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Monday, February 27, 2012

Dear John

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Birthday Cake

Dear John

Thanks for your letter which I received 19 years ago. I think I replied at the time, but I’ve re-read your letter so many times, I can’t remember what I said, so I thought I’d send you this second reply.

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your love for life, and the way you made concrete decisions to get out and explore the world. I loved your comment that you “flew out to Alice springs on a Friday and had a look around”. That’s so true to character of you – some place seems interesting, so why not go and “have a look around”? Alice Springs, The Rock, the Ghan, the Great Ocean Road, the Great Barrier Reef…. you were prolific. I remenber you telling me once you wanted to go to Antarctica, and what surprised me most was that you didn’t actually get a chance to visit there – but you had a good excuse.

It’s taken me a couple of years, and I thought I’d lost it, but today I found a photo of you on your 51st birthday when you had dinner with us, which is why I decided to write to you today.

You once said to me that you thought that compared to what life was like a couple of centuries ago, these days we are often lucky enough to live several “life times”. I’ve often thought of that, and consider myself one of the lucky ones. I feel like I’m part way through my second or third “life time” and have been incredibly lucky to see and experience the things that I have.

Well most of the things. One of the events that still saddens me was when you died almost 15 years ago.

That really pisses me off, and I often think of all the stuff we missed out on sharing together. I raised a glass “to absent friends” a few weeks ago and thought of you. In fact there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t remember something about you.

Like how you were the last person to beat me in a game of chess.

How you could quote passages of Shakespeare verbatim and tell me why you loved his plays.

How I’d ask you a philosophical question and you’d answer in that County Kerry brogue with a twinkle in your eye, “God knows, Neil”.

How you’d never eat your bloody vegetables. No wonder you got stomach cancer. I hope you don’t mind but we tell our kids about that when they try to get away without eating veggies.

How I had a curry with you, and you selected a bottle of Galway Pipe Port as the wine to go with it – and we both finished the port that night – geeze my head hurt the next day.

How you had some magic power that could tell who had which card in a game of bridge – how the hell did you do that?

How you wore hiking boots with shorts – even when you were just making a casual visit – almost as though you were ready for a hike in case the opportunity arose.

How I paid you $5 to help me solve one of the questions in the “Tournament of the mind” competition, because I was too dull to work it out after several hours, but you solved it in a couple of minutes.

Most of all I remember the shock that made me feel like I’d been kicked in the stomach when I found out you’d died – almost a month after it happened, and I never got a chance to say goodbye, or to let you know how much I loved you.

You left a huge hole when you died, John. But if I’m really honest with myself, I have to admit that while it was a tragedy for us, it wasn’t a tragedy for you because you lived well. You did everything (or most things) that you dreamed of doing. You looked at the world, and life, and delighted in it. You didn’t suppress your whims and you made an incredible impact on the world. So much so that even now I can hardly read this bloody page because my eyes are full of tears.


I’m so thankful Liz and I were able to visit your home village in Caherdaniel, meet your wonderful family, and see the house you grew up in. I enjoyed spending time with with a bunch of people who spoke like you, had the same quaint turns of phrase, and even looked like you. When I was with them it felt like I was with you.


Most of all I’m thankful for what you taught me – just by example: To live life to the fullest, and delight in every day.

Your friend



Here’s the letter john wrote to me in 1993. To view it, just click on “Page 1″ below, then click on “newer” to move to each successive page. His description of gold mining is priceless.

Letter from John O'Shea November 1993 Page 1Letter from John O'Shea November 1993 Page 2Letter from John O'Shea November 1993 Page 3Letter from John O'Shea November 1993 Page 4Letter from John O'Shea November 1993 Page 5Letter from John O'Shea November 1993 Page 6

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Third Time Lucky

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This WayAfter two recent unsuccessful recent attempts, I finally managed to ride from my place to Scrub Road / South Boundary Road via Camp Mountain.

On my third trip along this route in a month, it was starting to feel a bit repetitious, but I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

It’s challenging because there are a few tough climbs involved (Camp Mountain, Scrub Road, South Boundary Road northward), plus a couple of short nasty climbs in Bunyaville and Ironbark. All up it involveds about 1,600m of climbing, so I wanted to nail all of them in one go just for the sake of it.

Goanna, Camp Mountain

DERM has recently graded the trail to the summit of Camp Mountain, but it didn’t seem to help me. I still took just over 13 minutes to climb it, and was exhausted and gasping for breath when I reached the top. This Goanna (or Lace Monitor) looked at me suspiciously, sniffing the air as I tried to catch my breath, so I grabbed a quick picture of him while I had the chance.

Then I had a quick ride up the bitumen along the hill tops to the trail head for Scrub Road.

Scrub RoadScrub Road

The last time I rode this track it was so muddy my wheels clogged up and stopped turning. Thankfully this time the sun had dried up the mud, which meant a nice smooth ride for a couple of kilometres to the causeway at the bottom.

But, as every rider and hiker in D’Aguilar National Park knows, what goes down, must go up! So I put the bike into “granny” gear and spun furiously for half an hour to get out of the valley and back up onto the ridgeline at South Boundary Road.

Cooling OffScrub Road Shelter

I really appreciate the shelters and water tanks that DERM has built in the national park. Once I reached the shelter at the corner of Scrub Road and South Boundary Road, I took a bit of a break and cooled off under the water tap. It felt wonderful!

Since I had a bit of a whinge about DERM in a previous post I wanted to put on the record the fact that I do appreciate the work they do maintaining our parks. I love having such a large and diverse park so close to home, and despite occasional muddy fire trails, the park is very well maintained.

Just on a side note, did you know that Mount Coot-tha forms part of the D’Aguilar National Park system. It’s only 5.5km from the Brisbane CBD. I can’t think of any other capital city in the world that has such a large national park so close to the city centre.

All up 81km, 1,600m of ascent, and just under 5,000 kcal burned. This one is 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Battling Bulldozers

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Thank you, Lesley Hunter-Nolan (editor, Pine Rivers Press) and Nick Kuhn (photographer) for running this story in the Pine Rivers Press yesterday. I admire Nick for agreeing to come for an hour trek in the hilly forests of Clear Mountain with me so he could see some of the damage done by the DERM bulldozers.

Journalists get a lot of criticism from us at times, but I appreciate the job that the local press does – keeping us informed about what’s going on in our area.

Monday, February 06, 2012

It’s About the Journey

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Enjoying the ViewLast week I tried to ride a large loop from home which took in Scrub Road and South Boundary Road… but didn’t quite make it.  I tried again this week, and didn’t quite make it again.  The problem last week was lack of water and time.  This week the mud defeated us.  The people from DERM have recently taken a bulldozer down some of the paths to clear fire breaks, and the roads have become impassable due to the thick mud caused by recent heavy rain.

Dean and I set out from my place at the ungodly time of 6am (he’s an early riser) and headed out to Bunyaville via some local bike paths.

From there we rode to Ironbark Gully in Samford Forest via Wongan Creek.  The creek crossing was flooded, so I smugly let Dean know I thought we could ride across it without any problems.  Halfway across the creek my wheel sunk into a hidden hole, I went over the handle bars, and and ended up sitting in water up to my neck wondering what was going on.

In the meantime, Dean did the commonsense thing and rode around the flooded bit without even taking a foot off the pedals.

I’ve really got to learn my lesson about flooded creeks I think!

Camp Mountain Picnic Area

(Picture by Dean)

From Ironbark Gully we headed up to Camp Mountain for the gruelling climb up the short track. It’s always a painful climb, but I love the sense of achievement when I reach the picnic ground at the top having beaten the hill.

Brisbane CBD from Camp Mountain

The recent rain has cleared the haze from the air, so the views from Camp Mountain south to the Brisbane CBD were beautiful.

Scrub Road Causeway

(Picture by Dean)

From there it was a quick ride up the bitumen to the gate at Scrub Road, and a fun descent for a couple of km down this steep firetrail to the creek and causeway at the bottom.

The only problem was the mud on the track up which clogged our wheels up so much they stopped turning. So the sensible thing to do (as Dean managed to convince me) was to turn around, climb back up to the bitumen, skip this section of dirt trails, and ride the road up to Mount Nebo.

I was disappointed. It’s annoying to be defeated twice in a week by the same stretch of track. But it forced me to face up to my main reason for doing all this anyway. And if I’m honest, it’s not about achieving objectives, it’s about getting to visit great places with good friends.

Samford Valley

(Picture by Dean)

The views from the Mount Nebo Road looking down into Samford Valley were pretty special anyway, so I don’t think we really missed out that badly!

Just over 82km, with 5:30 hours rolling, and a tad under 1,800m of vertical ascent, and 4,800kcal of energy. The BLT sandwich at Jones Tea Rooms, Mt Nebo, was worth the effort to get there. Once again, this ride rates 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter for the hot weather, tough climb up Camp Mountain, and the mud on Scrub Road. Let’s do it again some time :)