Tête en bas

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

Archive for the ‘People we meet’ Category

Darwin Airport

  • English: Darwin Airport
  • Français: Darwin Airport

An interesting experience is waiting for me on the following day. I’ve been saying for a little while that I was going to use my swag as a backpack when I’ll leave Australia. It was a nice thing to say, but I still had to try it. So I tried.

It worked well. Little bit big, but it’s still working. I’m not sure how heavy the swag is. I’ve 25 kg allowed with Jetstar, and 30 after Singapore with Saoudic Airline. I think that it’s going to be okay.

We have a last breakfast with Jaap and Louise, before jumping in the car, heading back to Darwin. We don’t have to say bye. They have to go to Darwin too, and will stop at the airport.

We don’t have any problem on the way back, and the car is back a little while after that. We’ve driven 530 kilometers. That’s okay. We are at the airport. We are ready. We are waiting.

Japp and Louise arrive a little bit later. Hripsime’s flight is at 4:10. Mine at 6:20. I can drop my swag early. To discover that it weight 28 kilos. “So, it’s 75$ for the 3 extra kilos. 25$ per kilos with Jetstar”. I look at the girl who’s telling me that. “Hum… do you mind if I come back in 10 minutes?” “Of course not”. I go outside of the airport, unroll the swag. There’s my photo tripod inside. That’s heavy. I also remove two pieces of cloths, just in case. Come back to the counter. “24,5 kilos. Perfect”. I just have a little question. Between Bali and Sydney, Jetstar told me that it was out of question that I carry my flute with me. It was a 1m long piece of bamboo. So a really dangerous weapon. But what about my tripod? “A tripod is a piece of photographic equipment, you can take it with you, no problem”. Perfect… a 3 kilos metallic telescopic tripod is way less dangerous than a flute. Maybe, one day, I will understand flight companies…

We finally say goodbye to Jaap and Louise. This time for good. We’re not going to see them before a long long time. I go through the security check with Hripsime, before we start waiting again. It’s strange. It’s not the first time I’m with a friend in an airport. But it’s the first time I’m waiting with someone I know… while we are taking two different flights!

It’s time for Hripsime to go. It’s always strange to say goodbye to someone with whom you’ve been almost continuously for a little bit more than one month. Well, we know we’ll see each other in France and Italia in october. Still strange…

I’m alone in the airport. I look. I wait. I don’t realize that I’m leaving. It’s a strange feeling. And finally, it’s time for me to board the plane. I’m trying to understand what I’m doing in a place… I guess that Singapore is waiting for me now…

Florence Falls

  • English: Florence Falls
  • Français: Florence Falls

The next morning, the termites are waiting for us. An other ranger talk in order to know more about those strange little creatures about whom I don’t know any thing. There will be actually two rangers. Explanations are interesting. I forget most of them… a termite queen can live up to 50 years old, doing 3000 eggs per day. As I’m a nice guy, I’ve done the maths. It means 55 billions eggs per queen. At the same time, as I’m writing, I’m doubtful. Fifty years old, for an insect, sounds a lot. Maybe I misunderstood. 5 years ? 15 years ? Information to be confirmed…

Any way… despite most believed idea, termites are really important in Litchfield. Because of the weather, temperature, aridness of the country, there’s no big animals living here. No big animals means no addition to the soil in order to help the circle of life to keep on turning. That’s not a problem. Termites are called “Litchfield Cow”. They do the job. They are everywhere. They are more than enough.

We thank our friendly ranger, before driving back to discover the amazing Tolmer Fall. It’s more the place than the fall by itself who’s amazing. I love this place a lot.

One more time, our program is really light. We’re heading to the next falls, Florence Falls, where we can have a swim. After a quick stop in a rock hole, we park the car at Florence Falls campground, and walk down slowly to the falls.

We arrive in an other piece of paradise, with those two falls in the middle of this great cliff. One is strong, the other one is more peaceful, like a shower. One more time, the temperature is just perfect. Water cools me done, and swimming is just perfect. I take a little shower under the lighter falls. Water is cold, it’s hard to breath, but the feeling is just amazing. The two rangers come back a little bit later to check that everything is okay. We share a smile, and they leave again.

Enjoying the freshness, one more time, and equipped with our books to fight again this hard afternoon program. It doesn’t last for long. My book is over. We start thinking about what we should do with all this free time. What to do this afternoon… Walking back to the car. Take a nap. Cooking. Take a nap. Watch a moving. Take a nap. Sounds like a great plan.

I see for the side of my eye this guy, little bit old, who doesn’t seems to be feeling well. An other guy gives him advice. “Wait until you feel better to start climbing again”. He, indeed, doesn’t seems to feel really good. We’re about to start the walk back, when we look at us. “Do you need help?”. “May be”. It’s her wife who answer. Her husband slipped on a rock, and hurt is knee. He can’t walk anymore. What should we do… we start thinking about helping him to walk, but it’s just impossible. The woman is really stressed. I remember those blue box that are spread all over the parks. There’s probably one at the campground. They’re used to contact the emergency service. I offer to go back to the parking to call, but the guy insist that his wife goes. Anyway, I won’t let her go alone. Hripsime follows. Adrenaline is working well: she climbs the 165 steps at a really impressive speed. We find a blue box. Try to call. Few times. No success. There’s no cell phone reception neither. A few young guy are hanging around. We explain them the problem. They have a HFS radio. Once again, no signal. Last attempt: there’s a bus tour a little bit further. I show it to the woman: “You should ask the guide, they might have what it takes to communicate”. She goes there and come back. “She’s going to call at the next blue box. She gave me this first aid box while we wait”.

We walked back to the falls. Malita is still really stressed. We don’t have any thing to do, and she seems to really appreciate our company, as we manage to help her to think to something else. Back to the falls, Joe is still there. We start talking. He seems embarrassed. “You’re in holiday, I don’t want to mess with your plan, you don’t have to stay”. We explain him that we absolutely have no plan, and that we are happy to stay with them. They are really friendly. We’re wondering how we will help Joe to climb the stairs. I bet on a stretcher. He would prefer an helicopter, much more romantic according to him. But the place doesn’t really fit for that.

A ranger finally arrive. One of the termites one. She joins the talk, as we still have to wait for the second ranger to arrive with the stretcher, and the young we’ve met on the parking. They volunteer to help us. Joe is even more embarrassed, but there’s not really any other option. He weights 100 kilos, and even if we are six to carry the stretcher, it’s quite hard. We forget about the stairs. Too hard. There’s an other path, heading to a campground reachable only on a 4WD. It will be easier.

We’re not walking fast, and we stop really often. A nurse arrive a little bit later, carrying crutches. She stays for a little while, to check if Joe walks ok. “We are only two nurses for the emergency, so as it doesn’t seem too bad, I have to go”. Joe is doing is best. As the stretcher doesn’t need to be carried anymore, almost everybody disappear, except two rangers, Hripsime and I. I help Joe as much as I can, stoping him to fall a few time. I don’t understand why everybody has left…

After a really long walk -Joe’s not going very fast- we finally reach the campground. No one’s here for us. We’ll understand later that there was a misunderstanding. The nurse though we were coming back with the rangers, the rangers though we were coming back with the nurse. We stay for quite a while, waiting, before a car finally bring us back to the campground.

Joe and Malita warmly thank us. They are embarrassed that they have taken so much of our time. They would like to thank us, but they can’t. What I don’t tell them, is that it’s okay for me. I have an other anecdote to put in my next book. I love those kind of meeting, see how people interact and act. It’s always a really interesting sociologic exercise, and I love that.

We’re finally back to the campground, cooking with the light of the car. Since we’ve sold Minma, we don’t have any thing left to cook. Only two plastic spoons. But we manage well. Our neighbors feel guilty and offer us a light, but we’re really happy with our really simple tools.

Farewell Minma!

  • English: Farewell Minma!
  • Français: Farewell Minma!

Darwin area is usually known as “Top End”. When you arrive there, you don’t have any other choice to turn back, or to jump in a plane or in a boat. It took me a while to think about what was going to be my trip after Darwin. I didn’t have lot of choice:
– stay in Darwin, and find a job
– turn back and start driving the west coast
– turn back and start driving the east coast
– trying to beat the world record of the most return trip along the Stuart Highay.

I realize that I’ve been almost always traveling with someone since I left Melbourne. DIdn’t have much time just by myself. Once Hripsimé in the plane, I discover that I would prefer to go on by myself for a little while. And, unfortunately for Minma, it could be quite hard for me to pay for her gas need if I was the only passenger. I’ve decided to put an ad, in order to sell her. I would keep on traveling. A different way. I do have a couple of idea for after that…

We’ve just left the bus when my phone rang. “Hi, yes, I’m calling because I’m interested to buy your car. Is it possible to have a look on it today, because we’re leaving Darwin tomorrow”. Small chat with Hripsimé. We’re not so far from Darwin, so why not… then, we can just rent a car for a few days, to see Litchfield, as we first planed.

We arrive in Darwin two hours later. The car is parked in the street, with small sheet of payer saying “for sale”. Five minutes after, a guy stop. He wants to buy me a cigaret for 2 dollars. Then, he sees Minma, and ofter me a thousand dollars to buy it. Doesn’t worst more than that for him. I politely decline. An other five minutes pass. Three germans come. “Is your car for sale it might be our lucky day”. It’s 3 PM in the afternoon. We talk for a while, they ask questions, they seems really interested, until come the price question. I’m not a good bargainer. I don’t want to make thing complicate. Now that I’m in Darwin to sell Minma, I don’t want to take three days for that. I lower the price a little bit more that I should have, but anyway, they are ready to buy it. But the next step is just hips of complication, as they finally come back with lot of question, hesitation, worrying, that took, at the end, more than two hours. Enough for me to almost change my mind and try to find someone else. But finally, paper are signed, and Minma is not mine any more. I invite Hripsimé in a restaurant to celebrate the transaction. We are in a Thai restaurant, which is actually a really good one. Unfortunately, we arrive there late -yes, took a really long time to sell the car- and the kitchen are closing soon. Not everything is available on the menu. But it’s not a real problem, as the food we had was just awesome.

As we don’t have Minma anymore to drive us in a quiet outside place full of stars, we end up in a room in a noisy hostel, staring at a white roof. I’m already missing the night in the swag. Fortunately, I didn’t sell it with the car. I’m just a little bit bigger than usual when staving!

Heading north via the Douglas Hot Springs

  • English: Heading north via the Douglas Hot Springs
  • Français: Heading north via the Douglas Hot Springs

This trip is an mix of new discoveries and coming back to place I already knew, and I really enjoy that.

Jaab and Louise came back from their little trip. They liked the swag experience. Liked less the mosquito visiting them during the night. Till now, we didn’t have any mosquito problem. Hope this is going to last!

We tell us good bye one more time. Could be for good this time, but that’s still hard to believe. We’re still having the same program, almost at the same speed. So we’ll probably meet them again.

We were planing to stop in Pine Creek to buy the last lettuce, but today is a public holiday. Australian love public holidays, and they always have good reason to have them. Few weeks ago, it was Alice Springs show. Two weeks ago, it was Katherine show. You’ve guess well, today it’s a public holiday because of Darwin Show.

THe bad news is not really that we will be limited with the food, but more that we’re going to arrive in Douglas Hot Springs during a long week end. As it was already the case when I came here for the first time. I would love to see this place quiet…

It won’t happen this time. It took us a little while to finally find a spot as the campground seems completely full. But we manage to sneak between a few cars, in order to find a place just for us.

We are waking up the next day by the guy who’s checking if we’ve paid the campground. We have -oops- forget one more time. Hripsimé starts her day with her daily yoga practice, while I’m doing a little bit of staff, without much enthusiasm. The last few days had not been really positive, yet I don’t know why.

After a good breakfast, we go for a little visit of the hot spring. Other reason to be disappointed: the water is to hot. Hotter, I think, that the last time I was there. We didn’t even want to swim, as it’s not comfortable. Instead, we just follow the river downstream for a little while, and stop in the sun. Nap time.

The day keeps on going on the same slow and quiet pace, not doing anything. It’s a total luck that I see Jaap and Louise car as they arrive to the springs. They found a place to park the bus, and they’re just coming to enjoy the water. We talk a little bit, before adding an other good bye to all the previous one. Hripsimé and I just finish diner, before going to bed. We still decide to give the hot spring a last try, but they are still to hot. Shame.

We decide to leave on the next morning. The group beside us -a dozen of person- starts unbuilding there camp (table, tent, shower, fabric….) before we even wake up. When we finally leave, they are finishing there job. We had the time to relax, Hripsimé practiced her yoga, we had a long breakfast, we talked, I rolled the swag… I’m trying to understand. On a three days weeks end, they need half a day to dismount everything. They probably need the same amount of time to set up everything. Maybe even more. Of course, there’s the traffic to go back to Darwin, so they have to leave early in the afternoon on sunday. They also had to put all the thing in the car, and they still have to empty the car. Altogether, there 3 days week end was probably 2 days of preparation, and 1 day and a half relaxing, resting, and enjoying. Doesn’t sounds like a good deal for me…

We’re back on the road, heading north, planning to stop at Adelaide River to buy some more food. But on the way, we stop first at a small waterfall that was on the way.

Back on the road, we drive for 15 ams, before we spot the Spirit of Curiosity parked on the side of the road. Easy to spot. We decide, of course, to stop to say “hi”. “Hi” that last all evening. Shops are close in Adelaide River too anyway, so we’ll just wait until the next day to go to Litchfield National Park.

Twirled Potatoes

  • English: Twirled Potatoes
  • Français: Twirled Potatoes

For me, “helping on the market” means “gosh, we’ll have to wake up early!” But we’re far from a french market. As long as everyone is ready to leave at 8:30, everything is fine.

“The bloc”. I don’t know where the name come from. It’s where Steve and Trish leave. They have a small hydroponic garden, and they make there own soap and natural product. That’s also where they renovate caravan, where people live. Paul has been living here for more or less two years, and is clearly part of the family. I just see the other from time to time. The bloc is a little piece of paradise, quiet, peaceful, where you just want to relax. They don’t seem to work much. Mainly on markets and during special event.

Today, we’re going to the market. They have two booths. On one, Trish sells soap and other products. On the other, Steve sells “twirled potatoes”. He reckons that it’s mainly for cash. They started the potatoes a few weeks ago, and it’s working great. You take a potato, put it on a stick, cut it, fry it for 5 minutes, add some spice and sauce, and sell it for $5. Yes, that’s quite a nice plus value to be able to sell one potato for $5. Yes, that’s really good. I really enjoy the taste, but it’s a bit too expensive for me. Not a real problem: with my tshirt, I have them for free. I help doing the different job, learning the technic. Doing some industrial spying too. Importing the idea to Canada or France? Interesting idea. What other strange idea will I have? I don’t know! Sara and Hripsime are working on the soap booth. They both prefer the smell of natural product to the greasy smelly oil. I can’t understand that!

The market finished around 3PM. Paul take us to a very well hidden cave, south of Alice Springs. Hidden, but really nice. And not a limestone cave. Definitely different from what I’m used to visit. I’m wondering how they’ve been made. No one know.

We all gather an other time, for a pizza evening around the campfire. I end up with my didgeridoo at some time. And my flute. And also with my fire staff. Because Paul knows photography well, and also because they saw me practice almost every day, but always with no fire…

An other amazing night, with amazing people. As I meet so often. As they are every where. As usual, I’m feeling well. And happy. I’m relax. As usual.

Tasmanian Tartiflette

  • English: Tasmanian Tartiflette
  • Français: Tasmanian Tartiflette

I’m totally aware that spending the night at Standley Chasm means a very very slow start the next day. Very very slow. And that’s perfect for me. Hripsimé, Sara and Ray start with a yoga session, while I’m staying in the warmth of the swag. I know they’ll need me soon after that, but I don’t need to be too much awake. Ray asked Hripsimé if she can give him a quick massage lesson. Because of that, my day started with one hour and a half of four hands massages. Hard not to be relax and slow all day after that!

Finally, we say bye to Ray for the third time. We’re not going to be back here. Not for a long time I guess! Back to Alice Springs, I drop the girls downtown before going back to the bloc, to see my caravan again, and talk with everyone. I just realize that I want to cook for everyone tonight, to thank them for hosting me. For the welcoming. For the kinds. For everything. And of course, there’s no problem for us to stay two more nights. I drive back to town, to pick up Hripsimé and Sara, and buy some food. There’s a great pizza oven. Steel one, but heated with wood fire. This oven inspire me. A lot. As those cheese does. When was my last tartiflette? Long long time ago I guess! Well, it’s going to be with Tasmanian Camember. Better than nothing I guess.

Back to the bloc, every one’s chatting altogether. I tell Steve that I really want to give a hand for something before we leave, as I almost did not do anything. “We’ll you still be here sunday?” “hum, yes” “then you can help us at the market?” “with pleasure”! And that’s how the three of us get enrolled to give a hand at the market, the day after tomorrow. I like the idea. I’m happy.

Tartiflette is not as good as I was hoping. Tasmanian camembert is not as good as the one from Normandy. And even less than reblochon. Anyway, still did the job. It’s good. And it’s an other nice evening by the fire.

Mereenie Loop Drive and the Flat Tire

  • English: Mereenie Loop Drive and the Flat Tire
  • Français: Mereenie Loop Drive and the Flat Tire

Tours usually turn back at Kings Canyon, heading back to Alice Springs following the same way they used to come. But for people in 4WD, or adventurous people in 2WD, there’s an other road. The Mereenie Loop Drive. 200 kilometers of unsealed road, usually in pretty good condition. I was expecting to drive it at 50 km/h but it was definitely better that I though, and I end up driving almost always around 70-80 which make the drive way more shorter. The driving experience was really interesting. Complete change from the Stuart Highway when you have to check the road every 15 minutes, just in case there might be a curve. Here, you have to be continuously watching. Checking that there’s no holes our anything hazard on the road, sometime slaloming to avoid the most shaking part. You have to be only one with the car and with the road. It’s harder, more tiring, but I really liked the drive!

Being always listening to the car made me quickly aware of the flat tire. It was easy to except on a road like this one. It really often happen. But it’s not a real problem, as long as you have a spare tire and everything you need, and we were driving again 20 minutes later. Still, I guess it’s a must do to have a flat tire, in the middle of the outback, on a gravel road, 100 kilometers from the closest building. Now that it’s checked, don’t need to do it again!

The plan for the evening was obvious: we were heading back to Standley Chasm for a 3rd night there. Contact with Ray is great, and he even promised us a real room, with a heater and a shower, if we came back. Such a promise pleased the girls!

We meet Ray again with pleasure, and even spend the evening with him. And as his wife was away, share the diner together. Evening goes on slowly, but I’m quite tired after the drive. I realize that I don’t want to sleep inside. I want to see the sky before falling asleep. Again. And again. One more time, I take the option with the swag.

Quick stop in Alice

  • English: Quick stop in Alice
  • Français: Quick stop in Alice

The day before, we have decided to come back to Standley Chasm. We had a great contact with the people there, and we knew that we were going to find the comfort we were looking for (understand electricity and toilet; we are simple people). The next morning, we’ve taken our time to leave the place. Because Ray, the irish manager, is really friendly. So friendly that, instead of telling him “good bye” we said “see you soon, probably next week”.

We told Sara that we were planning to be back in Alice around 11AM. We left the Chasm around 12:30, but arrived in Alice at the same time as Sara. She was coming from Darwin, with a few fellow travelers. They were a little bit late on the schedule. My objective, when I bought the car, was to take it as easy as possible. No more stress, no more schedule, no more timing. I was aiming the Rainbow Valley for tonight. An hour of normal drive and 45 minutes of unsealed road, south of Alice, on the road to the road. It’s part of the “must see” of the area. And the timing was perfect: tonight, there was a ranger talk around the fire.

The first contact with Sara was a good one. The time to have the car ready, buy some food (we won’t find any other grocery for the next seven days or so) et a few other thing (feeling an extra 10 liters tank of water, and an extra 20 liters tank of fuel), it’s already 4:30PM. Sunset will be there soon, but we still prefer to take the road and drive. Don’t like that much driving by night, but it won’t be a very long drive anyway.

In Alice Springs area, there’s two categories of unleaded road. The “4WD only” and the “4WD recommended”. Of course, I won’t even try the first one with Minma. But trying the other one is not a real problem for the old lady, and we arrive at the Rainbow Valley, a little bit shaken, but just on time for the Ranger Talk.

It’s cold. We’re getting used to it. We’ll all sleep in the tent that was coming with the car. But it’s an australian tent. The inside dome is just a mosquito net. The second one is just a water proof fabrics. The tent is huge. Probably not the best thing to keep us warm.

We build the tent quickly, before joining a really inspiring fire, to listen to a ranger talking about plants and animals of the area. If what he says is interesting, there’s no image or picture to really see the animals, and it’s a little bit hard to imagine them. I still grab a couple of information. At the end of the talk, we use the fire to boil some water for the hot water bottles. They will probably be useful tonight. We’re hiding in the tent soon after that for of first night on the road. The contact with Sara is nice. Everybody’s talking in english. From time to time, Hripsimé and her talk in italian. Or sometime in german. With me, she speaks in french. The car is a mix of languages that I really like.

Minma, The Old Lady

  • English: Minma, The Old Lady
  • Français: Minma, The Old Lady

One morning, a young aboriginal boy knocked at Terry and Jo’s place. He was holding a baby kangaroos. He looked Terry and ask “will you take care of my Malu”. Malu meaning kangaroo, in the aboriginal language speaker in Coober Pedy area. Of course, they accepted. The boy told them that her name was “Minma”. They liked it, thinking that it means “Woman”. A few weeks later, they asked aboriginal, who laughed and said “no, Minma means The Old Lady”. I heard this story a couple of time, and it always make me smiles. I think that “Minma, the Old Lady” sounds really nice to my ear. I like keeping name, in a corner of my head, just in case. That could be always useful. Like today, when Minma just get into my life. I promise, I’ll talk a lot about Minma soon!

Jaab, Louise and the 5 stars curiosity

  • English: Jaab, Louise and the 5 stars curiosity
  • Français: Jaab, Louise and the 5 stars curiosity

Jaab is from Netherland, but has been living in Australia for ten years or so. Louise is australian. They met a little bit more than one year ago. Since, they sold there houses and most of the things they owned, in order to buy “The Spiring of Curiosity”. An old bus, transformed to a 5 stars house, where they now live full time, traveling -as slowly as possible- across Australia. Travelers, couchsurfers. The Spirit of Curiosity is big enough to allow them to host other travelers they meet on the road. I’ve seen there profile while they were in Coober Pedy. they were the only other couchsurfer while I was there. I didn’t contact them immediately, and when I looked for there profile again, they were already gone. A few weeks later, they were in Alice Springs. Hripsime contact them before flying to the red center, as I was not in the best condition to host her myself. That allows her to enjoy an amazing welcome in a bus more than comfy. Well, I do have to confess that I enjoy the comfort of the bus too. Jaab and Louise are just lovely. We spent a lot of amazing moment talking -most of the time while having food, and some wine. Travelers in the soul, with lot of anecdotes to share. If we talked about Europe, North America and Australia, we also talked about artificial intelligence, politics, economy, and so much more.

And finally, “the Spiring of Curiosity” had to go back on the road, heading north. We are going west. For a small loop, in the West Macdonnel Ranges. We’ll be coming back in Alice in a few days, and then heading to Uluru. Before going north too.

As usual, saying “good bye” was not really easy. But even if they have a long advance on us, they travel slower than we do. So we do have an appointment. Some where. Some time. Here. Or there. Or maybe somewhere else.