Desert Feet Tour – 2009
The 2009 Desert Feet Tour built on the 2008 program delivering quality music workshops and performances to a wider demographic.
Wednesday 14th October 09 – Day 1
We left Perth today with 3 cars, eleven people (six performers, two drivers and a sound guy, and Emily and I) I am $10,000 under the projected budget in funding and still await two organizations to honour their pledges. I made the call and rather than cancel the whole tour, we drove out of town on a whim and a prayer.
Running a tight budget is sort of like being on the run from the law; I feel like I am getting somewhere but a sense of impending doom lurks in the distance. Maybe that is what makes us human, our willingness to hope, maybe I am just irresponsible. Only time will tell.
But please allow me to thank you for joining me on the second annual Music Workshops Tour into the remote Kimberley’s. My vision for this Tour feels far larger than my ability and this morning I was plagued by doubt. After a 4am start from Perth, in the loneliness of the road my mind had already assassinated my musical ability as ridiculous and boring and declared myself as an over ambitious fool, luckily I know better than to listen to it too much. Every one else seems happy and excited, so I’ll trust to the plan.
The first fuel stop cost $450 for the 3 cars; at Paynes Find I saw an article in the paper about some band touring though the remote Kimberly’s, and it was not about us. I must admit after all this work and the second year running I feel a bit neglected by the media. That and lack of sleep all cast aspersions on my already precarious situation. I cheered myself up by eating a can of corned beef with some onion and cheese on crackers (A diet I might have to get used to on this budget).
We should be at Newman by night fall so I have some time now to write to you (while Emily takes a turn at the wheel) and allow my mind to wander into the contemplative pastures of the barren, dry, harsh land flashing by my window, occasionally splashed with what can only be described as ‘seemingly inserted wildflower arrangements’. Like the artist dipped his brush in the wrong tube, wild strokes of fluorescent purple, adorn the ground randomly, explosions of yellow flowers, quickly replaced by endless red sand and spindly, malnourished trees. The resilient matriarchs of a parched land, they offer the little shade the ground can enjoy. Cast down in precious little pools, they are the jewels of the oldest standing life this land has known. Something that can stay green after years of drought, fires and scorching heat deserves to be respected. In an age devoid of true heroes, where God is a smorgasbord of choices, I think I will choose tree.
Our indigenous brothers understood this for thousands of years, had regarded and connection to a place otherwise deserted. Our only interest in this land coincides with the destruction of it; mine it, milk it, forget it; who would want to live out here anyway? Well someone did, and they did it well and in a sustainable way. In this time when we are all united on environmental issues, we have overlooked a culture with a lot of answers the world could learn from on sustainable commerce, imagine that! Australian Aborigines taking the forefront of the global warming forum. “So Mr Australian Aboriginal, how did you live in an environmentally sustainable culture for 40,000 years?”
The answers are always closer than we are prepared to look. Maybe we are afraid to ask in case we have to do something about it. I heard Colin Barnett tell us we had to use it or lose it, referring to the North West, “The development of mining creates jobs for Indigenous people” he said. That’s great, but what if Indigenous people don’t want to work on a mine? I know I bloody well don’t! How we consistently seem to overlook the greatest resource of this land, more precious than gold, our national treasure, the oldest indigenous culture left on earth, some of it still in pristine condition. But not for much longer.
The shadows reach across the road as the Pilbara sun falls on our left. Floodway and cattle grid after floodway and cattle grid, miles of flat open road with triple trailer trucks, like ships of the desert, that shake the cars carriage like a passing typhoon. Tearing down the open road hurtling the corpses of animals aside in its wake, the road side is a battle field, the animal battle field. It looks like there was a war of cow’s against Kangaroos’ and there are victims of the holocaust for hour after hour. The putrid stink of decaying flesh wafts through the air-con vents intermittently. Soon the shadows will take over the daylight and then the deadly obstacle course of the Great Northern Highway will begin, where the giant black bulls are like the perfect death trap, invisible against the black bitumen and moonless night, they can end your holiday in an instant, and the roos that can just appear in front of your car from nowhere. Driving after dark up here is life threatening in a car like mine with no bull bar, I have to slow down to 80 to be able to stop in time and then the kilometers’ start to take their toll, eyes straining so hard you start to see things move that aren’t there, little peering eyes glimmer from behind bushes and under trees. It was somewhere south of Newman that I was trying to keep up with James, a roo appeared out of the darkness, jumped behind James and in front of us doing 110kph, we clipped its tail and all got a nice fright. I realized the fragility of the situation, if I had hit that roo at full speed we would have been going home very early.
In the car with us is the last addition to our team, the eleventh member and our acting sound guy. Bruno Michel is a French ex-circus performer. He has moved to WA with his French girlfriend to develop sustainable communities and is interested in Indigenous Australian culture. he studied sound engineering and recording at SAE in Perth and found out about our tour through Brian Lloyd (or Bryte MC, our Hip Hop artist) It was a last minute decision to bring him, the budget said no don’t do it but my heart said yes do it. I just remember the stress last year trying to set up the PA, do the sound check, organize the performers and then perform too. Then mixing your own sound while playing is impossible. I am sure he will be an asset and so far he has been great company, his outrageous French accent has given us all a few laughs at the pit stops as we all slowly get to know one another. He is receiving intense Australian slang lessons from the two young guys Jonah Cox (the 4th member of Moana Dreaming) and Brian. They taught him how to say “get a dog up ya mate” which he thinks is fantastic and now drives us mad with the expression.
Thursday 15th October 09 – Day 2
Its nearly 930pm my poor little car is rattling along in the darkness, covered in a cloud of dust kicked up from the car in front. We are now about 2 hours south of Marble Bar and on a horribly corrugated dirt road, our accommodation is booked at the Marble Bar Motel and against my better judgment the convoy decided to push on in the night. Traveling out here is dangerous in the right type of vehicle, but in a Mitsubishi Outlander with no bull bar it could be deadly. There is absolutely no wind and the dust hangs in the air like an English fog. The car lights just seem to make it glow and visibility shrinks to ten meters on some stretches. I just filled the car from jerry cans and spilt petrol all over my legs and hands. We are covered in red dust and grime and none of us has had a cooked meal since last night in Newman and there is no chance of sleeping in a car constantly coming to a screeching halt to let cows, bulls, roos, and owls the size of emus, go by.
Every one seems in good spirits despite the arduous demand on our persons, I think getting our first workshop and community done has given us a sense of achievement but the idea of driving back into Newman on this road again after Punmu Community is not exciting. This is definitely the last time I allow us to travel at night again.
At Newman this morning we prepared to be out for a few days and stocked up on food, I bought 3 days worth of main meals and the guys loaded up on snacks for the trip, but 3 hours out of Newman and I got a flat tyre on the huge sharp stones in the gravel roads, with only the one spare, I limped into Jigalong with my fingers crossed, we unloaded the gear and set up for the workshops, then my ever loyal and trusty old friend Geoff Talbot (our veteran driver from last year) dove the 300 kms back into Newman with my spare to pick up two new tyres for me. The show must go on. Unfortunately when he left he also left the charger for the only camera we hired for the trip. No one discover it was missing till we met back at the turn off to Marble Bar, it was late, we where tired and no one was going to drive back 200 km for something that might be gone by then anyway. So our filming for the trip had a very short life.
The western desert is an unforgiving land, the flat dry ground is littered with the burnt out shells of cars, some rolled, some striped bare others freshly abandoned. Patches of the land are covered with the rich mineral iron ore, just laying on the surface, glowing in the heat like rusty steel sheets. Jigalong, made famous by the Rabbit Proof Fence is quite a large community, some 500 residents live here and some renowned artists come form the Martu People that are the traditional owners. The community harbors a public swimming pool, sort of like an oasis. It is behind the football oval that is made entirely of red dirt and stones. I would love to see a game of Footy played on that field, it would be interesting to watch, sort of like a mobile dust ball of activity with occasional glimpses of a football flying into the clear air then disappearing back into a red cloud again.
We finished the workshops late after our adoring fan club of kids slowly dispersed. Unfortunately we could not play the concert for Jigalong as we have no accommodation there. So we headed for Marble Bar at about 5pm. By the time Geoff caught up to us we were back at the intersection to Marble Bar/Newman, it was just gone dark and we had 350 km to go to get to Marble Bar. I suggested to head back to Newman, 50 km, then start early for Punmu at 5am, an 8 hour drive instead of traveling at night, Geoff and James Back (from the Kurrunpa Kunyjunyu outreach program and our other driver) wanted to push on so as to make tomorrows drive easier. I am shit scared of hitting a bull out here and resisted strongly but in the end relented as Geoff wanted to keep the convoy together for safety reasons so I gave in on the promise that they would be prepared to travel as slow as me, which would turn a 3 hour trip in to a 5 hour drive. They both held good to their word and we stopped in Nullagine at about 9pm to have sandwiches on the side of the road.
Friday 16th October 09 – Day 3
The morning sun was hot by 630am and I vacated my swag by the grassy pool area early and set up the breakfast table for the crew with cereal and some of my auntie’s famous fruit cake. We used the room kettles to make coffee and refilled our thermos for the four hour slog out to our second community Punmu. Geoff hitched the trailer and left early with two of the crew to get a head start while the rest of us took a guided tour of Marble Bar, which took all of 3 minutes. There is the famous Iron Clad pub (more of a tin shack than a pub really) notorious for its wild nights and copious consumption of the golden nectar. Then opposite that on a little hill over-looking the pub is the town church, strategically located for fast access to redemption after well deserved Saturday nights turn into slight over indulgence.
Not far from that is the police station a beautiful old Victorian style rock and lime stone building, right next door is the local gym, not much more than a garden shed, it must only open at night, any other time would be too hot in there. Still, someone must use it, a big sign says “Marble Bar Gym for enquiries call this number”
We took a quick stop at the Marble Bar pool and decided to celebrate Brian Lloyd birthday by jumping in for a swim. It was a delightful little water hole with pebble beaches and smooth boulders called Jasper, a type of rock up here that polishes to a brilliant shine. It must be valuable as there are signs all around saying no stealing the Jasper. We rested under a tree like a weeping willow on the bank till we dried off and then hit the track. Emily is at the wheel while I write this, there are about 200 km of bitumen before we hit the dirt again for the last few hundred kilometers’. We should be at Punmu by around 1pm to set up and play the work shops. We are all looking forward to staying out on the community as it means we can play the concert for the community too. Then we get a day off to camp at one of the water holes up here. If they are anything like the one we just visited it will be lots of fun and very beautiful.
I wrestle between wanting to relax and enjoy the trip and the constant fear in the back of my mind that we will run out of money. I am too scared to even look at the budget, I know the fuel bill is going to be double what we budgeted, by the usage so far. A flat tyre and new rim set us back $500! (I could have got both for $150 in Perth) and when I fueled up this morning I noticed a nail in one of my other tyres. I left it on for now to try and get as much mileage out of it as possible. We still have about 1100klms of dirt roads to cover before we are back in Newman for the concert on Sunday. And we have still not received $5000 of the funding we were promised. Just to make it interesting, I checked my accounts this morning and the transfer for the funds into my credit card from VOW has not cleared so I have no money at all till we get back to Newman. I had to pay the hotel at Marble Bar with my own cash.
There is some satisfaction in having got this far anyway and everyone seems in good spirits. I am eager for the performers to be happy so I don’t want them to worry them with these concerns. There were some slightly strained moments this morning as James Back (our tour coordinator for the Pilbara communities) wanted to offload the trailer. Geoff didn’t want to take it with all the weight so we negotiated the crews into different cars to give him a run for a while. In the end I think he was happy but I doubt he will tow it long and James has had to tow it all the way so far. As my little car can’t do it at all, it has meant James has had to drive the whole way especially on the dirt. It takes a seasoned and experienced driver to tow a load over corrugated roads.
We have pulled up at the end of the bitumen now so I will have to take the wheel out to Punmu. Will write again tomorrow. Bye for now.
Saturday 17th October 09 – Day 4
The turn off at Telfer to Punmu seemed like the longest 144 kms ever. There is absolutely nothing out there, some extended ridges that border the horizon for ever and endless deep, dark, red dirt, sketched onto a canvas of crystal blue. Occasional salt lakes melt into the distance, merging with the heat into mirages of shimmering light. And of course the endless corrugated, winding, turning dirt road, sometimes made of white limestone, sometimes red clay. In some places the track looks more like a river bed with high banks on either side, years of grading has trenched it deep into the land like a red river, the clay snake of the desert, the blood red road, born of sweat and tears, molded by necessity and baked in the kiln of the western desert, so lies the road to Punmu.
It was well 4pm before we arrived. Punmu is an oasis in the desert. Its semi lush little settlement is a sight for travel sore eyes. The customary red dirt football field is the first thing you see, its tall white goal posts the silent spectator to some of the toughest games of football ever played by barefoot country men in complete obscurity. Games played out here make AFL players look like fairy dancers, but these heroes will never be know to you or me, they are a part of the secret and this is after all a land of secrets. There are the secrets of the atrocity’s done to the Indigenous people by lawless settlers with no fear of being reached or discovered, there are the secrets of the dream time, many of them lost forever, there are the secrets of this land, its magic and its sprit, that most white people can only glimpse at.
We set up the stage on the basketball court in the fading heat of the day, raised out Desert Feet banners and turned on the music through the PA to attract our audience. We didn’t have to wait long, soon inquisitive kids rolled up in their customary shy manner, barely willing to engage these strangers to their little community. But once the workshops began, an audience of absolutely gob smacked children crammed the stage front, with fingers in mouths and reluctant questing stares they slowly took up the bait to overcome their shame and get involved.
That night an amazing thing happened, towards the end of the concert a few of Elders got up and joined in too. This was a great privilege for us and later we where told no one had ever had the Elders involved like that before at all. After the kids had dispersed we played some songs together for a while, mixing it up and doing covers and jamming live till late in the night. One of the local boys got up and played bass on a few of the songs and was greatly received. When we had packed up all the stuff and got back to the house, James had T-bone stakes cooked for us and we ate a huge meal. Satisfied, the girls stretched out on the couches and set up for night. James, Nadine, Em, Geoff and I all hopped in our cars and headed over to Punmu hill to camp out.
A long ‘flat top ridge’ lies to the north of Punmu. At the end of the ridge one hill stands separate as if it broke off tried to reach too far north. This hill is a sacred place. James told us stories of the Dreaming told to him by Elders. Dreaming, the stories and song, are told everywhere but the lore behind them can only be taught out in the bush by an Elder. According to the Dreaming a Martu baby was taken by a giant eagle on his way north. He carried that eagle to Punmu Hill and there the spirit of the child was soaked into the earth. It is now a sight of fertility and couples trying to conceive are prayed (or sung over) on the hill.
We camped in the open on the rocky flat top of the ridge looking across to Pumnu Hill, the stars only just out of reach. We boiled a Billy of tea and rolled our swags out in the open. Nick, the Martu Healthy Lifestyle worker and the local Doctor showed up later in the night and so did Nicky whose hospitality we where so grateful for on the first night in Newman. For the first time after all this planning and organizing, I finally got to sit down with James Back and hear his incredible story. I met James through Christine Pearson of AADS, he had heard about our workshops and asked us to accompany him out to a sports day. It fell through, but James and I hit it off and started planning the tour together. He, a graduate of UWA, after finishing his Dip Ed, took a teachers job out in Punmu and after several years ended up the headmaster for the surrounding communities. During that time he went back to UWA and completed his masters, writing his paper on sustainable and healthy lifestyle implementation for remote communities. One day a lady came out to the community asking about possible health programs for Indigenous People, James handed her his Thesis he had worked on for his masters and after reading the document offered James 1.3 million dollars to set it up. A success story of epic proportions. Having nowhere to put the money, he returned to UWA and asked them if they would back the project while he wrote his doctorate on the findings of the implementation of the Healthy lifestyle project. UWA being one of the top 4 universities in Australia, at that time had not one single indigenous outreach program and, of course, accepted the proposal. 3 years later James has been doing the $650,000 a year project with great success. He is obviously held in high regard by the locals, all of whom gave him a grand welcome.
We woke the next morning with a rising sun that split the world in half horizontally, down below and stretching out before us, hidden in the darkness when we had arrived last night, was revealed a rolling plain of red desert stretching out before us like an endless sea, a perfect line cut with a clear blue line of a cloudless and empty blue sky. One of the harshest environments on Earth, the hot desert, deadly but beautiful. Mesmerizing.
James took us out to the salt lakes, and showed us how the spines of the two giant lizards that came here to drink from he spring in the Deam time can be made out in the sand. They fought such a terrible battle that they both died of their wounds and now their skeletons can bee seen forever in the landscape. Their blood soaked the ground so deep that now all the orca is collected from this area for paint. The salt lake, like a hard baked salt cake, carried our cars across its surface, barren of life and inhospitable, reflecting the suns rays, it is the epitome of anti-life. Moore barren than Mars. But there is life here and at its edge in a small thicket, bubbles a small fresh water spring! Further around, James showed us the salt pools, these springs of fresh water, too brackish to drink, they are used to heal wounds, scabies or sores. The bark from the surrounding shrubs is then burnt and rubbed into the cleaned area, sealing it from infection. This area is sacred, used for longer than anyone can remember by the Martu people.
On leaving the community the elder presented me with a traditional hand carved boomerang and Emily with a woven spinifex basket. (apparently for her baby, they told us with much amusement.) the Elders sung us in when we arrived and now as we left they ceremoniously did the same.
Punmu has a population of about 350. It cost the government about $6 million to set up the power generator to run the community. That does not include road works that are continuous and housing that has to be built. Over 750 litres of diesel is burnt every day to run the giant generator 24 hours a day. It is one of the hottest places on our earth yet the government has done nothing to set up solar power. It is one of windiest deserts on earth yet the government has done nothing to set up wind generators. Why, because government cycles run in 4-5 year blocks, the results of the funding would not be seen till the following election and so the current government might never get the credit. In the mean time they throw bad money after worse and still none of the issues are any better. Anyway why would any government party care about Punmu? What could be gained at the next election by helping 350 people in the western desert?
We all leave Punmu with great regret. It is truly Gods country out there and the Martu are just as truly his people. They belong to the earth and the earth belongs to them, without it they have nothing. No dreaming, no lore, no song. And without them this land has no soul.
Monday 19th October 09 – Day 5
The last few days have been so busy, I have not had a chance to get to my laptop and write to you. As I recall some of the events of the last few day days I have to smile at some the incidents it is only day 6 but it seems like a month. There was the embarrassing incident at Marble Bar after fueling up all three cars and my credit card was declined. After checking the account balance, I decided to shout the crew to dinner at the Red Sands to celebrate the Newman gig success, another embarrassing moment as it was declined again. I finally got through to the bank on Sunday and found out they had locked the account due to the random withdrawals in country towns, nice of them to let me know! Stuck out in the western desert with no phone service and my credit card locked. Yesterday, when Geoff went to pick up the Trailer to set up for the gig at Boomerang Oval the trailer door fell open and the tarpaulin that folds back over all the equipment fell out and trailed behind the car like a train on a wedding gown. Luckily none of the PA equipment fell out, but a box full of camping chairs did and slid around on the canvas train till Geoff pulled up at the oval. We laughed at how fortunate we were not to have lost anything but the box of camping chairs was ground away on one side like someone had cut them in half with a grinder. Then there have been the ongoing financial troubles, our Vice Chair left for China to visit the school without authorizing funds transfers and then I got stuck over the weekend, then to compound matters there is no Westpac Bank in Newman. I’ve not been able to transfer funds into the credit facility and none of the performers have been paid yet after nearly a week on the road. Thankfully they have all been understanding, but I have spent every cent I own now to feed 11 mouths. I am hoping I can sort all this out in Port Headland and pay the wages for the crew, then have a night off under the stars at Barn Hill Station and relax before the big gig tomorrow night.
I have called Divers Camp in Broome and spoken to Mat Gresham’s manager so every thing is on track for the gig, Mat flies into Broome tonight at 6pm. Candice and I are in the mighty mouse, my little Mitsubishi Outlander (which the Martdu told us wouldn’t make it to Punmu) It is still overheating a bit now, Emily is at the wheel heading for Port Headland while Candice and I get chauffeured up the Great Northern Highway on the second leg of the tour, the Kimberley’s. We will be in Port Headland by lunch to do some shopping for tonight then head out to Barn Hill Station (about 2 hours south of Broome) to camp out the night and try to catch a few Salmon. I’ve been through 3 tyres and just now the air-conditioner stopped working! So its windows open now till Broome and hope it just needs re-gassing.
We still don’t know if we will get to Beagle Bay as there have been fires up there all week. Last I heard the road was still closed. So I have handed that one over to the big tour organizer in the sky and will just see what he has in store for us. I had to turn several concerts down as we just couldn’t fit anything else in the schedule, so if we get stuck in Broome I would like to go and play out at the prison and maybe a school or two.
Last nights concert in Newman was a great success, over a hundred people showed up to the park and set up blankets and picnics on the oval. The evening was cool and as the sun set, the huge outdoor amphitheatre boomed the sound clearly across the park. I am so happy with the PA setup, and having Bruno to do sound has turned out to be the right choice, he is both a fantastic sound guy and good musician, musicians always make better sound guys as they know how hard it is if you cant hear yourself properly, things can turn to shit real fast. Even if you are a consummate performer (which I am not anyway) and have the best hit song on earth, unless you have a good mix you will sound like a rank amateur. Sound mixing is about 70% of the music for live performance.
By the end of the concert, the ground in front of the stage filled with kids and once our secret weapon, Bryte MC, took up the mic and with a little encouragement from me, we soon have full rap dance battles going off. Kids were busting out their much practiced moves, the younger ones imitating the older ones in hilarious tribute to their role models. Some of the parents joined in too which caused uproarious laughter from the kids but only inspired even greater participation.
The gig wound down early but the, jumped and danced to music over the PA while we packed the trailer away again. The night ended about 830pm with a mostly exhausted bunch of performers, but all well satisfied with great outcome, there were no fights or any drunkenness or any drinking that I saw. In all,the feedback from the mostly indigenous audience, was terrific gratitude for the tour. From what I can ascertain there is no regular concert or tour or festival for indigenous performers or with indigenous audience in mind. So the encouragement I received to run the tour again was inspiring and with a success like this I am sure I will find the backing too. It turned out that of the audience that had watched the whole gig was a senior BHP coordinator. Our conversation after the gig was hopeful and as this year BHP and Martu Media had been the sponsors for the outdoor concert, it is rewarding that they where both happy with the results of their funding.
Dave Wells of Martu Media need a mention here too. The hospitality of the Kanyirninpa Retaining Culture Corporation has been overwhelming, aside from accommodating 11 people at the Head Quarters in Newman, the Mart Media (a Project of the Kanyirninpa Corp) coordinator Dave Wells singlehandedly organised the funding for the concert, booked the oval with the council, promoted the gig to all their indigenous networks and then filmed at Punmu and Newman.
Dave is one of those people whose generosity is intrinsic in his nature, his calm and easy manner is very attractive but his commitment to the Martu Media project, one of the many off shoots of the Kanyirninpa Retaining Culture Corporation, is as encouraging as it is enviable. He first came to Newman as a school teacher (like most of the Healthy Lifestyle and Kanyirninpa Retaining Culture Corporation workers) he worked on the surrounding communities for a few years and now can’t leave, his devotion to the Martu is as simple as it is obvious. These people (Dave Nicky and Sue especially) bare not do-gooders, they are not activists or flag wavers, they do not blow their horns or make loud noises about the work they have done and are doing. They are a group of people working on worthwhile projects, that have a connection to the land and its people. They don’t even see the need to explain it, their feet are stained with the rusty earth like its indigenous children and they are the real heroes doing the real work that more non-Indigenous Australians need to be doing, but you and I will never hear of their deeds, they are mostly performed out in the hot desert and will never be announced or declared, they will evaporate like liquid in the desert sun, they will forever remain the property of the red soil, they are anonymous like the dirt roads they travel, their love is a bridge between cultures and though you don’t know it, you owe them a huge debt of gratitude. We all do.
I had the fortune to briefly meet Sue Davenport the founder of the Kanyirninpa Retaining Culture Corporation foundation. Our conversation was 3 minutes long but had a profound effect on me. Sue wears a face of long determination but mature patience. Her small frame, blond hair and blue eyes are the evidence of a woman that held the side walk she walked on in her heyday, a beauty now matured into great purpose. I said that most of the deeps out here are anonymous but nothing about Sue is incongruous, every particle of her has a presence on the people she is near and she is creating an impact on this world that will not be ignored. She is sort of like a human meteorite, radiating outwards from the impact, and Newman is the crater. I had heard from another source that the Kanyirninpa Retaining Culture Corporation now receives multiples of millions in funding for its cultural sustainability program. When I asked her about her work she only acknowledged her workers and their deeds, but I know from other conversations that Sue works for the foundation pro bono and does not take a cent. One thing that really effected me in that short conversation was a little bit of info she let slip when I pressed her about the success of the programs, not just the success but the diversity of programs, the credible employment it creates for Martu people, and the range of programs. All she offered was “Damien I have just kept at it”. “How long?” I asked. “Since 1987” Sue replied.
What I took away from that meeting can not be bought, it can only be earned. Sue is a thorn of conscience in the thumb of the mining magnates. What they have in power and wealth created with a corporate identity, Sue has without a cent. They could never be like her, but she could be better than any of them.
After leaving Punmu, the convoy got a bit broken up. The girls and Geoff where ready to go but I was invited to sit with the Elders, a privilege that could not be refused. We organised to meet at the Telfer turnoff, but when Geoff got there it was unbearably hot, so they carried on to the next windmill and sat under a tree. Thinking James was behind me and not seeing him for over an hour, I pulled up in the scorching sun to wait for him to catch up. After waiting 20 minutes I realised there was no point in waiting, because if they had broken down I did not have enough fuel to drive back, then back out again. I proceeded on to the meeting point to find James there already. He had taken a short cut through Telfer to shoot a wild turkey for dinner at the campsite that night. Geoff not being there was a worry, he had my other spare tyre and the fuel cans I needed. We pushed on hoping he was up ahead before I ran out of fuel. When we found him some discontents broke out about who was to blame for what and why. It flared up a bit with nothing really being settled, and I felt for the first time the difficulty of touring and the differences in personality. I hoped it would pass over, but that night arriving late into Nullagine, not long before dark, 4 hours behind schedule and everyone hot, broke, hungry and tired. The argument flared up again, accusations being made against this one and that one. I called for a vote and it was decided that the boys would set up camp and cook the turkey at Green Pool, not willing to drive another 2 hours to Kalgan Pool, they dove off. Some of the girls wanted to push on to Newman, another 3 hours in the dark, with only one spare tyre left which had a buckled rim, and half a tank of fuel I should have said no. As no one had money and my credit card was blocked I handed out the last of the cash and everyone bought some stores and drinks for the night or trip home respectively. I headed into Newman with a carload of sheilas, happy to be going back to civilisation and grateful for the car change they celebrated by singing songs and telling wild stories all the way home, while I held my breath for three hours. Sure enough, I blew the last tyre just out of Newman and we limped into Town with a wonky tyre and the fuel light on empty.
Geoff showed up at first light with an empty car and then James car rolled into town at about 10 with 5 people and a trailer jammed to the hilt with crap. Then it started all over again. So and so wanted to tell so and so why they shouldn’t have done this or that. This time I intervened, fearing the end of the tour was at hand, I sent all the performers over to stay with friends and talked in depth with each of the begrudged until I could negotiate a truce. It was resolved that we either; pulled our heads in and made our best efforts, or the tour was finished. A satisfying agreement was made. My fears relieved, I turned now to the next job of organising the concert for that night.
Dave took me down to see the oval we would play at and we strung a giant tarp up by throwing a rope between the fork of a great old white gum and the side of the amphitheatre to protect us while we set up the stage. We set up and did sound checks, and before we knew it the girls showed up to start the concert.
Tuesday 20th October 09 – Day 7
After I wrote the last entry in this diary, the car overheated on the way to Port Headland. The only way I could keep it from going into the red was to open the heater vents in the car with the fan blasting on full bore. It was 45 degrees outside but with the heater on in the car it felt like 100. Lilly and Candice were in the back with the esky full of ice drinks, rubbing themselves with ice blocks. But even with all the windows down it was so hot in the car that if you touched the dash it actually burnt. Even the CD player flipped out, a little screen came on flashing V HOT! V HOT! V HOT! I ejected the CD and it came out like a banana, warped and melted. And that’s how we pulled into Port Headland, steaming hot chicks in the back and Em and I in the front like cooked prawns, my head aching and clothes soaked through.
In Port Headland my first stop was the Westpac Bank, all the crew waited at the shop to be paid so they could buy some food and personal stuff. But at the counter the girl looked me up and down, grotty and covered in dirt with thongs on, she must have took me for some bum trying to cash a stolen cheque. She called through to the office in Perth to ask for the signatures and when they arrived neither Em nor I appeared as the signatory, making me look the perfect liar, ready to cry I asked her to call the office again and just check one more time. I called our treasurer just to confirm that we where definitely signatories on the account and while I was on the phone the lady at the counter called me over, the branch had faxed the right document but had missed out the middle page with our signatures. At last I was able to pay the crew and now I had to make a decision on the other main issue, my car.
Putting it in the shop at Port Headland was no option as it would cost 10 times Broome to fix any problem. Also, I knew if I got to Broome, Peter Strain our film producer, would be able to take us up Cape Leveque for the 3 days we were on the communities up there north of Broome. That would give me time to leave my car in for a service and hope the problem not too serious. It was nearly dark and with the cool sea breeze coming in across the pains, and with the 80 Mile Caravan Park only 2 hours more driving, I decided to make a run for it then get up early and in the cool of the morning try and get to Broome before it gets to hot.
In the itinerary for the tour, we where supposed to stay at Barn Hill station for the night, but that was a further 2 hours drive. As I knew the owner of 80 Mile Caravan Park from my pearling days, I decided to pull the team in there and say hi to Col. Colin seeing the Desert Feet Banners on the car, refused to take any money from us for camping at his most amazing caravan park. He told us it was his contribution towards the Tour! 80 Mile is home of the Gods. It is a stretch of beach 3 hours south of Broome that is infused with a spiritual essence. We arrived at low tide and took a walk out over the mud flats that stretch out to sea for over a mile. The beach here slopes away from the land so gently that when the huge 8 metre tides that sweep this coast runs off the beds, the tidal flats become a glistening platform that the setting sun runs a ladder across every night, like a stairway to heaven (as they call it in Broome on a full moon), reflecting the reds and oranges of the sky like a mirror. Walking out into the sun set along the temporarily exposed sea bed gives one the sensation of walking on water. The sky, ocean and horizon are all a blur shimmering colours and one feels he could not be nearer to his maker than walking alone on the tidal flats of 80 Mile Beach.
Back at the camp site, the girls, lacking any other container, had made a bucket full of salad. The BBQ sizzled under James expert supervision and a huge feed of fresh fish and mushrooms soon filled our guts to the gills. James had plugged his laptop into one of the caravan power points under a tree on the grass, so we all decided to have an outdoor cinema night and watch a movie on James laptop on the grass. We rolled out our swags and sat around the little screen in the open, it was a funny site to behold, even funnier was when Emily looked at the photo on the desktop and commented “Look, there’s birds flying around”. When we looked closer at the “birds” we realised it was ants and a whole trail of them had marched onto the screen and were all over the computer too.
Later in the night, Jonah and I went down for the high tide to try and get some Salmon, as 80 Mile is famous for its Salmon run every year. We caught a lot of cat fish and a few sharks but had the wrong bait for Salmon. However, the guy next to us having caught his quota gave us 2 big fresh ones to take with us.
In the morning I made a bolt for it early and headed for Broome in the cool morning at 5am, however, my early start was over exuberant, as I forgot I had to fuel up and the only garage between Broome and 80 mile was Sandfire. We got there at 530am and of course it did not open till 7am so there was nothing I could do except sit in the car. When it opened my old mate Ken (the owner) introduced Em and I to his new missus and we stayed for a coffee or two before we headed off. As a result it was a scorching hot day before I got to Broome and the last hour especially was spent sitting in a hot car with the heater on cooking our way into town to stop the car from over heating.
First stop was of course the mechanics, with fingers crossed. Noel (our friendly local mechanic) looked it over and declared it should only be a blocked radiator. But not having time to even stop, I had to leave it with him to do. We had the gig that night at the Divers Camp Tavern and still had to go and meet the owner, find Mat Gresham (our headline act for the night), set up the and sound check the venue and get the crew into some accommodation. An old friend saved us the $1000 or so that it costs to pay for a night with 11 people in hotel rooms, by opening her house to us. Cassy is an old friend from my pearling days to and she had prepared beds for all of us and made a bunch of home made dips and put out a spread of nuts and lovely fresh juice. It was an opportunity to do some washing, scrub behind our ears in a hot shower and get ready for the big gig.
The concert at Divers Camp was the first opportunity for the Tour to make some extra cash. The deal we did with Divers was we take the door and they take the bar. (The same arrangement we have in Derby at the King Sound Resort) it is an arrangement that can work well if you get the numbers, in Derby on a Friday night we are guaranteed a resident audience, but on a Tuesday in Broome at the end of the Tourist season… well it could be a risk. Mat Gresham and his management made a huge contribution to the tour by headlining the concert (Mat Gresham is hugely popular in Broome) without charging us a cent for his performance! I arranged for Mat to fly up and Divers provided his accommodation, so all the take was profit after his airfare. The night started out pretty slow, and was looking like a real flop with only about 30 people in there for all the Desert Feet Tour acts, until Mat took the stage at 9pm, and he seemingly pulled people out of his hat. Then like a true magician, he mesmerised his audience with his fixating act, there bathed in the golden light of the yellow gels, with the black silhouettes of his mysterious fan club stomping in the foreground, like American Indian war dancers around a fire, the smoke of Mat Gresham filled the room while an enchanted crowd breathed it in and sucked it up.
Mats little contribution to our tour gave my poorly paid performers a little boost to their personal economies, the success of the night bonded us further towards the final destination of our tour and his skills as a performer inspired us all to reach our potentials. To Mat and his team we say thank you, to those that came that night we bless you and to those that have not seen Mat play, do yourself a favour and get to his next gig, as I predict that in the very near future he will be up there with Butler, and then it will cost you more than $10 bucks to see him.
Wednesday 21st October 09 – Day 8
A call this morning the mechanic confirmed my worst fears. My car needed some parts that had to be flown over from East. Enter now Peter Strain to the rescue. Those of you who have not read last years tour may not have met Peter Strain, Kimberly Cameraman and renowned producer (Mary G show and Brand New Day back in the 80’s just some of his accolades) he is also owner of the Giant Tides Gallery in Broome and an accomplished stills photographer (published 3 times now in Austrian Geographic.)
This leg coincides with his filming on the tour and luckily the displaced people from the break down of my car could squeeze in with him, which would give us some leeway until the part arrives for my car. All I could do now was hope it would arrive. The plan now is Peter and I could just slip back into Broome and grab my car while the other s headed north for Derby. A plan that sounded good in principle but was subject to many variables, as I was to learn soon.
The Cape Leveque road is a dirt track about 15 minutes out of Broome, now a popular tourist destination, and mostly occupied by small Aboriginal communities but also home to several Pearl Farms, the oldest and possibly the first being Cygnet Bay built in 1946. As a young man some 14 years ago I took my first job in the pearling industry at this very farm, which lead to a 7 year career as a pearl diver. I had come to Broome mostly to escape a ravenous drinking problem which seemed to catch up with me everywhere I went, funnily enough. Cygnet Bay in the early 90’s was a haven for young dysfunctional runaways, and I met my match many times over on that farm. Needless to say I was quickly elevated to my level of incompetence and my youthful energy and optimism were converted into what is now the history of a once booming and lawless pearling industry. Many are the stories I could tell of that time but that is for another page. Except quickly to explain the part which relates to this mission and is a block in the journey of my awakening to the conscience I now have around the issues to which I have devoted my time and life.
It started in a bar in Broome called the Tropicana. It was like a hut with stools around it and I drank there, one; because it was cheap and two; because it was across the road from the Roebuck Bay Caravan park where I had my Nissan Patrol parked and my swag rolled out. I was out of money, running from responsibility and down on luck. My mother had wired me 100 bucks to get through the week and as any young promising alcoholic would do upon receiving some money, I proceeded to drink it. My immediate problems piled up seemed overwhelming and compounded to such a dredge that the insufficient funds could not help the big picture of my financial troubles, so of course, I justified a drink will generate a little relief.
It was with my arm against the bar that I first heard the words “Peal Diver.” A man I now know to be Browny, the son of the founder of the Cygnet Bay Pearl farm, came into town after a cyclone to find divers to collect the shell lost from his lines on to the sea bed before the silt and mud covered them forever. “Are there any divers here” he yelled across the open pub. I hesitated for a minute but seeing no response and remembering I just finished my open water divers ticket in Perth not more than a month before, I put up my hand. Quick as a flash and in a cloud of dust, I was escorted to Cygnet Bay Pearl farm like a shot from a gun.
In those few weeks, on my introduction to the pearling industry and my initiation as a diver, several chapters could be written, but suffice to say I learnt that there is a lot more to being a pearl diver than doing 2 dives of a wharf at Fremantle Quays, and it cost me some pretty painful experiences. I don’t think I ever got paid a cent for that expedition but the memories of that place will never leave me. I remember being picked up from the drop off by a Landcruiser, or more to the point, the remnants of a Landcruiser. What had not entirely rusted away was bolted together with wire and strips of iron. There were no wheel arches left, or roof for that matter, and the seats were old plastic school seats tech’ screwed to the chassis. The fuel tank was an outboard motor tank which bounced around unsecured as we raced along bumpy old tracks, and there where four different wheels. That was the vehicle that led me to the accommodation. It was like nothing I had ever seen, and I doubt it is still there, but it was made from what they call ‘stack bags’. The process is achieved by filling hessian sacks with cement then sort of skewering them on vertical ribs of Rio’ bar. That is how the walls were built. There was no power and you boiled water in a 44 gallon drum to shower at night. It was only a rumour but I heard it said a few times, Cygnet bay is suspiciously the only free hold land owned up there, granted by the T.O. (Traditional Owners), and the means by which it was acquired in the early 40s is part of the mystery and secrets of remote places, that can never be proven. Maybe it is just a spiteful rumour started by rival pearling companies, maybe it is truth. Whatever it is, that land clearly belongs to someone else and nothing has been done about it.
Our first stop over however was at Beagle Bay. Beagle Bay is the real famous site, with its old church made of Pearl Shell, and is very old. It was founded by Monks during World War 2 it is also a site of controversy. The monks I am sure had the best of intention, but of course the road to hell is paved with them and now Beagle Bay is a community of displaced people and an area that suffered greatly with regards to the Stolen Generation. Traditionally, the Nyul Nyul People owed the land and now some of the Elders have even managed to buy large portions of it back. It must be amongst some of the only freehold land left to our indigenous people and that is only because the families bought it. The community is very strong and the council there have managed the area well. The Missionary did amazing things out there considering just how remote this place would have been back then, those men where driven by a faith and belief that I could never claim to understand, but the truth is they did more harm than good and ultimately they shattered the culture forever.
We all eagerly anticipated the time here for several reasons. This is the first community that we will visit for a second year in a row. Secondly one of our Indigenous performers is a Cox boy whose father is from here and we have been promised an escort out on the estuary at low tide to catch mud crabs. Also, as we are now on familiar ground, this will be the first of the communities that we will be able to conduct the workshops for the kids in school, and then later perform the concert for the whole community, something I have been anticipating for a long time. There are many objectives for this tour, but my greatest desire is to entertain an Indigenous audience that expects our arrival.
It was dampened a little by our discovery that a touring band I had seen a report on in the paper, back at Paynes Find, had in fact performed here the day before us, which was an irony because since we had played there last year not a single act had performed, and then they had two in as many nights! Funny that, after all this time and nearly 3000 kms we had caught up with them, then happened to be performing the following night! However, we where happily informed that we attracted a larger audience but that is to be expected as we had a lot more entertainment.
The principle John Rose was as warm and obliging as last year and we were welcomed by the kids who all showed us the greatest respect and enthusiasm. I have performed for family and friends, I have played at festivals and concerts, I have played restaurants full of guests (most of which will not even acknowledge you are there) but the greatest audience I have ever had is a basketball court full of kids. I guess any break from normal routine is a good day at school for kids, but the appreciation we receive from them is just so much more satisfying than playing to adults. By this stage we had really worked out school workshops into fun interactive and flowing performances that run a little like question and answer time coupled with comical stunts by the adults, performed to overcome the customary ‘shame’ and involve the kids to the greatest degree.
Most of my readers will never have seen a workshop been done except for the photos I have published on the site, so I will take a moment here to comment on one in full, because both Beagle Bay and One Arm Point have been such a success and also because I am excited about the results after having this dream and vision for so long as an idea.
The first thing I have to explain is that the workshops are for the kids and therefore have to be pretty flexible and intuitive. They never run according to plan, time, or requirements. Kids are unpredictable and especially on remote indigenous communities burdened with an immense culture of shame. Shame is in the dictionary as a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonour, unworthiness, and embarrassment. But in the community it has an extra meaning. It means one person can not be seen to be better than any other for he then brings shame on all the others. For this there are obvious punishments. But there is a way to overcome their shame, and that is to be the most embarrassing and the best at the same time. Then no one can fall below your foolishness or rise above your skill. And that is my job on this tour; I have to simultaneously be the clown and the composer. And for some reason I am really good at that!?
Most times we arrive the day of the workshops, so with travel and set up and allowing for delays, the earliest we can be ready is around 12 midday. As this is so, we generally run the workshops between the after lunch bell and end of school day, then invite them to come back with their parents for the community concert that night. As our aim is to inspire kids to develop their talents, we have to disclose the areas of development available to them. I always open the workshop by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land; thanking them for inviting us onto their land and thanking them for the opportunity the privilege we feel it is to be there. I introduce the performers and the types of performances, and then sing a song with Emily on viola. The response is always predictable. They are in awe of Emily’s magical instrument and this is the opening for a short educational session, what type of instrument it is, what group of instruments it belongs in, and so on and so forth. Emily is a great example for the kids as she is the only classically educated musician. This opens the grounds for further discussion on careers in music study, music education and all the industry that surrounds music. Emily gives a small example of classical music which is usually meet with profound silence, and I explain that it was composed by Bach (not the bark off a tree), then paradoxically, I am the alter example of Emily, an example that you don’t need formal training or education to write music. You can do it to express yourself or just to be an entertainer, or just as an outlet and art form.
I keep this type of informational interactive banter up for as long as I can keep their attention and that is the limit. If they wander off or lose interest I go to the next stage. Trying to get volunteers is hard and sometimes I get met with blank stare. So the best way to involve the kids from then on in is with bribes. CDs or healthy food treats make good prizes. From there I can get the stage filled with kids and this is really important, they learn self confidence and experience performing in front of an audience. It is a real treat, I hand out percussion instruments and all along explaining the purpose of percussion, of the need for rhythm in music and why it is there. Then we get more kids to help with the chorus and sing into the mics. They love this, holding a mic is always every kids dream. It’s always just a matter of getting the courage to do it. Once I have played a song through with their participation, and they have been applauded and rewarded for their performance, the rest are now pretty willing and this is where we can usually engage them in any activity we want, especially dancing.
Candice Lorrae has been such an asset to this tour. Her band, Moana Dreaming, was nominated for a WAMi between our last tour and this one. Apart from being a teacher at Abmusic, she is also a confident and brilliant performer and thus a perfect person for this tour. She has a voice like Whitney Houston but with more power, and all three of these girls have amazed me continually. This tour has been pretty demanding at times, and they have never missed a beat and always been supportive of my efforts and vision. They have got up on stage in front of daunting audiences and performed faultlessly, they have conducted their workshops with enthusiasm and care, and I doubt I could get a better mix of performers/ workshop facilitators for any amount of money, yet they have honoured their commitment to the tour at all times.
The girls (and Jonah) are very versatile in their workshops, Candice can deliver written theory to practical dance, and this all depends on the kids reaction to us, but the one she does that I like the most is the ‘songwriting workshop’ because in a matter of 15 minutes, the school and all the children as a group compose a song together, complete and finished from nothing, including chorus, melody, harmony, and 3 verses! This is powerful because the school then owns this song and has written its words. Also all those children get to see that writing a song is easy, you don’t have to be Mozart, you can just pick up a guitar play a few chords and write a song. This is close to my heart as that is what I did.
Lastly but not least! We bring out our secret weapon ‘Bryte MC’ aka Brian Lloyd (Candice’s partner). Candice had insisted we bring Brian, an idea I had not been open to at first simply because of the extra cost, but another example of Candice’s foresite. Her contribution and suggestions are always gentle and she has a beautiful manner that is always welcome. Brian is very similar. He is a carefree young man that has kept the spirits of the team up at all times with his light hearted good nature. It has really been my good fortune to travel with these performers. However Brian’s Hip Hop, beat boxing, and music are always the absolute highlight of the workshops. At some schools, and Beagle Bay was one, we had to actually stop the kids and seat them all again so they didn’t get too carried away. During this workshop, kids get the opportunity to bust out some rhymes, if they are game to try, have a go at beat boxing on the mic and show off their rap dancing moves, encouraged by yours truly, busting out my old-school break dancing moves!
Brian’s performances at the concerts are just as anticipated. Byte MC is a name to look out for in the future. Winner of the “Best R’n’B Artist”, at the WAMi “Too Solid” Indigenous Music Awards this year. I predict this is guys future is as bright as his name, so keep an eye out for him.
After the workshops we had few hours before the concert that night, and we piled into the cars to take off over the mud flats in pursuit of a feed of mud crabs for dinner. Our tour guide, one of Cox’s family, lead us out to the point in an old Toyota Camry. Beagle Bay is on the ocean side of the peninsular, unlike One Arm Point over on the King Sound side, where there are beaches and rocky shores that are good for swimming. Beagle Bay is at the base of a huge inlet, the inlet is a large mangrove tidal flat and home to all the creatures that inhabit them, like crocs, mangrove jacks, an incredible variety of fish, birds and crustaceans and of course giant mud crabs. The ocean washes across these flats every day twice a day, and the thick mud becomes crusted with a layer of salt. When this salt laden, almost white mud is just a little wet it becomes the ultimate element of destitution to any thing that is prone to corrosion, like a car. The mud flicks up under the wheel arches, sticks to the metal and promptly proceeds to consume it like cancer. Ben’s old Toyota station wagon led us along the edges of the mud flats and up the creek towards the ocean. He took that car over ground that the 4 wheel drives we were in had to stop and engage the diffs. Waiting patiently for us on the other side of the crossing and bog marshes, his skill as a two wheel drive, off road explorer would probably win him a place as a sponsored Subaru rally car driver if he cared enough to be one. That old Toyota had the three huge 4X4 convoy behind him in fits of laughter. A Prado, a Troopy and a GLX Landcruiser were all dubiously in pursuit of the dust up ahead which was Jonah and Ben in the Camry. With no rear window and rusted out wheel arches, spears hanging out the side window and lumps of mud caked to the windscreen, it was truly a site to treasure in my memories of this trip. That part was nothing compared to the hunting fun we were about to have.
A huge spring tide had sucked the inlet dry and water still trying to escape to the ocean trickled down muddy banks and stranded small fish in pools and ponds waited to be rescued by the next tide. The deeper streams, cut by the huge volume of water flowing in and out daily, are lined with mangroves, their roots pitted with the holes of the giant crabs. We walked out even further to the flats where the ground became a mixture of sea sand and mud, and on these endless open plains we caught or speared the mud crabs in the traditional way as they sat in the shallow water. Everyone had a turn at catching one and there were many an incident of trying to spear a mud crab with claws twice the size of a nut cracker, swimming around your feet in ankle deep water. Needless to say there were some interesting dances invented and some hilarity as the onlookers watched the pursuit.
Coming back, we cut through the mangroves, it was a good hour walk back to the vehicles, and by the time we had finished our exploration with the tide following us in and the sun starting to set we had to make hast, as we had the concert to perform after dark. On the way back I had a green Coles bag filled with mud crabs flung over my shoulder, and walking in mud up to your ankles it was good exercise to say the least. With the extra weight, I found that as I took each step my foot would sink further into clay-like mud, in some places just below the mud was a compact hard surface, and as the pressure of your foot squeezed the mud away, in that very brief moment in every step, you were very unstable. I discovered that by taking a small sort of hop onto my next step, leaning forward like a skateboarder and sliding along on the forward foot, I could get a sort of cross country skiing motion up that was actually faster and easier than trudging along. It was great fun and in this manner I was flying back to the vehicles, until I hit a shell or rock under the mud, which invariably opened my toe up like a can opener.
Back at the Community, we performed a mostly relaxed gig. All the kids came back for seconds, and of course brought their parents with them. In the darkness along the side of the basketball court, just out of the light, a row of cars parked and the residents in their customary manner shyly watched from afar.
The day finished with a gut full of fresh mud crab and we all spread out across of the air conditioned classroom, converted into a dorm, and slept like kids on a school camp.
Thursday 22nd October 09 – Day 9
Thursday morning saw the customary shuffle of the team, gobble down some breakfast, jam our gear into the trailer and on to the dirt track north to One Arm Point. There are some real success stories for the indigenous people up here. Cape Leveque itself is a resort/camping area run by the community for revenue. The business has been so successful that the last half of the road was bitumised a few years ago. There are other community managed items of interest too. One Arm Point has a Torques Hatchery set up to replenish the Torques shell stocks but now just used to grow fish. There is an airstrip there too, for light aircraft, used for the community and tourists that don’t want to dive up.
I was in the Troopy with Peter, and along with James’ car we took an inland road up the coast to see some sites on the way to Cape Leveque where we arranged to meet with Geoff, who took the trailer up the sealed part of the road. When we arrived Geoff was nowhere to be seen so we (the two cars) took a swim and a quick fish in the amazing waters called Cape Leveque in the point of the Peninsular. At Cape Leveque the Indian Ocean meets with the waters of the King Sound and huge currents tear through the pass at up to 20 knots. The coast is deadly in every way, box jellyfish and crocodiles infest these waters along with sharks and the dreaded Irigangi stingers.
The sun is a whip from the moment it rises, building up momentum by heating the red rocks and clay earth to unbearable temperatures. The beach here is amazing however; the endless rolling red earth comes to an abrupt stop in a line of cliffs that end at a beach as white as snow. So bright in the reflected sun, it is almost impossible to take in the contrast. I caught a few nice meal size Snapper off the rocks and James went for a quick spear dive but didn’t see much. I think the tide was too high at that stage.
Back at the community we found Geoff who had got lost and was in a poor state. The constant travel, lack of privacy and constant demands of driving several passengers had taken its toll on him. Used to the quiet bachelors life, he could not cope with the prospect of 8 more gigs to go and another 10 days on the road. Unfortunately, there were a few arguments among the guys and Geoff came off with the resolution to leave the tour. With my car out till at least Friday and 10 people up the Cape, it was not the greatest timing. Luckily Peter was with us and could at least get us back to Broome where, God willing, my car would be ready and we could push on to Derby for the gig tomorrow night. The whole thing was balanced like a circus trapeze artist, and needed constant planning and rearranging.
But in the meantime, I had a workshop for the school and a concert for the community to front up at, so the show must go on. Both events turned out to be the biggest and best of all our travels so far, and another anchor in our resolve to continue on with the tour.
Our audience of kids here was the largest so far, and the workshops needed almost no encouragement, they were involved and interacting within seconds and it was the most amazing experience so far. The teachers got up and danced and we were celebrated like a Wiggles concert.
Then in-between concerts, the boys, Em and I got the chance to explore the King Sound side of the Peninsular. We fished off some rocks in the ocean but missed the turn of the tide by minutes, and as a result got nothing but snags. It was awesome fun though and we swam and dived of the rocks into the amazing blue waters. Just out of our reach the sound was dotted with little islands and the water tearing out into the open sea was like a peak hour causeway as it surged between the shore and the little islands trying to escape the gulf. Moving in opposite directions the turbulence caused whirlpools which can drown swimmers, and can get big enough to suck a small boat down in some areas.
One Arm Point was the highlight of the tour so far. The community came in droves to see the concert, probably encouraged by reports of the kids from that day. As it turns out, we were once again on the heels of the other touring band, but once again the reports from the community confirmed that our lineup had attracted a far bigger audience. Despite the fact they had turned on a giant feed with fish, oysters and crabs, they had 20 or 30 of the locals turn up. The Desert Feet Tour filled the hall and our secret weapon, Bryte MC caused the stage to overrun-ith with ambitious young beat boxers trying out their skills. The front floor was covered by kids trying out there rap moves to the beat and the rows of seats behind were occupied by parents in fits of laughter as they watched their animated youths discover a voice and an outlet for their young hearts. There are moments so sublime that I wish I will carry with me to the end, kids lost in a trace of sound and beats, free of inhibitions and fear and crowding the stage, as young as three years old, they moved in robot like fashion imitating the great rappers of MTV, sometimes so serious in their imitation that it was comical and we all had the best night of the trip so far.
Friday 23rd October 09 – Day 10
Friday was going to be a challenge and I knew it before I fell asleep last night, but no matter how I looked at it what I needed was a sort of miracle of events. Perhaps I was a little overconfident in my expectations. I hoped to be able to congratulate myself by writing in today’s diary how on arriving to Broome my radiator had arrived as scheduled and the tour was able to roll on like clockwork in spite of the major setbacks. (With Geoff wanting to leave and my car still in the shop in Broome we had a serious numbers issue now and what’s more it put the stress of towing the heavy trailer on James). But I should have been more realistic than to expect the part for my car would arrive as scheduled in Broome. When I got there with Geoff and Emily, I was told the part could still show up by any time so I waited till 3pm. Needing to be In Derby to meet up with the rest of the team (I had sent them on ahead from One Arm Point) and the trailer for our gig at the King Sound Resort that night meant I had to leave latest by 4pm to be off the road by dark. The only option was to hire a car until mine was ready and drive back to Broome Monday or Tuesday from Fitzroy Crossing and swap them over again.
The remaining four of us arrived in Derby just in time to have a quick shower and start the gig. The others had set everything up and we played to a mostly empty beer garden, unfortunately for us (the arrangement with the hotel was for us to be paid from the door take and no punters meant no pay for my guys!) Most of the town was on Sorry Business as there had been a funeral that day.
There is not that much to report about the gig apart from the fact that for the first time since we had left the team got nice hotel rooms and restaurant food. Aside from that the only other incident of interest was an interesting response to Brian’s Hip Hop act in which for the first time on the tour some of the local boys actually got up and did some really impressive freestyling. Peter was really impressed and filmed the whole night saying that he believed we may have just witnessed the birth of a new voice of expression for the youth of Derby.
After the gig Peter drove back to Broome and so ended Peter’s Tour of duty with our group. I was sad to see him go as he is a quiet inspiration for me and has been a huge factor in both the planning and realization of this Tour right from its inception last year. He has always encouraged me even when the chips have been down, there is a lot could be said for his calm and silent presents. I think he has the perfect characterizes for a cameraman/producer and his philosophy of allowing the film to evolve rather than heavy handed production is in line with his own personality. His unassuming nature allows people to be them self’s, just as he always is. He is quick with a light hearted joke and always looks to the good in any situation. His experience in the Kimberleys has been my main source of information and most of my contacts have come from his long standing relationships up here which have all amounted to the huge reel of film and production he has under his belt.
Saturday 24th October 09 – Day 11
There was no chance for a sleep in or even a slow start from the luxury of The King Sound Resort. James had a work meeting in Telfer on the Saturday and the only way we could make it fit in with the tour was to fly him out of Fitzroy on the early flight and back in on the Sunday afternoon. We left the girls to rise slowly and meet us in Fitzroy Crossing with the Patrol and James and I along with Bruno and Lilly left at daybreak with the trailer.
It was an easy drive and we where there early enough to check into the Fitzroy River Lodge and unload all the gear. The plan had been to just accommodate the 4 girls, us guys would camp out on the block with Patrick like last year. But I have fallen so far behind on my emails, writing and sleep, that I decided to give everyone a treat and booked a couple of the big apartments there with kitchen and facilities. It was a good idea as the crew was starting to feel the strains of constant travel, high pace and now the extreme heat too. Fitzroy Lodge has a pool and nice green areas and everyone took the time to do their washing, repack their stuff, and stock up on goods in town. I cleaned out the car fridge and esky and sorted all the food stuff out and repacked it all in clean ice, ready for the next week of off road travel. From where we have been I see now I underestimated the effort and energy that would be needed on the tour, especially for me with the responsibility of driving, managing, organizing, and being a roadie and everything else to everyone. So this break was much needed and well deserved, but I realized that the next week would be a big ask of everyone, even if we where starting fresh now!
One of the highlights of last years tour was my time with Patrick Davies; scholar, bushman, respected community leader, and accomplished musician, Patrick is a man of many hats (you can read more about Patrick in last years tour diary below), but most of all he is a charming, vibrant, colourful character, generous to the extreme, and surrounded by his huge family and an adoring posse, one can not help but be attracted to him. We spent the night at his house eating freshly killed beef ribs off the BBQ, Barra’ baked in hot coals and a huge spread of mussels and salads. Intoxicated by Patrick’s famous yarns, half asleep with fatigue, lethargic from overindulgence, the night was like a narcotic and memories of it are dreamlike. Emily was a huge hit and was in great demand, everyone eager to hear the deep resonance of the Viola that none had forgotten from last year. The mexican guitar they called it, and its sorrowful drone called out into the dark Fitzroy night in tune to old county love songs as I wandered in and out of consciousness near the flickering fire.
Sunday 25th October 09 – Day 12
It is 11pm Sunday night, I just had an argument with Bruno and sacked him in front of the entire band, over some stupid trivial issue.
This morning I got a knock on the door at 9am, it was Bianca and she looked terrible. I got up and brushed my teeth and thru on some clothes and rushed her down to the local hospital, luckily on a Sunday in Fitzroy Crossing the waiting line in emergency was non-existent and she was taken straight through. Unable to do any more I went back to the hotel, stopping at the garage on the way to fuel up the car and buy some supplies.
I had been invited fishing at 12 on Patrick’s boat and Jonah, Brian, Em and I where pretty excited about possibly getting our first Barramundie for the trip. But at 1030am I got a call from the Doctor saying Bianca need to be expressed to Derby ASAP. There was nothing for it; the only option was to run her back myself. We got away about 1pm after having a quick bite, Jonah was in the car too for his girlfriends comfort and luckily he had the foresight to pack their stuff quickly and throw it all in the back of the car because when we got to Derby two and a half hours later, there was a queue in the hospital. I had to make a decision on the spot as I had less than two hours till it was dark and this stretch between Derby and Kununurra is the worst for cattle. The stations up here are not fenced. If I waited even half an hour to see what was wrong I would have to stay the night or drive in the dark.
Remembering that I had to come back to Derby on Tuesday morning to meet Peter and swap the hire car for mine, I made plans with Jonah to meet at Willare Road House Tuesday. Jonah had family in Derby and could look after himself for the night. By the sounds of it, Bianca was going to stay the night in Hospital anyway. I quickly swung into the Woolworths and did a power shop for major supplies for the next four days out bush. I bought a whole side of T-bones and 2 huge trays of ready made lasagna, a huge tube of water, a carton of coke, four trays of eggs and so on, and so on. Knowing it would be ten times cheaper in Derby than Fitzroy. Then I jumped in the car and tore down the open road lined with bare Boab Tress and distant flat top ridges all dipped in a setting red sun and covered in rays of light exploding from behind a cloud. That is exactly what it’s like out here in the bush, explosive beauty, coupled with a harsh reality. This is a land of paradox. It is the final frontier of a still wild land, a deadly hot country of unimaginable wealth to some, and a grave yard of a shattered culture to others. The endless stream of touring retired, prosperous ‘Grey Nomads’ look out the air-conditioned windows of their shiny mobile homes at the endless beauty of a hostile yet impressive land, yet manage to completely ignore or make any contribution to the most important part of the landscape, the broken and beaten remnants of a people, the victims of our prosperity.
Meanwhile the residents, left in the dust of our wake, given patches of land that no white man wants, struggling to find themselves. Lost between desires for overindulgence in white mans dubious luxuries and the land they can see and feel but no longer own. What is ‘their view’ of touring interest to us is a site of unimaginable suffering to others.
This is called tourism, maybe it should be called denialism. The very appearance of a successfully retired, touring white couple is a spit in the eye of a beaten opponent while he is down. The handless hand of a false economy, capitalizing on the misery of misplacement, capitalistic and imperialistic destruction of a culture. Come to Fitzroy and look at the Gorge, come to Fitzroy and look at Tunnel Creek, come to Fitzroy and spend a day in the local park and see what we have done. Then ask yourself what is the difference between you and those in the park. I think I know. At least I have an opinion. It is worth what you just paid for it, but here it is.
You and I have been born into a time of great fortune. I don’t mean we are rich, I mean we have inherited circumstances for no other reason other than we are fortunate. Those circumstance or conditions are, as far as I can tell, the best of any generation of children this Earth has known, economically, environmentally, medically, financially. Not just those intangible circumstances, but our immediate geological position. If you are a baby boomer or a generation X, Y or Z and are reading this in Perth, Western Australia, then you have, for no other reason than good fortune, been born in the best conditions that humans anywhere on earth, anywhere in the known universe, have ever enjoyed. What does this mean? It means that you and I have options, it means, you and I have opportunities. And that is the difference, there are a large amount of people on this earth that don’t, in fact the sad truth is that the majority of the population don’t. The way we live and the world as we view it from Hollywood and from our shiny cars is the minority. So why then, do we act like we are the majority?
Back at the hotel I fueled up again. James pulled in just as I arrived, back from his flight to Telfer so I took the whole team, or what was left, all 7 of us, out to dinner. Back at the rooms Bruno started to ask questions about how we would get home without Jonah and now James wants to fly to back to Perth for a wedding on Saturday. I lost my temper at his nagging sort of enquiry and was a bit rude to him. Of course he reacted and it heated up, in the end James threatened to leave too and feeling foolish I apologized to Bruno for speaking to him badly and asked him to complete the tour. In hindsight I should never have even engaged in the discussion, and I lost from that moment. But I guess as Sun Tzu says in ‘The Art of War’ we build our defense where we are weakest. His fears of how the tour would end felt like attacks on my management ability. Being doubtful of my own ability left me open, but to receive the attack from inside caught me of guard. I know I am as green as a tour manager can be, and right now I feel alone and lost. And maybe Bruno is right; maybe I don’t have the courage to see the truth. But the truth for me is I will finish this tour even if I have to drag that trailer with a rope over my shoulder to the next four communities
Now I sit on the steps of the hotel room. Everyone is asleep; tomorrow we start the last leg of the tour. It is now 1230am I have been writing for an hour. Down below me, under the stilted hotel rooms, cows munch on the lush grass of the resort grounds. Their huge dark shapes all around me. They have not noticed my presence at all and are within arms reach below me. The night is warm and the air is deathly still and silent, the only noise is the grinding jaws of the herbivores masticating on the green grass of this massive hotel. This resort is huge, it is without a doubt the largest building in Fitzroy, and probably for a few hundred miles in any direction. But not one of the residents of Fitzroy could afford to stay here. If you were in Jakarta and saw a gold laced, opulent Hilton Hotel next door to an open running sewer with houses along its banks, you would not be surprised. We expect to see the dichotomy of poverty and luxury in Africa and Asia, but I think we have become oblivious to our own examples of it in Australia. We don’t believe it exists, but it does. This hotel is like a coke machine on a battle field. A dumb example of how ignorant we can be.
Monday 26th October 09 – Day 13
I would not blame you for thinking this diary has become fictional in order to entertain. But I swear to you that it is the truth, like something out of a movie I found myself involved in a high speed car chase that started in Fitzroy and ended some 5 hours later, 300kms down a dirt track in Nookanbah.
It is now 10pm and I have no idea what I am going to do tomorrow. I have 6 performers and one car left. The other car is missing and so are James and Patrick, I have no reception or internet and I am supposed to meet Peter at the Willare Roadhouse about 50 km out of Derby at 8am tomorrow morning to swap the hire car for my car, then pick up my missing performers from Derby and rejoin the tour in Yakanarra (about an other 2 hours inland over the river and down a dirt track from here). But at this stage I don’t have the hire car, can not call Peter to tell him not to leave Broome at 6am with my car, and can not even fit everyone into the car I have.
It all started this morning at 6am sharp, the hot Kimberley sun already poaching the sidewalk and getting a run up for the max temp’, soon to be 45 degrees (Hottest place in Australia today, according to the weatherman). James, Emily and Bruno, all decided to squeeze a Geikie Gorge tour in before check out at 10am. They left at 7am to be back by 930 for departure.
We had organised to meet Patrick at the roadhouse to fuel up and then follow him out to Nookanbah, which although only 2 hours away, can be a bit tricky to find. I was feeling positive about our capacity to meet the next series of workshops and concerts with Patrick on the tour. His local knowledge, the respect he has from the communities and his work over the years for the Nindilingarri Cultural Heath Services has taken him to every community for 300miles of here and there is not a man between Derby and Halls Creek that doesn’t know Patrick by name.
We got away a little late (as usual) and met at the shell road house at 1030am. I had received a call from the West Australian no more than ten minutes before asking if I could do an interview for an editorial I had too do it then and there, for the next week i be out of range. I had my phone on one ear and the laptop on my lap trying to send the press kit to the journalist when next thing I hear yelling! Then the back door flies open, in pours a couple of bags of ice, a few cartoons of soft drink and some bags of shopping, literally hurtled across the back seat. Then Patrick jumps into the front seat yelling “Go! Go! Head for Halls Creek, fast as you can! Someone’s just stolen my car!!!”
I won’t even tell you how fast I was driving but needless to say I definitely broke the speed limit. We overtook a few cars and after getting about 70 kms out of town we realised we weren’t going to find the culprit, they where either traveling too fast or had stopped, so we pulled over and stopped three cars coming the other way and asked them if they had seen a white Prado go by. All of them said no, but not convinced we took off at full throttle again for Halls Creek, there is a long stretch of road just out of Fitzroy that Patrick thought might give us a good view. In the distance we saw two cars. We got up alongside one of them and yelled out of the open window, “have you seen a white Prado!” the guy in the car, without missing a beat, informed us that it had overtaken him about 40 mile back as it turned up a hill.
“That hill is Bayulu Community” Patrick informed me, and so we headed back towards town. In the following hour I became the first white man to visit every community within a 30 km radius of Fitzroy without stopping. Patrick was beside me, shouting directions and cursing the poor thief that had made the mistake of taking Patrick’s car if Patrick or any of Patrick’s family caught him.
The next few hours are a comedy of events. I think I was in shock at first and could not believe that someone had actually stolen a car from our posse, including equipment, musical instruments and food for 4 days out bush. For a while I was sure this was the end of the tour, but looking back on it now, I can see how funny it was. It was on the way back into Fitzroy that the police rang to say the car had been seen hanging around Yakanarra, a community we were scheduled to arrive at the following day, and about 2 hours out of town. Yakanarra has a back road that joins up to Nookanbah, impassable in the wet and dangerous at the best of times it passes along the old stock routes. Patrick, now incensed with rage and embarrassed at his misfortune and the cost of it on the tour, predicted his car was heading to Nookanbah and decided that we should all head there as planned. So with my team packed into the cars, trailer loaded with our gear and the school expecting us any minute, we took the road west towards Derby and cut south across country into the Fitzroy Valley (or “the Valley” as the countrymen affectionately call it). There we were, the Desert Feet Tour had now become the Desert Feet Car Chase, and in hot pursuit we headed bush on route for our next gig.
For a man who had just lost his car and everything he owned in it, I have never seen anyone remain so happy. All the way to Nookanbah Patrick delighted us with stories of the country we passed through, its history, its food and its law, periodically digressing into his stream of abuse and comical scenarios of the capture of the culprit, as realization of the disruption to his plans overcame his dialogue intermittently. I have to admit it was hilarious in the extreme and all of us in the car will never forget those few hours with Patrick and his eccentric manner, a unique cross between native countryman and Irish drover.
The car pursuit and time lost meant we arrived too late to host the workshops in school but our accommodation was really good and the CEO, Kathy, was very warm and obliging. Upon arriving though Patrick’s car was no where to be seen, much to his disappointment. Kathy made a few enquiries at the office and we discovered that the car had been seen back in Yakanarra just moments ago. Patrick called town and had one of his brothers head south out on the Yakanarra road and taking my hire car and James he headed across the valley pass to cut him off, confident that they now had him trapped, leaving us with one car, 6 people and the trailer to perform the concert.
Kathy implored the rest of us to stay saying that the community was greatly anticipating our arrival, and so we unloaded the gear in to the old wool shed in the centre of the community for a concert that was to be our biggest so far. Some 300-400 people including over a 100 kids came to the concert. They were the most animated of all the kids we had meet and they proceeded to dance and clap without any encouragement right from the start. It was a greatly fulfilling gig for me and at last I had satisfied my largest ambitions of the tour so far.
As I sit and relay this days events to you, James, Patrick and my car are still missing. There is nothing to do now except go to bed.
Tuesday 27th October 09 – Day 14
I woke this morning at 430am and the sun was already waiting for me, like a flat disk in the haze of dust, an ominous warning of the heat that was to come. Wondering what this day’s adventure would bring, my first priority was to find a way to contact Peter to stop him from leaving Broome with my car. Otherwise he would be sitting there at Willare Roadhouse, unceremoniously stood up.
Stepping from my room, I found Patrick asleep on a swag on the veranda, my sigh of relief woke him and he relayed the story of their pursuit. He had been all over the Fitzroy Valley chasing the car, unfortunately unsuccessful. However, he had the foresight to pick up a satellite phone! So problem solved, or so it seemed, until we tried to use it and realised he had neglected to pick up the pin code for it as well. After a few attempts it locked itself and was useless. Now getting desperate, I walked over to the pay phone outside the store but it was a Telstra card phone and I could not even call an operator to reverse charges. Some young locals were awake so I asked around if anyone had a spare phone card I could use, to which I got some amused looks but no response to the affirmative.
Now time was running out, if I didn’t get hold of Peter in the next 15 minutes he would leave Broome, there was no option but to wake someone up and ask to use the phone. So there I was at 5am on a remote indigenous community in the desert, knocking on doors at 5am begging to use a phone. The great white hunter? I found Kathy’s house first, guided by a few early risers but after a few attempts and receiving no answer I tried some other houses that looked sort of awake and by accident I woke the local store owner, who thinking I was some kid trying to steal petrol or something, came flying out screaming abuse. After explaining my situation, he dubiously lent me his phone and I was able to stop Peter leaving.
In remuneration for my disturbance, I promised to make it up to him but as this was a dry community, I couldn’t give him the customary Kimberley payment (a carton of beer), so I went over to his store and bought a heap of stuff. He was delighted to receive me and encouraged my spending spree by helping me on with a huge Statesman hat, which I am sure I paid 5 times too much for, and a 100% cotton cowboy shirt in brown. And so in this manner, I became a full country cowboy. I also had the foresight to buy $50 worth of phone cards to avoid further incidents of a similar nature, and then I paid, as far as I know, more for a bag of ice than anywhere in the known universe. At $15 a bag, you don’t want keep your beer cold on this ice! The ice cost more than the beer!
Back at the accommodation, some good news awaited me. Patrick’s car had been found, parked back at the roadhouse where it was stolen from, completely intact and with nothing missing at all, except a side of corned beef and some cooked potatoes. His nephew, going for some late night supplies found it with the key in the ignition and an empty tank. It seems that Patrick and James had missed it by only a few minutes in Fitzroy last night. They had clocked up over 1000 kilometers’ in pursuit of the elusive car and a few times, had come so close as to arrive only minutes after it had left. From Nookanbah they had headed south across the Fitzroy River, back to Yakanarra where his brother had just arrived from town. Blocking off the two escape routes and thinking he now knew who the culprit was, he had headed to Milijiddee a community where the thief’s family lived. But after arriving and giving the culprits family a good dressing down, he discovered that his information was wrong, it was someone else all together. Patrick, now in monomaniac overdrive turned around and drove the 2 hours back into Yakanarra, then headed out North east to a community called Rocky Springs, now the only road left unexplored. Just after dark he passed a car in the night and after arriving 20 minutes later in the community discovered he had just missed his own car and had actually passed it! With the whole Valley now before the escaping joy rider, it was impossible to decide where to go next so they headed into town again. Little did they know they were only a few minutes behind his own car most of the way back in, and had he passed the roadhouse instead of heading straight back out to Nookanbah to meet with us, he would have seen his car parked exactly where he lost it.
But he was still minus a car and stuck in convoy with us. The only option was to stay with us and come back into Yakanarra for the next workshop. And so at 9am we broke camp and made the extreme 4×4 crossing through the Valley south across the inland section of the Fitzroy and over to Yakanarra.
At the school in Yakanarra, the principal had heard good reports from other schools and had sent the local bus to pick up kid from 3 of the other outlying communities with smaller schools. It was really the nicest reception we had received yet, and a big group of kids. It was so hot though, so we squeezed all the kids and our gear into an air-conditioned classroom to make the workshops bearable for everyone. The headmistress was so delighted with our performance that we were heartily encouraged to push on and it was just the sort of inspiration we needed now. We also received some very generous offers of help for next year and I look forward to working with this school. So much of this trip has been about meeting all these people I have just dealt with over long distant phone calls and emails.
The CEO, a colourful character called Turtle, implored us to stay on for the community concert and had kept some workmen’s quarters free for our arrival. It was with great reluctance that I decided to cancel the community concert, acutely aware of the strain this last few days had had on the party. The heat now soaring into the 40s, James now having clocked up some extra 1200 kilometres in the last 12 hours. It seemed unfair to expect him to do the round trip back into town to drop Patrick back at his car. Also, I still had the issue of how to get the other 2 performers, Bianca and Jonah, who were stuck in Derby and had not heard nor been able to contact me for 2 days. I had no idea how Bianca was or if they where even able to join the tour again and I needed to get the hire car back to Broome, now a further 2 days overdue, plus the extra kilometres (the cost of which would now be in thousands). A good nights rest back at Fitzroy Lodge, some restaurant food and a swim in the pool was what we needed, to eep this tour together. The next community Bayulu was only an hour out of town and we could start refreshed again the following day.
Wednesday 28th October 09 – Day 15
The drive in from Yakanarra to Fitzroy was exciting. The Fitzroy Valley is a place of great historical interest and much outside the scope of this short blog. Suffice to say, it has been an area of contention for many years. Subject to a 27 year court battle against the state government who supported drilling by a foreign oil company, Nookanbah was given back to the Yungngora aboriginal people not so long ago. But that is only one incident, this Valley is rich in many ways. The Fitzroy has been greedily eyeballed by many governments and private corporations thanks to its massive fresh water catchments and the rich soil of the huge Valley. It is an area similar to the Ord River in many ways and would have been happily dammed, flooded and farmed many times over. It has been a very successful cattle station since the beginning of settlement (and one can understand why when you see the quality and size of the cattle here), and as a result is the scene of some of the most horrific crimes against indigenous people anywhere on earth. The murdered bones of Aboriginal people are still found here regularly.
Nookanbah Community has very successfully managed the station here since 2007 and although the community looks sparse, dry, hot, dusty, underutilized and overpopulated, like most communities it is in comparison, fairly well off. Before you celebrate too heartily I might just remind you that although the traditional owners have had a small victory out here, it is temporary. It has not been given back to them, it is just a 99 year lease! And once the government finds a good enough reason to take it back, they will. Just like has been done time and time again, over and over in the history of white colonisation. Like Red Clouds treaty in 1874 which was honoured by the US Government until gold was found in the Black Hills, the rest is history and you know how the rest of the story goes, right?
Patrick took us off the track to the living springs where the great Serpent from the Dreaming lives, and we sat in awe under a weeping tree. All silently astounded by the beauty of the lily’s, the native bird life, and the fresh water crocodiles caught in a prehistoric capsule. The presents of this place breathes with an audible breath, one has the sense of something very old, something beyond our comprehension like a primal tune playing just beyond our hearing range, silently vibrating in the spheres, something we have lost contact with in our noisy world. Somehow we all felt it but none of us could describe it, and so we left it again to its timeless existence.
Aside from some pretty tough country to cross with a trailer in tow, and some precarious moments in boggy spots, we travelled the length of the valley without any incident and with many stops as Patrick showed us the bush food, like bush bananas and how to use the bark of the spiny tree as an anesthetic for wounds by peeling it off and chewing it to a pulp. He talked for hours about the land and how to live from it but also with it. We all arrived back in Fitzroy feeling a little more connected and alive than before. A good nights rest, long showers all round and a huge meal at the bistro had us all on track for the last two communities and Bayulu was our next destination.
Bayulu itself is a tiny community and the school is not actually on the community at all. It is on Go Go, station about 30 minutes out of town. Sadly Go Go station is owned by an anonymous foreign investor, and is now an efficient and seamless machine run by nameless managers that change constantly and have no connection with the Aboriginal people or even employ any in spirit of the old days when the black fellas out here were sought-after horsemen, skilled ringers, drovers, boundary riders and horse breakers. These new blow-ins pay no respect to the sacred springs or land. They swim in the springs without respect for the locals or paying tribute, and have no connection with the T.O’s. It is a commercial cowboy outfit that employs helicopter heroes and has lost the soul and romance of the drover days. Ultimately this is the cost of Howards Pastoral Leases schemes.
The workshop at the school was the best we have done. Well practiced now and working well as team, we have all learned a lot of lessons. Forged in the furnace, our workshops were at their absolute peak for the tour at Bayulu. The principal, hearing of our attendance at other schools had asked us to write a school song using the schools motto, Honour, Nurture, Succeed. We set up a whiteboard to write the words for the verses and broke the school into three groups. Each group was allocated one of the three words and had to write down what it meant to them. Back as a group, we showed and helped with construction of lines for the verses, encouraging the kids to call out their ideas, based on the discussions in the groups. The result was a really successful and entertaining half hour in which all the kids and the teachers participated in the writing of their own school song. Each time we finished the verse, the school sang the song through together up to that point, so by the end the had kids learnt how to construct a song, how to write verses, choruses, and how to fit the harmony, rhythm, chords and words together. Then Jonah played an awesome lead break for a bridge and hey presto we had a fully completed song.
Thursday 29th October 09 – Day 16
Wangkatjungka marks an end to the community workshops and concert and the very last of the off road travel. My relation with this community is good because we visited here last year. During the planning stage, Wangkatjunka gave us a real emotional and rewarding letter of support and encouraged us to return again. The CEO organised some really comfortable accommodation for us in some dongers next to the Ngurra Art Gallery about 20 kms from the community, with a little kitchen, an ablution block and washhouse, all air-conditioned and with a nice veranda and BBQ area.
We headed straight to Wangkatjungka after the Bayulu school workshop. The concert for Bayulu had been cancelled, mostly because the CEO was away and we could not get confirmation from the council. It worked out well as it gave us the afternoon off and we took a look at the art gallery, sat in the shade with the painters and met some of the locals. The community was on Sorry Business after a youth had suicided two weeks prior to our arrival. James knew one of the Gallery workers, a lady called Francine, from Pumnu. Francine had traveled across to Wangkatjungka with her husband who had sadly died of alcoholism that year. It is not uncommon for the people here to be from the Pilbara. As the crow flies, it is only a few hundred kilometres to Punmu. Wangkatjungka is mostly displaced people, and the community here is not on traditional lands, it was just an outpost used by the government to hand out supplies during the 60s when this was connected to the old stock route. Most of the residents of Wangkatjungka are desert people brought in from the Great Sandy Desert and the land to the south when it was used to explode atomic rockets by the British or divided up for cattle stations. The T.Os where rounded up like the cattle that would replace them and driven out. Places like Wangkatjungka are the resulte.
We were greeted warmly by the community; kids remembered us from last year and went crazy over the arrival of Lilly Gogos, who had toured through there with The Yabu Band earlier in the year (Now the equivalent of Yothu Yindi up this way). She was treated like a superstar, and the kids clung to her as if she was a diva. The normally shy and quiet Lilly had a smile from ear to ear and a red face glowing with embarrassment at her unexpected brush with fame.
Francine offered to take us to the spring, a great privilege, as these are living waters. Like pockets of heaven in a dusty wilderness, you could never guess at the location of these springs. Discovered by missionary in the 50’s, they used the year round supply of fresh water to grow apples. There is an old mission house long neglected nearby. This is sacred land and we had to warn the living water of our presence by rubbing a stone under the arm and tossing it into the spring. The springs are bottomless according to Francine and none of us could find the bottom. Only narrow and shady, they must be connected to deep fissures in the crust, as if the earth leaked in the wrong place, it is hard to conceive that something so perfect could exist in such a barren place devoid of water at all. We swung off the ropes hung by the kids and marveled at the cool, freshness of these seemingly misplaced luxuries.
Back at the camp we took the opportunity to cook up some supplies and Jonah impressed us all with his famous marinade. He cooked us an amazing BBQ fit for a king and I fell sleep on my swag last night like a contented dog.
The days have looked a little ominous and the first rains look like they could start any time now, an issue I had been acutely aware of when planning the tour earlier in the year. Due to a setback in one of the funding organisations deadlines, I had put the whole tour back 2 months, aware that this made it perilously close to the wet season and right at the end of the tourist season. Not that it worried us at all, just that flash floods out here can close roads for days and a lot of these communities are cut off for weeks at a time. Roads like the one in from Yakanarra, across a flood plain with frequent creek crossings is hard enough without boggy gullies made treacherous by only the shortest rainfall. Once again I have been carried by lady luck and had escaped any of these trials.
At the school this morning it was so hot the teacher asked us to perform in one of the air-conditioned classrooms. The workshop went like clockwork and during the afternoon before the community concert, James and Em and I wandered down to the art gallery again. I sat cross legged on the ground in the dirt with an artist called Clinton, under a tree for about an hour, watching him paint. Slow and methodical, he explained the story we was painting and how he learnt it, talking occasionally in between long periods of meditative silence, as if he had no sense of time. Taking the story up from where he left off as if he had never stopped in between the strokes of his brush. Not needing any confirmation or acknowledgment, I sat in silence. After some time a bunch of kids came down, recognising me from the workshop earlier at the school they invited us to the springs to jump off the rocks with them. The painter rolled up his canvas and together with a couple of other locals jammed into my car we all bounced down the rocky track to the hidden springs. This one was different from earlier on. A small cliff face overhanging its bank about 12 feet high was the perfect diving board. After paying our respects to the living water we jumped off the rocks into the spectacular pool and from the far bank I watched the kids frolic, with a sense of great privilege; one; to be apart of this moment, two; to see a place so beautiful, and third; to be accepted by these people and unconditionally and innocently into this little window of their lives.
In all my time here, on every community I have visited, I have never received a hostile look or been challenged for being the minority. I have never felt projection or blame from for the obvious contrast of conditions, nor has my presence been the object of hostility from the sufferers of my ancestors injustices. I have not once experienced any racial tension from an indigenous person, or been the object of any venting for the frustration that exists. I have never felt afraid or threatened. On the contrary, I have been offered every convenience and hospitality, some that even my hosts would not enjoy themselves except for on occasions. I tell you this my reader, because I often ask myself how would I react if someone I didn’t know and was a different colour came and sat on my front lawn under my tree at the front of my house and watched me paint. Would I just accept their presence with calm acceptance and without any animosity? Would I take them to my sacred pool and let them swim with my children? Would I give them the time of day? Would I tell them where to find food and what to eat safely?
I am acutely aware of my position at all times and loathe the feeling of invasion I often feel when we arrive on the communities, parading around in our big shiny cars like aliens from Mars. These little rectangles of land fenced out of a barren wilderness are what the Government calls Native Title, but what they are is anything but Native Title. More like prisoner of war camps. They are bleak, dry overpopulated, grave yards for broken down Toyota’s propped on drums with the wheels missing. They are the site of malnourished children, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome kids, and a vast discrepancy in the life expectancy compared to the rest of the country. These are the slices of justice we severed cold and called fair treatment. Under the 10 point pastoral and mining rights plan negotiated by Howard, these pockets of dusty land have been leased back to T.O.s for 99 years, then called allocation of rights fairly..? It is more like imperialism really. Does that makes us imperialists?!
I wish you could have been here on this smoky desert night to see the concert. The air is filled with an electricity as the wet season brews. The lands now at their driest, the hills are kindling, ready to burst into flames and pockets of the bush burn here and there, the smoky haze in the sky mixed with the brewing clouds makes the sky pregnant with the coming release, and ominous displays of lightning. The mixture of setting sun, full moon and distant lightning are what make the Kimberleys so special, out here, on an obscure basketball court in the desert, a crowd of people gathered around our dusty PA equipment, in the darkness of the closing night to the rhythm of our songs we let go our differences and danced as one, just people enjoying music and an occasion to be free of reserve, the night was a blanket for our inhibition, the music a bridge across our differences and the opportunity to dance, a moment long overdue.
Later in the night, the local bands setup their drum kit, wired together and with missing parts, it was an intricate operation that required 3 men to play. One to drum, one to hold the tom, and one to push the kick drum back in after a predetermined interval, when it inevitably crawled away from the user as he pounded upon it with his foot. Under the yellow gels of our lighting and through a haze of dust kicked up by energetic dancers, I watched in awe as kids and adults alike, gyrated their hips to the drum rolls. Three different bands had a go, rotating on the stage, all using the same equipment. One band had 4 different drummers, who had mastered the art of interchange with out loosing a beat. One band called themselves the Bayulu Band and had a bass player that kept receiving tuition from two of his mates who lent over the stage and actually held frets down for him as he wandered out of tune. Everyone is a singer, and up to several performers could be singing at any one time. Hands in pockets with hats pulled down low, they sang in language and harmonized. It was chaotic but entertaining; unorganised but an incredible display of raw talent, and best of all it was applauded with hysteria from the audience. Especially when the last band began a ‘Wipe Out’ rendition that lasted for an hour. The crowd, synchronized with the drum rolls, moved into the light in front of the stage, on the drum solo, suddenly a group, hips gyrating rapidly like African drum dancers, all spontaneously disappearing into the dark shadow at its completion. Over and over this little exercise was repeated, finding courage and losing shame in the intoxication of the music and the darkness of the night. One fed off the other and for as long as the band burst into the famous ‘Wipe Out’ drum solo the process was repeated with hilarious repetition. Then suddenly at the end of a drum roll someone yelled out from the darkness, an Elder maybe, “time to stop!” and all of the sudden we were alone. The basketball court emptied, the darkness swallowed the shadows and just as fast as it started it was over. The boys stripped their drums down, jammed all there gear on the back of a ute, shook our hands and left. And so ended the concerts in remote communities. Like a dream that might never have even happened.
Saturday 31st October 09 – Day 17 & 18
And then there were 6!
Nearly 3 weeks ago we left Perth with 3 cars a trailer loaded with PA equipment and 11 people. As of yesterday we became 6 people and one car and a trailer. We have just left the Warmun Roadhouse at Turkey Creek and are about two hours south of Kununurra. It is with a feeling of sentimentality that I reflect on the past few weeks and the trials and tribulations that have brought us to this leg, the final gig and the last 200 kms northwards. It is also a part of the trip I have been dreading for a few days as it became obvious that the only option left to enable us to complete the tour, was for me to take the 2 ton trailer behind my little four cylinder car for the 4 hour trip between Halls Creek and Kununurra. And so far, the Mighty Mouse has responded well to the task. A veteran of last year’s tour and now the last car standing! With too many people to fit in my car, I have bussed Candice and Lilly up ahead on a Greyhound coach this morning at 4am and we will meet them by lunchtime, all things going well.
Yesterday morning James had gone on ahead to Halls Creek to drop the trailer off at the Kimberley Hotel before turning around and heading home with Bruno, back to Perth. In this way we finally negotiated a happy medium for all. It meant James could get back to Perth in time for a wedding on Sunday and laid to rest Bruno’s concerns about being home too late if Emily and I drove home slowly. The rest of us would play the last two gigs without a sound guy and then Candice and Brian would continue on the Darwin to visit their folks.
After they had gone, I came out of Wangkatjungka onto the main road and realised I didn’t have enough fuel to get to Halls Creek. I had not budgeted on all the travel I had done between the accommodation at Ngurra and Wangkatjungka over the last two days, and none of the communities here sell petrol because of sniffing problems. So I had to back track the 120 kms into Fitzroy. On the way north again we passed James and Bruno coming out of Halls Creek and pulled up to say our last goodbyes for the tour, having a sound guy this year was a great improvement on last year and relieved me of one more responsibility, and I am dubious about having to be the sound guy for the last two gigs, and so not overly glad about the arrangement. Also I will miss James greatly and I hope that we will continue to work together for next years tour. I hope he does not think too badly of me for my oversights on this tour, I have been acutely conscious of his burden with the trailer, especially since Geoff left, and completely unable to help him with the towing I have felt a little guilty and totally responsible. It is task he has undertaken with no animosity and considering that he has been a volunteer on this trip, I feel a great debit to him in many ways. He is a character of great intelligence completely modest in all his endeavours. Never once during his conversations with many contemporaries, did I hear him itemise in his accomplishments and academic successes, which he could well have and are many to boot. I believe I have met a man of huge importance to the issues of this country, and maybe even a man with many of the answers. I only hope our country has the foresight to ask him the right questions before it is too late. And more than anything I hope his program will continue to get the funding it needs!
In the last 19 days James has done some huge kilometres, he has been a driver and at times a taxi service. Like in Wangkatjungka when the guys had left the DJ music in the room before the gig, just assuming nonchalantly James would go back and get it for them, until they realised they had locked the keys in the rooms and so made James drive 20 kms to me then 20 kms back to the rooms again to get it. All of this and many other similar incidents, he did with out a single objection and with a smile. He has cooked our dinners, had them ready for us after our late gigs, loaded in and out of the trailer, been our roadie, our navigator and shared a huge portion of the management with me. At times, it seems he has had to be a babysitter, and I am sure some of us could not have keep our stuff together without him, like Jonah, who in the best of spirits is so forgetful that I am sure we could follow his trail of lost personal items all the way back to Perth like a Hansel and Gretel movie. With James leaving I feel a bit sad, truth be known.
After a mostly incident free evening I set up the gear with Jonah, Brian and Emily, eager to make sure all the PA was working and that I knew exactly how to mix the sound before the gig to avoid any of those embarrassing moments. This being the first time had to drive the mixing desk myself and also a paid gig, I was anxious to get it right. The concert in the sports bar of the Kimberley Hotel went smoothly and we entertained a final door count of 170 locals. We had been seen on TV the day before and many had come down just to hear us play, it was a rewarding experience. With the liquor restrictions now in place in Halls Creek the population has considerably reduced and the Kimberley Hotel is the one and only establishment where you’re allowed full strength drinks, so the police had a strong presence and the pub called last drinks around 1030pm, so it was a pretty easy gig really. I had the gear packed into the trailer and was back in the room by 11pm which is probably the earliest night I have had so far. However, the plan was to take Jonah and Lilly down the bus at 330am which meant we wouldn’t get much sleep. I think Jonah must have reasoned that it was not worth going to sleep for that short a time so he swapped his precious few hours for a few drinks and unsurprisingly at 330am when I went to pick them up from the room, both the boys where nowhere to be found! Candice was understandably upset as it now meant that her and Lilly had to go to Kununurra by themselves and I was not happy about leaving them to fend for themselves in Kununurra. I had no choice now though as I had to drive the car and trailer and now wait for the missing boys to surface.
They showed up a bit bedraggled a few hours later, not making much sense and a short comedy act ensured as they realized they had missed the bus and the where in the bad books with the girls. I threw them into the car and headed off. We have stopped twice now for to Jonah purge himself of a mysterious illness and I am listening to the two guys argue in the back over whose fault it was that they where late, both aware that a good dressing down from Candice is waiting for them in Kununurra. Brain justifying that he had stayed to look after Jonah to make sure he got back on time (a job he seems to have failed at), and Jonah claiming he was on time and that he can’t understand what happened! I am happy for them both, they have worked hard and deserved a bit of fun. And it has worked out ok.
And so as I write these words the closures of the tour and the final success seems within my reach. In another 30 minutes we will have reached every concert and community in the itinerary and now all that remains it to drift home at a leisurely speed.
Sunday 1st November 09 – Day 19
And then there was 4!
I got a knock on the door this morning at 730am and so ended my chance to have the first sleep in for the tour so far. The guys had left some stuff in the trailer and so after sorting them out I dropped them at the bus depot, we said our good byes again. Candice and Brian would continue on to Darwin and the remaining four of us will head back south as soon as I sort out the last issue of the tour and the final part in the jigsaw, the constant rearrangements to this convoy, a convoy now of one vehical. I want to empty the trailer and freight all the gear home so I don’t pull the guts out of my car and so I can at least cruise home without that concern.
Last nights gig coincided with a Halloween fancy dress night, a fact I was not aware of, it looked more like an axe murderers’ reunion, Kununurra locals came dressed in torn cloths, covered in fake blood and wielding plastic knives and axes. There were about 5 Dracula’s and one of them was in a pre-made coffin. Some of them were just near naked and 5 guys came dressed as girls, I don’t know how they got in or how that relates to Halloween, in all it was as bit disconcerting to say the least. After the huge crowd in Halls Creek and the public interest we attracted plus all the reports that we would get a big crowd here too, I am afraid to report that our gig here was quite the anticlimax to the tour and if I had know how poor a response we would get, I most certainly would not have done the extra 8 hours driving it has added on to the end of the tour. It had been worth it in the initial planning as we had offered to revisit Warmun Community again (half way between Halls Creek and here) but as I was unable to contact them till very late in the organising, they got tacked on to the end of the tour and we had to cancel it because Candice and Brian would not be here. The gig here last night was a paid gig and was the last chance for the guys to make a bit of extra cash and seemed like a good end for the tour but for the extra $150 each (once divided among the crew) it was not worth it. The crowd where really rude and the girls got pretty insulted. In fact in the end Candice turned off the music about 30 minutes early and left after one woman said some pretty silly stuff (drunken banter). It is the first time in all our travels together (last year and this year included), that the girls where unable to get the crowd dancing. For me, I am used to it, I guess and it just seemed like another night of playing my unknown originals to an unappreciative audience, with constant interjections for AC/DC covers. But as I explained to Candice this was a paid gig, the management paid us and at the end of the day it is their choice. We were invited back again anytime and they seemed very happy with us. So much so that the manager opened a bar tab for the guys and added breakfast to the meal allowance. The rooms are included in the deal and so, all in all, it is ok.
Sunday in Kununurra is quieter than a church, so I can not do a thing. I would like to drop the oil out of my car and give it a bit of a service too, but nothing is open. It needs a clean and I discovered in the light today there is vomit all down one side, plus some very strange smells in the car. I am almost tempted to just make a run for it to Broome with the trailer and sort it out there, but Jonah is AWOL and Lilly has decided to catch a bus home tonight at 5pm so I might as well stay the extra night and look after my car. With more of the guys gone and the tour over I feel completely empty. There is no applause, nor any of the satisfaction I thought I would feel. I just feel like a washed out musician in a pub at the end of the world, locked in my hotel room.
Monday 2nd November 09 – Day 20
Down to the three of us now as the tour ends the wet season starts and our last day of the tour was met with a thunderous downpour. As if right on queue the heavens acknowledge our success by changing the season. The drive back to Fitzroy turned out to be the most spectacular scenery of the tour so far. The hills that had been alight with fires on the way up to Kununurra where now charcoal mountain tops. Whole strips of blackened areas scared the distant ridges.
An impressive lighting show danced on our horizon in the south all the way to Hall Creek. I used a full tank of fuel to get to Warmen Road House (only 200 kilometers south of Kununurra) even with the traier empty! Irt was just to heavy and the strong winds slowed me down. With my foot flat the mighty mouse was only oushing 90klms per hour. Just after Halls Creek I pulled in a Yiyili Community. I wanted to try meet someone there to plan for next year, it is a community I wanted to go to but was not able to get hold of anyone. It is about half way between Fitzroy and Halls Creek and as we drove in the fields where alight with several small spot fires started by the lighting we had been seeing. As we left Yiyili we had an experience of the power of the landscape of the Kimberly’s in the wet. Low on the horizon a huge full moon lurked behind the smog of the burning land. The setting sun was a disk behind the coming storm to the west and the sky looked like it had two suns. Like an alien world, one hemisphere was black and exploding with massive discharges of electricity, while the other drowned in a haze of the smog, pouring into the heavens from rolling fields alive with spot fires that danced on the dry earth. This is the most extraordinary hour of the year, a contradiction of extreme elements. A land ready, like kindle for the fire, to burst into flames, set alight at the eleventh hour by the very storms that will quash them.
When I look back on this tour it is with affection that I realize that it has been a great privilege. It seems at time the doors of fate opened paths for us, perhaps we have just been lucky or perhaps my impertinence caught disaster off guard? But certainly the timing has been fortuitous on more than one occasion. Like the fires that raged out on the Cape Leveque Peninsula closing the road for a week. If we had arrived 5 days earlier we would have been trapped up the Cape Leveque road! Right in the middle of the tour, we would have missed several dates we could not have made up. Had we arrived a few days latter we would not have been able to get up there at all. As it was fires ravaged the road to Derby from Broome and at times even Peter, an experienced Kimberly man, feared we might not get through the billowing black smoke covering the road. But of course we did.
Then there are the moments in hindsight that are funny but at the time caused us great anguish. Like at the very start of the trip, heading from Newman to the first community at Jigaalong. We filled all the jerry cans on Geoff’s roof rack only to find that two of the four had holes in them. Poor Geoff watched helplessly as petrol ran down the sides of his car like rain.
Or how I could not turn on the wind screen wiper to clear my window for the first five days because the spoiler on the roof of my car slipped down, when I turned on the wiper it ripped the whole arm off.
Or the more spiritual moments like in Wangkatjunka where had watched a pack of wild houses frolic unaware of my presence for nearly an hour. And the three hours I spent fishing on lake Argyle due to the delay with the freight company, that turned out to be a wholly amazing trip. Especially as Jonah and I found a fully loaded ripe Mango tree in the bush that we filled our sacks and stomachs with!
Tuesday 3rd November 09 – Day 21
My leisurely drive home has so far been anything but that. The trailer, even empty is proving too much for my car. As soon I got into Broome this morning I threw it on a truck and sent it to Newman, it cost another $250 but I can not stand driving at 90klms and hour anymore. We lost the whole day driving to Fitzroy and arrived three hours later that I expected and in the dark, I was planning to do some fishing on the Fitzroy river but we where too tired by the tiem we got there. We had such a bad sleep with mosquitoes and heat that we just left at 430am and headed to Broome.
Reasoning we could get a good night sleep and then catch the tide early Wednesday morning out at Willy Creek. Jonah and I now hell bent on sealing the Tour with a good the catch of Barramundi that has eluded us so far. I took Peter and Cassy out to dinner for helping us with the tour and then had an early night.
Friday 6th November 09 – Day 22, 23 & 24
We missed the tide after all that and caught no fish at all in spite of all the gear we had and our pleas to God above, nothing at al! I had to do some running around in the morning and picked up a copy of the DVD from WIN TV of the news report they did. I have added it to the web site so you can have a look, I was a bit disappointed they didn’t show any of the other bands play but at least it got it out there a bit. Not a bad ending considering I was feeling dejected at the start by the press’ lack of interest. I got a call from ABC Radio today and they want to do a retrospective story to help us get sponsors for next year too. So all in all I can’t complain.
All the sudden at 2pm I just had this urge to go home. I just need to get back and start work again! With 2400klms still in front of us and the dangerous dark night coming we did a bolt for the 80 Mile Caravan park 4 hours south. With the idea we could get up early and supplement our need for a Barramundi by catching a famous 80 Mile beach Salmon.
I misjudged the distance to Sandfire Road house and at 50klms out my fuel light came on. In the city with no load and doing 60 klms per hour I get 50klms on an empty tank but with 3 people in the car and the spoiler on the roof and a huge head wind it looked like I was going to have to thumb a lift into Sandfire with the empty Jerry can for sure. It was with baited breath that we all counted the kilometers; we turned off the air-con and dropped back to 80klms and hour. Sure it would conk out any second we hit the 10 klms sign and just as we rolled into the station she did her first stutter! What luck! I narrowly avoided my last drama for the trip.
At 80 Mile Caravan park we where so keen to catch a fish we just fell out of the car and headed for the beach with a pack of bait and a torch. The tide was full low and it was a long way to the water side. We should have been patient and waited for the tide but we had no food and reasoned we could not have dinner till we caught that Salmon. Now entirely desperate to have caught something for the trip we fished for 6 hours straight and gave up at high tide about 12 that night! We had 2 minutes noodles for dinner and hoped back into our swags. But we where woken at first light by an infestation of fly’s to discover there had been a heavy dew during the night and we where soaked through. That was it! Discussed by our lack of fishing luck, low on supplies and enthusiasm, we decided to make a run for home. We broke camp at 530am and drove none stop to Newman. There we picked up the big trailer from Capricorn Road house where the Truckee had dropped it, spent 2 hours cleaning it up. Dropped back in Newman, picked up my little 6×4 trailer and headed straight for Perth. The most dangerous part of the road is Meekatharra so we stopped at the Hotel, had a counter meal, filled up and from there we sat on 80klms per hour the rest of the night. The last 24 hour road house was Mt Barker so we had to fill a Jerry can to make it but with a bit of luck and negotiation we had an incident free night.
We arrived back in Perth after 24 hours almost nonstop from 80 Mile, at 630am!
When I left Perth 24 days ago my odometer read 159,886, this morning it reads 171,818. That equals 11,932 Kilometers! The tour is finished and we are home safe! My Nay-Sayers where wrong and I did it again a second year running. This has been a journey of a lifetime for me and a life changing journey for others. It was something I had to do to be happy with my own existence. I can not sit by and expect the problems of this county to sort them selves out. I have no power to speak of, no political influence. I am just like you; maybe I am less than you? I am just a suburban real estate agent! I have no mountain of money; in fact I am darn right broke. I live from hand to mouth and I would say this exercise and all the effort I spend on it keeps me that way more so. I have no connections or family in high places. I have no inheritance or standing, in fact I am not even educated (thus the reason I am in real estate) my back ground is a fisherman come salesman. I have done nothing that I can really be that proud of with my life. But I have one talent, I can play music. This talent was given to me for free and so feely I shall give it away. And it is with this talent that I see my potential to be of use to the problem we have as a county. I do not ask for anyone else to go to the extremes that I do, nor would I even expect you too, what I ask is you help me to be utilized to my full potential. That I might be a conduit for those with a desire to serve but not the time and that by this collective strength I might go on and do more. I am willing to give of myself all that I am if you are willing to support me.
If you have enjoyed this journey with me and you see the value of it then you can help! What we need is sponsors for next year. Businesses, community organization, wealthy individuals! If you know one or are one call me now! Or if you can write grants and want to donate your efforts, we need you!
Thank you for joining me on this tour into the heart of Australia. My vision is to run the tour longer, to reach more communities and children and to create more employment and performance opportunities for Indigenous Performers.
Once again, I am yours in Service Damien Thornber
Money is the Heroine of the ego
God looks after fools and drunks
Where are our heroes anyway (aside from tree)? Who has really done anything in the last few hundred years? I mean, an example of gallant courage like a Nelson, pacing the deck under fire with patriotic pride. Ready to die any second, writing his will every day, building his coffin from a trophy. Now that sort of courage is looked upon as morbid, talk of death is discouraged, we live in a time of preservation, we worship Hollywood actors and rock stars as our role models, we look to adverts for our needs, we spend all our money on staying young, preserve ourselves past usefulness, then lock up the old out of sight. “It’ll never happen to me” we fear the Chinese taking over the world! Maybe they should, at least we could learn some filial piety from them!