THE YEAR THAT WAS 2016 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

This post is the concluding chapter to my best hit adverts from earlier in 2016, which every four months would track changing statistics. First up the United States of America had the most views this year taking over Australia’s lead from the year previous. British views also saw a sharp uptick almost knocking Australia into third. Canada followed in fourth I’m pleased to see and Spain and Brazil battled it out for fifth with Spain ultimately proving victorious.

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                                     1,712 Views
  2. Australia                                                                                                                              1,145 Views
  3. The United Kingdom                                                                                                      1,120 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                                 312 Views
  5. Spain                                                                                                                                     181 Views
  6. Brazil                                                                                                                                     118 Views
  7. Germany                                                                                                                             117 Views
  8. France                                                                                                                                  103 Views
  9. New Zealand                                                                                                                     78 Views
  10. India                                                                                                                                      43 Views

 

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Out of 57 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. I’m happy to see so many views for the post on the Kibeho massacre. That story should never be forgotten and those who were there should always be thanked for what they endured and accomplished. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. This was helped in no small part thanks to the support and interest from my fellow bloggers.

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captains Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                   133 Views
  2. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                 104 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                    97 Views
  4. Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection                                                                               91 Views
  5. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns Up a New Zealand Gem                        87 Views
  6. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War                                        81 Views
  7. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IV: FLAXTON MILL ROAD TO                       67 Views MAPLETON FALLS AND BACK AGAIN
  8. A Quick Word to my Sponsors                                                                                    59 Views
  9. Bad Moms is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                               59 Views
  10. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds                                        56 Views
  11. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART V: LAKE BAROON TO                                      56 Views KONDALILLA FALLS
  12. Youth is Wasted on the Old                                                                                         55 Views
  13. Star Wars has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                           53 Views
  14. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live                                                                52 Views
  15. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was that V All About?!) 50 Views Superman Rant
  16. Sully: The Man in the Air                                                                                               48 Views
  17. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground                                                             48 Views
  18. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is Papa Foxtrot Gulf                                                          46 Views
  19. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                        43 Views
  20. Finding Dory Fails to Find All of Pixar’s Former Inspiration                             42 Views
  21. Birth Days                                                                                                                           42 Views
  22. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                            40 Views
  23. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times                                                              40 Views
  24. A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters                                                           40 Views
  25. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time With                                                             39 Views

One of the most interesting things I take away from the stats is that sometimes what I don’t think are my best posts still get interest if the subject matter appeals and in particular if there is very little on the web about something. Take for example General Ngo Quang Truong. Also if a film is popular a post about it will retain interest with examples including Finding Dory or Star Trek: Beyond.Whereas I’ll be sitting here hoping more Sully, Brooklyn and Youth.

Top 10 Most Liked Posts 2016

10. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                               14 Likes

9. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                     14 Likes

8. Barce: Where Right and Glory Led During World War II                                        14 Likes

7. ABFAB Still Fabulous Enough Darling                                                                         14 Likes

6. Bad Moms Is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                                   14 Likes

20161030_1641215. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part VII: Mt Bithongabel and 3rd Times a Charm         14 Likes

Image result for superman the movie4. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live                                                                   15 Likes

16193. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton and Back         21 Likes

Again

2. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem                            24 Likes

Image result for captain reg saunders1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                           51 Likes

For Your Consideration

Finally I’ll quick just give a shout out to the posts for better or worse that I take some pride in writing last year.

My film reviews for Youth (mortality), Brooklyn (my windswept and interesting younger sister), Eye in the Sky (war), Deadpool (comedy) and Eddie the Eagle (the drudgery of working live compared to dreaming dreams).

My short story Birth Days, which received some positive feedback which just meant the world to me.

Out of the 7 hiking posts I put up I am most sentimental about the one where Karen and I first discovered Mapleton Falls of which later we would take her grandfather to and hiking with my sister to Kondalilla Falls.1619

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My posts about The Heroes of Kibeho and Victoria Cross Winner Corporal Bryan Budd I hope struck a nerve. It meant a great deal to me that Sgt Terry Pickard who was Kibeho commented on it.

If you have a particular favourite please let me know and I will endeavour to maybe write more like that although in the end all writers are stuck writing what best compels them if they are to have any chance of amusing others. I feel very blessed to be part of my small blogging community, I don’t always get to read as much as I used to and wonder how they manage to keep up with my output. A particular highlight for me this year was receiving a Sunshine Blogger Award. Effectively the awards are chain letters but I don’t care – I was chuffed and tell everybody now about my award winning blog. I am very grateful and thank you all.

-Lloyd Marken

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10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART VII: MT BITHONGABEL AND 3RD TIMES A CHARM

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The entrance to the Main Border Track, Lamington National Park. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Those who follow this blog will know I have done quite a bit of hiking around the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk in recent years. In 2016 I decided it was time to seek out new trails. To the south of my hometown Brisbane is the Gold Coast and nearby rainforests of the Tamborine mountains. I started thinking about finding a trail in that area when a quick internet search turned up the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. From there I looked at various tracks before settling on one at Lamington National Park on the Main Border Track. It would take me 6kms down the track to Mt Bithongabel for a return journey of just over 12kms with differing vegetation. It was said that from Bithongabel one could see the path Bernard O’Reilly‘s journey when searching for a lost Stinson aeroplane in 1937. O’Reilly’s Retreat an accommodation and picnic ground site is located in Lamington National Park and was started by Bernard and his brothers. In 1937 a Stinson airliner enroute from Brisbane to Sydney went missing. Bernard a bushman and author suspected the plane had failed to clear the McPherson range due to heavy rain. He went looking for it and found the survivors of the crash.

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A Replica of the Stinson that was used in the 1987 movie The Riddle of the Stinson starring Jack Thompson onsite at O’Reilly’s Retreat. Copyright Lloyd Marken

On the 10th of April, 2016 Karen and I set off from the northside of Brisbane to get to Lamington National Park. It can be tricky sometimes driving out to Lamington. A wrong turn on those mountain highways cannot always be remedied by a quick 3 point turn. I took such a wrong turn and it cost us time. Eventually we knew we were on the right path as we ascended a mountain with sections of one lane only and two way traffic. I’d never driven on such a road before and found it exciting to say the least. Part of it has been carved out of rock which is quite neat to drive through. We arrived halfway through the afternoon and started down the Border Track at 3:09pm. Where I can become obsessed-Karen can see reason. We walked for 3kms together through beautiful rainforest that included ancient Antarctic Beech trees (some examples have been known to have lived for over 12,000 years). Yet having walked through a rainforest at night Karen sensibly turned around at that point. I knew I could push further but knew time was not on my side.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I walked on at a much quicker pace alone passing more parties on their way back with looks of puzzlement at the direction I was heading in. Onward I went checking the time unsure of how far I had come. Could it be just around the corner? When up on the path ahead lay a collapsed tree, as I went to step over it a reptilian head darted around an opening. Was it a snake or a lizard? It didn’t seem to have ill intentions towards me and I figured it was probably a lizard.

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Very friendly and probably a lizard. Copyright Lloyd Marken

The sun was setting. What would it be like to come back across this tree when it was dark knowing there was potentially a snake nearby. Keen readers will note I have been in rainforests before when it is dark. I stepped over the tree and kept walking.

 

The time I planned to turn around and go back came and went. Fifteen minutes past it. Half an hour. I reasoned with myself what was the new time to go no further. That time came and went too, the sun was low, the path was becoming gloomier and the rainforest noisier. I came down to the end of a long path hoping for a sign. I knew I was close to 6kms. I looked at the terrain, where did the land stop to rise? How much further could the path ascend? I was walking to a mountain lookout and it didn’t seem the ground climbed much further. I walked down a long straight path long after the point of no return, my blood was pumping, my T-shirt stained with sweat but my body was working in a rhythmic exuberance. I wasn’t tired, I was possessed. But at the end of that stretch, the path winded around to another stretch. Bithongabel could be a mere five hundred metres ahead but it was too far. My wife was waiting for me and it would be dark before I made it back.

I pivoted and walked back frustrated to have travelled so far and yet to have not planned it better to have given myself enough time to reach my goal. Coming back I moved even faster knowing the path now and with a bit of downward slant for the most part. Having only just walked it for the first time that day I could not judge where all landmarks were and how much farther I had left. I just pressed on but when I became sure I was close I saw an opening in the rainforest on my way back with a sunset sky. It was the closest I came to a payoff that day.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t have a working torch that day as I usually would so I was glad to see the dirt path turn to red concrete as the rainforest became dark. The red concrete told me I was near a path to nearby villas and had less than a kilometre to go. Possibly much less.

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Karen at the entrance to the Main Border Track. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Finally the light at the end of the track and Karen came into view. I had made it but I would need to return and reach Bithongabel next time.

 

Life stepped in though and I never set out again for Lamington until the 23rd of October. Karen couldn’t come so I set out alone without my navigator. Google maps was not my friend that day going offline up in the mountains. I corrected my course but at some point found myself on my way to Mt Tamborine. I knew I wasn’t going to make it in time to get out and there and back before dark. So I headed for Tamborine and stopped on the side of the road at one of those mountain car parks where people will stop and take photos together of the view.

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The view from Mt Tamborine 23OCT16. Copyright Lloyd Marken

My plans were a bust. I turned and saw across the road one of those touristy themed eateries and heard my stomach rumble. Trying my best to be a impromptu weekend traveller of windswept interest I sauntered into the German themed restaurant and asked for a table at the back. Beautiful red flowers covered the outside, inside was fine wooden furniture and out the back a pretty water feature. I sat down and looked at the plastic laminated menu and saw a variety of schnitzel and pork loin meals. A fan of neither I asked for the loin with a helping of mashed potato. If you love your German schnitzel or pork loin I cannot recommend this place enough but sadly as I gave up finishing my loin and polished off the mash I felt complete failure in my endeavours for the day. I couldn’t even order the right food for myself. As I headed for home I let Karen know I would get pizza on the way from a southside place I had grown up on. The day would not be a complete bust but I was now more determined that ever to achieve my goal. Next Sunday I would go to Mt Bithongabel.

 

Sadly again Karen could not come so I set off alone with a different path to O’Reilly’s. Unsure of how this would play out. Google maps at one point pulled me off in the opposite direction at Yatala and then directed me around in circles through an industrial area. I knew we were in the wrong place and losing time but as I continued to drive I found myself on a familiar road and my hopes were raised. Eventually I came to the same mountain driving cautiously through the one lane sections. I passed an abandoned car at the top off to the side of the road on an angle. Noting traffic around me I went on and let the volunteers at the Information Centre know whom then called the police. A reminder that these roads were dangerous. It was still later than I could afford it to be but the sun was setting later this time of year and I bought a brand new torch from the O’Reilly’s gift shop and a fridge magnet for my Mum before setting off in earnest.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I had not gone long down the path when I saw a massive tree had collapsed with its giant stump lying next to the path  which was sunk in. Six months had passed and there were many new sights as well as familiar ones to take in. The rainforest was alive and constantly evolving. Along the way I passed a guy who asked me where I was headed. I answered ” We’ll see.” knowing the sun was descending to which he helpfully pointed out ” It would be dark soon.” He was not the only one as I moved forward and I can’t blame them but at least I had not set off as late as I had in April even if I knew it should have been earlier than it was.

 

Eventually I reached as far as I had come – now I would see how much further it was. The track moved into a more open area with pine needles everywhere and a chance to turn down another path. I racked my brain, I had turned off my phone due to the google maps  having drained most of its power on the way up. I was on the Main Border Track and surely I remained on it to get to Bithongabel but if I was wrong then this decision would cost me any chance of reaching my goal destination. I went forward fairly confident and the path ahead went along the side of the mountain. There was a golden sheen to the vegetation as the lowering sun pierced the canopy. It truly was beautiful but I began to worry. I had already reached a point where I was glad I had turned back in April. There was no way I would have made it to Bithongabel before it was dark that day but now I wondered if I had taken the wrong path. The sun was fading and the path started to dip. We were going down the mountain and I had not reached the top. Had I taken the wrong path after all?

That’s when I saw it and I knew it was it.

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At the end of the path to the right is the sign for Bithongabel. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Bithongabel on a simple wooden sign. I had made it but there was no lookout to speak of. Where was I supposed to look out to retrace Bernard O’Reilly’s steps? I reasoned it could be a bit a further down so I stomped off down that way but soon I had gone several metres without anything in sight. I knew not much further along was the Tooloona lookout. Bithongabel had disappointed me and I needed a prize for my efforts. Once again I found myself bartering with my better angels about when to turn back. The path became muddy and my sneakers squelched and slipped through some pretty big puddles. I continued to descend not sure how much further I could go when I saw a young man up ahead with a camera. I stopped where he was standing and looked out. This was Tooloona lookout. What the hell was this guy doing out here in the middle of nowhere? Didn’t he know the sun was about to set. Maybe I wasn’t an idiot. He was staying nearby at the campsite at Bithongabel. Oh okay so I was the only idiot present. He left me to it and I took a picture. Mist came off a nearby peak and with the setting sun it truly was a beautiful sight. My phone gave out at that point. I smiled grateful for the photos. I moved off back to Bithongabel where I looked for the campsite and found it down from the sign along with the young man I had met at Tooloona lookout.  We discussed the lack of a lookout and I went further and climbed over some boulders to the edge of the outcrop. From there you could imagine seeing much if the rainforest hadn’t grown up some trees blocking the view. Maybe this had offered better visibility in the past, maybe I had unfairly expected more. No matter I was pleased with the sights I had seen. I bid the young camper farewell and headed for what would now be a long trek home. On and on I went and the rainforest again came alive and the shadows grew darker. With a torch now available and picking up a wooden stick I feared not but it was a long trek back and my camelback came close to being empty.

 

As night came I once again reached the red concrete and knew I would make it. Up ahead in the dark I saw a light flashing and wondered if a Wildlife Ranger or someone else had waited for me after hearing tales from other hikers of some fat bozo with a shopping bag walking up the Border Track mid-afternoon. I turned my torch on just in case but as I walked on I came to realise no one was there. I turned my torch off and kept walking. On the ground I saw what appeared to be a red light flickering. Odd I thought  and walked up to it and turned my flashlight on it to see what was there but there only leaves. I turned off my torch again and this little light flashed again. Then I turned on my torch and saw a little creature move. I turned off my torch but no further light shone. Many years ago I had gone with my wife to a tourist attraction of the Glow Worm caves at Tamborine Mountain. I say Glow Worms but technically they were Glow Maggots but you can understand why the place wasn’t called that. I’m 36 years old and have gone camping on and off for various organisations throughout my life. I found the Glow Worms caves interesting, was I seeing something similar now in the wild? I’d never seen anything like it before.

I turned and walked down the path and a flickering golden light lit up and off dancing in front of me. It danced around my whole body in a full circle and then lit up the sky directly in front of me. With my phone dead there was no millennial impulse to reach for it to take a photo. What technology could possibly capture this as beautifully as it looked right there in real life without the use of special effects. Here was a special effect from mother nature herself. This expression gets overused a lot but ‘It was a moment’. One I wished I could have shared with Karen but Karen may not have allowed herself to be stuck in a rainforest after dark…again.

I had spent recent months more bound to a desk than I have been in most jobs and glued to screens in my downtime. Here was a unique and rare reward for getting out and moving through the world and all it had to offer. A reminder that life was to be lived for such moments. I came out of the entrance not many more metres after that and headed home. On the way back I checked that the crashed car was empty and ended up behind a convoy of vehicles going down the side of the ranges which made that part a lot easier. I arrived home that night to my lovely wife with a fond memory. Bring on 2017.

-Lloyd Marken

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The view from Tooloona Lookout. Copyright Lloyd Marken