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Banteay Srei – Cambodia

It is hard to choose which temples were my favourite when I visited Cambodia recently. Especially as I am such a temple freak. I love them all! Each one has something special about it. Some tend to be more the structures that attract, whereas others – it is because of the detail of the stonework. Banteay Srei would definitely be one of those temples that amazes you with the detail that has gone into the stonework design. I seriously, cannot comprehend the minute work that it involved and the time it must have taken. On many of the panels, within the block of stone, there are layers or levels of detailed carving that defy belief. The name Banteay Srei – citadel of women could relate to a number of aspects of the temple. The delicacy of the ornate decorations, the diminutive size of the temple compared to others or the many carvings of the devatas. Our friend and guide Mickey’s explanation was that it was named so because the delicate work required the tiny hands of women to create it. I quite like that story. Whatever the lost story is, citadel of women is a very apt title. Of all the temples, it has an overwhelming sense of femininity about it. Like all the temples though it would have been lovely to wander through on ones own. The fact that the temple is so small makes it feel even more busy than it is. While you could certainly find an outside corner to yourself, the most interesting sections and carvings, were, as you would imagine, the busiest. Even to the point of squeezing past to get through. Can’t imagine what it would have been like in peak season.

I’m sure I am like many people who visit these places – I love a moment, or two, or three of solitude to just stand there and soak it all in. Close my eyes if need be and try to imagine when it was alive with people of the era. In the larger temples, I was able to do this but found the bustling of tourists a little too distracting in Banteay Srei to vague off into my own little world.

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Mt Arapiles – Taking care of the magic

As many of our readers will have noted, the staff at Open Spaces are involved in various aspects of the outdoor industry.  Whilst OSP is a big part of our lives, the reason why we are here in the first place is because of our  interest and experiences in that area.  Besides climbing, one of my other jobs feeds very well into my OSP role.  Working as the VCC Access and Environment Officer for the climbing community allows me to get involved not only in helping to maintain access for climbers at the many parks but also to work on projects at the cliff environment.  One such project that I am working on currently has been ongoing for about 4 years now.  The Pharos Gully Repair project is a labour intensive one – to dry stonework the entire Pharos Gully Track from bottom to summit.  The track is used by climbers and walkers alike and due to its steep nature, the erosion is quite severe with further loss of vegetation creeping out wider and wider. So with the help of some funding from Parks Victoria, CliffCare and Friends of Arapiles have rounded up regular volunteers to help out at the working bees to move  rock up and down the track so that the stonemason can work his magic. We employed Walter Braun, who is a climber himself and an experienced stonemason to dry stonework the track. At about 2/3rds completed, the track is looking great and some of the sections completed a few years ago are now ageing well with vegetation growing in and around the stonework.  And this is exactly what we want and why dry stonework is the way to go.

Arapiles has had a great last year and a half.  Of course we are heading into winter now and at this time of the year, everything usually is starting to look green.  What was amazing to see though was the greenness that continued throughout summer this year.  Granted the floods brought a huge amount of water to the area but before that Arapiles and its surrounds were still getting a regular fall.  In previous years, throughout the drought, the mount had lost a lot of older trees. They held on for as long as they could, but there were many that were stressed to the point of no return.  With the rains, came the opportunity for new vegetation to get a good watering in.  CliffCare and Friends of Mt Arapiles revegetated a number of areas with plants supplied by Iestyn Hocking and Heather Phillips who collect seed and grow indigenous plants and grasses from the area.  Many of these plants are now thriving and can be seen along the lower part of the Pharos Tourist track.  As the old pines are dying in the Pines campground at Mt Arapiles, they are being removed. Rather than replant with the original Radiata pines, native callitris pine seedlings were planted in 2008.  These are all healthy young plants now.  To protect them further as they grow, stakes and chicken wire were placed around them to ensure that they can stand up to the many campers that the campground sees.
Even if you don’t climb, Arapiles really is a magical place to visit.  From its birds of prey to the small robins and bee eaters.  Shinglebacks and frilled neck lizards and occasionally a goanna or two.  Wallabies, cockatoos, lorikeets.  And with 500 native species in the park, you could certainly tick off a few sightings in your flora book.  It has them all really.  It really is a special place and one that needs to be carefully preserved.

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Why is the Anakie Gorge Walk Closed?



The January 2011 rains did a considerable amount of damage across the state and Parks Victoria (and other public land managers) correctly responded by limiting access to a number of parks and reserves while risk assessments were carried out. In some cases parks were closed in their entirety (You Yangs Regional Park and Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve spring to mind). The Grampians National Park was also hard hit with landslips cutting key access roads and some popular walking trails. In March further deluges and high winds saw Wilsons Promontory National Park closed. Recently there has been some criticism in the media questioning why Parks Victoria are taking so long to reopen walking trails and other infrastructure. I understand that risk assessments are necessary (and take time) but what I can’t understand is why some trails are closed for so long afterwards.

A good example of what I feel is an unnecessary trail closure is the Anakie Gorge Walk in the Brisbane Ranges National Park. The Brisbane Ranges suffered quite a bit of damage earlier this year and the Anakie Gorge Walk was closed when its steel bridges and long sections of paved trail were washed away. Prior to this the Anakie Gorge Walk was probably the most popular trail in the park as it linked Anakie Gorge and Stony Creek Picnic Grounds (about 3.1km one way). A great deal of time and money had been spent bringing the trail up to a very high walking trail standard. I’ve always suspected that building such a costly trail in the confines of a narrow-sided gorge (that is by its very nature prone to extreme periods of flooding) was asking for trouble. The recent floods confirmed my suspicions. In the months following the flood a great deal of tree debris was cleared away. As it now stands the Anakie Gorge Walk is very easy to follow having only a few rock-hopping creek crossings to contend with. No big deal. Most average bushwalkers wouldn’t even blink an eyelid at these ‘difficulties’ and there is absolutely no reason that I can think of as to why the walk is still closed.

Anakie-Gorge-WalkOf course Parks Victoria must consider safety and liability issues and I understand some of their concerns. On the other hand let’s be sensible about this. A sign could be erected stating that flood damage has occurred to the original walking trail and that walkers should proceed with care. I’m sure Parks Victoria fully intend to rebuild the bridges and surfaces in the gorge once the funding is allocated. But my 100,000 dollar question (only a wild guesstimate) is how long will it take for the funding to be allocated? I suspect it will be a long wait. I also have to question the need to rebuild this walk up to the previously high standard it enjoyed. It will most likely only get washed away again in the future. Such high-quality walking trails have a place in metropolitan parks, but I need a lot more convincing that they need to be built in locations such as Anakie Gorge. What we really need are increased funds for maintaining trails that already exist. I guess my question to Parks Victoria is pretty simple. If the vast majority of walkers can still safely enjoy the Anakie Gorge Walk why is it still closed?

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Open Spaces office

We usually write here about our various adventures, about product updates and other helpful things. Today I want to share with you some more personal things about Open Spaces – the space we inhabit and the animals who share it. It is not so common for businesses to give specifics about place or people. This is so staff and office arrangements can be changed when it is most economically viable to do so. We are not that kind of business. The place the business occupies – the office and its surroundings – is integral to the business, as are the staff and the authors who write our books. And not just in a ‘making the wheels of capitalism chug around’ kind of way. In the ‘we really like and care about you as a person’ kind of way, too.

Eco-resource central

Glenn is uber-passionate about recycling, re-using, conserving and generally running a business with as small an eco footprint as possible. He takes this so seriously that the office is built from the ground up with this in mind. It is housed in a converted weatherboard house, with the ingenious construction being worked out by Sunpower Design Consultants in Brunswick. There is a big glossy photo of the house on our about us page, but here are some more intimate shots, that hopefully give you a feel for the place.

There is rad decking all over the place at the office, since the block is super sloping…

All the stairs and decks help to create little microclimates for pernickety plants…

Polished concrete floors keep feet nice and cool all through summer. Peeking out from the top right corner is an Ikea desk leg and a computer which Glenn built himself! All the computers here are built up specifically for our requirements. This helps us get our work done with minimal interference from Microsoft Vista perils.


Outdoor ‘meeting room’

This is our cute little outdoor sitting space. When you’re sitting there looking out on the grass trees and the goldfish, it is is hard to imagine working anywhere else.

Making the books

Our books usually start with a good idea from an author. Sometimes it works the other way around, and we commission a good idea from an author. Once the author has done the hard work of writing it, we edit the text, shoot photos of the walking/riding trails or of the rockclimbs, and start making maps. Map making is a slow process involving combining various aspects of many different maps in order to get a map that clearly and accurately shows the area where the walk is, includes points of interest for walkers, and excludes almost everything else. This sounds so simple, but believe me, it takes a really long time. This is my job. Here are some pictures of the process…

Once the paper stage is over, we work on them digitally…



Tracey is our kick-ass all round sorter outer of the things that make us money, and this includes packing up your books twice a week as the orders come in. Here is where it all happens…

The books get their own room and are lovingly protected from the elements. Here is one of our ace titles waiting to for orders: Grampians Bouldering by Dave Pearson and Chris Webb-Parsons.

And here is where the magic happens. Everything is super organised. Brown paper, check! Envelopes, check! Packing tape, check!


Office animals

No office should be without its office animals. Here we have about 20, but it most of them are fish. Here are a few of them in one of the many office ponds…

Here is another office pond (the big cauldron on the left)…

And last but definitely not least, the office cats. Pinot…

and Sushi…

These photos make them seem moodier than they are really (blame the iphone filter effects). Most of the time they sleep on the couch in the sun, reminding us what does not count as work.