Tête en bas

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

About australian legends and culture

  • English: About australian legends and culture
  • Français: About australian legends and culture

It was a legend before it even exists. Scientists, explorers, all agreed that there must be a land in the middle of the never-ending indian ocean. There should be something to equilibrate the mass in the Northern Hemisphere. Terra Incognita Australis. Lots of people have been looking for it. Some even find it without knowing it, following coast they believe was some islands. It took a long time before a english ship finally arrive in Sydney Harbor. It was just the beginning of the legend.

I finally understand one of the thing that I was fascinated by in Australia, without really noticing it. Red Dog, the most trustful dog in the world, Stuart the crazy explorer, Pharlop the horse who wan all the races, Jon Lasseters’s Gold… I don’t really feel that there’s an australian history. Instead, there’s hips of australian histories. Like if Australia was just a never ending flows of anecdotes. Normal people, normal animals, becoming legends by the way the act, by the way the behave, by what they do, by what they find. It’s not the way event follow one after an other that interest people. It’s all those little piece of time, who are part of a collective memory, and who build australian history, culture and identity.

“There’s no culture in Australia”. I’ve heard that a couple of time. It was one of the main argument to explain why someone was not interest by the country. Each time I heart it, I feel perplex. First, because by saying so, you deny 40,000 years of aboriginal story. The oldest still alive culture on earth. Also, because each time I want to ask “but what’s culture exactly ?”. And I still wonder… is it when you have old building in every city? Statues in your park? Famous artists? Creativity everywhere? Festivals all year long? Museum? Except for the old building -obviously- I’ve fond everything else in Australia. Maybe it’s not as obvious as in other place. You don’t have Le Louvre and La Joconde every street corner. There was no philosopher “des lumières” neither there was a renaissance. Does having culture mean “being old?” I’ve been in contact with stories, books, movies, places, museums, festivals, cities, bands, that all give me the same feeling: australian are creatives too, they have imagination and idea.

Of course, here, everything is new. Despite the sand and the desert, australian histories are not covered with dust. They are still alive, you can still touch them. All is fresh in peoples memories. Time didn’t carved all that. And because it’s so young, legends seem brighter, nicer, truer. We can still live them. When was the last european legend? How many centuries of dust covered the stories of the old continent? Why giving so much importance to a dusty past when future is waiting for you? Not having a past doesn’t mean that you don’t exist!

Man has been talking about american dream for a long time. You could go to the states, start a new life, win a lot of money. We never talk about the australian dream, and I just start to feel it. Here, legends are so young that they are still alive. So young, that you still have new legends coming to life. If you take the time to come here, listen, feel, discover, you’ll see that australians still have hips of place for new legends. And you can even be one of them if you want!

The storyteller in me loves the lightness of australian History. You’re not overwhelmed by its omnipresence. He likes this anecdotic feeling. He likes talking about australian stories instead of History. He likes to discover that Australia is a little bit what Fred Pellerin is doing for St Elie de Caxton. But at the scale of a continent.

Pause, stop, relax, break

  • English: Pause, stop, relax, break
  • Français: Pause, stop, relax, break

The timing of the english couple fits better with Sara’s, as Hripsimé and I really want to take our time. She’s leaving from Darwin on the 5th, so we can go as slow as we want. But Sara want to be in Darwin in two days. As do the english. And we finally decide to split here, saying good bye to Sara. She leaves Minma to go back in an other van. We’ll still see her three more time during the same day, before we finally go in a different direction.

Because now, we can take all our time. And for the beginning, it means to stop at Mataranka Hot Springs. It also means that we stop again at Bitter Hot Spring and its warm river just after. This time, I take my swimsuit. Not because the water is cold, but because I want to float better. Because I’m doing the swim with my camera in one hand, so that I have a few souvenir of this paradisiac river.

We arrive in Katherine soon after. Quick stop at the grocery, in order to be independent for a couple of days, and then we take the road to the Gorges. I know the campground there. It’s comfy and quiet. Perfect to relax. Nothing to do. I want to update my blog as I’m pretty late. It’s done now. Three days totally relax, really nice, doing almost nothing. It’s now time to go. Tomorrow, we’re having super with Jaap and Louise. The Spirt of Curiosity is in town!

Same road, one more time

  • English: Same road, one more time
  • Français: Same road, one more time

This trip definitely has a “déjà vu” feeling. Traveling again between Alice Springs and Katherine with two girls. I was planning to do it a little bit slower than the first time, but as Sara is a little bit in a hurry, we just keep the same pace, which is not really a problem, as there’s not really much more to see than the first time. We stop at the Daly Waters Pub one more time in the evening. Same french water, same show by the same humorist. Same hard time at the end. I understand better than the first time, laugh as much. In a whole, I like his show. The nationalist/patriotic speech at the end is just an awful thing I prefer to forget…

We’ve met again with the english couple. We’ve seen them this morning at the Marbles. They are here again tonight, and we spend the evening with them.

The absolute perfection of a night in a swag

  • English: The absolute perfection of a night in a swag
  • Français: The absolute perfection of a night in a swag

I’m losing my words. I just don’t know how to describe this amazing feeling I have, every night, when comes the time to go to sleep. I was used to go to bed; sometime reading a little before trying to fall asleep, watching a blank roof. For the last ten days or so, my roof is made of thousands of stars. I stare at the most amazing starry skys I’ve ever seen. Milky way is there, night after night. So intense that I’ve been wondering a few time if it was not a cloud… Every evening, I’m not counting sheep to fall asleep, but shooting stars. Only two or three some evening, up to fifteen during other nights. It’s always magic. Each time I’m watching the sky, I have this little down, already knowing that it’s going to be one of the thing I’ll be missing the most after Australia. These never ending sky, sparkling with thousands of stars.

But the magic doesn’t stop there. There’s always those moment where we wake up, in the middle of the night, for no reason. Instead of trying to find an other position to go back to sleep as soon as possible, I just enjoy taking my time again. Being amazed by the show. And then, you have the moon, that always rise at sometime. It was full not so long ago. I’ve been watching her, getting smaller, day after day. Today, it was nothing less than a thin line in the sky. Tomorrow, she’ll be new.

Sometime, you also have the howling of the dingos, in the middle of the night. They sound a lot like wolves. You can hear them for a little while, before they stop. It reminds me the coyotes, I seldom heard while traveling in North America. In Kings Canyon, I heard them welcoming the moon in the sky, in a way no man would ever be able to copy. At the Devil Marbles, there’s only a lonely dingo. He still howls, from time to time, in the middle of the night.

The show ends with the rising of the sun. I always wake up a few minutes before. Just on time to see this amazing ball of light rising over the horizon. Sometime, I fall asleep, and wake up again later. Today, I wake up long before. The sky was black, with this amazing orange gradient. I’ve seen him slowly changed, to have colors I’ve never seen before. Black and orange just fit so perfectly well… and finally, one hour later, I saw the first shine of the sun. I watched him raise, one more time. Thanking him, as I always do. Those who knows the story will understand…

We were sleeping on the top of the Marbles. First tourists arrived a little bit after that, waving to us. Asking us how we slept. If the view worsted it. Of course, it worsted it. I didn’t watch TV as they did, in there so comfy king size bed with integrate heater. No, I was just watching the sky, counting the shooting stars. I heard the first sing of the birds, as they were waking up, one after an other.

I would have love to spend the whole day here. But Sara would like to arrive in Katherine soon, in order to go back to Darwin to catch her flight back. It’s a compromise. A hard one. I would love to see my sky. One more time. Well… there will be other opportunities…

It’s long after noon when we finally leave the Devils Marbles

School of the air

  • English: School of the air
  • Français: School of the air

It didn’t take long to Paul, Steve and Trish to understand my inertia, to understand that I like to take my time. They started joking at me during the pizza evening, telling that I would still be there on wednesday. Well, with the car completely full, our stuff absolutely everywhere, and no real sign of us wanting to do anything, I can understand. But I was still saying that we were going to leave at 11. I was not that bad in my forecast, as we finally leave the bloc at 11:45.

We didn’t leave Alice Springs immediately though. We had a last quick stop to do, after the grocery. Visiting the “School of the air”.

The school first started on the 8th of june 1951, guided by Adelaide Miethke, who was thinking that children living in remote area were laking social contact. Radio would make them able to have a better community feeling, as a part of there education. Because when you live a 1000 kilometers from the closest school, you can’t really think about going to school everyday…

The school in Alice was the first of its kind, but others followed later on. Covering 1,300,000 square kilometers (10 times england). Children can start the school at the age of 4 and a half until they turn 13. After that, if they want to go on, they have to leave there parents place, our follow school by mail.

They usually live in cattle station, aboriginal community, touristic place, national park, military bases, or are traveling with there family. In order to be part of the school of the air, you must live at least 50 kilometers from the closest school.

Teachers follow a 3 weeks formation, during which they learn to use all the equipment (with internet and all new technology, school knew a big change) but also learn to drive a 4WD. Because once a year, teacher visits all his student at there home. At the same time, the school organize three or four times a year, one week meetings. Also, when the families are in town, kids are invited to follow there lesson at the school.

And joining the school, children receive all the material they will need, for a total value of up to 15,000$. Of course, everything as to be given back at the end of the school. The school require a budget only 3 times higher than a normal school. As a public school, it provides exactly the same formation than any other school.

If the teaching was first made via radio, with works sending by mail every second week, internet changed a lot the way the school was going. All the children go online together, following there teacher via a webcam. The teacher, on his side, as a couple of camera, in order to be able to show explanation on a blackboard, or to show books, objects… formation also include general teaching, like cooking, music…

We then live Alice Springs for real, driving up to the Devils Marble, where we were planning to spend the night.

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.

Back to Kings Canyon

  • English: Back to Kings Canyon
  • Français: Back to Kings Canyon

I was looking forward visiting Kings Canyon again. I still don’t have any preference between Kata Tjuta, Uluru and Kings Canyon. The feeling is different in all those places. The energy is different too. In Kings Canyon, there’s nothing sacred. It’s only about the amazingness of the landscape. You already saw that in my previous picture, a few weeks ago. That’s good, because my battery died just after we start the walk. We did it taking all our time, chatting, being flabbergasted every 10 minutes or so. And then, we arrived at the Eden Garden. Motivated after my great success at Edith Falls, I was carrying my swimsuit. Just in case. I forget about the idea when I discovered that just putting my big toes in the water was to hard.

We’ve completed the walk slowly, before heading back to the car. We saw the english couple again. The one we first met in Erldunda and then in Uluru. Heading to a new campground after that, for our usual quiet evening.

Walpa Gorges and the Fucking Good Port

  • English: Walpa Gorges and the Fucking Good Port
  • Français: Walpa Gorges and the Fucking Good Port

Just after the aboriginals talk, we take the road to Kata Tjua. We were planning to do (again) the Valley of the Wind walk. Unfortunately, it was closed because of a bush fire, and we went to Walpa Gorges instead. More tranquil, shortest. But not as impressive.

As we were heading back to the car, a ranger told us that we have to leave the place. All the area was going to be closed, because the fire was getting bigger. It was time for us to go any way. Saying good bye to Kata Tjuta, good bye to Uluru, and back on the road, heading to Kings Canyon. We stopped an hundred kilometers further, on a free campground, where I was happy to find again the “fucking good port”. The evening starts quietly, before we join an australian couple in there 40s around there campfire. Chatting about everything and nothing, quietly, in a very nice and quiet way, before our group move to meet 3 others australian guy, on there own (bigger) campfire. Songs, laughs, joke, until late in the evening…

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