Tête en bas

Down under wandering. Archipelagoes to islands; beaches to deserts; mountains to cities.

Archive for the ‘[Australia – South Australia]’ Category

Next step: tropics!

  • English: Next step: tropics!
  • Français: Next step: tropics!

I’m leaving my kangaroos tomorrow.

After an amazing two weeks in great company, it’s time for me to follow the wind, one more time. I’m going back to Alice Springs tomorrow. 700 km north. I was planning to hitch hike, but today, a tour group stopped at the orphanage. I talked with the guide. They have a room for me in the bus, and they’re going to take me up to Erldunda (yes, the same place I get stuck for 7 hours on my way south). I’m definitely more optimistic for the ride north. I’ll have only 250 km to go, I don’t think it’s going to be too complicate. There’s an open-mic evening in Alice Springs tomorrow night. I don’t want to miss it, as it might be the very first time I’ll be telling a story in english! Definitely want to hear that! Might need a couple of beer thought…

Staying in Alice for a few days, and leaving next thursday. Heading north again. On a van relocation, as usual. I’ve find a way of traveling I’m really starting to like I think! Two passengers with me. No stranger this time. Mara, will be coming with her flute and her lovely voice, and Gabrielle, with her violin. It’s going to be a pretty interesting music experimental trip I think. Four days to drive north do Darwin. 1,500 km. Easy one! Arriving in Darwin on sunday afternoon. I have no idea if we can swim in the Timor Sea, somewhere in Darwin. Hope so… it will be my first time in the tropics, I’m expecting warm water (as well as crocodiles, for what I know). We’ll cross the tropic line a hundred km north of Alice Springs.

Just one night in Darwin (for the moment). On monday morning, I’ll be hitch hiking south with Mara. 300 km, to go back to Katherine. We’re gong to spend one or two weeks in an aboriginal Art Center. Yes, an other Helpx experience. When I told Terry and Jo where I was going, they told me “ah! They are on helpx because of us! Very friendly people”. I had exactly the same comment from Cassie. Good news!

Don’t really know how the internet connexion will be going. There will be a post, tomorrow during the day (ah, the magic of auto-posting!) but after that, as usual… who knows!

Excavator bucket

  • English: Excavator bucket
  • Français: Excavator bucket

“Sitting on the bucket of an excavator, in the middle of the desert, I smoke a cigaret while watching the stars”.

I can’t explain why I like this image so much… but I’ll have to use it one day. And I think I’ve find how. My loneliness time is coming to an end. I’m back as a social creature.

Florian and Anna

  • English: Florian and Anna
  • Français: Florian and Anna

When I give a hand to Terry to feed the roos, he always introduce me saying that I’m from France. Or from Canada. We don’t really know. He then adds that I’m here to help for a little while. Quite often, people come to me after the feeding, and ask me a few questions. Asking me if I like my experience, how I end up working in a kangaroos orphanage, or if I like leaving with roos. Mots of the time (would say 9 out of 10), people who comes to me are from France. I usually complete the information, as Terry usually speaks quite fast, and might be sometime hard to understand. In a place like Coober Pedy, there’s not so much opportunities to meet people. Which is just perfect, as it is what I was looking for. But at the same time… well, talking with new people, from time to time, is nice too! Usually, we have a 5 minutes chat, and it’s enough.

I didn’t have a beer for quite a while. I mean a beer in a bar. Going to a bar when you’re alone is always strange… but today, I had quite a nice chat with Anna and Florian, and I decide to offer them to discover “Coober Pedy ‘ Night Life”. When I ask Terry if he can suggest us a bar, the question seems to surprise him. As he told us, on a sunday evening, we might find only one or two place open. Until 9PM. We decided to go to the Opal Inn, where we celebrate until it closed. At 10PM! Long time since I closed a bar!

Anna is in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. Here for a few months already. Florian, his brother, is visiting her for a few weeks. They have a van, and they are on a rod trip to Darwin. After sharing or schedule, we discovered that we might bump into each other later in Alice Springs. Or somewhere else… it was a quite evening, with a few interesting chat. Including the “aboriginal subject”. I still want to take my time about that. After living in Quebec for 10 years, I heard hips of thing about the “amerindian subject”. In a lot of different way. It didn’t take me a long time before I understand that it was a very sensitive subject, as people usually have quite extreme opinion on the question. It didn’t take me much more time to understand that it was exactly the same here, in Australia. Same interactions, same tensions… Here too, opinions are often quite extreme, on a subject that it’s wiser to avoid. Anna and Florian, just like me, seem to be really interest by the culture and the tradition…

Just before leaving the bar, Robert came to talk with us. In an approximate english, with an approximate pronunciation. We tried to exchange with him, as much as possible, without really understanding each other. Then Kinki join. Kinki is her aboriginal name. I tried to explain her that I really like the way it sounds, but she didn’t understand.

When we leave the bar, we ended up talking with a group of aboriginal. It was quite hard but, like in Alice Springs with Gabrielle, behind the unsure word, I was seeing amazing smiles. I still ended up feeling a little bit not really comfy. In a middle of 10 people, all quite drunk; even if they were all really friendly, I never like being with to much drunk people. We never know how they could react… any way, it confirmed me that I’m really interested to learn more, to understand more. If amerindian used to leave me coldly indifferent, I’m discovering that aboriginal intrigues me. In a way I don’t really fully understand. There’s a few aboriginal community and cultural center on Helpx. I think it could be a nice opportunity. We’ll see!

I share a few more words with Anna et Florian, and contact details to. Just in case!

Daily life in Coober Pedy

  • English: Daily life in Coober Pedy
  • Français: Daily life in Coober Pedy

I asked Cassie to drop me at Erldunda, as it saved me 200km. My plan was to hitch hike to Coober Pedy. “Only” 500km to do. It was an easy ride. I though… I staid at the gaz station for four hours. Talking to everyone. Seems that everybody was going north, or west. None was going south. Well… a few were going south, but had no room. Except this guy who “doesn’t pick up hitch hiker, for safety reason”. Yes, I looked pretty scary with my flippers in my back pack… The sunset. There were less and less car… I was thinking to build my tent, somewhere in the wilderness. But there is a campground at Erldunda. And they only charge $11. Cheap enough for me to pay. It took me an other 3 hours the next morning. I was starting to loose faith. Thinking that there might be place, in Oz, where hitch hiking was to complicate. But I was finally saved by two italian girls. They asked me for $20 for the gaz, that I was more than happy to pay. And I finally arrive at Josephine and Terry orphanage, in Coober Pedy.

It was six days ago. Already! Enough time to get my little habits. Life is not really hard here. I wake up between 9 and 10 AM, and take my time to check the last news on internet. Also trying to find what my next step will be… after that, it’s time to clean the roo yard. Just on time for the first public feed at 12. If there’s a group, or a lot of people, all the five older kangaroos have there milk bottle. If there’s not enough people, they just get some little snack.

The afternoon is about getting an area of the house ready to become an other kangaroos yard, so they can have more room. So it’s about putting up some fence and digging a few holes. When Terry or Jo need an extra hand, I often help feeding the younger one, who are on a four hours feeding schedule. Yes, day and night. Terry does the day shift, Jo the night one.

Evening is usually quite. Chat, cuddling with the young joeys, watching tv. I usually find some time to play flute or didgeridoo. And to do some more computer too. And it’s finally time for me to go back to my room. Yes, I’m sleeping in a caravan, in a backyard, in the middle of the desert. Yes, it’s cold during the night. But I love my caravan! Looks amazing!

And sometime, there is those special days. Where a South Korean TV crew come to film the orphanage. I ended up being interviewed, and I’m now wondering if I’ll be famous in South Korean in the next few weeks… and that’s also during this interview that my phone rang. Next week, I’ll have a job interview. On Skype. For a job I applied in Melbourne, a few weeks ago. Why not!

And there’s also this phone call, at the end of the afternoon, that sounds like an alert. Yes, a rescue team is needed. A few miner find a young joey, still alive. A new family member is coming. I jump in the car with Terry. He’s driving fast. Not because it’s a real emergency, I think, but because he use to be a Rally Car driver. We pick up the young lady. Her name is Prue. She’s only 3 months and a half, and she’ll be coming with us. What a strange feeling to hold her, as close to me as I can to keep her warmth. To feel her breath under the towel. To know that she had a mother, 8 hours ago, and she’s entering a complete and totally different world by now…

Day 3 : kilometers 1,100 to 1,500

  • English: Day 3 : kilometers 1,100 to 1,500
  • Français: Day 3 : kilometers 1,100 to 1,500

We all wake up in the middle of nowhere, with only emptiness around us. I finally find what I was looking for. Everybody woke up early in order to see the sunrise. Everybody but me. If my travel mates can take a nap during the day, it’s a little bit harder for me. I still had a look through the window, to see a sun hidden by cloud.

As we have lot of bread, I cook french toast to have a nice start for the day. The road is definitely quiet. We see a car, once in a while. Almost each time, drivers wave to each other. We’re living the same experience. We’re driving the same never-ending road. The same crazy road, in the middle of nowhere. If we are at the middle of our journeys, people coming the other way are at the end.

We discover quickly that there is definitely enough room for 3 people in the front of the van. Everything missing is just a seat. We start improvising one using pillow, before we remember that we have camping seat in the van. I’m not sure it’s totally approved by australian road security, but lets forget this minor little detail. With three people sitting in the front, dynamic change completely. If the driver can’t really create ambience and craziness, he can definitely be part of it. And I like that!

Cassie told us about Hart Lake. A salt lake. We saw a few one, not really big, on the side of the road. Hart Lake is an other story. He’s big. Really big. Perfect place to start playing with perspective and photography. Not as good as Uyuni Solar (all my apology to bolivian people for what’s probably the worst way ever to write it), but still a really interesting place.

We spend a little while taking picture. On the way to the lake, we go through a small tunnel, under the train rail. We stop again, for a crazy little time, mixing didgeridoo, musical improvisation in a perfect little moment of happiness.

Back on the road. Trees are definitely rare. Until they become totally inexistent. We are in Coober Pedy.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for a little while. Because I’m planning to live here for a little while, taking care of kangaroos and doing some renovation job. But about Coober Pedy, I don’t know anything. Except that people live in dwelling dig into the ground, that it’s the opal capital of the world. And that there is a lot of dust.

All that is absolutely and completely true. When I stop the van “downtown”, in a small dirt parking, a little voice whisper in my hear “Welcome Home”. Because in this little house, coming straight out of Mad Max (the movie had been filmed in Australia btw) I had this feeling to be back in Burning Man. I was missing dust. It’s a very strange feeling that I can really explain. But I was so happy to find it again… as I was to think that I was back in a post apocalyptic universe… yes, I think I’ll love Coober Pedy. For 10-15 days, at least.

We arrived just on time to catch the sunset. We watched it quietly, from the top of a small hill, before walking back to the van. We drive a few km, in order to get outside of the city and find a quiet place. It’s not even 7 PM, but the van is already stop for the day. No more driving today, I’m the first happy about that! Rachel starts cooking a curry. Everyone ask me to leave when I offer to help. That’s perfect for me. I just sit down, and relax, in the back of the van, looking everyone acting together.

The evening was just amazing… good meal, with good wine, share under the stars. I take my fire staff, my camera, and my bottle of kerosene. In order to have some fun.

I got an idea. An experience I want to try. I try it, and it works. Really well!

An idea leading to an other, I try a group picture. With an other really interesting result!

The evening end up quietly, with a giant pile of people, cuddling together, one on each other. Sharing laugh after laugh after laugh…

Day 2 : kilometers 550 to 1100

  • English: Day 2 : kilometers 550 to 1100
  • Français: Day 2 : kilometers 550 to 1100

I don’t want to make things go faster. I just want the life in the van to find its own pace. We’re not in an emergency, and I don’t want to try to make everyone move quickly. Instead, I preferred to take it easy. The day starts in joy and happiness, and a lot of crepes.

The beginning of the day is not really different of the day before. Landscape is still the same, monotone. It’s nice to drive a lot.

Adelaide is quickly behind us. It was not planed to stop there, and driving threw just confirm me that there was no real reason to do so anyway.

When leaving the city, we follow the ocean for a little while. But we all know that he’ll soon disappear. After Port Augusta, we’ll turn right, on Stuart Highway. Ocean will then be only a souvenir. For a very long time. We decide to stop a last time on the shore, just the time to say bye to the ocean, et to try to put a toe in the water. Way to cold !

We continue with an other detour, to see a gorge Ben strongly suggest. We understand when we arrive there. The mountain is amazing. We take the time for a small walk that make every body happy. We even include a little climbing time, to have a better view from the height.

Back to the van, we take sometime to talk about the end of the day. Port Augusta is the last real point to buy food. After that, we’ll be in the middle of nowhere. Next town will be Coober Pedy. And it’s small. And it’s far. We have to buy all the food we’ll need in the next few days. In order to make it simple, I suggest that we split the different lunch and diner. One or two people will take care of them. Grocery and cooking. Quite efficient. Not so fast… A team start buying food, while I go behind the grocery with Cassie, to check the bin.

I heard after dumpster diving a little while ago, and tried for the first time with Bernt in Hobart. I was quite surprise by the quality of the food we found. This time, we get out of the bin with lots and lots of breads, a dozen of crescents, and a few bananas. Bread is just perfect, as we all agree that the option “sandwich while driving” was the perfect lunch.

Grocery stop take more time that I though, and I start feeling impatient. But we’ve been definitely saving on money. The day before, I was a little bit worried when I discovered that a full tank of gaz lasted for only 400 km. I think that the tank was not completely full. But to be sure, I started driving slower. Driving 85/95 instead of 100/110. Despite a not stop rising of the diesel price ($1.50 at the beginning, $1,96 at the end) we end up (including reloc saving) aping $75 each. Quite proud of me, as I’ve never seen a ride share between Melbourne and Alice Springs for less than $150. And the food? $45 each. For 5 days. We can all be quite proud of that to!

Grocery finally done, everybody back in the van, we go back on the road. To start the Stuart Highway. A road sign. A right curve. And the pleasure of hearing the GPS saying “in 1,212 km, turn left”.

Night has started for a little while. We want to enjoy as much landscape as we can. We keep on driing for an hour, before stoping on a rest area. Van is quickly in night mode, and we still have some time to talk quietly, before going all to bed, as the wise children we all are.

When it all fits together

  • English: When it all fits together
  • Français: When it all fits together

I had a plan. A quick list of think I wanted to see and do in Central Australia. But there was just a little thing that didn’t fit perfectly. A date that was not the best one. I just managed to change it. Everything seems to fit together now. Sounds like a lot of planning (until the end of may) but… hey… why not!

This is where I am going. In this complete and total orange emptiness.

We arrive in Alice Springs on the 2nd of May. Alice Springs is on B. On the 4th, we’re moving to the Wide Open Space festival (A). Back to Alice Springs, on the 7th in the morning. Seems that we’re going to do a couchcrash in Alice Springs on the 7th. Couchcrash? When a whole group of couchsurfer arrive together at the same place. Usually coming with fun and laugh and great time. 8-9-10-11 will be used to discover Uluru (C) and Kings Canyon (D). Part of the amazing landscape that we can see there. On the 12, I’m coming back south, to Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy is the world capital of Opal production. A city in the middle of nowhere, where most house are just dig in the ground. One of the first book I red, written by Colin Thiele, this australian writer that make me discover Australia when I was 11 or 12, is happening in a place like that. I’ll be staying in this piece of emptiness until the 24th of may. Yes, an other Helpx mission there. In a kangaroos orphan. Helping kangaroos, and learning to play didgeridoo. On the 24th, I’ll be heading to Oodnadatta (F). Small little village, far from everything. Because my friend Marilyne had lived there for 5 months when she was in Australia. And I just want to have a look, because of what she told me.

After that? I don’t really know yet. I’ll be definitely looking for a job. And I have the feeling that staying for a little while in such a remote place as Oodnadatta could be nice. Or a little bit less remote, like Alice Springs. Or I’ll go on the north west coast, to see my friend Fan Fan again.

Now, there’s still something you might not realize, as you don’t have any scale on the map. The distance between B (Alice Springs) and C (Uluru) is 500 kms. And 900 kms from Uluru to Coober Pedy. Looks really small and close, on this picture, isn’t it?

That’s what it looks like in Australia. G is Melbourne. 2,200 kms from Alice Springs (B). Who said Australia was a big country?