Monday, July 19, 2010

TIOz: Red Sand & Very Little Else Needed

(Photos to arrive some day after this)

I feel revived!

Well. That’s what I was thinking about 2/3rds of the way in.

“I feel damn exhausted and think I will take long leisurely showers every hour for a week and please can you drive just a little faster so I can finally use a “real” toilet and will one of you grumpy men smile already! Oooo man, I can almost smell the beer from here!” closely sums me up by the end.

Naa, not actually. I was still loving the experience by the end of my trip. But knowing there was a shower & a toilet where I’d close a door & shut out the world, as well as the last preciously saved clean clothes, in just a “few” kilometres time did make thoughts a bit skewed.

I loved the trip. And have so much to write out that I have kinda writer blocked myself in being overwhelmed by where to start & how to do it justice.

I climbed Uluru! Which would be wonderful if it wasn’t culturally frowned on to do. D’Oh. And we stayed on a cattle station just outside the resort, which does give that much more authenticity than the tourist trap.

Then we packed up two vehicles, stocked up on water & diesel, and headed wester than west, to where permits were required & the road was corrugated mud & sand…

…to the 30 year old “office” caravan, which hasn’t been clean in about 29 years and 364 days! Ha!

And there we worked. Up at sunrise, winter temperature be damned. Down by 9pm. Exhausted. In a setting that could cousin up to the Karoo. But only if you doused the Karoo in buckets of red sand.

Everything always served with red sand.

I stood on mountains in the serious middle of nowhere. Where I’d be well aware if that day’s lone car drove along the sandy path in the distance. Not only because I could hear it because of no other sound pollution, but from the red sand dust it kicked up miles into the air. Then I would hike down that hill, crawl my way down a ravine, and clamber up the next side to the top of the next mountain.

Or walk across two “fields” of Spinifex growing on red sandunes, for my sins. Spinfex? The spear of grasses. Do not let it touch you!

I lived out of a tent, cause the swag was just too small for two of us.

Warmth was a 10-week growing bonfire that feasted on “snappy gum”.

The toilet was behind enough bushes to not be spotted by the other 4 to 6 campers. And toilet paper had to be burnt. Lovely. But its funny how quick you adjust to “disappear behind bush, scrape a hole with back of shoe, squat, get it done, bury & burn if necessary, done!”

We ate well. We didn’t hygiene too well. BUT! Because I was a girl, the “camp manager” was not only charmed by me but reckoned I needed luxuries, and so we actually were allowed to shower every night, bar two. The Guy loved having me in camp as a result. Although, by “shower” I mean, jump in to a small cubicle tent behind the caravan, turn on taps, get wet, turn off taps, soap up, turn on taps, rinse, turn off taps. Out in less than a minute. Those who showered for 2 minutes might have the water turned off on them.

We drank tea from “the billy” every day, in the most random of spots, because there is always time for some tea from the billy (tin can dumbed right on the fire, and you make a handle from the car’s pliers, to pick it up & pour).

One highlight of this on-the-go fire “kitchen” being where we had some chicken schnitzels by chance in the truck’s fridge around about lunchtime, so those got thrown onto the car’s jack metal base plate, put that over the small on-the-go fire, braai’d it all up and grand feasts were suddenly so easy. Car grease & all. Mmmmm.

I saw one kangaroo the whole trip. One!
But saw so many camels with their flapping flailing camel lips by the herds.
Some of our companions even met a camel hunter & his blood-soaked Jack Russel.
I might even have eaten some camel. But I enjoyed the buffalo medallions more.

There were spiders of all sorts everywhere. Spiders that put up camp between bushes for you to meet very up close & personal when you strolled between the two bushes. AAAAAAAAAKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!
Spiders with lumo green eyes that scuttled about at night and when you saw them you decided maybe you wouldn’t squat behind that bush, thanks.

F$%king flies. And apparently I had it eassssssssssssssssssy, with the winter temperatures. They especially loved to perch around my sunglasses as I was taking a precarious step down the ravine. And I had to just accept that 20 would be hovering on & around me at any given afternoon hour.
As long as there were more hovering around The Guy, I reckoned I was ok.

Big Red Bellied Ants that liked their pink flowers & carried them about in pride.
And dingos that were always on the outskirts.

But often, I’d wonder, where are all the animals? Some days I felt like I was in the Kruger, at one of those remote viewing spots near the Moz border, where you can see for miles, and can spot all sorts of animals dotted about. Not here though. Not much more than camels. And carcasses of abandoned burnt-out cars on the single road through.

I got sunburn and/or wind chill burn. Cause nee maar fok, that wind was cold when it blew across the plains. Serious Antarctic cold. And you could literally hear it move, from a starting point to an end point. I even woke up with frost on the inside of the tent one morning, inches from my nose. I would start a morning with 10 layers, no skin exposed, reach afternoon drenched in sun cream & minimal layers & a massive fly-covered hat, and then be layered up soon after 4pm.

I saw more stars than sky. And a luna eclipse. We even had the privilege of meeting a star guy at the one cattle station when we were home-bound, who showed us spectacular sights of Saturn, double stars, arrow clusters, matter & no matter, through his mega telescopes.

I had the privilege of meeting Aboriginal Elders who camped with us for a few days. And visiting 1 or 2 Aboriginal communities, to stock up on water & basic provisions. And all I know is that now I know 0.02% of “that situation” and am more mind-fkced confused about it than when I was 0.01% of knowledge behind that.

There is a whole lot of happiness. There is a whole lot of confusion. There is poverty. But does poverty matter if people are happy? I don’t know, I did not get to ask. And there does appear to be a whole lot of contempt by the white residents in the areas. A lot of reminding of “whose paying the taxes, who is receiving the taxes, and who is doing what with the tax money”.

One thought I did keep getting back into my head is how “cultural” the need for money can be. That the culture I am from sees money as a goal, a pursuit, a definition of self. And that here was a culture that would rather not get paid for those extra days because they would rather be at home with their family. That money is to be shared to all as soon as it is received by one person. But is this sustainable? But is the pursuit for money sustainable?

And even, I was reminded, from just a few weeks of intense simple living, how possessions are really meaningless at the core of life.

I think South Africa & Australia has so much to learn from each other & teach other & help each other out. Because I might be quick to judge at first, and I know Aussies who visit SA have been quick to judge us, but I keep reminding myself that my county’s “successes” come from a different background and need and majority/minority. That we are nowhere near “solved” but might only be at the beginning of the story & maybe Oz is further along it? Maybe they are on a completely different path? Maybe they did get it wrong? Maybe not? That the situations might not be comparable? And that all the Australians I know in Melbourne are engaging and would like positive things to come out of the current confusion of how to empower & bring back self-determination to Aboriginal people.

And every day when I got up in zero degrees in a temporary bedroom shelter & found a private public space outside to ablute, and put on clothes I’d been wearing for countless days that stank of me and of last night’s fire, I did remember how so many South Africans are doing this every day, and that they don’t think that they need a medal for it. That it is just their life.

So. All in all. This city girl beat her camping fears & successfully & happily camped for 2 weeks. Sad to come back to my heater and structured city life where you are surrounded by so many people but really engage with even fewer than when living in relative isolation.

When you have so little, you do realise that you do not really need so much.

P.S. During it all, I was reading a book called "Listening To Country" by Ros Moriarty. She's a white Tasmanian woman that married an Aboriginal man, and the two of them have strived to bring White Oz closer to Aboriginal Oz. I do have to wonder how much her story influenced my experience.

P.P.S. I have also been told to read Ernie & Sally Dingo's books for more insight into this all.


po said...


Except the spiders.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks Po! At least they were good for an adrenalin jolt! Must get ahold of my photos & I'll show you them up-close & virtually personal!