Friday, August 25, 2006

Selamat Datang di Bali....

Last night I arrived at Denpasar Airport and was in Kuta by about 12:30am. I found accommodation OK it was a bit cheaper than if I'd booked so I was pretty happy. The bed had the firmest mattress I've ever slept on in Bali so I soon fell into a blissful sleep and was woken at dawn by the sweet smell of burning offerings and the sound of sparrows fighting over scraps of rice.
I hadn't gotten off to a verry good start. I thought I had an international driver’s license and fully expected to be riding a scooter around the island but just before I left home I realized that it had expired 3 years ago!
Making my way outside I thought I'd take some photos of the beautiful gardens full of fragrant frangipani flowers and Bougainvilleas. Oops I'd forgotten that my camera was playing up and probably needed a new battery, luckily I'd brought a brand new one along (not wanting to miss out on such a perfect opportunity to take photos). I slipped it into the camera and pressed the button. There was a click...... then ....... nothing It didn't wind on or anything! The same thing that had made me think it was the battery. BUT IT WASN'T THE BATTERY!
I took the film out and checked the shutter. Nothing! it was jammed! The camera is useless!
It's the first time I'd bothered to take the thing overseas with me along with two heavy lenses and it karks it just when I need it the most! The last time it let me down was when a mate asked me to take some photos of his wedding! I think it is cursed now.
So I'm stuck in Kuta with no camera and no license! This is not how I imagined my holiday! I can't help thinking it's some kind of karmic thing.
Sorry folks there will be no photos of this trip!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Festival of Darwin

Darwin is absolutely rocking at the moment! The Darwin festival is now in full swing and there are so many events happening that you can’t help stumbling across them!
Last night we were on our way to the Pesona Indonesia concert and heading down Dick Ward Drive we happened across a bizarre site! I wish I had my camera. The Darwin band NEO were doing some kind of performance or shooting a video or something at a bus stop on the side of the road. There was music blasting as the guys were dressed in all kinds of funky costumes with wigs orange emergency workers overalls and a plethora of other props. It looked like someone was actually on the roof of the bus stop sweeping a broom and banging it in time with the music. They were pumping it up and the only audience appeared to be the passing traffic! This morning they were there again (looking like they hadn’t stopped) so I presume they are filming for a video clip.
We arrived at the concert at about 5:30 and were thoroughly entertained until 9:30. There was a real community spirit and a relaxed family atmosphere. We met up with a few friends but stayed close to the front so we wouldn’t miss any of the action. It was one of those events that make me feel proud and grateful to be a Darwinian. The open and inclusive attitude that prevails in Darwin is phenomenal and I haven’t experienced anything like it in any other place I’ve been. So it was no great surprise or any big deal that a co-presenter was from the Philippines. In typical Darwin style everybody was mixing in and we were all there just to have a good time and to celebrate Indonesian culture.


The opening speech by Con Vatskalis MP was great as he once again made light-hearted jokes and praised the multicultural spirit of Darwin. Mr Vatskalis also made reference to the longstanding relationship between people of the Indonesian Islands and the people of Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands. He acknowledged that these relationships existed prior to European settlement of Australia and commented on the language exchange that brought the words 'Balanda' and 'rupia'. His Greek joke was a great laugh!
I wish I enjoyed hearing his policies on regional and urban development as much.


Local girl Yuliana (just 13 years old!) performed to her usual high standard. She plays acoustic guitar and sings solo. The first time I saw her she was busking at the Nightclif market, I heard this great rendition of a John Denver song and had to search through the croud to see where it was coming from. Nobody seemed too interested in listening, people walked straight by and even through her perfomance! I'm always astounded by the indifference people show to such great performers and musicians! Maybe they don't like John Denver? But I fear the truth is that people are to busy doing what they're doing to even hear beauty in the music. I had no money to put in her guitar case but prommised next time. (Typical!)
When I saw her there again she was performing in an even more obscure place, her voice and guitar in perfect time and every song sung with such heart and meaning you'd think she was playing to an audience of thousand's of adoring fans! One day she will be; I'm sure of it.
I just hope she makes it before she's reduced to performing on that trash Australian Idol! (Ok I've seen it once)


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Pesona Indonesia

On Thursday at CDU I was very fortunate to see the Sasak Dancers from Lombok giving a free demonstration of part of the Pesona Indonesia performance. It was excellent! The energy that this group produces is absolutely incredible! I was totally captivated by the ladies dancing! Their movements, gestures and eye seemed to hold me totally spellbound! Their classical style and beauty totally transcended the usual campus atmosphere and I felt as though I was transported to another place and time. It was like having a glimpse of something supernatural. AMAZING!

Sasak dancers Darwin

Sasak fighting

The fighting men appeared as though they were possessed by a spirit that gave them incredible strength and power. Although the performance was to some degree choreographed, there was intensity in their action that was almost uncontrollable and they often had to be separated by a third man to protect them from the power that each of them possessed.

Pesona Indonesia will be performing for the Darwin Festival tonight at the Amphitheatre in the Botanic Gardens. It’s a free concert and will be well worth seeing!

Street Art

Even living in Darwin there is often an overwhelming feeling of disconnectedness to the earth. I ride my bike to work every day but like every other city the roads are always full (well not exactly crowded) with people rushing around in their 4wd gas-guzzlers or their Subaru or Mitsubishi Lancer with a "Fart Box" exhaust system clogging up the air with diesel fumes or totally unnecessary noise! So it was with some relief that I came across this beautiful piece of Graffiti on a busy Darwin street.

give way

Thank you to whoever painted this mural. It brightens my day whenever I see it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Oz By Bike

There’s so much happening at the moment I just don’t have the time to do or see a fraction of what I’d like to. I still haven’t filled out the 2006 Census!
I recently heard about a project called OZ By Bike (6 months into the journey!)

“OzByBike is a demonstration of how sustainable transport can be used as an alternative to polluting and costly ways of getting around. On the 11th February 2006, Anthony Mann set off on his 30,000 km expedition around and throughout Australia to spread his message: that travelling like this is one of the healthiest, most environmentally-friendly and sustainable forms of transport that exists.” (Oz By Bike home page)

Check out his website; OzByBike it’s great and there are some fantastic photos.

Anthony is an amazing character (you can check out his CV on the website) and has managed to put into words and action exactly what I’ve been contemplating for the past ten years or more. Thank goodness there are people out there who have the courage to realize their dreams! It is obvious that a collective consciousness is growing that knows there is a better solution to movement and transport than what we currently have. Good on you Anthony!

Reclaim your feet

He’ll be in Darwin next week and there will be a bit of a meet organized to mark the occasion. What a bummer I’ll be out of town! But if you want to show your support get on down to the Jingly Water Gardens at 10 am on Sunday the 27 August.


Today (Friday 18th August) is the 71st anniversary of the release of cane toads in Australia and Toad Busters are holding the Toad Audit night for the top end.
Apparently the dry season conditions make this the peak “ToadBusting” period. So they’re asking everyone in the Darwin area to go out and find toads wherever they may be lurking. Remember there are approved methods for catching and disposing of Cane Toads.
For more information contact:

Graeme Sawyer
Frogwatch joint coordinator

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Biiiiiiiikes.................and books

Things have been kind of hectic lately and I'm not quite sure where it's all leading but generally it all seems pretty good. Strangely two friends have given me books to read and another has recommended a novel completely out of the blue! I'm currently reading a great novel about Bali that has got my head and heart spinning out of my suburban orbit and careering off on flights of fancy about staying somewhere outside of Australia. Somewhere that you can eat rice, fruit and chilli all day, have meaningful encounters with Gods demons and cheeky monkeys and see them played out each night at the a Wayang Kulit or in a dance at the local temple!

A fella rang last night who I'd approached about six months ago about a Philippene bicycle rickshaw. He want's more than I think it's worth but I'll head over there and have a good look before I dismiss it totaly. It looks small and cramped, not like one of those great ones you see in Singapore or Thailand but it's a start. Wouldn't it be funny/fun to ride something like that around in the street? Wouldn't it be a great way to do the shopping? Wouldn't it be a great way to get hasstled by the police (I hope not)?

I don't seem to have all that much more to say but thought I'd do a post just to keep the interest up. Now just because I don't have anything original to post doesn't mean I can't find someone who has.

While looking at the C.Y.C.L.E. blog I found a great documentary about the beginning of Critical Mass in San Francisco.

Unfortunately I am unsure of the copyright restrictions on this video so won't add a direct link to it. However you can find it yourself on the C.Y.C.L.E. blog or even better buy it directly from from Ted here

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Good or Bad?
What is luck? Like what can I consider as good or what can I think of as a bad thing?
I don't know! I am currently reading a book called 'On the Edge of a Dream: Magic and madness in Bali, by Michael Wiese. So I have been temporarily transported into the world of malevolent and benevolent spirits, which I am inclined to believe whole-heartedly (at times).
Yesterday I went to a fete and passed up two excellent SLR cameras, about which I have had regret induced nightmares and was still kicking myself over this morning! There was a Canon T170 and a Canon EOS 1000F both with good lenses and both very cheap! The T170 was $20 and the EOS was $40! The problem was that our budget is really low and I’ll soon be heading to Bali so was riddled with guilt about spending more money, even though the cameras were an absolute steal. There are so many reasons I could have used to justify buying at least the EOS but for some reason I felt really guilty about it so ended up leaving them both behind. Two reasons for not getting them was that I am already expecting a camera related bill. Canon wants to charge us $50 for a quote on fixing our digital camera, which has a manufacturing flaw; and we had planned a trip out to a local Billabong today which would cost about $30 in fuel, meaning that the budget had already been well and truly blown!
So I’ve been sulking about the cameras for the past two days and am still trying to reconcile myself with the decision/ hesitation. I did go back on Saturday to buy the EOS but it had been sold!
Sam reminded me that I don’t have room for another camera because I still have an old one that I should have thrown out ages ago. She was right! There is some kind of bad luck that comes with hoarding stuff. I didn’t get the camera because I hadn’t made room for it. Spiritual room I mean. I still had the last camera I got which was exactly the same, (but broken). I needed to get rid of that camera, pass it on or throw it out before I can get another one. It makes perfect sense to me.

Gouldian Finches
Another example of this spiritual rule happened to me this morning. Sam and I had decided to go to a local spot about 120 km from home to see if we could spot some Gouldian finches. All my life I’ve wanted to see these beautiful birds in the wild. So off we went at 5:30 am. We arrived at the park just on dawn and quickly set off for the billabong. I had to carry my SLR camera, the tripod and video camera and in a pack on my back I had our daughter. I was truly loaded, overloaded in fact. We had been walking for about fifteen minutes when, amazingly, we spotted some Gouldian’s. It was as if they just flew straight to us for a visit (a quick visit).
I had too much gear and had to act quickly. The weight of the backpack slowed me down! The long zoom lens of my camera kept banging against the tripod as I tried to get some film of the birds. I couldn’t take a photo because I didn’t have anywhere to put the video camera! I was in a pickle and missed out on getting any shots of even one bird. They soon became impatient with my awkward display and left.
I had too much stuff in my hands! I wanted everything! The photos and the video. If I’d left one of those things behind, maybe I could have got a shot of the birds.

Now was this good or bad? Well I have decided that by not buying the other camera, which by the bounds of this spiritual rule I would have to declare that I didn’t really need anyway, I have been blessed with the sighting of wild Gouldian finches which I have dreamt of for many years. I hope this experience has taught me some kind of lesson and will remind me to be grateful for what I have been given. Whether this was a matter of luck I can't say. I was very fortunate to see the birds and will try keep the tally even when I think I want something. In Bali there may be no qustion about this issue; God has a part in everything?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Unique Words

There are a few words I'd never heard before I came to Darwin and words I'd heard but not spoken by Australians in their native tongue!

I was amazed when I first heard Aboriginal people using the word Balanda! A few years before coming to Darwin I tried studying Bahasa Indonesia and had become quite familiar with the word Belanda. It meant Holland or people from Holland. (The Hollanders, or Belandas, held much of what is now Indonesia as a colony. They extracted quite a bit of wealth from the region and delivered an equal amount of misery, they are often remembered with a tinge of resentment.) The word was introduced to the Indigenous costal people of northern Australia by Macassan fishermen.
Wow! I'd never heard an Aboriginal Person speaking their own language before coming to the NT and I was already familiar with a word. My ears were pricked everytime I heard it and I clung on to that word like some kind of treasure I'd discovered!

When I was a postman a colleague used to call me Bunj and Bunji all the time. "What's that mean?" I'd always ask him. "Stupid!" He'd say! I soon found out it was a word often used as slang for 'mate' but of course as with most things there was more to the word than that.

Another time when I was only new to Darwin. I was doing some washing at the Parap Laundromat when I got into a conversation with a group of young Aboriginal men from a community I'd never heard of and wouldn't dare try to pronounce. We had a friendly chat about where each was from, the usual conversation I'd had with travellers from all over the world. They took immense pride in speaking of their homeland and with far greater reverence than I've ever observed from those who are often heard (Patriotically?) chanting the popular but vulgar Ausie... Ausie... Ausie... Oi... Oi... Oi... A meaningless, mindless, agressive alcohol induced mantra that is somehow meant to convey a sense of national pride and camaraderie, but only makes me feel like spewing and emegrating to New Zealand!
As I was packing up to leave one of the men shyly asked me if I was going past Bagot. I knew where that was because I'd noticed it on the major road from Darwin to Casuarina and was quite curious about who lived there. It was on my way home so I offered them a lift.
After a few detours, to pick up some family members (I wasn't aware they were coming too!) one young man said, “This is 'gammon' lets just go, this fella wants to go home.” (phew thanks) So I dropped them all off at Bagot and was soon released from service. “See ya later fellas”.
What’s this 'gammon'? I wondered. It sounds familiar I’m sure I’d read it in an old book sometime, maybe something by Joseph Conrad. I looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary and found that it was a commonly used word by English speakers in the 19th century, but has become ‘archaic’ or disused in modern English. In looking up the word gammon I discovered the word, ‘humbug’ which is another generaly disused English word you can hear around Darwin. The funny thing is that although these words are no longer in common use elsewhere they are incredibly appropriate words who’s meaning can’t be described better by any other word in English, that I can think of.

I love the use of language up here. There is a kind of originality or authenticity about the place that transcends the drab language used in other places in Australia, it adopts elements of indigenous language that is quite useful and appropriate.

If you're interested in the word 'Balanda' this article by Kevin Murray gives a little of the background and meaning: Call me non-Indigenous!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Originally uploaded by davidfntau.
I have just 'released' a book using my account on the Bookcrossing website. (By released I mean let go - I did not write or publish this book)
The book I released was Bunji: A Story of the Gwalwa Daraniki Movement, by Bill Day.
It is a story of the Land Rights strugle of the Larrakia People and gave me a good introduction to the place I had chosen to live in nine years ago.

I bought three copies of this book with the intention of passing two on to people I thought might be interested. As I still had the two extra copies I thought it would be a great book to liberate and begin my Bookcrossing acount.

I left the book discretely on a bookcase at a local Backpackers Hostel and hope that it will soon be found. It is a book that may loose it's relevance the further from Darwin it is taken so I am hoping that it manages to be read by people visiting the hostel. A book like this may provide visitors to Darwin a far broader perspective on Darwin's cultural history than they can expect to find written in most of the guff usually found in a backpackers bookcase.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dutch Quest For Practical Bicycles

Here's an alternative look at transport that is more the norm in Holland and I've seen similar things in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Post has been removed ! Sorry

You know the saying 'If you love something set it free'? Well there's a group who apply this philosophy to books and they've got thousands of members. While watching a program called 'Can we help?' (Fridays 6.30pm on your ABC) my ears pricked up when I heard them talking about Bookcrossing.
Bookcrossing is a way of liberating books. In other words you take books that you would like to share with others and release them into "The Wild". Basically you tag them with a serial number and some information that will help others to identify the book when they find it (if they choose to). So you take the tagged book to a public place where an interested person may be likely to find it and you leave it there! A person finds the book and takes it home to read and hopefully logs onto the Bookcrossing website and checks the details in so you can track the book.
I think this is a great idea, for so many reasons, I can feel the good Karma accumulating just by thinking about it. As a latent traveller I am really keen on this idea because I could never join a library while in foreign countries, couldn't justify spending the money that I needed for baked beans and baggets and often needed to discard books that I had read.
In travellers circles books are often swapped and given away which is great but wouldn't it be even better to see where your old book had gone long after you've hung up your hiking boots and have become lost in the humdrum of a sedentary life?
Apparently there are more than one of these kind of operations going on but I have only had time to check out one. I joined Bookcrossing earlier this week and intend to release a book as soon as I can get the information to stick to it. They sell all kinds of stickers and paraphernalia but I think I'd rather save my money and just print some out on the computer.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Girraween Lagoon


I recently received an email from a friend who I studied Lands Parks and Wildlife with back in 2004. For one of our assignments we wrote a park management plan for an area that we were interested in. It was only meant to be a theoretical assignment but we got all enthusiastic about it and it ended up taking over most of our other studies, time and money. It was a great experience and by the time we'd finished we had a document that brought together a lot of information on our site. In doing so we had also approached various government departments and stakeholders and raised awareness of a fairly unique hydrological system in the middle of an expanding semi-rural development. We had identified various threats the area faced and were keen to assure some protection for the lagoon and its associated waterways. Unfortunately I was unable to remain focussed on the issue and to cut a long story short I had lost track of what was happening out there. I had become preocupied with getting work and taking care of my own immediate needs and those of my family My friend Grant who had introduced me to the lagoon and had spent much more time out there never lost sight of what was happening. He has a passion for this place and has devoted a lot of effort into learning more about it and working towards some kind of solution for managing the area in order to protect the lagoon from various threats.

The lagoon doesn't support great numbers of birds probably because it is rather deep compared to many other wetlands in the area and so doesn't provide good grazing, but also because it has quite a low nutrient count. However there is some rather interesting plant life in and around the lagoon, particularly species of Lilies, and various carnivorous plants that thrive in low nutrient soil (sand).

Fortunately there are now a lot of other people who are interested in protecting the Lagoon and they have started a Land Care Group! What excellent news! So sometime in August they will be incorporated and able to apply for government grants to assist with looking after the area.
I'd like to keep a regular post on their activities and wish the Girraween Lagoon Land Care Group all the best.