Monday, March 31, 2008

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)


Dad said...

This has to be the all time #1 mother of all posts. One of the things I find most amazing is your memory of details. How do you remember all this? Do you have one of those "note to myself" digital voice recorders?
Great, I repeat, great stuff Karen.

Lisah0822 said...

i agree with dad, i was wondering the same thing. you have a excellent memory!! And this was a great post. this is definetly one day i would have LOVED to be there. made me feel all warm and fuzzy reading it, lol.
alf seemed like a cool guy! and those Oasis' are really cool!!!

PMH said...

I was wondering the same you take notes?

Make sure you bring home some of that ochre so that you can paint all of our faces.

Love the hearing the trip as well as seeing it and reading about it.

stacy is amazing said...

FUNNY!! I too, actually was wondering the same thing about the notes!! Our family is fo sho psychic.

Question number 1, how come you seemed to be the only one in the spring without a beer?

Fact number 1, you look AMAZING!!!

Comment number 1,you are WELCOME for the shirt!!

PMH said...

Oh yeah...I loved seeing you in the big truck - and how cozy you were getting with all them people in that teeny little pool.

Tamika Biddlecombe said...

Amazing post Karen. I have met Talc Alf and Terry.. To me, they are our outback. So in touch with the land, especially Terry!

No trip to Australia would be complete without visiting these places. Such a rich culture!