Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Four Likely Lads Go Walkabout

Echos of the Past


Talk about a blast from the past. I was pulled up short after my last post when Kevin Vallee, an old travelling companion, contributed a comment. It took me way back in time ... as far back as the 1st of December, 1977. That's the day Kevin and I, along with James Newman and Terry Barr, two other great buddies, set out from home in the Comox Valley to go exploring Australia and New Zealand. Little did we know what a life-changing journey it would become. Indeed, although the rest of us have paid visits to Canada over the years, James was the only one to really return home. And I think even for him, this trip was a major factor in the way his life has played out.

What callow youths we were! Just out of nappies, really. Innocents abroad, and all that. Anyway, I was the first domino to fall, so to speak. After various combined and separate adventures, we'd come to Tasmania together to do some bushwalking, pick apples and then continue our explorations of mainland Australia. 

Before setting off to walk the Overland Track we stopped off in Longford to attend a Folk Music Festival. On my second day in the Apple Isle my fate was sealed when I met Di, who was to become my soulmate and lifelong partner.

The four of us did walk the Overland Track together and had a magnificent trip with glorious weather. On the first day we had a swim in Lake Wilks and climbed Cradle Mountain ...

Circled, L-R: Terry, James, Doug, Kevin with Barn Bluff in the background
... before stopping at Waterfall Valley Hut for the night. The weather was so good, and we were so young and energetic we even climbed Barn Bluff that evening just because we could.

Here's another photo - further proof of the great weather we had - of the four of us on top of Mt Ossa, the highest peak in Tasmania ...

Weird: two days later and we're in the same order!
It was a fantastic hike. At the end I headed east to Hobart to rendezvous with Di, while Terry, James and Kevin headed west to hike into Frenchmans Cap. They had a snowstorm that caused them to spend a few more days there than they'd planned, while Di took me to Freycinet National Park for my first taste of rock climbing. If my fate wasn't sealed at the Longford Folk Festival, it was now! We all did go and pick apples together, but that's when our paths started to diverge.

The Story Plays Out

I never really left Tasmania. The apple orchard's charms were nothing up against Di's embraces just a short hitch-hike away, and I spent more in Hobart than in the pickers shed. Although I had a brief foray back to Canada, my heart stayed here and back I came. Kevin was on his way home - and almost made it - but became sidetracked in San Francisco, eventually settling in upstate New York. He tells me he is about to retire to live aboard his yacht and do some cruising. Good for him!

Terry stayed in Australia, also falling for an Antipodean lass. He married, finished university, had four kids, divorced, fell in love again and started a new family.  He's a highly skilled geologist working in the Middle East after a long career in Brisbane and Adelaide with Santos. He hopes to retire too before much longer, and we hope to see more of him, Heather and their son Riley when he does.

Jamie went back to Canada, enrolled at the University of Victoria, won numerous national basketball championships under coach Ken Shields, graduated and eventually started his own highly successful fitness equipment business. He and Cathie brought their two kids out to Australia for a fantastic family holiday a few years ago - what am I saying? It's almost a decade! - and we look forward to another visit sometime. I think Cathie can see the end of her working life not too far into the future, and Jamie is talking about selling his business.

I have a dream of us all getting together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our departure from the Comox Valley. That's less than a year and a half away. Now wouldn't that be something, eh lads?

Addendum (From a Dumb-Dumb!)

Sitting here looking at my desktop I just twigged that the photo I cherish most and look at every day I am home really should have been added to this post. It was taken by my (at that time, future) brother-in-law when I went to climb at Freycinet with Di while my buddies Terry, James and Kevin went to Frenchmans Cap. Geoff and his wife Susie kindly agreed to come up with us, play about on the rock and help Di show me the ropes, so to speak. In the photo I am actually wearing a pair of Susie's climbing shoes. They are EB's and were the bee's knees back in the day. Without further ado, here's the photo ...

Now those were the days!

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