NG Media Mentoring project, WA 2016

August -Nov 2016.  Old ground 

Tuesday 8 Nov 2016

How time flies when you are having fun. We are finally back in Townsville and work is over for this year. Headed into Townsville last night and settled into Danny’s shed all snug, except Paul opened a window which we can't close cause there is not enough room. I am sure he will solve it. At least it was not me doing something dumb for a change.  I am having a clean up day and washing day. It’s hot and sticky but I am going to spend the day in my AC lounge and enjoy some space, drinking coffee and listening to new music from Troy Casser-Daly.  Might have a swim later and walk the dog. Enjoying normal. Just need to go shopping for vegetables.










Paul has taken one grandchild to school and now a couple to swimming. Should be a hoot.  I fly home for the weekend to take care of some things and people and Paul is staying on for the weekend with the crew before we fly off to Canberra on Wednesday.

We had a pretty uneventful trip back from Wingellina. Met with Maor from IRCA and we are thinking about our options for next year. Need to sort out this truck and see what International work we are scheduled for before we decide.  On the way back, we did stay at a great place on the Stuart Highway called Wauchope. Had a pub with an awesome Indonesian cook in a wonderful oasis. We had a great Indonesian meal and a couple of beers beside a pool with real grass and music. Heaven really.  Just the right thing after 7 hours on the road. Spent the next night in Mt Issa which was okay but uneventful. Then we did the long trek into Townsville.

Our last week at Wingellina was good. We managed to get half the participants to the workshop; funerals, broken cars and general transport issues not withstanding. There was a rumor of Men’s business and so we lost two people because of that. Next time, I’ll organise things differently so we go and pick everybody up. Nevertheless, we had a successful workshop and really got at least four communities humming. Hopefully things will continue well with energized folks in place. Had some hopeful phone calls, so expect some people will continue to work hard till the end of the year. Good crew really, doing things their own way amidst their own circumstances. There is a hint for us to consider coming back for a few weeks next year, so we will see.


On the trip out, we stayed a night at Uluru and really enjoyed a slap up dinner on the dunes overlooking the Field of Lights and the rock. It was so nice. Some interesting people and some of the usual unbelievables (well to us anyway). One American lady at our table kept saying there was nothing in the central of Australia, and was very surprised to find we had spent a year out there (pointing west). She was totally fascinated about how we shopped. “Where do you buy your clothes?”, she asked. I said, “I don’t buy any.” She was shocked. The look on her face was amazing. She could not comprehend not having shops and could not understand what we wore. “I shop for clothes at least once a fortnight”, she said. “How do you cope?”  She could not comprehend anything we said about the size of places or how wonderful it can be without shops. We did not have a lot in common. The rest of the table seemed normal. It was very interesting seeing the life experiences of others and why people travel. One couple usually travel by 4WD in Africa. Would be terrific, but I would find it too dangerous. They ahd great stories. Was a great night and we had a chance to celebrate the end of a working year and a tough year for all sorts of reasons.  Need to do that sort of thing more often.











And so ends our blog for the year. We are off to Canberra for 3 weeks soon to train up for International deployments. Then back here for all the birthdays before heading to Cousins and Uncle in Rocky for a pre-Christmas Christmas. Otherwise its rest and recreation for the next couple weeks and December/January and hopefully February.  Hope we have something to write about in 2017, and that you have/had a great Christmas/New Year season.

Sunday 30th October and all is pretty well.

We are back in Wingellina getting ready to hold a workshop this week. Bit unusual when you can never be sure if folks who said they would come, actually make it. There are so many barriers to participation. It’s harder making something for 10 people work than a conference of 1000. We will see.  Done all we can for now.
We are actually on our last task and in our last week. We ship out of here in 5 days and it is time to go back. Been away much of the year and we need the break I think.

It is much nicer travelling in the new truck than the old and all things are much simpler. Still ironing out the inclusions in the truck. We have two dead house batteries we think. Have warrantees etc but not much use to you, two days drive from a shop. We can actually survive without them, but not as much fun as we need power hookups for the drive back. The Suncamper is great, but the accessories in them like tyres, batteries are not able to withstand tough conditions. We had to toughen up the old truck so guess we have to do this to this one too. Paul wants to do a bit of editing to the weight distribution too and some editing to the freezer compartment to reduce the heat.  Suncamper should employ us as consultants. Looking at Lithium batteries but at $1200 a battery ……  Not convinced myself when a warrantee replacement will be available sometime.

But all is well. Got good meat in the freezer and a few days veges yet. Hope to do a small top up on something green in the shop tomorrow. For some reason I am over supplied with pumpkin again. Not sure how that happens. Even living on pumpkin bread at the moment.

Got a nice end of week planned and we look forward to that as our trip reward. I am also popping home to change suitcases and to see neighbor John.
We’ll post some workshop pics as the week progresses.


16 October

So much for coming here once this trip. We had a couple of flat tyres, so we are back here in Kiwirrkurra until some more tyres can be trucked in here. Only got 100k down the road. We did manage to make a tyre out of a tyre with holes, some patches on it and a tube. It is not pretty but it did get us back to Kiwirrkurra at 20-30K per hour. John T, a young indigenous guy, is an amazing bush mechanic.

We came back here, rather than travel forward, cause we have access to phones, the Internet and know everyone here. Amazingly everyone in town and the lands, knew about us before we got back to the community. Amazing, but maybe because Paul sent a spot message to Paul Hemmings, who must have rung everyone in the lands trying to find us.  It was great, cause someone (Matt) came out to check on us, bring the sat phone and let Paul and Paul make a decision about how to be rescued. Although we put plans in place, RACQ wanted to rescue from Port Headland rather than Alice Springs, a road we would never take our truck on, even if it was healthy. It’s good to have friends in communicable places.

So we sit here until next Thursday waiting for the transport truck to bring us two tyres. Lucky it is delivery week. So we are volunteer working. Done a bit more with the local NG Media team, helped in the office and generally do whatever people can find for us to do. There is always plenty, plenty to do. Like a school, there is always work to do. Three more days of that this week. It has been very helpful actually being able to repair a mac (well Paul did) and generally sort of how the media centre can be accessed by the people in the community.

 I need to do the organisation for our workshop in 2 weeks.  It’s very hilarious. I write emails in the workers quarters. Walk about 500m down the road to the media centre, to use the barely functioning wifi and then walk another 500m to the radio room to make phonecalls on a restricted service. Nothing is easy and I am calling on every favour I know. I have to email people in the early mornings when signal is bearable, to ask them to ring and text other people later in the day and I usually get replies back by next day. I am not at my efficient best in these circumstances. Been trying to look up online accounts for days now….. Oh the access in remote communities is still primitive Mr Turnbull inspite of your press releases.

The weekend has been pretty good, amazing in fact. Did all the chores Saturday re washing and cleaning and did some great cookups on the weber – Damper, big steaks from Alice springs, garlic roast potatoes and meatloaf. Even dyed my hair so I don’t look as scraggly as usual. Managed to write emails all morning today (Sunday) and then did the walk to send them. We cheated a bit on “extending” the Internet to a network for us, so we could send some email. Cool! Works better on a weekend than during the week.

This afternoon, Peter the ranger asked me to come along with a carful of ladies to go bush. He needed a female to accompany him. I was in the car like a shot. We went off in search of bush tomato and bush beans and a water hole. It was really funny listening the ladies laugh at Peter and I for trying to say local words. They giggled all the way. The ladies were amazing. They could spot camels miles away and somehow knew that there were bush turkeys in the grass. I could not see a thing and they saw six. They seemed to know where all tracks where. They know the country so well, every tree I think.

We found the water hole easily enough, and had several more pointed out to us in the small mountains. The girls easily found many many bush tomatoes but it was not the right place for beans. I had some hayfever and the girls found a plant for me to smell, to stop my nose running. Worked for a while too, until I got back in the dirty car AC.

We spotted a goanna going into a bush and the girls were on it. They dug with sticks for a while and got Peter and I to shovel out the dirt. They uncovered several goanna tunnels in the area using a stick to break the surface of the soil. Within a few minutes they knew every tunnel entrance, and had gfound tracks that led into the tunnel, so they knew he was there. They worked out by digging ( how I don’t know) which direction he went and dug down about a meter to find him by following the tunnel underground. Took about 20 minutes. I thought it was a lost cause, but nope – Goanna in hole.  One lady even climbed in to dig him out more. She came out from the hole we dug,  when he came out of a tunnel, a bit mad. Then they let Peter pull him out and dong him. Then they let us fill in the holes, of course. It was truly an amazing experience to go goanna hunting with the women. Something I don’t think I will ever forget. Who spends Sunday afternoon looking for bush tomatoes and hunting goanna?  We then had to find wood (Not that easy in a desert)  for them to cook up the goanna. It was very interesting that they curled the goanna into a circle to cook him, and bent his toes back, apparently to make it easier to skin him when he was cooked.

On the way, the girls told us about a broken down car earlier the week, not ours, where the people were in the car waiting for someone to come along. A bushman family (of 4 we think), came out from behind a sand dune and started touching the car all over and then disappeared into the sand. They were nude and carried sticks and spears. They were not hostile. There are a couple of known families who never came in from the bush and one man who did and went back. Amazing story. Someone had been out to see and saw all the tracks.  We had broken down very near there later in the week. Very interesting.  So our little weekend of what was going to be one of boredom, to one that was very interesting indeed. Got great photos.




9 October

The last three weeks are somewhat uneventful. We feel settled into routine and the way of life out here, though every week is different.  The biggest issue at the moment is failures on both our water tanks making water management precarious. The rudest sales people on the planet who own THE caravan spares place in Alice, told us, amongst considerable disparaging remarks about the unsuitability of our truck for anything, that dust may have been getting into the pumps. So now we have 2 new pumps and Paul is sealing them in a dust proof box, while I write this blog. When we arrive in Kiwirrkurra this afternoon, he will try and replace them and fit them. Along with a monitor so we know how much water we have left is all tanks and some taps, so we can get water out if pumps fail again.  Suncamper now mount the pump motors inside the van, so they now know the dust on unprotected motors is an issue.

If you want to make a lot of money, start up a caravan spares and replacement business in Alice Springs. It would not be hard to outdo the cranky scrubbers in their dingy shed and make many people happy. The online comments about their demeanor is almost funny to read, except you know you have to speak to them if you are looking them up. I thought I had a sharp tongue, but boy, I have met the masters at ugly comments and disparaging comments.

On the leisure side, we have managed to camp at different places including one weekend at a set of caves not far from Warburton, which were just amazing. There were water holes in the caves and so the animal life visiting was dramatic, especially the birds. The little finches sounded like helicopters as they hovered down about a metre or two from holes in the roof of the cave, down a tunnel and then deeper into the caves floor. By sitting in the cavern of the cave, they could not see you and so came in and drank happily. Also saw a falcon of some sort come in and swoop above the caves’ holes and get finches for dinner which was not so nice to see. The caves are settled into the side of quite a high breakaway and so the views were amazing especially at sunset. The inside of the caves are dramatically covered and as good as we’ve seen anywhere, except maybe Nauru.

Paul is adding birds to his app database every weekend almost. The chiming wedgebills are wonderful. We heard and saw them first at the Desert Park at Alice Springs a few years ago on a tourist weekend off, and were amazed at their loud clear melodic chiming. We have seen and heard them quite a lot this and last trip to NG Lands. There are some chiming as I write this. Just beautiful. They have 2 chimes and we have a constant background of both today. There are also several other more low-pitched coos and chimes and tweets. Just amazing. Saw some beautiful kingfishes and rainbow honey eaters this morning as well as flocks of budgies.  The truck is like a giant bird hide. Looking out from inside is terrific, as all the birds come right in and often fossick around in our campfire ash and look for seeds etc from our tyres, so we get to see much more than we would sitting outside. Paul is having a lovely time.

Last weekend, we camped at some rockholes just outside Warakurna amongst the trees and did tons of wildflower photography. Each region has different combinations of wildflowers and so every camp had led us to new species to see. They are fading now and many are unfortunately for us humans, becoming prickles. Just cleaned the floor mats of prickles for the last hour. As October hits, it is starting to get hot with a 36 degree day yesterday. A breeze today is making things nicer but it is hot in the sun. Might have to change to cooler sheets this week. I am getting too hot at night, and managed to get a nasty dose of prickly heat, so I need to keep cooler. Your body seems to change as you older, and not for the better. Never had anything like this before. We have plenty antibiotics for it, so its all okay.

We are on the way to Kiwirrkurra for a week. It is the most remote community in Austalia by all the measures of remoteness - 850k west of Alice Springs which makes quite a ride for us, cause we have to drive 700ish k into Alice first to head north west to go to Kiwirrkurra.  Will be interesting. Got a keys/lock issue which we are now authorized to solve with a grinder and new sets of locks. Like the folks there, so hopefully our leads for people who want to be apart of the local NG Media team will pay off and we can do some serious mentoring/training to get them involved in the work. We can only visit Kiwirrkurra once this trip, so it is an all or nothing visit.


16 September: Couple weeks in

Couple of weeks in and things are slowing to a routine. I guess because we have been here before and seen all the places where we are working, it seems like a slow news time. We did puncture a tyre going into Jameson last week which caused a bit of a hiccup. We had to try and repair the tyre which was not a successful activity, so Mark our boss, took our tyre with him to Alice Springs on one of his trips. We ended up buying two new tyres and Mark brought them back with him. So now we have a spare at Wingellina and one with us. You’d hope a brand new truck with brand new tyres would last more than 2 weeks without mishap. 

Anyway we got to go to the Irrunytju Music festival which was an experience. The music was good and lots of local bands and the odd local argument over who was going to play next. Great talent out here amongst the local desert bands.

Had a good cookup on the weekends – baking cakes, roasts and doing big pots of stuff for midweek dinners. Been able to get good supplies so far, though meat is a tad more expensive this time – steaks at $50 a Kg – as are many other cuts of beef or lamb. Have not bought any – so living on what we brought in so far. Hope to do some more bakes this weekend, as we are off to the bush and will use the camp oven.

The wild flowers continue to be amazing and we have had quite a few photographic stops. Nice!  Driven to a couple of communitues this week - checked out the waterholes and also talked to wild camels. On the road everywhere. Else its all uneventful on the home front.

The work stuff has spits and spurts. We had to wait about in Wingellina, so we volunteered to do jobs for a few days when we could. We look like recruitment is a bigger (and harder) part of the job than mentoring, but we will see how we go. Had a couple of wins this week which should pay off in the next couple weeks. Lots of Sorry camps and too many young people saying goodbye to the world. It's a tough place out here for young people. Wish we could do more to help.

On another note, life in the truck is wonderful. It really is much easier to live in the new truck in every way. Fridge and freezer working well with food. Better than the Esky and freezer from the old beast. It’s warm – which is lovely cause its freezing down here. Like having somewhere comfortable to sit with the table. Better than laptops on your lap and eating outside in the cold. Having an indoor toilet is heaven. Small things but life is better and I can see us living almost full time in the truck. I need to take up more craft projects for down time to keep amused. Read three books already and listened to all my music favourites.  Not so much reporting this trip, so got lots more time to spare, especially while waiting for tyres etc

So we are off to the bush round here for the weekend. Walks, photos and cookups. Hope all is well at home.




1 Sept 2016 Leaving home

So we finally left home. This was not a simple task for many reasons including trying to register our new Suncamper in Queensland where standards differ to NSW where the truck originated.  It was hard to pack a new truck and make all the bits needed – covers for the seats made by Michelle and boxes for all the gear, made by Paul. Plus we had to learn how to do things in the new living spaces.

We also had a torrid 10 weeks at home where we had to say a sad goodbye to Michelle’s dad, Sel who passed away quickly and in peace. We did a beautiful service for him which was personal and inspiring (so say folks who talked to us about it). We also said goodbye to Aunty Dora the matriarch of the Lukritz family.  The bonus was we spent time together as a family including supporting the remaining siblings, Darryl and Auleen, plus keeping in touch with all the cousins. 

In between we worked the federal election, Michelle did the whole cycle from pre-poll to election day to counting;  Paul went to Townsville to visit the ever growing list of his grandchildren; and Michelle and Jeffery and Brooke stripped and painted a house. Just before we left, we had visitors galore and managed to somehow drop into Sydney, pick up the new truck, kit it out with new covers and shelves, pack it and do some work on it to get it ready to register. It was the busiest 10 weeks we have ever had and stress levels were ridiculously high.  No one we know is as busy as us. We actually stayed in the camper for 4 nights before leaving the driveway which amused many.

So we are heading off to Irrunytju - Wingellina to work for Ngaanyatjarra media’s digital mentors in a mentoring program for most of the rest of the year. It will be very exciting with considerable attention on helping folks become increasingly independent of us and interdependent on each other.  It will be fun and rewarding, though difficult and challenging.  More on that later.

We bought a new Suncamper from Suncamper Motorhomes in Sydney. Michelle saw the design at the Caravan and Camping Show three years ago when Josh was sick and after trips away, designing all the modifications and waiting for the new model Hilux, it is finally a part of our lives.  It is similar to the old one, in that it is a camper on the back of a Hilux 4WD base, but it is very different. It has a cut through from the cab to the back but we have space, glorious living space and storage and a shower and toilet and an inside kitchen.  This is a disadvantage in some ways, cause cooking outside and living outside is great but in the freezing cold of NSW as we drove south and then west, it was heaven to be warm and dry. We love being able to get up in the morning for a cup of tea without having to shiver. It is very comfortable and I have already fallen in love with the new way of camping. 

Hopefully weekends will still have us cooking outside and being outdoor campers, but while working and travelling, it has been great. Having multiple water systems is good. We have good drinking water and creek water tanks, so to preserve our good water. We can also keep grey water separately and dispose of it sensibly. It’s all good. The 12 volt and 240 volt power systems work a treat and the battery -solar -generator systems work well too. It’s a complex beast really. We have had to label all the switches.

It is a 4WD and already been tested. We took a long shortcut, across from the Stuart Highway to Pitjantjatjara, and just about rattled ourselves to bits on the worst corrugates, had it in 4WD and lowered tyre pressure and went slow -  but everything seemed to stay put. There is one rattle I can’t find yet in my packing. Generally the new truck seems to go well, though it may have higher fuel consumption than the old one. The six forward gears are a nuisance really, but with the weight, we use the first five mainly, Nimmo will be pleased to know.  Reverse gear is a real pain to engage – hopefully we will get used to it. It is also worthy of note that it rained in the desert  as it always does for us, and we have thus  been avoiding mud and water, for a welcome change. Those who followed our boggings last trip will wish me well in keeping Paul out of the mud.

We have packed up as usual with food products we can’t get out in the bush, but we have gone a bit leaner than usual. Less toilet paper too. Knowing what is available in shops (most of time) meant we did not have to pack so much. I did not have time to make as much stuff to bring, so we have only 3 pots of dried herbs and one curry paste and one spaghetti sauce made.  We also had to pass a quarantine station which made it difficult to pack veges. Thus the drop in to Port Augusta for a last vege shop. We have a fridge and freezer in the new truck, no esky and I cant quite take the usual volume of veges. The cupboards for a pantry are smaller than the huge lockers of the old truck, so we need to learn “lean”. The freezer is bigger, without needing to make ice packs for the esky, so there are bonuses. I did forget to buy Dilma tea, and so will probably regret that one.



The trip to SA was uneventful thankfully. We free-camped all the way and always found relatively isolated spots off the highway. The GM Modified canola which has spread like a weed in western NSW is an issue. It’s devastating to see. We have wrecked the earth and continue to do so. The desert drives through indigenous land, however have been amazing. Spring in the desert is truly wonderful and there are wildflowers just carpeting the landscapes. It’s hard not to keep stopping and wandering through the native flower landscapes. Morning teas and lunch breaks have become photography expeditions.

So we arrived in Wingellina, dirty at last and settled into Mark’s front yard and working on various tasks to get ready for our first circuit of travel. There may be not much happening that is new this trip, and this blog may be a slim volume but we will keep it up to date when possible, with what ever happens.