Thursday, July 01, 2010
FOR ACCOMPANYING PHOTOS SEE:
"RETURN TO AUSTRALIA: BACK 'ON TOP'"
JEFF PHILLIPS & LIESBET VERSTRAETEN
[7 of 10 parts]
THE RAINBOW SERPENT CIRCUIT
FROM WOLLUMBIN TO TIBROGARGEN
ACROSS THE ‘
WASTELAND’: AN UNCHARTED EXPANSE
AN UNEXPECTED OASIS OF COOLNESS
‘TRUCKIES’ TO THE RESCUE
‘ADVENTURE BEFORE DEMENTIA’
‘DARWIN DAZE ARE HERE AGAIN..!’
‘ON THE ROAD TO KAKADU’: ‘MOZZIES’, URANIUM & ANCESTORS
THE RAINBOW SERPENT REVISITED: A HOPI WARNING
Greetings from Batchelor, NT, on the edge of beautiful Litchfield National Park. Since my last report from Byron Bay a few weeks ago, we’ve travelled up into Queensland and made it from Brisbane all the way to Darwin, almost all of it by hitch-hiking. This stretch was the only major route in Australia that we’d yet to hitch; now that we’ve done it, it’s as if we’ve completed a huge continental “telluric energy circuit” which many believe IS the fabled “Rainbow Serpent” of aboriginal mythology. We’ve experienced the desolation of Roma, the quaintness of Charleville, the loudness of Longreach, the “heavy metal vibe” of Mt. Isa, the ‘brotherhood of the road’, the beauty of Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge), the magic of being back up north, and an expanding awareness of the social, ecological and spiritual contradictions that make Australia simultaneously complex, horrific, and wonderful.
THE RAINBOW SERPENT CIRCUIT
I’m reminded of research done by Francois Chamalaun, former geophysicist at Flinders University in Adelaide, concerning currents of energy flowing through the ground around Australia. He had noted the existence of a region near the ‘top end’ where the magnetic field of the Earth seemed to be distorted; he called it the “Carpintaria Electrical Conductance Anomaly.” I contacted him a few years ago to get more information, but for some reason he was completely uninterested in talking about his past work.
It’s interesting, however, especially in light of the existence of vortices [the term vortex was first used by metaphysical researcher Page Bryant in relation to the energies of specific landscape formations in Sedona, Arizona], or power spots in various places on the Earth, or regions like the “Bermuda Triangle” or the South Atlantic anomaly. Noticeable geological formations are often associated with these areas, for example, in Australia, Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in the central desert or Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges; the Pilbarra, in western Australia, sits atop the world’s largest deposit of iron ore. Wollumbin (Mt. Warning) in southern Queensland is an extinct ancient volcano with a caldera approximately 100 kms in diameter; Byron Bay is on the south-eastern extremity of the lava flow.
Volcanos are the most powerful places on Earth, not only because of the thermal energy they release, but also because they are upwellings of molten rock and metallic elements which are immensely powerful conductors of electromagnetic energy. Volcanic soils are the youngest and most fertile that exist. Ley-lines around the world are known to follow lava flows; and the richest deposits of “precious” metals are found therein.
Many indigenous people and scientists are aware of the extreme importance of “telluric” currents flowing through the Earth’s crust. These currents or patterns of energy flow tend to follow deposits and veins of highly conductive metallic elements, which are coincidentally the ones that mining companies most greatly covet, for example, copper, silver, gold and platinum. These currents are somewhat analogous to the energy flows in the human nervous system; the telluric electromagnetic network may in fact BE the “nervous system” of the lithosphere. Minds possessing shamanic attunement abilities may be able to sense or feel the presence of these currents, and to understand what they do or mean; but mainstream science is only beginning to realize the inter-connectedness of all terrestrial systems, whether they are biological, ecological, geological, oceanic, or atmospheric; a few daring researchers speculate on the connections between metallic elements in the Earth’s crust, telluric currents, and the Earth’s magnetic field and how it modulates energy from the Sun, but no one claims to understand the living dynamics of the heliocosm, the local universe of our star and its planets/moons. One scientist whose work seems to encompass a lot of this is the Russian geology professor Alexey N. Dmitriev. Check this out:
“There already are technogeneous effects upon the functional state of Earth's electromagnetic skeleton being registered and recorded. A seven-day technogeneous cycle for geomagnetic field dynamic parameter variations was revealed in 1985. This cycle has affected many of the short cycles in Solar-terrestrial relationships. More than 30% of middle magnetosphere disturbances are caused by power production, transmission, and consumption. The Van Allen radiation belt has abruptly lowered above the East Coast of the US from 300 km to 10 km. This process is associated with electricity transmission from the Great Lakes to the South along a magnetic meridian, and usage of the ionosphere-resonance frequency (60Hz) of energy consumption. There is also a registered coherence between the gutter qualities of the Brazilian magnetic anomaly, and the ‘Hydro-Quebec’ power production system. Combined techno-natural electromagnetic processes in megalopolises are very complex and as yet unstudied. A 1996 study of mortality from cardiovascular diseases in St. Petersburg, Russia uncovered a direct connection between the city's power consumption and mortality…The sharp rise of our technogeneous system's destructive force on a planetary as well as a cosmic scale, has now placed the future survival of our technocratic civilization in question. Additionally, the principle of Natures supremacy over that of humanity’s current integral technogeneous and psychogenic activities and results, becomes more, and more, apparent.”
Of one thing we can be sure, however: industrial “resource” extraction processes like mining and petroleum drilling can only disrupt the natural energy flows in the Earth. And the negative implications of what is going on may far exceed our current knowledge; not only are we “draining the Earth’s blood” and “surgically removing her flesh” but we are destroying her intricate network of “sensation and perception”, the “song-lines” of vital life-force covering her surface, the sacred paths navigated on land by aborigines and in the sea by whales, regions where the “pulse” of the planet may be directly sensed.
The Hopi prophecy tells us that “If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.” I’ve provided introductory information above on the mechanism of how this may take place; add in biospheric poisoning from the chemical industry, almost entirely derived from petroleum/hydrocarbon extraction, and radiological poisoning, from the nuclear industry, based on uranium mining, and you’ve got the back-bone of the damage being done to the health of the Earth…and ourselves…by human industrial civilization.
Australia is playing a leading role in the fulfilment of this prophecy, being by far the world’s largest exporter of coal (coal-fired power plants are by far the greatest source of atmospheric mercury), home of approximately 30% of known uranium deposits, and sitting on significant quantities of “precious” and strategically significant metals, in particular, gold, the “fever inducer.” In addition, off the Kimberley coast, in the Timor sea, lie vast petroleum and gas reserves which are only beginning to be exploited.
The Australian government’s attitude towards regulation of transnational extraction corporations is pretty much, “So, mates, what shade of red do you prefer in your carpet? We have some nice ochres here.” All I know is that the Rainbow Serpent is getting mighty cranky with all this.
FROM WOLLUMBIN TO TIBROGARGEN
On this visit to Australia Liesbet and I wanted to visit or touch bases with as many of the most powerful places here as we could, not only in honour of our third anniversary together in June, nor my tenth anniversary of travel in Aus in July, but mainly of our love for the beauty and power of this very special and ancient land and her indigenous people and life-forms.
The ancient volcano Wollumbin, which is a Bundjalung word meaning “cloud catcher”, is close to Byron Bay; Lefftenant Cook (he wasn’t captain yet when he first came down under!) named her Mt. Warning. So we set out for Nimbin, an interesting little town actually located within the caldera itself.
Many people in Australia or even internationally think of Nimbin as the place where all the hippies went, and where you can buy weed on the street. This is true to a certain extent; a lot of the true “hippies” are no longer resident in this dimension, having taken the “magical mystery tour” to eternity. But I’d say that Nimbin surely has more hippies than, for example, the Haight-Ashbury disctrict in San Francisco, where you’re more likely to see yuppies.
The street scene there is always happening. Most of the businesses on the main street have colourful psychedelic signs; and people who are obviously “dealers” can be seen darting to and fro, or lurking in the alleys. The vibe there is not dangerous by any means, although we would never camp in the caravan park in the centre of town. You can usually smell some weed being smoked as you walk down the street, which is cool, as the only reason marijuana became illegal to begin with was because the petrochemical and pharmaceutical companies wanted to replace all the uses of hemp (maybe the most diversely useful of any plant ever cultivated) with their toxic synthetic substances and materials.
I’m not sure if they still have it, but in Nimbin there used to be a guy who would ring a bell whenever they saw the town cop coming down the street, so that all the peddlers could temporarily “cloak” their wares!
We like Nimbin not so much for the street scene, but for the beautiful countryside where it’s located, a moist rain-forest with lots of mist; and for the progressive attitudes and excellent art we’ve encountered there. We fantasized about having our own place in the country near there for a few weeks or months, just to live and do art, music, film-making and feel the vibe of Wollumbin. Dream on…
We were leaving Nimbin to head to Brisbane, and just as we were waiting for the shuttle, we made a last-minute change of plan and decided to go to a caravan park close to the base of Wollumbin and camp out for another night, so that we could get closer to her. This was a good move, as we saw heaps of kookaburras there, and did a nice walk, not venturing very far up the volcano, but moving very, very slowly, at a “geological” pace, so as to really feel where we were (as opposed to the fast-paced tourists rushing to the top and back down, not really having seen or felt anything, but indeed having “done” it!). We sat on a big rock and just as Liesbet began to play some flute (a little wooden native American one she got in Christchurch) a gentle shower began to fall, and soon all the leaves were glistening and drops were falling through the leaves all around us…very magical.
We met two nice people in the parking lot, Robyn and Hubert, who gave us a ride to the caravan park; Robyn was especially cool, a “metaphysical” person like ourselves, and put us onto her friend Kathryn in Alice Springs, who has just bought a motel there. Robyn thought that Kathryn would like us, and vice versa; and just a few days ago, we got in touch with Kathryn, and she invited us to come and stay with them in Alice Springs…a wonderful, welcome and potentially very interesting adventure! Thanks for that, Robyn!!! The central desert has been calling us ever since we got back into Australia, and Uluru is the “mother” of all the power spots of Aus.
The next day we made it to Brisbane, and stopped there to take care of an errand involving some back-packing technology. Kind of like I had problems finding dependable external-hard drives for my computer, we had been having trouble with inflatable sleeping mats, which, for us, is the closest thing we have to a mattress. Lately we’ve been sleeping on them all the time, so they are important.
I’ve owned a Thermarest ever since they first came out in the mid-1990’s. The first one I owned lasted for over ten years; even then, when it started “ballooning”, the dealer ascertained that it was due to a manufacturing fault and gave me another one for free. It lasted a few years, and before Liesbet and I went to Europe in May of 2008 I bought a new one for myself, and the dealer gave us a “demo” one for Liesbet. It started “ballooning” after a few months, but had no warranty, so we bought her another brand, a Swiss one called Ex-Ped. But then, this one started ballooning after only a few months, so with the help of some nice people at Bivouac in Christchurch, we were able to “exchange” this one for another brand, this time one by Pacific Outdoor Equipment, I think. Believe it or not, just like the hard-drives, THIS one started ballooning after only a few weeks. And we weren’t doing anything unusual, like putting hot kettles on it or leaving it fully inflated in a tent in 40 degree heat.
With the help of Michael, the manager of Paddy Pallin in Melbourne, a true bro, by the way, we made an arrangement with Paddy Pallin in Brisbane to come in and exchange the faulty mat for a new one. Michael suggested that we get a new Thermarest product called the “Zed-rest” which could NOT deflate because it was made of solid foam. It sounded good, but when we saw it, it looked like a huge brick about 50cm long…way too bulky and big to attach to the back of a pack. Thanks to the magnanimity of Sean, the manager of Paddy’s in Brisbane, Liesbet now has the top-of-the-line women’s Thermarest, at no extra charge. Thanks Sean! Hopefully, now we’re set for a few years in the sleeping mat department. I highly recommend Thermarest products, by the way!
We were on the threshold of Easter weekend and didn’t want to be caught out having to endure the holiday crowds at caravan parks, so luckily, our muso mate Dave Johnson had invited us up to stay with him in Pomona for a couple days. We’d been wanting to catch up with him on this trip, as he is a talented multi-instrumentalist, specializing in saxes and didge, and Liesbet and I were hoping to get a little tutoring towards learning flute and didge. I’ve been thinking of learning to play didge but I don’t seem to be able to get my lips flapping and the breathing thing happening at all.
We like some of Dave’s earlier work, and used small portions of his didge/flute music in both of our films, with his permission, of course. To make a long story short, his music that we really like is from many years ago, and not only does he not do that kind of thing any more, he doesn’t even know the location of the flute he used in the music we like! He gigs constantly all around the Sunshine Coast area, focussing mainly on markets. Sadly, he seems to be far more interested in making money than in creating new music or collaborating on creative projects with people like us. At one point he suggested that he get us to paint a huge back-drop for him, but when we tried to follow up on this, it seems that it had been only “talk.” After a weekend of helping him set up and take down his gear, and helping him sell cd’s, we hit the road, glad to be on our way but a little sad at what we’d found there. Sometimes I reckon it’s better NOT to get to know people whose music you like.
On Easter Monday we hitched to the Glasshouse Mountains, and got a ride with a very cool guy named “handsome” Al. He is one of the few people we’ve met who share our concern with the direction that people seem to be going in, and he had a lot of similar views on mass-media. I suggested that he check out my site www.regainyourbrain.org. He went several kms out of his way to drop us at the caravan park we were headed to, which was very cool. He also invited us to come stay with him next time we were in Brisbane.
We spent two nights there, and did a nice walk over to Tibrogargen, the “father” of the Glasshouse Mountains family, whose “mother” is Beerwah, and which consists of a total of fifteen extinct volcanic chimneys “children.” This enchanted area was quite rural when I first visited there in 2001, but now is over-developed, although a lot of farmland remains. We really felt the spirit of the area, and began to notice unusual cloud formations as we approached the mountain.
We didn’t climb him this time, but walked around the base, honouring all the other family members with sage as we could see them around the circuit. Later in the day, as we came out of the Glasshouse Mountains visitor centre, we saw an awesome display of a kind of cloud that we’d never seen before, a series of small well-defined ones, similar to music notation crossed with dolphins, more or less connected, stretching across half of the lower sky! We felt that the dream-time ancestors were letting us know that they knew we were there!
After a couple days of communing with the Glasshouse energies, we returned to Brisbane and stayed at a backpacker there to prepare for what seemed like our most challenging hitch-hiking trek to date, across central Queensland through Mt. Isa up to Darwin.
ACROSS THE ‘WASTELAND’: AN UNCHARTED EXPANSE
It’s funny how sometimes in your mind you create ‘images’ or expectations of what a place is going to be like, even though you’ve never been there. These impressions may or may not be fully conscious, and they can be quite fragmentary, especially when you consider what the sources of the ‘information’ might have been.
In my experience in Australia, the name “Mt. Isa” has always conjured up images of a huge industrial facility, belching smoke and teeming with yellow-shirted mining workers and their white Toyota utes with all the tool-boxes and other apparati. When we found ourselves in the centre of Gladstone, truly an “industrial” city on the east coast consisting of a relatively small “cbd” surrounded by maybe a dozen huge plants, mills and other Mordor-looking facilities, I remember thinking that Mt. Isa must be just like this.
And in my mind, trying to hitch across from Brisbane to Darwin was going to be almost impossible, because of the bleak desolation of the landscape, the vast distance to be covered, and the ‘mentality’ of the Queenslanders, renowned around Australia as the ‘rednecks’ of the nation. We’d hitched all down through western Australia, as well as across the Nullarbor with no problems, and in earlier years I hitched up the centre a couple times; somehow this last major “untamed” stretch seemed daunting and formidable.
I felt myself grow increasingly edgy as our time of departure approached; not something I could really explain, but just a sense of uneasiness at what we were about to do. The reality, however, wasn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined it might be.
We decided to head for Roma first, as that is the southern gateway to Carnarvon National Park, a huge area of extensive sandstone escarpments and gorges with lots of “oases” and rock art galleries that I’d always heard about but never had a chance to visit. It’s not on the way to anywhere; you have to make a special trip to get there. We ended up riding the bus to get out of the metro Brisbane area, as we weren’t sure exactly how far we needed to go to get to the western edge; crossing the Great Dividing Range in that area was really just riding over a few hills, but the countryside was beautiful.
When we arrived in Roma we took a cab to the caravan park located on the edge of town on the road to Carnarvon, which was perfect. It was here that we became aware of the severity of the flood that had come through about three weeks earlier: most of the fencing around the caravan park was gone! Apparently this area had been under at least a meter of water for several days! Queensland had just experienced its most massive rainfall in over ten years. What happens, too, is that massive rain might fall in the far north, then take several days to flow down into the southern regions, so flooding can actually come long after the rain has stopped.
Here, also, we began to document the ubiquitous process of “development,” the industrialization of the landscape, that seems to be happening everywhere we go. When you’re outside a lot, and sleeping in a tent, you tend to notice machine noise a lot more than if you’re inside watching the tellie. Maybe a hundred meters from our camp-site was a huge grader, smoothing out a large area for what looked like a new housing development. The sound of the “back-up” beeper was far more annoying than the motor noise itself. This activity continued until dark both days we were there.
The main, or actually only, reason we were in Roma was to hitch up to Carnarvon. Our first morning there we were out on the road by around 9am. This was our first real day of hitching in the full-on Aussie sun; after not getting a ride for over five hours, we called it quits, decided to stay another night, and went and sat by the swimming pool. I’m not sure why, maybe I’d become a “solar wussie” from our months in temperate New Zealand, but the sun really seemed to blast me that day. After I jumped in the pool, which was quite chilly, I somehow disrupted my internal homeostatis and started feeling a little strange. It went away, though, and the next morning we were out there again.
This was an example of knowing which ride to take and which not to take. We ended up turning down seven rides, some of which weren’t quite all the way there, and some of which went even further; the reason was that we only wanted a ride with someone who was actually going into the park itself. On the north-south route between Roma and Emerald, there’s a turn-off to Carnarvon, but the park is then about 40 kms from there. We definitely did NOT want to get let out at that turn-off, where there’s absolutely nothing, not even any shade! If we had, we might get a ride quickly, but even the possibility of being stuck there was not acceptable.
I’d contacted the park rangers at Carnarvon to make sure the roads were open, and everything was ok. They were recommending that any water used from within the park be treated, as the recent flood had mixed a lot of water bodies and brought in a lot of debris. As we came to learn, however, we were running about a month ahead of the mainstream park traffic; after a second day of not getting the right ride, and of not wanting to stand in the sun again, we re-navigated our plan, and left Carnarvon to a future trip.
We never actually went into Roma per se, except in going and coming; it seemed like a small depressing place where all the buildings except for the McDonald’s looked like metal tool sheds or companies selling mining equipment. Probably 75% of all the vehicular traffic in the town, as well as on the road we tried hitching on, was the ubiquitous white mining ute (another 15% would be “gray nomads”). I’m not sure exactly why, but after seeing so many of them all the time, you start to get this feeling of sadness or despair, not only because almost all the people in these vehicles have the same expressionless faces, but moreso because of the awareness of what it is they are doing: “digging precious things from the land”, motivated only by money and greed, with no consideration of the ecological or spiritual implications of what they are doing. Actually, at the level of the individual employee, they’re “just doing their job.” When we reflect on how much of this we see everywhere we go in Australia, especially up the east coast, it’s actually very scary. In some areas, mining workers have literally taken over caravan parks; but the owners don’t care…it’s constant business for them.
To be on the safe side, we took the bus again, from Roma to Charleville. I have to emphasize that we were now in the middle of territory totally foreign to us, having never been here before, and also influenced by a sort of undefined uneasiness at just being here. So far, this part of Queensland reminded me of the parts of Texas that I didn’t like, which was most of it. It’s a combination of having a look of barren environmental degradation, populated with people who have a similarly degraded look.
We were navigating now not only from our Hema road atlas, but also from two pamphlets we got from the Glasshouse Mountains visitor centre. It was funny to us that Roma was not even included in the literature, even though listed were towns listed that had only a couple dozen people! We were also trying to stay on the “main route”, which from the road atlas alone is impossible to determine, as ALL the highways are the same thickness and colour! And they all have individual names, like the “Warrego” or “Landsborough” highways. From Brisbane, as well, we’d been scoping the train routes and schedules, in case the hitching proved to be too difficult. Charleville was the next logical destination, and we felt pretty good vibes once we were there.
AN UNEXPECTED OASIS OF COOLNESS
We spent our first night at a caravan park somewhere in the bowels, or was it the colon, of a residential neighbourhood. I rang ahead, and the lady had told me they were one km from where the bus let us off; the cab driver, on the other hand, said, “That’s a LONG kilometre”, and it ended up being closer to 3 or 4. Not a good sign. Their advert insisted that we’d be greeted with a smile. Smiles aren’t friendly in all cultures, you know.
On the surface, the place looked ok; we set up our tent away from everyone else in a grove of trees. Here, again, water damage from the recent flood was apparent and people were repairing fences.
Here, for the first time, Liesbet was able actually to witness several kookaburras “laughing.” We hear them all the time, but we never get to see them “in the act” as it were. Apparently they tilt their heads back and seem really to be enjoying their cacophonous avian guffawing!
As we went into the night, however, the vibe became increasingly creepy, as behind us were cabins belonging to the same establishment, and there was this obese person who kept repeating a pattern, not just for an hour or two, but seemingly throughout the entire night. First he would loudly whistle a non-musical phrase; then you could hear the crunching of his feet; then the loud “crash” of a beer bottle into a bin; then the noisy clanging of heavy metal tool boxes being shuffled around. It became so weird after a long time of this same exact sequence being repeated over and over again, that it was hard to sleep; not to mention that he wasn’t very far away and it was quite loud. And yes, his vehicle was the white mining ute.
Also, in the night a moderately heavy rain began to fall; plus, I started to feel like I was coming down with a ‘flu’ or something. So the next day, we found a nice little hotel downtown, the historical Corones, whose main floor was Charleville’s largest bottle shop.
We met Richard, the manager, and a good Christchurch kiwi of long-standing who’d lived in Australia most of his life. He was a really nice guy. Our room was upstairs and accessed a balcony deck that ran the length of the building, which dated from the early 1900’s I believe. The lower level had been flooded, but repair ops were under way. We ended up staying here 3 nights, as we really liked Charleville. We met a few locals, as here I finally had a chance to repair my guitar that was damaged on the flight from New Zealand and had to obtain some small wood blocks. And in the grocery store, they were playing old music from the 70’s, and the store itself had the look and feel from 30 years ago…a journey back in time in a nice way. Almost all the people we met or saw seemed to be pretty nice, down to Earth “real” people; not the plasticene clones of the over-developed east coast.
Also, the Corones Hotel offered free wireless broad-band, a service provided by several places where we stayed on this journey. This was extremely cool, as 9 times out of 10, if we want to go on-line at a caravan park, it’s some complete bullshit fly-by-night deal. The “internet café” on Stewart Island, New Zealand, still holds the record, of charging $20 per hour; the one in Roma wanted $6 for 30 minutes. After a conversation with Dave, the manager of the caravan park at Stockton NSW where we stayed upon arriving in Australia a few weeks ago, we realized that broad-band internet service should really be free at EVERY caravan park; this is Dave talking, explaining that they provided free broadband for the entire caravan park for a cost of approximately $90 per month! 3 nights of unpowered camping pays for a month of broadband for the whole place! After experiencing the horror of being charged an ADDITIONAL fee for a shower, on top of an already outrageous camping fee, then the usual internet rip-off scams, I’m just waiting to be charged for oxygen, or gravity, or both. “STAY HERE! FREE OXYGEN AND GRAVITY FOR YOUR FIRST NIGHT!” I already thought I spotted a “WIDE LOAD” caravan, but it was actually a house being moved…A flagon of radioactive waste? Or was it a uranium processing plant?…more on this later.
We got a lot done here…catching up on digital photo processing, watching the first 3 episodes of the original Star Trek series (ones I’d never seen, almost kind of creepy. Interestingly, in one of them, about a sort of parasitic life-form that travelled through water and made people become the victims of their own repressed emotions, we hear Spock clearly say, in a tense moment of the episode, “My duty is…six…six…six.” Recently I’ve learned about a book called The Starseed Conspiracy that tells of how a lot of the “new age” movement, from A Course in Miracles up to and including What the Bleep, The Secret and all things 2012, is actually an off-shoot or extension of CIA-funded MK-Ultra mind-control research, originating from Nazi psychiatrists imported by Operation Paperclip beginning in the 1940’s. According to this research, Star Trek writer/producer Gene Roddenberry was a central figure in this circle of occult mentalities…more on this in a future document), and sleeping in a real bed! After a couple days I was completely well from my anomalous malady; we were getting ready to leave and all of a sudden started receiving unmistakable messages from our guardian angels “suggesting” that we stay another day. It’s hard to explain exactly how this works, but it DOES and its unmistakable. The weather was clear and beautiful, but we were happy to stay another day and take it easy.
The next morning we understood why we had been guided to stay. Charleville is actually quite a ways off the “main road”, and not much traffic actually passes through here. We weren’t really aware of this. As we were getting ready to leave, we said good-bye to Richard, and surprisingly, he offered to give us a ride to Augathella, about an hour to the north. He had to go there anyway to get a window replaced in his vehicle. He wasn’t going to go until later in the day, so we went ahead and took a cab to the edge of town to try hitching.
There was like NO traffic. After an hour or so of standing there, I rang Richard using the mobile of a trucker who’d stopped to check his load to see if we could still catch a ride with him. About 30 minutes later he pulled up and got us, dropping us in Augathella an hour later. I really began to notice how lush and green the grass was all through central Queensland, after the massive rains…not characteristic for this time of year. Soon we were back onto a more major travel route. Richard even offered to come back the next day and take us all the way to Barcaldine, which was over 300 kms further to the north, but on THE main route between Townsville and Mt. Isa, the Capricorn highway.
If Richard hadn’t given us a ride, chances are we would have stood there on the edge of Charleville all day without a ride, and possibly well into the next, until we figured out what the reason was. The lesson is that you really have to be careful on these remote stretches of Australian highway. On the map, they all look the same, but in reality, some may have tons of traffic and others almost none.
As it turned out, we made it to Augathella by around 2pm. We stood and hitched until around 4 or so. There wasn’t much traffic, only the occasional “grey nomad” caravan, road train, or white mining ute.
One of the things about non-urban Queensland is that you just feel a different vibe from most of the rest of Australia, kind of like the presence of a more “red-neck” mentality in the general population. Indeed, this is what “Queenslanders” are believed to be by people in other parts of the country. I’d say there’s a good deal of truth to it. We learned from an excellent John Pilger doco called “Welcome to Australia” that over 25% of Queenslanders had “implicitly” voted for (by not opposing) the extreme racist policies of Pauline Hanson in the 1980’s. Hanson, a right-wing white supremacist and John Howard clone, ended up losing her seat in Parliament and her “One Nation” party disintegrated…but only back into the millions of constituent racist mentalities that had come together, briefly and terrifyingly, in the manner of the cellular slime mold, to form a “fruiting body” of malignant misoneism. Pilger, an Australian journalist who “expatriated” to England (ironically, since he accurately targets the Pomes as the instigators of Australia’s genocidal practices, and goes on to say that the on-going mass-murder in Australia is every bit as comprehensive and systematic as anything done by the Nazis), is extremely well-known in media and literary circles outside of Australia and globally as a whole, but here, if we mention his name, the majority of people at least pretend never to have heard of him, and almost no one actually knows…or wants to know…the true history of Australia and it’s first people as told by Pilger and very few others.
Now, not all “red-necks” are bad; I come from the “south” of America, where there’s no shortage of red-necks. Even the most highly racist ones would still give the shirt off their back…or their sixth finger…to help a friend. Hayell, I might even have summattaire (this is some of that French, “some of that there”) red-neck in me! Plus, in the “south” of America as in central Queensland, the people in general are exceptionally friendly…as long as you’re white.
My working definition of a true “red-neck,” however, is they usually have an irrational suspicion or even hatred of anyone that’s different from them, especially if their skin is a different colour; they tend to be very ignorant, uneducated, and petty; they always litter whenever possible, and, according to comedian Jeff Foxworthy, their family trees have no branches. Rednecks in general also have a proclivity for loud motors, often modifying the mufflers on their cars to be as obnoxious as possible, not to mention their most outstanding trait, one that actually helps the human gene pool by the process of self-elimination: always wanting to get everyones’ attention by doing outlandish and even extremely dangerous life-threatening acts of stupidity. What’s the last thing a red-neck says before he dies? “Hey, yawl…watch THIS!!!”
Perhaps the most annoying “-lander” behaviour we had to endure was the lecherous leering they would do whenever they saw Liesbet. I don’t know, it could even have been ME they were looking at, you never know these days! We could often see them doing it, as they drove past or as we walked past where they were sitting there chin-wagging while on someone’s clock. None of them ever said anything, but occasionally we’d get that whistle…you know, the one from the old 50’s movies that a guy would emit when he spotted a girl that tickled his fancy. VERY “old school” to say the least. I actually felt embarrassed for these people when they did this! What WAS going on in their minds? “Hoy baeby, I reckon you must gotchu summa them’ere pank panties on, ain’tchee?” “Sorry, mate, I don’t wear me no panties.” It just seemed pretty impotent of a thing to do, as opposed actually saying something in English, or, even better, just looking without saying anything…or even better, not even looking at us. Sometimes we feel as if we’re actually a television or something. I’ve even thought of having a t-shirt made that says “F*ck off” just for those special moments, just to be a step ahead.
Augathella turned out to be ok, though. The name supposedly is an aboriginal word meaning “river of sand.” It was here that we came up with some new “road lingo”, as we do from time to time. While we were hitching we saw a huge 4wd towing a large caravan pull over to get fuel. In large letters on the caravan it said “Hema”, the company that makes road atlases. I went up and talked to the guy a bit, even though they didn’t have room for us. They were distributing road-atlases. Later on we noticed that the guy’s wife or partner was HUGE, as in probably 150 kgs or more. From then on, “hema” became our code-word for “obesity warning.” Obesity is a HUGE problem in Australia.
We stopped hitching around 4pm. The caravan park was only 100 meters from where we were hitch-hiking, and they only charged us $12, a record low! There was no kitchen, but we did have a covered picnic area, heaps of space, and our own personal tree kind of like a baby boab. Plus, a sky full of really beautiful cloud formations had been over us ever since we arrived, and stayed there until the sun went down. There was no “wi-fi” and we were pretty far from any houses, which made for a great night’s sleep. There was hardly any traffic on the road, which, come morning, began to seem like a worry.
BUT finally, after only an hour of hitching, a huge road train with 3 trailers came past, braking; I saw him turn, but I didn’t think he was stopping for us. When I saw him coming back, however, and do a “u-ey” in the pull-off area, and then he got out and yelled to us, “Do youse want a lift?” THEN we knew we had a ride…our first actual “ride” hitching since we left Brisbane. Finally we felt back in the groove and that we might not have to ride the train after all.
The driver’s name was Ken, and he was pulling an empty train up north to pick up a load of sheep. He wasn’t someone we’d actually become friends with, as he was fairly racist. Maybe “very” racist is better, as not only was he mocking how aboriginal people speak about, for example, the famed “Min Min” lights, but he also ended up praising Pauline Hansen as being someone who “stood up and said what needed to be said.” But, he was nice enough to us and dropped us right by the caravan park at Barcaldine, which was actually ON the Capricorn highway, the “mainest” of routes in this part of the country.
Like Augathella, this was a nice little place, but here we were right in the town itself. The caravan park was good, charged us “only” $17, and had free internet as well. We had a good rest there, and were out hitching early the next morning. This was a good hitching spot, only meters from a servo/road house and right on the edge of town. We’d only had to walk a hundred or so meters from the caravan park.
We kept turning down rides going to Longreach, which was only 100 kms away. All along we’d been using a sign that said “Darwin”; may as well say where it is you are actually heading to. We were hoping not to have to stop there, that we’d get a long ride all the way at least to Mt. Isa. But the hours were going by, and we were still on the edge of “Barky.”
Then we had a unique experience. We were standing there hitching, and this guy comes walking over. He and his wife were heading to Darwin with their caravan. Thinking back on it, I’m still not sure why he came over to talk to us. But there he was. I had thought that they were considering giving us a ride. He told us where they were from, and so on, and we explained what we were doing, and so on. I emphasized that we were “good” hitch-hikers…as opposed to those nebulous ones who do all the undefined ‘bad stuff’ that seems to occupy the imaginations of so many people. This is material enough for an entire article or even book, on what the mention of “hitch-hiking” conjures up in people’s minds.
Finally, after sharing our story with...Warren was his name…he says, “Now, don’t get your hopes up. My wife has the final say.” I assured him that our breathing was fine; looking back on it, I should have told him that we might consider riding with them, once we’d checked out “the missus.” We waited about 15 minutes, debating whether or not they were going to offer us a ride, not really caring, but just curious, after the guy had come over and talked with us.
Finally we see them turning around, and stopping to get fuel. As they left the parking lot, they made the turn past us and just kept on going. Warren didn’t even look at us, and his wife…bless her heart…looked as if she had been paralysed by a blowfish sting!
So Liesbet and I decided that we’d take the next ride, even if it was only to Longreach, just to get out of “Barky.” Sure enough, about ten minutes later a nice young girl named Bridgitte stopped and was going to Longreach. She turned out to be one of the nicest rides we’d had since “handsome Al” took us to the Glasshouse Mountains. Once we arrived in Longreach, she drove us around to see the sights, took us first to one caravan park, then to the other one, which turned out to be a lot better…or so it seemed at the time. Normally, we hope to get dropped off at A caravan park, not even hoping for a chance to “shop around” and check out more than one!
She left us there, with very own large grassy unpowered tent area, complete with tree and covered picnic tables. The first caravan park was tiny and very densely populated; we would have been camping within a few meters of several other people. Here, on the other hand, we had maybe 80 meters between us and the nearest other people.
The “free” internet didn’t work (if it’s “free”, you can’t complain, can you?) but we weren’t dissatisfied, as we had plenty of grass and space and the promise of a sound, uninterrupted sleep…which is truly what you are supposedly paying for, right? Off to sleep we were around dark, as we often are after a hard day’s hitching. We’d been sound asleep for a couple hours when WHAM! This wall of extremely loud abrasive sound blasts us seemingly from every direction. What the f*ck was going on???
We had been blasted out of dream-land by the shock-wave from a B-grade cover band playing at the Longreach “Hall of Fame” well over a kilometre away. Not only were they playing at a volume level that was almost inflicting hearing damage from a kilometre away, they literally sucked ass! Their boring monotone and lack of musicianship was literally butchering every song they tried to cover. Trust me on this; being a musician myself, I have a very discerning and critical ear. I could hear every note, every screech, every blizzard of unnecessary feedback.
Liesbet and I were astounded. The sound was echoing and bouncing off all the houses nearby; it was unbelievably loud. The scary part was this was 10pm, and it had just started. ANY function with a band is going to go on until at least 1am if not later. SO…a night of paying $30 in order NOT to get any sleep. I was quite pissed off, to say the least.
First I put on my head-lamp and set out across the caravan park to locate the source of this sonic atrocity. I made my way through row after row of caravans, most of which seemed to have televisions going inside them. I became fearful that Liesbet and I may be the only ones in the whole place who were being bothered by this! Finally I reached the edge of the caravan park property; way out across a large field I could hear and almost see where it was coming from.
I went back to the tent, then went to the main office of the our caravan park, and rang the “emergency” number, which gave me the manager upstairs. He was aware of what was going on, as he, too, could hear it from his place. But then the cop-out. “They must be having a wedding or something. This isn’t the first time they’ve done that to me.” I asked if he couldn’t ring the cops and get them at least to turn it down somewhat. Truly, if it was this loud HERE the people at the party must have had blood gushing out of their ears! He said that he’d give it a try, and that if we wanted he’d refund our money the next morning. I wasn’t so concerned about the money…we just wanted to GET SOME SLEEP.
Back in the tent, Liesbet and I put on our respective head-phones with Creative/Ipod’s and lay down to try to go to sleep to music we liked. I had to have it turned up pretty loud to drown out the blasting. After a little while, it sounded like they either turned down the volume or shut the doors on the building, a significant drop in volume. “Whew!” So we de-phoned and had almost fallen asleep again when the volume returned to the original blasting level. Then I knew we’d have to put up with it until whenever it stopped.
The next morning sucked because we got up really early so as to be there for the longest rides that might come by, but had had hardly any real sleep. On the way out to the highway, I stopped into the office to collect our refund. The manager wasn’t very forthcoming with the $. I emphasized, however, that, first, it was his idea to give it back, not mine, and second, it wasn’t him I had the problem with but the “Hall of Fame” people, whoever they were. He reckons that they are untouchables of sorts and that there’s nothing he can do about it. I added, only half-jokingly, that he install an ear-plug vending machine. He laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. He gave us the $ back, and said “You can head off now.” “Wow, bro…THANKS for permission to leave. You know, we were seriously thinking of STAYING for another night of entertainment, but, we really should be on our way, you’re right!”
Longreach may have had a nicer “cbd” area we didn’t see, but the part we did see was just like Roma…and Texas. Blank unintelligent looking blokes with cowboy hats, driving the white mining utes; a vast flat dry landscape; a fire that looked like diesel burning out at the airport. All the ingredients of a perfect morning to GET OUT OF Longreach. By the way, we figured that “longreach” was a situation you’re in when you’re having a crap and the toilet paper is too far away for you to get at it!
We stood there hitching for a while, wondering how many hours it was going to take to get a ride; plus, it looked like rain might be coming. But well before we could even fall into a pattern of worrying about anything, a 3-part road train pulled over to get us. He’d been sitting at the pull-over across from the servo on the corner, and had seen us standing there.
‘TRUCKIES’ TO THE RESCUE!
WOW! His name was Gil, and he was a damn cool dude! And he was going to Mt. Isa, which was well over 700 kms, and the only town of any size between Longreach and Katherine. We were very happy, to say the least. Now we were REALLY in the hitching-groove!
It’s hard to convey the sense of elation you feel when all of a sudden your whole reality shifts, from one of the uncertainty and maybe even uneasiness of standing there hitching in a place that seems a little alien or strange, to a state of disbelief and cosmic gratitude that you’ve just been “air-lifted” the f*ck out of there and you’re basically “there” at your next destination…all you have to do is sit there for a few hours, maybe do a little talking or dozing, or both, but you’re THERE! This is how Liesbet and I both felt when Gil picked us up. It’s always a plus, too, when the person giving you a ride seems really cool, like Gil! THANKS GUYS UPSTAIRS!!!
Gil was unique as ‘truckies’ go who we’ve met in that he was quite literate scientifically and had even been working on a new kind of motor that involved rotating coils of wire or magnets, that theoretically should generate more power than they consumed.
I’ve heard dozens or hundreds of stories over the years about “free energy”, “zero point” energy, devices that generate more power than they consume, patents for this and that; I believe a lot of it is real, especially in the domain of increased efficiency of fuel consumption or power generation. These are the ones that get bought up by the energy giants shortly before the inventors “commit suicide.” I’m not so sure about the “free energy” thing; just like “aliens”, I always ask the “true believers” if they have in fact ever actually SEEN one, and the answer is invariably “no.” So there you have it…show me a real “alien” or a real “free energy” device that works, THEN I’ll believe it.
Not to mention the fact that unlimited “free” energy of any kind is the LAST thing humanity needs right now; that would just plunge us over the edge into the abyss even faster than we’re going now.
Sure, you might say, think of all the OIL that we’d save if we had cars, trucks, trains, boats, planes, helicopters, motorcycles, and tanks that ran on “free energy.” BP and every other trans-national energy conglomerate could stop drilling for oil and start marketing “free energy” technology. Only then, it wouldn’t be “free” anymore, would it?
If you think about it just a bit longer, you start realizing just how much fossil-fuels we consume, and exactly what it’s for: light-years of unnecessary driving done by single drivers in SUV’s in every metropolitan area in the world; Australia alone has the highest per capita fossil-fuel consumption on the planet, due to the small population and enormous distances between places, not to mention the millions of kilometres driven by “gray nomads” driving identical SUV’s that have never been in “four-wheel drive” mode, pulling identical and ever-increasing-in-size caravans, bordering now on “wide-load” small houses, to distant locations, just so that they can sit in them and watch tv; add in motorized vehicular racing (really just an advanced and glamourized form of the red-neck or “hoon” mentality), the global shipping and transport industry, including airlines (on which each and every one of us almost without exception is terrifyingly dependent), and last, but most significantly, that global leviathan albatross, the military-industrial complex, which constitutes a separate “economy” apart from the lowly “civilian” one, and who is not subject to environmental regulations of any sort.. Their sole purpose: to destroy life as we know her. Really, we each do our part, and we’re all pretty much “soldiers in World War 3” as it is already.
The main reason I started hitch-hiking to begin with was to improve my “fossil-fuel karma”, or rather, to try going places in a manner that increased the efficiency of the fuels being burned, thereby reducing the depth of our ecological “footprint.” If someone is already going where I want to go, why not try to catch a ride with them? It’s a simple as that, and pure common-sense, that is, if you live in a world where “common sense” still means anything. And it isn’t about “not paying” to get somewhere; you probably don’t want to ride with someone whose first question to you is “Hey, do you have any money for petrol?” On one hand, if you did, it might mean that you’d both get there; on the other, you have to consider what kind of person would be out driving a long-distance in a car with no money. Sometimes it might even be better not to ask such questions, depending on how desperate you might be for a ride.
But I’ve offered or contributed fuel money many times over the years; the whole thing with hitch-hiking is that it’s a cooperative venture based on trust and friendship. I would add that I don’t think there’s many people who’d give you a ride who would expect you to offer them money for fuel. They just want to help you out and maybe have some company for a while. Little do they know that with us they’ll get not only a painted rock but also a dvd or two of our own films!
Anyway, after several hours of going fairly slowly through the vast flat plains between Longreach and Mt. Isa…an area that reminded me exactly of the Great Plains of Kansas or Oklahoma…as Gil was pulling a four-way road-train full of furniture…we arrived on the edge of Mt. Isa just before sundown.
For the last hour or so before Mt. Isa the landscape had transformed from the flat “Great Plains” look, lush and green from recent rains but awesomely vast and flat, into rolling hills with rocky outcroppings, unique and previously unseen, but distinctly Australian at the same time.
Gil pulled over on the east side of town, about 100 meters from the caravan park we stayed at. He had to get over to the depot to drop his load, then he was going to visit his son who worked in the mines there. We wished him well and thanked him immensely for transporting us over 700 kms safe and sound.
Now we were getting to experience “The Isa” first-hand for the first time. My initial impression was that on the surface, it didn’t look nearly as completely industrial as I had imagined it might, nothing like Gladstone. But the “mining background radiation” was there (as much actuality as metaphor!), as surely as was the plethora of white mining utes, most of which were all “hooned up”, and decked out with a “full monty” of antennas, tool boxes, carrying racks, extra lights on the front and top, and other unidentifiable apparati; many of them also looked brand new and extra shiney, as if even sophomore miners can just go and pick one out of the parking lot and drive off with it, nqa.
Then we saw it: the smoke-stack looming over the town itself, archetypal symbol of William Blake’s “dark Satanic mills” of 17th century England. Gauging its distance and therefore, height, were difficult, but it had to be at least 100 meters tall. A whitish-yellow cloud was pouring out; later we learned that it’s some kind of sulfur emission from the processing of copper, and that on days when there are ‘southerlies’, the wind blows this stuff back across the town, and people start coughing, getting irritated mucous membranes, having respiratory problems, and dropping in their tracks. This was according to the cab driver who took us out to the edge of town when we left, himself a native “Isan.” As you’ll see in a minute, this isn’t all they get.
We stayed there two nights, not out of love for the place but because we only arrived at sunset the first day, and wanted to get a little rest after several arduous ‘road days’ since restful Charleville. The caravan park was typically bullshit, but at least we were able to go to a remote area without anyone else close to us. This place was unique in that it did have a ‘camp kitchen’ (it would be amusing to describe all the ‘camp kitchens’ we’ve experienced, or things management calls a ‘camp kitchen’…the best one was only a slab of concrete, but I’ll tell about this later!), complete with jug, gas burner and fridge (with padlock…so you only have to worry about having your food stolen by other people with a key!) but no sink; the sink was about 40 meters away adjoined to the ‘ablutions block’ (that’s another one of those words whose origin I’ve yet to explore…to me it sounds like it belongs in either an abbatoire or penitentiary).
The vibe of the people there was weird, too. This was one of those caravan parks where it looked like about 90% of all the sites were “permanent residents”…not our favourite places. Here you are likely to see every possible artifact of consumer society, especially vehicles, but also including dogs and lawn-mowers (yes, we’ve witnessed people mowing their 30 sq. meters) on each site, crowded into every little nook and cranny beside and between the caravans themselves. Often, the people’s stuff is bigger than their caravan. And often their dispositions are similar to what used to be called “trailer trash” in America. In America, the “trailer parks” usually housed “mobile homes” which were not made to be pulled behind a vehicle; they were just lightly-constructed, relatively low-cost housing that could be moved and installed somewhere…and just as easily get sucked up by a tornado! “Caravan parks” in Australia, on the other hand, are usually a blend of actual travellers and permanent residents, with the proportion varying from park to park.
Almost all the people we came across at the caravan park in Mt. Isa seemed to have weird vibes, even the ones who weren’t from there. There was this one set of people who came to sear their meat while we were having our dinner at the “camp kitchen” with no sink. We have never figured out what they were about, but they had on ‘uniforms’ of sorts, the two blokes had on the same shirts and trousers, and the two women had on identical shorts and shirts, as if they belonged to some kind of club or something. Unfortunately we had to listen to everything they were saying, so as they downed beer after beer, they sounded increasingly as if they were somehow “performing” for each other, rather than simply having a conversation with friends.
Also, at this caravan park we saw what was not the largest in size, but by far the most complex and elaborate “caravan” we’ve yet to see. No, it was not a “wide load” BUT it had those “fold-out” extensions in about five different locations which made it about the size of a small house. It even had those fancy window blinds that use the little rotating rod to make them open and close…you know, the ones that gather all the dust and are a pain in the ass to keep clean! Whoever was in there had the air-conditioning running night and day and the blinds closed…but their car was there. We never saw them the whole time we were there. Must’ve been a mining executive, eh?
I am the first to admit that without the mining and refinement of metals, and the drilling and refinement of petroleum, not to mention the mining and burning of coal, we would not be here right now having arrived in an automobile, using electricity (normally generated from coal, but here it’s diesel, since we’re in a remote part of the territory), and writing on a computer manufactured from who-knows how many kinds of metals. I am the first to admit all this, AND the first to give thanks many times over for the extreme privilege it is for me to be sitting here right now, participating personally in the utilization of non-renewable resources from Mother Earth BUT hopefully doing so in honour of my highest spiritual path and in an attempt not only to share the awesome adventure that is my life, but to communicate the breadth and depth of the true ‘reality’ that we experience as we travel this most ancient and powerful of lands; a profoundly beautiful and unique island-continent that is currently being ravaged by a mining industry that has been unleashed and unfettered from any sense of accountability to anyone, in this dimension or beyond.
Earlier I mentioned the Hopi prophecy, “If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.” When you stop and think about it, “digging precious things from the land” IS, in fact, the fundamental and underlying cause of much of what ails us today. It’s almost impossible for the average person to comprehend the effect that petroleum exploitation has had on civilization, and equally impossible for us to realize not only that petroleum in any of its forms is highly toxic to life as we know it, even when it comes out of the ground, but that truly there are NO petroleum derivatives…and we’re talking the whole of organic chemistry…that are non-toxic to life as we know it. That anything derived from oil is highly toxic to life as we know it is closer to the truth.
Most thinking people are already aware, to varying degrees, of the hazards of uranium mining and the whole nuclear scenario; and even though coal might seem more benign, on a closer analysis you’ll find that, overall, the problems from coal might even outweigh those of uranium.
I’m talking about the “big three” of extraction: coal, oil, and uranium. Golum’s “precious” metals are way up there, too, like gold and silver; and also your “not so precious” but strategically essential metals like lead, nickel, tungsten and iron.
I think what the prophecy was trying to convey is that, for the most part, the “precious things” that we dig from the ground not only have significant functions in the ground that we are totally unaware of, but are also HIGLHLY TOXIC.
This is not the place for a major digression into the ramifications of the Hopi prophecy; I was just leading up to sharing some information I wanted to share concerning Mt. Isa. It’s a small newspaper article I cut out, I think from the Charleville paper. The title is “Mine is ‘directly contaminating’ town lands.” The opening paragraph states that “The high levels of lead and other heavy metals in Queensland’s Mount Isa come directly from activities at nearby Xstrata Mount Isa Mines, according to a new analysis.” Based on research by Macquarie University environmental scientist Mark Taylor, the new findings contradict long-standing propaganda from Xstrata that “the lead, cadmium, copper and zinc contaminates are a result of natural mineralisation of the local geology.” Pediatric epidemiologist Bruce Lamphear emphasized that young children suffer serious impairment when exposed to even low levels of lead, and that “…many Australian children are at risk for intellectual deficits, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, school failure, delinquency and violent criminal behaviour.”
I already know of two other towns in Australia experiencing chronic health problems from heavy metals extraction, Broken Hill NSW and Esperance WA. Broken Hill, site of Australia’s first mine (mining giant’s acronym ‘BHP’ stands for “Broken Hill Propietary”), is located directly on top of a lead mine; and Esperance is a loading facility for lead mined further inland. As I understand it, the lead has contaminated soil, water and air in these areas and has produced a statistically enormous spike of heavy metal toxicity symptoms in at least two generations of the populace.
Toxicity not only from “heavy” metals but also “light” ones like aluminium is implicated in the etiology of a wide spectrum of degenerative diseases, particularly of the central nervous system, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s syndromes. These in particular are epidemic in older people, who’ve been around long enough for dangerous levels of these substances to “bio-accumulate” in their body tissues and brains. Could this have anything to do with the apparent insanity of the “gray nomad” army, an Australia-wide phenomenon involving tens of thousands of elderly couples each of whom own almost identical 4-wheel-drive SUV’s and increasingly huge and elaborate caravans; usually when the weather begins to get a little chilly in the autumn, they migrate towards the tropics in a way not dissimilar to flocks of geese.
It’s probable that a lot of these “gray army” soldiers, or the male half of the couple anyway, used to work at various levels of the mining industry, given its ubiquity and expanse as an employer. So, they would have been exposed to even MORE metals toxicity than the average person.
OK, so much for the mining industry. Where would Australia be without it? Or, more importantly, where is Australia headed because of it?
Finally, time to leave paradise. Hitching out of Mt. Isa was an unknown, as we’d never been this way before; we hadn’t even ventured into town. All we knew was that there was a huge expanse…over 1000 kms…of nothing (in human terms, that is) between there and Tennant Creek; and another 400 to Katherine. Even though Tennant Creek is an unavoidable cross-roads on any journey to Darwin or Katherine from the south or east, it’s pretty much a “ghost junction” itself, being little more than a road-house or two.
We were just hoping for a relatively painless departure from “The Isa”, in the graceful way we’d been effortlessly truck-lifted from Longreach. Gil had instructed us to go the BP station on the far side of town, as this was where the truckies leave out of; we took a cab there, got a little education about local atmospheric conditions, and positioned ourselves by the road in an accessible and visible spot.
The weather was fine but as the morning turned into mid-day, the sun beat down ever harder; we had a clear view of “old smokey” back in town, and could see the sulphur-plume drift in directions varying with the wind. We never passed right through town, but it looks as if the copper smelting facility might BE the “cbd”, just like in Broken Hill, where the town isn’t close to the mine, it’s on it.
Hour after hour went by; in the altered state you get into after a few hours of standing in the sun, you might start to get depressed because no one has stopped, or because, here once again, 95% of all the vehicles passing by were the white Toyota mining utes, or variations thereof, with standardized passengers, probably heading to the Xstrata site we spoke of before “to get the lead out.” Liesbet and I even promised ourselves that we wouldn’t go back to the caravan park we stayed at before, but would get a room at the nearby motel if we were still there at sunset.
While Liesbet had gone inside to use the toilet, a huge truck pulled in with the words “Black Betty” across the front. I was holding our “Darwin” sign overhead to be clearly seen; I couldn’t quite actually see the driver but I felt as if he gave me a nod of acknowledgement.
I didn’t think any more about it, but about an hour later I see this truck pull up in front of the BP. Then, as if in a mirage or hallucination of a heat-stroked mind, I saw the driver walking towards us, not that big of a guy with a blue shirt and white cowboy hat. I looked around and couldn’t see anything else he might have been walking towards other than us; then he waved.
YES! This was one of those paradoxical moments in which a big part of you is celebrating, even rejoicing, at having the long-sought ride out of there, but the wiser, more prudent self is holding back, waiting to hear what the driver’s destination is, what his plan is, how cool/nice he is, and so on...information-processing that is absolutely essential for safe hitch-hiking.
I walked over and talked to him. Terry was his name, and he wasn’t headed all the way to Darwin but could drop us in Katherine, which was around 1400 kms. This was perfect. He seemed like an alright kind of guy, too, none of the “vibes” that Ken, for example, had (no worries here, Ken doesn’t do email).
The only thing that concerned us was that Terry was going to be stopping somewhere to sleep for a few hours, and we weren’t that keen on setting up our tent next to his truck in the middle of absolute nowhere. As it turned out, he said that he’d be driving through at least to Tennant Creek, where there is a caravan park, so this was cool.
Terry was our third and longest ‘truckie’ ride by far, in our central Queensland adventure, and a very nice person. Not all that talkative, and camera-shy, so we don’t actually have any footage of him; and although he wasn’t inventing any electronic devices like Gil, he was an avid photographer of nature and had some really nice rainbow photos in his computer. He had also used to be a professional pig-hunter, but we didn’t look at those photos!
The name “Black Betty” immediately made me think of that song with the same name from the early 1970’s. “Who-oh Black Betty…blam-a-lam…Black Betty had a child…blam-a-lam…damn thing went wild.” Terry had only got his 18-wheeler license a couple weeks before, so that he could drive for a mate with a mega-sized watermelon farm who’d just bought this truck. “Black Betty” was a 2010 Kenworth, and was actually charcoal gray, not black! But Terry had had the name put on there, to f*ck with his mate the owner, whose wife was named “Betty”! I don’t think there were any racist under-tones.
I knew that Terry and “Black Betty” were very heavy; you could tell from how hard she was pulling as he climbed the gears. He was pulling a 3-way flatbed load of fertilizer coming back from Brisbane to the watermelon farm, west of Hayes Creek near a place called Ooloo Crossing. He related that this truck was geared for city driving, and that for more effective road-train performance the differential should be changed, but since this was an $18,000 job, it probably wasn’t going to happen any time soon. I felt that she might indeed be over-weight, but I never said anything.
Just after dark we pulled into the Barkly Homestead for a rest-stop and ‘tea’ (the dearest and sparsest plate of steamed veggies we ever had!) and after about an hour were off again, stopping in Tennant Creek only for a piss-take and tire-check, and made our way to an unnamed pull-over a hundred or so km’s to the north where we stopped for a few hours to get some sleep. Terry had invited us to sleep in his cab, as there was an upper fold-out bunk above the main level. It was pretty narrow, however; after an hour or so of Liesbet and I lying next to each other in a space not even a meter wide, plus with no air circulation up there, I had to bail and went and just sat in the passenger seat and tried to form my body into any position that could give at least an hour or so’s relief from gravity and soreness. I’d performed this operation many times before during my years on the road in America; it was just like old times and made me think back on all the fantastic rides I had in the states, hundreds of which were with truckers.
We were up before the sun, and after some welcome “instant coffee” (which is totally different from the certified organic coffee we make ourselves!) were on the road again. Later in the day, as we approached Katherine, I was again reminded of my days hitching with truckers in America, and one of the biggest nightmares they have to deal with there: DOT.
The American Department of Transportation runs a nation-wide network of “weigh stations” all along almost every stretch of the interstate highway system. Pretty much every vehicle larger than a pick-up truck has to pull in, get weighed, and possibly even “inspected by DOT personnel. What you want to get is the “green light” telling you that you’re ok and to get on down the road; what you really don’t want is the “red light” telling you to pull over and bend over.
Truckers in the states absolutely HATE DOT, and with good reason; I heard many horror stories about “getting inspected” and so on, but allow me to share one with you. It might not be the absolute worst DOT story I ever heard, but it’s the worst one I can think of.
I was on my way back to Atlanta from somewhere out west, and was coming through Missouri I believe it was. I got a ride with a trucker pulling a flat-bed carrying huge iron or steel beams, like for a bridge or something huge; I could almost tell by looking at it that he was vastly overweight.
The driver was really nervous when I got in, not because of me, but because he was massively over-weight. This might not have been a major problem, except that the route he had to take took him by a DOT station on I-24 in extreme north Georgia that he said was known around the country to be THE worst DOT outpost in all of the United States. I asked him why he couldn’t take another route, and it seemed that the time factor necessitated this route. I remember asking him what made it the worst, but I don’t remember his response.
All I know is, in a lot of people’s minds, extreme north Georgia is where the movie Deliverance took place. Now, I know this area pretty well, having lived in Athens, as well as extreme western North Carolina and extreme eastern Tennessee, really all the same area. Sure, there are a few ‘hillbilly’ types inbreeding around here and there, but by and large, this region is filled with extremely cool people, ‘hillbilly’ or not. I personally had no stereo-typed expectations about who might be manning the DOT station; but low and behold, when we pulled into this place and immediately got the “red light”, I was dumbfounded to see two dudes dressed in…get this…Confederate uniforms, you know, like from the Civil War…and Deliverance…come out of the office. These were the DOT employees dressed like this. What the f*ck???
By now the truck driver was shaking. He knew he was over-weight; the problem now was, what were they going to do. One of the DOT guys had his little note-pad and started going around the truck, looking at this and that. After being summoned inside for a while, the driver returned to the cab and said, “Hey, bro, I ain’t gonna be going nowhere for who knows how long. You should try to find yourself another ride.” Then he related how he’d just seen the DOT guy take a knife and slice one of his brake hoses, just so he could write up a bigger fine. So I thanked him for the ride to this point, and wished him luck with all this; just about this time, another truck pulled in right next to us. I had a word with the driver, who said, yes, he was going to Atlanta and that I could ride with him.
Yay! I felt really sorry for the first trucker, and actually quite angry with the DOT federales there. But I rejoiced in having a ride out of that oasis of destitution.
I got out and started loading my gear into the other truck. All of a sudden the DOT guy with the note-pad comes over and sneered, in his malignant and insidiously inbred tone of voice, “Whaddaya think you’re doin’?” I replied, completely honestly and respectfully, “This trucker said I could ride with him to Atlanta so I’m loading my gear in his truck.”
The verminous redneck then squealed, “You kaint do that. If you do, we’ll call his company and tayell.” Wow. This guy’s IQ just plummeted from a gracious 70 to a more accurate 50. Lead in mother’s milk? Check. Molested by grandparents? Check. Toilet-trained by cattle-prod? Check.
Then he added, with the biggest, scariest, most evil and malicious grin I’ve ever witnessed, “You just gonna hafta start wawlkin’.”
So I did. Billy-bob, or should I say, General Lee, there thought this was going to be a problem, especially after he rang his mate at the Highway Patrol up the road, who was there in about 5 minutes to check me out. But as in all my encounters with police on the road, I was completely polite and honest, and he was nice to me. I showed him my ID. He found everything to be ok, but then he added, “It’s pretty dead through here.” This guy seemed like more of the kind of person you’d find living in north Georgia, surely a redneck but not really a bad one. I’m not sure exactly what he was trying to convey, but I got the message. Then he was off, and there I was, thumb out and Atlanta only 3 hours away.
I wasn’t really jaded or disturbed by any of this. None of it really had anything to do with me; I was just a harmless hitch-hiker passing through. And after no more than 30 minutes, a cool guy from the Netherlands stopped and not only gave me a ride to Atlanta, he went out of his way to drop me at my friend’s apartment in Buckhead! So there you go!
Back to Australia. As we approached Katherine, Terry mentioned something about a weigh station that might be open, and that he might be over-weight. Visions of Confederate uniforms flashed through my mind, but then I remembered that this was, indeed, Australia…an extremely laissez-faire environment where you really have to go out of your way to get in trouble of any kind. In fact, there’s a lot of people here who really should be behind bars but instead they are in office!
Terry was mildly distraught, partially because this was only his second trip driving an 18-wheeler, having gotten his “truckie” license about three weeks before. Mildly distraught, but not freaking out. Slowly he pulled each axle onto the weigh-pad; then the wait for the “green” light. One by one, the “green” lights came on. But then…”Oh, no…” A long delay…then the dreaded “red” light. So now he had to pull over behind the building and get ready to bend on over. How far…who knows? None of us had been here doing this before.
One thing for sure, however, was that, no matter what happened, Terry and “Black Betty” weren’t going to be leaving there in less than an hour or so at best, and possibly, not at all, depending on how over-weight he was and what had to be done. At this point I asked Terry to use his mobile to ring a taxi, as we were only a few kms from town. It arrived almost before we had a chance to unload all our gear, which was cool.
We left “Tazza” and “Black Betty” with immense gratitude for bringing us safely across the biggest stretch of the unknown we’d yet to cross on our Aus odyssey. He gave us his mobile number and said to keep in touch if we ever wanted to ride with him again, which was very cool.
The transport people here determined that he was 2.5 tons overweight on his rear axles, so, after laboriously yet safely bringing all this fertilizer for the water-melon farm 1400 kms all the way from Brisbane to Katherine, he now had take 2.5 tons of fertilizer off the truck by fork-lift and leave it there for someone else to come and pick up. He didn’t happen to have a fork-lift on board, so I knew he was going to be there a while! My last words to him were, “Don’t let those muthaf*ckers do this to you next time,” because whoever loaded the truck in Brisbane had to know they were over-loading him, and it was he who had to deal with it all, not them.
Here we were, finally arriving in the ‘top end’ after an arduous journey across central Queensland. Our actual destination was Katherine Gorge, or Nitmiluk National Park, but the day was late and we had to do some shopping, so we found a place to pitch our tent in town, on the road to the gorge, but on a tiny piece of grass just underneath the balcony of a back-packer/hotel. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep we ever had, as the streetlights were bright, intoxicated people of several denominations seemed to be roaming the streets at all hours, and, best of all, in the middle of the night we were rudely awakened by the manager and her “boy-friend” (?) having a major domestic brawl involving shouting, screaming, possibly some bashing, crying. This went on for at least a couple hours, and it was very loud, as we were less than 20m from their open windows!
The next day we hitched to the gorge and set up camp in the unpowered tent area, almost exactly where we camped in 2007. We breathed a sigh of relief finally to be here, in a somewhat familiar natural environment, not too densely crowded, and not on the road.
We were finally “there”, in the ‘top end’, after almost two weeks of travelling close to 4000 kms from Brisbane.
‘ADVENTURE BEFORE DEMENTIA’
I’ve mentioned the “gray nomad army” a few times already. This is a popular expression referring to the legions of older, usually retired couples, almost all of whom have gray hair, who annually make their way around Australia, usually travelling from Victoria or South Australia in the winter north towards the tropics, then making their way westward to travel down the coast, to arrive in wildflower country by September for the hopefully massive chromatic bloom. Approximately 95% of the “gray nomads” are driving practically identical 4wd SUV’s (most of which look like they’ve never seen an unsealed road) and towing practically identical caravans (in America, this would be a ‘camper’ moving towards a mobile home), as if they are being programmed to buy and do these things from watching the same television shows.
I’m sure most of the “nomads” are nice people, and we’ve even had a ride from two or three of them; but this is out of literally thousands who pass us by, usually accompanied by the gesture of the upturned hands shrugging us off, as if to say, “You know, we actually could make room for you but we really just can’t be bothered. Don’t worry…someone will give you a ride.” And sure enough, someone always does, just not them! And hey, if someone doesn’t want to stop, we didn’t want to ride with them anyway!
We often speculate on what the “nomads” and other passers-by are thinking as they see us standing there with all our gear and our sign with the name of a place they’re probably going to. We’re probably lucky that we don’t know what these “thoughts” are, if, in fact, a lot of it could actually be classified as “thought” in the traditional sense of the word. What if you were suddenly “telepathic” and could read everyone’s mind and know their every thought, conscious and unconscious; think of how truly scary it would be, especially if you couldn’t shut it off! Just for fun, Liesbet and I’ve been thinking of making a film that shows people passing us by as we’re hitching and then we’ll dub in our imaginative versions of what they were thinking or saying to each other!
We might even dub in some ‘dementia’ thoughts, which are quite likely to be there in reality. Dementia is in no short supply these days, and not just in the elderly; I’d say that almost all the decisions being made these days at any level of officiality above that of grounds-keeper or custodian are made by minds that are significantly ‘demented.’
But it’s the oldies who have the dementia stereo-type in the popular imagination. I’m not sure how “normal” it is to go insane as you get older; why wait? Seriously, though, I think we can be fairly sure that a major factor in elder-dementia is the bio-accumulation of toxic substances, particularly metals like aluminium, lead, and mercury, in the body, but specifically in the brain. Aluminium has definitely been linked with Alzheimer’s disease. Nowadays, whenever I hear the “schplopp” of an aluminium beverage can being opened, I think of it as the sound of Alzheimer’s coming on.
With great amusement we saw a motto printed on the back of a caravan that we passed while riding with someone. It said, “Adventure before Dementia.” In Australian English, this would actually rhyme, as “adventure” would be pronounced “adventcha.” Go oldies!!! One of the most essential ‘top end’ destinations of the “gray nomads” is Katherine Gorge, or Nitmiluk, as the Jawoyn call her, not only because of strategic location right on the migratory path, but moreseo, because of profound scenic splendour.
Nitmiluk is a very special place in terms of natural beauty and spiritual power; this was my fourth visit and Liesbet’s second, and we both really love being here.
One thing we noticed, however, was that in the centre of the camping area a giant outdoor swimming pool with adjacent café had been erected since our last visit. They already had one restaurant inside the visitors centre, with a large outdoor deck overlooking the river, but apparently this wasn’t enough. The swimming pool and caf seemed totally out of place for a fairly remote “wilderness” camp-ground; little did we know that a far greater atrocity awaited us.
After getting set up we wandered into the visitors centre and out onto the deck where we had sat and painted rocks three years ago. To our surprise, at the very table where we had painted before now sat an aboriginal man painting! Our first response was one of indignation, not only of his being at “our” table (right!) but that it seemed like the manager (the same one who three years earlier made us leave…not because we were in anyone’s way, or not buying stuff, as we bought food and bevs regularly…but, ostensibly, because he thought he saw someone ‘buy’ a rock from us, but had actually witnessed the exchange of email addresses), who we believed to be disturbed because of all the attention we had drawn from the throng of tourists, had hatched himself a plan since we were there before, and recruited an aboriginal artist to sit there and paint. See, this would appear to be much more “authentic” than mere white folks sitting there painting.
All this was just our initial impression. As it turned out, the aboriginal artist turned out to be the very lovely Johnny Dewar of the local Jawoyn family, the traditional owners of Nitmiluk, their name for what the Europeans named Katherine gorge. Liesbet and I went over and made his acquaintance. He was doing some traditional painting of frogs on special paper his uncle had made. I could feel the beginnings of a very cool, powerful, and long-time-coming connection happening.
ORIGINS OF MY CONNECTION WITH AUSTRALIA (in this life)
My connection with Australia goes back to around 1990, when I first began to pick up on what I felt were “transmissions” from aboriginal medicine men or shamans, who, in my mind, saw what was happening to their culture as a whole and began to “send out” their special energies, their special connections with the consciousness of life on this planet, to anyone who could pick up on it. The indigenous people of Australia, once numbering in the millions of people and thousands of tribal language groups, are absolutely the oldest culture of humans, by a factor of at least ten times older than any others. Their conscious connection with the forces of life as we know her is therefore the oldest and deepest of any humans. Indigenous art is not about “making pretty pictures” or decorating your cave; it’s a form of “internal technology” having to do with understanding and communicating with the forces, spirits and beings of the cosmos and the natural world, all of whom have been here far far longer than people. Indigenous art is more or less shamanic in purpose and function.
Around 1990 I really started picking up on these energies that seemed to direct my attention to the aborigines and their art. It was if the pictures of their art I saw in a book were actually “talking” to me, as if they were literally “alive” and transmitting something very special, a very special feeling that I now know IS the spirit of the dream-time which I’ve come to know so well. I felt really drawn to come to Australia then, but the universe decided that I needed to spend another decade “up above” to complete my work there. In 1990 I sort of went to the next level with everything I was doing, began to make a living exclusively from my art, and moved into a higher level of movement around America, to try to spread the words of creativity attuned to a love of the Earth.
The dolphins and whales also figured heavily into the “special connections” I felt with the aborigines; in my mind it seemed that the energies being transmitted by the indigenous Australians were deep human understandings of the consciousness of life, and that these energies were very similar to, but not as ancient or comprehensive as, those being transmitted by the cetaceans; yet, all of these energies comprised a continuum or continuous spectrum whose nature, boundaries and limits I could not yet perceive.
I reckoned that since most of the people of Australia, past and present, live on or near the coast, the cetaceans have figured prominently in the development of many dream-time cosmologies; having been around in their present forms for on the order of 30 million years, they would represent the pinnacle of sentience, at least in a mammalio-centric expression. Cetaceans have been around 300 times longer than the aborigines, the eldest of hominid people.
I won’t write about it now, but tangible evidence of this “non-local connection” between me and Australia exists that clearly demonstrates a synchronistic level of inspiration or creativity spanning time and space. This connection involves the Keringke group, aboriginal women artists of the Eastern Arrentye people of St. Theresa south of Alice Springs. I’ll go into this in greater detail in my next journale australis, but for now check this out:
The unfolding connection with Johnny Dewar seemed really special, kind of like, now that I’d been travelling “down under” for over ten years, had not only continued my North American “mission” here but gone to the next level many times over, and that Liesbet and I’d completed the full “Rainbow Serpent” energy circuit upon arriving in Katherine…it was as if now we were ready to meet a true “art brother”, a genuine and humble aboriginal artist doing what we love best…painting.
We’d been to Nitmiluk before, and did a long day walk to Butterfly Gorge, one of the 13 gorges comprising the whole region. This time, however, due to a heavy wet season not long past, there was almost nowhere you were allowed to go swimming due to the threat of saltwater crocodiles having come into the area. See, when it floods, the whole top end of Australia can become like a huge lake in areas covering hundreds of square kilometres. The salties, who normally are quite territorial, are then free to move about outside of and beyond their usual channels or waterways. They could, for example, swim into a distant rock hole far away; then, when the water levels recede back down towards normal, the crocs are then stranded there in the water hole, where no one is used to finding them. Unwary swimmers could get munched.
And so it was at Nitmiluk. At first we were very sad because going swimming is one of our favourite things to do; Butterfly was closed to swmimming, and who wants to walk 7 kms over rocky terrain in oppressive sun to arrive at the river and not be able to swim? Finally we ascertained that there were two places safe to swim, where they’d made sure no crocs were there, or so they said! So off we went on our first excursion to the southern rock hole, for our first aqueous encounter since Noosa in March.
The autumn weather at Nitmiluk was beautiful, not exceedingly hot in the day (not down at the campground, but up on the plateau the temps can be several degrees hotter), and pleasant at night. The mosquitoes there weren’t bad at all, and neither were the flies. Really, the only issue we had to deal with was anthropogenic noise pollution. And, unusually, here it wasn’t so much from people camping next to us, although we did “hear” some people who’s names might have been, for example, Dick and Sheila Cackler, obviously Australian, and Heinlich and Smelga Loudkraut, probably from Hamburg; the totally unexpected and quite insidious noise pollution that actually bothered us emanated from an unlikely source: two people “singing” on an outdoor stage set up by the pool, next to the little café, obviously sanctioned, just like state-sponsored terrorism, by the managers of Nitmiluk. Not the “owners”, who are the Jawoyn people, but the “managers”, who are white folk.
‘POACHERS OF SILENCE’: NOISE POLLUTION in the ABYSS OF TOURISM
What I’m about to relate might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, particularly if they are deaf and/or watch a lot of television. These people tend not to be especially sensitive in the acoustic dimension; their hearing is either turned off, or has been conditioned to operate only within the narrow bandwidth of a tv speaker. But for people with good hearing and who have any sense of…I hesitate to use the word “taste” here, not only because “taste” refers to gustation, but also because “taste” in music is entirely subjective…excellence or quality in music…these are better terms…for this group of people, which would include most real musicians, what I’m about to relate might represent the absolute nadir of anything that could remotely be referred to as ‘music’, in terms of the number of fundamental violations of decency, not to mention legality, taking place.
Imagine, if you will, traveling a vast and great distance, enduring all manner of hardship and discomfort, having your endurance challenged, not to mention your patience, for two weeks, and finally arriving at your destination, a wonderful place of natural beauty and serenity, far off the beaten path, where years before you’d pitched your tent in a peaceful campground, experienced long periods of uninterrupted peace, and hoped mercifully for the same this time. You’re THERE, finally. The sun is getting low and evening is approaching; you roll out your ground-sheets and set up the stove for a nice dinner, in celebration of having hitch-hiked over 3000 kms to get here. A gentle breeze rustles the eucalyptus leaves, a few birds sing merrily; wallabies become visible, munching on blades of grass, and a flying fox or two sweeps silently overhead. You’re in the middle of a beautiful reverie of gratitude for having been delivered half-way across Australia to be here now, in the company of your beautiful loved one…and all of a sudden, you hear the sound of a buzzing amplifier being turned on, as if a band was about to play.
“What the f*ck?” you might exclaim. With extreme prejudice. Here, in a campground in the middle of absolutely nowhere? Where people have come from around the world, at great expense, to experience the beauty and power of nature and the dream-time?
Believe it or not, this IS what happened. We were just sitting down to cook our first dinner at Nitmiluk after hitch-hiking thousands of kms to be here, our first real destination in the territory, and feeling extraordinarily thankful both to have made it across Queensland and to be here now, when, all of a sudden, the sound of a “band” beginning to play disrupted our continuum of peace.
I can remember and explain my instantaneous immediate response quite acutely: I was outraged that anyone could even remotely believe that having a “band” or whomever to “play” under such circumstances would be considered desirable by the people who were paying to camp here. I couldn’t f*cking believe it! I don’t care WHAT they were playing, or WHO it was…who would want to HAVE to listen to loud “music” outdoors at a campground in the middle of nowhere, especially right at dark, when most people, you’d think, were ready to have dinner and a nice quiet evening in nature.
Liesbet and I sat there astounded, in total disbelief that this was happening. Whoever it was began to “sing”, if you could call it that. The best metaphor I can come up with is “sonic smegma.” And it was loud, even though we were a good 100 meters from them. There was NO WAY you could kind of just pretend it wasn’t there. It was a TOTAL VIOLATION of what being at this place was really about. In reality, it was an extension of the “gray nomad” mentality, which was all about bringing with them every possible thing they’d have at home. Double bed, sofa, hardwood floor, toaster, microwave, oven, mega flat-screen tv, sauna, Jacuzzi, SUV, bicycle, motorcycle, speed-boat, satellite dish…why do without it when you can bring it all with you? Trust us…we’ve seen all this and more. So, if this is your mentality, how could your “wilderness experience” be complete without a LIVE BAND performing in your ear every evening at dusk? IT COULDN’T…and here it was.
Don’t get me wrong here. It wasn’t only because these people calling themselves “musicians” SUCKED ASS in a big way. Being here at Nitmiluk, I don’t care if even Milli Vanilli or Britney Spears was playing, or even Abba…I don’t care if it was the BEST MUSOS IN THE WORLD…I wouldn’t want to hear ANYONE “playing” here. HAHAHAHA! If Jimi Hendrix was playing, then, yes, maybe I’d be happy with it. But short of that, we didn’t want to hear ANYONE playing “music.”
And my anger wasn’t even primarily at the “band”, it was with the “managerial” person who had conceived this total bullshit atrocity. In my mind, only a completely necrophilous “marketing character” personality could come up with this. I also remember thinking that this beats even the worst tourism atrocities in New Zealand by a factor of at least ten. Even Greg Hope, the neo-Nazi caravan park owner in Haast, didn’t have “music” playing at his place. Or, maybe he did, we just weren’t there to hear it!
I flashed on the scene from the end of Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange, where Alex, the main character, had been released from detention, where he’d been “reconditioned” to abhor violence, and inadvertently but equally conditioned to abhor Beethoven’s music. Through a twist of karma, he ended up on the doorstep of the man whose wife he’d brutally raped earlier; knocked out by drugged wine, Alex ended up tied to a bed in the upstairs of the man’s house, while directly beneath him were giant speakers playing, guess what, Beethoven. He ended up by jumping out of the window…
I felt kind of like Alex, except that I couldn’t remember having done anything wrong to be karmically punished for…except liking early Elton John music? We weren’t tied to a bed, but even when we tried going as far as possible away at dinner-time the next day, we could still clearly hear the “sosm” (sonic smegma).
These “singers”, or “poachers of silence” as I prefer to call them, are named Greg and Julia Evans, who were imported all the way from Melbourne to tort...I mean, entertain at Nitmiluk. Very interesting that now, for the third time, someone named “Greg” has manifested as the bringers of malfeasance: first it was Gregg Ridgely, owner/operator of the Aquarush (speed-boat “eco-”tour who put us and sea-life at risk and who had already killed a snorkeler and lied about it), then it was Greg Hope, neo-Nazi owner/operator of Haast Lodge (who spewed venom on us and turned us away from his concentration camp), now Greg Evans, broadcasting sonic smegma all over the otherwise tranquil campground at Nitmiluk.
Being a musician myself, I have a very discerning and critical ear; not only am I very sensitive to the presence of sound in general (it must be the cetacean in me) but am also acutely aware that, especially in recent years, a lot of “music” out there cannot rightly be called “music” because there’s really no “music” in it. The word comes from “muse”, in Greek mythology the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, upon whom creative minds would call in order to be inspired. In some accounts nine muses existed, ones for astronomy (Urania), dance (Terpsichore), the lyre (Erato) and comedy (Thalia). So, “music” implies the presence of inspiration, a sense of aliveness, of a living spirit.
Much of the “music” out there these days sounds more like it was manufactured by a machine and delivered by robotic protoplasm dispensers. Ultimately, “music” I guess is in the ear of the listener; I can only speak for myself. In this instance, however, I am by no means alone.
Greg and Julia Evans seemed at least to be clever facsimiles of human beings, but there the similarity to real musicians ended. Technically, their voices per se were “acceptable” to the undiscriminating ear. His sounded like a cheesy baritone country singer, and hers an over-blown would-be opera singer who never made it. The instrumentation was a single piece of “do it all” technology, one of those giant keyboard things where you just punch a button and songs come out. Then, you can use a finger to play a simple melody line, and so on. They were on an outdoor stage next to a swimming pool, deep in a forest in Katherine Gorge...a place that is exquisitely quiet bar the constant helicopter flights in the day, vehicles coming and going, and sosmasm, “sonic smegma masquerading as music.” The amplification system was about 1000 times too powerful for the set and setting.
But wait...there’s more. “What kind of ‘music’ were they doing” might be your next question. The smegma thickens...
Elevator-music versions of singles from the 70’s and 80’s, stuff like “You’ve got a friend”, written by Carole King and popularized by James Taylor; Gordon Lightfoot’s “If you could read my mind.” “You’re never gonna dance again” by George “forgot to shave” Michael’s Wham. No coprocopia of sosmasm would be complete without a rousing rendition of Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” Presto...there it was. Let’s see, what else did they butcher...Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” and Carole King’s “It’s too late.” Van Morrison’s “Brown-eyed Girl” (in my mind, an ode to anal sex?) Some of these songs were, to me, quite good in their original expression; others, however, had always sucked.
The one that bugged me the most was “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. I never liked that song to begin with, and it had already been permanently etched into some dormant memory cells in my brain from the thousands of times I heard it on the radio in the 70’s when it came out. So, to hear a smegmatized version of an already crap song was quite a blow to the integrity of my CNS. Permanent brain damage? Only the years will tell.
The first evening we experienced all this, I got out my video camera and recorded a fragment of some of these songs, along with my commentary, expressing what the composer of each song might have said if they could hear this now. I reckoned that Jimmy Buffett would have pulled out his shot-gun! Carole King and James Taylor would have rung their lawyers. Lightfoot may well have chosen simply to sing back at them with his now-whiny Bob Dylan-sounding voice! George Michael might have tried to sign them onto his label. Abba may have started dancing, who knows? And Van Morrison would surely have puked up a big green lugey of Exorcist phlegm on them!
But the story gets even better. Not only was their desec...I mean, performance, not a one-time thing, it was going on five days a week, had been going for weeks, and was going to continue for who knows how long. Day after day the sosmasm attack continued unabated. And the set-list was pretty much identical from day to day. Basically the same songs in the same order. Every day, just before dusk, no matter where we were, except for the night we camped out up on the plateau, we could hear the tell-tale low-frequency thumping of the overly loud system, then as we got closer to our campsite, the muted cacophony of distant sosmasm resolved into subtle nuances of unrelenting sonic butchery. Maybe “butchery” is not the best word; instead, visualize the characters in Monty Python’s The Search for the Holy Grail who were commanded to “chop down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring.” They were chopping down our minds with sonic herring.
There was no way to escape other than to vacate the premises. During the other 22 hours per day, however, it was an awesomely wonderful place; this enabled us to stay on for a while. But after a couple days “stepped on a pop-top...blew out my flip-flop” started cycling around in my brain even when they weren’t “singing” or rather “moaning” out these songs. It was hard to shut it off.
It all started to sound a bit like mumabyp-whomro, or "music made by people who's medication ran out."
Some of these songs are actually quite good in their original unblasphemized form, but to hear the sosmasm versions over and over again began to seem like a form of psy-op. We REALLY felt sorry for the people who worked at the pool-side cafe every evening, too. I complained about all this to a couple of them. At first, they gave the official line, that they “couldn’t converse with clients” about stuff like that; but later on, they admitted that they, too, hated it. We also learned that a lot of other people had complained about it, too. But see, it’s like a lot of the issues at caravan parks, where people come for brief periods, probably never to return: ultimately, no one really cares because, if you’re the client, you’ll be gone, and if you’re the management, the complainers won’t be there too long, either. What is set up is a self-perpetuating chain of annoyance that is never remedied; but the “bio-accumulation” of sosmasm residue in the human psyche continues.
Now for the clincher of the whole thing. This is an interesting expression now that I think about it. It must refer to the “clinching” of a fist that might occur when someone was very angry. Perhaps “clacker” would be better, referring to the tightening of one’s sphincter under similar conditions? I noticed that Greg and Julia Evans were selling cds of “their” music up at the stage. My curiosity was aroused, as, having been forced to listen to several entire sets of “their” music, not one song was original. Once I found myself standing beside Julia at the cafe. I asked her politely if they had any original material and she said “No.” Very interesting.
So now I was curious as to what was on the cd’s they were selling. The cd is called “You’ve got a friend.” One evening I took Liesbet’s small Lumix camera with me, and while pretending to take pictures of them performing, i picked up a cd and photographed the song list. I also looked inside at all the information on the cd, inserts, covers, back, etc.
On the cd, EVERY song was composed and published by artists in America, yet NOWHERE was there any indication of ANY kind of licensing or copyright use agreements. What Greg and Julia had done was to record their own versions of 14 different songs they didn’t write and sell it on a cd. Not only is this a total violation of any sense of decency, it’s also called STEALING. Plus, it’s a violation of at least nine different international copyright law agreements between America and Australia that protect artists from exactly this sort of theft. Numerous global organizations exist who manage music licensing, like BMI and ASCAP. And live performance of other artists’ material is pretty much accepted as being ok; but RECORDING A CD of other peoples’ songs? I think that most of the people hearing them perform would of course recognize that the Evans didn’t write these songs; but I am also pretty sure that if I had asked people if the Evans had the legal right to sell these songs, they would assume that they had obtained and paid for licensing privilege. Not the case.
So, to sum it all up, we have a multi-dimensional extravaganza of violation, from disruption of the peace and quiet of a natural environment, to virtual psychological warfare by means of repeated diurnal sonic smegma attacks, to gross copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property. All in the guise of “entertainment.” And they are getting paid to do it.
When I discovered the name of the person behind all this, it all became clear. With a name like Clive Pollack, what else would you expect? Nothing against people from Poland, and it’s actually spelled “pollock”, you know, like the old jokes based on the hopefully inaccurate stereotype of people from Poland being bumbling idiots, you know, kind of like the Irish!? Hahaha! Seriously, the manager of the Nitmiluk Tourism Association is named Clive Pollack, and it was he who conceived this sonic atrocity and imported the purveyors of sosmasm.
I resisted the temptation to bust the Evans there in person. I wanted to have Liesbet filming me as I approached them and asked them a few questions. “Excuse me, do you know anything about international copyright law?” But I decided to wait, as we might go back there for a brief visit before heading out to WA, and I don’t want to be there much after “letting the truth be known.” Maybe I’ll just do it by letter, as one of the girls who works at Nitmiluk agreed to give the Evans the letter in person.
Interestingly, when I related this story to our friend Peter in Darwin, a Kiwi who’s lived in Australia for over 30 years, his immediate response was “Most Australians would probably think of that as a bonus.” Wow. Not an “onus”, a “bonus.” My mind reeled beneath the weight of the fact that he could be right...that most Australians might not only not be disturbed by the Evanexcrescent sosmasm, but that they might actually like it. Then again, it only makes sense in a world where the “gray nomads” bring metric tons of SUV and caravan, laden with appliances and tv, across thousands of kms of highway, into remote wilderness areas, only to sit in them, oblivious not only to where they actually are, but also to the ecological consequences of what they are doing. To have Greg and Julia Evans’ “music” wafting through the camp-site as they cackle and guffaw mindlessly, sear their meat and swill their piss out of aluminium cans would only be complementary. Ah, yes, the sound of the top being popped off of a can of beverage...the sound of Alzheimer’s in the making!
Alas, but enough of the ‘dark side’ of our Nitmiluk experience, lest I over-burden you with rantings and ravings; compared to the good stuff, the Evan-onus sosmasm attacks were merely as mild clouds of only moderately thirsty mozzies. In other words, the awesomeness of being there blew all that away!
ONTO THE PLATEAU AND INTO THE DREAM-TIME
The campground at Nitmiluk, especially the unpowered tent area where we were is pretty good by usual standards, the Evans notwithstanding; in moments of silence you can really feel and sense where you are. But it’s only when you get away from the people and infra-structure and down into the gorge or up onto the plateau that you truly realize where you are.
Nitmiluk is on the southwestern edge of an extensive geographical region characterized by massive plateaus, deep gorges and sandstone escarpments, with huge rivers and wetlands as you approach the ocean. Known as Arnhemland, this region of the Northern Territory is bigger than Texas, and is truly “aboriginal” land, in that entry/exit is controlled and a permit is necessary. It’s the closest thing that the “blackfellas” have to their own country. Unfortunately, “whitey” has surely staked out anything of value to himself there long ago. We haven’t been there yet; in our minds, it would be like going back in time to the “old days” of the indigenous Australians living like they used to before the European invasion. In reality, however, I am sure we would be greatly disappointed. We already know that there’s hundreds if not thousands of mines there, and more than likely, everyone’s going to be driving around in their SUV’s but sleeping in the yard! Alcohol? Probably illegal but extremely expensive. Who knows, we always hope for the best with the unknown. The good part is that the area is vast but not densely populated. To us, an equally inviting but foreboding unknown.
Nitmiluk, being right on the edge of this region, has the magic vibe of undisrupted Earth, at least in the sense of no mining or “geo-engineering.” So when you escape the annoying but sub-catastrophic minor disruptions of human noise, you suddenly find yourself in another dimension...the dream-time.
All over Australia, in those increasingly rare moments when we are able to be alone in nature without other humans or their machines and noise, we are able to sense the presence of the dream-time ancestors who, according to the stories of the indigenous people, created the landscape by projecting themselves into it. As mysterious as it sounds to the “scientifically” indoctrinated western mind...”pseudo-scientifically” might be better...the process of a creative intelligence projecting itself into a dimension to generate a landscape is really no less credible or beautiful of a “story” than something like the “big bang”, “Cambrian explosion” or Darwinian evolution. In fact, the further I go, the more I like the aboriginal kinds of stories, as they are a lot more “human” and less detached and clinical.
The dream-time, then, as an all-encompassing “operating environment” for reality on this planet, IS alive and well. The problem is not with the dream-time, whether or not it exists. It has always existed and always will, being beyond our own cognitive constructs of space and time.
The “problem” is that the vast majority of people can no longer sense it, feel it, tune into it. It’s there, it’s just invisible to “normal” people whose senses are tuned to the wavelengths of television and mobile phone, the vibrations of distraction and capitalism, the automobile, the apartment building, the shopping mall. “People”, if they can still accurately be so-called, whose neurological hardware is more or less intact, but whose software has been subverted and mutated so that the internal processes they use to construct a personal “reality” are not those that humans have traditionally used, but industrialized/commercialized versions. To put it more bluntly, a lot of people are going around as if they were extremely sophisticated spacecraft running on glue.
The central issues here are ones of conflicting vibrations or the absence of vibrations; many people are constantly embedded in fields of noise and electromagnetic pollution. Anyone is going to feel better and attain a clearer state of mind, body and spirit when they leave the city, get out of their car, turn off their mobile and tv, and get out in nature, no matter where you are.
If you happen to be in a remote part of Australia, far away from any city or military/industrial facility, you can instantly tune into the dream-time continuum. Sometimes this happens to us spontaneously, for example, when we’re hitch-hiking and get let out in an unpopulated area after hours of riding in a noisy vehicle; suddenly we find ourselves in silence and the magic is all around. At other times, we plan trips into the wilderness exclusively for the purpose of getting away from people stuff as much as possible...it’s not easy by any means no matter where you are...and for being close to and in tune with Mother Nature and the dream-time ancestors.
And this was the case at Nitmiluk. So far I’ve only described the aspects of being there that obstructed our experience of nature. I spent a lot of time talking about this because it’s a BIG PROBLEM all over Australia. The amount of over-development is unbelievable, with construction of all kinds going on almost everywhere you look; the “tourism” industry is metastasizing like a melanoma, often doing its best to be a capitalistic middle-man in the experience of wilderness areas, controlling access when it can, projecting images of shiny happy people dining on decorative table-cloths sipping vintage wine...looking out at a beautiful landscape. The landscape where all this is taking place, the destinations where the “tourists” are encouraged to come, are to this mentality really nothing more than the backdrop against which the accoutrements of the tourism industry are to be consumed. In the international tourism brochures and on the web-sites, photos of amazing Australian landscapes are flashed before everyone’s eyes, but when you get there, all they want you to see is their hotel, gift shop, visitor centre and tour-booking office. Ever seen picture of a destitute mining town on a tourism brochure? Of a dead dolphin poisoned in a polluted river? Of a caravan park so chock-a-block with mining workers that not even an unpowered tent site could be had? The smouldering stumps of a thousand-hectare old-growth forest clear-felled and incinerated? Not likely...not good for the tourism industry. Who wants to spend thousands of $ to go to a distant country where there might be intimations of government-sanctioned “reality” lurking in the shadows?
When we headed out of the caravan park and up onto the plateau, once we’re out of ear-shot of vehicles, the silence is profound. All of sudden the sounds of insects and the songs of birds become the dominant acoustic features; it doesn’t take long to forget that the cars, caravans and “pseudo-people” even exist.
Accurately and effectively to describe the experience of “silence” in words is difficult if not impossible; avoiding the use of split infinitives is almost as hard! What happens with Liesbet and me is that when we finally get out in nature, we feel as if we’re truly at HOME there, that this is where we’re SUPPOSED to be, that all the other stuff is just something we have to go through or endure in order to be there then in the womb of nature. Out in nature, we feel as if we’re in the “real” reality, not the fake “reality” of pathologically normal people doing pathologically normal stuff that they saw on pathologically normal mass-media and enacted on their behalf by pathologically normal public figures.
This in essence describes the human condition at this point in time: a widening chasm between the slowly dwindling world of nature, which is really “real”, and the rapidly expanding world of “people stuff” which is NOT real in any kind of spiritual or cosmic way. In fact, the “reality” of “people stuff” is almost totally devoid of life as we know her; is unhealthy or even dangerous for life as we know her, including ourselves; and could not inaccurately be termed “necrophilous” in the sense that psychologist Erich Fromm used the word.
Needless to say, we LOVE being in nature. And Nitmiluk is nature IN A BIG WAY. And there we were...during our ten or so days there we made three excursions onto the plateau, two to the southern rock hole, where we could swim in the beautiful cool waters, and one longer, over-night trek of over 30 kms return that took us to the Dunn’s Swamp camping area and twice to the Lily Ponds swimming hole/water-fall.
Even when we’re finally out there, the possibility always exist that you’re going to encounter other people. I don’t want to sound like a misanthropic freak of nature about the “people” thing, but it’s basically statistical: when the same things happen over and over, when the people we run into repeatedly exhibit the same constricted subset of behaviours, as if they were all conditioned from watching the same tv shows (quite possibly true!), then whenever we do see people approaching, our essential openness and positive spirit is often challenged by the abrasiveness of many of them. We are not unfriendly by any means, but we just keep to ourselves and try to stay out of their way and maintain our centeredness while they move away.
Again, noise is often the central issue. We often hear people coming long before we ever see them. It’s an ongoing conundrum to us why a lot of people have to talk so loud when they’re out in nature, even though the person they’re talking to is one meter away. Often they actually seem to be shouting at each other.
The chaotic vibration of people babbling or shouting momentarily disrupts our communion with the dream-time; no one can actually feel what it’s like to be there if their chins are wagging the whole time. And I know that no one has ever heard Liesbet and me talking unless they were within a few meters of us; we naturally speak softly to each other. We are very conscious of the noise thing. I wouldn’t want someone else to have to listen to me talking. I can’t even have a phone conversation if I know someone else can hear me...and I could NEVER talk on a mobile phone in a public place like so many people do. To me, it’s kind of a private thing, like having a crap. I wouldn’t do it on a bus or in a grocery store.
We were extremely lucky on our plateau excursions, in that we encountered very few other people. Beyond “luck” we felt that our guardian angels/ancestor guides were arranging our timing so that we would have extended “windows” of solitude. This happened several times, for example, when we first went to the southern rock hole.
Down at the main water hole at the base of the falls, the area of boulders where you can actually sit is quite small; if there’s other people there, they are going to be right on top of you. The first time we came here, we had the whole place to ourselves for at least a couple hours, which was fantastic. And it’s not like we specifically don’t want the company of other people; these are, after all, “public” places in a sense. It’s just that we know from experience that other people are exceedingly unlikely to be quiet AND exceedingly likely to be loud and abrasive, especially if there’s two or more. So when we have extended periods of solitude at special places we are extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to be there in a true and sacred way...the way people are supposed to experience nature and wilderness.
Just to bring home the point, I will share the grossest violation of solitude of the whole Nitmiluk experience. On our over-night camping trip to Dunn’s Swamp, we made a side-trip down to the Lilly Pond water-fall and swimming hole, which was at least five kms one way, off the main track. The last kilometer is down a really steep and rocky hillside, but then you arrive at a huge cavernous area obviously carved out by hundreds of thousands of years of massive water movement.
The water-fall itself was a not-insignificant stream, way too intense and powerful to get directly under safely. But the water-hole was fantastic. No one else was around, as we were maybe 15 kms of walking distance from the visitors’ centre. We were there maybe an hour, swimming and taking pictures and tremendousy enjoying the ability to be there as one should be there...in peace, quiet, and company of the ancestors.
Again, the timing was guided. Liesbet had already got her clothes back on and was doing some photography; I had gotten out and dried off and had one of my socks back on, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with no warning whatsoever, visual or acoustic (were our senses of smell keener, we may have noticed the approach of caucasians!), a stream of tourists poured onto the rocky outcropping I was sitting on. I instantly felt my solar plexus chakra close up, as if to protect my inner being that was wide-open out there in nature; I couldn’t believe how many there were, either. MANY dozens, maybe 50 or even 70 people, all with identical tourist uniforms, all with identical tourist “auras”, equally gray. I looked at Liesbet and she looked at me in silent disbelief and scornful dismay. “What the F*CK???” we thought to each other.
And they KEPT ON COMING, like ants streaming out of an accidentally decapitated mound. One of the most bizarre things was that it was almost like Liesbet and I were invisible; several people almost walked on me. One lady came and stood like half a meter in front of me, taking a picture, with her ass in my face, until I stood up and towered over her with an expression of sending a bolt of lightning up her ass. Then she said, “Are you right?” as if she only then noticed that I was there. Another man put his pack down literally touching me, almost as if literally he didn’t see me. I’ve reflected on this a lot, and it might be possible that because we had been way out in nature for over 36 hours with no other human contact, our entire vibratory infrastructure had begun to resonate more with the dream-time frequencies than with “civilized human” frequencies, and that we were LITERALLY INVISIBLE to their eyes until we moved and then “entrained” to the invaders, thus stepping down into a lower dimension. This is really freaky to think about.
it’s also very interesting because of the sudden and unexpected shift we felt in ourselves. Normally, when we’ve been out in nature away from everything, it’s a gradual process of returning to civilization. You know when you head back, you know how long it will take to get back, your thoughts and feelings are constantly recalibrating as you’re approaching “civilization”, then you start to hear and see the vibrations, the people.
In this case, the inner shift was unexpected, sudden, and automatic, a reflexive process of self-protection. It’s like their vibe FORCED us to connect with them, whether we wanted to or not. I mean, I couldn’t block them out visually or acoustically: I didn’t want to run into or stumble over any. But it was literally like we were in a totally different dimension, tangibly and physically, from the throng of tourists. Their invasion snapped us down to their level.
Just by looking at these people, how sickly, over-weight and out of shape they appeared to be..typical tourists...and the fact that none of them had any gear except a towel and camera...it was obvious that they didn’t walk the 15 kms that we had to get there. As it turned out, they had swarmed off of not one but two tour boats docked on the rocks about 100 meters behind us. We got the heck out of there without saying a word to any of them, although I did snap a few photos to share the effect with you.
We felt angry and violated, not because other people came per se, but because of how many there were, how they got there and why (the tourism business cramming as many people as possible into one small area), and the suddenness with which our solitude was broken. Ultimately, though, we thanked the ancestors and guardian spirits of Lilly Pond for bringing us there in time to have a proper visit, and for timing our departure perfectly so as to provide a very interesting encounter with inter-dimensional implications.
I’m starting to feel like I’ve dwelt on all the negative stuff and not enough on all the wonderful stuff about Nitmiluk. It might be kind of like, how in a book I’m finishing now for the second time, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander, easily the single best book about tv, mass-media and consciousness ever written, he talks about how the technology of television itself creates certain kinds of biases that significantly affect what can and cannot be conveyed. Could it be that typing words in English on a computer sitting here in an artificially-lit and warmed room bombarded by wi-fi microwaves may be more conducive to writing negative stuff than positive stuff? Let’s hope not!
In addition, Liesbet and I go to great lengths to obtain as many high-quality photographs and as much video footage as we can of everywhere we go, not so much for our own enjoyment, but primarily to share with our network of friends who we keep in touch and who make us possible. So, if I’m lacking in colourful and prosaic descriptions of the beauty of nature here, remember that you can look at our photos and video footage, eventually.
One of our biggest blessings and one of the coolest things about the exact time we were at Nitmiluk was that the rainy season was over, but it had been a pretty major one, so that there was still heaps of water around. All the falls were still flowing, and many streams and pools could be found, ones that in a couple months might dry up.
I spoke earlier about how swimming was safe in only a couple isolated places due to the possibility of salt-water crocs being there; but the presence of lots of water made the entire area very green and lush, a rare treat in a land of extreme heat and dessication.
On the way to the rock hole we passed a stream that had a nice little spot where we could sit in the shade and look at the water and what all was down in there. SO many truly amazing life-forms, from the tiniest frogs we’d ever seen, to tad-poles in various stages of development, to these small flowering plants with white spheres on the tips of thin stalks, that resembled miniscule space probes with antennas. We wondered how much of what we were seeing was only “alive” when the water was here, and what the same area might look like a couple months hence, when it may have dried up?
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF THE ‘DREAM-TIME’
When we’re out walking in nature, our senses are wide open for signals and communications in all dimensions: from life-forms, from spirit, from people. For the first few minutes and hours that we’re really out there, it’s such a relief to feel unburdened by the noises and pollutants that city dwellers “live” with constantly. Then, after a while, it’s as if our whole systems become enlivened, uplifted, clarified and energized, simply by being in a living environment free of interference. Here, everything is ok, because we know that this is the REAL “reality” and that all the “people stuff” is really only a sad and temporary delusion. Here, in the womb of nature and the arms of eternity, we feel at peace, at one with the universe and know that we are being smiled upon by a divine creative intelligence infinitely beyond what our human minds can grasp. We are able to glimpse the artistic handiwork of this intelligence in the beauty of nature in all her manifestations, in flowers, rocks, trees, animals, clouds, water and stars. We are able to perceive this beauty within ourselves and, potentially, within everyone, if they could just for a moment STOP doing all the stuff that blocks the flow of spirit, of the healing chi of Mother Earth.
As photographers and videographers, our eyes are always seeking the beautiful and unusual, the unexpected and the amazing, finding ways to create an inspiring image from an ordinary scene, to focus attention on a life-form, juxtaposition, or fleeting event that might otherwise go unnoticed by human eyes, a transient expression of wonder unappreciated.
Steve Martin the comedian once said that “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” Using one form of communication or expression to describe another is often futile and unproductive. And so it goes with ordinary English; the present document is more of a journal than poetry, and I have to apologize for my many bumpings-up-against the limitations of this medium.
What you need to do, then, is GO TO NITMILUK YOURSELVES. Travel as lightly and ecologically as possible; don’t bring your caravan or mobile phone. Breathe deeply and feel the life-force inside you. Bring your ear-plugs or iPod to drown out the sosmasm attacks at dusk each day. Most importantly, wear your walking shoes or boots, as they will be almost as important as gravity and oxygen to your explorations of the plateau and gorges.
Our time there was extremely nice; even though I may have spent more time writing about the negative stuff, the wonderful stuff was astronomically more powerful...it just doesn’t translate into words as well. Our many hours and kilometers of exploring the plateau, of being with the ancestors in silent communion, of feeling the energy of the land, undisrupted by mining and forestry, and especially the night we camped out at Dunn’s swamp, were extraordinarily magical. Once again, I cannot emphasize enough the transformation of consciousness that occurs out there: the world of human civilization becomes a distant delusion and the world of nature becomes increasingly powerful, intense and REAL in inexpressible ways. We’ve even wondered sometimes what it might be like to venture into the dream-time, and not come back!
When you are immersed in undisrupted nature, you become timeless if not eternal; all of your vibrations entrain with the most ancient of archetypal energies and patterns, those of the natural world of water and stone, of soil and forest, of plants and animals who’ve been here far longer than anything calling itself “human.” In the aboriginal stories, these are the physical expressions of the creative ancestors of the dream-time. When you’re there, you ARE an ancestor of today.
One of the most overwhelming realizations that true nature experience brings is the horror of what “man, the wise” is doing to the Earth. To say that we are conducing a “war” against the Earth is by no means an understatement or metaphor. When you’re really at one with nature, this kind of realization is not so much a cognitive process but a gut feeling; clear and sensitive people actually feel the feelings of the Earth and her children. Being in constant touch with these feelings is what makes it easy for us to have given up driving and owning vehicles, for example, why we easily gave up meat, smoking and mobile phones (Liesbet gave up smoking and mobiles, I never partook of these). We don’t own land or stock in any companies.
And to say that this “war” is being conducted largely unconsciously is also not a metaphor. How many people think of the immense ecological damage done by the automobile and fossil-fuel scenarios each time they get in their car? How many people consider the spiritual and ecological damage done by the industrialization of animals for meat each time they chow a piece of steak? How many people realize that a mobile phone is the exact same technology as a microwave oven, and they’re putting it right next to their brains?
Not only are modern-day people the “soldiers in World War 3” by virtue of the summation of daily activities they never question, they are the targets and victims as well, due not only to the unassailable but largely denied fact that the primary function of the entire military-industrial complex is to implement the power-elite agendas of global depopulation and enslavement, but also to the karma of morphogenetic resonance: “what comes around goes around”, or in the words of Chief Seattle, “What we do to the Earth we do to ourselves.” World War 3 is not just a war of genocide and ecocide, it’s a war of suicide.
What we try to do is live in both worlds simultaneously, choosing not completely to escape from human civilization in the hopes that we might be able to make a difference somehow, and at the same time being as close to nature as possible in mind, body and spirit. Ultimately, we ARE the unity of nature and humanity.
Experiencing the dream-time/wilderness at Nitmiluk is a good balance of true remoteness coupled with relative ease of access. The vast majority of Australia is inaccessible even by motor vehicle, and many of those areas that do have at least four-wheel drive access are astronomically remote. For example, a special place we’ve always wanted to visit is called Mt. Augustus in western Australia. Billed as “the biggest rock in the world” and “three times the size of Uluru”, you have to drive well over 300 kms of rough unsealed road from Gascoyne Junction to get there. It’s possible we could make it there this trip, but Mt Augustus is a good example of remote accessibility. We certainly won’t be driving our own vehicle there, but if we can hitch a ride with someone who is, well, we’ll surely help with petrol!
And it’s not like it’s anyone’s “right” to go to all these remote places. In a lot of cases, being accessible to human visitation is the worst possible thing that could happen to a place of natural serenity and beauty. We humans in our arrogance often forget that all other life-forms and places were doing just fine even when WE didn’t know they existed or before WE started coming to see them. It’s a central element of our collective insanity that WE are the centers of the universe, that it’s US who give meaning to “reality.” Au contraire, mes amis...it’s WE who are the problem, the blight, the bringers of night. And with the dawn coming soon, what’s to become of the darkness inherent in our ways of “living”, to which we’ve become so accustomed and habituated? It might be pretty damned inconvenient for a lot of people.
Speaking of inconvenience, nowhere in Australia is the effect of the white man on the indigenous population more visible than in the top end. When the British landed here in the 1800’s and saw what a vast and fruited plain lay before them, just waiting there to be raped, pillaged, and to have other forms of colonial exploitation wrought upon her, the only thing standing in their way was the, shall we say inconvenient presence of millions of in general peaceful and non-aggressive blackfellas.
Rather than adopt the friendly and respectful principles of encounter demonstrated, for example, by LaPerousse with the Tlingit Indians in North America, where all parties came away having mutually benefited, the British in Australia chose to negate the humanity of the people they encountered and declared the island continent to be “terra nullis”, a land without people, thus enshrining a charter of genocide almost unmatched in modern history and on-going to this day.
More indigenous Australians live in the top end than in any other part of Australia. In Arnhemland they are freer to be themselves than anywhere else. Here remain the remnants of true “communities” of tribal groups still maintaining at least a semblance of tradition and life as it used to be, so far as this is possible in a world of SUV’s and alcohol.
A couple years ago we learned from a solicitor working in the Northern Territory that only between 70 and 80,000 full-blooded aboriginal people still existed in Australia. We were stunned. I couldn’t believe this was true. They had numbered in the millions before the British invasion.
Few people we meet in Australia, Australians included, have any real appreciation for who the aboriginal people actually are, their gentle sensitivity and peacefulness, their telepathic abilities and connection with the land and the dreamings; their unbelievable pain and sorrow. We’ve heard Australian people say non-chalantly, “The aborigines, yeah, they’re pretty much finished, aren’t they?” These shocking revelations of implicit and cynical racism sicken us to hear; yet this is not an uncommon attitude here, believe it or not.
Despite the level to which many have sunk, largely because of forces beyond their control, the indigenous people of Australia are not, by nature, any of the stereotypes projected onto them by whitey; some may seem to be “lazy” and “drunk” when they are seen sitting together in parks or dry river beds, but what they are doing is being where they are most at home...out-doors...and struggling to deal with what has happened to them over the past 200 years. For many, there’s literally nowhere to go.
Having this level of understanding and sympathy, indeed, identification, with the black Australians, made getting to know Johnny Dewar, the Jawoyn artist at Nitmiluk, all the more interesting and special.
My use of the word “indignation” to describe how we felt when we saw him sitting at “our” table painting was of course considerably hyperbolic; we were actually thrilled to see a genuine aboriginal artist at work. We gradually made contact with him, eventually overcame his shy skepticism, and got to know a magnificently wonderful person. We’d go and see him as he was painting; the fans installed in the outside deck made so much noise that it was almost impossible to hear his soft voice. But later on he came to visit us at our camp-site, which was very cool. We always sit on the ground, just like the blackfellas do, and when Johnny came and joined us for a cuppa, we felt profoundly honoured. He told us some stories and shared with us some words from his language. I’m not sure about the spellings, as a lot of this stuff has never been really formalized in written form.
One of the most horrific and terrible aspects of the on-going slow-motion genocide of black people in Australia is that the younger generation are in general proving to be unfit vehicles to receive and carry on the traditional knowledge, stories and language of their unique tribal groups. My friend Robert Bednarik, independent epistemologist and probably the top rock-art researcher not only in Australia but in the world, told me a few years ago that because of his long-standing relationship with indigenous elders in the Pilbarra (which he reckons to be THE most powerful place on the planet), and due to the fact that they could find no appropriate candidates in the younger generation, that he himself had been entrusted with secret and sacred knowledge in the manner of an initiated person because the elders had no one else to share it with.
And not only are sacred knowledge and dream-time stories being lost, entire unique languages are disappearing. Often, when the eldest members of a group pass away, they take with them the last remnants of a language that had been spoken for tens of thousands of years or more. Researchers estimate that before the Eurpoeans came, more than a thousand individual language groups thrived here; today, there are a little over 200.
A language is more than just groups of words; a language is the vehicle or container of an entirely unique world-view, a way of being and existing on the Earth. Every unique language and sub-cultural group conveys its own special stories, its own beautiful versions of how life came into being, how the dream-time ancestors created their landscape, who these beings are, how the people are supposed to live.
In Broome three years ago we went to an opening by Derby artist Mark Norval, who also works with indigenous people in the southern Kimberley. He expressed this exact idea, that every tribal group, whether in Australia or anywhere in the world, has or had its own very special world-view conveyed by its stories, mythologies, and art, which, in his words, “...are every bit as beautiful as anything in the Bible.”
This really set me to thinking, and put a lot into perspective. “Really”, I thought, “the Bible at the foundational level is nothing more than the stories and mythology of one tiny group of people, the Hebrews. On a just planet, why would the world-view of one miniscule group possess such astronomical hegemony as a global religion?” But this is not the place to go there now.
I phonetically transcribed a few of Johnny’s Jawoyn words.
“kerangowkow” = kookaburra
“kolomomo” = crocodile
“kornobolo” = kangaroo
“melli-melli” = butterfly
“boiweh” = gecko
“pomdik” = turtle
“kati” = frog
“mota” = sun
“karapal” = moon
“kahbupoletmer” = Milky Way
“min gama” = good friend
“kalt nan” = “see you again!”
“Melli-melli” is our favourite one, conjoining with “schmetterling”, “vlinder”, “mariposa” and “papillon” on our list of trans-linguistic synonyms for “butterfly.” Do you think that butterflies have a way of “encoding” their perceptions of human beings?
Johnny not only played some didge for us (which was the first time I’d ever heard a true aboriginal person playing didge) but also invited us to come visit him at Eva Valley, the community where he’s from on the south-western edge of Arnhemland, not all that far from Nitmiluk.
When Johnny came and joined us for a cuppa, I felt so inspired by the specialness of the connection that I gave him a rock I'd painted in around 1993 or 1994. It had to be one of the first few dozen rocks I ever painted. It was a flat piece of schist from the New Mexico desert. On it I'd painted what looks to me now like a sort of "Rainbow witchety grub." This rock predated my use of Morse code, too. Johnny was delighted and wore it around his neck in its little bag. It was truly an honour to share one of my earliest rocks, one that had been travelling with me for years, with a genuine aboriginal artist!
So, meeting and getting to know Johnny Dewar is not only a very special gift from the dream-time ancestors, in that he’s a true “brother” to me, as we were both born in the same year only a few weeks apart, as as well being both artist, musician, and lover of nature, but also highly symbolic in the timing of the connection: happening just as we’d completed our most challenging hitch-hiking journey so far, from Brisbane to Katherine, and thereby closing the continental “Rainbow Serpent” energy circuit for the first time.
After our ten or so day visit to Nitmiluk, we headed out towards Darwin. Spirit was with us, as no sooner had I got off the phone at the visitors’ centre just before we were going to locate ourselves to hitch-hike, a nice woman walked up and asked us if we needed a ride to Katherine, which is about 30 kms towards Darwin. This was very nice of her, and shortly after she dropped us off on the north side of Katherine, we got a ride to Darwin with a young woman who was going to see her family after having been up working all night. She told us that her tires were bad. I didn’t think too much of it until I awoke after dozing off a bit to find that she was going over 140 kms per hour! It was almost a recipe for disaster. I really cringed when I saw her take out a fat hamburger and begin to eat it while driving with only a couple fingers on the wheel, going 140 and with the car swaying after every bump due to the speed and tires...and she’d been up all night. I kept willing for traffic to appear ahead of us to slow her down, and I rejoiced exceedingly when the first stop-lights of outer Darwin began to appear. She was nice enough to drop us at a caravan park a few kms from the cbd, and suddenly Liesbet and I found ourselves back in the town where we’d met almost three amazing years before. Darwin days were here again.
30 JUNE 2010