Friday, 20 September 2013

The cheap and nasty land revisited

Today, after finally making contact with Name a Game (they have finally developed a noting system when nobody has time to answer) I told my mother I would be visiting because I was expecting a valuable game between Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs from mid-1998, that had not been mastered from VHS.

I had slight trouble preparing my visit to Braeside because the panniers on my recently repaired bicycle had to be washed as I found them terribly dirty when I picked the bicycle up on Wednesday. I took my backpack, but soon realised that I had left my mobile phone at home - though I felt it too late to come back and get it.

The train trip to Mordialloc was uneventful, but when I walked into Name a Game I found that in fact Charitian and Blake had simply got a new machine and the DVDs were not ready. More than that, the February-ordered 2000 games (Adelaide versus Sydney and West Coast versus St. Kilda) were still not ready and Blake (who has replaced Elaine Martin as Christian’s assistant) said that the mastering firm in South Melbourne still had not finished with them. In fact, I am very worried the master tapes are damaged and that I will have to ask Christian to talk to the AFL. I still found two replacement matches that I very much wanted, and am glad to “clean up” the order.

It was a warm sunny day when, after some typical talk about Australia’s dreadful ecological record and its global consequences, I aimed to cycle south to the Frankston line. However, when I tried to cut across the grassland south of Braeside, I found that there was no way across a creek and I was told by a friendly man in a 4 wheel drive that I would have to get wet.

Still, I was determined to find a way south to the Frankston line that would be less dangerous that the route to Mordialloc that is closest but has many wide road crossings that I fear my life for. It shows just how unacceptable Australia’s public transport is that there is no local pressure for better public transport than just a few peak hour buses. Local people fear loss of privacy if they were forced to use even a superlatively good public transport system in a way the more intellectual and more politicised populations in inner Melbourne and all of the Enriched World cannot. The previous time I tried this I had no trouble crossing to the Franskton line, but this time I did not find the right path and I was suspicious from the start since the route was so rough. The trouble was I had no idea what the correct route across the marshland actually was: even Google Maps does not provide many clues since the route I strongly recall as narrower than a “parkway”.

When I pushed on, I saw the main road leading south very clearly and hoped I would be out, but found that in fact it was completely fenced. On one previous trip to Braeside, I had walked up a drainage route, so I though I might be able to get out vial the cemented creek the flows upstream from Wells Road across Boundary Road. Alas, the creek was fenced in all directions and I felt it was too late to go back after I had gone through several deep and sandy patches with only one sign (a loose gate) of any exit. I did not risk the loose gate because I had no certainty as to whether I would be able to life myself, my backpack and my bike over it, so it was following the creek still further into more industrial and rural areas.

Travelling up the creek made me realise just how rural Australia really is: people think of us as an urbanised country but the population densities of our cities are in fact much lower than many super-fertile rural areas in Asia, Europe and the Andes. It is also true that suburban people often work in light industry or small businesses as families and children are not the liability they are in the huge factories of the Enriched and Tropical Worlds.

After a while, I wondered if I would have to retrace my steps all the way back to Mordialloc in very warm weather - the creek did cool me though I was worried there was sewage in it that might poison my injured toe with the wound! I still was eager to see where the creek went and thus kept on going till I saw a few people working in an industrial plant above me. I politely asked them for help, and they said they did not have the key to unlock the gate, but that if I kept on going there was - as I could faintly see - a way out. I then slipped but thankfully was OK, and managed to get myself and my bicycle up sharp and steep rocks onto an area of grassland that was oddly familiar to me as I had cycled down Lower Dandenong Road past Moorabbin Airport before.

This is a white-browed scrubwren, Sericornis frontalis, which I
presumably saw along the creek near Lower Dandenong
Even here, having had a lucky escape because I could very easily have fallen and broken my skull or neck with no means of contacting my mother (I left my mobile at home since I moved everything into the backpack) I still did not know the way out onto the road. I did see some of the small native birds (probably a white-browed scrubwren, Sericonis frontalis) that land clearing has so badly affected in recent times, as I examined the fence. Eventually, I spotted an exit onto what I thought wrong was Springvale Road when in fact it was Boundary Road (the main road off which Name a Game is located). To actually get me, my backpack, and my bicycle out was still a difficult task even when I saw somebody had flattened a part of the fence adjacent to Boundary Road. It involved quite a bit of lifting of my bicycle to get it out, along with considerable dodging around intact parts of the fence.

Note how the 812 bus route turns
twice from Cheltenham Road as it
goes towards Dandenong. I made a
bad error following the first turning.
Once I had got back on the road, I decided to head for the Dandenong Line, and followed the 812 bus route as it turned north. Here, however, I lost my sense of direction, for I though I had passed Springvale Road and not Boundary Road, so I presumed that by following the 812 bus route I was heading towards Noble Park or Yarraman stations. At this time, I made a reverse charge call - having no mobile phone - to my mother, who was relieved to know how responsible I was and that I was all right despite a few bruises on my hands and arms.

I told my mother I would be home for dinner at 18:00 (it was 15:00 when I called), and I continued northeast thinking I would soon be at the Dandenong railway line. However, when I got to the next main road I could tell from the presence of the 811 bus route that I was not close to the Dandenong line. The 811 bus route goes down Heatherton Road far from the railway line around Noble Park and Yarraman, so something clearly was wrong.

Being very hungry after so much walking and cycling, I looked for a snack and found myself eating a fish and chips in weather that looked deteriorating though it remained warm enough to leave my jacket off. After I decided to keep going northwards I found I was not on Chandler Road as I had imagined but on Tootal Road further west (see the map at left)! This meant I was quite a way away from the railway line, but I knew I had no choice but to keep on looking at how unsustainable wastage of money on roads for sixty years had given the world’s most fragile country the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Still, the bus map - revised since I used to collect all the bus timetables in Melbourne - showed a clear route to Westall Station on main roads, which was not too difficult even though I had to walk my bike on roadside grass for part of the way.

The rest of the trip, down Tootal and Westall Roads, was slow but easily navigated, and by the time Westall Station was reached the weather was becoming bad. I called my mother again telling her of my mistake (which began when I checked the bus route but not the road name in the assumption the bus route could tell me where I was) as she was relieved.

The trips to the city, to Rushall and the cycle home were uneventful apart from nearly losing my USB when I got out at Rushall Station, by which time the weather was cool and getting wetter as I approached home: at one point in St. George’s Road South the rain was a torrent but it oddly stopped when I came home to finish an interesting adventure with some notable bird sightings, but one I do not want to relive because of the danger to my life and to my status as a potential trespasser.

One thing that might be noted is that none of the books or DVDs in my backpack were actually damaged, which is a minor miracle when one considers how often I was in foot-deep creek water and that I slipped twice, which gave my left arm a minor injury.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Why a moratorium on road spending is needed: train crashes due to rotting timber

At the very time when a government that says it will only fund roads and not public transport is being elected, I found a piece of news that makes already decisive calls for damnation of six decades of freeway-based transport policies even more decisive.

This week’s Time magazine has shown that a train crash on Perth’s Joondalup line last Tuesday was due to an infestation of millipedes, which caused the train to slip. Whilst this August has been considering global warming’s disastrous effect on Perth’s climate relatively wet (the wettest for nine years) it is as shown below still not nearly so wet as the Augusts of 1900, 1903, 1909, 1913, 1915, 1920, 1939, 1942, 1945, 1955 or 1963.
A selection of August rainfall total maps for Australia, illustrating how dry August 2013 was in southwestern Australia vis-à-vis the wettest Augusts before anthropogenic global warming took control of the climate.
There is no doubt that wet weather in the 1960s and 1974 would have created much more climatically favourable conditions for millipedes than exist today. Millipedes lack a waterproof skin and depend on moist conditions to survive, so there must be other reasons why they are thriving now (though 2013 is the first year since 2008 when any month in Perth’s historic rainy season has been above the virgin mean rainfall).

The culprit, as with so many quality problems on Australia’s railways, has to be money wasted on freeway building. It is bad for railways’ quality because wasting money on roads diverts passengers - the source of revenue - away from essential maintenance of railways, not to mention the limited supply of public money.

Railways, contrary to popular perception and governmental philosophy, are a vital resource for Australia. The extreme age and low fertility of the continent’s soils requires an exceptionally low-energy lifestyle that needs for sustainability to be based on rail transport to the exclusion of road or air, although the latter two are much more politically viable. Rail transport is also exceptionally suited to Australia’s flat terrain.

For this reason, Australia’s needs to place a moratorium on new roads until all operational railways are repaired fully. Poor quality of railways in other parts of Australia has been well-documented and even a temporary moratorium on road wastage (which would be as unacceptable to those who pull the strings as the uncompromising permanent moratorium I have long advocated) would be a great help if the money saved Australia’s valuable railways from becoming totally decrepit.