Lost friends and some hiking gear. 11th September 2011

It’s time for a change of pace from writing endless trip reports and instead I want to ramble about death, hiking gear and what I think is a perfect tea cup. All of these things are quite important and I was going to cram it all into one massive entry, but I’ve realised that’s a bit too ambitious, so they’ve been split into two separate posts. In regards to gear I thought I’d include my oldest purchase when I started to get back into hiking and my newest, which fits the theme of these entries by reminiscing a little. I guess it also reflects the things that have been on my mind over the past week.

We all know what happened ten years ago today and I can’t bring anything to the impact of those events that other people more eloquent in writing haven’t done already. All I can touch on is my own ten year anniversary of an event that occurred two days earlier on 9th September, 2001.

Why am I holding a well known print named ‘Spitfire’ by Barrie Clark? Well, there’s a bit going on in that photo and besides the painting I’m wearing my newest piece of outdoor clothing which is a ‘Macpac 65 Sabre Jacket’ that I bought at a drastically reduced price in the recent sales. Oh yeah, what better way to show the print and jacket than a healthy lemon tree? I do like a lemon or ten, but I just noticed whilst looking at the photo I’d probably fail as a picture hook judging by the angle the ‘Spitfire’ is on.

The owner of the painting was a bloke I used to spend a lot of time with and he was affectionately known as ‘Popeye’ due to his massive arms from lifting way too many weights. I used to work, train and socialize with him including a quite ridiculous ‘holiday’ in Queensland in which we spent a week eating like health freaks and lifting weights whilst also walking up to four hours a day along the beach. It was real ‘meathead’ stuff I guess, but it made me pretty fit and I don’t think there’s anything wrong mixing the bench press with Joseph Conrad.

On this trip we went to night clubs where we spent our time drinking mineral water due to a ‘no alcohol’ pact we’d made. Who’s been to a night club in the history of mankind whilst sober? Anyway, if you didn’t know already, they’re remarkably lame if one isn’t totally plastered.

‘Popeye’ had some unusual material when talking to women and his most common method of trying to meet someone was jumping onto a table and tearing his shirt off, whilst launching into a front double biceps pose. It wasn’t the greatest technique, although it did work now and again due to comedy purposes. He was always left behind though, as it cost him money on shirts due to literally tearing them off, complete with buttons flying across the room.

I knew his modus operandi, which is the reason why one night I was stunned to see him come back to the apartment we were staying in with not one, but two girls and his shirt in one piece. It was always going to go downhill though and that’s what happened when they started asking, “Where’s some pizza?”

That food wasn’t part of our ‘holiday torture test boot camp’ and all we had to offer them was yoghurt, tuna or fruit. Ripe apples and oranges was not really what the girls wanted after a night of drinking, so they left and Popeye and I spent a few hours on the balcony during a hot Queensland night peeling fruit and drinking sparkling mineral water whilst talking rubbish.


Chest pocket works well

What about the jacket you say? Okay, back to the present day and the Macpac Sabre jacket retails for AUD $279.95, but I bought it for about $160 during the mid year sales. In fact it’s not worth buying any outdoor gear unless it’s urgently required, as the sales when they occur can knock hundreds of dollars from the price.

I love this jacket as its latest cut seems to fit my ‘largish’ frame very well. The vertical chest pocket perfectly fits my phone or iPod, so it’s handy for my urban hiking. It’s wind resistant and the material of the jacket feels very abrasion proof. I was wearing it when I slammed into the rocks on the George Bass Coastal Walk and as a result the jacket is unmarked even though I didn’t land on the smoothest of surface.

I could tell you the weight of the jacket for the benefit of all you weight freaks out there, but I’ve no idea as I bought the ‘2XL’ (of course). The medium size is 521 grams and I guess a couple more ‘placebo grams’ can be taken off if one was psychotic and wanted to remove the labels.


It’s started to replace my North Face Sentinel jacket  that I’ve worn absolutely everywhere for the last three years.

The North Face has a couple of small holes in the sleeve now, but I still like it due to being a bit of a lighter material than the Macpac. In cold, windy weather though, the Macpac has kept me toasty warm and I can see it getting a lot of use next year when hopefully the neurosurgeon says I can carry a backpack again.

I don’t own a wind tunnel, so I have my own special ‘Hiking Fiasco’ method of testing a material for its ability to keep out the wind. This isn’t the most scientific idea, but it involves a freezing cold, Melbourne winters day and driving on a freeway at 100 km/h. At that speed I stick my jacket clad arm out the window and see if the wind penetrates the sleeve. The Macpac has passed this test as my arm stayed warm even though my hand almost went blue from frostbite. As a result I don’t think anyone would be disappointed wearing this on a cold day.


On 9th September 2001, ‘Popeye’ became a perfect example of what can happen when one mixes alcohol with severe depression. Hindsight is lovely now, but I still have plenty of regrets about what happened ten years ago. What seems obvious now, wasn’t back then as I thought he was just feeling ‘down’ rather than suffering from a much deeper mental struggle.

He was alone at his house drinking heavily when he closed the garage door, taped a vacuum cleaner hose to his cars exhaust and died whilst listening to a cassette tape of the Hunters and Collectors song ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. It’s a miserable memory and it didn’t end there as just two days later, whilst in a mind numbing state I watched the World Trade Centres collapse during a live news broadcast.

So, where does the painting at the start come in? Well, it used to sit on the wall in the doorway to ‘Popeye’s’ house and after his funeral I visited his parents who said they were going to get rid of it. They offered it to me instead of throwing it away and I took it home where it still sits on my wall today.

It reminds me of some good times, but also brings up some bleak thoughts about what happened in the end. There’s a hundred stories about him, but I was never going to rattle on in this post too much. I still miss him now and I’d have a drink in his memory, but I’ve given up alcohol for quite some time. I prefer tea now instead, which sounds a bit dull, but that’ll be covered in my next blog entry, complete with my oldest hiking purchase and memory of the loss of another close friend…