Monday, March 31, 2008

Heading Bush - Day 4

OK, here is day 4! You people are lucky that I like writing the blogs and I want a reminder of my trip, because right now I am so behind that I am stressing out about how much I have to write, and how I don't have much time to do it before I am doing something ELSE to write about...

First of all, when we woke up, the flies at Coward Springs were AWFUL. This was definitely fly-net country. Check out the group hanging out in our fly nets :) This is the whole group... we used the automatic timer on the cameras...

When we were back on the road, we made a few quick stops... the first was at a dry lake bed (pretty sure it was called 'William Lake').

Here we are, walking along this dry lake bed...

Next, we quickly stopped to look at some old wooden sticks in the ground... these were actually once telegraph lines (which started in Port Agusta), how Australia kept in contact with itself in the days before mobile phones... The sticks are still standing tall (or short at least) because they were made of cypress (Which the termites don't eat... no dijuridus out out of these sticks!).

Here is one of the mighty sticks:

OK, so we next went to William Creek, which is the smallest town in Australia on the largest cattle station in Australia. Currently, the town has a grand total of 9 people living there!

Of course, even with 9 people, they still had to have a pub. The pub was pretty neat, with all kinds of little artifacts left there from the many visitors. Apparently they do get a lot of visitors coming through to see the very small town and pub...

And... they had a lone parking meter. Watch out, it's a tow zone!

After that quick stop, we were back on our way! This fence below is actually more interesting than it looks...

That fence is the 'dingo fence', which is the longest fence in the world. It's about 9600 kilometers long and it stretches across Australia to try to keep the dingos away from the cattle... And you might be surprised to know that dingos are actually not native creatures of Australia... they were introduced from Asia and have adapted to the conditions quite nicely. Now, they are quite a nuisance, stealing shoes and other items from tourists that have a nice smell to them...

Our next main stop was to Cooper Pedy (which means 'white mans hole' in Aboriginal language - because as soon as it was discovered that this town had opals, people started digging frantically... hence making a huge 'white mans hole'... ) an underground mining town. Yes, you heard me right, UNDERGROUND! Because of the terrible heat in this area, the residents build their houses underground where the temperature is a cool 70-75 degrees Farenheit all year round... Nice, huh? Wish you lived underground now? One of the houses:

So, the first thing that we did at Cooper Pedy (after lunch) was check out the opal museum. The museum also had some info about dinosaurs found in the area, which we were able to look at for about 15 minutes before they herded us into a movie room. We watched a film about how opals were formed and how they were mined, and how wonderful they were, and basically how everyone should have some.

Then, after the movie of the wonders of opals, we had the opportunity to look at the inside of an underground house. That was actually pretty neat, it was a cool temperature inside (despite being ghastly hot outside) and there was NO air conditioning! Here is the living room (the place must have been pretty dusty because all my pictures had those white specs in the living room). Notice, no windows... but the place of course had to have air shafts.

Here is the bedroom... while we were in here, the tour guide turned out the light and it was pitch black. And dead silent... actually, the guide told us that at night, the only sound that seemed to carry through the rock to other houses or rooms was the sound of snoring... so you snorers wouldn't be very popular in Cooper Pedy!

Now, it is actually illegal to mine anymore in Cooper Pedy (because it is already so heavily mined) but if someone who owns a house in Cooper Pedy suspects that they might have opal, the way they could get around this law is to 'renevate' a room, i.e. add a bathroom, a bedroom, etc... And if you have found opal, it is in your best bet to keep silent about it... so no one else tries to steal it from you before you have it all mined. She said that there were actually times when people suddenly seemed to have an abundance of money... and nice cars... fancy clothes... but when they were suspiciously asked if they found any opal lately, the response was always "no, no luck at all!".

After looking at the house, we had a look at an old underground mine, and I actually saw some opal in the rocks. Unfortunately for the museum (who owns the area) they aren't allowed to dig it out, even though what is in there could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars... they can't 'renovate' that area either, because it is actually right under a major road, so any excess of digging could cause the road to collapse into the road!

After the museum, we were lucky enough to get ourselves some showers! I was content to wait until everyone else was finished before taking mine (only 3 showers and 15 or so girls that needed to take them) but unfortunately, when my time was up, I realized that I had left my shampoo, conditioner, and all my other essential shower stuff at the last place I was able to take a shower. Nooooooo! I asked anyone I saw if they had any shampoo or conditioner that I could borrow, but no one seemed to have any. I finally got some shampoo off of one of the guys, but no conditioner. Then, just as I'm about to step into the shower, Gus starts up the engine to the bus. Nooooo! He apparently wanted to leave now... When I questioned him, he told me that I had plenty of time already for a shower, but if I did it in 5 minutes I could go. Of course, this made me pretty cranky for a while afterwards, but I took my 5 minute shower with no conditioner and got back on the bus... grumpy as anything. We made a quick stop at a supermarket for beer and shampoo and conditioner (for me) and then headed off into the desert.

As you can see by the sign, this was the point of no return in the desert! If you go this way unprepared, you can easily perish by running out of fuel or water...

We made one more stop before our camp site... Unfortunately I don't remember what this place was called (I didn't take the normal quality of notes I think because I was still angry).

But I thought it was a nice picture:

And I climbed partway up the tower for fun!

So, our camp this night was one of the highlights of the trip. It was at an area called:

The painted desert. How fantastic is that picture? It honestly looks like a watercolor painting or something... But this is what the place looked like.

Here is another picture of this beautiful desert:

When we got there, a few of us climbed the hill to the right (in the image below) to try to catch a view of the sun coming down over the desert... it was not too easy to climb up, only 3 people could be on the top at one time, and coming down was TERRIBLY hard. One of the girls was almost in tears as she tried to get down, but we did make it. And I made it without any scratches, an amazing achievement for me considering how prone I am to injuries! I hadn't gotten any on this trip yet, but believe me, there are many to come!

Below is the hill (on the far right) that we climbed.

Here is a picture of the sun after it had set... the sky honestly looks like that in Australia. Isn't that amazing?

So, we made camp, and had a big dinner... ground kangaroo (which was actually really good, much better than the kangaroo steak we had on my Great Ocean Road trip) and baked beans and baked potatoes and grated carrots... and as a treat, a desert which consisted of bananas, cut in half, sprinkled with Milo and marshmallows stuffed into it... then tossed on the fire until the marshmallows were nicely melted. Messy, but yum! Oh, if you don't know, Milo is a very popular powdered chocolate here in Australia... you can put it on anything, or mix it with milk for chocolate milk... I guess it's kind of like Quick, or maybe Ovaltine since Milo is supposed to have lots of vitamins.

While we were sitting around the fire, Gus pulled out his Dijuridu, which he actually made himself. He said that he found the hollow wood in a pile that was meant to be firewood, and he just smoothed out the inside and voila! Dijuridu! Dijuridus, interestingly enough, were not allowed to be played by the female Aboriginals, as it was believed that if they did, they would either have a miscarriage, or would become pregnant illegitimately. But, it was only for Aboriginal women, so it was safe for US to play it. We all had a go with this one, but I actually couldn't play it... I was able to make the sound for Tash's on the Great Ocean Road tour, but this one I couldn't get to work. Maybe it was because it was made differently... it wasn't as easy to play.

After that, it was to bed! And there were no ants, no flies (or not many) and no mosquitos! See, this is why this was a highlight...

On to day 5!

Heading Bush - Day 3

Today, on day 3 of our tour, we started off the day with Terry again. He took us to an ochre quarry, where a type of multi-colored clay (ochre), which has many uses in the Aboriginal communities, is found.

First - before we got to the actual ochre - he spoke a bit of spirituality. He pointed out a mountain that he said was the oldest piece of land anywhere in the world, and told us that life first developed here, as it must have, because it was the oldest place known in the world. He said that you could actually see evidence of the first sea if you climbed and looked on top of the mountain, and that geologists are fascinated by this place because of this.

Then, he pointed out a tree that had many branches. He said that the tree symbolized family... that we all started off from one twig, and then we just started growing and branching off, going our separate ways, etc. Oh, and I was a bit off about what I spoke about yesterday... that story of the man who wanted to have his tongue eaten was actually told today. So, insert that story here! He told the story, then talked about how the different languages made people branch off... as the families branched off. Like the tree.

Then, just as you think things can't get any more philosophical, they do! Terry told us that while we might think that we are just on a trip to central Australia, heading bush, just having a good time... that was not really the case. In reality, Mother Earth is sending out signals, and some of us are tuning in on it. The signals are saying for us to get in touch with our origin (and our origin is here because this is where life began). He said that we are part of the animal world, and that while most of us like to think that we are far superior to animals, we do have animal instincts... he said that when an animal feels insecure, it would go back to it's home... for security. He said that we are here now because we are tuning in to this... that we are coming back to our origins so that we can cope with what mother earth has in store for us in the future. He said that she has already sent out some warning signals (i.e. the melting of the poles, tsunamis, etc) and she is saying that we need to wake up and smell the coffee... treat her with respect. So, we are not only on a journey to the Outback, we are on a journey to get in touch with our origin. He then said that from this moment on, if we can take these philosophies of caring, sharing, and love, we will be able to enjoy our trip that much more... and then he had us all hug each other again. :)

After all this, he began talking about the ochre and it's meaning. He said that the Aboriginals would walk huge distances to gather ochre, as it had so many purposes and uses. It was used in ceremonies like birth, weddings, funerals, for medicinal purposes, and for art. He said that the way they could carry it such long distances (they would walk many miles to gather it) would be to wrap it around their hair and pile it on top of their head. This way, their hands would be free to hunt, fight, etc. as they were traveling back the miles and miles across the landscape. Here is one ochre mound below... you can probably see that there are 5 natural colors in the ochre... white, yellow, red, pink, and brown.

He then said that he was going to perform a ceremony on us, using the ochre. I was really excited about this... face painting and symbolic meaning... all before lunch!

Terry mixed up the first color (white) in his hand with a bit of water until it resembled a paint... and told us what each color represented as he painted us with it.

White represents the spirit world. It allows you to make connections spiritually with mother earth. Spirituality and the spirit world are very important to Aboriginals... Initially, when the Aboriginals were being killed and tortured and pillaged when Australia was discovered, they allowed it to happen without a fight because they placed so much trust into the spiritual, that they thought they were being punished by the spirits... that they must have done something wrong... then, by the time they figured out that they hadn't done anything to deserve this, it was too late - and their culture was forever destroyed.

Here is Terry, mixing up the white paint... Both the pictures I took of this had that white speck, it was most likely the spirit watching over the ceremony. Or ochre dust.

Anyhow, the male and female face paint was different... the female symbol was a dot, and the male symbol was a line. Here are 2 of our people getting painted... (the girl was from the other heading bush group, but the guys were from our group)

The next color was yellow.

Yellow represents the sun. The sun represents new beginning, life, and energy. The color on our faces represents a new beginning for us, new direction in our thinking, our attitudes, our behaviors... the way we look at life in general. So, we will now have new beginning with spiritual support and guidance from Mother Earth.

Partially done!

The next color was red.
Red symbolized the blood of the land. He said that blood represents life... when you are born you are connected with your mother and she feeds you through her body and blood... when he paints us this color it reconnects you to your mother (earth) so you can have new direction, new attitude, spiritual guidance, and being re-connected to your mother.

Here I am with the first 3 colors...

Next was pink - Mother Earths breathing color. Internal organs, lungs, etc are all pink (except for you smokers). He said breathing is an important part of life, but we take it for granted. When he puts this paint on us, we are to take advantage of it and suck in the fresh air. He said that if you are depressed, or things aren't working out the way you'd like them to, remember this moment and meditate on it, and remember to breathe, this will help you think more rationally about how you can deal with your situation.

The last color was brown - mother earths cleansing color... like the color of the liver (which is used to cleanse your blood). After this paint, you will leave this place cleansed, being able to breathe and call on mother earths fresh air when you need to, you will be cleansed enough to allow that connection to take place, you will also be cleansed enough to go on with your journey in a clear frame of mind, and cleansed so you can spiritually survive on this planet.

Here I am with all 5 colors... one of them (the last one) is on my temples so you can't really see, and the other is on my throat.

By the way Stacy, the Pluto shirt was a HIT today! Thanks again for it!

On the final part of the ceremony, Terry lit a fragrant branch on fire and we all stood around it in a circle, holding hands.

He said that Aboriginals are always using circles... circles mean a lot of things... the circle of life, what goes around comes around... eggs (beginning/life), etc. The circle we were in represented unity, joining hands in love, care, friendship, giving, sharing. The fire is taking the spirits of this place, allowing us to be here. The smoke of the fire is allowing our unwanted past, what we don't want to take on our journey, go up along with the smoke.

We then had a moment of silence, and our time with Terry was finished! We were now full of spiritual significance, and ready for our next journey!

Oh, and check this out. Two of the girls that I have met from Heading Bush have had this done... I've never seen a piercing like this in my life! The girl in this photo (Helen) also has an area on her chest done... the part that you can see when you are in a bathing suit. Interesting, no?

The next place we went was to a cafe called "Quandong Cafe and Bush Bakery". They had pie made from the same fruit that we had last night in jam form... it was the most delicious pie that I have tasted in a while... mmmm... I wonder if we can get quandongs in the US? Check it out for me guys, will ya?

We still had our paint on our faces at this place, and everyone looked at us as we walked into the cafe... they were probably wondering where they could get their faces painted like us! I think they may have been a little jealous of newfound connection to mother earth... I know I would have been!

Anyhow, while I was eating my marvelous pie, I was sitting and talking with the tour guide from Groovy Grapes, the same company that I did my Great Ocean Road tour with. He seemed like a really neat guy, and there were actually some people who were on my ocean road tour here... so I got to say hi :) I probably would have had fun if I had taken that tour instead of the one I did, but honestly, I am so glad I didn't. First of all, they only had 7 days, and they didn't rough it as much... and I got to meet so many wonderful people in my own group :) I love you guys if you are reading this!

After our little middle-of-the-morning snack and coffee break, we drove to the Leigh Creek Coal Field. This is kind of a sad place... because they pretty much destroyed it from all the excess mining... They actually mined this place so much that the people who lived in Leigh Creek actually had to move the entire town someplace else... because the underground was .

See, here is a huge hole in the ground:

And here is all the junk they dug out of the hole...

And here is me... in front of a big truck! Chicks and Trucks magazine, eat your heart out!

Here is me again (duh) driving a different big truck. This place is pretty much abandoned, but of course we had to go play on all the equipment. Oh, you can see the color on my temples on this picture!

Our next stop was to see the famous Talc Alf... who is quite a well known outback character. He's... a little hard to explain. He makes art out of talc... (how he gets his name) and he says that all letters (and names) have deeper meanings than what you know... but it's not really easy to explain what I mean without drawing the pictures for you... for example, the $ he says represents the rising and the setting sun... if you turn the dollar sign on it's side, on end is the sun rising, and one is the sun setting... because to most people the sun rises and sets on money. If anyone is interested in learning more about this, I got the sheet for what each letter means (to him). It's funny, he says that you won't find any of this information on the internet, because it has been lost, but you have to wonder how HE found this out, hmmm? But either he really knew what he was talking about, or he was a very quick thinker, because every word that was thrown out at him he was able to find a deeper meaning to it...

He had some great thoughts though... one I particularly liked: he said that the Australian flag should actually be this:

If anyone knows what the Australian flag looks like, it is the above, only instead of that yellow circle in the top left, it is the British flag. The yellow circle inside the red and black that you see above is actually the Aboriginal flag... and the Aboriginals WERE the first people in Australia, not the British... You can see his flag a bit better here:

He was an Obama fan too, because he said the meaning of the name Obama is

O - Sun
BA - woman and man
AM (MA) - america

Meaning - The sun, rising over man and woman in America, i.e. the beginning of a new day...

And my name - Karen - traveling toward the rising sun and the future (yay!)

Anyhow, here is some of his art:

And here is Talc Alf himself... showing us the simularities of a boomarang and a kangaroo paw...

After he showed us all about the deeper meanings of letters and names, we looked around a bit at his stuff (read: snooped).

One REALLY cool thing he had was a self powered washing machine that he made himself! Cheryl, you should make one for your house! I'll come over and do your laundry! Here is a picture...

And lucky you, I also have a video!

Another view of his property... (yes he is very remote and very far into the desert)

After we all took a go at the washing machine, (and did Alfs laundry) we had lunch with Alf on his picnic table. Here is Alf and I... unfortunately, I had 2 pictures taken, and BOTH of them my eyes were closed. What are the chances?

OK, after Alf we went to the town of Marree, where we saw the truck that used to deliver mail back in the olden days... (just telling you this because it's a really cool truck)

I could tell you a few stories about the mail truck and the town but I still have a ton to write about on this blog and its already so long! Plus that story isn't as interesting as the rest of the day... So onwards!

Here is another picture of the desert... you can see how the landscape is changing from where we started out...

OK, we were now headed to an oasis in the desert, but we saw a few fun things on the way. We passed by a place called Alberry Creek, where a huge Earth party was held in 2002... it was like a rave in the desert. There were all kinds of strange pieces of art in random places in this area...

I'm sure the party must have been really fun... I wish I could ride the hover bus!

OK... skip ahead a bit, and we got to our first tropical oasis in the desert! This is a picture of a place called Blanche Cup... a bit of water and grass in the middle of the outback. 'How did this happen?' you must be wondering! Well, underneath a huge part of Australia (about 1/3 of the whole continent) is an underground artesian basin... which is a couple of million years old. The water collected there from heavy past rains (millions of years ago), and now it sits there. At random spots in the desert, the water bubbles to the surface, creating these tiny tropical paradises! But, the water is getting used for cattle and was used to power steam locomotives (after a desalination process) and if we keep using it without it filling up fast enough, it could be used up in a couple of thousand years. Lets hope for rain!

Tropical paradise! (Albeit a tiny one)

We stopped at one more oasis before we were done... this place was called the 'bubbler' because you could actually see the water bubbling up from underground!

And of course... VIDEO!

By the way, I tasted the water here. It was gross. Safe to drink, but too minerally for me!

FINALLY we headed to our camp site... Coward Springs (I assume it was named after a guy named Coward, not that it was for yellow-bellieds...) Tonight, we were going to sleep in tents because this was mosquito country.

The mosquitos were annoying, but we didn't care (too much), because we got to go SWIMMING again! There was a tiny natural jet pool just meters away from camp! It was a wood container pool with water pumped constantly into it... and we could all fit in it... see most of us in this picture below...

Awww, I miss everyone so much!

It was nice having a swim, since we weren't getting showers that night... but it was a little gross, the walls and the floor were slimy with mildew and whatever else you find in natural springs. But we had fun with it... we ran around in a circle as fast as we could to try to make a whirl pool... but it didn't work too well, SOME people weren't running!

Anyhow, after the swim and dinner, and putting up the tent with my tent-partner Christine (my first time putting up a tent! I now know how to do it!) we sat around, swatting at mosquitos and just chatting away. One of the girls from the other Heading Bush group (Helen) walked over to our side of the woods because she was bored, and her group had gone to sleep... unfortunately, the poor girl was sick... flu or something. So she was coughing and sneezing... pretty much she was miserable. And to give you a little hint of what is to come in later blogs... what happens when you hang around a sick person? Yep, you are likely to get sick....

Anyhow, we finally went to bed after a night of laughter and good times (it was common in our group to have laughter and good times! We rocked!)

Ummm, just letting you all know, I don't think I am going to finish these blogs in the next few hours... I may only have time for one more, or maybe not even. So you guys are going to have to wait another 3 or 4 days to hear more... but I will definitely catch up with everything in Cairnes!

7 to go! (plus everything AFTER heading bush... yeesh)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heading Bush - Day 2

On day two of our tour, we woke up to the sun rising over our sleeping bags... Gus was fixing us up some hot water for coffee and tea, and had cereal and fruit out for our breakfast. Today was going to be a pretty big day, we would be climbing Ikara (the aboriginal name for the Wilpena mountain) and it was going to be quite a hard hike. (Hah, understatement of the year!)

For day two, I got shotgun, along with Sarah R. Here is a pic of my view if I turned around in the truck... I have no idea what they are seeing and pointing out... but it looks like it must have been pretty amazing!

It was a great day to be in front! We saw all kinds of wildlife today, kangaroos bouncing, wallabies... bouncing... and a family of EMUS! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a great picture of them because they were far away and on the other side of the car from me. But here is something for you...

Now, so you can know what I was up against, here is a picture of the mountain range we were about to climb:

And us, contemplating the climb:

Now, this climb was HARD. It was hard, and it was HOT, and the two did not mix very well. I think that Cradle Mountain (in Tassie) was a harder overall climb, but this one was definitely harder on me... I think it was the heat, the climb, the fact that I had just gotten over a chest cold (and I still had the cough from it) AND the headache that was now starting to come back... but I definitely had a hard time with this climb. I kept on going though, because of the promises of 360 degrees of beautiful views when we got to the top. I had to keep stopping because it started to get hard for me to breathe... I've never had asthma before, but the way I was wheezing, I could definitely understand how it would feel. I was also kind of afraid that I was going to have an attack (first time for everything), because it really WAS so hard to breathe.

Here I am at a mid range point... resting and staring off into the distance... The one with me actually looking at the camera didn't turn out so you have to live with this one!

And here is just a nice picture of what we were climbing... cool tree, no?

Well anyhow, after a lot of struggle, and a lot of breaks (everyone eventually ended up pretty far ahead of me) I did get to the top... and it was worth the pain! The view was beautiful! Here we are, all looking proud of ourselves for making it to the top.

And this is what we could see from way up there on asthma mountain, I mean Ikara.

This mountain is pretty important to the dreamtime stories of the Aboriginal people of the Flinders Ranges. This picture shows you what is seen as the head of one of two giant snakes, who many years ago sat coiled around the mountains and were hungry, so they ate hundreds of people who were in the mountains doing some kind of an initiation ceremony... and then because the snakes were so full after eating so many people, they just decided to die there... (happily I assume) which is why you can still see the head and bodies across the mountains. That is just one of many of the stories for that area... I'm not even positive that this was the story we were told while on the mountain (I was still recuperating from my near fatal attempt at getting to the top of the mountain and didn't take proper notes) but this was a story that was told on the Lonely Planet and I liked it.

While we were up on the mountain, resting our weary selves and eating fruit and cookies (biscuits to all you English/Australian readers) somehow the subject of Steve Irwin came up (it probably does often when a foreigner talks to an Australian) and Gus told us a time when he met him. He said that Steve was just walking outside in a remote area, trying to look normal in jeans and a cap (but was followed by a small film crew and his entire family). He did say that Steve was an incredibly nice guy. Just as I always imagined!

Anyhow, after we had all rested enough, we started the trip down. This way was MUCH easier on my lungs, but harder on my knees and harder to keep your footing, for sure. It was OK though, because I finally had 'hiking' shoes that weren't death trap Yoga Slides or Birks! They were cheap, but the covered my toes and had grip, so they worked well.

When we got to the bottom, we were all hot and sweaty and hungry. And we had a little surprise as well... apparently some strings were pulled, and we had the chance to take a dip in a pool of some little resort! This... was... heaven!

We stayed in the pool for at least an hour... playing, cooling off... it was like we were kids again! There was a little outdoor shower for us to rinse off in first, so don't worry, we didn't just get the pool nasty and gross and full of sweat and grime for the actual people staying there... Oh, and the part where you had to turn on and off the water for the shower was CRAWLING with bees. That is how dry it gets in this part of Australia... the bees swarm to any fresh water source. They don't do that in the US... or at least, I have never noticed it! And everyone who knows how terrified I am of bees... you will be proud to know just how close I came to those bees! My hand was less than an inch away from them so I could turn on the water... (and then I discovered that the actual tap to turn on the shower was somewhere else, and this was just the main water shutoff valve... but still)

After our swim, we had lunch... there were tons of magpies all around, begging for food. These three I call Moe, Larry, and Spider Man.

And here is a video of the birds, so you can hear how pretty the magpies sound.

When we finished lunch, we were soon back on the road again. Here is some pretty scenery from the area that we were in... I love those trees!

Along the way, we saw plenty more kangaroos (the RED ones too!) If anyone is wondering how kangaroos have the ability keep their children alive during heavy drought periods, when they barely have enough for THEM to drink, it's actually a very interesting story. They can have a little joey fetus in their pouch, and when they realize it wouldn't be able to survive any current drought conditions, they can stop it from growing, and it won't be born until the conditions are better. Isn't that amazing?

Anyhow, on the road again, we saw more EMUS! AGAIN! And, I got a much better picture, and some video of it running... but stupid youtube won't let me upload the emu video! It keeps saying 'failed' and I can't upload it here because it is fast moving so it looks terrible in a small video.

More pretty scenery of the road ahead...

Soon, we made another stop to see if we could spot a rare creature... a yellow footed rock wallaby. These little guys aren't seen very often, but they look pretty cool, kind of striped like a tiger. We did see some, but the pictures I got of them aren't very good because they were so far away. But here is a blurry one, now is a good time to use your imagination!

The next spot we stopped to take a look at was an area of rocks (Willkawillina limestone) that formed about 530 million years ago... when it was once covered by the sea. At first, the rock looked like any other rocks that you might see... but when you poured water over them (to remove the dust) you saw hundreds of fossils from the ancient sea. We wasted a lot of water, looking at the cool things that would be under this rock or that one. How awesome does this look? I also got video of the action of pouring the water, below the picture.

Finally, after one more quick stop for picking up firewood (the easiest firewood we'd ever get... old railroad tracks chopped up into nice sticks for us) we got to our camp for the night... Iga Warta, an aboriginal community. It was quite a neat spot too... it was kind of like a little farm... horses were wandering around... there were turkeys and chickens in pens (a couple of chickens wandering around loose too) and they had WHITE turkeys.

We were in for quite a treat too... we were going to have story time with some of the Aboriginal people who lived in the area... they would tell us a bit about themselves and their lifestyles and a bit about the Aboriginal culture... but first, we had another treat (something we normally take for granted!) We had SHOWERS! It was probably the best shower I had taken in a while, even though it was short and a little cold... but I was CLEAN so who cared!

So, we had dinner and waited until we would see our soon-to-be new friend Terry, the Aboriginal who would be leading the nights events. The other Heading Bush group was here as well, so you may see people you don't recognize in the pictures.

When we met Terry, he seemed to me at first to be a little timid and shy... he was very quiet, but he might have just been a bit tired. That is him in the background picture...

He first sang us a welcome song with his guitar, to make us feel that we were at home... Then he spoke for a while about the importance of the campfire, and it was really interesting. He said that it was to be thought of as a place for cooking, so we should never throw anything like cigarette butts and beer cans in the fire, because to them, it would be like throwing that kind of stuff into your oven. He also said that the fire is important because it is used as a place of meeting (such as we were doing) and that it could be used as a place of meditation. He also said that the spirits of their ancestors were able to be seen through the fire... and that it was used to keep away unwanted spirits. It was also used at weddings, as the smoke from the fire would let the unwanted past of the newlyweds go up in smoke, so when they go into their union together, they don't have to take the burden of the past into relationships. And finally, he said that in the olden days, when Aboriginals had stayed in one spot for a long time, they would leave it and they would set the place on fire, which would help regenerate everything that they had used up, effectively restoring the landscape for the next people who would come to live in the land. I never knew just how useful a fire could be!

Next, he told us a dreamtime story that explained why everyone speaks in different languages. I found this one interesting because I also know the Christian story of why this happened... and it's always interesting to me to hear the many explanations to one phenomenon. A man (I forget the name) who was a great spiritual leader and who taught everyone how to live in harmony with the land, and love each other had noticed that their homeland had started to get too crowded with people, more so than the environment could handle... so this man said he was going to will himself to die, and when he did, he wanted them to eat his various organs, especially his tongue. The people didn't want to do it, but because he was their leader and they figured he knew what he was doing, they did. They found that as soon as they ate his tongue, they could no longer speak with each other, they spoke in different languages... and so they ended up spreading out into the different parts of the world.

After a few more stories, Terry began talking about how we all need to love one another, everyone in the world would be so much better off if they could forget their prejudices and hatred and just love, and live in harmony with the land. He went around and made everyone sing, 'All we need is love. to live in peace and harmony'... and then we all got up and had a nice hug. It was really cool actually... and we all bonded that much more.

Awww, hugs!

The next song was one that was another Aboriginal Dreamtime story... he sung it first in his language, then in English. It was a fun one (for women especially!) about the story of how the robins breast became red. In the story, there was a robin couple. The man bird was out eating, and the woman bird was building a shelter because it was about to rain. She kept calling for the man bird to help her, but he kept saying 'Later woman, I'm eating!'. Eventually, it started to rain, and she flew over to her husband and beat him until he bled (making his breast red). The moral of the story was, always listen to women.

I could go on and on about everything that he spoke about, but that would make this extremely long... so I'll just end this part with this video of another song we learned... it was a really cute song with hand motions and everything... This was our practice run, I joined in on the real one :) Oh, and it is youtube because sometimes blogspot is annoying with videos... but then so is youtube...

And a picture of us dancing... the spots aren't ghosts, it was just really dusty and we were kicking up the dust by dancing.

Finally, after all the singing and the dancing, we all had a bit of bread that Terry had been cooking on the fire while we sang and talked and listened to stories. We ate the bread with Quandong jam (a fruit found in the area) and cream... and WOW it was delicious. Probably the best bread that I have had in a long time (have I mentioned that Australian bread is terrible?). Yum, just thinking about it makes me want it again...

Here are 3 of the girls chilling! The one on the far left is Helen, a girl in the other Heading Bush group, then in the middle is Christine and then on the right, Sarah R.

Anyhow, after all that fun and games, we all went off into dreamland, again sleeping under the stars and moon... you will be happy to know, though, that the ants were NOT a problem today! The singing around the campfire probably kept them away.