Sep 04

Mt Imlay is just over the border and into New South Wales, our pre-reading indicated that it was a hard walk, but the reward was stunning views of the coast and mountains.  The day was postcard perfect, bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky and the forecast for about 20°C

All properly prepared, we jumped in the car and headed off.

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It’s a quick drive up the highway from Mallacoota to the turn off at Burrawang Forest Rd.  As we drive through the East Boyd State Forest it’s clear that this whole area has at one time or other being logged.  Just to confirm this government has provided us with nice signs that tell us when it was logged, 1977 and 1978.  The natural bush land is growing back, but it’s a slow process and will take many years.  The road is gravel it’s evident that its made for log trucks to thunder along.  Michael’s little Golf manages to weave it’s way over large rocks, deep pot holes and the odd branch.

After 10 kilometres on the beaten track, we arrive at the picnic ground, consisting of one picnic table, a display board and a toilet.  There’s a tank off in one corner for those that forgot to bring water and a little boot cleaning station.

DSC_0098.JPG The information board gave us some additional information about the park, we’re warned to wear good boots, not take children, and be prepared for cold wet conditions on the mountain, even if the weather is fine down here.  It tells us that the lower slopes are 450-500 million years old and was once the ocean floor, the mountain top is much younger, only 350-400 million years, and it is made of much harder stuff.  Not surprisingly the area was (and probably is) also sacred to the local indigenous population, we are asked to treat it like a church,  and to respect and protect the whole area.

We’re looking forward to this walk, even though all the research we’ve done says that it’s a steep and difficult walk.  There are a number of rare things to see here, foremost in our minds is the endemic Mount Imlay Boronia (Boronia imlayensis).  It only grows near the top of the ridge, and it’s just into spring, with a bit of luck we’ll see it flowering.

There’s two other cars in the car park, but nobody else to be seen.  We don our walking boots, pack our lunches and water, Michael readies his camera, I’ve got my binoculars and bird book and plenty of water.

First stop is the boot cleaning station.  DSC_0108.JPG The National Parks are trying to stop the fungus phytophthora cinnamomi from getting into the forest. The fungus gets into the roots and causes them to rot.  The little boot station is a steel construction with three brushes to scrub your boots, two on the side and one for the sole.  Then a chemical solution wash for the soles, just to make sure you kill the little buggers.

We can see Mt Imlay in the distance, it really does loom above everything else in the area.  The first part of the track is wide and scattered with plenty of dead wood, it looks like it was a road once upon a time.  It’s steep, and long, within moments of putting one foot in front of the other my calves are screaming at me, my pulse is thundering making my teeth shake and sweat is pouring out of every pore.  Bent over, with my little back pack on, I manage to tilt my head upwards and can see the track continues to steeply rise in front of us.  We made slow progress.  Really slow.

The track evened out slightly and we found ourselves standing between some Austral Grass Trees,DSC_0113.JPG each tree was between one and two metres tall, and they were in the way!  We had to push our way through their long narrow and somewhat pointy shoots.  For a few minutes it felt like we were in the middle of some African jungle and needed a machete to punch our way through.  A small sign board said that the local aborigines used these trees in many ways, the long stalks made ideal spears after being harden in a fire, the sap was a glue for adhering shell blades to the end of the spears and the dried flower pods were an excellent burning material.  There weren’t any flower stalks visible, I’m guessing that no fires has been through this part of the forest in many years, and the trees need a decent fire to flower.

We now found ourselves in a small saddle that linked the small (but very steep) hill we’d just climbed to the base of Mt Imlay.  We skirted around the edge of the saddle, not dropping to far into the valley.  At times the track became nothing but rocks as we wound our way around, there was a clear drop to the valley floor, and I had the distinct impression that one foot in the wrong place would see me tumble towards the trees far below.  I’m sure it would be a spectacular fall.  The reality really being a knock on the head on some loose rocks that would stop me tumbling in such a spectacular fashion.  Still, the trail headed around the top of this impressive natural amphitheatre,  and shortly we found ourselves at the base of the mountain.  The relatively flat track around the edge had allowed us to recuperate, which was just as well as now the track began it’s slow climb up to the summit.  We could see it, along with the ridge that would get us there and the steep incline that we now had to tackle.

DSC_0129.JPG The forest was now mostly tall Silvertop Ash trees, these magnificent gum trees are covered in dark bark around their lower half, and the top half silver, crowned with a bush of leaves, up to about 30 metres tall, waving in the wind.  It’s quite an impressive sight to look up see a forest of these trees.   Silver ash also makes great timber, the trees grow tall and straight.  We started scrambling over rocks as we headed towards the peak.  It wasn’t too long before we got to the top of the ridge, the hard work was now mostly over.

The tall trees had given way to much smaller trees and shrubs.  The area abounds with a variety of wildflowers, so many colours, purples, blue, red, pink and yellow.

We were now on the razorback ridge.  I’ve seen worse!  The sides did drop away quickly to the valley far far below, but the ridge was quite wide. I can only imagine that the razorback it was named after was quite fat.  To the west was mountain after mountain, tinged blue as they faded off into the distance, to the right was the Tasman Sea, tinged blue as it faded off to New Zealand.  To the north was the peak.

DSC_0245.JPG Here we saw our first boronia, a delicate little white flower. We decided to get to the top and have time for photos on the return trip.  It wasn’t too much longer before we did reach the top.

There, 886 metres above sea level, was the peak.  A trig point marked the spot.  We had got there, the beauty was stunning, if you ignored the huge Telstra installation sitting right there behind you.

DSC_0154.JPG At the beginning of the walk we are reminded to treat this area with respect as the local aboriginal population regard it as sacred.  Bit hard to do with the solar panels, security fence, tin shack and multiple antennae belonging to Telstra, but clearly it’s treated just like a church that also has Telstra installations on the top.  I think the final disrespect is the dire warnings not to cross the fence line, dangerous radiation inside!  The communications array is of course very important.  It forms the last link to ensure continuous sea communication between Melbourne and Sydney for the ships out there on the water.

DSC_0155.JPG The view is simply breathtaking, the waters of the ocean are beautiful as they meet the wonderfully blue sky.  We can see as far south as Mallacoota, just making out the inlet, in front of us is Wonboyn and further north Eden.  The coast gives way to the rolling hills full of their magnificent trees. It’s easy to see why this part of the world has been slow to be ‘developed’ for pastoral needs, it’s remote and wild!  Not to mention hilly.

We eat our prepared lunches, drink some water and take some time to soak up the glorious sunlight, the superb views.  It’s now about 2 in the afternoon as we turn around and head back the way we came.

DSC_0171.JPGThis time the haste to arrive has gone, so we are able to take our time descending, this allows Michael time to snap the photos of the flowers we’d come to see.   Probably not as many blooming as we’d like, another couple of weeks and the area will be alive with the scent and sights of spring time.  The flowers are stunning.  The boronia blooms are a wonder to gaze at and Michael spends a lot of time and clicks of the camera to get some amazing shots.  Be sure to check out the Picasa Gallery.

The sounds of the forest are stunning.  All around us a cacophony of birds sing their tunes to themselves and each other.  We can make them out flying between the trees, but never still enough or close enough for us to recognise.  One call that we did stop to listen to is that of the lyrebird.  What starts out as the shrill call of a forest bird quickly changes to the raucous cry of a galah to a currawong.  A stunning repertoire.  I delight in it’s on-going call and the versatility of it’s voice.  All around us we can see the scratchings of the lyrebird, nothing fresh.  It’s ever elusive.  Lyrebird scratchings are accompanied by wombat poo.  We’ve noticed that the wombats like to poo on top of things.  So you’ll find a nice little pile on top of a log or a rock.  Very neat.

DSC_0283.JPG While the walk up the steep incline had tried our legs, the walk down now tries our balance.  The rocky areas are fine, as we grapple with lowering ourselves down, but the woodland path is downright dangerous.  Many years of leaf litter, twigs and shale make the downward journey very slippery, it’d be even harder if there was any rain! We stagger our way down, trying to keep our balance, and some how manage to get to the picnic ground without falling all the way over.

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Our legs are worn out and aching as we quickly take our hiking boots off, change into a dry shirt.  For all our hard work, we enjoy a really good cup of coffee and a mixed berry muffin each.

As we drive away from the mountain, a cloud descends upon the top.  There are no other clouds in the sky.

 

 

Michael takes great photos, the photos are all his work, check out the whole gallery.

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Aug 16

For the first time in many years, I’ve taken a four week break.

Michael and I considered many places to go, but in the end we decided on Mallacoota, in Victoria’s East Gippsland. [map:http://maps.google.com.au/maps?q=Mallacoota,+Victoria&hl=en&sll=-37.89892,145.054146&sspn=0.009939,0.01929&vpsrc=0&z=11]

14th August

Our first stop was at Metung, about half way to Mallacoota, we stopped at a delightful one bedroom flat called Pelican Perch.  We got in at about 4.00 p.m., unpacked and then took a walk along the board walk into Metung, about a twenty minute stroll along the edge of Bancroft Bay.  The water was pretty murky and for reason unknown there were a few bales of hay in the water.  Probably washed in by recent floods.

We walked passed Legend Rock,a plaque on the wall retells the local Aboriginal story of how greed will be punished1. When the fisherman didn’t share their catch with their dogs,

Legend Rock

Legend Rock - photo by John O'Neil

despite have more than enough, the women turned them into stone. Of course, in true Australian style, there is only one rock left, the others were in they way so they have been destroyed.

We walked into Metung, made a reservation for dinner then walked across to the other side of the narrow peninsula and watched the sun set over Lake King. We watched as a pelican skimmed across the lake so close to the water that it left a little wake as the tips of its wings hovered millimeters above the surface. A helicopter flew over us and seem to land close by, perhaps some sort of emergency we thought.  Alas, it seems the owner simply wanted a drink at the pub and flew in to land right next to it!  In the twilight we walked back to Pelican Perch to collect the car and then drive back into Metung for dinner.  We didn’t really fancy walking back in the dark!

Dinner was at Bancroft Bites, a wonderful little cafe with plenty of atmosphere and some funky music.  Duck for Michael and a steak for me.  Yummy.  We spoke briefly with a couple who were visiting from England. He was up for a chat, telling us about his trip and drive from Canberra to Metung, before heading off to the Great Ocean Road.  I like chatting with travelers, it’s good value.

15th August

Next morning we packed up and headed towards Mallacoota, a further 3 hour drive.  Stopping at a few of the towns along the way, through Lakes Entrance (which I’m sure is the best way to do Lakes Entrance) stopping in Orbost for a bite to eat at a local cafe.

We arrived at Mallacoota by about 3.30.  Our accommodation looks out over the Bottom Lake with the Howe Ranges in the background and Rabbit Island just off shore. The place is cozy enough, the view is nice and it’s so quiet!

We discovered the joys of rented accommodation, there’s a nice looking fire-box, loading with wood, but no matches to light it.  There’s a selection of tools to cook with but no can opener, there’s a wonderful array of crockery but no wineglass in sight.


  1. Check out the story on Wikipedia
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Mar 09

Michael had looked at the weather forecast for the week and today looks like the best day for a mountain climb. Fifteen years ago Michael had attempted to climb Mt Amos, but didn’t get to the top.
Before attempting that we had to purchase a day pass to the park. $24.00. We then drove to the car park, passing at the base of The Hazards, huge rocky granite outcrops with brilliant colours and sheer sides. This is what I have agreed to climb. Our small backpacks on with ample water supplies, camera and binoculars, off we went. Like so many of the worlds greatest walks, they start off very gently, it’s a way of leading you into the agony that is about to be inflicted upon you. The gentle rise in altitude was met by the not so gentle rise in my heart rate. The calves began to scream at me and I found my initial spritely pace unsustainable. We stopped. Admired the elevated view of Coles Bay, sent a tweet or two and resumed our walk. Well, that was the easy part! A sign appeared on the track. It said ‘abandon all hope ye that enter’.

Beware

Beware ye all who enter!

And the onslaught began. The lovely gravel track gave way to a slippery granite rock, the trees that gave us something to grip on to had gone and instead we had smooth rockfaces with fucking painted yellow arrows taking us right up the centre. If I thought my calf muscles were upset before… and yet this was still the warm up. The angle of the rock face meant I was able to scramble up by having my weight on my toes and doing a little dance, Michael was a lot more cautious as he scrambled up.
We came across our first set of fellow hikers who where coming down the mountain. They looked very fit and healthy! They told us that we weren’t to far away from the top, however if we thought it was tough up to this point… One of them was doing the track in bare feet, he said he’s shoes had exploded yesterday. The ground is so rocky and rough I don’t understand how his feet survived!

And true to the word of BareFoot Hiker, the track did become harder.  The rocks were either smooth and slippery or spikey!  I had to place my hands on the rock face to ensure I didn’t topple over and become a rolling body heading down the mountain, my palms red and sore from the rough surface.  The scenery as we ascend is stunning, the rocks and the colours are quite beautiful, we are surround by plenty of bushes, trees and flowers, it’s great to be out amongst it!

As we continue up we stop regularly for a photo stop, which was actually just an excuse to stop.  My heart is pounding so much that my teeth are rattling in time with my pulse.  I’m out of breath and sweating, lots.

Here I am.  Climbing a mountain. Back six months ago I would not have been able to do this.  I haven’t been fit enough to even think about this for some years.  I thought I would never again climb anything!  Yet, here I am.  Climbing.  Loving it.  It has been an ambition of my recent get fit campaign, and a goal in my life.  Tick that one off.

Finally Michael put his camera away and we both started the final climb up the mountain, and climb we did, almost on all fours at times as we stretched and pushed our bodies up sheer granite rock faces.  At last, the top could be seen and I knew we weren’t far away.   Fifteen years ago Michael had tried and failed to get to this point, so I stopped and let him overtake me so that he could be the first to the top.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

It was one of those moments in life, as you reach the top of the mountain, the view on the other side appears and you suddenly realise just why you bother to do this.  All of it becomes worthwhile.  We stood on top and our eyes drank in the beautiful stunning scene of Wineglass Bay below us.

The day was clear and warm, a breeze coming across the sea and we sat and looked at the beauty before us.

I’ve climbed to the top of many peaks over the years, and this is the third time in my life I’ve gasped and used numerous expletives as I see the view beneath me.  (That’d be the Major Mitchell Plateau in the Grampians, Half Dome in Yosemite National Park and Wineglass Bay)

We sat and ate and drank some water, taking it all in, snapping a few photos before turning around and heading back down.  We watched as the clouds rolled in from the west, dragging themselves across the mountains.  We admired the few boats bobbing on the water in the bay far below, we saw people walking along the pristine beach.  We wondered at the poor sods on the other tourist track who didn’t get to seen the bay in all it’s glory.

If I’d thought that going up was hard work, nothing could prepare me for the going down.  I was glad I only had a small light backpack on!

Now instead of scrambling on all fours, I’m sliding on my arse, using my feet as brakes and my hands as anchors.   The granite was now pulling at the soles of my hiking boots, and the rubber was coming loose, leaving little bits on the mountain side.  I wasn’t sure whether I’d have any boots left by the time I got to the bottom.

My boot- fell apart!

Going down is always quicker than going up, but still seemed to take forever, finally the rocky track gave way to gravel and a made path and we arrived at the car park.

That was something worth doing.  Be sure to check out Michael’s Picasa gallery, he has a really good eye and is quite the artist when taking photos.

So… what’s next?

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Jan 09

It’s been years since I’ve been here. I love the Otways, not as much as the Grampians mind you.  It was a spur of the moment decision.  Somehow in the car Michael and I got to talking about glow worms and we decided it’d be good to go and seem them.  It was already 3 in the afternoon and at least a two hour drive to the mountains, but as the glow worms only glow at night we had plenty of time!

A change of plans – a quick zip home to pick up supplies, then off we went.

First stop was Triplet Falls, once through Geelong and Colac we got to the Otways, as we drove along Philips Track I was surrounded by tall trees and tree ferns. Ancient rainforest.

Mountain Ash Tree

Mountain Ash Tree (Photo by Michael Barnett)

We parked in the car park (as you do) and made our way to the Triplet Falls. We descended into a quiet, damp place. The mountain ash trees grew tall above us and all manner of trees, moss and bushes grew around. I was taken away to another place as I admired a mountain ash with another single leaf plant growing along its branches.
I had stepped back to a primeval time with nothing but nature and me. Finally we stumbled into a clearing and the Triplet Falls gushed before us. There had been a bit of rain the night before, so there was a fair amount of water flowing over the falls. There wasn’t a triple stream as such today, just two main falls. We stood and admired the falls,

Triplet Falls

Triplet Falls (Photo by Michael Barnett)

Michael took plenty of photos, but alas, the light was fading so we bounded back up the track to finish the circuit back at the car park.

Once there we got out the little stove and heated up our dinner (steak left over from the BBQ on New Years Eve) and had that in a roll. Did some coffee too. Sitting in the car park at dusk, listening to the wind in the trees and smelling the fresh air, serenaded by nothing but the call of the Australian Raven (farrrrk, farrrk).

Once dinner was done, back in the car and out to the main road, through Lavers Hill and onto Melba Gully State Park. It wasn’t quite dark when we got there, we put our raincoats and beanies on and headed into the bush along the Marsden track with our little torches. At first the only glow worms we saw where two or three here and there, but as it got darker and we walked further into the forest plenty more appeared, until we reached a viewing deck overlooking a creek. Here we saw hundreds of small pin pricks of light glowing in front of us. A remarkable sight.

We looked in awe for at least 40 minutes before turning and heading back to the car.  Along the way, with our torches, we saw plenty of other insect life, spiders, worms, bugs. Lots of fun for everyone.

Along the trip home, we stopped to look at the moonbeams coming through the clouds. It was a near full moon and low in the sky, the effect was quite stunning. Michael took some fantastic shots of the moonbeams, the clouds and the nearby stars.

We got home at about 2.00 a.m.

Images:  Photos taken by Michael Barnett, click the image to visit his Picasa Gallery where more great photos can be seen!

(Jan 2nd & 3rd 2010)


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Nov 20

I was travelling around the world in 1989, and found myself with my good friend Michael Gray in West Berlin, the day the wall came down. Twenty years ago. Michael and I were fairly innocent country boys, to be caught up in this historic event was perhaps one of the great highlights of our trip, and certainly has been one of the more memorable events in my life. I keep a journal of my travels, and have transcribed my adventure below.

Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday November 9th 1989
At last our time was filled and we boarded the train at 13:43. An elderly couple were in the cabin also, German. Just out of Hamburg the door was flung open and I assumed wrongly for the ticket. I passed it to a gun bearing man, who flipped it over and said ‘passport’. He looked at the passport, then handed it back. The train rolled on to Buchen and stopped. We then passed over the border to East Germany. The border is well defined. A mammoth fence with electric barbed wire stretched as far as my eyes could see. What looked like a canal was also visible. Then passed a tower with a man dressed in khaki beret peering out. This is commie country! The deeper we went into the country the more obvious it became that these people live with less. As the train raced through villages I noticed there was nothing new. Apart from high rise housing, all the houses and buildings were drab and old.
Our passports were checked by DDR officials and a transit visa was issue. All a bit exciting.
After 17.30 the train ground to a halt, then slowly crawled along a long stark white wall, about three metres high. The Berlin Wall.
It disappeared and a city lit up like Luna Park. This is capitalism and the West!
Very odd how this city survives in the middle of DDR.
We stopped at the Zoo Station, it was dark and raining, and that feeling of ‘fuck what do we do now?’crept in. We chose a hostel and found the ‘S-Bahn’ but couldn’t find a place to buy a ticket, so we returned to the main stations, at last we found it, a bit of a problem not being able to read German. Armed with the phrase “Englisch sprechen” Michael approached the counter and bought two tickets.

A long tram ride landed us at the station, way out. We followed the signs to the Youth Hostel and for a pricey 21DM we booked in.

Friday 10th November 1989.
The other occupant of the room arrived at 6.30 a.m. He was pretty quiet so he didn’t disturb us. He woke up as we were heading down for breakfast. His English wasn’t too good, but we understood that the wall had been opened. I took this to mean the borders had been opened. All a bit exciting really.
We bought two tickets for the train and returned to the main station. There seemed to be a lot of people about. We found a newstand, but could find no hint of any ‘wall opening’
I was going to change some money at the station, but the line was too long, so I went to a bank down the road. This completed and my money short 5m for the service, we boarded the next U-Bahn on line 6 to Checkpoint Charlie.

As we and hundreds of others climbed the steps to the surface, we glimpsed a scene of jubilation and a fucking lot of confusion. The Checkpoint wasn’t visible from our exit, so we simply followed the throng and found this famous place.
The crowd pushed forward, a sign atop a building announce our arrival at Checkpoint Charlie.
People were standing on the roadside, and on the road, thrusting flowers into cars as they entered the American sector. Others were drinking champagne frmm the bottle, a few plastic cups full of bubbly found their way into open car windows. Every time an East German car drove through a cheer erupted, lots of clapping and snapping of cameras. The mood was electric.
We pushed our way forward, it wasn’t possible for us to fully understand what was going on – we could only guess.

Michael and I stood in front of the wall. The object of so much mistrust and hatred. It was (is) covered in graffiti and very colourful graffiti.
We climbed the platform and looked in the DDR, it looked pretty much the same, but just a little more drab than West Berlin. Back to Checkpoint. The MP’s where trying to keep the way open, but it was nearly impossible. The worlds media was present. TV cameras, tape recorders, cameras, note book and pencils all this added to the confusion. A cameraman took a photo of a group of people standing sipping champagne from plastic cups, other press cameras came from nowhere, so we tried to get our beaks in too.

Michael wanted to get into the middle of the action, so I took his camera bag and he pushed his way through. It seemed like hours that I stood, watching car after car of East Berliners driving through. The crowd were amazing, full of spirit. One small boy raced up to a car and shoved an American dollar into it.
I can’t believe that we saw this happening. A truly historical event was unfolding, and we were in the middle of it. Witnessing history in the making.

Three DDR army men stood just inside the white line dividing East and West. Every now and then they would push people back over the line. We had no idea if we were able to cross into the East, so stood and watched for awhile. People seem to flash passports at the border guards and they allowed them passage. Michael plucked up enough courage to confront the more pleasant looking guard, flashed the passport, and we crossed into Communist territory.

Another guard directed us into a small room, Passport Control. There were oddles of people standing, waiting. The line didn’t seem to be moving very quickly. Our turn arrived, the man asked “Just for the day?” and a visa was issued. Out the door, round the corner to customs – walked right through there and had to change 25dm into 25DDM.
Outside we were greeted by long lines of people waiting to cross the border, perhaps to freedom.
East Berlin has a total lack of, well, anything really. There was no advertising of any sort. No big billboards. The cars were mainly the same model. It was easy to pick Westerners. The shops, however, were a surprise. A lot like our own, full of the latest gizmo’s and fashions.

Down Friedrich Street along rows of dilapidated buildings. Some were being restored. We found Unter den Linden and followed this as far as we could. A crowd was gathered at the end of the street, around the Brandenburg Gate, a huge archway. We could make out the graffiti free wall on the other side, and here we could see people standing on top of it, yelling and cheering. The area was well guarded, so access wasn’t possible. We watched for awhile then headed to the centre of town. Mostly old buildings.
Had lunch in a cafeteria. Ordered the only thing on the menu that we understood – beefsteak, which was merely a meatball. We then found Nikolaikirche, Berlins oldest building from about 1230 CE. It houses some old stuff, but we didn’t understand too much of it. Se we moved around it fairly quickly. Next commie stop was the international clock. We found Australia’s time. As we were walking away, a man said ‘hello’ to us. He instantly sounded Australian, so we spoke with him and his wife for awhile. Discovered they came from Heywood, although they now live in Melbourne. He asked about Noel Gustus, if we knew him. We said he died not too long back and then discovered that he was his Best Man when they got married. Hell of a way to find out.

It was around 17.30 and dark. Had a ‘wurst’ for tea and spent our last DDM on a slice and coffee. As we were walking back to the border, we passed the Altes Museum. There was a lot of activity, the sound of people singing drew us closer. The courtyard was lit with big lights, there were TV cameras around and oodles of people. We pushed our way in, and gathered from the red flags that it was a party gathering. We followed an American TV reporter around for a bit. He was asking East Germans what they thought. He was also a prick. He turned and asked Michael, “Do you speak English” for some reason Michael lied. He doesn’t know what made him say no. I stopped another reporter and asked if he could explain to me what was happening. He said he didn’t really know, but that Egon Krenz, the Premier, would be appearing at 18:30.
This we had to see.
The square was crowded now, and the speakers began. Three quarters of an hour later Mr. Krenz arrived.

We didn’t have a clue what was said, but the crowd gave us some indication of it. Some speakers where cheered, others booed.

Saturday November 11th 1989.
Down to the wall again, and Checkpoint Charlie. There weren’t as many people there today, but still lots. We stopped in the centre of Berlin on the way to change a cheque. There were great hoards of people outside the banks. East Germans changing money we guessed. We pushed our way through mile-long queues to the American Express Office. Here Michael found out that the East Germans were lining up for 100 marks, a welcome gift from the German Government.

We walked along a section of the wall. There seemed to be crowds of people there. We stopped and watched one man chipping at the wall with a small hammer. As bits began to crumble he picked them up and put them in his bag.

Berlin Wall

My bit of the Berlin Wall - taken from the wall the day it came tumbling down

That’s a good idea we thought, so we souvenired parts of the wall as well.

The crowd was thick along the wall. Our normal quick pace was hindered by thousands of people. The ‘anti-fascist barrier’ was covered in graffiti. Every now and then a group of people would be bashing into it with a hammer, in one case a bloody big mallet. In several places small holes had been knocked right through, affording views of the other side. Climbing one platform we could see the guard towers and security fence to keep us out, or them in.

One section had been sealed off by the police, and workmen were paving the old road. We asked about this and were told a a section of the wall was to be moved tomorrow at 8.00 a.m. to allow access to people.

At the Brandenburg gate, there were more people. Yesterday from the East we could see people standing on top of the wall. Today the only people on top were the DDR Army, and lots of them. Every time the guards moved the crowd cheered and clapped. We spent ages just watching. The world’s media was doing the same.

Sunday November 12th 1989
We slept in and missed our train, when trying to rebook we discovered that the next train was also full. This put a hole in our plans, we had no choice but to stay another night. We should have guessed as there must be a heap of people wanting to leave the country.

In the afternoon we went back into Berlin and to the Brandenburg Gate. The situation had changed a little – the area in front of the wall had been fenced off and patrolled by the West Berlin police, the border guard had been halved. The Easterners seemed a lot happier today. Sharing a joke and picking up flowers to which they got cheers. We went along the wall to the place where a new gate was being opened. As we drew closer we could see that it had already been opened. We couldn’t get close but could see the new gap. Heaps of people were making their way through it. Michael jumped on top of a toilet block to get a photo. We were satisfied. An early return to the hostel and bed. A week later I picked up a copy of Time magazine in Italy. It was only then that we knew the full extent of what we had been a part of.

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