Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sat 20th May, 2006

Change is as good as a holiday

On Thursday, Kate and I took two days off to go down to visit her brother and their family at a place they'd rented in Jindabyne. Rob and Julie are keen skiiers, Julie having been an instructor, and Nicole (10) and Megan (5) are learning. Thursday was a write-off - we got to Jindabyne as hard, cold rain started looming down on us and it was looking like a very bad day to be on the snow. Instead we played cards, went for a walk, ate, played more cards, and generally stocked up our reserves for tomorrow.

Friday was much better, though a bit windy still. Kate and I did the 10Km cross-country circuit at Perisher, which was overall very enjoyable. Unfortunately the last bit, which winds down the slope to the Nordic shelter in ways that are normally rather difficult to attempt in cross-country skis anyway, was the only part of the track that was ungroomed, so we really had to fight through the snow (as opposed to gliding along on well-packed track). But, all things considered, it was a lovely run, and I agree with Kate that one of the great joys of the Snowy Mountains is to get on cross-country skis and go out to somewhere away from the madding crowd and into the pure bush experience.

That afternoon, however, I changed. I bought a half-day lift pass at Perisher, hired some skis and boots, and became a downhill skier for the rest of the day. I skied with Julie and Nicole, which was very good - Nicole and I were very similar in our overall skill level (I had more coordination but less actual practice) and so we were equally tentative about how to tackle new and exciting adventures, like coming down the Vista run on Mt. Perisher with snow falling and dark clouds making the entire slope a monochrome grey. Call me a coward if you like, but losing all ability of depth perception on 45° slopes makes me more tentative in my approach. Finally, we met up with Rob (on snowboard) and had some group fun captured on film. Kate had elected to spend the afternoon minding Megan in the car, which I think Rob (usually on Megan-minding duties) tacitly appreciated.

On Saturday Kate and I had planned to try to get to Mt. Kosciuszko, by taking the chair lift up from Thredbo and cross-country skiing along the Main Range. The weather forecast had been for mild to strong winds on the peaks, but there were no clouds as we approached and dead calm in the valley so we bought our one-shot lift passes and went up on the main chairlift. Half way up I remarked, "Hmmm, you can start to feel the breeze now." Three quarters of the way up I'd pulled my neckwarmer across my face and was having to lean over for Kate to hear me. When we arrived the wind was blowing snow from the range - the hard, frozen-rain type snow not the fluffy stuff - straight at us. I looked at the long uphill slog, straight into the wind, with black clouds looming over the first hills, and pretty much decided then and there that we weren't going to Kosciuszko that day. Then Kate announced that there weren't any markers, and we'd have to find our way using compass and map held against the gale, and that put the seal on it. We were coming down.

The descent, however, was worse than even that portent-laden prediction. Gone were my smaller, wider, more manoeuverable downhill skis - instead I had straight planks ten centimetres taller than I am attached to my feet only at the toes. We found the 'green' run start, which looked like the start of a rollercoaster - I could see the run out but I couldn't see just how steep it pitched in until I was half-way down it. Snow-plouging with cross-country skis is much more difficult, as is virtually every downhill technique I'd learnt the previous day. Then it got worse: the track got steeper and took a right turn sharper than we'd be able to do in our skis. The other side was a steep drop-off into black diamond territory. I managed to only fall over four times in coming down the next fifty metres to where we had a bit of a breather in the shelter of some trees.

I contemplated the scene before me. I could see the track for the next twenty metres, and then only the Thredbo village, far far below. Between there and me lay five hundred metres of vertical distance, and I could not see any of it - the entire course between me and safe flat ground at the bottom of the slope was hidden behind that lip twenty metres away. I don't mind admitting I was absolutely freaked out. I put my skis on my shoulder and started trudging down the mountain. Kate tried skiing a bit further, doing careful traverses, and in watching her I felt an intense pride and love for her braving something that had I had not the courage to attempt. Then a snowboarder knocked her over as she was preparing for another traverse and she took her off her skis and followed in my footsteps (literally - they were better packed at that stage). Naturally, the snowboarder didn't stop to help or apologise. We finally made it down to the nearest chairlift, descending what I'd estimate to be a hundred metres vertically. We could see that the terrain started to even out - slightly - but by then we so completely pissed off at Thredbo and all that it stood for that we just rode straight back down. Like a final seal on the Thredbo Experience, a smoker sat close by us while we were having lunch and phoned up her friends to come over and smoke with her.

Lessons learnt:

So, to salvage an otherwise awful day, we went on a walk beside the Thredbo River at Bullock's Flat (named after a guy named Bullock who ran a sawmill there, not after any kind of oxen). We collected pastries at Nugget's Crossing and had afternoon tea back at the ranch at Jindabyne. We drove home with my usual dehydration headache starting to kick in, and me drinking as much as I could to at least stave off the long-term effects. I dropped Kate off to do her duty as a door person at the ANU Film Group and went to Pascal Klein's 17th birthday party. I'd missed "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon", but there was still "Die Hard" to go; I also introduced them to Give Me The Brain and Bartok (so the evening wasn't entirely wasted :-).

Oh, and it was sheer pleasure to wake up at 7:30 warm and cozy beside Kate, rather than at 4:00 cold and stiff and separated from Kate by a lumpy mattress edge. Conduction through the floor is an absolute killer.

Then, just to cap the weekend off, we took up Kate's brother-in-law Trevor's offer of a perfectly good table being thrown out from CSIRO, and replaced the nice but heavy, wooden and not-designed-for-computers desk I had with a keyboard-aware, powerboard-enabled slightly larger desk. I then purchased an inordinate quantity of cable retaining devices and went mad on the underside of the desk. Some double-sided sticky tape attached the network and the KVM switches to the undersides of the desk, and suddenly the previous cable infestation that had driven Kate mad was now beautifully and securely restrained out of the way. I even put the network switch so that its front face shows between the desk and the keyboard stand, so that I can see the state of the network (such as it is) just by glancing down, and still have all the network cables conveniently routed under the desk. It's beautiful, I tell you.

I'll post pictures of it tomorrow. Now I must sleep.

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