Tuesday, July 22, 2014

County fair...dinkum

990 km drive for a day at the fair.

True! We drove down to Tennant Creek just to go to the Show.
Sounds a bit extreme doesn't it? But it seemed like a good idea at the time. 2 weeks into a 4 week school holidays, 2 kids ratty with cabin fever and high likelihood of  a domestic dispute. Why not throw the whole circus into the car and head south?

When we first discussed the idea of going to TC I had thought this could be a chance to catch up with some of the people fighting against the nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station... Turned out that campaign had been won just a week or so before we left Darwin! No complaints about that. There was a victory celebration but it happened before we arrived. Congratulations to all those involved in the campaign and particularly the Warlmanpa people.

Once again I'm not much in the mood for writing but thought I'd post a few photos from the trip.

We left Darwin at about 4am and made Katherine by 7:30am, had some breaky and drove on to Dunmarra roadhouse and more fuel.

Mataranka big fig... headed south

Land raper at Dunmara Roadhouse... I wonder what they're going trash with that? (Frackers?)

Made TC with plenty of daylight to spare.

Next day Friday the Tennant Creek Show. After a very cold 8 degree night we spend the morning hugging our coffee mugs and once the chill had worn off checked out the view from the lookout. We hit the show some time after 1pm. The Tennant Creek show only runs for one day and I swear if we hadn't done our research we could have spent the week there and not had any idea it was even on. There appeared to be no advertising around the town at all. The (white) locals we spoke to seemed to think there was no point holding the show since the miners had left town but judging by the amount of soft toys and show bags I saw leaving the place I doubt the rest of the mostly Aboriginal population would agree. There seemed to be enough people around to fill the showgrounds and sideshow alley was pretty lively, there were kids everywhere and the place had the feel of a fair dinkum carnival. It was quite a fun day. I'd recommend TC show to any southerners traveling north to get a sense of an Australia that exists in many of the towns they pass through but rarely allow to touch them as they pass.

At the Tennant Creek Show.

We broke camp by 9am Saturday morning and headed up to Mataranka and the Bitter Springs for three nights camping by our favorite swimming hole. The nights were mild, water clear and warm. Caught a good whip cracking show at the Homestead, swam our hearts out and generally chilled for two full days.

Big moon at Mataranka

The caravan park experience is weird. 1,000s of retired grey nomads trucking along in their new 4x4 luxury vehicles towing immaculate caravans with all the best gear. Every rig is meticulously washed once they set up camp. You don't see them at the local shops (or at the Show) they  travel from camp to camp, inspect each other's outfits then settle down for sundowners and gossip, bravado and comparing road notes. Basically which caravan park they'll stop at next, what towns they'll glide through and glance at from behind the tinted windows of their motorized isolation tanks. Hoarding their food till the next big town where supermarket rewards cards can be used, their hard earned money will never see the till of the empty stores in desolate towns they pass through...  Their sleek  aerodynamic designed rigs slip passed dusky drinkers waiting for the early openers raising silent plumes of dust from desolate gutter of towns they'll tick off on the great road trip of 2014!

I bite my tongue after trying to stop Sam from spending money in the local store... "We need our money for fuel!" Shit! Damn... Did I say that? Am I just like them? This drive will take us months to pay off but 1,000s of people pass through this town cashed up enough to leave their homes and travel around at their leisure in brand new trucks and vans but not a cent to spare for the local businesses! Hell spend up babe.
What the hell are we doing here anyway?

Home by Tuesday afternoon. 2,400 km under our belts and about 3 months worth of fuel burned! Yes it's great to get away but bothers me the amount of fuel we used. All along the road we saw road trains carrying fuel to supply the hungry tourist muticas traveling up and down that highway.

The whole time I was humming to myself County Fair by Bruce Springsteen. 4 of us in the car. Me my wife and 2 kids... In 2,400 km they only let me choose one song! I chose this one and they kicked up so much fuss I had to turn it off out of respect for the Boss! What is wrong with these people!? They wouldn't let me listen to it in the car but they can't stop me posting it here!

Thursday, July 03, 2014


As always there have been too many things to write about and I haven't had the time, access to my computer, or the inclination to write about it. The past month has been full of trauma, sadness and struggle.

At the beginning of June while most of us were enjoying the first cool days of the dry season, our community was struck by a terrible tragedy. Our friend Jenny and her two children Lenny and Tighe were found dead on the grounds of the property where they lived. I don't know what we do with the grief from such a thing. There have been vigils and memorials and people have cried and lit candles, we've thrown flowers into the river and visited their favorite places but nothing makes right what has happened. Now one month has passed and many things have happened in that short time but our grief for this family will take a long time to pass.  I am sure most of us have unresolved feelings about the circumstances of their deaths. I have had immense feelings of compassion and care for all my friends who are alone and struggling, especially to care for their children. How do we care for each other and be there for each other when we are needed? 

A vigil was held at the mouth of Rapid Creek, many people came. It was a powerful and emotional time, and there was a huge sense of togetherness combined with bewilderment... how could this have happened?

The next morning before dawn I went and sat on the sand on the river bank where the candles were still burning. I thanked God for the dawn and cried for Jenny and her innocent beautiful children.

Candles at Rapid Creek the morning after vigil

Looking back at the footbridge, morning after the vigil

Carnage on the road:
One week later, while sitting in my office which happens to face the Stuart Highway I heard a terrible heavy crunch which sent vibrations up through my seat! I looked at the other workers and thought it may have been a heavy truck hitting a pothole. It wasn't. We looked out the window to see smoke and dust rising from the corner and the remains of a vehicle turned on its roof on the other side of the road. Two of us ran out of the building and across the road to find a 3 car pile up. Two cars were overturned and crushed, another sitting smashed up in the middle of a traffic island. Fuel was leaking out of one of the vehicles and the driver was turning the key trying to start the engine! It was an horrific scene. Others had already arrived and were assisting people out of the vehicles. We assisted where we could but thankfully professionals were on the scene. Three people were injured two seriously, but there was still a body in one of the cars, I sensed something terrible there and actually couldn't bring myself to look, it turned out that one man had died in the crash. When we were sure there was nothing more we could do to help we went back to the office, shaken by the scene. Out of respect for the people involved and their families I took no photos. But one week later I marveled at the irony of the Super car parade passing through that same intersection with support trucks displaying alcohol promotional logos!

The V8 Super cars are in town.

Refugee Day:
The 14th June was World Refugee Day. Every year here in Darwin we hold a kind of carnival on Refugee Day where people who have come to Australia as refugees show their appreciation for the opportunities they have been given, share their food and culture with us and all the refugee and asylum seeker support agencies and community groups set up stalls and share information. It seems weird to say we are celebrating Refugee Day... after all what is there to celebrate about people being displaced from their homelands? However there is a real festive feeling in the air at refugee day. It is a celebration of life, opportunities and what people can do if given a second chance! This year we were at the Soccer field in Marrarra, so on top of the music and dance there were soccer games all day.

(On the way there I took a wrong turn and ended up outside a football ground where I was summarily abused for being a "bicycle freak!" Oh what a world we live in) 

Amid all this celebration of life is the overlying fact that the Australian Government is now taking deliberate action to prevent refugees from entering Australia. Our asylum seeker policies breach international treaties and Government agencies routinely commit human rights abuses. This week the Minister for Immigration was responsible for the Australian Navy delivering a boatload of Tamil Asylum seekers back into the hands of the Srilankan regime who they were fleeing. Refugee Day was a chance to just spend time with people who have at least had the opportunity for a second chance in our country and for those who fight for the rights of asylum seekers, to put the struggle aside for one day and just enjoy the company of our friends.

Kites fly free at Word Refugee Day

Many low moments in my work this past week. We've just had our AGM (where I work it is called Synod). I raised an issue which started a fire and pretty much consumed the whole 4 day meeting... that's a story for another time.
On Monday night we had a big celebration for the Graduation of Theology students. Two of my yapas received their certificates in theology. Congratulations to all!

2014 Certificate 3 Theology Graduants

At the end of a week long marathon of work, 15 hour or more per day, on Tuesday I took a morning off picked up a mate and we went for a canoe trip in the harbor. Not far just out across to a beach near East Point where we could sit and watch the sun rise. It was the coldest morning so far 16 degrees, there was a bit of wind around but the water was flat enough not to sink us. We paddled among the mangroves for a while, saw a sea eagle and collected a bit of rubbish off the beach before heading back. Nothing much that has happened this month makes much sense to me but paddling on the water some how relegates it all to just 'other stuff'. This is real. ;)

Trev steps ashore
(Written from my computer at home... I've got a shocking cold and keep falling asleep. Think I have exhaustion or something....)