband Merlot. (I will apologize for the girls’ constant reference to the flies - they can’t help but go on about them…….…truly………..words fail me because I am basically a polite person and cannot put to print the utterances that come to mind when having to share a minute with these horrid little pests. They can drive you NUTS! They head for the corners of your eyes, nose and mouth – anywhere to get moisture – and they stick there like they were glued with honey). Yuk.

The Mums had an emotional interlude today. During the planning stages of this journey, an idea was born to name one of the many salt lakes (that bear no name on charted maps of the area), in honour of all the women who have lost their lives to breast cancer. Denis was going to choose the lake, as there are several unnamed on the current maps ….. and its name was to be Lake Courage. However, the day Denis left home for Birdsville, we received an email from the South Australian Government’s department of Environment and Heritage advising that the only people who can name a geographic feature are the Geographic Names Board – and that Traditional Owners would probably object to a salt lake being named because they would argue it already had an aboriginal name. This was of course extremely disappointing, but certainly understandable.

With respect to the traditional owners of this area, and in no way diminishing the feeling and sincerity on this occasion, the Desert Mums and support crew held a symbolic ceremony – Lake Courage has been named (symbolically) for the 375,000 people who die each year around the world from breast cancer. This emotional ceremony was recorded by Kathy on film and was a great moment for the Mums.

They were all very excited, when heading north during the day, they finally turned east for the last time (turning is exciting). They were now on an easterly course towards Birdsville with no more changes of direction necessary. They are now roughly 36km east of Peoppel Corner and the Birdsville Pub is at the end of the road – 128 kms at the end of the road – but the end of the road nonetheless!!

And finally on Day 11…the Mums saw fresh camel “poo”. Yep…. FRESH!! The myth of no camels in the Simpson is destroyed! Den and Kathy went off at a screaming pace in the Land Cruiser for several kilometres to search them out, and naturally our “Great White Hunter” found four LIVE camels meandering about the countryside as if this was no big news! Kathy caught it all on film, while the poor Desert Mums are left plodding on, still waiting to see real, live camels!

Did you know, this year 2006, is officially “The Year of the Outback”? – what perfect timing for the Desert Mums to undertake this gargantuan task in the middle of Australia. They have another 31km on the agenda again tomorrow – stay tuned.

Lastly, and once again, the Mums have asked me to send a special thank you for all the emails– they all stand around the car each night and listen to them being read out over a sometimes patchy (but wonderful just the same) satellite phone connection. Put simply, your messages mean a lot!

Truth... what is it?

"All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer

The Desert Mums – Update May 14th Day 10... walking…

The fire light dancing on the wall of the Mums’ tents was a nice treat this morning for Mother’s Day—that, and yet another Tarzan wakeup call from Den.

Everyone had their tent packed up really quickly so they could stand by the fire and defrost before they started walking. The camera crew (Kathy) is threatening a strike if there are no morning fires! (Apparently they get going so early, they don’t bother – heck I agree with union action on this one!)

More soft sand dunes were conquered today before the Mums hit Peoppel Corner. They did the usual dance around the stakes. (For those of you who are not Australian, this is the spot where the borders of three states meet on the Australian map – Queensland, South Australia and The Northern Territory.) Augustus Poeppel was the surveyor who sorted all this out late in the 19th century, and is now honoured with his name on a peg – lucky lad!

The girls were surprised to see five motor bike riders today - a dad and his four sons from Port Macquarie. It was pretty exciting for the Mums to see five black leather-clad bikers screaming over the top of a dune, and after a quick “hello”, to quickly disappear again once they had crested the next one. The noise of five motor bikes shattering the desert silence, even for that short time, must have been surprising……if not unnerving.

Now, these girls aren’t silly ……… but we knew that………. “It’s MOTHERS DAY and we’re sore! We’re only walking 20 kilometres today” came the call. Anyone who knows Denis, also knows that he can be a total softie at times…… the Mums spent the afternoon beside a massive (dry) salt lake eating and drinking “the contraband”. Among other goodies, they enjoyed Canadian choccies (smuggled by Kathy), Baileys Irish Cream (Susie’s effort) and champagne (to which no one is owning up). “Where did the bloody wine glasses come from?” yelled Den. Sshhh…………..that was me….. …..they’re only plastic so surely that doesn’t count!.

This of course means that they now have to complete at least 30km every day, but they have assured me that they are ready and up for it!! Sounds like the inevitable wall that they hit on the 12th has been knocked down, kicked out of their way and marched over!! That’s our girls!!

They have 164km to go……..they have really broken the camel’s back – that is if there was a camel to be seen anywhere!!! They are ALL in high spirits, happy and excited.

I read out all the Mothers Day wishes on their speaker phone tonight to the Mums and I think there were a few little tears, but they are admitting nothing. However, there was a chorus of ‘thank you’s’ echoing down my handset for all of you who sent an email for them today.

As I hung up, they were off to enjoy another of Den’s culinary delights and asked that I send love and best wishes to you all. ………from Jeanne on behalf of The Desert Mums

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Man Who Changed The World - 3 times so far!

Steve Jobs' Commencement speech at Stanford (June, 2005)A speech -- especially a commencement speech -- is different from a presentation, but Steve Jobs pulls this off brilliantly.
A wonderful speech. The best speeches tell stories and paint pictures with words and share personal, relevant, and memorable information that have lasting meaning to the audience.
(See text from the speech.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Top 1%

Alex Krupp points us to this neat post from Jackie & Ben: Church of the Customer Blog: The 1% Rule: Charting citizen participation.

The upshot is that for many organizations, the top 1% do 80% more of the contributing. The fascinating Wikipedia example (fascinating for me, anyway) points out that after about three and a half years, Wikipedia had just 15,000 contributors. But 4,000 or so of them did almost all the work.

Often, it's easy to imagine that big companies like Hallmark and British Airlines and Coke are selling lots and lots to everyone. In fact, a tiny slice may very well be the difference between success and failure.

The Desert Mums – Update May 13th

Day 9... walking..

Well the old saying “Tomorrow is another day” certainly rang true for the Desert Mums. Today was a much better day than yesterday, but then any day would have been better than yesterday. Maybe the realization had not yet hit home that they were past the half way point (too busy putting one foot in front of the other to take that into account?) ….…..or maybe it was just all those bloody flies??!!!!!! Whatever, it was a new day today, and lucky 13th saw them triumphant in announcing that they have now walked an amazing 248km.

The Desert Mums reported tonight - “We have walked, limped, hobbled and shuffled with a few aches and pains, but it is easily put into perspective - our pain is nothing compared to what women with breast cancer go through.”

Today was made extra, extra, extra special by two wonderful couples met on the track who had a camp oven! This is almost better than a car fridge!! Last night they cooked an apricot layer cake for the Mums and it was delivered to them on the French Line about morning tea time – lovely – a new slant on home delivery in the middle of the Simpson Desert. It was scones that were promised the day before, but hey, apricot layer cake! – nobody was complaining!!

Today felt really “deserty” for the Mums with lots and lots of steep wind blown soft sandhills and a couple of salt lake crossings. If you view the attached map you can see the lakes clearly as they head north then east towards Poeppel Corner.

The traffic was obviously thick today as the Mums reported that two guys went past with a canoe on their roof rack – they got a little excited for a fleeting moment thinking there may be water ahead – no such luck! Wonder where those blokes were going ……. or had been??? Taken a wrong turn maybe? ...hhmmmm.

Tonight they are camping 10km west of Poeppel Corner in a beautiful patch of gidgee trees. These desert shrubs have very hard wood and make wonderful hot, long-burning fires – no doubt they will be sitting around a warm blazing campfire with a cup of Gloria Jeans Coffee (maybe even spiked with some of Andrew’s “contraband”). I must add here that the girls made theirs yesterday morning on the water drawn from beneath the desert the previous day. It tasted wonderful apparently – the water must be better than that in Adelaide!! (or Gloria Jeans has very good coffee!!). Andrew has the method down pat and can brew the perfect cup - Deb reports she could not survive without it.

Tomorrow the Mums will reach 375,000 average steps - which is one step for every life lost in this world every year to breast cancer.

Kathy walked the last 10 kilometres today with the Mums - they enjoyed having her as a “temporary” Desert Mum for that short time. Both the Mums and Kathy have had many, many warm wishes for their Mother’s Day tomorrow which I have passed on to them tonight. No doubt it will be a bitter sweet day for them, but they have asked me to send their thanks to everyone who has emailed their love and good wishes.

PS The report is that there are no camels in the desert. It’s official. Yep…and they go a bit further ….there are no animals in the desert!!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 12th

The Simpson Desert

Day 8...walking...and what a day!! (tired sigh here)...

The Desert Mums are all doing well, but very glad to see the end of this day as they hobbled on sore feet into camp. They think it was tougher because of the extra weight from the flies!

“Denis needs to learn that thirty kilometres is made up of a three and a zero (i.e. 30) not thirty point five, thirty-one or thirty-one point three!” (Whoops! I think Den just got a verbal smack).

Today the Mums headed north along the Knolls track and only had to climb a few dunes as they were mainly walking along the tops on the soft wind blown drift sand (with the flies). The Mums have renamed this area Death Valley. They walked into Death Valley quite happy and seemed to have walked out with a kink in their personalities. It must have been the 19,456 flies that walked with them, on them and at times, in them. Oh, and did I mention the extreme heat?

They have walked 218km and are just past their half way mark. They have collected $225 (for the NBCF) on the track and a promise tomorrow of hot scones (for THEM). God Bless the scone lady they met from Queensland. Apparently she’s cooking roast lamb tonight, and the Mums almost deserted. Den would have been gutted…..he told me last night that he had created a gourmet delight for the crew of canned stew atop instant mashed potato and dried beans, all delicately sprinkled with parsley flakes (now, this new role as chief cook – “chef” doesn't enter the debate - is very foreign to him - he NEVER cooks at home – not even barbeques – so a rejection of this kind would have been devastating!).

Apart from filming, Kathy has been playing housekeeper today. She has rearranged the newly dug up load in the support vehicles and now has everything in an order that would be acceptable to most people of the female species.

Denis has reported that all the girls have niggling injuries, but he also said that he has no doubt that every one of them will finish the walk. They are brave and determined, all the more so for not focusing on their pain or discomfort (as they said last night, “blisters etc are boring”). Well I’m the reporter, so I’m reporting: Debonator is managing her blisters, Carolyn’s are not so good, but she keeps on going, Susie’s recurring back problem has flared up and Margot’s back has developed a definite curve at an unnatural angle, so she intends to sleep sitting in the front seat of a vehicle tonight. She walked all day like this, and so she will tomorrow. Can anyone come up with a name to equal our Debonator’s for this girl?

Tonight The Mums are camped 3 kilometres past the Knolls and still haven’t seen a live camel. They live in hope.

Until tomorrow... four very weary Desert Mums wish you all goodnight.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 11th

Day 7... walking... not quite so far today... but still walking..

What an amazing day!!!
Today, the Desert Mums drilled for water in the middle of the Simpson Desert and found it after about an hour of drilling (mostly by the trusty Andrew and Denis), and never have the whole crew been so excited to hear the splash of water at 12 feet down!! The water was drawn to the surface in a small bailer, bit by bit, and emptied into a container. Apparently, it tasted even better than Adelaide water, or so they are saying (could be delusional under that blazing desert sun……but then, Adelaide water is not hard to beat). the desert??? This entirely explains Den’s detour for the scenic route to Birdsville. Almost 22 years ago, Denis made a solo and unaided crossing of the Simpson Desert by foot along the route the Mums are now walking. It was essential for his survival that he found water as he could not physically carry enough to sustain him for the period of his journey. Access to water allowed the aborigines to survive and maintain their nomadic existence in this harsh terrain. Given that the aborigines walked out of the desert in 1900 enticed by the lure of the white man’s civilization, the location of their wells was lost for many years, ultimately covered by sand drifts. Explorer, David Lindsay chronicled these sites in his journals when he explored the Simpson in 1886. Denis was able to re-discover their locations following the information contained in Lindsay’s accounts, and successfully drilled for water which enabled him to ultimately walk into Birdsville. (A few weeks ago, he packed his original drilling rods. bailer and rope under the folded back seat of the vehicle, and thus emerged his plan to give the Mums the experience and thrill of finding water in the Simpson Desert).

The girls’ enjoyed another lunch stop with the heat and the flies (by the way, apparently flies don’t like cream cheese spread, but love salmon and Nutella). The girls should try out the flies on Rice Cream – Den had 80 tins to go with their tinned fruit for dessert, but everyone hates the stuff. They’ve only used 6 tins. Perhaps the flies could carry the rest away (and stay away).

The Mums were really excited to see their first salt lake (anything firm and flat) and the salt tasted like...well, salt...well sort of a cross between chicken and fish (flavoured salt maybe?)

The Mums have left the WAA Line and are now 2km north on top of a sandy dune on the Knolls track.

Blisters, sore backs and painful knees are boring, so let’s just say that the Mums are full of determination and now have some really good mud, which they saved from 12ft down, for their faces – which they hope they will not be too tired to use tomorrow night.

The Desert Mums are on a pretty strict diet (anything that doesn’t need refrigeration qualifies, which doesn’t leave a huge choice). However, Kathy (videographer), has found another source of protein after she continually snorts, inhales and swallows copious amounts of flies. Perhaps a new commodities export to Canada?... er, perhaps not.

It was a late night into camp due to the time taken out for drilling today, but they have put another 20km under their belts. They are looking forward to a good night’s sleep…..and to yet another day tomorrow to conquer the desert.

They are still searching for a camel that’s alive. I guess super dry deserts are not very sustainable for life! (unless you have drilling rods).

‘Til tomorrow - The Desert Mums send their love to everyone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Desert Mums – Update May 10th Day 6 - Walking

The Mums were up at 5am after a noisy night of curious camels and dingos skirting the campsite.

The 27km today pushed the Mums 165km from the start of the desert (now 147 degrees east of Purnie Bore on the WAA Line). The walk is hard going, very sandy, and the Mums were slammed with heat and flies from midday onwards.

Carolyn’s blisters are massive so she somehow puts one foot in front of the other. Margo is soldiering on with only the occasional grimace (this is no time to be concerned about anyone else). Deb is happy with a spring in her step (Debonator style) and Susie believes that a little touch of pink lippy would remind everyone that somewhere deep inside still lurks some form of femininity.

They are following plenty of camel and emu tracks and are convinced that they’ll breach some huge dune and find some live animals waiting to meet them. The kilometres are passing with lots of lateral thinking puzzles (as you do).

Kathy, (videographer), is doing what every Aussie bloke would love to do.

Everyone is still in high spirits, especially after arriving in camp tonight to find that Den had erected a bush shower – they washed their hair too and Den had even shaved – I have not had a report as to whether Andrew has decided to what all blokes do when in the bush, and let his beard grow! I must ask next call. All seven souls are now smelling like roses – no wonder their spirits have lifted.

At the time of the call tonight, Den was in a bit of a spin. They had arrived at their first supply dump today, and his camp was in a bit of disarray. He and Andrew had to dig out all the goodies (buried to keep nosey dingos at bay) and get the two support vehicles packed again for the next leg of the journey. (Just to explain – the desert is the driest Denis has ever seen it in over 80 crossings, and he was concerned that to attempt to tow the magnificent trailer supplied by Great Divide Camper Trailers for this journey could be dodgy at best given the slippery and unstable state of the dunes. He therefore elected to err on the side of caution and leave home ten days earlier than planned. He unloaded the trailer at Birdsville and stocked up the Landcruiser, making two trips into the desert securing two supply drops along the route.)

The Desert Mums really appreciate your emails coming through. They’ve asked to say a big hello to everyone who is following their journey and they love hearing from each and every one of you as I read out your emails nightly.

As hard as it all is out there, Susie says “If it was easy, we wouldn’t be doing it!” Now that’s the spirit!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Desert Mums Update – May 9th

Desert Mums Update – May 9th

The Mums have decided that they would like to give everyone a glimpse of their day whenever possible…...particularly to the many of you who email with wishes of support, love and encouragement… here is a report from their short sat call tonight…..…

Day 5, May 9th...walking...The Desert Mums are 186km into the Simpson Desert and currently camped 120km east of Purnie Bore on the WAA Line (why oh why couldn’t Den have got them closer for a beautiful hot bath in that bore?).

They walked 30km again today keeping their routine, although walking much slower - the track is now almost non existent getting deep and sandy making the going tough – the dunes are towering ahead of them between 20 to 40 metres high. Daunting stuff, especially towards the end of a long, hot day, but our girls just keep soldiering on.

Caroline has “honking blisters” (thank you Georgina – the gel plasters are a godsend), Susan’s knee is bandaged but holding up, the Debonator is still laughing…… and Margot now knows not to wee near a snake hole (and is NO LONGER concerned about the others!!).

All, without exception, are missing home terribly but enjoying the journey nonetheless.

Denis apparently decided to change course and take the Mums on the scenic route to Birdsville (well, he does love the area), which means more kilometres than first anticipated. Knowing Den as I do, I think there is more to this than is being told at the moment. Stay tuned. I’ll find out…..........I’m a wife – it’s my job.

The Mums report that the shirts are holding up just fine thank you Herb. They were allocated precious water rations today to wash their tops – they thought the smell may be keeping the camels away, however, on the other hand, they are all are beginning to think dreadlocks are a good look.

Canadian Kathy, their videographer, is having a blast capturing the amazing beauty of a landscape so foreign to her own in British Columbia. This documentary will be worth waiting for.

Until tomorrow - best wishes from The Desert Mums

Monday, May 08, 2006

Paulo Coelho's Latest Journey

Paulo Coehlo continues his 20th anniversary walk...

“Once upon a time there was a poor but very brave man called Ali. He worked for Ammar, a rich old merchant. One winter’s night Ammar said: “nobody can spend a night like this on top of the mountain without a blanket or food. But you need money, and if you can manage to do that you will receive a great reward. If you don’t, you will work for thirty days without pay”. Ali answered: “tomorrow I shall do this test”.

But when he left the shop, he saw that a really icy wind was blowing and became scared, so he decided to ask his best friend, Aydi, if it was crazy of him to accept that bet.

After reflecting a while, Aydi answered: “I shall help you. Tomorrow, when you are at the top of the mountain, look ahead. I will be on the top of the mountain next to yours, where I will spend the whole night with a bonfire lit for you. You look at the fire and think about our friendship – that will keep you warm. You will manage, and later on I shall ask you something in return.”

Ali won the test, got the money, and went to his friend’s house: “You told me you wanted some payment.”

Aydi grabbed him by the shoulders: ”Yes, but it isn’t money. Promise that if at any time a cold wind passes through my life, you will light the fire of friendship for me.”

The reader ends his comment on the blog: “wherever you may be at this moment, thanks for having paid us a visit. When you decide to come back to our country, the fire of friendship will always be lit for you”.

Desert Mums Update – May 8th

Monday 8th 4 walking. The Desert Mums awoke this morning at 5am to Denis’s tarzan call. Incredibly cold at 4 degrees Celsius. The Mums set off at sunrise decked out in jackets and beenies to tackle their next 30km.

Carolyn now has two blisters. Susie has aggravated a knee tendon. Deb can’t stop laughing (she now has sisters in pain – she is still plodding on stoically – we don’t call her The Debonator for nothing), and Margot is still concerned.

Kathy filmed two hours of material for the documentary today – she spends many hours in the vehicle with Denis and will know the Simpson Desert better than anyone when she finishes. Den loves a chat, particularly on subjects near and dear to him – she will have information overload.

The Mums have left the clay road and hit the sand on the WAA Line. Nature so far encountered is two recently deceased camels and a curious bird. Still windy during the day, but no one is complaining about the slightly cooler temperature and fewer flies.

Another $80.00 was collected for the National Breast Cancer Foundation from the only two vehicles they saw all day. They had been following the Mums’ footprints in the sand. Three radio stations interviewed the Mums today by satellite phone which is a wonderful way to spread the news of their cause. They are all in high spirits even though the 30 kms are getting longer and harder to finish each day.

The support crew, however, is spoiling them at the end of day camp – Andrew is giving out foot massages accompanied by a fine red from Chateau Cardboard. (What a man – just for one moment, I wish I was there!).

Susan’s daughter Milli (4 years old) insisted that her mum take her pink breast cancer bear so it could ride with Grandpa Den Den. Denis has the bear positioned on top of his roof rack with a pink breast cancer ribbon tied to its little paw. His call sign to the girls on the two-way radio is “Pink Bear to the Desert Mums”. No doubt it will be “Dirty Pink Bear” in a week’s time.

There have been many messages of encouragement, support and appreciation for the Mums efforts over the last few days, both via their website and direct to me. So many people are touched by the loss of those near and dear to them caused by this terrible disease and they have shown their support by also donating to the NBCF through the website. The girls call themselves “just ordinary women”. I am sure you will all agree that they are “extraordinary women”.

Stay tuned for the next update in a few days……..unless anything REALLY notable comes to hand in the meantime.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Desert Mums - an inspiration - May 7th

Sunday May 7th…….day 3 walking... done and dusted. The Desert Mums and team are in high spirits. The Desert Mums would like to thank Julie Kite from Harvey World Travel for getting them to Alice Springs safely and efficiently. The still emotional and rather jumpy Mums really enjoyed the safe landing after the 1 ¾ hour (bumpy) flight to Dalhousie Springs. Thank you Ingrid from The Alice Springs Aero Club. After a lovely swim in the 38 degree water of Dalhousie Springs, and the last hot bath for many weeks, it was an early night for the still tired, emotional Desert Mums.

Day 2 – an early start and dawn had not yet cracked. Denis has planned a 7 kilometre warm up walk – to the Dalhousie Ruins – nowhere near the Simpson Desert and in the opposite direction to Birdsville, our ultimate destination. A drive, then lunch at the western edge of the Simpson Desert before a 17km walk. It was a bit warm and the flies were out in force.

Day 3 – another early start and the first big 30 kilometre trek. The routine is 10km then a sit in the sand (under the blazing sun) for a snack, then another 10km before the lunch break……then the last very hot 10kms. Did we mention the flies?!!!

Susie was emotional, Deb has developed a blister, Carolyn had a migraine and Margo was concerned.

Day 4 – Up at 5am and very windy today and a bit easier on us to make the 30kms. The wind kept the heat and flies away. Deb has another blister, Carolyn is chasing the toilet paper in the wind, Susie is white with calamine lotion and Margo is still concerned. The night is freezing.

Awesome support crew – the Mums do not lift a finger when they get to camp at the end of the day. Denis is happy with the progress, but still cannot believe that Andrew packed the golf clubs, samurai sword and yoga mat!

Our best wishes to all and chat with you after the next 30 grueling kilometres.

The Desert Mums

Saturday, May 06, 2006

One last song please....

Funerals are becoming less solemn in Western society, as greater numbers of those making final arrangements for themselves or loved ones choose to make the ceremonies less about comforting ritual and more about the individuals being said good-bye to. Pop songs have become an increasingly common component of final services, both because the lyrics of many of them so well express the sadness of parting, and because of a growing lack of familiarity with the musical funerary standards of a previous age: hymns.

According to a 2002 poll of co-op funeral directors in Britain, the ten most requested pop songs at funeral services are:

1. Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler)
2. My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion)
3. I Will Always Love You (Whitney Houston)
4. Simply the Best (Tina Turner)
5. Angels (Robbie Williams)
6. You'll Never Walk Alone (Gerry & the Pacemakers)
7. Candle in the Wind (Elton John)
8. Unchained Melody (The Righteous Brothers)
9. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon &Garfunkel)
10. Time to Say Goodbye (Sarah Brightman)

However, it doesn't end there. The deliberate working of humor into the funerary rites is a growing trend, with a number of popular music offerings that would previously have been regarded as irreverent for such use being very deliberately made part of the ceremonies. That same 2002 poll of co-op funeral directors in Britain identified the following as the ten most-requested quirky pop songs:

1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (The Platters)
2. Another One Bites the Dust (Queen)
3. Theme from ITN's Ten O'Clock News
4. She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain (Various)
5. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (Wham)
6. YMCA (Village People)
7. I Wanna Be Like You (from the Disney film The Jungle Book)
8. Run Rabbit Run (Flanagan & Allen)
9. Firestarter (The Prodigy)
10. Atmosphere (Russ Abbot)

What would have at your funeral??

Friday, May 05, 2006

Juza Nature Photography.

This one above is a Mandarin duck - amazing color, isn’t it? See more of Juza’s photos: Link (via Ursi’s Blog)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Matt Furey and Crabs

From Matt Furey's GREAT blog..

"This is a story about crabs. Not the groteque skin-crawling
sort either. I'm talking about crabs you can actually trap
and eat.

Legend has it that when you place a whole bunch of crabs in
a bucket, invariably at least one crab will get the idea that
he should climb up the sides of the bucket and escape to

Funny thing is, as soon as the courageous crab nears the
top of the bucket, all the other crabs conspire to pull it back
in. Hence, crabs never get out buckets.

This metaphor perfectly illustrates HUMAN behavior as well.
One of the things we like to do is categorize and slot. We like
to organize and 'pidgeon hole.' And once we've done this, we
can relax and pretend that all is well with our world.

But then along comes someone with NEW ideas and/or

Uh-oh. Alarms goes off. Bells sound.

'What is this person trying to do. Who does he think he is.'

'What's up with her - trying to get herself fit. What are you doing -
trying to lose weight or something. Why are you doing all those
exercises - think you're going to win the Mr. Olympia or

'Oh ... NOW you're doing bodyweight exercises. Whatsa matter,
weights too tough for you.'

And so on."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Riddlers in Brisbane

Tuesday night - feeling hungry after flying in from Canberra...

I wonder if Brisbane is shut on Tuesday after 9pm??After a short walk from The Hotel Grand Chancellor which shuts its restaurant at 9pm... to Leichardt Street, and a fabulous little spot beckons.. RIDDLERS

I am dyeing for a steak so I ask the waiter.. "What are the steaks like??" and he answers surprisingly,

"They are good BUT our veal is sensational..." and it was.

When in Brisbane be sure to look up Riddlers... I presume of Batman fame.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Monday Night in Canberra!

10pm Monday... and Canberra, Australia's capital city is closed!!

Jus got in on Qantas QF807... feeling hungry but Monday is the night EVERYTHING is closed in Canberra.

Remind me that when someone says Perth is a dead place... and I will say:

"Not compared to Canberra or Adelaide! "

Although with the bomb in Adeliade last night, maybe I will have to revise that...