Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ROADTRIP North-Eastern NSW

Entire Route
Tomorrow we – Gustav, Munson and myself – are setting off on a nine day roadtrip to the northern part of NSW.  The bare connect-the-dots route is 2067km, which is about the exact distance I travelled driving from the French farm to Gustav’s home in Sweden.

I haven’t been to many of the places on the route since I was a kid. I’ve marked the places I lived before I turned 18 on the map (red X’s). The most distant of the X’s from Sydney is Bourke – which is another four hours’ drive on from Dubbo! I remember the occasional Saturday morning shopping trip to Dubbo – we’d have to leave really early in the morning because there was no afternoon trading in those days. We (my parents) had a shopping window of 9-12 before the interminable drive home on a straight feature-less road.

NSW is not one of Australia’s bigger states, but it’s a huge piece of real-estate. France fits into it with almost enough spare room to squeeze Italy around the edges. Similarly Texas fits with space for Kentucky. 
France on NSW  Texas on NSW
Our route has not been chosen to fit into a space or distance budget, but time. Gustav is starting a new job in two weeks and I want to make sure we’ve got a weekend to decompress at the end. I chose an inland route to show him some of inland Australia. We won’t even get halfway across the state – but the gaps between towns grows so quickly that every stop west comes at the cost of the return journey east.

From our second night, the journey will in fact all be east of Sydney, with our stop in Byron Bay being at mainland  Australia’s most easterly point. We’re having a leisurely weekend with friends up there and a slower return journey along the coast that will allow us to stop in at random beaches as whim and weather dictate.

Finally, this will be quite an experiment in Australian dog travel for me. I travelled around Tasmania with Bondi ten years ago, and we drove 1400km  to Adelaide and back and then to Melbourne and back – all in the space of five months. Our options were extremely limited – often requiring special pleading to obtain pet friendly accommodation.
Bondi @ Mt Wellington, Hobart  Bondi @ Binalong - Bay of Fires

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Canis major vs canis minor

20140802_160804 There are days when Munson is just another dog, because the Great Danes and Leonbergers are out at the park …
20140802_160334  20140802_160808
… but most of the time he’s Gulliver in Lilliput, and happy to play…

… and play …

… with perhaps some three-way stick action:

…or hanging out for a ball.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sharkey’s Beach

It’s been a while since we got out of Sydney. Our friend Will from Sydney Park has taken his dog Puck and moved down to one of the beachside suburbs north of Wollongong. It’s a little over an hour from our Sydney home to this particular beach, which is off-leash fulltime.

I don’t think Munson has been in proper surf since we visited Cadiz two years ago, but in water or out he had a splendid time. It was a beautiful clear winter’s day, perfect for us all to walk barefoot along the water’s edge from one of the beach to the other and back, following it up with fish and chips down the road in Thirroul.

I had intended to take Gustav into central Wollongong but we didn’t get very far due to bad traffic, and cut the day short. If dogs were allowed on trains on Australia, I’d be down to these beaches much more often. Unfortunately Australia doesn’t do public transport very well and almost no pet-friendly transport. This journey would be like jumping on a London train down to Brighton for the day, albeit with much much much better beaches.
20140810_124711 Puck and Munson
20140810_121620Gustav shell-hunting20140810_122951

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Life with dogs

Michael, Paul and Lucky-Bourke~1971
I had a lucky start with dogs. Actually I had a Lucky start with dogs. Lucky was the kelpie-basset cross my family adopted when I was about seven years old. The photos above show him with me at that time, and my younger brother. They’re the only photos I have from the terribly brief four years he was with us. He was lucky enough to survive a van crash when our furniture was being moved to a second town (he was riding with the drivers), but not lucky enough to pull through a painful calcification of the spine in a third town that lead to him being put to sleep when he was only about five. It was my first experience of deep loss and grief.

Twenty five years passed between Lucky and dog number two. Bondi. He was worth waiting a quarter-century. Just now I had Google+ throw up this sample of fifteen years of photos out of more than fifty thousand stored and uploaded in that period. In the only two without Bondi or Munson in the foreground, I know I had Bondi at my side. I’m also cheered that this selection also features Dougal, Legend and Tosca, all missed. The ratio of me to dog-hair is pretty accurate too.
Fullscreen capture 26072014 21828 PM
Not a bad way to fill a life.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Munson’s Big Adventure

magazine 2014-06-19-075142
This is the story appearing in that’s life! (Australia) today, on pp58-59. I’ll update the image here with a higher resolution (ie legible) version when this issue is replaced next Thursday. [Done!]

The photos used in the story (clockwise from top left) are taken from the following posts :

  1. Ferry to Isle of Wight: March 2013
  2. Munson’s Cafe (unposted pic): March 2013
  3. Monastre de Grande Chartreuse: December 2010
  4. Mirador del Estrecho: September 2012
  5. Enmore Park: December 2013
  6. Rock of Gibraltar: September 2012
  7. Amsterdam: June 2012
  8. North Wales: October 2010
  9. Cologne Cathedral: July 2011
  10. French farm: December 2010

Monday, June 16, 2014

Now We Are Nine

Munson, Mike and Bondi - Sydney Park 2009At the end of May, El Loco & El Lobo slipped quietly into its tenth year with 1725 posts, and close to 12,000 photos. In 2010 a Facebook page was established to complement this site, primarily to make sharing of links and photos easier for readers.

This week we’ll be appearing as a feature story in (this year’s) issue 25 of the Australian weekly magazine that’s life! to be published this Thursday June 19.

To those new readers, welcome, and to those loyal fans of Bondi and Munson who have followed us over the last nine years, thank you. A malamute-sized hug goes out to those that supported us through Munson’s cancer surgery last year; there’s a big love-beast with his mojo back out to save the world because of you.

I still remember the day I turned nine. I was beginning the fourth grade at school in the small fishing village of Urunga on the north coast of NSW, and I’d just been given my first wrist watch (a J Farren-Price as I recall) as a birthday present from my parents. I didn’t have far to walk to school, but I must have raised my arm a hundred times to stare at it, to make sure it was still wound, to make sure that not more than ten seconds had passed since it was last admired. Exciting times must lie ahead.

Exciting times did lie ahead. Across twenty five years - a fathomless gulf to a 9 year old – I was now living in the United States, the same age as my father had been when I was given that watch. This particular day in December was even more memorable because an eight-week old malamute puppy called Bondi came into my life and changed everything. The companion that Bondi became made all the adventures in this blog possible.

Bondi passed away in 2009, a few months after the photo at the top was taken, passing the torch to young Munson who is now six years old. In 2010 I made a short tribute film about my life with Bondi which you can find here.

Stay a while and click through nine years of life on the road with two wonderful dogs. Make yourself comfortable with your own furry friend of today or maybe the one you cherish from when you were nine.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sydney old and new

20140525_144907-14 Dawn Fraser Pool
After watching an episode of the BBC program Coast -  now turning its attention to Australia – we were inspired by its Sydney episode to go looking for the Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain. Although I’ve passed by here many times, I wasn’t aware that the baths were an enclosed harbour tidal pool until seeing this program. When you’re in a country that takes plentiful swimming pools for granted, there’s nothing in a name that will lure you to make a special visit.

While we’re enjoying a decadently sunny autumn – one that seems to get warmer as we get closer to winter – the baths are closed from April to October. Approaching it via Elkington Park we passed a group of people picnicking by the harbour, with a Munson-coloured malamute lying on its back, paw in mouth, enjoying the sun. Oh that Munson had been with us for this outing!
20140525_145042-48_stitch Dawn Fraser Pool
Scouting for coffee after this we avoided downtown Balmain’s spreading network of parking meters and looped back to Chippendale. From there we walked up Broadway to look at the new Central Park urban village development. We’d had a brief look at it in November on a wet and windy day – this time with Munson in tow – and had not had the opportunity to look inside ( that Sydney limiting factor of having a dog ).
Central Park or Centra Park?
In my first year out of university I lived a few blocks away from here when the site belonged to Carlton United, with the smell of malt from the brewery carring up Broadway and Parramatta Road.

The old brewery building remains with its internal workings restored and space given over to a combination of energy generating facility and public space. Around that is a belt of parkland, and a major retail and apartment development wrapped in living vegetation – the world’s highest “green wall”. This sits directly across Broadway from the brutal monolith of UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) which may be cloaked in even more futuristic fashion in a few years.
20140525_161754 20140525_162035
The inner commercial space is still a work in progress, and far from busy on weekend afternoon. There are video walls, eccentric spinning chairs and a skylight washed in water to create a dappled light on the foyer floors below. What I did like was that you could stand in the central open space and look out through a number of windows of the encircling shops and see sky and greenery.
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Also facing Central Park is a new UTS Information Technology and Engineering (ITE) building enveloped in perforated aluminium screens. For anyone who has not seen this southwestern approach to the city in a few years, the combination of new structures will come as quite a surprise.  In Google Maps you can currently make a quick comparison, by starting here to see that stretch of Broadway in recent months, and then moving a little to the left and seeing the original view.

Flickr slideshow