Clutching the rail for support after shuffling along the winding, sweat-inducing track to the WW11 forts on Magnetic Island , Darwin agronomist , Rob Wesley-Smith , above , gulps in oxygen and admires the view . With him was older comrade , Cyclops , who had done the forts walk about a decade ago but , because of senile decay, had forgotten how long and steep it is . The odd couple, both over 70, nearly fell into drainage ditches cut across the path to the forts as they looked up trees for elusive koala bears . During the trek, they reminisced about many events and people . Wes , a longtime activist , who obtained his ASIO file last year, recalled how decades ago he had “spied” on the Pine Gap space base , from a ridge near Alice Springs , and a photo he took of its five radomes had raised much comment in Australia and overseas.
Wes caused concern when he announced he had not taken his pills first thing that morning on the island, especially the magnesium tablet to combat cramp. Cyclops wondered if there could be a sudden medical emergency requiring him to throw Wes on his back, apply the kiss of life and massage his legs at the same time , causing shocked koalas to plummet to earth and startled Japanese tourists to bow respectfully and run like hell. Because of poor eyesight, only one koala was spotted , but a young Canadian couple said they had seen four, one with a baby , right alongside the track . How did we miss this cute sight ? Wes dropped in on the island making his way back to Darwin after spending time in southern states . While away , Wes worked on the manuscript of his epic 117 Days in East Timor and was also updated in Sydney on the progress of a book about Australian journalist Roger East , murdered by the invading Indonesians and thrown into the sea at Dili . On an anniversary of the murder, Wesley-Smith played the part of East in the dramatic re-enactment below.
Wes insists he has to live to be 100 to finish all the things he wants to write and the projects he is involved with in Timor and elsewhere .In the case of decaying Cyclops, he ventured he would have to survive to 125! to complete all his tasks , by which time he would look like something out of The Curse of the Mummies . A quick shower and a handful of pills after the forts walk and Wes got into his Honda, bearing only one protest sticker-NO DAM FOR BROWNHILL CREEK, South Australia - and set out on the drive back to Darwin, hoping not to be abducted by one of those squadrons of UFOs along the lonely Barkly Highway and permanently hovering above the NT News water cooler .