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Coober Pedy Caravan Trip


13/06/2017 A combination of Narda’s and Terrell’s thoughts and images

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.

Dear Randy…

Tent Hill Camping Area South Australia

Tent Hill Camping Area South Australia

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…

Owen free camping…

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

Owen, South Australia

Owen, South Australia

– 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).

Owen free camping

Owen free camping

14/06 Wednesday

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.

Port Pirie

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:

Port Pirie

Port Pirie

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.

Port Pirie, Globe Oval

15 June Thursday

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

Tent Hill Rest Area -32.241672, 137.545887 Stuart Highway Barndioota

Tent Hill

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.

In South Australia, road trains up to 53.5 metres (176 ft) are only permitted on the Stuart Highway and Olympic Dam Highway in the Far North.

In South Australia, road trains up to 53.5 metres (176 ft) are only permitted on the Stuart Highway and Olympic Dam Highway in the Far North.

No, it’s not three trucks! They call them road trains and they thunder along pretty fast.

Don’t worry, he’ll feel the train vibrations in his buttocks!

16 June Friday

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!

evening meal; vegetarian on the left, roadkill on the right

evening meal; vegetarian on the left, roadkill on the right

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. 

17 June Saturday

Woomera

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.

Woomera township is part of an Australian Defence Force base (RAAF Base Woomera) which, along with the Woomera Test Range (WTR), forms the larger entity known as the "Woomera Range Complex" (WRC). The Range was first established in support of the Anglo-Australian Joint Project. This cold-war project focussed on the development of long-range weapons systems, principally to counter the growing intercontinental ballistic missile threat from the former Soviet Union.

Woomera township is part of an Australian Defence Force base (RAAF Base Woomera) which, along with the Woomera Test Range (WTR), forms the larger entity known as the “Woomera Range Complex” (WRC). The Range was first established in support of the Anglo-Australian Joint Project. This cold-war project focussed on the development of long-range weapons systems, principally to counter the growing intercontinental ballistic missile threat from the former Soviet Union.

Drove about three hours or less

Between Woomera and Coober Pedy

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.

Coober Pedy

Overnight Coober Pedy Opal Caravan Park

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.

Coober Pedy

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.

18 June Sunday

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.

Faye's Underground Home

Faye’s Underground Home

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.

Desert Cave Hotel

Desert Cave Hotel

19 June Monday

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.

Lake Hart, South Australia

Lake Hart, South Australia

 

20 June Tuesday

Day at Lake Hart

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.

Woomera morning test

Woomera morning test

21 June Wednesday

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).

Rangers View Rest Area

Rangers View Rest Area

stopped at Port Augusta for lunch, Flinders Ranges in background – saving that for another trip.

Bird Lake, Port Augusta

Bird Lake, Port Augusta

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.

22 June Thursday

Pt Pirie

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.

 

Port Pierie Globe Oval

Port Pierie Globe Oval

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.

Blyth Football Club

Blyth

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.

Blyth Football Club

Blyth Football Club

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.

Snowtown

Snowtown

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?

Dot’s Kitchen every Saturday night @ the Snowtown Footy Club

Dot’s Kitchen every Saturday night @ the Snowtown Footy Club

 

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.

Randy, Terrell, Narda

Randy, Terrell, Narda

THE VIDEO FOR THIS IS AT https://youtu.be/le0kERcvp38

Arcoona Station

Arcoona Station

outback sunsets

outback sunsets

“Coburg’s Earthmoving is serving Yabbies”

 30 April –  2017 somewhere in Australia

Monday morning, we had the big breakfast with eight family members and my two mentors; Maggie and Mabel. As is usually the case the eight family members sat around at the table talking and Maggie and Mabel and I went outside to play. When those adults came outside Maggie and Mabel complained that they were not paying them attention as they raced up and down our miniature racecourse then eventually one adult (not counting whatever I am) watched. Maggie yelled out ‘everyone look!’ so she managed to get a larger but not complete audience, though their father was inside, probably watching footy or whatever young Aussie males do.

When we got tired of the adult non-attention and outside we did the usual thing, computers. Maggie at age five likes the games but I am trying to steer her toward programming and Photoshop. Mabel is starting to use Photoshop, a few months ago, in Washington D.C., Liam, age eighteen months, give or take a month, had his first lesson in Photoshop… so bottom line, who wants to hang out with adults who no doubt are talking about politics when they can hang out with younger humans who want to play?We told everyone that we were leaving Tuesday but by Monday afternoon we started packing the caravan to drive to Melbourne. We had booked in a caravan park for Friday – Sunday in Melbourne giving us five days to get there. Five days for 1000 kilometres should be a couple hundred a day. That is about two or three hours driving. We don’t go very fast with Narda liking to stay around 90 Ks an hour and getting anxious with me comfortable at 100-110, so to maintain equilibrium in marriage I try to stay around 90. Not sure why but we took a long time packing and did not leave until after four pm. About an hour away we got to Truro Roadside stop. Roadside stops are fine and there are many listed in our free-camping book, “Camps 8”. The only problem is that on a main road, it is noisy from trucks all night, which was the case with the Truro Roadside stop.

Looking up Truro we find that it is known for a spate of killings; about eight in a few weeks a few years back and of course that is always what you want to read about when camping in a dark place alongside a highway outside of a small town. We watched the movie ‘Selma’ and I didn’t think about the serial killings again; until I awoke at two in the morning. We drove on the road that Martin Luther King and his mates walked to Selma which was the basis of the movie a few years ago, giving us the feeling that we were part of something that had happened some time ago that changed the southern mindset for a while.

As we approached the Victorian border we saw the ominous sign, “no fruit or vegetables in the Riverland or an on the spot fine of $350 applies”. We had a large bucket full in the van. Damn. So being thrifty and conscious retirees, we pulled over into the next parking bay, turned the gas on, and boiled the tomatoes (yummy tomato soup), the sweet potatoes, broccoli and something else green (yummy stampot….it’s a Dutch thing) and the apples (yummy appelmoes…another Dutch thing). So congratulating ourselves and feeling very smug, we drove past the sign and the bin where we should put our precious produce (an American thing), and happily ate for free for the next 3 days; leaving money in the budget for more Crispy Crème Donuts.

We were up bright and early (and not killed by anyone, which was pleasing to us) and continued our epic journey to Melbourne. Perhaps it is not epic mileage-wise as we recently did a round-the-world, four-month, trip, but epic in the sense that every moment is epic or could be… or possibly part of an epic-experience that we call our life.

Coburg, another dying town. Terrell and I have decided that what Australia needs is to spend lots of money on trains, and revive all these lovely country towns. Fill the country with a maze of trains. Some could be high speed, connecting small towns with cities and employment. Terrell decided that he will be the mayor of one of these towns, and I can be the post mistress. Hmm. And Coburg can open up a dedicated yabbie store instead of leaving it to the earthmoving store. There were 3 general stores in the past we discovered on our exploration using our bikes, each with their own speciality: pizza, petrol and other general goods. Two of them now boarded up.

And yet there was a beautiful riverside park in Coburg, welcoming ‘grey nomads’ to park there for ‘a small donation’. There were many caravans and RVs there.  The park was great alongside the Murray River, with some amazing scenery, wildlife, old gum trees, tracks for cycling and grassy areas for camping.

A source of happiness for me is waving to the other drivers with caravans on the back.  When they wave back, I smile. It’s complicated though. You have to be careful not to be offended if they don’t wave back. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the driver is too young and too trendy. Or perhaps their rig is just so much superior to ours. Or perhaps they are concentrating on their driving, with a huge Mac truck tail-gating them. So there it is, small things in our life.

Our next night was at Kings Billabong camping area 8 km south-east of Mildura. Mallee Country outside of Mildura. For our friends, not familiar with Aussie stuff, a billabong is an oxbow lake, an isolated pond left behind after a river changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a creek or river changes, leaving the former branch with a dead end. Wikipedia. Mallee Country is an informally defined region of north-western Victoria with Mallee trees like in the picture below.

We buy Mallee roots for our fireplace as it is slow burning. If Mallee roots are really your thing, there is a contest every year for the world’s largest. See; ‘Guinness World Record officials have put a little town in north-west Victoria on the map — thanks to a very big root’ (of course to Australians ‘root’ has a different meaning so if you’re here from overseas be careful with some terms: Root (verb and noun): synonym for f*ck in nearly all its senses: “I feel rooted”; “this washing machine is rooted”; “(s)he’s a good root”. A very useful word in fairly polite company. http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html). The town staved off a challenge from the nearby community of Tooleybuc to take out the top honour’. Who knew? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-27/mallee-root-festival-sees-ouyen-take-out-big-record/8389516

We camped at Psyche Bend which is part of Kings Billabong Park campsite. The road becomes corrugated  soon into the park which rattles our truck, caravan, and us to smithereens. Being new at driving off-road we have always gone slow over them and put up with our bones clinking against each other. However, asking folks lately, it seems we should be driving much faster, like 60 – 80 Ks instead of 15 – 20 Ks, and deflating our tyres which we have never done which of course means having to pump them back up which means buying a pump of some sort. We have a lot to learn before doing the loop (driving around Australia, taking six-months to do which will involve lots of off-road, outback driving). We’re planning to use the upcoming month of June to get in some real outback driving by going to Coober Pedy (opal capital of the world) and getting off road north of there. Watch for out blog of that trip sometime in June, probably toward the end of June. Needless to say, we did not drive very far but took the first camping spot we saw along the billabong. Below is the road leading to our campsite.

The place was ideal for tent camping and not our 20-foot thing we pull behind our truck but Narda, being the great backer-upper that she is, got us out of an almost impossible spot the next morning. We rode our bikes over to Psyche Bend as the sunset to see the waterbirds (pelicans, swans, herons and ducks) on the large billabong. There were several other caravan campers there making the spot we chose ideal. We could turn up our TV or radio and not test how far from the caravan we could go before still hearing us. We started watching the classic movie ‘Manchurian Candidate’ but being so quiet and dark and a bit chilly we got under covers and were asleep probably about 8 pm. Early, with the sunrise, the cockatoos, galahs, rosellas, parrots, and honeyeaters all let us know we were in their area and seemingly were having conferences with the usual loud mouths and disagreements one hears at a conference.

Photos below are where we camped at Kings Billabong Park on the right and the photos on the left where we camped along the Murray the next night in Nyah.

Taking our time getting to Melbourne, not that I was putting off seeing Sacha who we get to see about twice a year, but that we just want to travel slow, we managed to drive almost three hours before our next stop which was at Nyah Recreation Reserve Camping Area, alongside the harness racing track and alongside the river. Not only is it free camping, though there is a contribution box which we added to but one can stay for seven-days unless there are horses running amok on the track. We found great bike riding areas there too. The town of Nyah is quieter (deader) than our last exploration of Terowie, South Australia, see: https://neuage.me/2017/04/05/terowie/. There is only one shop to purchase milk etc. open anymore and all the other once-were-shops are boarded up. Our bikes, not the cool racing bikes others have, but bikes we bought our first month of our three-year stay in China working at Dalian American International School and sent to Adelaide, take us to many off-beat places.

After four-nights/days of free-camping we stayed at the Golden Nugget caravan park in Bendigo. We bought solar panels so we could get power for longer but we ran out of water which is something we need to work on before taking our next trip. I got a power inverter so we could keep our computers going; I’m good with roughing it as long as I have my Nikon and laptop and smartphone charged and at the ready. We could probably go without watching a video or one of our Netflix series but a computer and camera are a must on every trip. I could even do without a phone for a day or two seeing that we do not use it as a phone, Sacha is the only one who ever rings me, but we get 3G/4G all the time and it makes me feel secure knowing I could see if WW III has started or not. I suppose we would just hide among the gum trees and camp for the next few years. For the most part we avoid the news when we camp except to troll the headlines every few days.

Along the way, passing vineyards in Victoria we saw most of them covered with plastic. If someone could tell us why that would be beaut as we could not figure it out.

Today in Melbourne, we are back in a trailer park (for those Aussies who don’t know what that is, watch an episode on Trailer Park Boys on Netflix). The community is amazing, everyone talks to everyone. And you don’t have to be cool or wealthy or intelligent or good looking. There’s the lady across the road from us who has 9 brothers. She came from Malta but will never go back “26 hours on the plane, are you kidding me, it’s too bloody far”. She has a grandchild I don’t think she has met yet. There’s the guy who is waiting for his son to pick him up. He doesn’t drive anymore because he had a stroke, He told his son it would be fine to drive “but just in the country” but his son is fine with picking him up.

Narda, the social one in our family of two travellers, manages to strike up conversations with folks quite easily. Me, I am happy talking to a tree or a magpie. Humans kind of confuse me. I tend to be the one making a meal, playing with some Adobe update, or taking photos of something I can use for my picture-textual-thingies that I have done since the mid-1960s.  (see https://plus.google.com/collection/E_6JaB, https://youpic.com/photographer/Neuage, or possibly https://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/ for some I have done recently). Narda, seems to collect the misfits in life (that is why she married me) and gathers interesting stories from them. I think she should start a series of ‘tales along the way’ or some such narrative title.

Below is the ever-growing Melbourne apartment buildings, these to have 96 stories. Apparently, they are throwing together another one soon (The project consists of a 317-metre-tall (1,040 ft) apartment building with 1,105 apartments over 100 floors) that will be bigger yet. Already, they have the tallest building (Eureka Tower – 297.3-metre, 975 feet), an apartment building, in the southern hemisphere.

We stayed at a caravan park in Melbourne (Springvale) for three days/nights; Sundowner Caravan Park http://sundownercp.com/ as that is the closest to Sacha’s home. Melbourne is lacking in caravan parks and there definitely is no free-camping anywhere near. Sundowner was not as good as some places ($33/night which is cheap for Melbourne) that we have paid for in that there was no Wi-Fi but the hot showers are nice compared to a cold wash-up in our caravan. Also, plugging into electricity is good as our 12V caravan will not run my 1000W smoothie maker but does charge the computer, lights, fridge (though the fridge runs colder when on gas) and TV and radio. When plugged in we can also put on the heater making camping a luxury on a cold night. I made four-days of smoothies when we started and again I made that much to get us home. Being on a low-carb diet my kale, hemp seed, almond milk (yes, I soak my almonds then take off their skins to make my own milk), protein powder (pea protein), fruit, sprouts, yogurt, (we make our own yogurt every day too) and whatever else is laying about is my main nutritional intake. I make my own low-carb cookies and bread too which is fine because we have a gas oven. Along with vinegar (the one with ‘the mother’) and olive leaf oil extract every day, and of course no meat, I seem to keep my body going though Narda thinks I’m a bit high maintenance.

Three days with Sacha as always is good. For those who know him (he is not on Facebook or I believe he is but he won’t tell me what name he is using in fear I will embarrass him which of course is what parents have children for) he is doing well; thinking of starting a family with his partner of the past fifteen-years, still doing music stuff with a room full of recording stuff, and working for Melbourne Council with troubled youth and he is very happy. What more could a parent want? Oh, and he has a new car that he bought a week earlier, very sporty and fast, so he took us up into the hills outside of Melbourne for a tour.

We left Melbourne and stayed at Lake Bolac in a rain storm. We found a place away from others (there were three others camping in the area) and settled in early. Even with the rain we were quite happy with where we were. It was the darkest and quietest place we had been in. With a break in the weather we went for a bike ride. During the stormy night we watched the movie, ‘Hereafter’ with Matt Damon playing the role of a psyche who could communicate with dead people, directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood. I liked this movie as it is never far from my mind this sort of thing because of my son, Leigh – http://neuage.org/leigh.html

Lake Bolac, one of the stops on the way back was a surprise. In the middle of farming country, this substantial lake. The weather forecast was rather grim; strong wind warnings with the possibility of large hailstones. We discussed the possibility of finding shelter in a local hay shed. Well it turned out to be fine. The darkness was complete, with thick cloud cover, and though we did get some rain, the tarp we had added to the roof (we sprang a small leak) did the job nicely.

Wannon Falls Needing some waterfalls for a new series I am working on (video poetry) we stopped at Nigretta Falls then past Hamilton on B 160. See the clip below…

Along the way we stopped for sheep to wander off to a new paddock – see clip below…

On this trip we listened to ‘Lake Wobegon, A Prairie Home Companion’, with Garrison Keillor. Narda took me to one of his shows at The Town Hall, New York City, for my birthday years ago and she bought me a two-cd set of his shows for a birthday about five-years ago and finally with time to listen we had a great vision of all those Lutherans up at Lake Wobegon.

Our next trip will be to the Northern Territory for the month of June. We may or may not do a blog before then. Cheers. Narda and Terrell

Terowie

5 April 2017
Terowie, South Australia

Terowie, South Australia

Terowie, South Australia

Robert said he heard his mate calling him from mid-north SA. So he and his wife packed up, and moved there. They bought a house for $90,000 opposite Robert’s mate’s garage. He told us about the murders in Terowie.

“Just like Snowtown”, he said, “Maybe worse. These victims were buried in a wall.” (any American reading this may like to Google “Snowtown murders, South Australia…chilling reading)

It was a warm Saturday night, around 8 o’clock when all the young ones are out partying, or having expensive dinners. Not in Terowie. There was one young one. We saw her sitting on the swing in the local, nicely kept, playground. This was in the afternoon, on the Saturday. We returned later and she was still there, swinging.

But the boys were out, with cans of West End, sitting on upturned buckets and some old car furniture, shooting the breeze with Robert’s mate. This was where and when we found them. We had just set up camp on the nearby railway siding. We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves, with our shady little spot, free, and our new bike rack.

Then we discovered one major puncture in one of our bikes. Bugger. We remembered passing this servo on the way in, so we walked along the main street till we found it. And there they were. Action in Main Street. Having nothing to lose we asked the mechanic (Robert’s mate) if he might have time to fix the hole.

He said, “No worries”.

Nice bloke. He was the only one working, among the boys and their West End cans. We returned later and joined the friendly banter. That’s when we learned of Robert’s life story, his mortgage, the murder and many other things. In the end the mechanic refused to charge us. Blimey. We felt a little humbled.

That is Terowie. A little town at the end of its life. In its hey-day there were 2000 folks living there; a town of lovely stone buildings, a bustling railway town, where broad gauge trains have to unload their passengers, their animals and their goods, and reload them onto narrow gauge trains, heading north.  Now the town is sad. A few buildings; the blacksmith, the old post office, and the old general store have been converted into museums, but there’s no-one there.

And yet, it keeps on. A big “RV friendly town” sign welcomes you as you drive in. The toilets in the main street are kept clean by an unknown person, for the convenience of Grey Nomads, who camp at the railway siding for free. The mechanic, who is also the owner of the large Victorian hotel, used to offer counter meals. He recently decided to stop, because “the pub in the next town is also struggling, and there are not enough customers for us both”.

Why is this? There is a giant wind farm only 20 minutes south, with millions of dollars invested in hundreds of giant wind mills. Why is this not bringing some wealth into the area? Robert, who knows such things, told us that the money goes to NSW, and we don’t get any benefit as a state, certainly none as a town.

Hallett 2 Wind Farm Mount Bryan

Hallett 2 Wind Farm Mount Bryan

 

So there it is. We spent three days there; but it made quite an impression. The town has treasures, like absolute silence; what an unusual gift, and clear black skies where you see the colours of planets. It is enough. And if you’re wondering about the bodies in those walls, ask Robert. We have no idea.

ask Robert

ask Robert

Our Video – with kangaroos and real outback footage and heaps more – for first time internet users click on the white arrow in the image below – everyone else do the same.

Our first stop, real stop, not counting Elizabeth twenty-minutes from home was in Saddleworth, in the Gilbert Valley, approximately 100 kilometres north of Adelaide.

Wanting to be accurate I looked up Krispy Kreme store-locator. I am sure it is Elizabeth but I wanted to be sure. Perhaps their IT department needs to work on their location finder. It said the nearest one was in Missouri and Google provided a map to there which was most helpful.

Krispy Kreme location finder

Krispy Kreme location finder

 

Saddleworth is definitely a town that looked worth exploring. There is a caravan park there but we did not see a free site so we kept going.

saddleworth

Saddleworth

We were having a bit of a bother with our Pajero which had an engine light warning. We had it looked at and some minor repair but ‘Billy’, our Pajero (our caravan is “Holiday”) was feeling a bit under the weather and the further we went the worst he felt. By the time the trip was over we could barely make it up a small hill even in first gear. Currently Billy is booked in for surgery next week and Holiday is at the caravan shop getting a review of her situation with some add-ons such as solar panel so we can go further afield and do more free camping. We did limp into Terowie, a town we had passed through several years earlier. I even bought a fridge magnet there. This time the town was very quiet and though the entrance sign boasted 150 residents, most of those have since gone and places are for sale at bargain prices. We looked at the post office that was for sale for $105,000 with land, four bedrooms, all modernized with beautiful floors – I want to be the mayor of Terowie and being a Leo is really all the qualifications I need to succeed and Narda could be the post master.

We were alone at the free-camping along the rail-line the first night and the second night there were four others. The area was so large that everyone was very spread out and we did not have any contact which is fine with me but Narda likes to meet people and get stories such as above. I just want to be in a quiet place to write a novel or another version of my memoirs. (you can read my  original version of ‘Leaving Australia’ @ http://neuage.org/e-books/

We chose this town in part due to the flatness of it. After six-weeks recently in Holland and riding every day – even in the snow (this was January – February 2017) we were up for riding more. Our house in Adelaide is in a bit of a hilly area so we rode heaps – though there was not far to go; one end of town to the other – well there is five-minutes of our life gone. We did ride around the ‘suburbs’ which took another fifteen-minutes. This is a photographer’s dream place. I did not get anywhere near the amount of photos a ‘real’ photographer would have gotten. There are four or five old churches on one street, not Main Street, a couple old pubs and lots of buildings.

This was an important train stop between Adelaide and the North. One of their main claims to fame here is that General Douglas MacArthur paid a visit here with his family after WW II. For Australians MacArthur was some military dude for the USA, a five-star general – which is a lot, who was quite important during the time he was important.

General Douglas MacArthur

General Douglas MacArthur

We decided to go to a place called ‘World’s End Reserve halfway back to Adelaide. Due to a combination of not getting internet where we were and our GPS, which hates us (I have spoken of this in a previous blog) we got hopelessly lost on a gravel road and never did find the place.

World's End Reserve

World’s End Reserve

We got to Eudunda, found some free camping spot: changed gas bottles, started cooking, smelt gas, panicked, drove home, got home two-hours later, and realised how good life is, once again.

Xi’an

Life is good.

  1. youtube clips at http://youtu.be/8CFyFFGaNio (first day – flight and Warriors Apartments): second day (Muslim Quarters) http://youtu.be/8Qbn9fvAusU, http://youtu.be/GT2uYOwkS0s Terracotta Warriors, Drum Tower – City Wall = http://goo.gl/bSY4io and Giant Wild Goose Pagoda @ http://youtu.be/iu342lr_KFY
  2. photos for this trip at http://goo.gl/0JquHn

When the television is off for a week and there is nothing to do but nothing to do the world is really an OK place. It was not really our own choice but the choice was good. A few things this past week have not been our choice but then again we have been making do with ‘outside’ and ‘others’ choices for a lot this year. The first few days we stayed at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. In the Bajiaxian Xihuanmen hood to be specific. There were no television stations in any of the many languages that we speak/understand: Australian English, American English (Narda questions whether that is really English – ‘just a dialectic of the Queen’s English badly butchered’), New Zealand English, Canadian and of course Narda speaks the language of her birthplace up there in Utrecht (The Netherlands) but anything else we have to turn the telly off for and anything else was all there was on the television in the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. The rest of the week in the apartment we were in we were not ever able to sort out how to turn the television on. We tried every button and every combination of every button and just saw characters on the screen that seemed to be laughing at us in our ignorance of how to put meaning to them. I have a Ph.D in communication (constructed all in Australian English – 155,000 words, 550 pages with diagrams and images – http://neuage.org/ODAM) which is all about the construction of meaning – see image below – but in that whole seven years of research and of course the masters and other degrees leading to that, I never learned how to put meaning to the images we were seeing on the telly so we could figure how to get the bloody thing to go to an actual television station. Of course we no doubt would not have found a station in any language that we understood if we did so we would not have known what was going on in the world after all, especially the first few days of our stay at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an where we did not get Internet either.

my way of meaning  http://neuage.org/ODAM

my way of meaning
http://neuage.org/ODAM

I will attempt to stay on task of our trip to Xi’an; though, as I have not written since returning from summer break and our little journey to the States, Australia and Malaysia and we have had a very busy month since returning to work and the weekend before going to Xi’an we were on the North Korea border staying in Dandong I probably will have moments of drifting to other thoughts/insights/visions/illuminations/realizations/memories and the like.

Speaking of drifting – I write for myself – if no one reads anything I write ever that is fine. I have had comments that my spelling infuriates some (I switch from Australian to whatever it is the Yanks speak – being a duel citizen and all) so my excuse is color is colour and sometimes a ‘z’ is an ‘a’ and some words are slang and some no doubt I have made up and that is my writing that I do for myself because I enjoy writing and I do it for myself and I do a lot of writing to remember what we have done. I wrote a 170,000 word book called ‘Leaving Australia’ and made two bound copies of it; one for my son and one sits on my shelf and I like to read it sometimes as it helps me remember stuff. I don’t even have portions of it on-line. Anymore. I did for awhile but some characters that I have met along the way who were in my narrative were really upset to find their portrayals on-line; true that it was but of course we all have those sections of life we pretend never happened and hope that no one will ever divulge either. But my story is also the story of interactions with people in specific situations at a certain time and space that we shared and to change or even delete those moments makes the continuum of my story choppy and invested with deep holes – so that is why I only printed two books.

On the way to Xi’an the funnest of funnies… because of the upcoming national holiday the stewardess gave everyone China flags to wave – which they did. Following that people went up to the front and sang stuff. A stewardess came and asked me to sing. I said Narda was not only a professional singer but also a music teacher of course Narda did not hear all of this and the next thing she knew I was pushing her up the aisle. And even though I could not get a video of her singing because of all the people standing in front of me I did listen as everyone on the plane did. She of course could not sing a Chinese patriotic song but she did make up a song using happy birthday. Some words about ‘I wish you well China and on and on…’ we all cheered and my only disappointment is that I did not get it recorded.

Narda singing something about we wish you well China to the tune of happy birthday. She is somewhere behind the crew and flag wavers.

Narda singing something about we wish you well China to the tune of happy birthday. She is somewhere behind the crew and flag wavers.

Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. I will start with that. Because the place had a top listing for places to stay in Xi’an (Ranked #1 of 86 Xi’an B&B and Inns by Trip Advisory) and it looked as funky as could be we booked it some six weeks ago, August 24th to be precise, it was the place for us. We spent a lot of time trying to find the owner of the place. All the web searches for it lead to Expedia, Agoda, travelpod, booking.com and all the rest are just to rent the place. We did find the actual telephone number eventually and rang the owner who had his wife meet us at the airport bus stop. It was fortunate that we did as the place is almost impossible to find. It is located down an alley after a few other side streets. It is not a building dedicated to the Warriors Apartment but in actual fact three apartments, one located on the 7th floor where there is no Internet and two on the second floor. The building is about 25 stories high and is amongst many other tall buildings all several decades old. We booked a one-bedroom apartment for a week and were happy to be given a two-bedroom apartment. Inside is so much our style. Who would not want to have a home with warriors all over the place? In every room including the kitchen and about 40 holding up the bed (no comments please)

warriors under the bed

warriors under the bed

as well as four holding up the sink in the bathroom.

Warriors-Apartment

Warriors-Apartment

warriors apartment  behind the bed

warriors apartment behind the bed

 We were only about five minutes walk to Beiyuanmen Muslim Street which is the in place to hang out. Because we went during the Chinese National Day holiday week (celebrating the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949) the place was so packed that there were times we could not move in any direction. lots-of-people-1

See http://goo.gl/S2dh8L or click on the QR code. tiny_cc_f7mg4w

We got out to see the Terracotta Warriors in the morning. Bus lines were enormous with a couple of hours wait for the tourist bus that is mentioned in Lonely Planet. We gave up and found a more of a local bus on the other side of the car park – bus 615, which got us there in an hour and we waited only about 20 minutes. We came back on bus 614 which took two hours but that was because of traffic. The pits were will worth seeing once in a life time. (lines were much longer than appears here – they wrap around and go out past the train station and through a large car park out to the main bus station across the road.)

bus-lines In pit one, the largest of the diggings, they have gotten the furthest since starting back in 1974.

warriors-rows

I could never have been one of the people digging these things up. It is all quite painstaking and required endless amounts of time using small brushes and files to scrape off thousands of years of muck. In pit two and one which are smaller – there is still digging and crap going on to expose all this. We have a book written by the owner of the Warriors Apartments which is quite good and of course there is heaps on the Internet.

I wanted to go to the top of the mountains across the road but we did not have the time. We were an hour from Xi’an and still the pollution was so thick that even at noon the mountains looked too hazy to get a good glimpse of.

mountains

To divert a bit. We got home yesterday afternoon and as always had a Jack-driver meet us at the airport and we did our shopping for the month on the way home. In the afternoon we were just chilling and after dinner I was in the kitchen and without warning I blacked out and ended on the floor. I only say this now as I will probably forget somewhere in the future – like next week – and I want to record what happened. As a person who has never fainted or passed out before it was a unique experience. One minute I was putting something in the microwave and the next I was gaining consciousness on the floor. I did not feel light headed or any signs of anything even a second before. I did not even recall going down. Narda said I looked in shock when I came to. The whole event lasted seconds but I did get some aches and pains such as a twisted knee from crashing to the floor. What is slightly interesting in all of this is that things just happen maybe even for no reason. I felt fine after and we went and used the large massage chair on the second floor, coming home feeling great. So today I went to the S.O.S clinic on the first floor and Dr. Wilhelm looked after me. He took some blood, did an EKG which he sent to Hong Kong for a specialist to look at (oh boy maybe we get to fly to Hong Kong next week) and spent more than an hour doing all kinds of tests and at this point we do not know why I kissed the floor. Being a holiday week and the staff mostly out of town I pretty much had the clinic to myself. I only mention all this because nothing like this has ever happened before. In Xi’an the traffic was brutal. Cars, buses, scooters, trucks and people all going in all directions often in total disregard of any laws that would be in place if anyone was around to enforce them. (Travel operators in China have a huge new set of rules to follow now that the country’s first tourism law is in place. The 112-article law came into effect October 1 But I do not think it applies to people trying to get through an intersection) All manner of vehicles go through red lights so they are not a deterrent from disaster. Narda and I surely mingled with the masses and crossed in-between buses and carts and all the rest. Our tactic is usually to use others as a human shield and cross in the midst hoping others will protect us. Luckily for any reason I did not have a black out – my one and only of my life – in one of those crossing the street situations. And luckily we were not riding bikes in our dangerous fashion alongside main roads and darting across roads in front of traffic that would not be aware of a red light or anything else that could possibly slow down their forward motion.

smomggy Xi'an on a good day

smomggy Xi’an

We did ride bikes in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province on the wall that surrounds the city. It is one of the oldest cities in China and the largest city in the world in 582 according to people in the know. There is all kind of historical crap to look at. We rode up on the wall that surround the city. It is some 14 kilometers and we rode three-fourths of it. Because we rented bikes for only 100 minutes and we are old and slow and take way too many photos and videos and there are four bike rental areas at the four main turns of the wall: yes, the North and the South and the West and the East gates we only got to the third gate by the time we peeled our sorry asses off of the bike seat.

on-wall

After the first days in the Warriors Apartment we had a bit of a shock. At the door was standing three people and the owner’s wife. She said they too were booked into our apartment. It did not register at first and when I saw it was three teachers from our school – that we live on the same floor as – I welcomed them in thinking they were in the second floor apartment. We knew they were staying at the same place so this was not a totally unreasonable thought to have. It was not like waking up on the kitchen floor wondering how I suddenly passed out. Low and behold they had their bags with them and were told they could stay in our second bedroom. Now we realise that there is a difference in customs and how people interact. Perhaps in the local Chinese world having three people in a bedroom and another couple in the other is not uncommon. But these three women had already paid for the apartment we were in and not only that but more than Narda and I had. So of course everyone, except the owner, was upset. I just sort of drifted out of the picture knowing that four pissed off middle age women would figure stuff out a lot more efficiently than a 66 year old ex-hippie. The owners blamed Agoda saying they stuffed up the booking. The women called Agoda and Agoda rang the owner who said everything was fine and that he was taking care of it. What a balls-up – never seen such a situation. Right up there with fainting for the first time in my life. I suppose that is why life is mildly interesting to me it is so incredibly unpredictable.

We were told to wait until six pm, but it was about 7.30 when Clarence showed up to sort out the dilemma. In the meantime everyone was a bit agro. His initial ‘idea’ was for us all to stay together and he would refund some money. Well that was a stupid idea so he said he would go off and look for something to move someone into. As we had booked a single room apartment it was obvious that we were going to get the boot and we did. Clarence, his wife and son all showed up and with Narda and I were taken out of the old quarter that we were really getting to like and into some crappy new city area quite the distance. The apartment we were given was terrible. Clarence said that it would be very difficult to find a place because of the holiday. The apartment was dirty, there was left over food in the small kitchen and the bathroom was just dirty. We were quite upset but that is where we were left. Whose fault it was, whether it was Agoda not passing on the booking or Clarence’s it was handled very badly. He had no problem with taking the money – which incidentally was on the same day – we independently rented the same apartment in the same city on the same day – 24th of August. Clarence saw them as the same booking but of course anyone would see that there were two lots of money. We were exhausted by the time we got to the apartment and did not put up enough of a fight.

As always is the case we made the best of our new surroundings. We found our way to the subway and took Line 1 which began operation on September 15, 2013, like a couple of weeks ago. I love subways and always ride one in a city comparing them to New York City and Paris which not as old as London are great subway lines. I have never been on a subway line that is less than a month old. OK there was nothing special and it was so crowded because of the holiday that we barely could get on. But it did get us back into the old quarters. We were also near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Pagoda) which was begun in 652 and though another pagoda is not so exciting we did go to the fountain light show in the evening. I have some good footage in youtube but my still photos of the fountain light show are a bit average as you can see but I did get this fairly OK shot of the pagoda thingy.

Tang Paradise Water Show = big Goose Pagoda Fountain show

Tang Paradise Water Show = big Goose Pagoda Fountain show

Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Da Ci'en Temple

Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Da Ci’en Temple

Again there were so many people it was difficult getting around. Outside of spending a couple of more days tromping around Xi’an, riding the metro and looking at huge shopping malls that were fancy from the outside but just like every other shopping mall inside were the same old we just looked around at another polluted over crowded city.

However in one mall was this huge screen on the ceiling,

Qin Han Tang Emporium

Qin Han Tang Emporium

This ceiling LED display of more than 3000 square meters (168 meters long and 17.92 meters wide) located in Qin Han Tang Emporium which is next to the Goose Pagoda was impressive. I will have a clip on my youtube site at http://youtube.com/neuage09 any moment now. At the same time as writing this I am editing clips in Adobe Premier Pro Creative Cloud – my new favourite subscription software in a suite of lots of groovy creative projects. I am loving After Effects and Photoshop along with some 20 plus other programs but Premier definitely does for me at the moment. Having hundreds of video clips and a thousand photos I will have enough to do, along with an actual job, and being a caring/listening/nurturing husband (will there be time for that?) to keep me off the streets for awhile or hopefully off of the kitchen floor.

Thankfully I was not hanging onto the side of a tuk tuk as it found its way through traffic. These things are off-putting to me but as Narda likes them we do ride them in various countries.

tuk-tuk

I started a new series here at Dalian American International School – the DAIS Cooking Show. Well, I have had one show which was with meat eating Patrick. He showed how to make meat burgers – good grief, and in front of me too; I showed my tofu burger making skills refining one of my recipes from http://neuage.us/tofu/ where I showcase experiences/recipes/stories garnished from seven years as a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide, South Australia. We filmed it all with two cameras; a Nike and our new school semi-professional JVC. I now have several hours of banter, silliness, cooking, eating and live audience (Narda, Sean, Jean, JoeFred – not a big audience) to edit. I have several other shows getting lined up and soon the next in the series will be up and hopefully by the end of the school year some mega China television broadcasting networking system will offer me a huge contract to show what to do with tofu on live television… oh wait! This is China – home of tofu. Well I am giving it a shot that is for sure.

I did like the street we were on, it had art all along it much like we saw in Mexico City.

Here are just a couple of the pieces – there were probably a hundred:

 art-street (1)  art-street (2)

At the end of it all after walking 8 – 10 hours a day for five days in a very polluted Chinese city I think we would have been better off on one of the other holidays teachers took this week such as to Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, inner Mongolia and lots of better holidays than we took. Not to worry we are off to Thailand for three weeks at Christmas and lots of other great destinations for the next holidays.

The weekend before we left on our Warrior-less Apartment we went the three hour drive up to Dandong with about 55 people from our school. Dandong is across a narrow river divide of North Korea.

Walking out on Friendship bridge we could see the fake amusement park on the North Korea side. The Ferris wheel is just a cut-out thingy. We did hear children playing and actually saw them playing along the river. Online stories say this part of North Korea has been tarted up for tourist to look across and see that everything is quite normal. ferriswheel

The boat trip is well worth it and I even got up close to some North Korean soldiers,

soldiers

Maybe I could get them interested in my tofu cooking class.

At the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea there is lots of anti-Western stuff to look at. I photographed several of their write-ups but not having been in this part of the world and only having an American view I can not comment on what the beef was all about.

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But Dandong is not just about North Koreans and their possibly tainted view of us – I mean Kim Jong Un is friends with Dennis Rodman, they are BFFs, how could they be anything but sympathetic toward others?

The best thing to do is go along the wall where it starts. Of course this was before I blacked out in my kitchen and twisted my knee (there goes my softball career – every Sunday we play against a team from Taiwan here at school and this was going to be the game that I actually hit the ball far enough to get on base – saying all that, everyone is much younger than me) so I was able to climb and climb and climb. We were a bit worse for wear when we got to the top but the view was fantastic. We could see straight into North Korea but I did not see Kim Jong Un though he may have seen me.

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Reason to believe

July 12-13 2013: Friday/Saturday

Home – I think – after decades where home is becomes questionable I think we are home. If we go by where the majority of our crap is that would be China but if we go by where we own our home then that is either one of two houses in upstate New York but nether of them feels like home anymore and our house in New Jersey we saw our furniture in there last week but that no longer feels like home. So perhaps Adelaide is home but this is not quite what I remember. I lived in various places in South Australia from 1981 – 2002 so this I suppose is home. My children and I lived in ten houses in ten years during 1984 – 1995, a bit of an unstable time.

Australia as visiting-home; from 2002 until February 2013 we would visit for four or five weeks a year as we lived in New York then China. We even built a house in Adelaide, in Lochiel Park, that we have never lived in and our tenant has now had it for three years and we wish he would buy it. When we would visit here for the past eleven years we stayed in an apartment upstairs from Narda’s parents but they moved a couple of months ago and for the first time in Adelaide we are homeless. Narda lived here ever since getting off of a boat from Holland when she was four up until teaming up with me. Now we are both homeless where we feel at home.

Not to worry we loved Malaysia and even managed to see a lot considering we lost one day after Malaysian Airlines canceled our flight and put us up for an extra day and night in Beijing.

It was the easiest airport we have gone through anywhere in the world. Just a stamp in the passport. No stupid questions both when we arrived and when we left. Malaysia is courting old folks so perhaps that is what they think we are. They want Westerners to retire there as long as they have three-thousand dollars a month to live on. I think that is per couple. The people are very friendly though I do admit I am at a loss to understand their belief system. I have always wondered why people believe what they do and why they are so adamant that their beliefs are the way it is. I have tried many belief systems even spent years toward becoming a priest and decades being an astrologer and basically I think they all have something to offer but none of them are really the complete system. I have taken bits and pieces from different belief systems and believe-in what makes sense to me which I suppose is what the majority of people do. Every religion is based on a leader who at the end of the day if you take away what the reality at the start of their trip was and then morph it over the centuries it is never like what everyone claims that person did or was or even still is. Perhaps humans believe in and follow someone because they are afraid to live their life without the crutch of an outside force/person/being/etc. It is easier to believe in someone who no longer or never did exist and describe it in terms of faith than to take on the responsibility for one’s own life. I blunder through life I know but I surely am not going to ask an outside non-existing being or ‘invisible’ deity for guidance. I am going to make a rational stab at going in a direction that makes sense and do what I think is best, and depend on mistakes/short comings/walking-into-walls and random experiences that may or may not have been beneficial/correct/moral (as per someone else belief system). I mean do we want to believe David Icke’s trip about how reptilian people are waiting to take over the planet? I must admit I have looked at his stuff for the past couple of decades for entertainment purposes and he is a hoot, one of the world’s great comedians and even funnier are those who believe him or take him seriously. Many people are just ‘trying-it-on’ and I am sure they are just as amused that anyone takes them as true blue as I am.

I have always loved monorails – every since seeing one in the movie Fahrenheit 451 in the mid-1960’s and riding one at the Montreal World’s Fair in 1967 and of course the one in Sydney I have thought a city should have lots of them and not just as a tourist attraction. Kuala Lumpur has a functioning good monorail and we rode it end to end. They do not have subways but elevated trains and the train to the Islamic Arts Museum stops at Pasar Seni which is one of the main places to go to. The other really different experience in KL is raised pedestrian walkways. Instead of footpaths (they have them too) along the road they have footpaths in the air (I have video clips but not photographs though if I were not so lazy I would use Adobe Premier and take a photo out of the video. I love the Adobe Creative Cloud and have a year’s subscription and have downloaded all their programs. Want to just stay at home and use the Creative Cloud but I hear there are other things one needs to do when coming to visit family, like visit family)

Below is me hanging out with Narda’s daughter-in-law. The last time we were here, six-months ago in February, Maggie would start crying every time she saw me, which I thought was just a normal female reaction to me, but this time we got along and collaborated over some technology. She was showing me stuff on my iPhone and I was going to show her how to make her own webpage using Creative Cloud Dreamweaver but she was not that interested which I understand a bit as she is only about 18 months old. She was even less interested in my new computer which has 16 gig-memory and all the latest bells and whistles and did I mention the whole new Adobe Suite – why would I leave the house?

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This was our first visit to a Muslim (65 per cent they say) country. I do like the get-up folks wear and if it is not irreverent to say it is like being at a costume party with us being the ones who forgot to bring any kool looking gear. We went to the Islamic Arts Museum which was really interesting. Their art is great but after reading lots of stuff from their beliefs and looking at exhibits I really do not understand what they are on about or why they do what they do. I did come away with the feeling that they are really really pissed off at the Jews and Israel. Again, I am not a politician or know much stuff, probably really don’t know anything about anything but if their exhibits are true then Israel really did do the dirty on the Palestinians. I see there is a book to buy called ‘A brief history of Palestine for dummies‘ that I can download, perhaps that will clear up my confusion. I read one book in the museum – it was really thin – about how the Christian’s Paul was really a bad dude – I never realised how much someone disliked him. I read it because on the back cover it said that the author had studied religion and that this book described the differences between the early Christians, Paul (which the book said was pretty much a bad Jew) and the Muslim religion. After skimming through it I realised it was quite the pro-Muslim read and was not really a thesis on comparing religions.

Besides the rhetoric and propaganda we did like their art. I would love to have our home – if we actually knew where our home existed – with tiles like they do. Of course they embed their verses from that book they like to read into a lot of their art and I am not sure if I want some of those lines on the wall of my home.

It is 12 RM ($3.78 US) per person to get into the museum but they only charged us 10. I thought they were being kind to us until I looked at our tickets more closely after we left and saw the word ‘senior citizen’ 10 RM at the bottom of the ticket. What? Are we that obviously old?

Narda in front of the museum – I have lots from inside even though there were signs, which I saw after – that said no photos, oops!

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Our hotel was really good. At the bottom was a large shopping centre and of course having Narda come through the door of any shopping centre is a cause of celebration and welcoming for the locals,

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We were on the 26th floor of the Premiera Hotel with a great view, below is watching the reflection of traffic on a building,

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Of course the big thing to do is visit the Petronas Towers. I think I found a new thing for 911 conspirators to think about – you know how they come up with all these theories and why the New York City towers came down – well I saw tee-shirts that said ‘Petronas Towers – currently the tallest twin towers in the world’. Maybe it was not one of those many conspiracies that folks on the Internet want us to believe but in actual fact the sellers of these tee-shirts who had family members do the deed just so they could sell more tee-shirts that said they were the tallest twin towers in the world.

towersWe did make one sort of a blunder. We got lost as we do wherever we go and Narda suggested we pop into a hotel we saw right where we were lost. The Majestic Hotel – OK so it looked a bit classic, later we learned that it was built in 1932 and I love the movie ‘The Majestic’ with Jim Carey so we went into the very fancy lobby sat down and asked for a cup of coffee.

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Well we were surprised at how small the cup of coffee was. It was served in fancy ornate small tea cups with a pretty little bowl with sugar. We relaxed and stopped at the bar to pay – holy cow – 45 RM which is $14.17 (because we put it on our credit card the Visa charge on our account is $15.22 US for two small cups of coffee) or to put the two cups together which still would not equal a full cup; we paid twenty-eight dollars, US for a cuppa. Blimey. To put that in perspective we had a full breakfast of eggs, toast, two cups of coffee and two cups of orange juice each at a our favourite Indian restaurant (Lotus Restaurant in Chow Kit) earlier in the day for nine dollars for the two of us. Not to worry, we just are not the classy folks that we thought/think/wish/perceive ourselves as. I suppose we should have just booked in a couple of days and eaten our meals there and forgotten about affording the rest of our trip.

After that little expense we walked to Central Market and along the Historic Walk all about twenty minutes away from the propaganda wielding art centre. We got another bag of clothes with the illusion that we needed more and the hope that we could squeeze just a few more garments into our bag and once again ate our meals in Indian places as most eatery places were closed due to Ramadan fasting.

Below is a curve in the tracks in Kuala Lumpur.

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So here we are, Adelaide, sort of home for me for more than 20 years plus a visit place for another 12 years, in the midst of winter which compared to where we live in Northern China is not cold at all.

After the start of our mishaps with Delta Airlines (who just wrote to say they would reimburse us for the $400 we spent on ‘necessities’ due to lost luggage, – see earlier reports – so we sort of like Delta a bit and almost apologize for what I said last week how they were a crap organisation) then having Malaysian Airlines cancel our flight to KL (and their putting us up at a good hotel and paying for three meals) we did get ourselves here and it is up to us to have an enjoyable time.

This will probably be my last blog until going back to China in three weeks because what would I write about? Everyone in Australia is so normal there is nothing to say about them. I will spend lots of time, if I have any free time, sorting out the previous couple of week’s video clips and putting them on YouTube and of course having a grand old time with Adobe Creative Cloud. I know there has been a lot of complaining about taking away purchasing programs and giving us subscriptions. I would rather have the subscription because every month Adobe updates various bits and pieces in the 26 programs I have – some I have never used before. Social and family life? Hey can I put that all on hold for a year just to get really good at making webpages, e-books, videos, apps, games, and enhance photos of myself so I will not look so old in a few weeks when I turn 66?

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A Chinese miracle

A Chinese miracle

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Just to prove that miracles are not the sole (soul) domain of the Western religious-philosophers-‘we-are-the-chosen’ we discovered that even in China miracles do occur. I am defining miracle as that which is outside the ‘normal’ realm of our flitterings through life; those events that happen with some possible intervention beyond some dim bats occasional form of self-interpreted helpfulness. I grew up (really I did) with the notion that according to the Methodists anyway that China’s communist darkness would never allow in a sliver of light that would guide a couple of lost Westerns who were not lost until the Chinese directed them toward a path that could have led directly to disaster – disaster in the sense of experience deprivation of wanted experience, not a disaster of impending doom.

OK! The story.

We left Campus Village all excited about getting our sorry asses to Adelaide in time for Narda’s sons and one of their 30th birthday parties; one son flying in from Atlanta, Georgia, one from Hanoi and birthday boy at home in the Adelaide Hills with granddaughter in tow; and us popping in from China just for a party. We booked our flight six months in advance knowing that everything would be booked for Chinese New Years. We got to Dalian Airport three hours in advanced knowing how they have a tendency to stuff things up. We had gotten an email the night before saying our flight was on-time and wishing us a great journey or ever what they say, in Chinese. At the China Southern counter, ‘flight canceled’! After recovering from the shock of that news we were informed that another flight to Guangzhou was leaving in a few hours, which of course would be too late to hop onto our flight to Melbourne.

These are the same people, I am sure, at least it is the same airline, who lost our Piggly Wiggly umbrella – see  the previous post https://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ after it made the journey from Atlanta, Georgia to NYC to Melbourne > Adelaide > back to Melbourne to Guangzhou – then somewhere between Guangzhou and Dalian China Southern managed to lose it – the umbrella.

After finding someone with some English to understand that we could not miss our flight to Melbourne they said they could fly us to Shanghai then put us on another airline, China Eastern – which we hate, but we had to get to Melbourne by the next afternoon to continue our flight on to Adelaide to get to Narda’s son’s birthday party in the Adelaide Hills. We had even taken two days off from work without pay to do this. Plus Narda surely wanted to be at her granddaughter’s christening – which a fellow worker wondered how we got two days leave to attend a pagan festival – which is Sunday. We had to get to Australia.

We got ourselves OK to Shanghai and ran through the airport dragging too much crap as we do, getting into line – body blocking aggressive Chinese passengers trying to pass us in the queue and collapsed in front of the ticket counter as we tossed out suitcases of too much crap onto the weighing machine. ‘Flight full – no seats, take your bags off’. Holy guacamole – did they really say that? We told them about China Southern saying we could switch airlines – we had our vouchers but they said to go and wait at the standby counter. Narda was fighting back tears, I was trying to keep us from annihilation, and the crowding people around us all looked like enemy foo fighters – whatever that is.

At the standby counter they said the flight was overbooked and already full. Narda said we had to get on the flight to get to Adelaide for her son’s wedding. Me, never being good as a spy or secretive person said whose wedding, which of course upset Narda all the more because I am a bit of an idiot in these situations.

They said we would be moved to the top two if any seats were opened which would only happen if there were two no-shows, the chances we none to slim. We looked at the options which would be to try and get to Guangzhou the next day and hope we could get onto the next night’s flight which too was booked full and we would miss Narda’s party which was the whole idea of this trip we had planned for months.

At 7:30 the flight was closed and at 7:32 we got the call to the desk with a simple ‘passports’ and that was it. We quickly got our suitcase onto the conveyor belt and got our boarding pass plus a sticker to put on our clothes that indicated that we were to rush through lines like customs and passport control and all those other things the Chinese like to check us out with. These things always tax me – running through airports with camera bag, computer bag, things falling out of my pocket – it is easier for Narda – she is organized with stuff in one bag, and she is seven and a half years younger than me and I get out of breath trying to keep up with her but of course what man could keep up with such a vibrant chick on a very focused mission of seeing her sons within 24 hours? Puffing and panting, waving off potential heart-attacks, leg cramps, a very real stomach ache, and head ache I followed her through the VIP lines and somehow we got to the gate panting and puffing to find the flight was delayed by an hour.

We use to fly through Shanghai on China Eastern as part of round-the-world fares with Star Alliance and every time, this would be at least four if not five times, the flight from Shanghai to Melbourne was hours late. Now our concern was the flight Melbourne to Adelaide which Narda said left Melbourne at 11:30 AM and we were due to arrive at 11 AM the next day. Thirty minutes to get through baggage, customs and get our boarding pass at Qantas domestic which is a long hike from the international terminal

Bottom line was that we were on a plane finally though 20 rows apart but at least on the same plane. I told the first hostess that I saw about our changed flights and that I had to have vegetarian. Two reasons for that is that one I am a vegetarian two even Narda orders vegetarian because the meat meals on Asian airlines are shockingly horrible and taste worse – so I am informed. I was told there were no vegetarian meals but she would check first class and lucky there was. I asked to trade my economy seat for a first class meal to a first class seat but her English was not good enough to understand my request, or else she thought I was not funny, or possibly just stupid, nevertheless, I did get a good meal for din din and again for brekky.

We got to Melbourne at 11ish and the impossible task of getting the next flight loomed. We discovered the best thing about being the last onto the plane meant our luggage was the first down the chute at the end of the trip. ‘The last shall be first’ of my Methodist upbringing was actually realistic. Now I wish I had listened to more of their fairy stories. Whilst waiting for the baggage we changed over some 26,000 RMB that we had stored away and got about $3700 Australian for it, a bad deal by hundreds but we were not fretting now. It was good to have some real currency again. The passport line was long as several flights arrived in Melbourne at the same time. For the first time ever we tried using the kiosk for checking in with our passports because we had the new ones with electronic chips in them and it worked saving us another long line. At baggage inspection the line was incredibly long and Narda pleaded with some official type and we got sent through a very short line and no one checked our bags which is very unusual coming into Australia we had saved about 45 minutes so far but we only had 15 minutes to get to the gate so again we ran through the airport panting and puffing and collapsing at the counter pleading to get onto the plane leaving at 11:30, it was now 11:15. The counter person said there was no 11:30 flight that in fact our flight left at 12:10 so for the first time since leaving Campus Village 24 non-sleeping hours earlier we actually had enough time to walk to the gate and sit and wait.

So that is our miracle.

Arriving in Adelaide Narda’s three sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter were all waiting… of course Maggie burst in to tears – probably not of joy – of seeing us. Ooops

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But she made good a few moments later for a good family photo

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And we got to Stu’s birthday party, worse for wear, and even stayed until about 11 PM last night. Now, the next day, Saturday, we are booking my flight to Melbourne next Thursday for me to see my son, Sacha and his partner, Georgia, for a couple of days before going back next Saturday to arrive Sunday night in time to be at work Monday morning. And tomorrow Narda and sons are all excited about baby Maggie’s christening.

A fun week we will have next week. We have rented a sea side place for Narda’s three sons and a couple of wives, granddaughter and us for four days; Pt. Elliot, which is where I use to live with my two sons back in the 1980s when I was a single parent wondering what would become of my life. And now I know thirty years later, married, living in China with one son left to share it with and my new great family.

In general I must say life is good.

A Piggly Wiggly story

A Piggly Wiggly story

I do not recall having heard of the Piggly Wiggly chain of stores before last summer. Not sure why that is as I lived in the States for about 42 of my 65 years on this planet and I surely have wandered through the south where they have 600 stores in 17 states. And it is not because they just started popping up around the place. In fact their website says they have been “bringing home the bacon for millions of American families since 1916”. Perhaps it is because my vegetarian life has created a subliminal blind spot for sellers who are such whole-hearted braggers, sporting the bringing home the bacon rhetoric – though it could just as easily have been my birth in the year of the pig that placed them over with other things I have avoided as much as possible in life: restrictive humans, haircuts,  Pisces and most water-signed-people (having only Jupiter in Scorpio I did have some strange fixed fascinations in my youth with aspects of that sign – I use to find women with Venus and Mars in Scorpio a bit of a fascinating matrix to get involved in, as long as there was an escape clause – having five planets in Leo I am not afraid of the Scorpion sting but of the threat of water to put out my fire, I still avoid water sign people because of that; how they put the damper on us fire people is appalling… I am drifting here), and the clinging to material possessions such as umbrellas which this blog is actually about.

I horde stuff; a shed full in South Australia, a house full of stuff here in Northern China, stuff in an attic in our upstate New York house, and the shed next door to it, and our furniture in our house in Jersey City but that is not really an indicator of clinging to material possessions. It is really art artifacts that someday I hope to assemble in various arrays of sculpture and do gallery shows. That was a dream of mine during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and then I got married (again) and the idea of gallery shows was replaced by stored artifacts around the world that no doubt will end in the rubbish tip before I get to collect them all into one non-disposable spot.

On with the umbrella story…

Last summer we were driving around the south. We left Atlanta with Narda’s son’s car headed to my old stomping grounds of New Orleans. I had wanted to take Narda there for the whole decade we were living in New York but we ended up making little trips to Europe, Asia and the yearly hops over to Australia, leaving no time or money to explore the States. Somewhere in the south: Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas or maybe we were in Alabama or Louisiana but somewhere down there we were in a small town lost on a country road and there was this big Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Narda saw it as quite funny, the born-in-the-year-of-the-pig part of my over active reptilian brain was offended but with no other shops in site and the last temperature reading we saw being 102 Fahrenheit ( Celsius = 38.88) the thought of something from a fridge was becoming overpowering. But getting a cold drink was not enough. At the checkout were umbrellas with the Piggly Wiggly emblem on them so of course I had to have one.

The umbrella got buried for a couple of weeks in the boot of the car as we drove around and we wondered how we would get it back to China. And not just back to China, but to Australia too as we were going there for a few weeks first. Narda wanted to bring back a curtain rod too because she could not find one in Dalian that was long enough to span two large windows in our lounge so she could hang some over-priced hand-sewed laced curtains we had bought in Belgium – yes Belgium lace, a few years ago. She found the curtain rod she wanted in one of those southern states and she taped it together with the umbrella that somehow magically would find its way back to Campus Village here in Northern China via Australia – and of course flying out of Atlanta, NYC, and all the stops between like Melbourne and Adelaide and Guangzhou in China.

First hiccup…. We were driving on a four-lane freeway heading north. Narda was driving and I was playing with my new Nikon camera when there was a big bump and Narda said ‘he hit me’ and at about 70 miles an hour we were going across a couple of lanes of freeway sideways and fortunately for this story to be told there were concrete blocks dividing us from traffic going the other way and we smashed into them sideways. Another few feet and we would have rolled. Of course Narda being Narda managed to restart the car to chase this huge truck that had hit us thinking he would get away. The back end of the car was dragging and we had flat tires. I was as much in shock from Narda restarting the engine and us going forward as I was from spinning across a few lanes of freeway. The truck did stop which was good because so did our car. Narda said afterwards she was waiting for the pain to hit her when we started spinning and I was waiting to hear the crashing of glass. I had been in three major car crashes before and that memory stays. There was no crashing of glass, the air bags did not open, and we did not get hurt but the car was totaled. We stood alongside the road in 104 degree heat – that is the absolute truth – the truck driver rang for the police – he took full responsibility, saying he did not see us when he switched lanes. Narda often says people don’t see her because people don’t see women past 50, but this was a whole bloody car he didn’t see. As we stood alongside the concrete barriers traffic passed by with almost no space between cars at high speeds. It was quite amazing no one hit us as we crossed lanes; there was just this few seconds let up in traffic when we decided to go for a bit of a spin.

Here is a photo of Narda under our Piggly Wiggly umbrella with a state trooper.

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I wish I had had presence of mind to tell Narda to turn the umbrella so as to show the Piggly Wiggly figures but who thinks of these things at a moment like this?

the truck that thought we would look better spinning across the road

the truck that thought we would look better spinning across the road

We told Narda’s son we put a bit of a ding in his car – impossible to repair – was the verdict, rented a bright red car so we could be seen and I drove about ten hours straight back to Atlanta. Narda was still in shock, I did not want to stop for a day and besides we had about two days left before our flight to Australia. The truck company was really good and bought the car at a really good price and took care of our rental and on we went.

There was not any problem with the airlines; they just put the umbrella/curtain rod in with checked luggage. In Melbourne we took a domestic flight to Adelaide and again no problem.

Here I am in Adelaide with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella in Rundle Mall with my favourite sculptures – pigs of course.

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So we tape up the umbrella with the curtain rod to hold our Belgium laced curtains and checked them into the flight to Melbourne. In Melbourne I visit my son, Sacha, for a couple of days, and Narda and I check our umbrella with the curtain rod into baggage. There was our name in large letters as well as our Chinese address and phone number. No problems everyone is happy. We fly out at 10 pm as is normal and arrive in Guanzhou about 8 am the next morning, switch to the domestic to Dalian. Our baggage has been check through from Melbourne to Dalian so life is good.

We get to Dalian Airport late in the evening and wait for baggage. The suitcases come along just fine. Jack, our driver, is waiting for us as usual which is so great after a long flight. We wait and wait but no umbrella and curtain rod. Narda finds someone with a handful and a half of English. We show our baggage claim for our parcel. They ring Melbourne and sure enough it left there and it was even traced to Guanzhou but then it stopped. They said to ring the next day. We did. Day after day for a couple of weeks until finally they said they would give us money. I think we got about $50 US maybe less but it did not come close to paying for the umbrella. It only costs seven dollars or so in real terms at the Piggly Wiggly store but what we had gone through no money could have paid for it.

So that is my Piggly Wiggly story. If I ever get back to one of their stores I may get another one but it won’t be the same. It looks as if we will be in Atlanta in six months, so perhaps I will get another one and this time take it as carry-on luggage.

I am not sure if I fully understand the differences between hording, cherished possessions with attachments, and material things that are filling spaces of ours around the world. What looks like junk to others, i.e. my wife, has special meaning to me. And I am sure if the Piggly Wiggly umbrella had survived the trip and not been lost once it hit China we would use it on rainy days and remember standing in the very hot sun alongside a freeway after an accident that surely we should have come to grief in but didn’t.

Home as a tourist destination

Home as a tourist destination

I was born this
This way
Everything else
I make up
As I go
(July 1995 Hackham, South Australia)

I do not really have a home. I have a tourist destination. I am a tourist at home. Places I refer to as home are not homes but stops on the way home. And like the people who visit the cities and towns I live in I too am just visiting where I am. Of course I am not really sure what home is. Even more removed from the equation is where home is. If home is where the heart is then I would be remiss to say my home is my heart because that would make me slutty. I would have to say that my heart was a tourist destination and at my age I don’t think that is going to happen. I purchase fridge magnets from where I live and my fridge side are covered with magnets from so many countries so many homes. My home is represented by fridge magnets. When I was going through my divorcee back in 1984 which left me with two children to raise my ex-witch of a thingy submitted a report to the Adelaide Family Court about me from her psychiatrist, a person who never interviewed or met me: “… I noticed in his writing that he talks about disintegration within his personality; and there is evidence of thought disorder such as loose associations and flights of ideas, which together with his general suspicious demeanor suggests psychotic thinking”. At the time I was writing children stories and continuing with poetry that I had been writing for decades and as a side note completing my PhD. Anyone who has done a PhD knows there is little sanity involved during or at the end of the thing which in my case took seven nasty years to do. The fact that my home is a tourist destination somehow syncs with my writing and back in 1984 with my ex-witch-thingy and her psychiatrist. The reason I have lived in your home or you may have lived in mine is because we are all tourists at the same destination. We were in Family Court more than sixty times between 1984 and 1998 – my lawyer said a record. Adelaide Family Court was a tourist destination and I had never planned to set up camp there – it was just a stop along the way.

The last time my home was the only place and not a place in between places was in 1964 or 1963. I was about 16 when I left my safe little place in the world, Clifton Park – Saratoga County in upstate New York. I was having some problems at Shenendehowa Central  School ; I think boredom was a deciding factor.  I told some people at a recent party that I still had my yearbooks from when I was in kindergarten and first they did not believe me then they all were just about on the floor from laughing so hard. Damn I thought everyone carried around their yearbooks. I only have them from 1954 (above) to 1964 when I left to find my fame and fortune.  In the picture above I am in the top row third from left when my name was Terrell Adsit. I have gone into how my name became Neuage in past blogs; something about getting an Australian pregnant and she not liking my name and me not hers and Randy Dandurand said ‘you two think you are such new age people…’ – Really! We had met at an astrological conference in Sydney, had a passing fling between Baltimore Maryland and California for a week and ending up in Hawaii the names got changed then we got divorced and I was a single parent in Australia for twenty years. But that is not the point of what I want to say this time.

So I got out of Clifton Park:  and yes that is my mother reading probably not her email and me siting in the trailer being silly like I was eating raw corn back in the late 1950s. This next  photo is of when I first tried to leave Clifton Park, New York. I was about six and I was headed out of town but got as far as the front of the house before getting stuck in a snow drift. The fact being that I was just a tourist in Clifton Park but at the time no one would believe me.

None of this is here now, they put in freeways, and a shopping centre and a Home Depot megastore where I attempted to grow up.

On with what I want to say, home as a tourist destination probably means that of going somewhere and living as a visitor, most likely because it is a passing through moment. I went in 1963 to Florida, to New Orleans, New York City, did the San Francisco stop at the end of the 1960s and lived in a commune across the bay, on to Oregon, to Hawaii – joining a religious cult for a decade – and living during that time in Kansas, Wyoming, New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and a few other places too. Then I ended up in Australia as a single parent with two boys and we moved ten times in ten years and settled down to live in two places for almost three years each. Then I got married successfully again, another Australian, and we tromped off to northern  New York and lived in three places in five years; two of them beautiful Victorians, which we still own in Round Lake NY. We then moved to New York City for five years and lived in only two places there, one of which we still own and even managed to live in South Australia sometimes and yes we own a house there too but we do not live anywhere that is our home still. When we moved to China we thought we were settled but now we have moved twice in two years; in the same building but in different apartments.

Maybe it is because I have Aquarius on my fourth house cusp with the ruler, Uranus conjunct Mars in Gemini in the 8th house – and of course I am married to a Gemini.  And Mars rules my 7th house, the house of marriage, so if I believed in astrology that would explain why I have not felt settled in a home since 1963 – not that I felt settled there either because I was adopted and brought to that location kicking and screaming when I was three years old. So it is fortunate that I do not believe in astrology or I would be quite confused.

I like living here in Campus Village in Northern China. It feels like home but most homes I have had have been tourists destinations (I am thinking of Maui, Honolulu, San Francisco, New York City, LA, New Orleans – my favorite, Victor Harbor South Australia – Victor really is a tourist destination because it is the end of the road – to go further one drives into the sea, unlike most towns and cities that one can drive through on the way to someplace else, Victor Harbor – where I raised my two sons for many years in several homes, is the end of the road. We, my good wife – the one I have now, and I have lived in Paris, Utrecht, The Netherlands, her place of birth, Ferrara Italy, Goa, India, San Pedro La Laguna on the Western shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala with my friend Dell, and Eugene Oregon and just so many places. I do not mean overnight places but places I, we, called home, though perhaps for only a week in some places. Mexico City we got settled in as well as in some places in Ecuador, though after only four days in Quito I had to get out of town because I had such a bad case of altitude sickness I just was not going to last in our home there so we got down to the shore and life was good. I thought we were settled in Istanbul but suddenly it was time to leave.

New York City was a fair effort of five years. That is a good example of home that others tromp through all the time. We did too. Every day I felt like I was a tourist except for paying mortgage and electricity bills and all those other home equations but still I was just passing through.

We are all just passing through until we get to where we are now. Home is where we are now. I am a tourist in my own home. I take the guided tour quite often. There are paintings my brother did back in the 1960s. He died of AIDS and I am so excited because his best mates are writing a book about him. There are belongings of my sons.  My son, I spent such a life time raising him, he was signed by the LA Dodgers, then committed suicide soon after turning 20; http://neuage.org/leigh.html. My fantastic still alive son, who even came to visit me here in Northern China is doing so well after all our moving around. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations. I tour my life – it is on the walls, all those places I have lived in; posters, gadgets, my 600 page book “Leaving Australia” that I made two copies of – one for my son in Australia and the other I read when I want to be a tourist in my own life.

And that is all that was on my mind at this time.

Just call me 牛腾然

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Just call me 牛腾然(niu teng ran)

I have had a few names in my life…
Started off with the most boring name of Terry Miller –

Mavourneen Elizabeth Bellinger

my mother, Mavourneen Elizabeth Bellinger, before putting me up for adobption

How could I go through life like that? So I got myself adopted by the time I was three by some Christians in upstate New York who named me Terrell Adsit.

1918 The Adsit farm in Clifton Park New Yor

1918 The Adsit farm in Clifton Park New York with my father in their midst learning how to raise me

They tried to create me into some unnatural image of their beliefs but they were not terribly successful so I went off and did the 1960s in Greenwich Village, New Orleans and on to San Francisco, Eugene, Oregon

1969 Eugene Oregon

still an Adist with some Adsits who tried to raise me who drove From New York to Eugene, Oregon with thoughts of giving me a haircut – 1969 before going off to Hawaii and ending up in a religious order for a decade

and by 1969 I was in Hawaii and somehow ended up in a cult group for about the next decade. They changed my name to Brother Arthur so I trolled around in a cosmic fog with this name.

Brother Arthur Adsit in the Holy Order of Mans; Wichita Kansas - 1984

Brother Arthur Adsit in the Holy Order of Mans; Wichita Kansas – 1974

In 1980, when I was living in Towson, Maryland I took a trip to Auckland then Sydney for an astrological convention.

astrologer

Australian Astrological convention 1982 after returning to Australia with my new name change

I met someone I didn’t like and she ended up in Maryland a few months later and some stuff happened and we drove across to San Francisco where I put her on a plane back to Adelaide, South Australia and I went on to Honolulu. Well the stuff that happened back in Maryland sort of started to manifest and soon she was in Hawaii and more stuff happened then we needed to get married and I did not like nor was I able to pronounce her Ukrainian name and she did not like the Adsit name so we made up a new name. My mate Randy Dandurand said “well you two think you are such new age people why don’t you call yourselves new age?” We thought that was just dumb. I changed my name to Neuage and by getting married we both were Neuage. Needless to say we were not that new age and a few months after son number one, Sacha, was born, whom I helped deliver in a little hospital on the north shore of Hawaii, we were on our way to Australia; Adelaide, South Australia. We had another son then got divorced and I was a single parent for the next two decades stuck in a foreign country with my Neuage name.  I still have the Neuage name but not to stop at name changes I now have a Chinese name.

picture poems

Neuage selling picture poems in Adelaide, South Australia 1994

What I have always like about neuage is that it is not too common. Can you imagine trying to get any cred on Google or Bing or Yahoo and etc. with a name like Terry Miller? I started making web pages in the early 1990s, soon after the World Wide Web was invented and for decades there were no other neuages in any search engine; just thousands of me. I loved it. Now there are some wankers using the neuage name; there is a rapper, someone hustling stuff on Amazon and a judge off in Nevada or Arizona – one of those dessert places. But there are still thousands of my pages coming up when putting neuage on in a search. I just checked my new Chinese name, “niu teng ran” – and there are none in any search so perhaps I could start again – make thousands of new webpages all under my new name. Damn I just remembered I have some work to do for school – well maybe next weekend I will start…

Terrell:牛腾然(niu teng ran).”niu” sounds like Neuage, which means a family name in China.”niu” also means “ox”. Ox presents diligent and dependable meanings in Chinese culture. “teng ran” sounds like “Terrell”, which means the flying appearance. “teng” is a  splendid character in a Chinese name, which means ‘up’ or ‘fly’ as we wish our family, career, money….everything goes up and up.

Chinese expert visa

Chinese expert visa – think I am at an expert at getting new names

Not wanting to be the only one with a new name Narda, who by the way did not become a Neuage or an Adsit and in fact returned to her maiden-pre-last-married name, now too has a Chinese name.

Narda: 毕娜达(bi na da) “bi” sounds like “Biemond”, which is a family name in China.na “means fascinating elegant, delicate and gentle. It is a good word used in feminine names. “da” means “super” and “fantastic”.

(Thanks to Angelia Guam at our school, Dalian American International School for our new names)

What I really wanted to share with myself as a memory I could look at when I am unable to sleep, like this morning when I was wide awake by 4 AM and decided to get up and go through my email I did not have time to read this past week which took me until 7.30 to get through and now it is 7:45 and I am writing this so either I am taking a break from going through my in-box or I quit. I am too sleepy to keep track of what I was doing. Anyway a silly memory… we were on the way back from Australia a couple of months ago, flying China Southern, and I was looking out the little round window in the back of the plane, taking pictures of something, probably more clouds to add to my thousands of pictures of clouds form the past decades. I suppose Narda was asleep leaning against our window so no doubt that is why I had my camera with me peeping out the window. After stretching and moving about; I had sat frozen in my seat for some dozen hours and the muscles and bones were sticking, I went to the loo. Not to worry it all seemed quite normal to me. After I had gotten myself settled back into my nesting mode a stewardess quizzed me why I had taken my camera into the bathroom. I couldn’t believe it. She said in her few English words that a passenger had report me taking a camera into the toilet. It wasn’t my small digital camera but my Nikon though why would it matter and what stupid human would report such a thing? I just looked at the woman and turned away but low and behold didn’t another twit come up to me and start asking why I took a camera into the toilet. Then there was a third person with more English quizzing me. I said I was taking pictures out the window then I needed to take a piss – they left after that and no one asked any more questions. It was funny but I am amazed at these people. I should have asked which passenger reported me and then asked her, of course it would have been a female, and no male would be that stupid, why she had such perverted thoughts.

got to tell ya about this

was me

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yesterday perhaps before

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