Ahead of us was a flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Lahore, Pakistan; leaving at ten pm, arriving four hours later, which due to time change was midnight in Lahore. We knew we would be stuffed by the time we got there which would be two am in our world. But as luck would have it…We received an email from Sri Lankan Airlines saying we could upgrade to business. All we had to do was put in a bid and if it was accepted, we would be travelling like the elderly should, but usually cannot afford to. The bid range was $30 – $90 USD so we reckoned midway would be good. We put in $60 and got business class seats. It turned out that the business section was mostly empty so we could have gotten them for less, but we were happy to have the better seats. Considering the ticket to begin with was $260 each it was good a deal.
Narda’s notes (italics) Terrell notes
My first impressions of Pakistan, after three days, is that the people are very friendly. For example, we can rarely go a block without someone wanting a selfie with us, shaking hands, saying “thank you for coming to Pakistan”. My other impression is from the pollution. My app says 305, Hazardous; avoid all physical activity outdoors. Yesterday it hit 670.
It hangs in the air. Brendan’s house is in a gated community with a lot of trees and I think that helps. We also have machines around the house that are supposed to suck in the bad air. I can taste it when I am outside. In comparison where we live in Adelaide is a breathable 8; . Apparently, it is the µg/m3 reading that is all the rage to know about; Micrograms per Cubic Meter of Air. Bottom line, the µg/m3 should be between 0 & 5. Anything above 35 stay inside and watch Oprah and eat chocolate.
What stood out besides what we saw, was how many people wanted selfies with us. It is usually Narda getting all the attention
but today, I would say I had a hundred selfies at least. It took forever to get through the temple we got stopped so much, perhaps not forever, because now is now and we are not there, and forever is not over. Fortunately, Sofie and Maryam were patient. The Pakistani people would shake my hand and say, ‘thank you for coming to Pakistan’.
It was amazing. A few weeks ago, at the first cricket game here since 2004 (that year the Sri Lanka team’s buses were fired upon, though no one was killed; but it did stop teams from coming here until now) the Pakistan fans held up signs thanking Sri Lanka for playing here (even though Sri Lanka won).
Pakistan has been treated poorly by the western media; these people are so grateful to have western visitors. I even had women in full burkas doing selfies with me. I didn’t know the protocol in these situations, so I didn’t put my arm around them…maybe next time.
https://youtu.be/s0iyHOJ76WQ our video for our tromping about the mosque.
The Badshahi Mosque is a Mughal era masjid in Lahore, capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Pakistan. The mosque is located west of Lahore Fort along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore, and is widely considered to be one of Lahore’s most iconic landmarks.
Brendan’s driver, Imran, took us shopping to Al-Fatah Mall. (https://www.alfatah.pk/): The grocery store, in the basement, has more western products than our local supermarket in Lahore. For example, we got peanut butter, but they were out of tofu. On the third floor I bought a shalwar kameez suit, black $26USD at Al-Fatah.
The dress of Narda’s was from material she bought and had made. We have a video and story of that later. Sales tax = 17% on clothes and most groceries. Milk doesn’t have any tax, yogurt has 10%, everything else at the supermarket had a 17% tax wacked on. We have been told by a few people here that everything costs more since Imran Khan became prime minister, including higher taxes. We thought locals would have a good impression of Imran Khan but so far those we have spoken with don’t think he is doing well. The most general comment is that he is trying to go to fast, ending corruption, changing stuff. For those who don’t know, before entering politics, Khan was an international cricketer and captain of the Pakistan national cricket team, which he led to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. We have liked his speeches we have seen on YouTube and on the news. Especially in relationship to India. We had the same feedback in Sri Lanka in relationship to their head of state, no one seemed to like him. Of course, it is the same in the States, so where does one go to find a head of state that a majority like? I don’t know.
Tuesday 29th October.
Imran took us to Liberty Market alongside Main Boulevard Gulberg. Liberty Market is made up of many individual shops with frontage to the streets. Mainly women’s clothing shops they are small and seem to be owner owned. We got there after eleven am only to find most of the shops closed. They open after noon and stay open until late at night which seems to be the way with markets in Lahore. We did buy a bedspread for about $32USD at Thar Maleer Handicraft shop. Heaven only knows why we would need another bedspread, but I just carry the parcels I don’t seem to understand why we need more. Narda bought another scarf ($4) at a street stall, and a dress for $19. Narda is finding getting a dress that fits her ten-foot frame difficult, even for extra-large. I would joke with the salespeople; one refined shop keeper remarked that she had a healthy body. At the end of a few hours of looking, on our walk back to our meeting with Imran, a dress in a shop widow caught Narda’s eye. She tried it on, it was a bit too small in the shoulder but otherwise what she wanted. The shop owner adjusted the hem a bit to make it fit.
What was interesting was an in-depth conversation with the shop dude. He was quite concerned about westerner’s perception of Pakistan, something that comes up quite often. He said Pakistan in the safest country of all and that Lahore is the safest city in Pakistan. That tourists are given a lot of respect. That it is the United States policy to create tension between Pakistan and India and others. We didn’t say anything as we have heard India’s side often that it is Pakistan creating division. He had recently lived in Belgium for three years and him and Narda could chat in Dutch. This is such a recurring theme here that people are so happy we are visiting, that it is the media creating a bad rap on Pakistan. We just listen. We will say that the people here are extremely friendly. We got a slight reprimand when Narda did a Namaste (a slight bow with paws pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. In Hinduism, it means “I bow to the divine in you”, or to us it is “you are cool too, mate”), and a man said that he was a Muslim and they just did the thumbs up thingy. He was friendly about it but I guess there is some mixing of culture we are not up to speed on. In India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, everyone is bowing and gesturing all over the shop. So, remember when in Pakistan it is thumbs up.
When we got home, we went off to our local market for dinner fixings
and as is so often is the case we were surrounded by folks wanting selfies with us. Firstly, a woman in full black niqab wanted a photo with us and her daughters about 8 to 10 years old. Next, a few young blokes with matching tee shirts, then more of them, then about a dozen, all wanting group photos and individual photos. They were a university cricket team all excited because they had made it to the grand final game which I think is tomorrow. Then there were a few other stragglers along the street that wanted selfies with us.
Just to keep the difference in women’s wear understandable, not that it is even at the best of time, here is something I grabbed off the internet so that I could sort it out somewhat:
The word hijab describes the act of covering up generally but is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
I even had to wear something on my head at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar in India last year.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close-fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and a tube-like scarf.
For more about what is what with garb see https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241
Narda writes about Brendan’s home below. I will just add that due to being a gated community, the chooks and cats wander through everyone’s yards. They had a routine they kept to everyday. At four pm the rooster followed by several hens and a try-hard rooster would enter our yard, peck around a bit, chase away a cat or two then wander on to the next yard.
It was the first time for the guy in Lahore who processed our visa. A bunch of earnest looking Pakistanis prompted him every step of the way, but despite that we got out and on our way with Brendan and his driver Imran. There was an important looking pollie…I think…who was met by fawning officials with papers to hand him and cameras…who shared business class with us. I think he had some anxiety, his legs moving from side to side for most of the trip.
Right now I’m watching a guy wearing a beige shalwar kameez sweeping our lawn.
He did it yesterday too. The flat where Brendan is living is enormous. Huge lounge with high ceilings, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms on 2 levels. All the flats in this enclosed area have leafy gardens; there is a pristine swimming pool and serious security here, manned all the time.
We saw an accident, lots of blood on the road, Brendan told me not to look so I looked. Pretty disturbing; a motorbike rider. We continued our walk and finished up in a little enclave of western coffee and carrot cake. A couple of girls on the way out commented on my Punjabi dress…starting a nice conversation. Turned out that one of them also taught at the American school years back.
It’s a big busy city, reminded us of Delhi; without the cows. Though you do see the occasional cart pulled by a sad scruffy donkey. The road home was completely taken up by the devout at prayers…took up the whole road and we were diverted. I love all this stuff, new and exciting.
Brendan showed us his skills as a crazy driver in Lahore, narrowly avoiding hitting a tuk tuk, a beggar or another flash vehicle. Nicely done! We actually found a place to park, despite my doubts; he paid a guy some 30c to take care of the car, and we went inside a supermarket. Terrell found what he needed to make a nice, unusual veg meal, as we watched the Breaking Bad movie on Netflix. And I have been initiated into drinking Murree beer. First glass, ‘not sure’, but second glass ‘pretty OK.
This morning (Bren still asleep) two of his friends visited; we had a nice chat. It was 8am. They were wearing their bathers, and we were still in pajamas. The only way to make new friends.
Oct 24 Lahore
The top-end furniture guy cleared a couple of VIP chairs and made a space on his desk so that we could enjoy our cups of chai purchased from the local chai wallah. We had an audience of men, watching us closely, asking, with a head waggle, if it was all OK. ‘Sugar? OK?’ For me ‘Yes’. When we came back the next day, we tried sitting on the rough wooden bench, but the whole thing was repeated, as we enjoyed our sweet tea, like Lord and Lady Muck.
It’s about 20 minutes’ walk including dodging and weaving (potholes, tuk tuks, donkey carts and piles of unknown things) to our closest shopping area. We’re quite familiar with all that. We go to Jamals ‘(all air conditioned) for some groceries, some soda water for Bren, try to support the street stall buying fruit, buy some rich coloured chicken downstairs and then head home. Imran, Bren’s man and driver usually does his shopping cooking, irons everything (including underwear I think) and is generally the one to make things happen on a local level…a fixer. He’s a sweet, kind man. Yesterday he drove us to another market area where we bought a bedspread for home.
I’ve forgotten the name of the restaurant but we had another experience of Brendan’s driving skills (and courage 😊) as we ate a beautiful Paki meal in a really nice BBQ place, owned by the parents of one of Bren’s students. And lots of leftovers!
Terrell and I are all Paki-ed up.!! He has a real cool shalwar kameez, ($22) in black with embroidery, and I have an amazing red dress with large ‘diamonds’ on the collar, looks really dressy; they had to let it out for reasons I’d rather not discuss, all for the total of $19. (All dollars quoted in USD; gives us the illusion of spending less 🙂
Sophie, Brendan’s friend, invited us to a big day out, going with a few colleagues from LAS for a tour of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort built in 1566. Sean; maths teacher, musician, ballroom dancer and crazy driver, drove us there. Mariyam, the HR person and I discussed the possibility of me doing a short replacement gig at LAS, to Brendan’s horror. Hmmm.
Now we know what it feels like to be famous. We were literally inundated by folks taking selfies with us. Most asking politely; once you pose for one, the next groups are awaiting their turn. It was fun actually. Terrell was accosted on the way home from our local supermarket by a bunch of cricketers, posing outside the shop that sponsored them. They asked me to join too, but that was being polite; he was the one they were after.
The girls (Sophie and Mariyam) did a wonderful tour guide job. The whole place is really worth visiting; at the end of the day we chose having a meal over another museum; that was unanimous. The view from the restaurant was specie; 4 (rickety?) stories up. We ate local food, yummy daal and naan….just like pizza, with some deep fried things….like giant pappadums, which were delicious. Sophie and Mariyam, generous and hospitable girls, paid for us, despite our protests.
‘There’s no way we want to reunite with India’, said the man selling me my red dress. He went on to say that it is the USA meddling that has caused most of the conflict between the two nations. ‘And it is 110% safe here’ he went on to say. ‘Very safe, you are welcome here’. He lived in Belgium for 4 years and was very happy there, even speaks some Dutch (this I could test!). Another interesting thing was that he said that things were getting more expensive in Pakistan since the new Prime Minister started. That the cost of living for his family is 30,000 rupees a month, (about $150 USD) but he can only earn 15,000 rupees. So it is very difficult. Taxes, we heard from others, have gone up a lot, and generally the cost of living. Others have told us the same, including Imran, Brendan’s man.
We have 2 Shalwar Kameez (plural?) for Terrell, a red dress, a bed spread and a whole lot of stuff for Bren’s apartment (that part thankfully funded by him). It’s actually looking gezellig, with plants and pictures on the wall, little table clothes and cushions; all ready for family to visit!!! Even a strange lamp. We bought it at an antique place, thinking this was very unusual, only to find it online in an Ikea store. Oh well. Still looks good.
It wasn’t only shopping. Yesterday we had a great breakfast /brunch, at a pretty nice restaurant together with a couple of women from the LAS community, Venla (Finnish) and Saeema (American); both long termers here. We’ve also been dashing about with Sean the calculus teacher (reminds us of Robert from DAIS), who took us to a very fancy western mall, Emporium Market. That’s where Terrell bought his second Shalwar Kameez.
I felt hopelessly inadequately dressed. I actually wore my black thongs (flip-flops for you shocked Americans!) and my new red diamond studded dress, but boy, do theses guys go all out. Gorgeous stuff, all trimmed and beaded and glittery. It was the niece of Brendan’s man who invited us, and we were indeed fussed over.
This was the 1st day of a 2 day-long reception, first day for the bride’s family, second day for the groom’s. I sat for short while I (didn’t want to push it) at a table with the men drinking whisky…or gin…not actually sure, but it was sweet and good. Brendan was also dressed in traditional clothes with an added vest, very smart…..and some strange shoes which he might show you.
Halloween was big. We attended a ticketed event at LAS, lots of security getting in. Bren had his class stall, where they made and sold ? sticky goo. All the kids were elaborately dressed up, and the music was excruciatingly loud; I was assured (by Brendan, my chief critic and advisor) that this was the way things are in Asia. All very interesting, we got a good look at the school and Bren’s classroom.
‘I’ve lived here for 57 years’, said Lulu at the International Club, where we went after the school event. Lulu (from somewhere else) and Franz (from Holland) were the coordinators of the club, trying to keep it viable. I enjoyed the chat with these folks, as the young ones, with Terrell, went to the bar. Aron and Sophie joined us at a table for a really good buffet, Turkish themed. Yum.
Lahore is surprising. You see folks from Biblical times, and then Gloria Jeans coffee places. Folks sleeping in the back of tuk tuks or in the park with their children, to shining, pristine shopping malls. I usually get annoyed at these malls in parts of Asia with their bullshit designer shops that nobody can shop at. This however is much nicer. More (still somewhat high end) shops with local style clothing, very stylish and for us anyway, affordable. And more people.
But the air is a worry. Last week the pollution index topped 500; today it is about 200 and most of last week it was in the 300’s and 400’s.
Nov 7, 2019 Lahore
Today, our last day, Brendan got what is for us a ‘snow day’. The head of school texted the whole community; a high of 650 was predicted (hazardous) and the school was closed. BONUS! So we get to relax, pack, have a lunch kindly donated by one of Bren’s TAs from last year.
Last night we could only just see the top of the Pakistani flag and the sun was orange/red. Imran took us to the Wahga border (sp Wagah, Wagha, Wahga????). Google assures us it’s the first one, but we see local signs with one of the others. It was a feast. We saw the Border Closing Ceremony once again (last year from the Indian side). We got VIP seats 4 rows from the front. I stuck wet tissue balls in my ears (we were dangerously close to the speakers 😊) and we had a ball. The guy dancing on one leg was still there; I even got the chance to thank him personally.
Cantt stands for containment. This means that there are army bases all over the place that do not want foreigners in them. We found “Food Street” but we were far too early, so no food.
This was a strange messy day (bit like this strange messy blog entry). Our driver took us part of the way, then got stuck with road closures, so we transferred ourselves to to a tuk tuk, which went a little further (this all in pursuit of ‘Food Street’) The tuk tuk driver also got stuck when a large demonstration (I think it was…people everywhere, many sitting down) appeared at the end of our road, also completely blocking it off to traffic. He turned around to us to explain this in Urdu or Punjabi. Luckily a young lady walking by put her head into the tuk tuk and translated for us. He was happy to continue, perhaps wait awhile, but we had to pay him $1 more.
Finally got there, no food, so we wandered around the old town, discovered the music street …pretty cool, lots of drums and guitars being made, and the shoe sole street, which speaks for itself. I have never seen so many shoe soles in one area in my life. OK, by then (the reader is getting exhausted) we had accepted that there was no food. So we got an Uber to take us to a mall. Always a safety refuge for us. The traffic was almost at a standstill. So the trip to the far away mall was long.
Now I am getting back to ‘containment’. We entered a military zone in the bloody Uber. They pulled us over and demanded our passports, which of course we ‘no have’. ‘Who goes shopping with passports’, demanded Terrell angrily from the gun-slinging soldier. Hmmm. They took him away, leaving me in the Uber. After what seemed a long time, maybe 15 minutes (seemed longer) he was duly returned, and we resumed our journey into the banned mall. A day to remember. I was a bit cranky; I must confess. All this protocol.
I had pizza with 4 cheeses and a nice thin base last night at a nice restaurant. Bren had Moroccan chicken, and Terrell had a creamy pasta dish. All good.
Lahore is a trip!!! Where else do people (complete strangers) come up to you and say ‘welcome to our country, it is an honour for us that you are here’.
Wagha Border video https://youtu.be/0AD8cmi1Ujo
General Lahore videohttps://tinyurl.com/rqayfep
Just to add to Narda’s wonderful narrative above; first some photos (we have over a thousand if you want to invite us to your home and we will sit and show them all – let us know)
This is Narda with the bride (the bride is on the left) – I call it ‘Narda giving Australian/Dutch wisdom to the newly wed’.
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
The poverty hits one hard. We all live in such rich countries and we visit these places. We did give beggars money but there is no end to it all. Near us is a park with several tuk tuks parked; families live in them, 3, 4, even five children sleeping during the day in them.
Narda is always so ready to get on the next transportation and head out. When she was four her family was getting on a ship in Rotterdam to migrate to Australia. They drove from their home in Utrecht to Rotterdam, about a three-hour drive. When they got there Narda said ‘it is really a long way to Australia’. Those three hours to the next place have become many decades long.
At the airport. The sum equation of all that is Lahore, or at least our experience of it. Enormous clouds of crowds everywhere. All so foreign. So as usual a person shows up, he has a badge, I didn’t trust him, he escorts us quickly past the crowds, we show our passport and ticket, get past a few islands of security, put bags through big scanners, and get to the Thai ticket counter and our helpful dude wants money.
So today we had a snow day. Bren’s school was cancelled for high pollution levels. 635 was expected (Adelaide has about 20) So Bren had the day off, which was a last-minute gift from the gods. As it turned out the pollution was ‘only’ about 130. Another gift. Packing, talking, Bren driving us to the local market, and then Imran made 2 airport runs, first run for Bren heading to Bahrain for a conference, the second 3 hours later for our midnight departure.
Passport was a hassle, we stood stationary for about 45 minutes as folks pushed in ahead of us, all dressed in white. Later we realised these folks were headed to Mecca, where all people wear white so that there is no distinction between rich and poor.
Arriving in Bangkok at 6 am we actually felt pretty exhausted. Bought some Thai sim cards and then took a shuttle the nearby Novotel for a great buffet breakfast. Worth the money!
Ahead of me I see temple spires, a phone tower, a restaurant with plastic lawn (they have good food!) and some quiet streets. I am sitting in the kitchen of our tiny modern, clean and secure little flat in the building in Udan Thani called The Base. 14 stories, with a rooftop garden, a swimming pool, gym and comfy bed.
Also some bits and pieces for the grandies. We observed small children gleefully eating a plate full of deep fried and spiced bugs. They looked like hornets and crickets. (see one-minute video of market and bugs https://youtu.be/t74hNiB9VCs )
Sizzler still serve that cheesy toast. Do you remember? This was in Central Plaza, a 10 minute walk away. No movies that suits us. Bummer. But we had a nice Sizzler buffet and got caught up on salads and veggies.
Now I’m sitting a home with a large lump on my head and left knee. I walked into the glass door of the Crocs Shop. You may well laugh. They were offering 15% off. No more squat toilets for me for a while. The knee has lost some function. Oh well. Not serious.
One of the most colourful festivals of the year in Thailand is Loy Krathong; full moon festival. This is when people go to their local waterway to float small bowl shaped containers called Krathongs in Thai. Inside are three incense sticks, a candle and usually a few coins. They float the Krathong to ask Mother Nature for forgiveness for polluting the rivers but also to thank her for water that brings life. Most people also take this opportunity to make a wish for good luck in the future. As they watch the krathong float away, they hope it will also take any of their bad luck.
Watching our little reed boat sail off into the lake was the highlight of Monday night’s Loy Krathong Festival. Everyone was there, all 150,000 Udonis. Incredible. Our reed boat had 3 sticks of incense, one for Leigh, one for dad and one for mum. See video at
An Irish guy named Martin gave us the low down on why Undonis don’t talk to us. Well actually he didn’t know why, but in the 12 years he has been living around here, they don’t talk to him either.
This is a strange thing and a complete contrast to the friendly Pakis. We are completely ignored. It takes a little getting used to, until we remember that’s why we are here. No hustle, no offers of tuk tuk rides. When you walk into a store you actually have to grab the sales person by the scruff of the neck to get some action…….almost.
And these folks are SO tidy! Not a scrap of rubbish on the ground, anywhere. Even when 150,000 of them are tromping, clockwise of course, around the market. Never seen this before. The dirt is all in the air, with an average reading of about 150 at the moment (remember, Adelaide is about 20). Furthermore, there is NO English. Well, maybe a tiny, tiny bit. Local restaurants have menus that are completely undecipherable. It is really hard to act out a dish you want. Try acting our Chicken with cashews, or worse still Pad Thai with no meat.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
our next blog will be from The Netherlands where we will be mid-January 2020 until mid April 2020
in the meantime
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
The cruise was great. Yet just part of the story. What could be better? Well we found better, or let us say same same but different in the better world of better. Six weeks in Ringkøbing. Clearly my spellcheck is going to struggle with this narrative. An o that is an ø; perhaps on the web the o will not have a line through it; like in space no one can hear you scream. It is not just the o/ø but that ae thing such as that slightly, actually, sends my brain cells into a tizzy. The Danes manage to have 29 letters in their alphabet (since 1948, which started a year after my birth, giving me plenty of time to learn it. But I didn’t). I was going to paraphrase the Wikipedia article on this but I got confused after the first line, so I won’t. but of course, you can, see; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_and_Norwegian_alphabet.
What have I learned about the Danes? They fly their flag even more than the Yanks. Our fantastic host, Erik told us why, but I forget. Like Australia is to New Zealand (you know the jokes and thoughts of each toward the other) the Danes are to the Swedes. Again, I forget why. So, we’ll forget what I have learned so far in my first two weeks here and go on with the being here part.
In our jump into the deep end mentality we drove to our new home with just one stop to change drivers. Erik and his wife Bente collected us from the cruise ship; which we have already written extensively about and made a video of (and who wants to hear about someone else’s wonderful time on a cruise? Most likely no one), gave us the keys and drove off hoping we were on the correct side of the highway; opposite to Australia, the same as the USA, different from some other countries we were in earlier this year but not like living in China where folks drive on whichever side of the road they feel least impeded on.
We have found routine rather quickly. What we have changed about travel is to stay longer. Really quite a simple idea. After doing round-the-world trips for twelve years, going from New York to Australia at least once a year, sometimes twice and stopping in cities for three or four days so we could be back in Australia for a couple of months before returning to teaching gave little perspective on places visited. We continued our mad dash of the planet when we lived in China for three years. At least we stayed in one foreign place for an extended time but as soon as there was a school break, even just a few days, off we were. We were spending more time planning than experiencing. Narda did, I just stayed south of La La Land in my mind and threw some clothes and camera equipment into a bag and I was ready to go wherever Narda thought we should go to. Of course, she would repack my stuff. Then we started doing slightly longer stays mainly booking Airbnb places. This year was so different. We did our first house exchange this year for five weeks in Holland now in Denmark for six weeks. We have Berlin next year and chasing other places. India we are not doing house exchange because we could not find any but we are spending three months with a week or so in each place we go to.
House exchanges gives us the feeling we live there and are not just passing tourists. We spent a month in Washington D.C. at the end of last year and that was like living there, and a few weeks in Cambodia earlier this year which for some odd reason we still felt like foreigners in, even after a few weeks. So here we are at home. We don’t speak the local language or understand the signs but that is fine. We can ride our bikes into places that probably say ‘piss off’ but how would we know?
We joined the local gym. Cheaper than in Australia, about $30/month USD. The gym overlooks the local fjord which is really another word for a bit mother of a lake, some glacier caper. Well as one who always needs to learn, Google tells us; ‘A fjord is formed when a glacier retreats, after carving its typical U-shaped valley, and the sea fills the resulting valley floor. This forms a narrow, steep sided inlet (sometimes deeper than 1300 metres) connected to the sea.’
Here is a map of Denmark pinched from the internet – the © credit is on the map – we just scribbled a bit on it. Jutland is the island – there are three islands that make up Denmark.
Italics below are Narda’s notes – not-italics are Terrell’s notes
We left the ship at 8.30, it was all really efficient and orderly. Picked up our suitcase, and then met Erik and Bente, who drove us around Copenhagen. Had a coffee with them at the beach, then started our long drive to Ringkøbing. It was actually quite easy. A great car, a Citroen van, easy to drive, and the roads are pretty much all freeways. We arrived there at about 3pm.
It’s an amazing house, full of lovely decoration, art and lots of room. We walked to the super market nearby and tried to negotiate finding it, and feeling pretty tired, but all was well, we had soup and a salad, and slept really well.
Gathered these flowers for Mabel’s birthday xxxxx
We love driving in foreign countries, firstly sorting out which side of the road to go on, then diving in traffic. Narda was the first driver getting us out of Copenhagen. I got to navigate and take photos and video and look bewildered; it is a challenging task but I do it well, the looking bewildered part. We changed drivers after crossing The Great Belt Fixed link which cost 240.00 DKK ($36.40). We made a little youtube video of it https://youtu.be/_ZCyDnWiIVQ – I stuffed up with the lighting on my camera so everything turned out bluer than it actually was at the start of this trip.
It was exciting to drive across a whole country in only about four hours (should be three but we stop), considering how far it is across Australia. We drove up to the house on the cobblestone street and saw our host’s name, opened the door and were happy to be home for six weeks.
At the end of the street was the harbour.
As often is the case, the first shopping excursion is a challenge. I am looking for low-carb, (organic if I can get away with it) animal-free, stuff. When everything looks unfamiliar and is in a language that neither Narda nor I would ever hope to understand, we just go around appearing confused. The Super Brugsen was just a ten-minute walk and feeling good; after all we had just spent a couple of weeks lying about on a huge cruise liner, so we were far from tired, we were in a shopping mood. We had asked where was the Aldi store but got lost on the way and Brugsen seemed like a normal supermarket from the outside. Of course, after fifteen minutes of not figuring out where what we wanted was hiding, we left with a bottle of milk a sweet potato, some seeds for my breakfast, as well as what appeared to be normal soup (to me normal is vegetarian, to Narda normal is meat – in this instance we believed it was my normal, but who knows what gets sneaked in to a package with foreign script); we declared never to return to this place. Now writing this, two-months later, I can say that is not true and we shopped there often and found all that we needed. We found food in the back of our home too. Firstly, a large apple tree, pineapple apples we later found out, and oh so good, then in the greenhouse ripened cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and grapes, and in the garden zucchini for my zucchini spaghetti low-carb meals.
The apple tree produced so many apples that we were putting out five – eight bags a day for people to take – and they did. The original sign left for us to put out, in Danish, got rained on, then sort of blew down the street, no worries, Narda made a new one, in English. I suppose the word ‘free’ is understandable in all languages. There are mainly German tourists as Germany is only a bit down the road, and being a land-locked country, they liked the waters of Ringkøbing.
Today we spent the whole day on bikes, basically exploring all the supermarkets we could find. It was fun. Sitting in the lounge now, just about to get dinner ready, listening to the rain. Had a great day. Terrell is still feeling a bit fluey, hopefully better tomorrow.
As Narda pointed out we rode bikes and went shopping. As is often the case, after watering the garden, it rained. I love shopping for food, reading labels, looking for those nasty things companies sneak into their food, but I was thwarted. I like shopping in foreign food stores and finding things not common in Australia, but not being able to read labels sucks. Nevertheless, we soldiered on to Aldi, Lidl, Netto, and what would come to be our favourite supermarket, Kvickly. Two reasons for Kvickly being our choice: we had a fifteen-minute bike ride there going through a bit of a forest if we wanted to and they had lots of stuff, sorted for fussy people like me, even a vegan section.
In the afternoon we rode around the fjord; not around it, but for half an hour one way then back to check on our shopping.
Today, another big bike riding day. We headed out of town, reaching the village of Velling, where we had coffee. They also had a beautiful cemetery full of hedges and little miniature gardens.
Terrell’s bike was hard going, but after visiting the bike shop and filling the tyres we realised that this was the problem. Last night the town criers (we were later told they were not ‘criers’ but ‘night watchmen’) came by again this time accompanied by a trail of tourists. Terrell had quite an extensive conversation with them. (see our youtube video @ https://youtu.be/vzaPX1oC6cY)
Narda started posting on her Facebook page ‘Why Denmark is the happiest country’. Sorry but you will need to read to the end of this to read that.
A marathon bike ride today to Sondervig. It was a great ride, we followed the highway north/west, and arrived at this little town, a beach town with lots of outlet stores. Also has some beautiful old places with thatched rooves and many holiday houses.
We took a little walk through the supermarket, as we do in every new place. Gotta first check out the groceries! I resisted buying a GIANT chocolate meringue, but I keep thinking about it, so I might have to return sometime and eat it. Otherwise it will become an obsession. Like an unrequited sugar craving.
We returned by heading down the coast a little way, and then crossing the Bagges Daemning (the a and the e are joined) which is a little pedestrian bridge across the Ringkøbing Fjord, and a short cut back to Ringkøbing.
This was one of the recommended trips from our Danes; they said about 1 ½ hours, we took from 9.45 until 1.30. Oh well!
See our 2:36 (that is two minutes and thirty six seconds) clip of this at https://youtu.be/ZC7NbrTXHcA
Today we saw a nice band playing some Beatles and other stuff in the town square. Lots of tourists, it’s a popular town.
We also checked out a suitcase which we might buy to replace Terrell’s. A bit bigger, but lightweight. Make these long trip a bit more flexible in packing….especially packing for going home. And Terrell bought his first ever watch, pretty groovy one.
In the evenings we’ve started watching The Mentalist, which is good. Finally figured out the TV thing, just plugged the computer into the HDMI port. We can use the hard drive now, or directly use Netflix.
We carry our HDMI cable on every trip, it didn’t work on the cruise ship so we did not watch TV except for the one channel that showed where we were – usually just a view of water. In Cambodia, Holland, The States earlier this year the cable worked each place and we would unwind from our day of exploring watching some gruesome series on Netflix. I would double dip my time by dabbling in Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, and other mind-numbing practices. And of course, I would check social media to see if any of my five followers on Twitter etc. liked something I had tossed up. HDMI also assisted with our watching YouTube to see what The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was doing to get our daily fix on the States politically. We did get CNN and BBC news but nothing locally or on Denmark so for six-weeks we had no idea of anything happening around us; kind of a nice way to live in la la land, and the news we saw, usually something stupid going on in the States, was far removed from us. Maybe this will be in Narda’s top reasons why the Danes are so happy, they don’t pay attention to the news. Though I am sure it is just us wandering folks who land upon their shores and have no idea what the papers or TV shows are saying.
Another day of exploring the areas around here. This time we took the car, and drove north. First to Struer, where we found a caravan sales place. Of course, we had to look. We found the prices were much lower than in Australia. For the same money as we spent we could buy a nearly new caravan here, with toilet shower, weighing a lot less, about the same size for 80,000 DKK which is $15,000 AUD (about $12,600 USD)
This one, with toilet/shower; 39,990 DKK , about $8,000 AUD
We drove on to Humlum. That’s a place you need to have coffee in, just because of the name! Actually, we went all out and had lunch. Blew our budget for the day, but right now we’re pretty ahead with it. I had a beef patty garnished with beetroot, capers, and raw egg yoke. Yum!
On the road again, we followed some sidies, getting a little lost, and then headed southwards along the coastal road between Nussum Bedning, another fjord, and the North Sea. Reminded us a bit of Coorong country (South Australia). We stopped at a place; to our right were really high sand dunes, actually one gigantic long one, like a dyke. When we got to the top we were nearly blown over by the gale.
Watching our little clip at https://youtu.be/vzaPX1oC6cY shows some of this trip along the coast.
August 21-24, Monday-Thursday
Had a few quiet days. The weather has been pleasant, though some days really windy. Yesterday (Wednesday) was warm and sunny, no wind, all day. We’ve been bike riding each day. Often in the morning , we spend some computer time, blogging and making a movie about the cruise. And some reading. Then we ride to various stores to get stuff for dinner. Either Aldi, Netto, Kvickly (I think our favourite) and Lidl. We bought a few useful things, a cool little clock with projection onto the ceiling, and a key security box where we can put a key to let the next house sitters in, back in Adelaide.
The bike rides are the best. I have Bente’s bike, it’s a strong step through, nice to ride, gears and a hand brake and foot brake. Sometimes we take some sandwiches. One time on the way home from Kvickly we were so hungry we both felt a bit ill, so we stopped (to get out of the strong wind) at the petrol station on our way home and found a table at the back, meant for gamblers (horse racing and lotto stuff) and ate our sandwich. We did buy their machine coffee which was crap, but it did the trick. Then we headed back to Kvickly to spend more money.
Our budget, so far has been way under, even with these purchases. We are averaging $30 USD for food per day. (Which I must note is less than we spend in Adelaide)
And I will add I am doing well with my low-carb vegetarian diet.
Near the Ringkøbing Harbour is this statue;
[The 3.5-metre-tall bronze sculpture was made in 2002 and depicts a huge fat woman from the west, sitting on the shoulders of a starved African boy. The woman is holding a pair of scales as a symbol of justice, but her eyes are closed to show that justice is degenerating into self-righteousness and unwillingness to see the obvious injustice.
The sculpture intended to send out a message to the rich part of the world, and seems to create focus on our obesity due to over consumption while people in the third world are dying of hunger. Due to the imbalanced distribution of the resources in the world, the most people in the western countries are living comfortably, they are oppressing the poor people by means of an unjust world trade. The rich countries are by means of tariff barriers and subsidies keeping the poor countries out of the markets of the West.
On the sculpture there is an inscription, which states: “I’m sitting on the back of a man. He is sinking under the burden. I would do anything to help him. Except stepping down from his back.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_Fattest_(sculpture)]
Today we decided to leave Ringkøbing and explore some towns to the south of us. We headed to Ribe, stopping at a road house on the way for some lunch. We actually did not go through Ribe, but continued on to the island of Mando, which is a world heritage sanctuary for migrating birds. Since access to the island depends on the tides, we thought it might be fun to take the giant tractor style tourist bus through the receding tide, but we missed it. So hopefully we’ll return.
Then off again to the next island, Romo. This time we were successful. The causeway across to the island is ‘tide proof’ so we headed off to the next island, Sylt (Queen of the North Sea). This one has a waterproof causeway. We found ourselves in a little harbour town, Havnby, and low and behold, a large ferry was about to leave. It does not take us much go off script, so we bought tickets and were on our way……to Germany! It took a few clues….they wanted Euros, and they spoke German…..for us to figure this out. https://www.syltfaehre.de/home/ (BTW we did not pay the full price as we got pension discount, and nicely so, the woman at the counter didn’t believe I was 70, so I should my driver’s license – aren’t people nice?)
So, there we were. There was a large blue bus leaving the harbour in Sylt, so we boarded it and went on a random bus ride to Kampen. Very nice….a sandy walk to the top of the dunes and we could see the whole island. Then coffee, and back to the harbour to catch the next ferry back to Romo. Lovely trip! On the way back we ate pizza and pasta at Mamma Mia, a nice little local joint, in Ribe.
This is our way of having a coffee break along the highway, note our groovy car:
We put together a short slideshow of Romo and Sylt HERE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMm6aDG4KfE
A local day. At lunch time we wandered over to the town square, had a nice lunch at the hotel, outdoors, and watched the Ringkøbing Big Band. Reminded me of my Big Band days, which I miss from time to time. There was also a really cool Flamenco band with a dancer. Fun!
Their music is the background to much of our video – actually a couple of videos as it was that good and I am trying to stay away from copyright music https://youtu.be/vzaPX1oC6cY
We rode to No. A beautiful bike path, took us about an hour. The weather was perfect, the scenery was perfect and we loved it. Terrell made an entertaining little video about it, which sort of went viral in Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, and some other place. Over 10,000 plays. Huh. Who knew?
10,133 views to be exact with the largest numbers from (YouTube Analytics) – and this was all done in one night. There have been no views since. Usually I get 3 to a dozen views though years ago before everyone jumped onto YouTube I would get a lot.
Rang Helena for her b’day in the morning. We discovered the gym. I have developed a sore back, low back, so I’m hoping that building some core strength again will help it.
Best gym ever. That is Narda riding out to sea above. We used it for 26 of 30 mornings for September. A healthy routine, we would make a pot of coffee, eat an apple as we rode our bikes, then a good workout and coffee at the table where we sat and watched a family of swans. We watched a YouTube video to learn more about swans; they do the family thing together, couple of adults and four kids. We were told they have been in the fjord in front of the gym for the past two years. At the beginning the babies rode around on their mother’s back, now the cygnets are almost as big as the parents yet still brown while the parents are white. A woman we met at the gym, Bente Jensen, gave us photos of ‘our swans’, there is a fourth but he/she was probably over at the gym looking for Narda and me. Bente came to the railroad station to see us off at the end of our trip, 30 September, and told us the four cygnets and their parents were flying back and forth in front of the gym. I believe it was their first big flying lessons. We had planned to go to the gym on our last day but packing and cleaning took longer than we had imagined so we missed this.
Gym again in the morning, then a nice drive north via Sondervig to Hvide Sande. We discovered a little harbour there with large fishing boats, and sat on the back of the car with the back door up and had our little picnic. Also bought Terrell a nice jacket for India. Checked out the beach where kids were learning to water ski with a frame of pulleys instead of a ski boat. Also lots of kite surfing and wind surfing. Nice to watch.
Today a home day, sorted RAA for Erik and Bente, rang Stu, rang Janie, read lots. Went to the gym. My back is definitely getting better. No pain pills today.
Day at home, bit of rain. Went to the gym in the morning (day4)
Below is a view out of our lounge window, so cool.
The Ringkobing museum is well worth the visit
Drove to Ribe for the day. The oldest something, town I think, in Denmark. We made a bit of a clip and threw it up over at https://youtu.be/G_jW2pt1QFk. We had a great lunch sitting along the main street that is like 500-hundred years old, we didn’t feel quite so old in comparison. There are a lot of images in the clip so we will not post anymore here.
We saw this nest in Ribe, apparently a European white stork is one of the historic inhabitants of the town, choosing to build nests atop chimneys. Certain times of the year the street is full of people starring up at this when the stork is doing a one-act play or whatever it is storks do up there.
Today we visited the Viking museum at the bottom end of the Ringkøbing Fjord. By the way, fjord means ‘created by a glacier’. It was rainy the whole time but we got an English-speaking guide, we were the only ones on the tour, and it was really very interesting. He told us that the ‘Viking’ period began in the 700’s. They had their gods, some of which were the source of the days of the week names…Friday and Thursday.
This was groovy. See our clip on this @ https://youtu.be/CzHENrtLy_A. It was a rainy day, one of the few in this travel cycle, none on our two-week cruise, and maybe two or three the whole in Denmark. This was one of them. Our guide gave us an hour and a half tour. This was all part of a one-hundred-krone ($16 USD) museum pass we had for the week. We did get to about six museums out of ten or so (some closed at the end of August). The Viking museum was our favourite. We learned heaps of stuff, like that people would get the choice of becoming a Christian when the Vikings invaded a town. If they agreed they would get baptised then killed, so they won’t sin again and could get into heaven. Makes sense I guess. Watch our clip to become hip to the Viking trip.
After that we had a coffee in a small harbour, and found this in the gift shop window, which I might try to copy!!?
Below – self driving lawn mower. We love this idea, just toss it in the yard and go to the patio and have a beer while it does the job. Of course, to get one that will rake up after itself would be our ultimate one. We saw these quite often. I believe the Danes have the biggest lawns. We saw large lawns in the States, especially in the south, but lawns in Jutland (the island we are on – see map at top) are larger. These things just go until they run out of petrol or someone pushes a button somewhere. They jig zag so the lawn doesn’t have that nice tidy orderly row after row of straight lines but who cares. They have a sensor that tells them when they are near an obstacle, like a road, shipping lane, airport runway, beer cans, a human laying in the gutter…
Today a very pleasant bike ride to the forest out west, where we found a nice ‘camping’. Sat in the little tourist lounge, had our coffee, and then continued on through the forest trails.
We found some lovely wetlands, and this hand operated punt. A bunch of school kids and their teacher. The wetlands near Skjern are really nice, lots of bird watchers, and photo ops.
Another drive out to museums, we have to use up the pass. They were all closed, but we enjoyed the drive.
This was a small harbour going into Stadil Fjord or Vest Stadil Fjord, these fjords sometimes look similar to us foreigners. We talked to a bloke, who used to fish here, but he seemed close to a hundred, and doesn’t do it anymore. Of course others look old to us and we look old to others. For example, on my 70th birthday Narda’s grand daughter at age 5 said I was almost a hundred, so there you go. Here is a bit of a more localized map to show where we are. We rode to places like Søndervig, No, Hee and anywhere else within 10 kilometres or a bit more which of course to most bike riders is a pathetic effort but we are elderly (according to the news ‘an elderly person in their sixties…’) and to our credit there is sometimes a very strong wind so one way is fine but the other is a struggle.
A home day, but we ventured out to check up on some activity near the library. It turned out to be an exhibition/promotion of all electric cars. We talked to a friendly fellow about it all. He said that the cars have a range of approx. 300km, which makes them suitable for a 2nd car. He offered to let us drive one….but we declined. He said that Denmark uses no fossil fuel, all clean energy. The cars could be recharged off peak at night, using the wind generated energy. Pretty nice.
Dad died 3 years ago today
Went to another museum commemoration the life of a priest, quite famous at the time, who was murdered by the Nazis because of his outspoken anti-Nazi views.
Kaj Munks Præstegård The place was originally built in 1330. Kaj Munk started living here in 1924 and in 1944 the Nazis killed him. It is well worth the visit and though not in English a lot can be understood by looking at photos and even making up your own story – we did.
Below is a Google translate from the Danish page – http://www.levendehistorie.dk/Forside-10
“The priest yard formed the frame of Kaj Munk's most active year. This was where Kaj Munk's pen filled the paper with plays, poems, letters, sermons and articles. This was where he was finally picked up by his robbers a dark January 1944 because he had spoken the truth to a regime hidden under lies and terror.
Today, Kaj Munk’s versatile life is communicated and works in the beautiful frames that the priesthood and nature make up. The priest yard is also a gathering place for various cultural activities.“
Quiet day ending in a memorable sunset!!!!
While we were there, we chatted to some locals, Nils, who works for Nestas (the wind turbine company), and Rita and Stij, our neighbours and friends of Bente and Erik. Nice chat in a glorious place!
There are a lot of differences about whether windmills are good or bad. Their first windmills were built in the 1970s. “Denmark is now the leading country in the world for wind power. In the year 2014, Denmark set a world record for windmill production. The country now enjoys around 40 percent of its total electricity from this one clean energy source, alone” https://www.alternet.org/environment/5-countries-leading-way-fossil-fuel-free-future. But… locals are upset with so many windmills in their view. Some whom we spoke with said they were quite unhappy with them. Apparently, many windmills will be shoved into the North Sea not far from the coast and will ‘ruin the view’ and if they are too close they can be heard. Narda and I felt good about seeing windmills, they give hope for the future but not living near any or having them block our view our opinions are not valid perhaps. We see them in South Australia, large windmill farms, though they are in the country and we surely do not see them around Adelaide or along the beaches which I suppose would be a bummer.
Today we went on our train adventure. We bought a pass for the day last week, and took the train from Ringkøbing station. Our first mistake was that we misread the timetable and missed the train we thought we’d be on. Not to worry, so rather than waiting, which we are both notoriously bad at, we caught the next train to reconnect back to our Holstebro original itinerary to Aarhus. (I think that is a sentence?) We chatted with a friendly Dane, who was studying occupational therapy (said that the Aussies where ahead in this field), and who mapped out the next bit of our trip using his computer, (and who was actually from Slovenia, and who we also met again later as we left Ringkøbing, and who we found out rides penny farthing bikes!) So off we got in Holstebro (which means Holste bridge)…and according to our source, is sometimes called Holstebronx by some young ones.
“The town arose at a ford by the creek, and later a bridge was erected. The name probably derives from holdested ved broen (lit, “a resting place by the bridge”).
Copenhagen bound, but OK. Well….NOT OK. We met our first unfriendly Dane. The ticket collector scolded us that we could not use our day pass, as the benefits did not extend to this particular train service. We tried to look dumb, cute and helpless, (I tried to look old and was quite successful at it) but this did not work. She said we would have to pay 700 DKK!!!!!! I told her politely that this was not going to happen, and she said she would see what she could do. She returned and said that 140 DKK would be alright. Hmmm. Not sure what happened there. Anyway after pleading poverty and trying it on we gave up and paid up. Then came another drama. She walked through the doorway where there were 3 middle eastern guys who clearly had no tickets. She actually started to shout at them, telling them they should leave Denmark. Another kindly Danish girl tried to intervene, and also got shouted at. Blimey. She gave them each a fine, and they screwed them up and threw them on the ground. A bit of excitement on the Copenhagen train.
We arrived in Aarhus, it’s a nice city. We ate a pretty good buffet lunch, served by a Danish girl with a Queensland accent, and she had only lived there 6 months. Ha. Nice person. Then we walked a long way to what we thought was going to be the old town, but was really an open air museum. It was raining by then, so gave the museum a pass, and had some expensive coffee instead, riding the local bus back to the train station. On the way home we got off in Silkkeborg, a real shopping town where we bought Helena a clock with the ceiling projection. …for her birthday.
Last days in Ringkøbing
We still diligently went to the gym each morning, always bringing our coffee in the thermos for after our exercise when we would sit by the window and watch the swans. Who we discovered has a family, 2 white adults and 4 brown cygnets, almost the size of their parents. Fun to watch them each day.
We also spent mornings planning our trip to India, so far we have the hotels booked until Pune. No trains yet. On Thursday we drove to Herning to see the camera history museum, quite interesting; after we returned to Sham Pizza place and bought a take away pizza.
On Sunday night we were invited to Rita’s place for dinner with her and Stij. Nice couple, great food. They are friends of Bente and Erik. She has a lovely house, all organic with thick timber beams. She writes children’s stories and gave me one of her books. The illustrations are amazing.
We washed the car, and cleaned the house and then on the Monday Bente, a woman whom we met at the gym came by. She brought a yummy apple crumble and some examples of her great photography. Peter, our next door neighbour, drove us to the train. On the last day Bente also saw us off the on the train. A very friendly person.
The train ride to Copenhagen was pleasant. We sat with a woman from Lithuania who seemed lost so we took her under our wing a bit; she got a bit weepy; not sure what her story was, we only had a few words of German in common.
After our arrival in Copenhagen train station, we had a nice Indian buffet meal, then caught the 2A bus to the apartment. I slept well, Terrell a bit restless, and in the morning we rented 2 bikes and rode into the city.
We spent a very enjoyable day exploring the area called Christiania, which was a ‘free town’ back in the 70’s where hippies settled, living in derelict buildings and building their own cottages and trailers, in their own way. Also growing their own whatever. It is still settled that way, though it has become a tourist destination. They openly sell marijuana; and the authorities seem to turn a blind eye, as it is illegal in Denmark. Interesting place. Folks trying to buy property there now, simply cannot. Not so long ago, a friendly lady told us that they tried to evict people, but the residents got together and bought the whole property for 65,000,000 Kroner, which is a bargain. So they can stay.
Riding through the outer areas of Christiania
The self-governing town of Christiania has seen its share of ups and downs, but it’s still a place unlike any other in the world.
Groovy pink bike, a rental.
OK so I did the 60’s in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco – lived in communes, grew my hair to my waist – did all the things that young people did in such a place…. but Christiania is cool too.
Picnic lunch on the harbour
This guy was from Serbia, gave us his card in case we make it to Belgrade.
We did a lot in three days. One day we did a day pass on the metro, bus and taxi boat. We went and saw the mermaid trip from Hans Christian Andersen’s book, and we had coffee at McDonalds where he used to live upstairs from and wrote in a shop below where we now drink coffee. The boat was good, up and down the river, and we took some random buses as we do wherever we go. We climbed to the top of a tower, went to museums, took pictures, and basically hung out in this cool city.
We did not want to leave Denmark but here we are back in Adelaide trying to sort out the trains in India. What a mess, not the house, but the trains! Three days trying to book trains as it is recommended to book three months in advance. We will be there from Mid-January until mid-April. It is good being back home amongst all my crap. Someday I will declutter but for now I am enjoying being surrounded by 70-years of stuff. Next month we will pack the caravan and go off to Sydney then Melbourne to see my son. We are happy to be seeing the grandchildren. Life is good. If we didn’t see you on this trip or the one before or before that we’ll catch up with you soon. Cheers.
Our YouTube the clips for this trip are at http://youtube.com/neuage09 are more specifically below:
I have used a lot of photos from this trip in my writing as background and they can be viewed at: Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB or Twitter https://twitter.com/neuage, Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/neuage/picture-poems-by-terrell-neuage/, Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage, Tumblr http://neuage.tumblr.com/ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/tneuage/ and various other trendy places
Our next ‘big’ trip overseas is three months in India
before then we will be in our caravan bopping around Australia
My friend since 1968 was going to visit us in Australia about now. Randy and I had many adventures in our life: the 1960s in Los Angeles and San Francisco the 1970s in Hawaii and New Orleans and we even had our first child around the same time. We all lived together in Hawaii in 1980 while our wives (my first and his second) were pregnant. Soon after giving birth my lot moved to Australia. I saw Randy a few times between 1980 and 2016. Sometimes in Hawaii sometimes in Oregon – the last time we saw Randy was toward the end of December 2016. Narda and I stayed with him in Eugene, Oregon for part of a week, then with him and his friend Tony, in Portland. Five months later I was Facetiming Randy in his hospital bed on his last day of life. We remarked “we have had a good run, haven’t we?”. I won’t get into the last forty-five or so years; actually, I have a couple of books that do that: ‘Leaving Australia – Before the After’ and ‘Leaving Australia – the After’ available on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HZZON6Y) and Papertrill (http://nightstandreads.papertrell.com/id004005007/Leaving-Australia-Before-the-After). Bottom line; Randy was supposed to be doing a road-trip with us in Australia. He was going to visit in the 1980s when I was a single-parent, in the 1990s when I was doing academic stuff; and again in the 2000s in between Narda and I living around the world. He did visit us in New York City in 2010 and I went white water rafting in Oregon with him a few years later but he was going to visit us in Australia. Today we are taking a few weeks road-trip north. It may be a week or two or longer. The idea is that we will go to Coober Pedy and maybe further. This is that trip that Randy was going to go on with us. And in my mind, did.
We decided to take a trip to the ‘outback’; Coober Pedy seemed a good place to start. Peter said, ‘Pt Augusta, stop for petrol, then you’ll make it in a day’. Ha!
We spent the whole day packing, checking lists, tidying up the house and finally on the road. Our first stop was Owen. A flat little town, near Hamley Bridge, made up for a grid of about 16 squares. Only about an hour up the road. I think if we are to retire to a county town, (who knows) it has to be flat…for the bikes.
Then we realised that we had forgotten LOTS of things. Bike helmets, bike lock, all my chargers for the computer and everything else, the good torch, the HDMI cable…..OK, so the next town had to have a Kmart, to get all this stuff cheap. Which was Pt Pirie.
Here we are all together finally doing that road-trip, just a short one, in Australia, that I said we would do one day. Narda and I sleeping in the caravan and you sleeping in our truck. That may not sound very groovy but with half of the back seat down we had planned to put a mattress in the back and it would be comfortable. I know we are in winter and we could end up in the outback where the nights are getting cold but we are used to free-camping and just rugging up. Tonight, we have hot water bottles being the wussies that we are. Last year when we camped in the snowy mountains it did get to zero with forecast of snow and we just put on more layers and we were fine. Then again, we may buy a tent. I once lived in a tent behind Randy’s house in Hawaii in 1980 for a month.
We said we would leave Wednesday but here we are already settled in by Tuesday night at our first stop. This has happened a few times in the past. Once we decide to do something off we go, why wait? People tell us they make it to Cooper Pedy in a day, like driving to Melbourne, only a thousand Ks away. We are planning to take a week. For example, this morning we said at seven am we should be on our way well before noon, perhaps as early as ten am. We drove out at 3:30. Not sure what took us so long; we just fiddle and fart around too much. Then when we did get to here, embarrassingly an hour and a half from home, we realised we have forgotten things: our bike helmets along with the bike lock and lights. Narda’s Mighty Bright light she reads with every night, year after year. We forgot several other basics too. We have become old space cases but not too worry. Here we are. Of course, I remembered to download several videos to become familiar with our new camera, Nikon D7500 – which is ideal for us though some have complained it has only one card slot and is not much different than the D7200 but of course it is, with the same inner workings as the top camera, D500. The video is the important part and this is tops for that recording in 4K. We were lucky to even get this camera before we left as the release date for Australia was the end of June and the local shop rang two days ago and said it had arrived. Whoopee. And we discovered that the USB cord for the camera also fits Narda’s phone and my monitor that sends information back to the doctor every day about my implanted defibrillator/pace maker. I had left that plugged in next to my bed at home. So we are all charged up and ready to sally forth.
We have been using a free-camping book for the past couple of years. On this side road to a back road of a country road is this town called Owen. I wanted to get off a/any main roads as soon as possible. I know there are a lot of country roads in the States but this is different. Tonight, I was thinking of how there are so many people in the world, so many with so many issues/difficulties but here there is no one. Here at the Owen Oval – free camping place. It is a bit spooky, being so dark, so quiet, and we just watched an episode of ‘Fargo’ (# 8, season three) which was a bit off-centre. Narda thought she heard some sounds outside – but after investigating we realised it was just the telly and some wind outside sounds.
Owen is a bit small. Sixteen blocks square is the whole town; four streets in each direction. And being of this size makes Owen one of the larger towns in this part of the Adelaide Plains area. We are surrounded by the towns of Stockyard Creek, Salter Springs, Giles Corner and Hamley Bridge. This area made the world news two years ago when bush fires wiped out huge areas and people died; Pinery is only 10 Ks away and the fires became known as the Pinery fire (at least 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres) of scrub and farmland were burned. I personally was teaching at a school in the area that day and our school was surrounded by fire. A scary day). There are seven churches from the 1800s in the area so when the folks were not doing bush stuff I supposed they hung out at churches; though there are several pubs too so the folks could stagger from one extreme to the other. The town of Owen had two churches in the 1800s which combined in the 1980s.
Like so many towns, Owen grew due to the railway. See our blog about Tarlee (https://neuage.me/2017/04/05/terowie/) for the low down of a larger rail town. 1880 was when the train chuffed up to the local newly built station. Because of different track sizes (Adelaide had a broad gauge 5’ 3” and the system in these paddocks was narrow gauge 3’ 6” – obviously engineers had a communicational issue, they should have used 3D printing and made all the tracks the same.) there had to be a central place where the two tracks would meet and Owen got the guernsey. A nice little town to stay in…
What a quiet place. We easily found the oval which was listed in our free camp guide, off the highway onto Railway Terrace and down a dirt road behind the grain silos
– there was no one else camping/caravanning so we could run amok, ever what that means. There was a toilet block and a large rain water tank so why pay for a campsite that would have children, noise (those two go together) and charge $40? We didn’t need the electricity as we are getting more self-sufficient with the ability to charge our laptops on the car battery our phones on the caravan battery along with watching telly and for a backup we have solar panels. The only thing that will push us into a paid site will because it is too cold and we want to plug in and have heat and electric blankets and I could use my vitamiser (I made four days of blended gook before we left so I can go four days at a time without going into super-smoothie withdraws).
The next day – this morning, we rode the length and breadth of Owen, all four streets. We took a chance because we had left our bike helmets at home and there are steep fines in South Australia for riding without a helmet (there are steep fines for everything in this nanny state) but as there were few folks in sight the chance of a police patrol driving through Owen was extremely remote.
We did get on the road by 11 and did the long drive to Port Pirie almost an hour and half north. So far we have taken three days to put one-hundred kilometres behind us. This is what retirement is about; we are where we are and we are not in a hurry to get to where we are not yet. I have come up with a new line; not sure where or when we can use it, ‘DON’T JOIN THE CIRCUS, BE THE CIRCUS’. I will work on it. (you kidding me? You’ve done that ever since I’ve known you) Maybe that will the title of my next novel, well, my first novel.
It has a bit of a bad reputation, with all the lead pollution and concerns about children with high levels of lead in the blood. So we were surprised that it is actually a nice little port town. Great bike riding, flat. We found a bridge that took us over to an island surrounded by mangroves, with a great view of the smelter works. We also discovered the one free camping place at an oval. A nice spot, very quiet. The came the footballers for their Wednesday night training. We were kinda glad that we had not parked behind the goal posts. It was fine, they did not bother us and we slept well.
We had a little minor crisis where we needed the internet, so we nipped out to MacDonalds for brekkie. I had thought about ringing Jane, who had move to Gladstone some years back, and was planning to swing by for a coffee. But I had no phone number. So here I was, lining up at Makkas, in Pt Pirie, for my free seniors coffee, and there she was, standing right next to me. She joined us for breakfast and we had a nice chat about family, old times, and moving to the country. What are the odds!!!!
Watched the first episode of “the Leftovers”. Not sure yet.
We stopped here once many years ago when we were on the way to Port Augusta to see about a teaching job at the School of the Air; going to remote stations and checking on students around the Outback. The job involved a lot of 4-wheel driving in remote areas that would take a day at a time to get to. We wanted the job but I think they thought we were too old. In reality, it was probably for the best as we get lost quite easily and we have no remote outback driving survival skills. Also, due to not getting jobs as outback station teachers we applied for international teaching and spent three years in Dalian, China which was so much better than living and teaching in Australia.
Port Pirie is a smelter town – not sure what that means but it is heavy industry and there are issues with lead and there has been for a long time. We did learn at our stay here on our return trip that iron ore comes from Broken Hill by train and is smelted (not sure if that is the word, no internet where we are now). Four photos below show the city from the water side:
The first thing we did was go to K-Mart and get new bike helmets for $7 each and a five-bucks lock and chain.
We stayed at the local footy oval – listed in our free campsites guide, ‘Camps Australian Wide 8th edition’. Being unsure whether there would be footy practice with hordes of young men yelling and kicking balls, we went to a far corner amongst some bushes of the property. Narda having raised three footy playing sons thought there would be practice because it was on a Wednesday. Sure enough after dark – flood lights on – they were there and I was happy that I had a footy mum with me as I wanted to park next to the toilet block in back of the club rooms which would have been a nuisance.
Now we have made some progress, still only just up the road. We drove through Pt Augusta and then stopped at the roadside place called “Tent Hill” or something like that. Real outback style, red dirt, salt bush and we need to do a little 4 wheel driving to find a nice site. Knocked over a few shrubs to make our way.
Tent Hill Rest Area -32.241672, 137.545887 Stuart Highway Barndioota
‘The Wallerberdina station near Barndioota in the Flinders Ranges has been picked as the possible site for the nation’s first nuclear waste dump.’
We loved Tent Hill. So dark with galaxies and stars we rarely see due to city lights. It was quiet too, with a few road-trains throughout the night and three or four trains. I wanted to go for a night walk following a trail but then we thought what happens if the batteries of our torch (flashlight) fails, it was that dark, so we stayed inside our van and watched some horror flick to scare the poop out of us.
No, it’s not three trucks! They call them road trains and they thunder along pretty fast.
Overnight along the way – put up solar panels and Narda did laundry.
Fast becoming our favourite meal; frozen peas and carrots, fried Vienna sausages, and a yummy salad with spinach leaves and lots of blue cheese. Terrell has some vegetarian concoction there!
Drove couple of hours. We did one of the many roadside truck stops.
Narda found the best way to wash our ‘smalls’ was by filling a bucket, adding detergent, then let it bounce about in the caravan. By the time we got to our stop for the afternoon – night – next day, things were clean and hung out to dry. We used this method a few times though we did use a proper laundry machine once along the way for sheets, towels, pants, jumpers and life was good. And clean.
Next day we headed off at around 9; I did not sleep that well as we were worried about being completely cut off. No internet, no Vodaphone. I even though perhaps we should turn back and go to Eyre Peninsula instead. Well by the light of day, things look normal again, still no connections but it no longer mattered, and we continued on our way.
The next day (Friday, 16th June) we made quite decent progress. We stopped at Pimba; pulled into Spud’s Roadhouse, ate a meat pie and some potato flap things. There were so many caravaners there. Blimey, every grey nomad had hit the road.
Then we pulled into Woomera, which is still a town, and not dead. It has a school, functioning, a swimming pool, and a sort of museum and some lived in, normal houses.
Drove about three hours or less
The next stop was supposed to be a couple of hundred Ks short of Coober Pedy. We had a site in mind, but it took a while to find it. In the end we used the latitude/longitude coordinates successfully.
So here we are, another roadside stop, pretty littered. Some people are so revolting. The first thing I did was don some rubber gloves and clean up a bit, at least around were we were sitting. There is much less traffic now; the caravaners have ‘pitched their tents’ for the night, and the trucks have taken the turn off to Roxby Downs.
A favourite pastime in caravan parks is to sit with drink in hand in the afternoon and watch folks come in and park. OK, not everyone is good at it like Narda, we all know I never attempt it; but holy guacamole – seeing people do five, six, maybe a dozen tries at getting their caravan straight, it is such entertainment. You would think after being on the road for a while they would be good at it. Granted some are quite large – 25, 28 feet or more without the towbar, but why bring it to a caravan park until, well, one knows how to do it? I practice when we are in the bush with no one around but I have a long way to go. Granted I am young, only 69, 70 in August, but backing up with a trailer has never been my speciality; of course, we are still searching for what is. If you were with us Randy, I wonder if you would like a shot of backing up this thing we live in, into a tight spot. Our caravan is only 18 feet, 24 with the tow bar and a couple of tonnes. Narda gets it into a small area in our driveway at home something I may never attempt. Saying that, I can drive on a dirt track all day – unfortunately we got scratches on the side of our van from going too deep on the track back at Tent Hill Rest Area and we aren’t too pleased with that, but that is life in the fast lane.
Went to the Umoona Opal Mine and museum. Really worth the visit; it was free and had a lot of information. There was once an inland sea which covered vast areas in the centre of Australia – due to an ice age or some other reason – faulty mind and all – it all dried up. There are fossils and lot of photos and explanations about this, which I obviously do not remember but nevertheless it was all very cool. Next to the museum is the hotel, all of which is underground. There is a backpacker’s abode too so it is all very inexpensive. Except for the opals, some of which were in the $6 and $7 thousand-dollar range. I know little about opals though we have lots or a bag full of them at home. A collection from Narda’s father over the years. We all had something made with one of his opals; I had a tie clip, Narda some earrings and sisters and daughter-in-laws and sons all some thing or the other made with an opal. We once had a dude come and look at them but we have no idea whether he was a hustler or what so we kept them. They are mostly of the white kind which I gather are not worth as much as ones with colour.
There are about 3500 folks in Coober Pedy currently not counting all us caravan folks. There are a lot of caravans here; everywhere, it seems to be the main population that we saw, so the 3500 residents must for the most part be in their underground homes or at mines looking for opals. The dugouts that they live in have a constant temperature around 23C, which, considering it is in the mid to upper 40s in the summer (well over a hundred F), is lovely. A sign informs us that ’73 opal fields extend for a distance of 40 kilometres north and 15 Ks south of the township. 80% of the world’s opal is found in Coober Pedy – “the Opal Capital of the World”’. The pipes going up through the ground in the photo below are air vents for underground homes.
Finally on to Coober Pedy. It was a good, easy drive, only 200 Kms left to go. We pulled into the first caravan park, which also gave us a 10% discount as we have membership. So $31.50 per night. That’s OK, showers were hot, the place is dusty, and you have to buy water, but this is a desert. Bright sunny days, no clouds, and really cold nights. But tonight we have electric blankets!! Very nice.
This town is the weirdest place. Ramshackle, dusty, full of discarded trucks, and machinery. Also many lost looking Aboriginal people wandering around, some have a glass jar of opals, which they try to sell to tourists. I have yet to witness a sale. They look poor; sad sight.
But there is lots to see. Its very weirdness makes it interesting. Some of it looks like the set of Mad Max; actually I think it was. Today we did some tourist things, visited an underground house, called “Faye’s House”. This is a dugout built almost entirely by Faye herself, with the help of some friends. It’s quite big. She did eventually strike some great opal, as she dug deeper. In the 60’s , folks were using pick axes, not jack hammers. Hard to imagine doing that.
We also wandered through a very interesting museum/opal shop/ hotel/mine called Umoona. It was really beautiful; also no admission charge, which was a surprise.
Faye’s Underground Home – We did the tour, rated as #5 of top things to do in all of Australia. The basic story as I hopefully remembered correctly is that Faye came to Coober Pedy – forget why – and got a job as a cook and in the meantime started digging for opals. She was the first female to do so. After a while she started digging out her home by hand – back in the 1960s, and after ten-years she was finished. She did have help from two other women and the home was dug out more to have a couple of extra bedrooms. Apparently, they were party women – well they worked hard but also liked to party – and there is a wine cellar and an entertainment area. There is also a swimming pool attached outside – thus the windows. Of course, I have not explained this well but it is worth the tour.
Faye’s Underground House
We’ve been riding through the town on our bikes. Coober Pedy is built on the only hill in thousands of square Kms, and we chose this one to do our bike riding. Oh well, got some decent exercise. We also had lasagna at the local roadhouse. Their pasta night, $12, not bad at all.
Having eaten our evening meals and breakfast in the caravan for the past six days we chose to venture out. What seemed most reasonable was the Outback Bar and Grill (not to be mistaken with the Outback Steak House chain in the States) which was next door to our caravan park, The Opal Motel and Caravan Park. Being Sunday there was a $12 pasta night on the menu , a vegetarian and a dead animal lasagne. Both were quite good and included a salad. I know that it is against my low-carb diet but a break from it occasionally keeps me from rebelling against the whole bloody thing. As we have not eaten anywhere else since leaving home, except for Spuds back near Woomera (that was dreadful; for lunch, a few days back Narda had some sort of animal pie and I had two fried-dried potato things) we cannot compare it to any other eating hole, but we were content.
After dining out we thought we would really tie-one-on and have an evening at the casino and throw caution to the wind. We had seven dollars in change in the glovebox of our truck and we decided to spend it all, knowing we would not get any of it back. Our last gambling spree was in Las Vegas in 2005 when we lost all four-dollars we put into the slot machine and we have not gambled since. Not at casinos anyway, we bought houses in the States and Australia and kind of broke even but not at casinos. To make a long story short, we went to the Desert Cave Hotel complex in the centre of town. It looked quite fancy and we did not bring any fancy clothes (well we don’t own fancy clothes full-stop because we are now retired). And in fact, looked a bit daggy/not feral but maybe close/bogins) so we cautiously went in. This is the best place we have seen in this town for information and exhibits. Everything seems to be underground. Long tunnels – signs telling lots of stuff. We didn’t go into any of the shops, probably because they were closed but we wandered until the museum closed at 8 PM. We would recommend this as the place to visit; especially all the way down to the lowest level. There is a restaurant, Umbertos, where people looked better dressed than us eating in a much fancier place than we would have chosen. Nevertheless, there is no charge to see the exhibits and to wander through the tunnels and learn about the opal trip. BTW, there is a ‘casino’ which is really a gaming room, which has five or six pokies in it. By closing time of the museum/exhibits/tunnels we felt like going home and never did spend our gaming cash.
Back on the road again. This time we covered a bit more ground and drove about 250 Ks, heading for Lake Hart. It’s amazing, a large salt lake, completely still and devoid of birds. The ‘beach’ is actually a crust of salt, so I’m guessing the water is pretty shallow and very salty. But it’s beautiful!
Terrell has taken some amazing photos here; the salt, the incredible sunsets and our great camping position with the million dollar view! So far we have been left alone here, and there are lots of other good possies….but none as good as ours. So we decided to stay 2 nights. Today we went cycling around the track, occasionally getting bogged in thick soft red sand. That’s when we had to get off to walk. There is also a railway line running past us, along the lake. I think about 4 goods trains a day pass us, with lots of carriages. Something like 40, though we haven’t counted them.
The drive here was easy, with so many caravans on the road. The majority, by far…3 to one, are cars towing caravans. All the grey nomads heading north for the winter.
We shopped at the local and only supermarket to have enough supplies for four – six days of free camping. At the IGA market, which BTW has everything we could want; even all the healthy, organic, vegan/vegetarian stuff we (or at least me) crave and use to keep the physical shell plodding forward. But that was not what took me to the next level of consciousness; for the first time ever, in any supermarket anywhere I heard a Dylan song – ‘Positively Fourth Street’ – that just floated my boat. I have always related to that song and in actual fact was living in Greenwich Village and hanging out on Fourth Street in 1965 when this was released. My whole life just mellowed in front of me. Even Narda was singing it. It was akin to Paul on the road to Damascus – I saw the light. Not sure which aisle I was transfixed in but I do believe it was the health food one.
Needless to say, and Randy of course understands, after that metaphysical experience it was time to merge back with the mass-mind, the rest of society so to speak, we found the nearby dump point (I will not explain what that is – caravan people would know), got petrol, water (we had to pay for it, a dollar for 40 litres and spent a couple of bucks filling up the caravan, because of the shortage of water in this part of Australia), and by 10:30 am we were on the Stuart Highway headed back to Adelaide. We are planning our real trip which will be to Darwin and we will take a month for that then maybe go over to Western Australia, Perth, and back to Adelaide taking another month or two. The best time for this is between June and August as it is too hot other times. So that is our plan for next year. After three months in India from January to April. This year we may do another trip of a month in October when we get back from overseas. I think we are getting prepared for a more intense trip. Of course I will be 70, getting close to 71 next June… and being a mature person I will be making mature decisions, like let’s go way off the highway and wing it.
We arrived at Lake Hart @ 3:30, after changing drivers every hour as well as getting petrol half way. And taking photos of ourselves in restricted zones; Woomera is a missile testing space run years ago by the Yanks so it should be alright for me to be here.
OK, so we went less than 200 Ks and we took more than three hours but we are here now. Watching the sunset. Lake Hart is so cool. A lake in the middle of this part of the outback and salt. We found a rather secluded parking spot and rode our bikes to the lake. Between the railroad track and the lake is salt – layers of it. We have never walked on salt before and it is just groovy. Of course, we had to taste it and sure enough it tasted salty. As we learned back in Coober Pedy there was a huge inland lake hundreds of millions of years ago and there are still a few pockets of it today; this being one of them.
Oh and one other thing. Three times there has been an explosion on the horizon! The Americans at Woomera rocket range testing something. Bit of a mystery though. We will investigate. Watch this spot!
So far today there have been three large explosions. The largest was this morning @ about 11. Our camera was inside and I took too long to get the zoom lens out but I got these at 300 mm. There were two more with a few hours interval between booms and each was smaller than the one before. We rode bikes around the tracks for an hour and that was the excitement for today; well, except for, Narda deciding she didn’t like the carpet in the caravan anymore and ripped it up and carted it outside then made a bit of a fire to vanquish past growing microbes which created quite a smell in our peaceful fresh-air space of the Outback. Not to worry, we now have bare wood but no microbes good or bad colonizing on the floor. Not agreeing or disagreeing to the redecoration of our home I quietly sat and played/worked/created stuff in Photoshop and AfterEffects and Premiere and learned more about our new Nikon D7500.
We left Lake Hart at 9 am, stopping for our first coffee break at ‘Rangers View Rest Area’, 220 Ks along the way. This rest area has toilets and a great view. From the signs about the habitat we learned that some of these bushes go for decades without water, there are trees more than a thousand-years old (makes us feel a bit bad for driving over any of this stuff when we do off-road camping).
stopped at Port Augusta for lunch, Flinders Ranges in background – saving that for another trip.
To Port Pirie Globe Oval to camp by three pm. Here again. Did this place on the way north, exactly a week ago. We had planned to spend a couple to three weeks but it looks like we will be about ten-days. The weather has been great, no rain, sunny warm days about 20 degrees Celsius and cold nights at about 4 – 6 degrees (close to freezing in Fahrenheit reading). We find ourselves getting up on the late side of seven in the morning, once we have the gas burner on to have coffee and a bit of a bath the van warms a tad. We have hot water bottles that still are warm in the morning, which is about 8 – 10 hours of keeping us warm buried under blankets and a quilt. We sometimes watch a video in bed and other times wrapped in a blanket but by 9:30pm we are either asleep or close to it. We did not set up for TV as there is so little worth watching. We have some of the latest movies we collected at our last stay in Cambodia couple of months ago, but for the most part we watch TV series. We were able to download this week’s episodes of ‘Better call Saul’, ‘’Veep’, and of course ‘Fargo’ with the park’s free WIFI, which made staying at the caravan park worth the money; along with heating our van, having electric blankets all night, showers; the little comforts in life. Lately we are watching ‘The Leftovers’ which is a bit ridiculous, though we have now started season two and read that season three was filmed in Melbourne so we will stick with it. For the most part, it is dark and quiet at night, even here in Port Pirie. Here now at the oval at 5:30 there is footy practice – 5:30 and the sun has already set. Today is the shortest day of the year, probably the longest in the north. Imagine watching something like the ‘Leftovers’ and it is dark and quiet outside. Once in a while Narda will say, ‘what is that sound?’ so being the protective husband I put on my robe (to cover up my PJs covered with monkeys – have to look a bit macho in the face of a threat) and go outside making a loop around the van and saying ‘I think it was just the wind dear’ or ‘perhaps an animal’. It was worse when we were watching ‘The Walking Dead’ and camping in remote areas – especially near train tracks. That was spooky. ‘The Leftovers’ is just dumb. It is by the same dude that wrote ‘Lost’. We were a bit addicted to that one.
Once in India we were staying at a resort and after four days of watching for hours a day someone checked on us as we had been in our room so long, seeing if we were OK. We are not so bad anymore usually not watching more than two of an episode in the evening. Still, camping in remote areas or as now at the local footy oval in perhaps a not-too-good part of town; it can get creepy. Not as bad as a few days ago, when there was no phone coverage or radio as we spent three days too far from any town. Often where we camp there will be no one else within sight so if some cannibals or thieves or Republicans realise we do not have healthcare insurance decide to do the bad on us we are a bit stranded.
To finish off with our daily life on the road, we start dinner early. The easiest is sweet potato and spinach boiled and mashed, (Dutch stampot!) a salad, mushrooms or some veggie burger, schnitzel, or other happy-animal-not-being-eaten product and Narda has road-kill or something similar. We eat well; I have my low-carb grainy/nutty bread I made back in Adelaide, and low-carb – sugar-free cookies, and my low-carb seeds and nuts breakfast with a smoothie of yogurt, kale (I use powder on the road as my smoothie is really a shake as we don’t have electricity), protein powder, coconut drink, spirulina, and whatever else I can shake in the mix. Narda has more of what she refers to as a normal diet (and I always thought mine was the normal diet). Randy of course would be eating road-kill or whatever else was fished out of the meat section, but it would have to be grass fed and organic. Our solar panels give enough to keep our laptops and TV charged and our gas stove takes care of the cooking and if we are too cold, it does warm the place up a bit. Life is good.
Next morning, back on the road after two nice quiet days at the salt lake. We are now camped in Pt Pirie at the free site on the oval, and yes it has been a week, and the footballers are training again. They probably think we never left. Just chatted on the phone ( WhatsApp…who knew) with Bren who is currently in Pai, Northern Thailand, enjoying his summer break.
We put up our shower tent today as we decided to stay here at the oval for another night. Having hot showers is not too difficult. We have a ten-litre tank we put on the stove and get the water to about 40C and it has a shower hose and that’s it. Clean hair and bodies. Taking a shower while people play outside. Feels kind of strange to be naked in a tent and hear people kicking a footy nearby but the result is good. This is the first time we set up our tent on this trip, now I think we will more often.
We had breakfast out this morning. Something we rarely do, but a break from my seeds and grains is OK once I suppose. And we have saved money and our budget line is looking good so I thought ‘what the heck, I will take the Mrs out for breaky’. So we rode our bike to McDonalds where I had an egg and cheese muffin for $3.60 and the free senior’s coffee (they don’t do that in the States, but in Australia if one purchases a three dollar item they get a free coffee; if a senior. And surprise, surprise they never ask me for ID to see how old I am. Some places give a large cappuccino but here it is just a regular, which is still a $3.50 value) and Narda got the deluxe breakfast; a muffin with meat and a piece of lettuce (and yummy tomato chutney) and an egg for $6 and a free senior’s coffee.
So, Randy. I am happy you came on this trip with us. Last night I laid awake for quite some time thinking how everyone from my past is dead or I can’t find. I mean people I have had experiences with outside of Narda’s family (who, by the way, I have really enjoyed for the past seventeen years). I have contact with two people that I knew long ago (Marta, my brother’s girlfriend and who wrote a book about him, who I knew from her visits to my brother in about 1963 and Kathleen who I knew from about 1964 and who could have been my first girlfriend – she remembers me as that, so it could be correct. I saw both a few months back when we were in New York) and I am friends on Facebook with a friend from New Orleans in 1973 but I find it frustrating I cannot connect with anyone else and say ‘remember when…’? So, it is amazing Randy, though dead, has decided to come on this trip. I wanted to bring a few other dead people (my son, Leigh, my brother, my other best friend after Randy, who died in Guatemala a few years ago, couple of people I was in a cult order with in the 1970s, some tripping friends from the 1960s and a few others I have had some in-depth experiences with) but no one would join me, so it is just Narda and Randy and me here exploring the Outback.
23 June Friday
Then 2 more nights at the ‘free’ camping ground in Pt Pirie. As we were about to leave, we discovered two things; 1. Our battery was completely flat and 2. We were not supposed to camp here. So for the battery we rang the RAA, who were there in ½ an hour, pretty good. As we were waiting for him, a council guy came by and informed us that we should not be camping here. He said some neighbours had complained. He was very nice about it though. I guess when the locals saw our shower tent, and all the washing hanging on a line strung between 2 trees, they might have thought that we had moved there permanently. Oh well. We did get 3 good nights there.
We are bright and early, make that cold and early. Six AM, could not sleep more, stayed rugged up for another half-hour, then decided to go to wherever the next place is. Looking through our free camping guide another place looks fine and less than an hour away so by 8:30 we are fed, washed, and ready to drive off. As usual we check to see if all is ready and as Narda is driving first today I stand in back waiting for the blinker and break lights check. Narda is soon outside the truck saying the battery was flat. How could that be? Oops. We left the van plugged into the car and while blissfully watching the next two episodes of ‘The Leftovers’ (still think it is a bit lame though season two may be a tad bit better than season one, though can’t say why, perhaps the actors have had a season to practice working together and are more chilled. Spoiler Alert: now half way through season three, we love it, like ‘Lost’ more and more, and filmed in Australia; how good is that?) and charging the laptop and phones and having lights on drained the car battery. After an hour, the RAA dude showed up and got us fired up.
Fortunately, perhaps, we were packed up and ready to go as a council person stopped by to say we were not supposed to be camping where we are. The place to stop was along the roadside in front of the oval, not in back amongst the trees. He said a resident on the street behind us complained. What? Why would someone complain that we are camping? Surely, we were not bringing the tone of the neighbourhood down, it is a bit on the feral side already. Maybe it was our string of laundry between trees with socks and undies they didn’t like, or was it me showing Randy around and telling him about South Australia. Bunch of losers worried about our lot out there. Nevertheless, we said we were waiting for the RAA and the council dude said there was a good place to camp alongside a lake ten kilometres out of town so we will go there next time.
If this had happened a few days ago when we were at Lake Hart, out of reach of phone coverage we would have been in a bit of a bother. We will change our carrier when back in Adelaide. We have been with Virgin on the Optus Network for the past three years, and not being so far from towns has been fine. I pay $30/month for two gigs of data making it quite reasonable, but if it does not work in the Outback what good is it? Asking others who had full coverage in the Outback with internet and phone and they had Telstra. One lady, older than me, who was trekking past where we camped (in the image at the top of this scribble – on the dirt path) taking photos of plants and bugs said she uploaded her photos from her Canon to Facebook as she took them. Damn, I am behind the curve. I bought this Nikon D7500 because of SnapBridge “to have a permanent WIFI on the camera to upload as you go anywhere in the world” they said, “even without being on a mobile plan”. I cannot get the bloody thing to work and will be hanging out at “Diamonds Camera” in Adelaide where I bought it a few days before we left on this trip, until they have me online. I am sure I will be OK in Denmark in a few months, but we are planning to spend three maybe four months wandering India at the beginning of 2018 and I must be an absolute pro with this camera and be able to upload on the go by then.
Because the battery was so flat we drove a couple of hours to Blythe and are now set up at the footy oval in town for another night of free camping. This is our fifth night in a row without connecting to power or paying to stay so that is a record beating our two four night stays before going to a powered site. The solar panel is out but a cloudy day is not going to give us much but we should have enough for TV tonight. As we got here before noon we have a day to ride our bikes around town. As many other towns we have driven through, Blyth has houses for sale on every block. There are two churches: one is a private home the other an art gallery. A small one room library where we bought a new book which is a story about the Outback for later reading and there is a small deli where we bought milk and a finger bun (for non-Australians, a finger bun is a roll with raisins and icing, I rarely eat even a bit due to my low-carb, non-sugar, boring-to-a-fit diet, but I split one with Narda putting butter on it instead of peanut butter; which is typically what a Yank does with any bread like substance – but Narda says, ‘you’re not putting peanut butter on it are you?’ so I didn’t, putting my American tastes into a box for future reference). There is also a hotel which we visited in hopes of a good meal this evening but their prices were quite high so we are back to the van for sweet potato/spinach mash and my veggie burger and Narda’s who knows what sausage like sculpture desperately attempting to pass itself off as food and a salad. I am sure Randy would eat that kind of stuff, he is Polish/French and even in the 1970s as I was perfecting my vegetarianism he was eating more meat than he had on his body. A common line from me was, ‘you’re not going to eat that are you?’ and a common line from him was, ‘you’re not going to eat that are you?’ and to think that I was once a tofu and tofu products manufacturer for eight years here in South Australia, and now I avoid soy as much as possible. Who knows? Maybe one day after fifty years or so not eating meat I will wake up and just eat nothing else. After all I am not doing it for religious reasons, I think I just have always been like this. I like animals and believe for the most part they are smarter than me so that could be why. And for fish, after living in China for three years it is obvious why I won’t eat fish. There was a slight disagreement between Randy and me back in December (2016) when we were living together and I took over cooking as I usually do, not trusting others cooking so much, and he said he would stop smoking if I started eating meat. Narda says I agreed, but I don’t remember doing so. Randy needed to stop smoking, he was quite ill with cancer and several other things and I wanted him to stay alive; at least so he could do this trip we are now on in his body and not by spirit alone, but me to stop eating meat? – not sure about that. Of course, now if that was really the choice I would have. He did stop smoking then died a couple of months later. I am still a vegetarian and I am sitting outside writing this.
The last time he drove us was along the coast of Oregon last December from Eugene up to Portland. He was puffing on his vaporizer pipe (legal these days in Oregon) and driving 70 miles-per-hour in the rain and fog. We were too terrified to say anything so we didn’t.
Now we’re almost back in civilization. This area is called the mid-North, full of rolling low hills and farmland. Originally settled by the Germans, just as they settled the wine country in the Barossa and Clare Valley. So we found another free spot at the Blyth oval. We’re the only ones here so we’ll stay for a bit. Terrell’s asleep now; lazy Friday afternoon.
I sent a message to my higher Self but my higher Self said ‘refer to lower self’.
We are sitting here reading the owner manual to our caravan. OK, so we have had it for more than a year and here we are, after running out of power, and other minor annoyances, finding out stuff.
24 June Saturday
We were bundled up watching ‘The Leftovers’ and again in the middle of a bit of a scary scene the TV went off. Everything did. We had no power left. I had thought the two-hour drive from yesterday would have charged up the van’s battery but it must just have charged up only the truck’s battery. As yesterday was our first cloudy day in ten-days we did not get much solar. End result, no power. Wow this would have really sucked in a more remote area. We still had gas so we went to bed with hot water bottles. This morning I put the solar panel out first thing as it was a sunny day. We also discovered that there were no footy games today here at the Blyth Oval where we were camped. We asked someone yesterday and they were off playing Clare meaning no one at the club house. I found several outdoor power points and now have my laptop charging, Narda’s phone, my phone, and my defibrillator/ pace maker will get charged. There is also a nice large sofa and a carpet in this enclosed area I am getting powered up in. Thanks to the Blyth Footy Club for keeping us going. As it is ten am there is still a chance people will show up and use the clubrooms but hopefully by the time they do everything will be charged up. There is activity around the place, kids on bikes, motor scooters and it looks like in the next paddock area over they are setting up for lawn bowls but no one has come into my little covered area in front of the footy club. There is a dump point, rain water, and a toilet so we can preserve the integrity of our own.
So life is good. Life is free. The fact that we are now only an hour and half from home shouldn’t matter. I feel like when I was a kid in Clifton Park, New York and I would camp in the back of our farm amongst the pine trees. I knew I was, at least within eye sight, out in the wilderness, but in fact I was only a run to home if a bear or whatever animals they have in Upstate New York began ripping my tent in the middle of the night. I guess I am really only a bit removed from being a television-surfing-the-discovery-channel-explorer. Maybe after next month when I turn seventy I will become tougher and more risk taking. We don’t really take risks now. We just do dumb stuff, like charge the van’s battery with the car battery and have it go flat, or drive into a place we can barely get out of, or leave our cables and things we need at home.
After a family meeting, realising the choice was going home or staying another night of free-camping without electricity and not enough sun for the solar panels to help which would mean no TV watching and with darkness surrounding us by 5:30, we made the big decision of going half an hour down the road to a powered site. Here we are in Snowtown, twenty bucks for power, hot shower, and as we are train lovers we watched three long trains go by behind us in the past hour. We are the only ones camped here, we are about the only ones in town. Saturday afternoon, riding our bikes around the five or six square block town and nothing was open and there were no people around. For history buffs Snowtown became famous for their bodies-in-barrels caper – there is even a movie about it (2011 available). Bottom line is that there were 12 victims between 1992 – 1999, with about four being involved. The trial was one of the longest and most publicised in Australian legal history. We were told by a dude working in a garden in the park we are in that there is a good feed at the footy club a few feet away from us (we are camped at the footy oval) on Saturday nights so we are off to find something different than our usual mashed sweet potatoes and spinach. No doubt I will be lucky to find something to eat but Narda and Randy will luck out. We’ll tell all when we get back.
Our final night on the road. Snowtown is known to Australians as the place where a mass murder occurred. The Snowtown murders were a series of 12 murders committed by 3 men between August 1992 and May 1999. The bodies were found hidden in barrels.
Hard for a town to shake this off.
We found a nice powered site in the Community Gardens, and joined a whole groups of locals for a teas in the hall, catered by volunteers, probably raising money for something. A nice warm night in the caravan because of the power (we used our electric blankets) , then home th next day, only another 1 ½ hours of driving.
So, there we were, a good feed for sure. Dot’s Kitchen every Saturday night @ the Snowtown Footy Club. As expected I had the salad bar which was better than some pub’s salad bar but nothing spectacular except for seven-bucks I can’t complain. Narda had a meat thingy for nine dollars and we were filled and had a good evening out. Eighty-seven percent of the people, or more, were older than us. It reminded me of church social meals I got dragged off to at the Clifton Park Methodist Church when I was too young to fight my way out and find food elsewhere. We shared a table with a couple who were on the road too and they had many interesting stories.
It is the Community Club House. Looking on the wall at all the trophies for everything from darts to footy to lawn bowls and plaques and photos that date back to the 1920s, I am intrigued and write down some of the awards. For example, there is a photo of the ‘Champions of Champions, regional B Lower North Snowtown Bowling Club, 1934’ with a happy group of chaps proudly holding their trophy. Does anyone remember them? Was this the highlight of their life? Do their grandchildren tell other grandchildren that back in 1934 a family member, or perhaps a friend of a friend of a family member once was on the Snowtown Champion of Champions team? How important are our achievements?
25 June Sunday
We left Snowtown at 10 am and got home about 12:30, put the caravan through a car wash, and that is it. We had told folks we would be away for about three weeks, then decided to make it two. Once we were on the road we got home twelve days later. We live in the moment and the moment got us to this moment and it was all good.
When we got home the rain began. It was a great trip.
The idea was that we were going to take Randy to Melbourne to see my son Sacha then to Sydney and put him on a plane back to Eugene. Sorry that this is not going to happen. Sacha and I have our surname because of Randy. Back in 1980, living with Randy and others in Hawaii I was changing my name for reasons that are in my e-book and Randy said, ‘you think you are such new age people, change to that’. I replied that it sounded tacky, Terrell NewAge but after a study of numerology and doing an astrological chart of his suggestion I found that by replacing the ‘w’ with a ‘u’ I would have a much better time of it so I became Terrell Neuage. What I discovered quite quickly was that I definitely was not a new age person so coming close to that term was a mistake. I spent the next twenty-years rather miserable, so numerology for surnames sucks to say the least. Of course, the past seventeen years since being with Narda have been great but I doubt that was due to being Neuage.
We have five weeks before we are off again. Next time we write here will be in August when we go on a Baltic Cruise, spending my seventh birthday in St. Petersburg, Russia, then six weeks in Denmark. We are planning to go camping again in November for five or six weeks, maybe heading toward Western Australia.
No matter where I go, Randy, I will miss you. Yes, the person all the way to the right is Randy; a combination of a hippie, individual, non-conformist, a metaphysical dude of the first order. A new age person who completely lived life on his own terms.