Blackheath to Blue Gum loop

14 Jun

Oh Australia –  you never cease to amaze me!  Just over an hours drive is Sydney’s spectacular bush playground.  The Blue Mountains offers dramatic views resembling  America’s Grand Canyon but covered with greenery.  You’ll also find hikes galore to to suit all experiences.

The Blackheath to Blue Gum loop is a gorgeous two day hike that’s over 24k’s.  It’s got a crazy 1335m decline/incline.  Basically, say “goodbye” to your legs for the next few days.  Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 6.25.49 PMWe parked our vehicles at Evans Lookout.   You’ll be able to leave it there for the two-day hike.  But, be sure to take all your valuables with you just to be safe.  From Evans Lookout, you can see exactly what you’ll be walking: that valley.  13453406_10153611053782681_1911060761_oThere’s a lot of diversity to be had.  You’ll start in a temperate forest, and as you work your way down it turns into a rain forest.

It doesn’t matter where you are – from the valley or the cliffs edge, everywhere you look, there are panoramic views of sheer sandstone cliffs, waterfalls and gumtrees.

You’ll be following a creek for most of the walk – this comes in handy if you don’t want to carry a lot of water. 13453472_10153611052967681_1156464371_o.jpgAnd some parts are not for the fainthearted.  13460904_10153611053497681_1019875545_oWe camped overnight at Acacia Flats.  This is quite possibly my favourite quote from the National Parks website:

“If you’re pitching your tent at Acacia Flat campground, you can give yourself a big hug. You’ve joined a rare breed of intrepid campers who have walked into the Grose Valley in one of the most secluded wilderness areas in the Blue Mountains.”

Here’s the Google Camp view of the site: 

It was peaceful and quiet.  Basically, there was enough space for the six of us to spread out with room to spare.  It did get dark quite quickly followed by the cold so pack appropriately.

The next morning, we headed toward Govetts Leap and after a few hours of walking on an incline, it opened up to this…

Whilst climbing up the side of that cliff, you’ll be tickled by  little sprays from all the mini waterfalls. It’s wet and  crazy steep, but a lot of it has handrails and stairs.  Believe me, you’re gonna need the handrails.

After another hour, you reach the top and boy is that a relief.  Some hikers choose to take a cab from the carpark to their parked car, but if you want the “icing on cake” kind of view, walk the final 3k back to Evans Lookout.  13467550_10153611052387681_1833163831_o.jpgSo, what did  I learn from a 24k hike? I am probably the most “unfit” fit person I know.  Just a few weeks ago, I ran a half-marathon and finished it without any dramas.  Quitting never even entered my brain.  Sure, I had muscle fatigue but I was still able to keep on my normal activities.  This, however, was a totally different beast.  I found that walking down into the valley on the first day harder than the actual climb. I was pretty much using muscles that I just don’t normally use.   IMG_6601 2So in summary, going bushwalking “Aussie stye”  for two days and with 1335m descent and ascent, I can no longer feel my legs.  Actually, let me correct that:  If I attempt to go for a walk right now, I wince in pain every single step.  If you want to tackle this walk – go for it.  It’s amazing.  However, if you’re fit, make sure to try out a few mini-hikes beforehand so you know that you are Aussie Bushwalking fit.

Or, if you’re anything like me to just like to wing it: Here’s a way you can fix your legs after the hike.

My Chat with the Fridgeman

1 Jun

This is by far one of the coolest chats I have ever had in my life. It’s not every day that you have the opportunity have a REAL conversation with your favorite author!

Nearly twenty years ago, Tony Hawks, not the skateboarder, embarked on an epic journey that forever changed him.  Not wanting to lose a £100 drunken bet, Tony took on the challenge and hitchhiked around Ireland with his £120 refrigerator.
As someone who is about to embark on a similar journey…. less the drunken bet and £120 fridge, I thought it be best to consult the expert himself.  This is part of our conversation:
Tony explained how the learning experience didn’t take place whilst on tour, but when he was actually started to write “Round Ireland with a Fridge.” He reflected on the experience that changed him, and like he said to me…  “You can’t fail, unless you get killed.”
Tony basically told me to keep my wits and to have fun.  “Your bike is like your fridge.”
This bit really resonated with me.  Tony said that it was ok not to stick with the plan. It’s ok to leave your bike behind if you have to.  “Things that go wrong are often things that create new friendships.” “There’s no such thing as something going wrong.”
I asked about how I should manage that moment I start to doubt myself….    “Why am I doing this?”
Is there anywhere else in the world where you can do this?
Tony talks about his new adventure, Once Upon a time in the West Country where he cycled with a baby pig.  How can you not love this guy!
 

#AroundIrelandOnAPushie and Make a Wish

26 May

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Like,  when was the last time you REALLY pushed yourself?

For a bunch of sick kids, they are going though something a lot of us can’t understand.  They are dealing with some pretty big health problems that healthy people like us know nothing about.  I see #AroundIrelandOnAPushie as the device to bring much needed love and inspiration to help sick kids feel a little bit better.   That’s why I’ll be raising funds for both Make a Wish Ireland and Make a Wish Australia.

Ireland is hilly.  Ireland can be rainy and really cold.  It’s gonna get uncomfortable, but you know what… the kids are going though a heck of a lot more…   Just like them, I gotta keep cycling along.

I will be making social media announcements of my locations so the community can cycle or  #ForrestGumping along with me from village to village.  Because it truly does take a village.

The journey will not have a set time or actual set locations.  Just like the kids, I won’t know what to expect.  I will spend anywhere between 6 weeks to 3 months bicycling around Ireland.

I’m also doing this to show that women can travel solo without prejudice, and that anyone can pick up anything (for me it’s bicycling) and with a little help, truly master it.

#AroundIrelandOnAPushie will begin mid-September.

The short verson of  #AroundIrelandOnAPushie:

  • Life’s short
  • We need to take risks to grow
  • There are good people in the world
  • We need to surrender yourself
  • Dreams do come true

Make-A-Wish Ireland was set up in 1992 – we are celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2017. To date, we have granted over 1,800 wishes. There are four wish types – I wish to be, I wish to go, I wish to have and I wish to meet. Our target of wishes to grant this year is 225, the most we have ever granted. We have over 200 children on our waiting list and we also receive on average about 200 applications per year. There is more information on recent wishes granted here – https://makeawish.ie/wishes/wishes/.

  • All funds raised will be split 50/50 between Make a Wish Ireland and Make a Wish Australia

Please click this link if you would like to contribute toward Make a Wish 

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

OMG I RAN a Half-Marathon

15 May

I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking when I decided to sign up for a half-marathon… It probably had a lot to do with peer pressure.  But, I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED A HALF-MARATHON!  IMG_6120

For the first timers, there’s a bit they don’t tell you about marathon running… like… having to wakeup at 4:50 to start to run at 6:45. Um.. guys… just a hot tip…. marathon runners are insane… they’re also insanely fit!  This isn’t your average 10k where you’re gonna totally smash out a 10k, then fist punch the sky on your knees at the finish line.  I’d be surprised if your arms or legs even move after you cross the finish line.  This is more like a ‘where the heck is the sweeper convoy and how much further do I have to run to stay ahead of it.’

What the heck is a sweeper convoy anyway?  It’s kinda like a very slow Presidential motorcade but, without the actual President – and you need to avoid it at all cost.  Its something that’s chasing you and you gotta keep going so it doesn’t sweep you up!  They do it to clear the roads so that the normal non cray-cray people can go about their Sunday activities.

What they also don’t tell you is there is a heck of a lot of people who want to see you finish!  They cheer you on and give you high fives all along the way!  There’s also the occasional drunk backpacker that will give you a hug.  Yes this happened.  And, yes, it was amazeballs!   I even got a thumbs up and a ‘call me’ from a cute EMT.  Today was a good day.

This half-marathon had a bunch of entertainment along the way too.  The Australian Army band made an appearance in Pyrmont, and there was a few people dressed as random things. There were even Brazilian dancers!  And you absolutely MUST stop and get photos with everyone!  I even moon-walked with the guys from Sydney’s radio station, NOVA! IMG_6134

I Periscoped and Tweeted the entire event.  Well, what I mean is, I took awesome photos and reported my updates live on Periscope whilst on the run.  It was great for when I needed to take breaks… and yes, I was avoiding the sweeper motorcade too!  IMG_6153

Then, I got to see awesome stuff like this: IMG_6182

It’s a pretty cool feeling when you know that you’re only two kilometres from the finish line.  What does suck is that the next two k’s are all uphill.  But, then you round the corner, and there’s a massive swarm of people – so like in true Tara fashion, I high-fived every single person before the finish line and it was awesome!  IMG_6183

So, to sum up a half-marathon:  I did something extraordinary. I ran in my very first half-marathon!  It was massive challenge and a lot of fun. I actually had an emotional moment at the end and it was wonderful!  You don’t get experiences like this every day and I’m really glad I did it.

This got me thinking: When I finish ‪#‎AroundIrelandOnAPushie‬, what will that feel like? I’m already anticipating a massive wave of emotion and today was only a taste of what’s to come!  If it doesn’t challenge you, It doesn’t change you.  IMG_6194

There was great support along the way both whilst running and with everyone via social media. A big thank you to everyone around the world! It was awesome to have so much support!

After finishing the half-marathon, I got picked up by a random kiwi.  I let him off gently – too many commitments going on… he took it well.   IMG_6184

And then I headed out for the celebratory lunch with my running mates!  IMG_6185

Now, here’s the “NOT WHAT TO DO” guide to prepping for a half-marathon:

I took an entire week off from everything.  I basically stopped my circuit training for a week.  My last run was also over a month ago (mind you, it was 16k, so I figured I was as prepped as I was gonna be) I also started eating like a horse – if there was a burger within a meter of my reach, it got eaten.  I also ate a massive amount of chocolate chip cookies.  So basically, if it wasn’t moving, I ate it and I liked it.

I also came up with some wonderful decision that I didn’t like coffee anymore so I quit too.   That was pretty extreme.  I was pretty miserable…. so just don’t do extreme things like me.  It’ll just end in sadness.

And, will I do another half-marathon – absolutely!

 

Minnehaha Falls

12 Apr

Just shy of a few hours away from Sydney is a great spot for the perfect waterfall hike. Minnehaha Falls is a  good ol’ fashioned Aussie swimming hole and it’s in Katoomba.IMG_5039Depending on where you park, it’ll be a short and easy walk.  You don’t need to be “stair master fit” to enjoy this little gem of a place – It’s pretty much a walk for everyone who is able to climb a few stairs.  There is the occasional cliff, so don’t be the idiot in the group and lean too far over the edge as you could fall down to an impending death.IMG_5008The views are great from all around, and the little goat trail will zig zag down to the base of the waterfall.  Also, along the way, are seats for you to chill as you attempt to look cool whilst  catching your breath. And…  there’s lizards galore everywhere you look!

When you get to the water, the first thing you’ll notice is that it is about 5 degrees cooler in the ravine.  What else you’ll notice is that the water is effing cold… Like, if you’re a dude, your voice will probably go up a few octaves.  So, guys, if you’re looking to impress your pretty lady friend, be sure to bring a healthy, yet contouring layer of blubber because you’ll need it.IMG_5038For the more adventurous thrill seekers in the group, be sure to bring your upper body strength.  Yes, you’ll be able to go midway up the waterfall, but do expect death defying, slippery rocks.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did all those extra pushups because your arms will be a big help.

When you get to the top of the waterfall, the view is totally worth it. 

Getting up is never the hard part, it’s the coming down which is the bigger problem!  It’s most doable, but just be smart about it – it’s not easy to get an extremely dramatic helicopter lift into these areas.  Yes, very cool, but just not that easy….

Confirmed: Taraustralis heads to SpaceUP Ireland

6 Apr

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.53.48 PMConfirmed: Taraustralis will head to Cork, for SpaceUP  Ireland, October 8th, 2016.  This is Ireland’s very first Space Unconference!  Participants decide on the topics, schedule and structure of the event!

Be sure to subscribe to @Taraustralis via all social media channels. And, to follow the solo bicycle journey around, use the hashtag:  ‪#‎AroundIrelandOnAPushie‬

Yes, I will be arriving to the conference on a #bicycle. 😳🇮🇪🚲🚀📡  #NASASocial #SocialSpaceWA #ESA #NASA #JPL #CSIRO

Spaced Out in Australia

2 Apr

Yes!   You can get a NASA fix whilst in Australia!  Less than an hours drive south of Australia’s capital is the  Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.  And, just over a kilometre or so from the visitors centre, you are greeted by two signs.  The first one is the ‘Welcome’ which contains a whole lot of awesome. There’s something about seeing NASA, JPL and CSIRO all together on one sign with the words ‘deep space’ that makes a nerd-fan like me all giddy… IMG_4244.jpgThe second sign is a bit more like getting the important business end of the deal out of the way…  Just like when you’re on a flight and the air hostess tells you turn off your phone and you don’t listen… yeah, well… this time… you better frickin listen..IMG_4245.jpgThis complex isn’t a joke… it is an actual working deep space listening centreYES. I REALLY MEAN IT when I say that it’s receiving and transmitting data to a bunch of really expensive space projects and it’s REALLY REALLY BAD to have your phone on! No seriously.  It just is.  Don’t be that one guy in the group who’s a jerk.

Being the badass NASA nerd that I am, I had a bit of an “Oh Shit” moment and immediately turned my phone to airplane mode.  Here I am only at the frickin sign nearly losing my brain attempting to turn off my phone as quickly as possible…

Ok… so crisis adverted… Nothing like rocking up to check out some active deep space dishes only to have my stupid phone jam the irreplaceable signal coming from a satellite that just discovered life or something.   Yeah.. just my luck… IMG_4252.jpgAfter about a kilometre drive, the dishes came into view.   Wow…..  It’s an absolutely epic scene to see all of them dotted across the hillside transmitting and receiving in all their respected glory. And you can actually see what each dish is doing from your computer or phone.  NO LIE.  Click here and nerd-out now.  Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 7.54.21 PM

So, as you can see from above, there’s three places around the world that are apart of the deep space network:  Madrid, Goldstone and Canberra.

The Canberra location was chosen over Sydney for a number of reasons.  The Blue Mountains is mostly made up of sandstone where as Canberra is granite.  Granite is a hard rock that can withstand the pressure of a bazillion kilo dish..  Sydney’s topography also happened to be an issue.  The valleys of the Blue Mountains are very narrow and deep.  That makes it harder to get signals because you can’t go though a mountain.  IMG_4501These dishes are also in a valley – but in  a less dramatic valley than anything you’ll find in Sydney – the hills protect the dishes from any storms that may come through and helps minimise wind damage but it also protects the dishes from radio inference or RFI.  I did ask if there was any trouble with snow damaging the dishes, but there’s just not enough of it to cause an issue.  IMG_4316.JPGNow, to run such a big multi-million dollar operation as the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, there needs to be a big enough city to support the operation.  At the same time, the supporting city also needs to be small enough to minimise issues with the transmissions.  If you’ve ever been to Canberra, you’d see how it’s a perfect city to be a host for the Deep Space Network!

The Canberra DSN has four active antennas and two inactive.  The inactive dishes are the historic Honeysuckle dish, DSS-46, and the yet to be operational DSS-36 due in October 2016!)

IMG_4258The image of the dish pictured above is DSS-43.  This is actually the largest dish in the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s got a whopping diameter of 70 meters and around 100 meters on the parabolic curvature.  This dish is big enough to play a game of Aussie rules!  But, that’s not what makes this dish completely badass… oh this is cool… The good old smart engineers at NASA have somehow made this dish float on a film of oil the thickness of one slice of paper.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is a pretty sensitive dish and for good reason.  DSS-43 is also the most powerful dish in the Southern Hemisphere.  This deep space dish just wins at life!   It was completed in 1972 in time for the Apollo 17 mission to the moon.  Built originally as a 64 metre dish, it was expanded in 1986 to 70 metres for the Voyager 2 encounter with Uranus.  Oh and guess what… Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 still talk to this dish and what’s even cooler is, Voyager 1 is 18.5 light-hours from Earth.  How’s that for “sciencing the shit” out of space.

There’s one dish at the communication complex that actually made me feel really proud and emotional.   DSS-46 is the dish that actually saved NASA’s butt.  IMG_4389

It was originally located at the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station about 40 kilometres south of Canberra. This dish was built in 1967 for the Apollo missions.  It now calls the Canberra DSN home.

Now, I hope you’re sitting down for this, because this is one heck of an awesome story.  Astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were like giddy little schoolgirls going on a space excursion for the very first time.  NASA, being the proud and responsible parent, suggested that the boys should have a bit of dinner and a sleep before their big first day on the Moon.  Um.. yeah… about that… Neil and Buzz were like… WE’RE ON THE FRICKIN MOON – and with that being said, they decided to don their practical yet slimming space suits and go for a long walk on the Moon like naughty school kids.

This created a bit of a headache for NASA.  They wanted to use their dishes in California to demonstrate the power of American ingenuity by transmitting the first ever vision of humans on the Moon.  Yeah, that didn’t happen… Buzz and Neil gave mission control a heads up about their intentions but when the signal was received and sent to Houston…. guess what… they were doing it all wrong.  The picture they got was upside down!  An incorrect switch setting and an upside down, low-quality signal sent to Mission Control.  This wasn’t the most ideal way to transmit the first humans on the Moon to the world.

And…. cue the Australians!

kangaroos

NASA is freaking out…giphy But… the dish people at Canberra DSN, Honeysuckle and the CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope were ready for the broadcast transmission.  As luck and drama would have it, the day before the Moon landing the Canberra dish HAD A FRICKIN FIRE.  (Seriously guys – why isn’t this a movie!)  So, they call in their best engineer to fix the problem.  This big guy had to fit in a tiny spot to fix all the problems of the dish.  Guess what – this guy’s got claustrophobia.  No Lie.  The engineer who’s sweating it out… fixes the problem – happy days… but NASA could also use the Parkes 64 metre dish to get the TV.  Neil wants to go all ‘walkies’ on the Moon early and at this point, the Moon hasn’t even risen high enough above the horizon there yet, so there’s NO SIGNAL!

w0YoJgK

As the ultimate problem solvers of the universe, NASA looks to the little 26 metre dish at Honeysuckle and their awesome team.  They finally had a picture, and it was one heck of a great badass picture  – and the right way up!

Honeysuckle then broadcasts Naughty Neil and Baddie Buzz’s walk for TV.  The whole “one small step for Man”moment is FINALLY live across Australia and I’m envisioning NASA’s response to what just went down with the Astronauts on the Moon:

 

So, this all went down before the days of the Internet and it takes a few moments for the signal to then be broadcast to the other side of the planet.  TV networks actually had to film the vision though a camera pointed off a monitor. Think about that.  The Americans were watching the moon landing taped off a monitor!  None the wiser.  So, even with the signal travelling at the speed of light, it turns out that Australians got the broadcast a few milliseconds before the Americans…. and the rest of the world.  THAT’S FIRST!  How cool is history!

IMG_4455I think we all need to calm down a bit after that amazing NASA story.  So here’s some important factoids that are worth a mention:  There are three 34-metre antennas that each handle between 3-10 spacecraft each per day.  These dishes are little workhorses transmitting and receiving data from deep space.  But what is deep space really?  Deep space means everything from the Moon and BEYOND.

There are over 40 robotic spacecraft, representing 27 spacefaring nations around the world.  That’s a heck of a lot of data that these cool little dishes collect.

If you would like to space out even deeper and find out how the dishes at Canberra DSN work or just go on some epic adventures, follow Taraustralis on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or subscribe to Taraustralis.com!

 

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