Rajasthan

A long days driving ahead… as soon as we crossed the border into Rajasthan the landscape became dry and arid. Fields of bright yellow flowering grape seed created a beautiful contrast to the dusty earth. In the same stretch of road, we passed large cow skeletons pilled in the sand dunes, and groups of peacocks adding splashes of colour to the brown sands.

MANDAWA DSC_0051We couldn’t resist getting up early to watch the sunrise from the rooftop tower and were awoken around six by the Muslim chants that filled the air. The annual kite festival was well underway and we weren’t the only ones up at first light.DSC_0064DSC_0085DSC_0091DSC_0102

BIKANER

DSC_0118DSC_0121DSC_0123DSC_0137DSC_0178DSC_0181DSC_0198

 

JAISALMER

DSC_0212DSC_0219DSC_0222DSC_0230DSC_0245DSC_0249DSC_0267DSC_0277

THAR DESERT

DSC_0287DSC_0297DSC_0302DSC_0307DSC_0319DSC_0345DSC_0346At sunset, we joined the masses of tourists, guides, camels, and jeeps. A small boy approached us to ask our names and then sing them into a song with wooden clapping hand instruments. He was gorgeous, ten years old with an amazing voice and clear confidence. I didn’t have any money with me and was feeling tired of all the tipping. I did, however, have a little stash of gemstones that I brought from home in hope to set into silver and brass. His face lit up and after admiring an Australian smokey quartz he chose a natural Citrine. Very fitting as it’s properties attract abundance and joy – a lovely trade and a special moment.DSC_0352DSC_0365DSC_0376DSC_0381DSC_0391DSC_0392 Back at camp, a band played music traditional to the state of Rajasthan and a dancer interpreted, moving and swirling. With hands held out she danced around the half moon audience welcoming  us all to join. It was the purest rush of joy I have enjoyed in a long time, we went from freestyle dance to linked hand in hand around the fire. I danced opposite her, full of smiles and laughter. We split to mirror her, to partner, to conga, to continue to laugh and dance together. A great experience to enjoy fully present and sober. .. After feasting the most eager nine of the group including Annalise and I jumped on a huge pile of thick blankets loaded on the back of a camel carriage to venture back into the dunes for a night under the stars. We were led by an older man Braja and rode with a young German couple who quickly became friends. A high was shared by the five of us around the fire and we communicated slowly with the common English of the group. Random conversations turned into the drawing of Claudia the Ood (camel) who so strongly carried all of our weight into the dark night.DSC_0400DSC_0408DSC_0416DSC_0422

JODHPUR
DSC_0433

DSC_0436

DSC_0441

DSC_0444

DSC_0448

DSC_0455

DSC_0468 This morning our driver Jeevan told us that there are sixty-five gods in the Hindu religion, I asked if that was including the goddesses and he replied saying, ‘God it can be female, it can be male, no gender. We believe God lives in all of our hearts.’

You can feel that pure heart energy from a lot of the people in India. I think of God as presence and unconditional love. I see the presence in their eyes and feel the love in their hearts. I feel myself mirror it back to them, and together we share moments of bliss.

DSC_0469

UDAIPURDSC_0501DSC_0516DSC_0522DSC_0541DSC_0550

PUSHKARDSC_0577

A 40-minute walk in the dark and 400 steps later we were happily greeted at the temple by a friendly man selling masala chai and three gorgeous puppies. Dreamy… Sunrise in front of me over the mountain, cool wind, warm delicious chai in hand, doting on puppies… absolutely heavenly. Then the monkeys woke and arrived. A huge tribe, danced and fooled around, posing for me.DSC_0612DSC_0641DSC_0653DSC_0669DSC_0672

JAIPURDSC_0705DSC_0692DSC_0681DSC_0712DSC_0726IMG_1804IMG_1813IMG_1828IMG_1842DSC_0753DSC_0760DSC_0770

AGRADSC_0773Agra was great, after being dropped at yet another expensive restaurant by our driver and his driver friend we escaped like naughty teenagers and found somewhere reasonably priced for dosa and ice-cream.

The Taj Mahal is unbelievably beautiful. The symmetry, materials used, lines, carvings, and the story that accompanies the temple is awe-inspiring making it a thrill to visit and wander through.DSC_0781DSC_0808DSC_0812DSC_0841

DSC_0834DSC_0855DSC_0863IMG_1845

In the two weeks spent together, we covered a lot of ground, learning from Jeevan, each other, and strangers along the way. We didn’t originally plan to travel Rajasthan in such comfort and style but after the deal had been done all we could do was sit back and enjoy.

Welcome to India

After the smiling young man picked us out of the crowd at the airport, he transferred us to our hostel in New Delhi. Every vehicle in the park had scratches up and down the sides and we soon found out why. It was dark and surprisingly cold, we were tired from travelling for the last 22 hours, and amused by the lack of rules on the road. A mixture of fog and pollution dulled the clarity of the evening and honking horns sounded the space. The lines on the highway might as well not exist as there seems to be no such thing as merging traffic or space between cars here in Delhi, it’s just go go go, squeeze into any gap, then stop and repeat. Literally sandwiched between cars by the space of only centimetres, I chuckled to myself at the organised chaos, thinking how important a working horn and brakes are to these people. We got dropped out the front in the dark and quiet alley with groups of men loitering, hostel barely recognisable from the outside. After being bullied into tipping the driver extra money, we were relieved to enter the warm and welcoming Kaldeep friends hostel, where we were served delicious sweet chai.

Day two we woke to more sweet chai and Indian aloo bread which is similar to naan but filled with vegetables and served with spicy pickles and yoghurt. Before even leaving the hostel we met with a lovely Abdul to discuss our travel plans. As soon as I entered the room with maps on the counter and computer it took me back to a memory of being scammed in Bangkok, overpaying for a trek in the north of Thailand; they got me on my first day of travelling alone. Abdul, however, was very friendly and had a lot of great advice: after trying to book trains south to Agra or Jaipur (which were all booked up for weeks at a time) we started discussing a trip by car. An hour later, with lots of indecisiveness on both our parts, bartering and negotiating we had booked and paid for a two-week trip through Rajasthan, the western desert state. Not knowing if we had overpaid, or made a silly mistake handing over the fluidity and freedom of travel on a whim, we were a little freaked out at how quickly it had all happened. Surrender and Trust were now the only option

Out the door and into a bustling market place, unrecognisable to the alleyway we had arrived in. The most incredibly unique leather bags and skirts hung in the doorway, opposite were stacks of fresh fruit and vegetables on hessian bags.. People were washing dishes and peeing all in the same eye-frame, while a man swept the layers of rubbish into a pile. It felt better realising that we had a tour of Dehli included in our trip, and the first stop was the temple celebrating the Hindi goddess Lakshmi who represents good fortune and abundance. We awed over squirrels and witnessed the people create amazing spaces and dedications with lights, fabrics and an abundance of fresh flowers. Kids gazed with big smiles.DSC_1034DSC_1040

Next up was the Indira Gandhi museum – what a fantastic part of history to hone in on and capture. She was an incredible woman, immensely loved by the people of India, with 15 years of presidency. Her election seemed to be a statement of the 50’s. Making peace with India’s neighbour of Pakistan, extending friendship and support to many other countries including Africa, Japan and Brazil, and fighting against nuclear weaponry were just a few snippets of greatness Indira brought to the world. It was interesting to see a remake of her home, and to read the story of how her life ended so tragically when she was assassinated. Incredible to learn that one of her sons was then appointed the presidency to continue her legend, until he too was killed by a terrorist attack.image

We were starting to crave our first proper Indian meal and asked our driver to find us somewhere cheap and local. A shop-front riddled with CocaCola signage and merchandise delivered us a fantastic meal, cheesy panner kofta in a sweet curry sauce, spicy vegetable madras with rice and garlic naan. The only part of the experience that wasn’t positively delicious was the distasteful advertising from Nestle. Signs all over every wall featured a coke bottle next to a curry thali plate and read, ‘The best part of the meal’. I was ashamed for the western culture… How dare this company even try to suggest that the sugary poison they bottle and sell as coke compares to the spice recipes and incredible cuisine of the Indian culture.

DSC_1057
Our final request of the tour was to visit the lotus temple of Bahai religion, which welcomes all religions to come together and celebrate the same essence of god that they all share; to unite as humanity in peace and love. The building was incredible and a huge multicultural crowd shuffled around on the cold concrete in their socks reading and learning about the history of the building and values of the Bahai. We were gathered into single lines to enter the amazing stone lotus flower in silence to meditate or pray for as long as felt right. I intuitively found the centre of the room, following the sacred geometry sun light in the roof, and sat directly beneath it. Legs crossed and eyes closed I found my breathe and watched the light pour down through my crown chakra at the top of my head and all through my body. I found peace of mind quickly and moved awareness into my heart space. Curiosity about the many others in the room arose and I wondered how they honoured the space in their own way.DSC_1059

After some chill time in our room, sweet chai called us downstairs where we picked up our itinerary and made some friends. Over a casual game of Go Fish, A Swedish guy informed us that the game originated from his country and that all this time we had the wrong rules. A few guys were hungry so we jumped at the opportunity to brave the market at night with them to fetch a local feed. We skipped the delux thali and enjoyed chai while they ate, saving our rupee and appetite for amazing samosas from a street vendor. It’s times like these that remind me of the joy of travelling – making friends easily, sharing meals and laughs, discussing different countries and comparing culture, only to hours later bid farewells and safe travels.

In the morning we ventured out into the bazaar to enjoy a local breakfast of Idli (soft warm rice patties served with sweet coconut yogurt and mild curry soup). It took over an hour to drive out of Delhi and we were slowed down by a truck that had lost its front wheel and ended up sideways. A big day of driving lay in store, going between dozing, and getting to know our driver, Jeevan.

image

Harvest Moon

dsc_0655
dsc_0642dsc_0656Two thousand kilometres and twenty-four hours of driving to transfer our lush life in Port Douglas out west for work in Narrabri. Arriving a few days before work began, exploring the area was a given. Sawn Rocks was the closest option and was an amazing sight to visit.dsc_0658dsc_0660dsc_0681

Saturday, Andy and I moved in on the best spot in the caravan park after it was vacated. As we began to set up we watched this storm morph into a cell, before we knew it we were seperated and running from one hundred and twenty-five kilometre winds. Andy moving Nessy into the open and me trying to keep my camera dry.dsc_0690dsc_0694dsc_0696dsc_0698dsc_0701

It felt like a miracle that no one in the park got hurt, and all the vehicles got out with only minor scratches. The power was out and the aftermath brought everyone together to make friends. A few put in for a carton of beer and we ventured into town to inspect the damage.

dsc_0706dsc_0719dsc_0723dsc_0726dsc_0727dsc_0734Work began and we settled into a routine. Next day off and we went to Mount Kaputar in hope to watch the super moon rise. Apparently on a clear day you can see ten percent of New South Wales from the top. It was as cloudy as miso soup, but still offering amazing walks and wildlife at one and a half thousand metres above sea level.dsc_0737dsc_0742dsc_0747dsc_0750dsc_0756dsc_0769dsc_0773dsc_0794dsc_0808dsc_0811Sky turns to fire behind a happy sunflower.

Golden fields of wheat and a rising moon.dsc_0843dsc_0859dsc_0894BUNKER BOREDOM
Heat of the day, start work at one,
All covered up, out in the sun.
Ventured west to Narrabri,
You ask yourself why?
For harvest is here,
At this time of year.
Its chickpea and wheat,
Saving money sounds neat.

Birds hang around,
And peck at the mound.
Pigeions, Gala, Kites and Magpie geese,
Stuff them selves full with this mighty feast.
Unloading these trailors,
Twenty tonne at a time.
Lined up for hours,
While we sit and we wait.
Finally arrive, “How are ya mate?”
Sweeping up husk
Avoiding the dust.
Watching the pile slowly grow,
Falling grain, a picture we all know.
Sun begins to fall,
As the work begins to stall.
Breeze blows away the heat of the day,
Cool of the night, here to stay.
Work site rumbles on,
Like its own consistant song…
img_1311Finally our first full weekend off in a month of slogging it out in the sun at the bunkers. As Friday evening brought a temperature drop to thirteen degrees, we enjoyed the chill of the night that had been missed of late. It helped us decide to explore Pilliga for a camp out and a hot bath. We took Nessy off road to see the salt cave and lookout over Pilliga State Forest. Then travelled along more dry, red clay and sand toward the sculptures in the scrub, narrowly missing an mu that bolted head down straight across the road. The bush walk through the gorge was beautiful, we saw an Echidna off the path and a hive of native bees. There were carvings in the rock from Aboriginal people, showing animal tracks and also areas where axe heads were sharpened. The sculptures themselves were fantastic, a great community project to showcase some incredible Indigenous art out in the scrub. I especially liked the father teaching his son about hunting; a figure made from steel, looking out over the valley. A magical moment caught in time.

dsc_0915dsc_0917-1dsc_0923dsc_0926

dsc_0947dsc_0936dsc_0940

dsc_0951 The bore bath was well deserved after a few hours bush walking getting grubby… I realized it was the first bath since hitting the road 8 months ago, a delightful thirty-seven degrees, and straight from the Earth. We met a man who was eager to chat, to tell us about all of his expensive earth moving equiptment, his double life on the farm in Pilliga and in the City. He was friendly enough, but as the conversation continued, he told us more and more about girls, and where to pick them up, dancing girls, model girls, which girls go to which bars, who he knows and what they own… You get the picture, I was bored..

Another woman arrived and after I couldn’t take it any longer I left Andy with old mate and swam over to her, she was a local Aboriginal woman. I told her about the lovely day we’d had exploring the area, and before long we were talking about the latest mining threat that has consumed their community for the last few years. I had heard about this back in Byron, as the issue was close to home for a lot of people. Drilling for coal seam gas was proved impossible for the prospecters in the Northern Rivers Region, with an amazing movement at Bently; a protesters camp set up for months. People dedicating their lives to protect the Water and the Earth. (I look forward to see the movie when it becomes more accessible, The Bently Effect). It was a huge breakthrough for the community to stand with such power that the miners had to look somewhere else.

Unfortunately that somewhere else included the Pilliga forest. Cheryl told me of her fears for the earth, for this clean artesian water that we bathed in, for all of the creeks and waterways that were threatened. I have seen footage of the dangers of this gas leaking into the water, not only does it become undrinkable and irritable to the skin, but also highly flammable… I laughed at the peculiar thought of the two elements, fire and water who seem like opposites merging into one.

We locked into conversation, both inspired by the possibility of change, to change away from materialism and greed into humble earth protectors. It was ironic, the two characters we bathed with that night, and I secretly hoped that old mate heard our concern, giving him something more deep to consider. We went on chatting, the last two in the water, and I left with both my heart and my hope full.

A reminder that these earth warriors are spread far and wide and will put their work, homes, family and friends aside to camp in the bush and protect water, our life-force.dsc_0953dsc_0963dsc_0988

WATER IS LIFE

One night at Saunders beach a big friendly smile popped into the back of the van while we were cooking mussel laksa. After a long chat, a connection was made. We were thrilled to find the same happy face at a free camp behind a pub near Ingham. Dinner was shared with Nils at our van camp, where we decided to venture to Wallaman falls together the next morning. The highest single drop waterfall in all of Australia, what a powerful place.

DCIM101MEDIAdsc_0459dsc_0496 ATHERTON TABLELANDSdsc_0139-1

dsc_0225dsc_0174The waterfall circuit is just divine, many rainforest walks were enjoyed, stopping to cool off in the fresh clear water.

dsc_0241Running low on funds,  it was time to find some work. With no luck  ringing around for farm work, we decided to head for Port Douglas and try our luck in hospitality.

Arrived at Deb’s place soon after making the decision, for sunset beers on the beach. An old friend of Andy’s and a new friend of mine.dsc_0259Mossman Gorge is one of the most impressive water ways I have ever visited.  It feeds the entire region with delicious drinking water and swimming all year round.

dsc_0314

dsc_0330dsc_0350dsc_0371Within the first week of living at Cooya beach we were blessed with not only finding jobs, but also with rain. Waking one day after constant downpour throughout the the early hours of the morning, I thought, to live somewhere with this much water falling from the sky offers a rich life.dsc_0381dsc_0373Discovering the Daintree; where the rainforest meets the sea.dsc_0385dsc_0390dsc_0406dsc_0403dsc_0411The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.                                                                            

                                                                    ~   Pamela Hansford Johnsondsc_0414

DCIM100MEDIA

Diving on the Great Barrier Reef was certainly a treat for us, especially after Magnetic. I was happily surprised at how much colour still remains in the beautiful underwater gardens. Swimming over some sections was heartbreaking and shocking, reminiscent of rubble after a bomb strike. I highly urge everyone to listen to the following interview and light the spark in conversation. Maybe this issue is not as simple as rising sea temperatures.

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

dsc_0424dsc_0427dsc_0477dsc_0481Life was full. Andy and I shared the van into Port to work cleaning hotels and waitressing, waiting for each other at the beach. Free hours were spent at home on the deck, reading, drinking tea and watching the sunbirds create a masterpiece on top of a hanging crystal.dsc_0523dsc_0564dsc_0601dsc_0606I settled into the Mossman community, enjoying life drawing and belle dancing classes, yoghurt soft serve from the health food shop and local swimming holes. I have a feeling I will live here again one day.

dsc_0607

dsc_0637

East Coast Sailing

After the festival had been packed up, we enjoyed relaxing in Yeppoon for a week while we waited the arrival of my nephew. Leaving on a high after meeting him; little Muralo, we were heading for Eungella. I savoured memories of a family trip there when I was about eight, I had brought along a doll of mine that was as big as me to squish in the back seat with my brothers. My only other memory is peering over the bridge to see Platypi.

First night back on the road and we stayed at sandy point, made a fire, cooked dinner, hid from the mozzies and were gifted a salmon in the morning.
dsc_0139It was early afternoon and we made a quick decision to detour into Finch Hatton Gorge for the evening. We found a bush camp (the most expensive one yet, mind you it was right next to the water) and went straight to the creek to explore the gorge. dsc_0148As we are both bush at heart, we ventured off the track at the first opportunity to enter the water, thinking we would walk up the creek instead of the path. It was beautiful to be back in the rainforest, with ferns and palms shading the cool fresh waterways. dsc_0163dsc_0169dsc_0187After a two-hour trot up stream we came to a beautiful waterfall, to the left was a steep flat face, the right was a maze of jaggered rock face that housed thick scrub. Not being able to go up the waterfall of ten metres itself, we chose right with a mantra of ‘don’t look down’. Coming out the other side with only a few scratches felt like a massive accomplishment, until we stumbled upon a fork in the stream. Light of the day was beginning to fade in the thick forest and not really having any idea of the destination itself, we accepted that we were lost and the only secure option to see us home by dark would be to turn around, so we did.

Back at camp, we shared our salmon fillets with our American neighbors, and enjoyed sleeping to the song of gushing water. In the morning we walked out to the creek and spotted Platypi on the distant bank, as if we wern’t already thrilled enough, walking back a lovely couple gifted us a few handfuls of fresh prawns. We were impressed to see the immediate effect of karma going full circle, and pleased to have the luxury of seafood in the rainforest.dsc_0201dsc_0220We climbed up the misty mountain in Nessy, had a poke around in the cool wet weather and then decided to drive out to Eungella dam to camp the night. It is an amazing little spot that’s secluded and spacious, with an amazing dam that wraps around the headland, stretching into the distance. There were boats and fishermen and plenty of firewood to keep us warm in the cool chill of the wind. Cooking dinner on the fire is always a treat, especially when it is chili tomato prawns.

We were up early to drive back to the river to spot some Platypi. It was raining so we sat in the comfort of bed, drinking coffee and getting cosy reading to each other. We ventured out to join other wildlife watchers, photographers and curious folk to huddle on the banks in silence. It wasn’t long before they were spotted, reminiscent to a beaver in some ways, swimming cheekily on their backs, and then diving deep like ducks. They were out and about, cruising through the water and back and forth between their burrows in the banks. Absolutely beautiful to watch, they have such a fresh and playful nature.
dsc_0226dsc_0249We sailed straight up the coastal highway, headed for Townsville. A few rainy overcast days on the road, sleeping at free camps along the way.dsc_0272The Townsville Cultural Festival was heaps of fun, as was catching up with Andy’s good mate and his family. We camped around the area for a good long week, finding beautiful free camps within 50km north of Townsville. Thanking WikiCamps app everyday for making it so easy. Free camping right on the beach, with black cockatoos feeding from the native almond, waking up to beach swims, yoga sessions and fishing (with no luck). Having the luxury of a cold fresh water shower and a toilet block made life simple and full. In and out of town to enjoy all that the festival had to offer, fabulous live music, art installations and an art maze, empowerment workshops, and a huge array of beautiful food. I was thrilled to sit down with some local aunties to some womens business, learning how to weave a little basket out of natural fibres.

The palmeterrian offered solace as a natural escape to soothe a wine induced hangover, and we agreed that botanical gardens should be at the top of the list when visiting cities.dsc_0278dsc_0333

MAGNETIC ISLAND

dsc_0344We were off to Magnetic Island next, took Nessy on the barge to travel the short 8km off the coast of Townsville. It was such a wonderful week, what amazing landscape this little island holds, volcanic granite boulders explode out of the earth and lie pilled all over the hills and bushland, meeting beautiful coast lines. There were heaps of fantastic bush walks to go on, and we met locals who advised us on the least suspicious places to park up and free camp for the night.dsc_0351

dsc_0356We bought a kg of bait and struggled to get rid of any of it, a part from a few little rock cods we didnt have any luck. I imagined that on this trip I would be offered the oppourtunity to catch and kill a fish to eat for the first time. As I do enjoy eating seafood and do believe you should be prepared to take the life to eat it, I was ready to face this idea first hand, and then decide whether or not to keep eating fish. Unfortunately it wasnt meant to be, and we began to understand why we hadnt had any bites when we did some diving. It was all a little sad really, two dives over two days, both at low tide under a measly 8m, very turbulent with low visibility under the water and a huge lack of anything interesting to look at (apart from the remains of a small ship wreck and a couple of coral trout). As fun as it was, it was also pretty dissapointing and after that we gave up on the fishing, realising that the eco system had a lot of regenerating to do. However, it was exciting to get back into all of the dive equiptment and experience breatheing under water again, I hadnt realised how much I had missed it.dsc_0377

dsc_0383

dsc_0389

dsc_0405We ended our island holiday with a beautiful day trip to a beach that we had to ourselves in horseshoe bay. We spent the day completely relaxed, and enjoyed watching a family of osprey above us, the mother or the father caught more fish in a few hours then we did in a few days, we watched it pull them apart and then regurgatate the fresh catch to their young. When night arrived, we made a little fire under the star filled sky and left a crock pot full of pumpkin, sweet potato, left over veg, coconut cream, herbs and spices on the coals. A local photographer arrived to capture the glowing milky way of a dark moon and showed us some of his impressive wildlife shots. Andy played the guitar and I pulled out the beautiful meal to find it had slowly dissolved into a chunky soup.dsc_0423

dsc_0425

dsc_0422

dsc_0434

dsc_0446dsc_0455Another relaxing day. We walked over the bushy headland for a swim at the nude beach and cracked a cider on the barge home(mainland), wondering where to pull up next…

Home Grounding

I’m sure many freshly graduated young adults can also relate to the feeling of disinterest towards the town that they’ve just been through the ordeal of high-school in. I certainly did, after hanging around for a few years, not ready for uni, I got bored and was eager to see more of the country… and the world. I held this resentment against Yeppoon for a little while, now as I return home I am so grateful for this beautiful town.

dsc_0286dsc_0287dsc_0305

These days as my entertainment and enjoyment come directly from nature, I relish in the excitement of exploring this amazing place. Most of our days were spent out in Byfield, soaking up the clean air, fresh water and bird song, with no phone reception, spending quality time with loved ones… bliss!

The stars had aligned for this next adventure to happen, a voyage out to sea with some beautiful friends to visit Great Keppel Island.

dsc_0145

The Island holds many memories in my heart; scones and jam with the whole family at the shell house, holidays in old wooden A-frames and toe biting possums at the haven. Family trips for weeks at a time, bringing friends to join the fun; kayaking on sunset, big walks to snorkel on shallow reefs, claiming independence as a teenager while exploring the island, vodka cruisers and tube rides, pool hopping, and shopping. Sunday afternoon and the live music created a perfect atmosphere for the pub goers, sun-kissed and salty. Kids with ice creams and frisbees, and the chillers listening from the grass. It was the perfect relaxed bustle you could imagine of the island life.

These days it holds a different vibration. The resort sold more than 5 years ago, with huge plans to create a 250 birth marina, massive golf course, commercial airstrip and 1000+ holiday rental options. Surprise surprise nothing has happened and now walking past the resort end of the island, all you can see is an overgrown mess. All fenced off and abandoned, feeling somewhat of a ghost village. My beliefs are that a well designed, eco-friendly development that complements the natural charm of the island would be much more suited than an upmarket tourist trap that has the potential to damage the ecosystem. This sizeable greed has the ability to quickly change a quaint little place forever.

Enough of the rant, and back to the magic. Wow! We anchored to watch the sun setting while we gorged on cheese and wine, jumped off into the refreshing turquoise water, and took the tender to shore to explore.

dsc_0148

dsc_0161-1

Light faded, welcoming the night sky filled with stars. A very relaxed evening, excitement arrived when Andy caught a squid, and when beautiful luna showed up to grace us for the second half of the night. The sky and breeze were both so enjoyable that we dragged all the bedding to the roof of the boat to sleep under the stars, and woke by the heat of the sun.

dsc_0171dsc_0181dsc_0182The following day we were blessed with the presence of mumma and baby humpback whales, turtles and dolphins riding the bow wave of the boat. Andy and I ventured up the dunes on a bush walk at butterfly bay, catching stunning views of the coastline. We realised that the trip fell on the same day as the anniversary of three years together, and were filled with gratitude for such a pleasurable and unexpected celebration.

dsc_0229dsc_0224dsc_0211dsc_0254dsc_0247dsc_0243

We steamed home towards the evanescent light, beers in hand with pink faces that held huge smiles.
dsc_0279

dsc_0273

Look forward to seeing you again soon, Yeppoon!

Tropical Blooms

Van packed and we were ready to go, driving only a few hours in the first day, stopping for a night of camping out bush with new friends we had to leave behind. A celebration of life in Darwin, and legends who sent us off on new adventures .The mission was to arrive on site as soon as possible, and after the massive extended five day drive from Darwin we got into Hedlow creek in the dark a week before the festival. dsc_0311We woke up to an orchestra of bird life occupying the neighbouring wetlands, and it was all go from there. dsc_0323-1dsc_0327What an amazing group of volunteers! Far out it was unreal to watch the progress each day with many hands hard at work. Excitement grew, as did the crew.dsc_0017dsc_0046

dsc_0054
Practise for the weekend workshop, getting the hoop-making process down.

dsc_0268dsc_0273The picturesque setting was dreamlike, what a place to camp up for a week. I had a great time exploring, eager to capture the magic of the site. I found myself  wandering at dusk and dawn, and creeping up on the gorgeous wildlife.dsc_0271dsc_0352

dsc_0365
Elegant black swans, magpie geese & egrets enjoyed the flooded wet lands, sharing with many other species.

dsc_0375dsc_0376dsc_0393

dsc_0390
Magnificent Mount Hedlow in the middle of the day.

In the last two days we bombarded the site with as much art and colourful décor as possible, and I finally found time to set up the local and indigenous art galleries. dsc_0065dsc_0064

dsc_0066
An installation that formed as an image through banter over dinner; I created it as a gentle reminder of the numbing power of the TV.

dsc_0279Two years ago this seed was sewn, sprouting a one-night party in an unexpected heat wave. This year the festival blossomed into a jam-packed weekend of music, art, culture, education and healing. Attracting open minded and fun loving souls, families, friends, new and old, locals and travellers; artists of all kinds. dsc_0063dsc_0071dsc_0132dsc_0088dsc_0103fotorcreatedndsc_0100The highlights are endless, from wicked dance-floor sessions to hangover curing yoga, taro readings, bush poetry accompanied by chai and cake, sunset missions and workshops. ‘Create a healing routine’ delivered by Echo inspired myself, and many others to sync our daily rhythm to the cycles of nature. Wade’s dreamtime stories gave wisdom and insight, and the opening ceremony displayed amazing Aboriginal art, dance and didgeridoo. The kids ran in tribes and were guided in making many beautiful creations over the weekend; wands, wings, gardens, hula-hoops and poi… just to mention a few.

dsc_0113dsc_0127dsc_0122dsc_0129Relaxed Sunday afternoon vibes as everything begins to wind down.dsc_0067Over the weekend, I was soaking up all that was on offer, leaving the collection of pictures on my camera limited.dsc_0141fotorcreatedI felt like we owed it to the sun, and the earth to climb Hedlow this time, to witness the light drop below the horizon, saying a final goodnight to Tropical Bloom for the year.

dsc_0191
Lake Mary winds through the field, as a giant snake would slither, bringing water and life.

dsc_0198dsc_0212dsc_0255dsc_0221dsc_0202The land here speaks for itself. It holds a unique energy, that is refreshing to the soul. Open paddock views that stretch in all directions, spotted with lone hills and mountain ranges. A magnet to wildlife, and as we have discovered, people too. This event will continue to grow and expand, bringing light and curiosity to the small beach town of Yeppoon. I am so proud of my brother Leo, and the entire family for such a mighty effort every year to make this event a reality.dsc_0203

Warm Winter in Darwin

dsc_0098We treated ourselves to a caravan park after the long days of walking and driving, and enjoyed the simple luxury of washing our hair under a hot shower. It rained all night and the following day, we were cosy under a tree with the awning up, allowing us to chill outside. Taking advantage of the phone reception we spent the day on the net applying for work in Darwin.

Back on the road, heading north, straight up the middle of the country, we stopped in at a few awesome spots. Rainbow valley was great, a giant rock sculptured by Mother Nature, with a fabulous array of colours. After 40km of heavily corrugated road we were extremely happy to go exploring before putting Nessy and ourselves through the ordeal again. We also stopped at the Henbury Meteor Craters; twelve impressive craters that were formed 4,000 years ago, when a meteorite travelling 40,000km per hour broke into pieces and hit the earth.dsc_0097dsc_0092

dsc_0096
This crater collects the flood waters and has evolved into a lush micro climate.

On the way up, on the local radio we heard a call out to join a global movement and learn a simple dance, being taught by Tracks Dance Company in Darwin. It was to be performed as a group of two hundred dressed in white at sunset on Territory day. An offer too good to miss out on I thought as I pencilled rehearsal dates in my mind.dsc_0089A few hours later on the highway, headed for the hot springs at Mataranka, we heard some very unhappy popping sounds coming from the engine. Luckily we were close and pulled into the nearest mechanic. We sat for a few hours waiting for our baby to get checked out and got miserable news; they diagnosed a cracked head gasket (which we had already dealt with and fixed a few months earlier). We were quoted a ridiculous $1600 for a 400km tow to Darwin, and blew off their help after getting the okay to drive down the road to sleep in our home.dsc_0248Landing at the Territory Manor lifted our spirits, a beautiful caravan park with some lovely young travellers running the show. After a call of despair to Andy’s rents, a plan was devised for them to come and save us the following day, with a trailer for Nessy. What grand news it was, as I was mentally preparing for the trip to be cut short before it had really even begun. Feeling a lot more relaxed we blended into our surroundings and settled into home for a few days. We enjoyed the beautiful cool gardens and watched the Brolgas dance under the shady trees. I wandered around picking up peacock feathers, and we generally slowed right down. We walked down to Bitter Springs the following day and enjoyed the beautiful luke warm and crystal clear sulphur water. I couldn’t quite relax into the flow of the mild current, as I had been informed that a croc had been pulled out a few weeks prior.dsc_0125dsc_0123dsc_0129Man how good it was to finally arrive in Darwin, welcomed by Averill and Peter to relax into their home and begin our new life there. It was a real treat to be there spending quality time together, and the cherry on top were the loads of washing, a bed as comfy as a cloud, and the luxury of aircon and pool.

It was great fun settling into this new and very humid world, I was lucky enough to walk into a housekeeping job at a hotel just around the corner. A seven-minute bike ride to work (with a very rewarding down hill breeze on my way home), I had many shifts and the opportunity presented to get to know a dear new friend. I began reading Shantaram (by Gregory David) and became quickly hooked into the adventurous story that transports you straight to the streets of Bombay. I spent my afternoons lounging by the pool reading. The heat reminded me of being in Thailand, and I felt like I was on an extended holiday. The Parap markets are fabulous and every Saturday I would leave work with just enough time to get a spicy Som Tam (Papaya salad) and a few spring rolls. Andy soon got a job as a kitchen hand at a busy little café in the city, and also began making friends with the work crew. We were lucky to both land in jobs that gave us instant and great new friends.

We settled into Darwin very quickly, and I loved all of it: Darts and beers, cooking and feasting, dinners and friends, sunsets over the ocean, bike riding adventures, and stacks of other fun things to keep us all busy.

I was so impressed by the free events on offer, found via ‘Off The Leash’ magazine. A highlight was a free show in the botanical gardens: Darwin Symphony Orchestra play with a tribute band Eclipse; A night of Pink Floyd. It was FABULOUS! We had a picnic of delicious Indian food, fresh from the sunset markets across the road, and enjoyed front row seats on our blanket under the stars. After a few beers there, we headed into the city to catch up with mates and head to our favourite little bar to dance away into the morning. Attique, (otherwise known as Bar 3) discovered when we first arrived in Darwin, as we op shopped through the city we saw a poster for techno and house Saturday nights and checked it out right away. It is a very cool little bar with cheap drinks, attracting open and friendly crew and playing some sweet tunes to boogie.dsc_0183Peter took us out on the boat a few times, its always such a treat experiencing the world from the waterways. First time we got lucky with 7 mud crabs and were able to give a few away and still feast on them for days. Its pretty crazy seeing crocs off the side of the boat that’s for sure, and the bird life we saw at the Billabong was just amazing. Andy and his pa worked hard on our nest and brought her back to life, running smoother then she ever was… Solar panel connected, inverter built in, rust fixed up and generally some tender love and care. Endless Gratitude.dsc_0152dsc_0163dsc_0165dsc_0214dsc_0211dsc_0206dsc_0242dsc_0239dsc_0234dsc_0243dsc_0246We began rehearsing with the dance crew on Monday evenings. Beautiful choreography (by Akram Khan) of simple contemporary moves, telling a story of the journey through life. Territory day is the first of July and I was stoked that we were there for it. A massive event every year that builds hype around the fact that fireworks are on sale and it becomes legal for the day for anyone and everyone to let them off. As well as big beach front markets and a huge stage on the sand with free bands all evening. We performed the dance at sunset; gosh it was fun to be part of the group in this live art event. After we celebrated with beer, friends, fireworks on the golf course, followed by a bloody good dance to The Cat Empire. The end of the evening got wild, the explosive sounds from all over the city were reminiscent of a war zone, fire trucks were on the constant move, dogs barking and people howling. As ridiculous as it all was, I must admit it was a rush holding a firework into the sky and feeling it explode from the end of my hand. A new experience that’s for sure.big-dancevdsc_0145-2dsc_0142-2big-dance-darwin-heading-off-to-our-stage-photo-courtesy-of-brynbig-dancebddsc_0173-1In the last week of being there we had the pleasure of welcoming mum into our adventure as she visited NT for the first time. We had a lush time of catch-ups and enjoyed markets, food and drinking, deck chair cinema and ice creams, chill times and a fantastic live gig- Cash Savage. Andy and I took her out to Litchfield National Park for a night of camping, which was a first for all of us. It was beautiful exploring the creek at many stops, visiting waterholes and waterfalls, swimming in water as soft as silk.1fotorcreateddsc_0176dsc_0180dsc_0206dsc_0192dsc_01883fotorcreateddsc_0213dsc_0225dsc_02322fotorcreated

dsc_0194
Kapok Tree – Native Australian bush tucker, these flowers are edible and apparently high in vitamin C!

 

It was a breeze living with Andy’s folks and a treat to have an insight into their lives up in the tropics. Six weeks we spent in the big city, and it reminded us how little time it takes to create a new life somewhere. As hard as it was leaving work, and people we love, it was time to get on the road, heading straight for Headlow creek, Queensland.

The Red Centre

WATARRAKA NATIONAL PARK -KINGS CANYON

We finally got to Alice Springs, only to find out that our destination was still about five or six hours driving away. After chilling in the library, applying for jobs in Darwin and generally getting organised, we stocked up food and hit the road again in the cool of the afternoon. We camped in a rest stop an hour from Kings Canyon, that turned out to be riddled with ants and flies. Excitement filled the air, as we joined many other travellers in anticipation of what was to come. And the next day, the walking began…DSC_0712DSC_0714treeDSC_0729DSC_0730DSC_0731lizardDSC_0745DSC_0748DSC_0749DSC_0753DSC_0759FotorCreatedplantDSC_0762DSC_0763DSC_0817I admired all of the native flora and fauna in utter amazement as we explored the canyon’s incredible rock plateau. Forests of palm trees, ferns, acacia, paperbark, stunning flowers and 400 year old cycads, all scattered throughout the landscape. As if it couldn’t get any better…We spotted water, and hiked down off the path to find a shady tree to enjoy our picnic lunch. The wind was cool in the valley, and we took advantage of the crisp, cold water for a beautiful swim. It was only after we were back on the path that we realised a permanent water hole lies at the base of the canyon, called ‘The garden of Eden’.DSC_0818DSC_0819DSC_0831The sandstone formations that make up Kings Canyon are 44o million years old, this pattern in the rocks below is fossilised from when water covered the entire surface of this 300m high range. It’s insanely cool to imagine the Aboriginal people living alongside this wild land, and dreamlike to envision dinosaurs feeding from the rich abundance.FotorCreatedKings Canyon’s greatness was totally unexpected. The landscape of varying rock worlds, the breeze as cool and strong as the sea’s own, and the adventure of the walk was awe inspiring. It filled my body with excitement, I felt totally high.DSC_0832

KATA TJUTA – THE OLGAS

Uluru lies in Kata Tjuta National Park, neighbouring the Olgas, another 3 hours down the road from Wattarraka. 100 km out we landed in heaven – Curtin Springs is a free campground with hot showers, beer for sale, and nomads eager to share travel stories and advice. DSC_0866DSC_0860Mt Conner in the distance is an illusion of Uluru, and we were tricked until the morning, when an old traveller told us of this common misconception.DSC_0879DSC_0880Day two of walking and we were looking at another 10km, it was without question to take the longest tracks on offer, to extend the experience and gain a fuller understanding of the land. What another pleasant surprise! Kata Tjuta (meaning many heads to the local Aboriginals) is epic to explore. The geology is just out of this world, while still being in our backyard. I enjoyed taking photographs and creating natural art, while Andy recorded bird songs and whispers from the wind.DSC_0899olgDSC_0923DSC_0925DSC_0932artyDSC_0942DSC_0946DSC_0960DSC_0951DSC_0973

ULURU

Feeling very accomplished with our day, we relaxed in the back of the van allowing creativity to expand and fill the space around us. About 30minutes away from the park we located a rest stop with space behind the sandy orange dunes, and away from the road. An early night for an early start, we fell asleep to the sound of the dingo’s howl.DSC_1017DSC_1046DSC_1025DSC_1056DSC_1035DSC_1041DSC_0062fanDSC_0054rockDSC_0065DSC_0073DSC_0075watt;e

After what turned out to be a 18km walk around the base of Uluru, we couldn’t resist checking out the Camel racing that takes place in Yulara every Saturday. What a strange addition to the small community out there-high heeled shoes and fascinators, egg and spoon races, and some very unimpressed camels being nudged into competition. We retreated without even buying a beer, and heading back to heaven for a hot shower. The Red Centre is magic, and there is so much to explore. What a powerful heart this country holds.

En Route to Uluru

DSC_0199roadAfter leaving an amazing time spent with family in Byfield, it has been a looong journey towards the red centre. You will never know the extent of the hike until you are on the road experiencing it for yourself… Many free camps along the way have blessed us with ease and gratitude, our sole expenses being food and fuel-believe me, the tanks are chewed faster then the landscape changes. Life on the road is great. This is what it is all about for me. Living simply in nature.DSC_0451DSC_0455DSC_0214Travels in New Zealand a few years ago led us into the back of a station wagon with a gas cooker, cruising along at our own speed. It didn’t take us long to realise car hire was cheaper than dorm rooms and came with the bonus of FREEDOM! It was here that we got a taste for life on the road, cruising along, lapping up the beautiful scenery, saving money for all-important adventures, making coffee, tea and food along the way.

This is very reminiscent of those times, yet somehow more familiar. No planes were boarded, just many hours of driving. Audio books have saved us from getting sick of the eclectic collection of music we have gathered. We begun with Russel Brand’s ‘Revolution’, a fantastic book based on his view of the reality we face in today’s world, as well as simple steps to continue our own evolution towards personal power and freedom. Naturally we were listening intently, he is an intellect with a passion to change the world – it quickly rubs off on you. Download it here : https://thepiratebay.org/search/russell%20brand/0/99/0

DSC_0466DSC_0462 - Version 3Later as we pulled up for the night at a rest stop just North of Winton. I thought of the notion that Russel kept returning to earlier- that we are all one as the human race – atoms in space. The road was wet from afternoon rain when our neighbour arrived; he was driving a road train that was fifty-three metres long. I was astounded and amused as I counted the five, ten metre long carriages and the total of forty-four wheels. It was a HUGE machine that felt so imposing (usually I would be squirming as we overtake these monsters along the straights). Then I became curious and impressed, wondering about the character at the wheel of this beast… and feeling completely connected, at one with each other as we ate dinner side by side in our temporary homes. Appreciation for the little things, this night that brought me closer to the unknown.DSC_0482Long days stretched on as we moved towards the middle of this enormous country. A stop over in Mount Isa proved delightful, and after utilising the facilities of a city-like town and renewing our rego, we found an oasis in nature. A camp for the night! Moondarra Lake felt heaven-sent in the dry desert outback of Western Queensland. We were lone campers and had the time and space to graciously soak up the surroundings. The wetlands stretched far and wide, bursting with bird life and (supposedly) barramundi. You could feel the significance of the place to the custodians of this land; it was easy to imagine Aboriginal people living from the abundance of this little oasis. The pure, fresh water and greenery contrasting starkly with the hot arid lands that stretched for kilometres in every direction.DSC_0509DSC_0496DSC_0506DSC_0500DSC_0517DSC_0491We crossed the border into the Northern Territory and then drove for about 3 hours with a very flat landscape either side of the road, and a mirage at the end of the bitumen. Stopping for a coffee, salad wrap and amazing sunset, we continued on towards Three Ways and Tennant Creek as we headed for Alice. DSC_0548DSC_0679DSC_0564DSC_0601DSC_0589DSC_0595DSC_0599DSC_0602DSC_0615Just outside Tennant Creek, we stopped over night at The Pebbles and re wrote our version of ‘The Dock Of The Bay’ as we sung and played guitar to the moon. After the Devil’s Marbles, I began to understand the sheer number of wonderful rock formations in Australia. The sand was beginning to warm in colour, yet the shrubbery remained thick and healthy. Luckily we had overcast days for this massive mission, which kept ourselves and Nessy Bell cool and happy with the long stints of driving.DSC_0632DSC_0638DSC_0639DSC_0649FotorCreatedDSC_0647DSC_0673 It took us a total of six days to get to Alice, and we were high-tailing it most of the way. Well worth it though, I must say! I am so grateful to live in this country, and to be enjoying more of its magnificent wide brown land. It is incredibly humbling to know the indigenous people lived so closely with the land, from the time before time began.DSC_0708