Thursday, April 22, 2010

Family Time

Skiing in powder is insanely fun! The locals said today was the best day of the season. Lucky me to catch it on my second day skiing in 15 years! It snowed about a foot overnight and continued to snow without much wind through the day. Sometimes we could see blue sky between the clouds. I skied with Mom & Dad on intermediate slopes while my sis went for the gnarly stuff. We met up after a couple hours and I went with sis on some blue-black runs through the trees. Yeah! It was absolutely beautiful, with the snow on the tree branches. We rode the long lift to the top of the ridge, above the trees, but couldn’t see much because it was snowing kind of hard at the time. The world was white. Still, what a feeling up on the top of the country, near the continental divide, with a couple of planks on my feet to ride down the mountain.

My sis is a marvel to watch on her tele skis. Ballet on powder! When she gets going, her legs disappear into the snow. After one steep run where I did a lot of conservative back and forth and she just danced down the hill, I told her that she may be more graceful, but I got in more mileage. : ) I like hangin’ out with my sis.

Sis also has a 6 month old baby. Zoe is 6 months old and can do the magic reappearing cheerio trick. Here are some of her top tips. Grasp “O” and raise it to mouth. Pretend to miss the mouth so you can slobber sticky saliva all over your hand. Try again, but this time, open your hand and slide the O onto your sticky palm. Look at the O on your open palm in surprise, flip your hand over and back again and it’s still there! Wave one hand across the other a few times just to distract your audience. Mash the O and your open palm against your face a few more times because it brings such good laughs. Be sure to slobber on both sides of both hands in the process. Cross and wave your hands some more so that the O switches from the front of one hand to the back of another. Switch a few more times, then knock the O off completely and raise up your empty hands! The disappearing O! Your audience thinks this is the end, but in secret collaboration with your granddad, you have prearranged the real finale. HIS hand opens up to reveal the magic O! Grab it and shove it masterfully into your mouth.

It was great to hang out with family for a week and play in the snow together. Thanks Mom, Dad, Donna, Sandi and Zoe!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Aussie shark stories

At Sally’s party, some of my new paddling mates were talking about shark attacks on kayakers. That is casual conversation among Aussie paddlers.

Rob told stories of a kayaker meeting a rower on the sea and the rower asking if the kayaker had been seeing all the sharks along the coast. The kayaker had not, but then kayakers look forward and the sharks normally follow the slowest member of a group, waiting for their chance to pick off the weak ones. The rower was of course looking back all the time, so he saw them. I think I’d rather be looking forward!

Aussies kayakers are mostly unbothered by sharks. Its crocks they fear. When sharks taste a kayak, or for that matter, a human, they usually bite and let go. Crocks actually have humans on the menu. Crocks hunt intelligently and will stalk kayakers and campers.

One kayaker unknowingly camped in the company of a large crock who emerged from the mangroves shortly before dark. She’d heard that a fire will stave off a hungry crock, and quickly gathered all the driftwood she could find on the tiny island. She lit a fire, and the crock backed away. As the fire died, it advanced again.

She set her watch for an hour, and stoked the fire every hour through the night. Each time it died down, the crock was a little closer. She launched early the next morning.

Approaching a cove the next afternoon, another crock bigger than her kayak trailed her. It began nipping at the stern. She made a beeline for the shore, jumped out, and ran up a hill. The crock chomped onto the stern of the kayak and thrashed it about for 15 minutes or so before deciding it was inedible while on land. It retreated to the water where it set to pacing from one side of the cove to the other. All afternoon.

The kayaker got her sat phone from the kayak and called in a motor boat pickup to end her trip. When the motorboat came the next morning, the crock was still pacing.

Crocks have historically eaten aboriginals, and vice versa. The most respected were crock hunters. Now, without the aboriginals controlling the population to the same extent, there are more and bigger saltwater crocks than in remembered history.

The only people allowed to kill crocks are aboriginals. One man was camped with friends on an island, and a crock pulled the friend from his tent in the night and began chomping on him. The man’s 60-year old mother leapt to his aid, jumped astride the crock and started clubbing it. The crock turned on the mom, so the aboriginal man shot it. They called in emergency services. On the sandy beach a crew set up a makeshift aid station, using the dead crock as a table to keep the medical tools out of the sand.

Thankfully for me, crocks reside on the northern, more tropical part of Australia, and not around Sydney where I was paddling. Neither did I see a shark. But then, I tried not to look back too much.