Star date: December 2003
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
Our Greatest Fear
Nelson Mandela, 1994 Inaugural Speech
Our greatest fear is not that we are
What an inspiration this man is! How many of us would come out of prison, after 27 years, full of light and love, rather than bitterness? It is important to let our light shine. We know you all have such wonderful gifts to share! We have felt them through the love and friendship you have shared with us! Thank you!
"White Fella In A Hole with Hairy Legs"
G’day! We flew into Darwin NWT Australia from Indonesia and spent a few days at the home of a SERVAS host. SERVAS is a non-profit, non-religious organization started after WWII. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “With every true friendship, we build more firmly the foundation on which the peace of the whole world rests." It is a way of breaking down the fear and boundaries of cultures and countries. You join the organization, active in 90 countries, and after a brief interview become a host or traveler. Guests stay a maximum of 2 nights and it is a great way to meet interesting, self sufficient people from all over the world. I have been involved since 1996 when the kids and I traveled and stayed with families in 12 countries. It’s such a great way to get to know the people and culture of a country, from the inside out.
On the way to Carolyn’s home we stopped by at Darwin’s Mindel Beach Night Market. There were about 10,000 people milling about, enjoying the art and entertainment. We stopped to have a bite of Thai food at a stall and Mariah, my daughter, who we hadn’t seen for 9 months, came walking up. She had just driven across the Outback from Brisbane to surprise us, in her $500 'surf mobile'. A chip off the old block. We squealed and hugged and proceeded to have a fun time exploring Darwin and preparing for our Australian travels. We bought a “classic” 1976 Volkswagen Kombi campervan and busily fixed it up. It’s small but has a pop up top, refrigerator, gas stove, sink and bed. (And Joseph has fixed up a solar and reserve battery power system for the computer, etc.) Our new home on wheels. What more could a person want?
Fives days later we set out across the Outback to have a look at this new continent. Our first rather startling encounter with the extraordinary wild creatures of Australia, was while turning onto the highway. A 4 ft. long frilled neck lizard in the middle of the road, put up his hood and faced off the van, refusing to budge. Not wanting to demonstrate the laws of physics concerning greater weight and the compression of matter, we politely surrendered 'his' highway back to him. After several minutes we followed and observed this ballsy fellow as he ran up a tree and 'hid'. As we entered Kakadu National Park we started getting a feel for the uniqueness of this vast country. We took a boat ride down a river seething with hungry crocodiles, and surrounded by majestic birds, and vibrant water flowers. We made friends with a group of young aboriginals from northerly Mellville Island, who were out of their “country”, as they call it, for the first time. They were so excited about everything they saw. They explained about some ancient cave paintings and Joseph and an elder discussed ancient symbolism in Aboriginal art and walkabouts. We watched the sunset together as they jumped around spotting kangaroos and other animals, with eagle eyes, down below the cliff. They are part of Nature. They are gentle people and have been all but wiped out by good old white men, reminiscent of the Native Americans in America. Below is one of their chants:
Who sings to us in silence,
Who teaches us through each other,
Guide my steps with strength and wisdom.
May I see the lessons as I walk,
Honor the purpose of all things.
Help me touch with respect,
Always speak from behind my eyes,
Let me observe, not judge.
May I cause no harm, and leave
Music and beauty after my visit.
When I return to Forever,
May the circle be closed and
The spiral be broader.
We have so much to learn if we can only take the time to listen to the wisdom of the different cultures. Especially the “primitive” ones, as they are called here.
We headed south across the heart of the country. It is mile after mile of flat, hot desert, with an occasional truck stop or roadhouse with gas, showers and greasy food. After over 1200 kms.. we arrived at Alice Springs then Uluru or Ayers Rock. One hot day in Alice Springs was enough and we sought relief in the mountains of the West McDonell Range. We camped out there for close to a week, seeking out the hidden refreshingly chilly pools, fed by ice cold springs.
Uluru just suddenly appears on the horizon. This magnificent monolith and sacred site to the Aborigines, is one of the wonders of the world. We went on a nature walk with Mick, an aboriginal ranger and learned about the sacred gatherings and ceremonies, the bush food or “tucker”, and the indigenous animals. There are frogs there that can hibernate in the sand for up to 40 years and all of a sudden, during a large rainstorm, they will hatch out of nowhere. Amazing fauna and flora here. Only about 160 poisonous things that can kill you, every one unique. In their alcohol free or “dry” compounds many Aborigines still live closely with the land. They successfully co-own and co-manage this amazing natural wonder with the National Park Service. We missed the sunrise but marveled as the sunset painted a full spectrum of hues on Uluru.
Mariah and her friend, Shane, went on to find work and after another 800 kms.. across the Outback, amid kangaroos, camels, cattle, dust and temperatures over 100 degrees, we arrived at one of our favorite eclectic spots, the opal mines of Cooper Pedy. The temperatures are so harsh that the people all live underground. There are homes, hotels, churches, private swimming pools, museums, stores and campsites completely underground. Not a haven for claustrophobic souls. If someone wanted to expand their home they would just dig out a bigger room. They have air vents sticking out all over and that’s about all that is showing from above. It’s like being in a science fiction movie, after a nuclear war. In fact, several movies have been filmed there, like Mad Max. So why was it one of our favorite places? Because one of the best things about Australia is the people! They are such outgoing and sociable individuals. The first night we went to a Chinese restaurant and met up with one of the crazy old opal miners that had gone mad (many do). He came rushing up to our table and shone a penlight as he flashed open his coat, exhibitionist style, trying to interest us in his shabby little display of opals. He repeated over and over , "Opals, Opals" like they were the most important things in the world. Then we were invited to join a table with a motley crew of locals, one of the famous flying bush doctors and 3 opal dealers from Hong Kong. We ended up going home with Ian and his wife at 1 a.m. to look at opals and spent the night in their yard. Ian had been sent there 35 years earlier as one of the first sheriffs of 'Dodge' and hasn’t left. It is still like the wild, wild west and everyone takes the law into their own hands. People still get shot or disappear down mine shafts if caught on someone else’s claim.
We met Roger who operates a computer store underground. We went to his shop and he showed us his adjacent home. Cooper Pedy means “white fella in a hole” because the Aborigines were confused why the white men came and dug into the rocks and lived there, in the holes, just for some sparkling little stones. Roger lives under there by himself with his cat named “hairy legs” (hence the title). What a bizarre bunch of characters! Our kind of place.
From there we headed south another 500 kms. meeting all sorts of approachable, welcoming people. Near Port Lincoln we pulled over and asked a woman on the street where a laundromat was and she said, “Well, there isn’t one in town but you can follow me home and do your washing there!” We were surprised and away we went. We spent a fun afternoon with Julie and her 84 year old Dad, Sam, talking and laughing and doing laundry in a hand wringer machine. Joseph even showed them his laptop complete with pictures and books. They were fascinated. Sam, who had been skeptical of us initially, had even cancelled his golf game to spend time with us. They ended up offering us a place to stay as long as we wanted and were disappointed that we needed to move on. As a parting gift these warm hearted folks, with simple means, gave us a can of pickles as we drove away. This is how it has been the whole way. Great, genuine people!
We spent 10 days on the Erye Pennisula camping at pretty little coves and beaches, like Coffin Bay National Park, Avoidance Point and Shipwreck Beach. Better camping than sailing these rough waters! The flies had a voracious appetite and only screens on the windows and over our heads made life bearable in places.
to Adelaide and spent 2 weeks along the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne. A
narrow winding road along the cliffs with large sandstone pillars standing
against the blue and turquoise ocean. Breathtaking. We would just find a little side
road leading to a beach or next to a farm and pull over, pop the top, and call it
home. We have our fruit for
breakfast, do yoga stretches out in the fresh air, have a big salad for lunch, and cook some
newly created exotic vegan dish for dinner. The day is spent exploring.
We have been doing a lot of walking and hiking through forests and along
beaches. Overall we feel great and are very happy and excited with life.
And so it goes............................................ Next off to Tazmania for 2 months. We hope that you are all happy, healthy and looking forward to the holiday season. We bought a string of little white lights to decorate the van, in preparation for meeting Mariah for Christmas in Tazzie!!! Thank you for keeping in touch. It’s always so great to hear from you! Until then let's remember to be the best we can be and to let our light shine; allowing those around us to also realize their potential. Take care and KEEP SMILING!!!
Love, xoxoxoxo Nancy & Joseph
Uluru - Ayers Rock. A spectacular monolith of many moods!
Aboriginal sacred site in Uluru.
Kakadu Nat Park: young Aboriginals
out of their "country" for the first
Anyone for a swim???
Mariah and I in front of Uluru (Ayers Rock).
1976 V.W. Kombi "The Blue Dragon":
Another hard day at the office!
Swimming in a cool spring on a hot day - West McDonnell Range.
Even the churches are underground in Cooper Pedy.
Ocean arches along the Great Ocean Road.