2016 - Remote WA Travels Blog

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June 4 and safely back home

Just as it is a long way from Laverton to Ipswich, it has been a long time between posts to this blog. Our journey through the Lands continued to be interesting and very satisifying meeting and working with beautiful people in beautiful places. All are memorable but Patjarr and Kiwirrkurra stand out as especially so toward the end of our journey.

The small community of Patjarr took us on an outing to their country with the 10 iPads and our two Nikon digital SLR cameras. Together we took a wonderful range of photos that participants made into slide shows and movies set to music. These were much fun in the making and even more so in sharing. These are strong people with a  deep connection to their country uninterrupted for thousands of years. Their stories run deep and make them strong. It was a great joy and a profound privilege to see this beautiful country through their eyes.

Kiwirrkurra is the most remote community in Australia as judged by its distance from a regional centre - Alice Springs in this case. We had hoped to travel the 330km Sandy Blight track from Tjukurla to Sandy Blight Junction then west to Kiwirrkurra but the weather had other ideas with heavy rain forcing us to anbandon the Sandy Blight track. Instead we faced a 1400km detour through Docker River, Uluru and Alice Springs. Kiwirrkurra was worth it. The trip along the northern side of the Macdonnald Ranges was spectacular and our welcome in the community was enhanced by the help we gave one local car on the way in. They had blowen their spare and another tyre then travelled 150km on 3 tyres and a rim with 10 people jammed into the car on a fairly rough road peppered with washouts. It would not have been fun and they greatly appreciated the water we gave them while they waited for another wheel to come from the community. Several attended our workshop the next day and by then, we were well accepted by the community. it was a busy but very satisifying workshop.

The return home via the Plenty Highway, Boulia, Winton, Longreach, Tambo (thank you Buddy and Jenny for your wonderful hospitaity), Judds Lagood at Yuleba between Roma and Miles (nice spot) was very pleasant and quite leisurely. We seem to go slower each day as we unwound.

Looking back though, there are some important outcomes from the work. At our debrief in Alice Springs, we were asked for the 5 best things about the experience and it was hard to stop at 5. Later though, I thought of one more and would like to share it here.

It is subtle but important. It also cuts both ways - for us and the community. This photo captures it for me. Dorothy (on left) is standing on her country and you can see the strength in the woman and, when there with her, feel that it comes from her land.

She was sitting beside me as we looked through the photos from the outing later and I commented “Strong woman in strong land.” Dorothy just said “You better believe it.” In that moment, she knew I understood a little of her connection to her land and that I saw and respected both the connection and her. It was our personal reconciliation across our two cultures. Dorothy gave me understanding and I gave her respect.
 
On the way, we shared an understanding about digital stuff like the power of quality photos, how to crop and enhance them and turn them into movies that capture the spirit of our shared experience. These are the “workshop outcomes”. They are almost trivial in comparison to the shared journey outcomes that are our constant companion through the Ngaanyatjarra Lands and beyond.
 

I believe our clients in community and ourselves benefit greatly from this aspect of our shared journey. I know we do. I firmly believe the people we touch also benefit from the connection. It is an outcome difficult to evidence and quantify. It is occasionally visible in photographs of our interactions but more commonly is experienced as we sit side by side on this journey together.
 
I have attached another photo from Warnan that captures this feeling of collegiality between two people who were strangers from different cultures the day before but are now comfortable collaborators in this space. The positives generated in the community remain there and we share them with our friends and family through stories and photos such as these that carry this personal reconciliation far beyond this one event.
 
If I were to capture the spirit of this trip in a few words, it would be "beautiful people in beautiful places". When you first visit these communities, it is easy to see the broken cars, untidy yards, some litter in places and a sense of tiredness in the buildings. Soon though, you no longer see those things through your western eyes and you begin to see the people and their deep connection with their country. These open, welcoming and wonderful people take you beyond the physical town and let you see the beauty of the sand, spinifex and spirits through borrowed Indigenous eyes.
 
This is a deep and rich landscape best seen through the eyes of its people.

16 April and all is well.

I am pleased to report that at last we had a good steak and a beer. We are currently at Laverton and all is well. We arrived in a small town that has a pub with an excellent chef and so we had the best pub steak we had ever I think. We had salad too. His Djorn Butter was to die for and the Garlic Bread was divine. There was even XXXX Gold on tap. It seemed like heaven. We could not get through it all. we have been eating much smaller meals less often and so a normal size meal was too much.

We have become rather obsessed with food supplies. We arrived in town with 3 days food left, and we had to cook veges at the Inspection station or we would have had none. We had no bread. The esky looked sad. We had been told the shop at Laverton was small. It was, but it had lots in it and we were able to do a solid shop. We needed everything, right down to soap and toilet paper. We now feel stocked and can do a top up before we leave next Friday. It’s a bit of relief.  It means we wont have to do the 700K round trip to Kalgoorlie now.  We do have to travel 100k to a service centre (sort of) for the truck – needs a service before the very long journey back home. Yes, we are at the end point – well will be next Friday. Time to turn around, for many reasons. Image: It looks small but we could hardly eat it all.

Image: Cooking up the last of our veges. We are having good internet at last and have a phone for the first time in a couple of weeks. We had small amounts of poor bandwidth last week and almost none the week before. Odd email exchanges stretched the capacity of the satellite. It is heaven today to be able to write a blog, upload photos and send reports back. We spend most of the time in communities, turning off auto-updates and changing the settings on every device we could find. With 20 or 40GB a month to share, we needed to stop phones gobbling Internet. About 50% of use is from phones background data and updating.  The community visits are very much a pattern now, and although they are always different, workshops are typically about helping people manage data between devices, and working with media in various ways; especially given Internet based activities are virtually impossible.

Weekends etc have been interesting. We have had some nice breaks. We spent time exploring rockholes, caves and breakaways, and caching between Warburton and Laverton. There are many points of interest and it is a bit of usual tourist trek following the Great Central Highway. Until yesterday though, we had not seen any tourists or ever had to share a campsite or even a roadhouse.  We are at a real caravan park this weekend and there are 6 or so campers in, the first we have seen since leaving in February.  Seems strange.  All our photos are of campsites in the middle of nowhere, campfire baking, and red rocks.  We did see some water at Tjarkarli. We drove out to the waterhole especially to see it. Very nice diversion, one morning.

Else, life is same same really. I did get a cold from some runny-nose children and that was not fun last week. Still got the remnant sinus infection and gradually improving. Paul did not catch it, thankfully. This week we stay in Laverton but work in Mt Margaret every day. We need to start the week installing and once running, help people learn to use the computers.  Should be fun. Looking forward to turning East at the end of the week and heading back. With many of our family and friends illnesses and trumas since we left, it feels like the trip we were not meant to have.  Will be good to feel like we are heading home.

So  in the interests of not boring folks with same same stories,  we will sign off with some pics.

 Image Left: New skinny me caching.

 Images: Camping weekends with all our friends.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while

Easter 2016

It’s been a while since I wrote about one of our weeks. As it turned out, it was a very uneventful week and much more happened since then. It rained is the big thing. Very big thing. This has been steering our life ever since.

We went up to Tukurla which is a pretty place for camels, but obviously not for people. There were only 4 locals in town and many more white fellas, as workers or visiting services, including us mind you. It was 3 to 1 really.  and hundreds of camels. The social fabric is such that we decided not to persist with installation there and seeing there was no one in town to train for anything, we left early. We did have a great day helping out at the school and counselling the poor teacher. On the way in to Tjurkurla, we found a Gorge the locals had told us to check out and it was a great spot for a camp, so we came back to there and had a long weekend. Reports to write and all that.

It had rained on our way to Tjukurla and we had to scout around a couple of holes in the road. One stretched across the road and we had to drive through it. Clunk!. Flap Flap! We pulled a cover off under the engine with the force of the water. Unknown to us at the time, a camel truck had bogged itself in the hole the day before, and made a very deep one. So zipties to the rescue. I guess you realise there are only dirt and sand roads out here, and they are not designed to be wet.

We had a great camp for the weekend, baking bread and cakes and roasting chicken legs. We are getting short of decent meat. We have one roast left but we were keeping it for Easter. The store at Tjukurla was very stocked with frozen goods with no customers, so I did a meat top up.  Had to wander around the big freezer container and get my own. None of the meat is good quality.  Curry is about the best thing to do. Thank goodness for the spices Sue Ward gave me before we left as we are using them lots now. We did get goodish sausages, which was a surprise because the last lot were inedible. No veges, but I had some at that stage from Wingellina and Blackstone stores.  The weekend was very hot, and there were many flies. We did have one visitor  couple, to our surprise. They were Activities Coordinators from Docker River, so we found out lots of some helpful info. They were just on a drive and because of the flooding, our gorge was a target site. Interestingly we had a huge storm activity where we were. Lots of noise and lightning but very little rain, so we did not get to see the water spilling through the gorge.  There was some stagnant water in the bottom pool.

The scenery was spectacular with amazing rock colours in the Gorge and some paintings and really pretty areas. We took lots of photographs of the vista in different lights. People would pay a fortune to have the outback weekend we had. It was an amazing outback place, just as you imagine an outback view to be. It's good as it is not crowded with tourists though, being selfish. Glad we have a go anywhere permit.

It was good to have a weekend break as the accommodation in Tjukurla was pretty ordinary and the AC filth and general grime and smell made us sick, so a weekend of fresh air was very good for us, even though it was hot. In communities, we always sleep in the truck, but if a space to stretch out a bit is avialable, we take it. Some are not worth it….. Tjurkula is one of theose places.

After the weekend, we went back to Warakurna for the second visit. It rained. Boy did it rain before we got there, during and after. Apparently, we were lucky to be between two communities cause no one was getting into Warakurna from any direction. We were not too worried as we were planning a 3-4 day visit in the lead up to Easter. Unfortunately, it was supply week and the fresh and frozen truck could not get through. So we were quite low on anything resembling vegetables except potatoes and onions. I had 1 carrot I was keeping for a special occasion. Then at last by Thursday the truck got through, but then the shop closed for a funeral and we still had no veges.  So we left Warakurna and drove through water in the local creeks for about 5 K before we found the highway.
 

It was a good week at Warakurna. Had lots of folks in and helped out 2 families with their funeral booklets and had the usual after-school kid workshops.  The changes in how councils are working is taking its toll. Once the local council had much autonomy and now with a regional council and a few outpost offices with limited services, things are not anywhere near as helpful to the locals.  That’s a story for our reports, not here. On the personal side, I did buy some art at Warakurna and had bought some at Blackstone too. I am sleeping with it along my side of the bed. Just wanted some representative art from this region. There is not a lot of excellent art, though some standouts do attract the eye. The piece I bought was for the colours to match the kitchen.  Time to get rid of the baby photos, which are pretty old now and look nothing like the kids these days anyway.

The workshops were good. We had a chance to spend extended time with some folk and really sorted out equipment including music and files all over the place. The school is amazing - one of the best classrooms I have ever seen  over there. The kids were pretty good, respectful and had some nice talent, especially for creating music.  The kids are actually quite computer literate, figuring out apps and programs in no time.

It was also a bad week in Warakurna cause one day in huge rain, the camper leaked. The new seal for the roof should have had some slices cut in it to let water out of the channel the roof sits in, when the roof is down.  Water flowed over the channel into the bed. So things got wet – bed mostly but there was much drama. Anyway Paul cleaned up while I did workshops and we dried things as best we could in the continuing rain. I made things worse by tripping over in the dark and spilling milk on some washed up plates and then a lid on a water bottle popped up while driving and leaked water on the floor. It looked like water was never going to stop where it should and only be where it should not be. So after a couple of temper tantrums, all is well dry and calm in the camp.

So we headed off and did some caching on the way to Warburton. We had been told of a good camp called “The Caves” and it was so great we stayed a couple of nights. We started eating Potatoes and Onions again and shared the last carrot.  It was good. We won’t starve with plenty of rations aboard for 5 days when our meat and veges run out.  Lucky I had raided the freezer at Tjukurla. While at the caves, actually called Yala Kutjarra, we hid a cache for the Warburton team to find next week. It was a very very nice spot and Paul made me a nice message as a pressie and to help us survive what looked like a bland long Easter.

We got to Warburton Easter Saturday and the store had very few stocks. The store had been hammered with customers who could not go anywhere else and so I bought the last pumpkin, got some carrots, three tomatoes and two 1KG bags of potatoes.  I did get lemon cordial, so that’s a treat. We were warned they would run out of everything that day and the supply truck was 10 days away. We went to the road house and they had 2 zucchinis and some sweet potato.  So with our new treasure, we headed off.  We made a couple of calls back home to check on things while we had signal first.

We headed down the Anne Biddell Highway, which sounds good and smooth, but was not. It was okay but "track" or "track around track", would have been a better description. We found a great camp over looking Mackenzie Gorge and enjoyed different tasting veges. We had a great walk through the gorge which was wet and lush after the ran. A nice treat.

We tried to do a loop back to the Central Highway but it was impassable so we came back to the Mackenzie Gorge and had a good rest. It rained again and so we are here waiting as long as possible before heading back, as it is going to be sticky. We had jaffles for Breakfast and Paul baked a carrot cake. It has got much cooler and Paul even put a coat on last night. There are many many many flies – but interestingly they disappeared when it was raining.  There seems to be a lot of rain for a desert. We also noticed we crossed from the Gibson Desert into the Victoria Desert. It still looks like desert, though the spinifex is very green and lots of plants look after the wet stuff arrived.

Life is good. Nothing too stressful. We have folks lining stuff up for us to do the week in Warburton, so it will be busy.  We have a report to write too.  I also have to plan out the next 3 weeks of trips.  Nothing goes as planned but that’s okay. Usually 3 weeks at a time is the limit of planning possible, out here.

Planning will have us heading to Kalgoorlie I hope. We are getting short on water ironically, inspite of it raining. The local water is a bit tough to swallow, so we have started buying water in 10 L lots, first time ever I think. We usually have 60 L on board made up of 20L of our tank water from home, 20 L of bought water and 20 L of local water plus many 600ml water bottles stashed about.  We both got quite dehydrated as we were not drinking the local water and so decided to buy some. Beer would be cheaper…… At the moment we have about 30 L left.  Ourgeneral  supplies are getting down but we are at the half way point of our trip. I had hoped we would get the Kalgoorlie for a top up by now but that looks like being the Anzac Day weekend if my planning goes well this week.  We have 1 carrot cake mix left, 2 tins of tomatoes, 1 tin of champignons, no cook-in-sauces, no coconut cream. Curry paste finished, no herbs. We are on the last box of coffee bags and last box of tea. I have some Goroka Coffee stashed so all is not lost. Still got tissues and toilet paper.

I am going to colour my hair tonight if we make it back to Warburton in the mud. Stingy me would not $130 for a colour treatment in Alice Springs, so for the first time ever I am doing a supermarket shelf one. I need a hair cut now but that will have to wait a couple more months.  I have one moisturiser left and no nice ones. Paul still has a bag of liquorice that I found in the bottom of the supplies box. Lucky him.  At this stage of a trip after 8 weeks, life is all about supplies, so sorry for the endless commentary on potatoes.  I long for a salad, good steak and mushrooms…… Till next time, have fun back there in the East.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

March 7 2016 A day in the week.

Monday

It’s the start of a new week for us and all is well. Thought it might be informative to share a bit of how our “normal” working week unfolds. We began by driving 150K west of Wingellina to Jamieson. It is a very attractive drive with changing landscapes and quite a diverse botany. We stopped for lunch by a Telstra Tower and it was rather fascinating to check out the variety of plants. It was a bit cooler today, so walking around was quite pleasant. We drove through Blackstone and we wanted to look for one person. We stopped in the community where there was not a soul in site and then all of a sudden Marcia appeared. Seems our truck is being recognized already across the lands. We had done a radio interview before leaving Wingellina, so maybe she knew we were coming. It was funny.

We arrived in Jamieson and were generously given a workers’ quarters to use for the week we are here. We had to clean it first. Was not in good shape and I don’t think you would have taken any food in there. I am sitting on a towel as I write this. Some accommodation is good, most is not. We actually sleep in the truck but use the accommodation to work at night, cook if it is hot outside and shower.  Today, we also went to check out the media centre building we are re-establishing. It was not pretty.  We have scrubbed the walls, floor and all surfaces. We will try and reconstruct computers tomorrow from what is there and hopefully install 4 new ones. With changes from small local councils to larger regional ones, there is less attention to facilities in these small communities and so things fall into neglect sometimes.

Tuesday

It was a big day today getting 8 of 9 machines going, with an Internet Feed.  We only have 7 mice but 11 Keyboards.  I’ll see what I can scrounge from the school and council tomorrow. We had too many interruptions from kids who were off school today with student free days. We are tired but glad everything is working. The new computers did not arrive but might tomorrow.

The dust and dirty ACs took their toll today and both of us have terrible hayfever, me particularly. Hopefully I will be okay tomorrow after all the filter cleaning we did today pays off.  We had curried sausages and vege mash for dinner.  We don’t have any good meat left and the shop today had nothing much and less veges. Tomorrow apparently the veges will be out, because the truck came in.

Its a quiet place but a few folks besides the kids dropped in to see what we were doing. Expect them all back tommorrow.

In another episode in the “It can only happen in the desert” series, Paul went to have a shower to find a scorpion clinging to his leg, thankfully not by the nippers. He did manage to dislodge it without getting a nip. The scary thing is that it had to be in the shed (workers’ quarters) we are using as a spare space.  I check everything in case now.

 

Wednesday

Another big day, with adults coming in all morning and kids dropping past all afternoon. It was non stop. The guys recording songs from scratch were amazing and loud, but produced a great result. I was helping folks retrieve or take photos, and then improve them in Picasa before using Powerpoint to make a digital scrapbook page. I managed to make lunch and a cup of coffee before kids came in for lunch.  The power went out twice to add to the fun. The Internet dropped out. We had an afternoon of absolute chaos but plenty of result. I even had the gorgeous little Amy sorted and kept busy and in one spot. Paul seemed to be trying to wrestle with phones.  We eventually left at 6.00pm after making posters of today’s work, setting up machines for updates with Rongomai and putting new chairs together. Tonight we fed Rongomai a couple of curries with very few veges, because I forgot to go to the shop. I actually forgot it was Wednesday – communities shut down Weds pm including the shop. Hopefully tomorrow I will remember to go and get veges. Currently, Paul is charging all the ipads and recording their accurate numbers so we can successfully use the “Find my Ipad “ app.  Today we sent  “bring it back” message to the wrong ipad – whoops!  Scaring people.

Thursday

Thursday was a same same day. Bit of a routine once we get going. Adults in the morning and Kids in the afternoon. The kids found the various funny photos apps on the ipads and took dozens of weird photos of each other. I bought veges but had to beg for potatoes from the shop – lady wanted me to buy Deb potato and tinned potatoes. We simply don’t have tinned, frozen or dry anything like that. If we cant get it, we do without. No need for artificial foods we figure and Pauls digestion cant do it anymore. So anyway, the potatoes came out for Friday.  Even got cauliflower, zucchini and Chinese bok choy in good condition. So we will have another curry  Friday night with vegetables this time, because we could.  In a follow up to the scorpion story, there was another near the washing machine, so I’ll wash at Blackstone on the weekend. Had entertainment with a stripped ghecko, which we had not seen before. Did get a storm - spectacular lightning but little rain where we were.

 

 

Friday

Friday, we finished up, cleaned up and managed to have 8 old computers and 3 new ones going. It’s a great looking and working centre now. Hopefully the folks we trained up with stick with opening it. Next week the kids at the school are doing some radio broadcasts.  Must say, it was a bit sad to leave some folks. I will miss little Amy who became quite a little angel.  At 5pm on Friday a guy came in and wanted to connect his Android phone to the computers to transfer music and photos about – I am beginning to hate Androids. Simply impossible to work with. We had to disappoint him as we could not get any cable to work well and we were too tired by 6pm to keep trying. We did get Potatoes. Paul was so desperate he went and got 10 and so did I, so we ended up with an esky full of stuff.  I guess the manager of the shop knows we want real potatoes for next time.

Saturday

Time to end this missive for what turned out to be a usual uneventful week really …. We have now travelled back to Papulankutja or Blackstone where the digs are clean and great. 

We found where the rain had gone. We were driving along and Paul could see a mirage  of water so kept driving towards it. Whoops. It was a real puddle with water all over the road.Lucky he pulled up and went around it or we would still be digging ourselves out. You are so used to seeing mirages of water, that it is hard to believe when it is real. 

So we are washing, and baking and generally having a relax this afternoon before writing reports and I am putting an ACEC Abstract together. Goodness knows if anyone would be interested in our little journey, so we will see.

Photo Left: Smiling Amy. Photo above - typical workshop


 

 

26 Feb:  Irrititju -Wingellina and first 2 weeks workshops

Tis Friday night some time and all is well.  It’s been a bit hectic and with some slow Internet on weekends, I have not uploaded the blog and pics regularly. Bandwidth is not a given out here – it’s a luxury, not an assumption.                                                     Image: Warnan - view from our truck

I should comment on time out here. It’s quite funny really.  Communities decide what timezone they will use but not everyone seems to use the same zones in the one community, especially some Govt agencies, stores and of course the TV.   This is what I wrote on facebook which captures our confusion well.

Time changes annoy me at the best of times, so living near 3 states is doing my head in. When we went east to SA from WA, they were on NT time without daylight saving. If you go from NT to SA, folks live on SA time with daylight saving. If you go south of the Great Western Highway in WA, they are on NT time , but if you go north or west, they are on WA time; with the exception of two places in the north which stay on NT time. Your phone randomly switches time zones, but TV is on WA time except for some news which seems to be on NT time. I think this means I can sleep in till 11.30 and still be at work by 9 today but not tomorrow.

I actually like WA time best. I seem to live on it anyway.  It does make it near impossible to schedule anything. We have one clock on WA time, one on NT time and one of Qld time – so much for not living by clocks.

Shopping is another interesting facet of life for folks who have not lived in communities.  We did a big shop back home in Ipswich and I sent Paul away with a catalogued truck. He also had pumpkins from our garden and some fruit cakes in the larder. We have just cut the pumpkin and started on the cakes, 4-5 weeks later.  We did a meat and veges shop in Alice Springs but now we have to live out of community stores until we get to Kalgoorlie sometime in April. There is usually one store in a community and they usually have very little. So in one community I bought tomatoes and bananas, another had avocados, one had sweet potato and broccoli and the one I will shop in tomorrow morning has cauliflower and onions. You get what you can get when you can. I need to start a few meat top ups next week.  That is always interesting and relies on having curry pastes with you, which luckily I made before I left home. Shops are only open occasionally so knowing when is important. I know when they are open cause everyone in the workshops gets up and goes to the shop. Image: Shop

Week 1 of workshops began at Irrititju or Wingellina. It was interesting – a bit of a slow take up because almost everyone in town is away on cultural business. There were so few people that I felt like I was in a Sim-town game where occasional people wander about. Usually 1 person at a time.  It was quite surreal. It did give us a chance to work with some people intensely and with lots of kids from the school and the after-school activities group.  It was also fantastic being at the NG Media Hub as we got to see and hear radio broadcasts, do an interview and also see some music being recorded.  There are great people working there and so we felt really comfortable working for these guys over the next few weeks.  The school has 2 teachers and a principal and most days had 4-8 children so we were able to do some great projects with the extra ipads and broadband. People like us because we come with bandwidth, a tradable commodity out here.

On comms, most communities except for 3 we will go to, have a Telstra signal and so we can get wireless access to our phones and to a modem to distribute.  Boy are things progressing on the access front. In prep for some conferences later this year, we are doing some rethinking about what a digital divide means now.  In communities we have been to so far, there is also some public wifi available because of past projects. It is not sufficient to cope with community demand though. Data is still too expensive for people out here. It should just be free and plentiful if people buy a pre-paid card.  I wont go on about this as I will have the chance for a bleat later in the year. The NG media facilities in a community also have wifi which is free and part of our job is to get the rooms ship shape and working. So when we sort everything out, we make lots of friends.

Week 2 saw us go to Blackstone – Papulankutja. The room needed work and cleaning before we could begin and lots of edits to the networking and desktops kept us busy the first day. We soon had a crowd of kids discover we were open and wifi was working. Then the adults trickled in.  we go back there in a few weeks and so I am sure we will be busy. The school want time with us and we need to find some young people to work-shadow us, so we can help them get the job of managing the facility full time.  Blackstone is a tough place, but some interesting folks are there. We have access to the ARA Irititja database of photos, stories, videos etc for NG lands. People love it and spend hours looking for people and events they know and generally exploring. Paul in particular has been great at getting people to edit the database and add names and details. It is becoming the preferred activity, especially on the first visit to a place. 

At the end of this week we have travelled to Wanarn which is a quiet nice little place. The NG media facility here is non-existent and so we have today cleaned a room, got the public wifi working again and set up one machine. The truck with all our gear is arriving tonight, along with flat pack furniture, so guess what we are doing on the weekend. 

Travel here was fun. We stopped for lunch beside an old windmill which was the only things we could find on any view from the windscreen that was not mulga or spinifex. The windmill was in fact pumping water and had made a pool, so we had a treat seeing many little finches hanging about. When making a coffee, this landcruiser turned up and the bloke (Paul as it turned out), wanted to know if we needed water. Then he invited us to look at his camels about 1 km away. Turns out he was a Camel drover and he and his mate had just caught 300 camels. 250 were still in the yards. It was an interesting diversion for lunch and not something many people do at lunch.  Such is travel in the outback.
 

 

 

 

16 Feb - Travel to  Irrititju -Wingellina

It was a very hot drive, leaving Alice Springs where it was 42 degrees to travel firstly to Uluru which was 44 degrees. We decided to look for Geocaches on the way. They were in paddocks and on top of ridges so we had quite a few hot and hurried finds. The plan is to look for as many geocaches on the Outback Trail as possible and use this experience to gather pictures and illustrations so we can suggest Indigenous communities on the trail make new Geocaches. This activity did get us some beautiful views from Interesting places.

It was quite funny-strange to drive past Uluru on the way to somewhere, given it is the destination of millions of tourists a year. We have a travel pass, so we were able to get into the park and travel through it without having to pay the tourist tax. We also travelled past Kata Juta and then headed to the WA Border. We had a camp just past Kata Juta at a Telstra Tower.  It was very dry towards the border. There was amazing formations of red rocks in small ranges twisted in all directions. It was very pretty and incredibly interesting to travel where we had not been before.

When we crossed the WA Border, the land was green again in parts and the mountain ranges were just spectacular.  We did more caches and climbed more ridges in the heat. Think we will limit that activity in the middle of the day from now on. The flies are bit annoying. We were sold some great fly repellant in Alice and it mostly works. Better than without it. Must be good, because a man at Curtain Springs asked us how come we seemed to have less flies on us.  I’ll get some more of the cream for you, Brooke Lukritz. You will need it in July.

We went to look at Lasseter’s Cave on the way – silly man searching for gold and perishing anyway. Found a cache there (no gold), but also found a car full of indigenous lady rangers bogged in the creek. Paul helped them out and so they were happy.  Apart from that, finding sign-posts was the most exciting part of many hours of red dust driving – oh, yes, we broke the CB aerial off on the corrugations. Lucky I saw it come off, so we were able to go back and get it.  The roads are pretty good actually, especially on the WA side.

We arrived in Irrititju Monday night. It’s a very small place by western/urban standards, but pretty big round here. Has a store, media centre/radio station, art centre and a school and a few other bits and pieces. It’s a bit quiet cause families are away on some local Indigenous business, so we have had a great start to getting organised and meeting folks.  Got the t-shirt now, so we are nearly local balanda…

 

 

13 Feb - Two weeks in the office

Wow, we had a terrific weekend travelling through the West Macdonald Ranges.   It’s such a visual feast in every direction when you head west of Alice Springs. It’s hard to imagine that red rock can be so fascinating.

Image: Camped at Hugh River.

Yes, we have been working. (The weekend in the middle was a stand out.) We have planned a trip (not easy), written a curriculum document, built 30 or so tasks, built 10 ipads interfaces, packed all the gear (also not easy) and met many folks who have stakes in our project. It was tiring actually, seeing we had not worked since last June.

Image: Hugh River. The folks we work for gave us the heads up for a local’s camping spot for this time of year. Water is about so there are swimming holes and it was relatively cool. Still over 30 but it was a dry heat and there was a good breeze, so it felt okay. You would not walk far in the sun though. We really are struggling to stay hydrated.  Our secret spot was the Hugh River and it was mostly a 4WD track in. There were a few great camps on the way in but we went to the end of the gorge, as far as we could drive and then walked for an hour or so in the shade of the gorge. The various red rocks of the cliff faces and the angles of various rock types was really interesting. It was great to be very close to the gorges and cliffs you see from the road. The hugh gum trees are just amazing here and it is no wonder they inspired so much of the early indigenous art.

After a great overnight camp, where we cooked some steaks and had veges in the coals for the first time in the Territory, we did a long day travelling to the gorges of the West Macdonalds.  The flies were pretty bothersome in the evening. They are supposed to disappear at dark and they hung around in 100’s until the very very last ion of light.  We apparently now have the secret local supply of fly repellant, so we will see how that goes next camp.    Image Right: Ellery Creek.

We went to Ellery Creek Big Hole and met some fellow travelers again… and swapped phone numbers.  Great swim in an amazing amazing place. Lying in the cool water looking up at the cliffs was truly remarkable.  Then we did a reconnaissance visit to Ormiston Gorge and Redbank Gorge. It was pretty hot  so we left the Redbank Gorge walk till very late. We managed a sunset from a roadside camp on the way back, with a pre-cooked dinner. Very special watching the sun set amongst the ridges. Guess it wont be the last  given where we are going.

Image: Larapinta Trail.  This weekend gave Paul a chance to look at various sections of the Larapinta Trail.  Seems like that is on the bucket list.

Was a great weekend where we packed heaps in. Had to come back and go to work in the office Sunday night, but although it was only 2 days, it felt like more with so much to do and see.

And so we have two weeks at the offices of IRCA (Indigenous Remote Communications Association). A great bunch - very welcoming and helpful. They put up with us exploding our stuff into the office and repacking it and they gave us heaps more to take.  So we had to fit in 10 ipads, power packs, leads, a printer, a music keyboard, speakers, microphones etc etc plus office supplies. Hence the repack.

So because we are going to communities and not outstations this time, we can take less supplies because we will be able to top up food supplies regularly. Probably only have a  couple of 2 weeks stints without access to  a shop of some sort.  Even so, I packed the dry goods in Ipswich and spent another $200  on Saturday to top up what we had used and     we also bought fridge stuff.                Image Right - Redbank Gorge.

We first head down to Wingellina via Ulluru and Docker River for 2 or 3 days. Its 42 degrees and gunna be dam hot. Hopefully we will  soon have cooling down nights…. Hopefully. More when we get to the first community.
 

 

1 Feb - Jumbled emotional beginnings

So we left north Queensland and headed west, to places further than we have ever been before. We are heading for Alice Springs first to work with the Indigenous Remote Communications Authority (IRCA) and  Ngaanyatjarra Media planning out a training/learning program and a travel schedule that will take us to 13 Indigenous communities from Warburton over the border in WA to Laverton, 360K from Kalgoolie.  More on all that as it unfolds.

We have not blogged on here in 2015, as we spent time in Bougainville as part of our work in the Australian Civilian Corps.  That was another episode of our lives worthy of much writing, but it is not appropriate to do that. Since coming home, we have had a torrid few months with the sad sad passing of Paul’s sister Barb and with Michelle’s elderly dad Sel being ill.

It was also with much sadness that we had to say goodbye to Budda, our lovey old dog. He was the subject of our first blog on here and gets a royal mention each blog as we leave him behind with either his second mum Deb or his aunts and uncle, Jacinta, Cathy and Paul.  We miss the old boy in a million ways and still cry for him regularly.  He passed away in our arms on November 10 2015 and now has a resting place on the hill looking down the driveway, waiting for us to come home.

Because life has been traumatic, we have not visited Townsville much, so Paul did a quick visit before we set off from Townsville through the now green western Queensland.

On the road

The journey to Alice was wonderful with a great camp scorpion hunting at White Mountains National Park, a visit to Tracey in Mt Isa and a revisit to Tennant Creek. Along the way we decided to reestablishing our geocaching habits looking for different sorts of caches along the way, so we had examples and stories to share in workshops over the next few months. We are travelling the longest geocaching trail in the world this trip and will not resist planning to visit every cache on the trail. We also hope to work with Indigenous young people to build some, as part of our "reader and user  TO  designer and maker” approach to learning with technology.

We’ll be writing a great deal about geocaching, but a quick explanation is that it is a world wide game  where people hide boxes in public places for you to find. An internet site gives you clues and lets you log you have found the caches. The bigger caches involve a box where it is customary to take a gift from the box and put something back in. It's great fun, but it is also a way of learning about places. We find geocaching lets us visit communities and places we might not have gone to and we find out about a place from the locals.  So if we can have local Indigenous communities build geocaches along the longest trail in the world, we will add the Indigenous voice to this famous global track. Should be terrific.

So we have arrived in Alice Springs after an eventless safe journey.  We have generously been given an apartment to use for 2 weeks, so we can stretch out, work hard and prepare to travel even further west.

Alice Springs

 It was strange to go to work in a real office over the weeks. The folks at IRCA are kindred spirits, lovely to us and know what it is like to travel to remote places. Great team. They also enjoy being flexible and letting us just get on with the job. They are so much help. They also gave us a lovely unit to use while we were in town. So comfortable to work from. Perfect for us, cool and nice to have a full kitchen. Unfortunately we had to park the truck in the carparks which were not in front of the unit. So we inevitably got broken into and had a smashed window in the truck and a broken door latch into the camper as some kids tried to break in. Lucky Alice Springs has lots of places that fix trucks and caravans so we were able to get all we need.

The town is lovely, abut the size of Ipswich and contains lots of services without having to drive forever. Good size city for us. We also enjoyed the place being so green and so striking each sunset.  It's been great in the first week. Just love the afternoon walks and views. Got a few Geocaches under the belt to develop the story of how to do them.