It’s all downhill from here
Friday December 08th 2006, 11:07 am

dawn over Sydney from our front verandah

mgk has been neglected for a few weeks due to moving house to the Blue Mountains area and the rigamarole of re-establishing network connectivity.

Location, location, location! The new house is at about 600m elevation and has a view of the Sydney skyline from the kitchen windows and front verandah, the Sydney Harbour Bridge smack on the horizon. The back gate opens on to fire trails in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Forest. If you can say you’d live in a tent on your home’s lot, you’ve probably chosen well. I’d live here under a pile of leaves, but the house is built like a bridge, brick piers and massive steel I-beams all set on a site blasted from sandstone bedrock… and has a natural gas kitchen Jamie Oliver would fall in lust with.

You could say that the new place is out past the black stump. The downside of doing a rural/regional ‘tree-change’ is the fairly ordinary network connectivity. Our local telco CO is only set up for standard ADSL, which moves about 1/3 the speed of the cable internet at the last place. The cable system ran at about 4000kbps, though was theoretically capable of 10Mbps. The fastest the DSL will go is 1300kbps. We’re on the list for ADSL2+, which is said to be capable of 24Mbps. Telstra needs to install a new DSLAM in our local CO to suit the higher speed. Given that Telstra now answers to the shareholders and not the gubmint nor subscribers, I’m not going to chug Ol’ Janx Spirit while waiting for the ADSL2+ upgrade, which will never be cost-effective in this tiny village.

Living out bush has some definite downsides. Only a week after putting the key in the door for the first time, we were overwhelmed with catching up on bushfire preparedness as a massive bushfire in the Blackheath and Mount Victoria area repeatedly defied containment due to hot temperatures and strong winds, often gusting to 100km/h.

water-bombers line up over Lake Woodford
Smoke billows from Blackheath/Mt Victoria fires

The house had been unoccupied for close to a year and dry leaves were piled up everywhere around the perimeter, as well as in the rain gutters, a serious no-no in fire prone areas. I could be falling in love with my leaf blower/vac and high-pressure water sprayer, both which made quick work of hazard reduction.

On 22 November, the strong winds carried embers from the Blackheath/Mt Victoria fire for many kilometres. Only massive applications of firefighting skill and tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment in the air and on the ground stopped this fire from consuming everything from Katoomba to Penrith.

After sorting out the hazards around our house, I caught these snaps of water-bombing helicopters over the rough country beyond my back gate. You see an Erickson AirCrane (could be Elvis or Georgia Peach this year) along with a couple of bucket and line water bombers lining up to refill.

Queueing to refill near Blackheath
Queueing to refill near Blackheath

AirCrane making like a jet fighter
Erickson AirCrane turns sharply, diving for the water

in a big hurry!
The sound of the AirCrane is a cross
between anti-aircraft fire and a 747

Our new neighbours were kind enough to keep us apprised on the moment-by-moment news on the locations of the fires while we were waiting for internet service to be activated. Blue Mountains residents rely heavily on the NSW Rural Fire Service website for updates as well as volunteer to distribute daily fire update newsletters to homes in affected areas.

Phil Koperberg is revered as a demi-god in the Blue Mountains. Koperberg will win the Blue Mountains NSW Senate seat soon to be vacated by the retiring Bob Debus, without any doubts whatsoever.

Our volunteer Bush Fireys are saints. When not spraying water, they’re rumoured to walk on it.

Now… back to the 600 little home repair tasks you always get when moving house…


13 Comments so far
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Nice view. My mum lives up the mountains and can see Sydney, but not that clearly. I grew up in the shadow of the mountains in the far NW. Lovely landscape.

Comment by cam 12.08.06 @ 1:03 pm

I am so jealous!! Our current suburban abode is not a bad compromise, but it is a compromise nonetheless. When I drive out to the country to visit my parents, there is a spot in the drive where I can literally feel the tension from urban living drop away. Enjoy weez!

Comment by rainie 12.08.06 @ 2:27 pm

This sounds idyllic…lucky you.
I wish I could live somewhere this fantastic!

Comment by suki 12.08.06 @ 6:38 pm

Cam, I’ll admit to using a zoom which contributed to the clarity in the lead piccie, as well as the weather being reasonably good. It’s astonishing to see the amount of air pollution hanging over Sydney most days.

Rainie, about the only place I can think of in your neck of the woods which has a similar feel to the Blue Mountains would be in the Appalachian foothills down around Bedford or Jasper, Indiana.

The Blue Mountains terrain is a bit more like that on the edge of Los Angeles, with a coastal plain leading up to an abruptly vaulting line of mountains.

Suki, I suspect you live in a similarly idyllic place… 😉

Comment by weez 12.09.06 @ 5:16 am

I too know the joy of bush fire season, watching the CFA and DSE websites VERY closely, and cursing not having done more fire prep earlier.

Comment by Kieran Bennett 12.09.06 @ 11:55 pm

and re net speed, I just moved from a hypothetical 100mbps to a hypothetical 256kbps.

Never mind the house, your connection sounds idyllic!

Comment by Kieran Bennett 12.09.06 @ 11:59 pm

weez, where my parents live is very much like the topography around turkey run and the shades state parks. it’s not quite like your current place, but it is hilly and wooded. in the long run sthe southern part of the state is where we would like to end up, however at the moment, we’re where the jobs are. enjoy 😎

Comment by rainie 12.10.06 @ 4:36 am

Kieran, we truly do feel for the folks down in Victoria this weekend. Looking much scarier down there than it was here a couple weekends back.

The 1.3Mbps DSL isn’t as bad as it could be, for sure. It’s OK for web browsing but it’s a bit of a hindrance when downloading large MP3 podcasts from ABC Radio. Got a podcast aggregator (Doppler) which allows automated downloading in the middle of the night, but Doppler isn’t the most reliable app. Tends to crash for no known reason. However, it is the best I’ve found so far for our antiquated Windows 98 system.

Rainie, I always found Indiana to be rather topographically bland. I wouldn’t be alone in that estimation, despite a few picturesque places in the state.

I do recall a spoof poster from the 1980s done by Rose-Hulman Poly students titled ‘Ski Terre Haute,’ featuring a picture of a helmeted skier schussing across a recently harvested cornfield. The camera was on a 45 degree angle to add drama. The caption extolled the virtues of Terre Haute’s skiing conditions, up to and including the astonishing ’45 inch packed mud base.’ 😀

Agreed that it’s necessary to follow the buffalo. When last in the US for a ‘working holiday,’ I worked in Lafayette and slept in Indy. It’s 70mph motorway all the way up I-65, but it’s still an hour and a bit each way. The drive wasn’t so bad, but the fuel costs were outrageous, even in 1999. With housing costs so very cheap in Indy, there’s no need to live too terribly far from where you work.

Comment by weez 12.10.06 @ 6:25 am

Hey Weez,

Welcome back pardner.

I drove through bushfires up in yr neck of the woods back in 2002… quite a horrible spectacle. In Smelbin, it’s been smoky for quite a while this season… Victoria’s burning alright.


Take care,


Comment by @ndy 12.20.06 @ 5:19 pm

Good on you weez – I hope everything goes well in your new home.
I am envious that your spoutings were cleaned so quickly.
I spent a whole day up and down the extension ladder round my house, encouraged to keep at it by the awful smoky pall hanging over us from the fires the other side of the state.
Enjoy your verandah!

Comment by brownie 12.20.06 @ 10:58 pm

Thanks @ndy & Brownie. There’s plenty of evidence of recent bushfire in the immediate area, just not close enough to our new house to believe that the fuel load has been reduced enough so as to not be a problem for a few years.

Instead of blogging, I’m still filling my days with little repair tasks… and correcting the incredibly bad decorating taste of one of the recent occupants. 3 bad light fixtures down, 2 to go.

Task #342 is creating a sprinkler system which will wet down the edges of the roof nearest the rain gutters. Needs a rainwater tank and a petrol-powered fire pump to be really effective in case of failure of water pressure, but we’ll get there. The fun part will be designing in a drainage feature into the sprinker system so the pipes don’t burst when we get into the sub-freezing temps of a Blue Mts winter.

Since our recent fires, we’ve had much more rain than usual. No chance of any bushfires around here for many weeks to come. Wish I could pipe some down to you poor folks down in Vic…

Comment by weez 12.21.06 @ 6:04 am

[…] thanks again for saving our house, […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 12.05.07 @ 4:37 pm

Big shout out to the neo-nazis searching Goog for ‘weezil’ and ‘Blue Mountains.’ Wozzup, homeys? 😀 Still up for that little meeting at the Campbelltown copshop? They tell me they’d sure like to talk to you. Why would that be? Soon as you grow some balls, we’ll set a date, darls. 😆

Comment by weez 01.02.09 @ 6:17 am

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