Saturday, January 22, 2011

SEASONS' GREETINGS FROM 'TE WAI POUNAMU' AOTEAROA: A Cosmic Renavigation Brings us back to NZ (for the time being, or is it a space being?)






































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NOTE FROM JEFF: This is a lengthy document covering almost three months and over 8000 kms of travel. The "Return to NZ" section belongs at the end, but since this is the present as of "now", I'm putting it near the beginning as well. cheers jeff

PHOTOS

1) hitching out of Adelaide towards Melbourne
2) eucalyptus trees with night sky, Balingup WA
3) Tumbledown Beach, Akaroa, New Zealand
4) Barry Brailsford, Cushla Denton, Liesbet and 'first ancestor'
5) quake damage, Richmond, Christchurch
6) clouds preceding 'nor-wester', Waiau NZ
7) stone at Nape Nape near Kaikoura
8) stained-glass by William Morris, church in Cheviot


PHOTOS ON NEW PICASA SITE: Highlights, Exmouth WA to Kaikoura NZ, November 2010 to January 2011


http://picasaweb.google.com/therockist2
/SEASONSGREETINGSJANUARY2011HighlightsExmouthWAToKaikouraNZ#

SEASON’S GREETINGS FROM “TE WAI POUNAMU” AOTEAROA: A COSMIC RE-NAVIGATION BRINGS US BACK TO NEW ZEALAND (for the time being, or is it a space being?)

INTRODUCTION
EXMOUTH TO BALINGUP: “This land is your mine, this land is my mine…”
NOTES ON THE MEANING OF “AMERICAN”
EXMOUTH WA: ANOTHER “AMERICAN” MILITARY FACILITY
ATTACK OF THE BEEF-PEOPLE
NINGALOO ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTISTS: VEGETARIANISM NOT AN OPTION
BIG OWL: WITNESS TO DESTRUCTION
AQUARUSH REVISITED: “ADVANCED MANAGEMENT REGIMES” AND “ECO”-CRAP
LEAVING THE TROPICS: CORAL BAY TO KALBARRI
NORTHHAMPTON REVISITED
NORTHHAMPTON TO BALINGUP IN TWO DAYS
BALINGUP: SACRED OASIS IN THE “TASMANIA OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA”
BALINGUP TO MELBOURNE
PEMBERTON AND BIBBULMAN
TWO DAYS TO NORSEMAN
ACROSS THE NULLARBOR
GARIWERD: NATIVE AMERICAN ENERGY AND BIBLICAL “PLAGUE”
“FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY”
A SYMMETRY OF RELOCATION

RETURN TO NEW ZEALAND

In the weeks since my last journale onderweg [Dutch, “on the road”] posted over two months ago from Exmouth, Western Australia, we’ve covered a lot of ground, even more than we had anticipated! In terms of kilometres, approximately 8500. And it’s hard to say exactly which “season” it is…or how many…Christmas, New Year’s, “holiday”, “spring into summer” (down under, that is…wait, it’s a George Winston album!), not to mention the more encompassing contexts of precessional, galactic or yugic perhaps? Seasons based on the whim-anations of the Hunab Ku? Let’s ask the Mayans. Or maybe the whales have “seasons” based on fluctuations of deep ocean currents? Regardless…GREETINGS from where we are now…which is here…the south island of New Zealand on planet Earth, star-system of Sol, Milky Way galaxy. We’ve been quite out of touch in terms of internet activity the past month; yet we’re not only alive but thriving…and in terms of natural reality, we’ve been very much IN touch!

INTRODUCTION

Liesbet and I reached our south-western Australia destination of Balingup after eight weeks of hitch-hiking south from Darwin, where we departed in September after a fantastic three-plus month visit, and were “riders on the storm” as national parks and roads closed behind us due to early rains, and during which time we spent only two nights inside a building and under a roof, other than our tent. Our hitch-hiking “luck” seemed to progress to new levels, the further south we went, and we had two wonderful weeks in Balingup, courtesy of our lovely new friends Debbie and Trevor; then we set out across the Nullarbor headed for Arni Balarni’s place on Flinders Island, Tasmania.

After a brief visit to Gariwerd, or the Grampians, an enchanted mountain range in western Victoria, where we experienced an almost biblical locust visitation and felt a powerful native American influence contacting us, we went to Melbourne and entered an “anomaly zone” when we went into the immigration office to apply for the final three months of our “year in Australia” we’d been granted in recent years, only to learn, much to our surprise, that the seemingly friendly immigration person who had given us a six-months extension in Darwin in June, had almost secretly put a “no further stay” qualification on my visa, but not on Liesbet’s. We had not noticed this because I’d never bothered to look at the sticker in my passport, which of course makes it all my responsibility; yet the immi chick never mentioned anything about it, and even asked if we wanted stickers, as they were no longer necessary; we only looked at Liesbet’s to verify precise dates, so we logically figured mine and hers were the same. In reality, the “seemingly friendly immigration chick” was in fact “just doing her job”, which is really the job of the Great Spirit! More details on this later, but what it meant was that instead of having three more months in Australia, we all of a sudden had three more days…and it was a Friday…but it was…and is…all good!

We’ve maintained our pattern in recent years of doing international travel right on solstices or equinoxes; this time we left Australia not with a radioactive dust-storm but with, yes, hordes of locusts!l And arrived in Christchurch, where over 3,000 after-shocks of greater than 3.0 Richter have occurred…and are still occurring…since the major quake in September that has re-written New Zealand geology textbooks. Plus this solstice happened to have a total lunar eclipse, a once-in-248 years occurrence! No shortage of cosmicity!

Through multiple synchronicities and help from several wonderful friends, what for a couple of days seemed like a nightmare turned out to be “good as gold” as they say, and here we are back on the south island, enjoying unexpected generosities and hospitalities, riding out the chaos of the holidaze (not to be confused with Hollandaise sauce!) season with the four-fold gifts of vehicular mobility, nice places to catch up on creative projects, beautiful friends, and a special sense of what we think of lately as “native American inspiration”, not to mention having already done a month’s worth of cool stuff in our first week back. *

[NOTE: This is the last few pages of the 50+ of this article but they pertain to the immediate present, so I’ve put them here for now]

RETURN TO NEW ZEALAND

So here we are back on the south island of New Zealand. It’s been very interesting spending a good deal of time in Christchurch, with all the still on-going earthquake activity. We’ve felt at least a dozen noticeable tremors. I kind of enjoy it, and I think the whole situation has created an atmosphere of increased awareness in people about a lot of stuff they take for granted, for example, the solidity and immovability of the ground beneath our feet.

Due to leaving Australia unexpectedly and suddenly, the contrast between the basic vibes of the two countries is more apparent. One of the first things we noticed was the people in New Zealand seem less stupid…or more intelligent. This was a first impression that’s pretty much leveled off now. Another observation is that the vehicles on the road here make a lot more sense than the extremely high per-centage of over-sized four-wheel-drives pulling macrophilous caravan monstrosities in Australia. There it’s almost as if there’s an unspoken national contest raging to see who can waste the greatest amount of fuel on the stupidest things.

New Zealand has been taking really good care of us. Thanks to Philip and Anneka, we’ve had not only an apartment of our own for several days, but also their spare car with which to get around. Our “hydrocarbon fuel karma” is very high from all the hitching we’ve done, so this is a welcome opportunity to see a lot of place and also to gather rocks from some awesome and remote beaches.

Thanks to Barry Brailsford and Cushla Denton, metaphysical historians of the south island, we have been able to find heaps of beautiful pure white rocks, as well as others of amazing smoothness and colour. Thanks to Ian McAllister we’ve been able to do a short recording session with flute and guitar. And thanks to Don and Linda at the caravan park here in Waiau, we’ve had a nice little room to get creative stuff done in for several days.

I’ve been trying to get this massive document written for the past month, and now that it’s done, I can move onto my retrospective write-up of 2010, “year of the leak”, if you look at the BP, Wiki- and flooding scenarios. Reality is busting at the seams.

OK, so that’s all for now. Soon we’ll be out and about all over the south island. DOC is still deploying massive amounts of 1080, and Peter Jackson is starting on his new Hobbit films. I really wish he could somehow decide to make a film about something that actually matters in the real world. So there’s plenty to keep us occupied here, not to mention some of the most spectacular and breath-taking landscapes anywhere on Mother Earth.

That’s all for the time being…but what will the space being require???

JEFF PHILLIPS
23 JANUARY 2011
WAIAU NEW ZEALAND

* Even though we were a little disappointed at not going directly to Tasmania (where they had a traditional “white Christmas” we hear!), Arni isn’t even at home on Flinders Island anyway, he’s still out at his gold mine property at Gum Creek in western Australia where he’s been since August; we’d made arrangements to return to Balarnia even in his absence, but it wouldn’t be the same without Arni there. When we do return there in a few months surely he’ll be back…unless he’s “struck the mother-lode” and is in Scotland buying the yacht of his dreams. Again, more details on all this later. Allow me to proceed chronologically. In early November we spent a week in Exmouth, not far from the Tropic of Capricorn, in western Australia.

EXMOUTH TO BALINGUP: “This land is your mine, this land is my mine…”

NOTES ON THE MEANING OF “AMERICAN”

First a lengthy aside before I describe Exmouth as another “American” military base. The name “American” can mean a lot of different things. Quite a few people, mainly in Australia, over the years have asked me, “Jeff, is it true that all Americans…?” Their question may concern beliefs, activities, patterns of consumption; although I cannot think of a specific example, what they all have in common is the absurdity of thinking that any particular thing could hold true for 300 million people, unless you were talking about fundamental biology or physics, for example, that, yes ALL Americans breathe oxygen, they ALL eat food, and they ALL are bound by gravity. And there’s qualifications to be made even on these statements…all Americans who are alive breathe oxygen…at least hopefully, but not without many other more plentiful gases, wanted and unwanted; all Americans who are alive eat food, or at least they think it’s “food”, and hopefully some of it has nutritional value; I can’t think of any exceptions to gravitational influence except those few who have had or are having the experience of weightlessness while in orbit or free-fall, or those who took too much acid. Many Americans have experienced or are experiencing reduced gravitational influence while in an aqueous or marine environments, but gravity is still there nonetheless.

Just as many people over the years, mainly Australians, have asked upon meeting me, “So Jeff, where are you from…Canada?” The implicit assumption is that I might be offended by their thinking that I was “American”, so they ask if I were Canadian, although they already knew perfectly well that I was in fact “American.” On the other hand, I’ve met just as many Australians who have travelled in “America”, love it there, find the people to be exceedingly friendly, helpful, and even far more courteous than their fellow Australians who they deem to be “rude.”

I could, and probably should at some point, write an entire article dealing with all this “American” stuff. Suffice it to say for now that in recent years I’ve always made a point to create awareness about what “American” actually means, beginning with the origin of the European-bestowed names of what we refer to as North and South “America.” Amerigo Vespuccis was a navigator/explorer, from either Italy or Portugal, I believe, and this is the origin of “America.” I haven’t looked it up yet, but the root could be Latin, possibly having to do with love of some kind, “amare” being the Latin infinitive of “to love.” We’re lucky they didn’t use “Vespuccis”. “So Jeff, are you…Vespuccian?” “Yes, I’m from Vespuccia del Norte.” I also remember well the encounter I had in Puerto Natales, Chile, a few years ago. I was talking with a local guy and he asked me where I was from. I said, “North Carolina, you know, in America.” He goes, “Ah, Jeff, we too are Americans.” I quickly apologized for my slip-up, as I was usually quite conscientious about this; I wish the Canadians could understand that they, too, are Americans in the same way that Chileans are! In fact, I would say that many Canadians I’ve met are the only “Americans” who are in denial of this.

Now that I think about it, an entire book could be written about what “American” means in the contemporary mind. You know, the same old same old about “America” being the “leader of the free world” and “global policeman for freedom and democracy”, not to mention home of hot-dogs, apple pie, baseball, Hollywood and over-consumption. You know, the “stars and stripes forever”, the “American dream”, the atomic bomb, the Federal Reserve, and television. The latter is, of course, how everyone else in the world knows so much about “America.” The America of today has at least a little bit of everything, and a LOT of many things, for better or worse, or so it would seem.

In recent years, in the decade I’ve been gone, the image of good old “America” has become a bit tarnished and confused on the world stage, you know, with Bush/Cheney and 9/11; the “war on terror”, on-going wars of aggression, including World War 3 which is the summation of the effects of global industrial civilization, our “unconscious jihad against nature”, and the targeting of human populations and the planetary biosphere as “the enemy” of the Pentagon. Just as Germany was the most powerful industrial nation in the early 20th century, made a valiant and almost successful effort to “take over the world”, but self-destructed in the end, modern-day “America” is following in her foot-steps; this is not “coincidence” or even “history repeating itself”, but a scientifically-dictated repetition of the same process, with the same “invisible government” directing the show, using the same blue-print, only this time with 50+ years of more advanced technologies. In my mind, there is no question that the “America” of today is in fact the “Nazi Germany” of today; the biggest difference lies in the area of mind-control: the Nazis were great innovators and masters of propaganda, but they lacked the central and most powerful weapons system required for total enslavement of human populations…a technology that is essential for enabling slaves to love their slavery. The “atomic bomb of the mind”, or television. In other words, what is happening in and with America at home and abroad is actually far WORSE than in Nazi Germany, the difference is that with the unbelievable success of modern “perception management” techniques, few people seem to notice or care. Guns, bombs, tanks and gas-chambers have given way to tv’s, mobile phones, food-additives, GE crops and DU, or “depleted uranium.” People are being killed more slowly and invisibly, in the comfort of their own homes, often by products they bought themselves, supporting the cancer industry, so that their families can bury them, thus saving a lot of work for the “power elite” who would otherwise have heaps of bodies to dispose of if they had fire-bombed or nuked a city, for example. And this isn’t just in America, this is the whole western world and large regions of the orient as well.

If you look at what’s happened with America as a whole since 9/11, the parallels with the Third Reich are in plain sight. Wall Street is at it again, and boy had we better wake the heck up!!! Yet, just as in Nazi Germany, it’s possible to live in the “belly of the beast” but to be totally unaware of any of this. But let’s not go there, not now, anyway…we all know that the real world is infinitely more complex than the extreme generalities with which we are usually happy to placate ourselves. We all know that America and every other land is populated not by “people” as a convenient linguistic abstraction, but by individual human beings, each of whom has a unique identity and story. Moreover, were I subject to “pride” I might even be “proud to be an American.” I wouldn’t hold my hand over my heart and pledge allegiance to any schwa…I mean, flag, but I might write about what it means to be an “American.” Why? Because I know the REAL America from the almost 20 years I spent travelling, mainly hitch-hiking, close to 150,000 miles, meeting thousands of real people from every walk of life along the way. Moreover, what is a “country” anyway? Is it the people? Is it the land? Is it the images conveyed by mass-media?

The bottom line is that there are lots of good people everywhere, in every country; part of the problem is that when even “good people” fail to act, they may as well be “evil.” And the real differences are not even so much in language, culture or “ethnicity” but in the mentality which people bring to bear in their lives. Mentalities are as varied as are individual people, but strata or “operating environments” form within the human psyche, manifesting on their own as well as being engineered into existence. The mentality of engineering the reality of other people is a big problem today, and is central to “America”, the reality and the image. Additionally, the projection of “global imperialism”, the raison d’etre of the PNAC-Amerika™ of today as a geo-political entity, has produced much of the “bad rep” that she now has in the world. The “America of today”, for example, has close to 800 military bases and facilities in other countries around the world. This kind of thing, of which countless examples exist, is not the work of “the people” (although they pay for it with every tax dollar) per se, but the fulfilment of the full-spectrum agenda of a minute “power elite” who have gradually and systematically usurped control of all things “American”: the people, the land, the image. I believe that the primary reason this is happening is karmic, having to do with the mass-genocide and violation of sacred lands generating the current “background radiation”; this on-going and historical process is an extremely important story, and is central for understanding the America and Australia of today, but for another article. Exmouth, Western Australia is home to one of these bases, and ties in with an important “unknown” chapter in Australian/American relations.

EXMOUTH WA: ANOTHER “AMERICAN” MILITARY FACILITY

Exmouth was founded in the 1960’s I believe, not as a “town” but as the support facility for a U.S. naval electronic warfare installation. Now called the Harold E. Holt Naval Facility, or something like that, the reason Exmouth exists is an array of huge antennas out at the tip of the peninsula. According to military PR, this huge array is for “communicating with submarines.” But those of us who’ve been researching “reality” understand that, while this may be true, it’s not the whole truth, or even the main truth…and so it goes with a lot of things these days. The “powers that be” may in fact tell us “the truth”…but not the whole truth…and the parts they leave out may be the most critical. George Orwell said that omission is the greatest form of lying; technically, however, or even legally, omission is NOT lying, and the impression of “telling the truth” can be maintained even as 99% of what matters is not conveyed.

According to ex-patriate Australian journalist John Pilger, in his book A Secret Country (essential reading for understanding the real Australia), the installation at Exmouth is one of three “secret” U.S. “electronic warfare” bases in Australia, the other two located at Pine Gap, in the central desert, and a place called Nurrungar in South Australia. The secret is not that they’re there, but what exactly their function is.

In telling the story of a very important chapter in the modern history of real “American” foreign policy…not the textbook or Hollywood versions…Pilger reveals that the purpose of these facilities is actually for “spying” on or illicitly monitoring sensitive or classified communications between various factions of government, industry and other elite “power brokers” anywhere in the world. Revelations concerning the underlying purpose of these bases accompanied the expose of the coup d’etat executed against Australia by the CIA acting on behalf of American business and financial interests (as they are bound to do) in 1974, when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was removed by Governor General John Kerr, acting on behalf of the British crown, because the “American interests” believed that Whitlam was going to shut down Pine Gap. Malcolm Fraser was immediately installed, Pine Gap was safe…but according to Pilger, Whitlam had never intended to shut it down…uranium mining began, and American energy interests were happy. Apparently the CIA referred to Kerr as “their man”, according to conversations overheard by Christopher Boyce, a young technician who worked within the electronic “spy” apparatus and whose story is partially told in the film The Falcon and the Snowman; Pilger also relates that top CIA personnel boasted that what they’d just done in Australia was in essence a more subtle and less violent version of what they’d done in Chile the year before, when Salvador Allende was assassinated and replaced by the Hitlerian Pinochet whose regime murdered hundreds of thousands of “dissidents”, kept the copper mines under private control, and opened the door to “free market capitalism” at last fulfilling Wall Street’s vision for South America. In Australia, the coup was executed “legally.”

Despite the remoteness and natural beauty, the vibe at Exmouth had never felt exactly right to me, and this time was no different. This was my fourth visit there, but the first time I’d ever spent more than just a night or two in Exmouth itself. I had always been aware of the antenna installation there, but only upon reading A Secret Country a few months ago did I realize the connection between “electronic warfare”, “American” foreign policy, and the modern history of Australia.

To me, when I thought of Exmouth, it was just the place you went through and got groceries before proceeding further to the awesome Cape Range National and Ningaloo Marine Parks. I first visited these places in 2004-05 when I was riding with “Doc Hillbilly” Tanya Martinich and her trusty hound Horus; we circumnavigated the whole peninsula and continued south all the way to Coral Bay on the 4wd sand roads, camping out at some huge dune formations. In 2009 Liesbet and I got to go to Cape Range with Mike and Jana, the wonderful Czech couple who brought us with them for over a week from Karijini; we didn’t attempt the sand road to Coral Bay as their 4wd might not have been up to the river crossings, but we all got to snorkel at Ningaloo. It was here that we learned of the work of Curt and Micheline Jenner, marine biologists studying the humpback whales who frequent these waters, who had concluded that the greatest threats to whales here came from motorized whale-watching vessels. This was of particular interest to us in the wake of our experience on the Aquarush, a Denham/Shark Bay-based “eco-“ tour enterprise conducted on a military-grade speed-boat. The operator, Gregg Ridgely, risked the lives of not only Liesbet and myself, but those of the other passengers as well as any marine life in his path, through excessive speed and reckless boat operation. Later we learned that he had killed a human snorkeler off Dirk Hartog island a few months before our encounter, but not only was he still in operation, he actually lied to us about it! Our pursuit of action against Ridgely has yet to accomplish anything other than to create awareness about the indifference or even criminal complicity of bureaucratic mentalities. This again is another story, and as yet unfinished.

On this visit to Exmouth we set up camp and spent most of our time “taking care of business”, resizing photos, painting rocks and internet-working. The caravan park wasn’t too bad, and had a nice large outdoor kitchen/dining area. This was a week of “getting stuff done” and that was pretty much all we did, other than observe the plethora of tour groups that came through almost every day. Emus wander around Exmouth like ducks do in a lot of places, casually crossing the streets or coming up to camp-sites and eating off the table. They’re quite graceful and resemble camels to a degree in the way that their heads move when then walk.

ATTACK OF THE BEEF-PEOPLE

The one moment of excitement in Exmouth came when we’d just lain down to go to sleep on our first night there, when suddenly this dude comes and sits down almost on our tent, just out the front. I asked him what he was doing, and he said “You must be the American guy (!) with the bad attitude.” I looked at Liesbet and said “Hmmm…” I donned my shorts and went out to confront whomever this might be. As I was about to add that sure, I might tend to have a “bad attitude” when my camp-site is being violated by some anonymous jerk, the dude says “Hey, Todd…over here.”

Over comes a stocky portion of beef-person with a face and build that somehow reminded me of a water-buffalo and a beer can in his hand. Ah…now I knew who these guys were. They were two “camp counsellors” of sorts who were “parenting” a large group of high school students that we encountered at the caravan park at Tom Price near Karijini a few weeks earlier. Even though it was dark both then and now, I recognized them and they me.

Briefly, here’s what had happened there. We’d been out at Hamersley Gorge all day, after laboriously managing to hitch a ride there. That process alone had taken us the better part of a day and a half. We had an awesome time there, but just as we were about to head back, I was crossing a rock ledge when all of a sudden a clasp on the strap of my video-camera bag snapped, allowing the bag to drop about 3 meters onto a rock surface. It could have been far worse, but as it was, only the microphone and view-finder were damaged. But I was not at all happy about it all.

A couple hours later we arrive back at the Tom Price caravan park, ready to make dinner and hit the hay. When we left that morning our tent was alone in the middle of a huge grassy area, where we’d taken extra precautions to go, with the permission of the management, of course, so that we would not all of a sudden find ourselves invaded by blind, insensitive, or unaware “campers” who might decide to set up right on top of us, totally unnecessarily, had we remained in the usual “unpowered tent” area.

Yet, amazingly, this is precisely what had happened while we were at Hamersley. As we pulled into the caravan park, all we could see was a giant bus with rows of electric lights set up all around, and what looked like in the evening light a field of graves on the grassy area which that morning had been totally empty. We couldn’t even find our own tent, amidst the throng of other tents and people wandering around, many of them talking on mobile phones. The “graves” were actually rows of swags, each of them for and some of them already containing high-school students on Karijini “safari.” This is another one of those words that’s been co-opted by the tourism industry, just like “eco-“.

The rows of swags and some tents had been set up literally within what would have normally been construed as “our” tent-site, i.e., within 2 or 3 meters of us. I was already both tired from the effort we’d expended to get to Hamersley, a long day of driving and “gorging”, plus the added stress of suddenly finding myself with a broken video camera…and the knowledge that the only Sony repair service in the southern hemisphere who I totally trusted to work on my camera had gone out of business just after they fixed my camera for the last time back in August. Then, to come back to our site only to find all this…it was a bit much to say the least. Since I’m not one to say only the least, let me continue with the grisly details!

Our instantaneous response was to break down camp and move back over into the “unpowered tent” area which now seemed to be relatively unpopulated. We set to work, neither Liesbet or I being especially in a good mood at having to deal with all this, right now, my mood less good than hers. One of the “counsellor” dudes…the one who later on came and sat on our ground-cloth…came over and said, without introducing himself, “The kids are pretty quiet.” At that point it didn’t matter to me if they were all totally unable to speak; the fact at hand was that, by any standard of respect, our site had been totally violated and intruded on, and by whom didn’t matter. This guy didn’t sound unfriendly, just clueless; even if their group had been instructed to set up camp there by the management (also clueless), as it later turned out that they had been, there was still no reason that any of their tents had to be so close to ours. Common decency, “camping etiquette” or even intelligence on the part of those in charge, i.e., the “counsellors”, would have dictated a “buffer zone”, a zone of space between their tents and ours. I told the dude that it didn’t matter, there’s no way we were going to stay in that spot with all those tents and swags so close to us. “Quiet kids”? On summer safari? With mobile phones? Right!

So, Liesbet and I moved all our stuff over to the unpowered area about 50 or so meters away. I was not in a good mood by any means, and it took a turn for the worse when I decided to get out my camera to take a wide-angle photo of the overall scene, to show the absurdity of what had happened. I centered the photo on our tent, and only in the out-of-focus background could the shapes of swags be made out, and the bus with lights. No people, kids or adults, could be distinguished in this photo. No sooner had I put my camera back in its bag when this other “counsellor” dude comes over to me saying “Hey, you can’t take pictures of the kids.” By now I was actually what you might call angry with these people. I’d already looked at my photo and knew that no images of human beings were discernible in it; plus WHO THE F*CK was this guy to tell me what I can and can’t take pictures of??? I mustered a tiny reserve of semi-politeness and told him that “Hey, it’s just a photo of my tent.” Which was in fact true. To which he replied, “Oh, ok.” He then returned to the chair he was sitting on, along with several other “counsellors” who were all eating slabs of meat and drinking beer, all the while sitting there watching Liesbet and me move all our gear, bit by bit, in order to escape from the violation they had instigated.

As my profound disdain for the whole situation stewed within me, exacerbated by my fatigue and stress over my video camera, and as I walked back and forth with arm-loads of gear, right past the “counsellors” sitting there staring at us like bovine tele-zombies, I was “inspired”, or moved you might say, to provide a little “non-verbal communication” in the form of the occasional “finger” gesture…not up in their face and aimed at them, but in a more disguised way, just extending it while my hand was down by my side walking. They were sure to see it, as they were watching every move we made as attentively as if we’d been the “footy game” on the tube. It’s not like Liesbet and I aren’t accustomed to being watched like a tv; we’re quite used to being a “spectacle”, especially to obese people who like to walk across the street in order to tell us that we have a lot of stuff. And once, when I could see them all watching me, I “hocked up a big lugey” and spat on the ground! Hey, it could have been a fly that went in my mouth, right? But yes, I was irate. I only did this stuff because they were just sitting there staring at us. Was I wrong to feel anger at them? The least they could have done was offer to help us move our gear instead of sitting there chomping on some rump steak and swilling aluminium-laced beer. We would, of course, have declined their assistance but the offer would have made them seem less tele-bovine.

We got ourselves moved, made dinner, got a good night’s sleep far away from the horde of “quiet kids”, and early the next morning the father of the family who we’d gone to Hammersley with gave us a ride out to the junction so we could hitch to Exmouth. We ended up going north to Karratha instead, but were in Exmouth a few days later.

Suddenly, here were these two “counsellors” at our tent. They were from Exmouth, and here we were in “their” territory, or so they said. Apparently they had recognized us from in town earlier, and actually followed us to where we were camping out. Kind of scary when you think about it. The word “stalker” comes to mind. They had both been drinking and it was a Saturday night. There I was standing face to face, or rather my face to their foreheads, with two at least partially drunken male hominids who had somehow found a way to be angry at ME for being rude to them…and to the kids! As they were making it sound, they had done no wrong and I had grievously transgressed against all that was pure and noble in the sphere of goodness, honour, and the Simian Scouts of Australia. Go figure.

They proceeded to berate me, call me names, and worst of all, told me that my mother would be ashamed of my behaviour if she were to find out. This really made me stop and think! They really puffed up when they announced, early on, that I was in THEIR territory now, and that this was…better watch out…WESTERN AUSTRALIA…and how I’d behaved doesn’t fly there. For a minute I thought I saw the beef guy pounding his chest like a gorilla, but I guess he was guzzling more beer.

Being that there were two of them, one quite beefy (in brain and brawn!) and both somewhat intoxicated, and I had no back-up or weapons (bad karma!), I probably should have been somewhat intimidated. I still don’t understand how or why, but somehow I just stood there, with less than a meter between me and them, and patiently let them rant on and on, saying as little as possible, and remaining calm and cool as the veritable cucumber. I felt absolutely zero adrenalin flow, acceleration of heart-rate, no sweaty palms, no tensing of muscles. It’s still a mystery but somehow the solidity of my inner peace must have involuntarily kept these blokes calm, too, because they were threatening this and that, yet they never did anything except flap the old lips. Beef-boy Todd even eventually threatened to come back the next night…after the game of course…and “do more than just talk.” I started to tell him that I wasn’t that kind of guy! And as he was walking away I almost said “But hey bro, you’re already here, why not save yourself a trip?” But I decided to just let it ride. Maybe because deep down I knew that I wasn’t wrong to be rude to those people, at least from my point of view, and that they had violated our site, sat there and watched, tried to tell me that I couldn’t take a photo of my own tent…none of their “kids” were in the photo, but what if they were? Ants or mosquitos might be in there, too, but not because I wanted them in there. Hayell, there might even be summa them thar ‘moebas on the sensor for all I know! And here they were AGAIN!

When they were emphasizing that this was “WESTERN AUSTRALIA”, it was if in their minds this meant a place where the brave and noble frontier-folk dwelt in peace, honour and harmony, and where “dirty outsider riff-raff” like myself might just get run outta town, just like in all them Holly-weird western flicks they were bound to have rotted their juvenile cortices with. I should have said, “You know, I reckon I should be glad this is WESTERN AUSTRALIA since I’m white…if I was black I’d probably already be kilt.” I could have gone on to remind…or inform…them that Western Australia is in fact the only state in the country in which an entire tribe of aboriginal people was murdered by police in uniform. It happened at a place called Murrajugga on the Dampier archipelago and my friend Robert Bednarik has written a book about it. I could also have reminded…or informed…them about the case of Robert Walker, a young aboriginal man who was murdered by guards while in the jail in Fremantle in the early 1990’s, and the judge ruled that it was “death by misadventure.” Finally, I could have reminded…or informed…them about the disastrous spiritual, social and environmental consequences of an unfettered mining industry which is exploding all over WA like a raging cancer, soon to bring over a hundred uranium mines in a region previously having none.

Had I dared to bring up any of this stuff, these testosterone-inflated buffoons might have spit their dummies and started swinging or implementing whatever methods they use to punish would-be offenders against their mentality. Wisely, I retained all this in the depths of thought and let them bellow on until they had nothing more to say.

Just in case the beef-people returned the next night, we moved house to another location where our tent couldn’t be easily spotted from the road; we didn’t want to be awakened again in the same way.

These guys probably thought they were right in their own minds. But isn’t this how actual wars get started? Both sides are certain they are right. Luckily, my sense of inner peace acted like a control rod to nullify their bellicosity; and I could feel a guardian angel on each shoulder, as well. They never did understand that they…their “kids” and/or themselves…actually invaded and violated our camp-site not once but twice, the first by thoughtlessness, the second by purposive pseudo-vindictiveness, and that any “rudeness” they got from me was my natural response to this.

So much for the excitement of Exmouth. It’s a pretty bland, even bleak, kind of place. I never felt what you’d call “good vibes” there, and I always figured it was because of the disruption in the natural magnetic fields from that antenna installation, kind of like being in range of a gigantic wi-fi transmitter.

NINGALOO ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTISTS: Vegetarianism not an option

We had a second “close encounter” that was less hostile but equally uninspiring in terms of the fundamental attitudes of people that were revealed. This was when we went to hear a presentation by several environmental scientists who’d been studying the Ningaloo reef. I wrote about this before, about how almostItalic everyone in the room laughed at me when I suggested the possibility…however remote…of going one step further than “eating less fish” to “eating no fish”, that is, becoming vegetarian. I noted that no mention had even been made about the presence of chemical toxins, many of whom are known to be endocrine disruptors, in the world’s oceans, and concentrated particularly in marine animal life. Dr. Beth Fulton, the one CSIRO scientist there who has communicated with me, countered these claims with “Hey Jeff, remember the conference was being held in a fishing club”, as if to say that their response was just what you’d expect. But some of those who laughed were her fellow scientists; what better place to start with a dietary “attitude change” towards eating less meat than a fishing club? “But fish isn’t meat, is it?” “No, fish is actually a vegetable, just like ketchup, and eggs are dairy products. How about a glass of fluoride?” Fulton also said that she was very aware of the work of Rachel Carson and even Dr. Theo Colborn, leading authority on endocrine disrupting substances, but that this work concerning environmental toxins didn’t really apply here because the waters around Ningaloo reef were some of the purest in the world. Duh? Any truly aware scientists know that the Earth has only one ocean, and it’s all connected. Fulton and the other CSIRO scientists all receive funding from the biggest mining company in the world, BHP Billiton, who operates the largest iron-ore mine in the world just to the north in the Pilbarra; not once in their presentations were any environmental effects from iron-ore mining mentioned, even though all of it…probably millions of tons per year…leaves Australia by ship not only from Karratha but also from Onslow, only 100 kms to the north.

BIG OWL: WITNESS TO DESTRUCTION

Now for our “third encounter of the close kind.” We were hitching out of Exmouth, and had been standing there in the hot sun for at least a couple hours. There was hardly any traffic and we weren’t looking forward to the prospect of going back to the caravan park where we’d just been for the past week. All of a sudden a 4wd vehicle comes past, then it turns around and pulls over onto the grass next to us. This huge hulk of human being gets out and for a split second I thought it was Todd, the beefy counsellor who had wanted to “run me out of Dodge.” Even as this behemothian presence got out and walked towards me, I was confused as to who this actually was; then, suddenly a gentle voice says “You don’t recognize me, do you?” The hulk reached out to give me a hug…it was none other than Big Owl, a friend of mine who I’d originally known from Fremantle and who I’d last seen three years ago down in Denmark in the south-west. What a surprise!

Owl stopped and chatted a bit, and when we said we were trying to get to Coral Bay, he offered to drive us there if we paid for petrol, which we were happy to do. During the next couple of hours I actually got to know him, which I’d never done before, as he isn’t one to talk much. The connection seemed especially synchronistic when he related that he was a videographer specializing in under-water film-making, as he had also been a clearance diver for the Navy in earlier decades. I learned later that this was someone who went into an area and cleared it of mines…a job that required supreme nerve. Maybe this had something to do with Owl’s “breakdown” that he’d had a few years ago; but he seemed fine now, except that by his own estimate he’s put on 30 kgs since I last saw him, and that until today, he hadn’t even left the city limits of Exmouth in three years. I countered that extra fat gives added buoyancy. He told us that he and some friends had just completed filming a series for the BBC on the natural history of Ningaloo, and that when all was said and done, that each of them should walk away with around $30,000 for a year’s work doing what they loved. Not bad.

We told him the story of what had happened with Gregg Ridgely and the Aquarush; he found it hard to believe, as most people do, that Ridgely could have actually killed someone, still be in business unfettered by any restraints, and lying about having done so. Since Owl has spent and still spends many hours in the water, diving for work and pleasure, he was able to tell us a lot about the effects of motorized boats on marine life. He said that it’s terrible, even in an area like Ningaloo, where in one two-hour period one day he saw quite a few turtles that had been chopped up by propellers, and that he’d seen many dolphins who had pieces missing out of their dorsal fins. We had an in-depth discussion about marine safety for humans and wild-life. Owl related that there’s a far greater number of oil platforms off the Ningaloo coast than most people are aware of, and if only one had even a small accident, the entire marine park would be trashed. Owl also concluded that even if a speed-limit were imposed for motorized vessels, there would be no one there to enforce it; plus, even “responsible” boat-operators tend to go crazy when they get a few beers in them and no one’s looking. Unless they happen to be Gregg Ridgely, who doesn’t need beers to be reckless.

AQUARUSH REVISITED: “ADVANCED MANAGEMENT REGIMES” & “ECO”-CRAP

Over the past year, and especially as we were travelling down through WA, I’d been trying to formulate a case against Ridgely, but not a single person or entity at any level of bureaucracy could be bothered to care. Finally we got at least a modicum of response from the office of Greens MP Giz Watson; Watson’s assistant Nina Jurak seemed helpful at first, relating how Watson was pursuing a ban on fishing in marine parks and world heritage areas and that Dr. Brad Norman, leading authority on whale sharks, often working out of Ningaloo, might be a good person to contact. He’s doing some interesting work, and I thought it was cool that he’s using some software developed by NASA for recognizing patterns of stars to identify individual whale-sharks, as each one has a unique pattern of white spots on its back. In a phone conversation Norman said that his work per se had little bearing on the Aquarush scenario, but that a Dr. Lars Bejder might be useful to contact. Bejder is a marine biologist working on the impact of tourism on dolphin populations, in fact, in Shark Bay, where the Aquarush operates. Norman warned me that Bejder was pretty “conservative” and that his attitude towards dolphins was essentially behavioural (as opposed to appreciating cetaceans as fellow beings). After reading some of Bejder’s “scientific” articles, I am not inspired by his “findings.” In addition, Bejder appears already to be very familiar with Gregg Ridgely, as Bejder was part of a research project, commissioned by the Marine Parks and Reserve Authority and DEC to study the impacts of tourism on the dolphin populations at Monkey Mia. Ridgely, who operates both the Aquarush “eco”-tour out of Denham, and the Aristocat-amaran dolphin interaction tours out of Monkey Mia, is now apparently the only remaining operator licensed in this whole area.

In reading some of Bejder’s articles, first I came across this: “The substantial effect of tour vessels on dolphin abundance in a region of low-level tourism calls into question the presumption that dolphin-watching tourism is benign.”

Fair enough. But “dolphin abundance”? This makes it sound like they’re a fruit or something. No mention of even “behavioural effects”, much less “distress” or “annoyance.” He goes on to distinguish between the “effects of research vessels versus tourism vessels”, which is important; yet, isn’t it obvious that any boats are going to affect cetaceans in one way or another? Sure the dolphins are “intelligent” by any standard applied by humans, but are they going to be less annoyed by a research vessel than by a tourism vessel? MORE annoyed, because the “researchers” should know better than to be there?

Bejder, with whom I’ve yet to make direct contact, and probably won’t bother doing so, goes on in another article, co-authored by a person named Higham who’s a higher-up in the, get this, Dept. of Tourism, School of Business, University of Otago, New Zealand, to say that Monkey Mia gets over 100,000 visitors per year (this was in 2008) and 69% of them come to see dolphins. We can be sure that many or most of them are going to pay to go on Ridgely’s Aristocat dolphin-encounter “eco-“ (naturally!) tour, Ridgely being the sole licensed operator there, and whose licensing fees paid for Bejder’s research into all this.

Bejder and Higham conclude in this same 2008 article that Shark Bay shows “a greater commitment to sustainable wildlife tourism, and the protection of animal populations from impacts of tourism development, than anywhere else in the world currently”, referring to the then WA Minister of the Environment’s “visionary” decision to allow only one tour operator out of Monkey Mia in order to ensure the sustainability of future dolphin tourism, and to “introduce a moratorium on any increase in research vessel activity in the area” (translation: Ridgely got to remain the sole licensed tour operator, and Bejder & associates got to remain the sole researchers, blocking other tour operators who might conceivably be more ecologically sensitive, as well as other researchers, who may have found the reality of the situation to be far less favourable for “sustainable tourism” and far less “benign” for the dolphins).

Check out more of Bejder and Higham’s vacuous bureaucratese, which sounds like it was drafted exclusively to impress higher-ups (= people who sign their grant checks) and to fool those who don’t know any better:

“These developments represent a competitive advantage for the continuing
development of wildlife tourism in Western Australia. To our knowledge they
demonstrate a greater commitment to sustainable wildlife tourism, and the
protection of animal populations from impacts of tourism development, than
anywhere else in the world currently.

However, it is important to note that Shark Bay is unique in many important
respects. It is a geographically remote site, where a relatively small industry is
supported by excellent science and where a robust legislative context provides
for an advanced management regime (i.e. a rigorous system of operator licensing).

This is a rare combination, indeed relatively few sites internationally are
subject to robust legislation and sound management, and fewer still are afforded
the benefits of good science. Nonetheless, it is likely that in time the events
reported in this paper will justifiably be recognised as representing a major
threshold in thinking regarding the long-term sustainability of wildlife tourism.”

In effect, what they’re saying is that, essentially, removing the competition in the domains of both tour operation and research represents a “major threshold” for the wildlife tourism industry. This is no more than a fundamental and monopolistic business strategy, expressed in sciento-bureaucreatese jargon thickly laced with poly-syllabic double-speak phrases like “robust legislative context” and “advanced management regime.” Essentially meaningless but impressive-sounding to scientifically illiterate check-signers.

Remember…Gregg Ridgely, the sole dolphin-tour operator at Monkey Mia, who helped to finance this research by Bedjer and Higham, is the same Gregg Ridgely who put our lives at risk through reckless operation of his Aquarush “eco” speed-boat tour and who had already killed a human snorkeler and lied to us about it. Ridgely is now the sole representative of “sustainable tourism” in Shark Bay; he did, in fact, have a “safety management system” in place when he killed the snorkeler, which was approved by the same “rigorous system of operator licensing” and the “robust legislative context” that has allowed him to remain in operation thereafter. And remember, Lars Bejder is a professor at none other than Murdoch University, as in Rupert Murdoch…the billionaire entrepreneur and media mogul who was so obsessed with increasing the flow of international tourism to Australia that he “insisted” that his battalion of journalists give rave reviews to the mediocre film Australia…regardless of what they really thought…which was conceived expressly for the purpose of “doing for Australia what Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand”, and was subsidized by the Australian government and Tourism Australia.

All in all, it looks like a major travesty of justice and conscientious science, not to mention true ecological sensibility, being foisted in order to keep those tourism dollars coming in. What’s the life of a single snorkeler, or a few human lives at risk here and there, or the lives of random species of marine life, or the quality of life for dolphins, when so much money and the international image of Australia as a tourism destination is at stake? Who within the corridors of power can be bothered to act on behalf of truth, a sense of environmental stewardship, and love of our fellow life-forms in the sea when they’re so busy applying for next year’s funding or making sure their friends’ businesses rake it in. No one we’ve learned of.

I will go into more detail on all this in my new “IT”, or “Investigative Tourism” blog, the purpose of which is to inform people…locals, prospective international visitors, officials, bureaucrats, “eco”-tour operators, tourism executives, and extra-terrestrial anthropologists to read about our experiences travelling in the real world, the reality of what we experience…not necessarily what anyone particularly wants to hear, but what needs to be heard, because it is reality. And “reality” can be a lot more inconvenient than “truth” especially when it comes to “business as usual.”

I know of no real dissenting voices countering the propaganda of industrial tourism, since the days of Edward Abbey, other than our own; I know of very few “scientists” who are working truly on behalf of anything other than the dollar. When I read Lars Bejder, who also happens to be on some UN committees for marine conservation, talk about the necessity of “human exclusion areas” (which might at first sound like a good idea until you realize that only regular people would be excluded, but “privileged” people, including “researchers” would be welcome), and whose sole criterion for studying the effects of tourism on dolphins is their “abundance”; when I hear Curt and Micheline Jenner say that motorized whale-watching is the biggest threat to humpbacks in the Kimberley, yet fail to mention any impacts from Woodside Petroleum, who funds them; when I saw Dr. Beth Fulton tell that “rec fishing” takes far more fish in Coral Bay/Ningaloo than all commercial fishing in the Pilbarra put together, yet fail to mention any impacts from BHP Billiton, who funds her; when we asked Gregg Ridgely if he’d ever hit anything after we got off his boat, and he lied to us about having killed a snorkeler; when I contact dozens of “officials” about this and not one gives a damn; and when I read the sickeningly deceptive and absurdly worded tourism propaganda aimed at prospective overseas visitors who have no idea of what their destination is really like, it all makes me realize why I’ve never been a “tourist”, and even makes me kind of embarrassed to be a member of western society. If “tourists” could simply arrive and engage with the land herself, that would be excellent; but this is almost impossible for the “uninitiated” visitor as just the fact that they’ve come means they’ve already been indoctrinated by sheaths of industrial tourism “information” which use the land simply as a source of images to attract their prey. And this is true not only for Australia or New Zealand, but anywhere else in the world.

After Big Owl dropped us in Coral Bay, I thought of contacting him to see if he’d consider paying “Sheriff Todd Sirloin” a visit back at the high school in Exmouth. See, Owl is at least twice the size of the stocky boy-Todd, and could probably hoist him by the throat with one hand if the need arose. Wouldn’t it be funny to see Owl paying a visit to Todd at the school, and in front of all his “kids”, say, “Hey, bro, remember when you visited Jeff at his tent that night a while back? Well, he was wondering why you didn’t come back the next night…you know, to do ‘more than talk.’ Care to take any of this unfinished business up with ME?” Come to think of it, this would be fantastic to have on film! After that, maybe Owl might be inspired to go and pay Gregg Ridgely a similar visit! And after that the WA Ministers of Environment and Transport!

LEAVING THE TROPICS: CORAL BAY TO KALBARRIItalic
When we arrived in Coral Bay we, particularly Liesbet, noticed that it felt a lot “clearer” here, energy-wise, now that we were over 150 kms from the electronic warfare installation at Exmouth. It was kind of like a cloud that had been over us was now gone. It’s interesting…and scary…to note that it seems to us that the first thing to be affected by being in the sphere of influence of artificial electro-magnetic fields like that is your ability to notice its effect on you; your overall process is degraded but you are unable to perceive it.

Coral Bay is a beautiful place in terms of the land, being on the southern edge of the Ningaloo/Cape Range peninsula, with awesome white sand dunes and clear waters. I’ve never been a fan of the town itself, however, as it’s little more than a tiny cul-de-sac of over-priced tourist facilities. That’s pretty much all there is, not really any “locals” or neighbourhoods. This time we learned that they are going ahead with the construction of a huge hotel complex or something, plus a heap of new houses for all the employees to live in. Great. Remember, Coral Bay is the place already visited by over 200,000 people per year, a large per-centage of whom are “rec fishers” who take between 400 and 1000 tons of fish, according to Dr. Fulton.

After two days there we headed back out to the main highway and the Minilya roadhouse. It took us over four hours to get a ride out of Coral Bay, but the time hitching there was well spent, as there was so little traffic that I took out my guitar, and a whole new piece of music emerged in the still-novel-to-me “DADGAD” tuning, popularised in recent years by Pierre Bensusan and Laurence Juber, but even earlier, in the sixties, by Davy Graham, a wicked and relatively unknown talent. We got some footage of a troop of tourists on “quads”, which is a pretty ridiculous sight to behold. From a distance it sounds like a squadron of lawn-mowers, but then they come into view, each with their little helmet and bovine expression. This is one of the new trends in “eco”-tourism…”environmentally friendly quads.” This is, of course, almost as oxymoronic as “environmental mining”, which actually exists as a curriculum at the university in Hobart. Our “friends” in Kalbarri have been trying to sell their sea-food restaurants (not sure why…because the ocean is running out of fish?) and have acquired an “environmental quad” enterprise. I pointed out the conflict with this term, and asked what could possibly make a quad even marginally “environmentally friendly” unless it was electric charging on solar? The reply: they’re quieter than “normal” ones. Right. We haven’t checked them with a db meter yet, but I seriously doubt that they’re “quiet.” If you can hear them at all, it’s unnecessary noise in the “wilderness.” That’s the one good thing we noticed at Emma Gorge at El Questro…instead of petrol-powered quads, the employees rode around on similar vehicles that were electric, therefore silent. There’s absolutely no reason that ALL quads couldn’t be electric, and until then, NO quad can honestly be said to be “environmentally friendly.” And what about horses?

Finally a couple stopped. They were just out for a drive, and were headed for what on the map appeared to be a lake not far from Minilya…but in Australia as a whole, and in WA especially, what looks like a “lake” on a map may very easily be a bed of sand in reality. It’s only a “lake” when there’s water in it, which could be once every ten or thirty years. Many of them could more properly be termed “salt flats.” They were nice enough to drive the additional 30 kms or so to put us at Minilya, which was very cool of them, and very hot for us, as the temperature here was significantly greater than by the coast. The bloke was an employee of Chevron working on an oil-drilling platform off the coast of Karratha; both he and his girl-friend were more or less apologists for the energy extraction industry, as were maybe half the people we met all through WA. These two people, nice as they were, seemed to have no actual connection with nature as a living presence; their view was that all this stuff that people wanted was just sitting there, waiting to be extracted, as if this were the reason it was there to begin with. As we were unloading our gear at Minilya, a huge flat-bed truck came by with something I’d never seen before: a huge ore-loading vehicle entirely wrapped in white plastic, as if it were a gigantic surgically-sterile Christmas present for the jolly green giant! The couple informed us that this was the latest thing that mining companies were doing to ensure the health and bio-diversity of remote wilderness areas: making sure that their mining equipment didn’t accidentally bring invading microbes or pests into pristine areas!!! FOR REAL! Can you believe it??? I guess they have to use white material, too, so people can be sure it’s REALLY CLEAN. No dirt allowed for mining vehicles!!! They said this one would be bound for Barrow Island, south of Karratha. When you look at it on the atlas, the entire island appears to be a “nature reserve”, and is labelled as such; like most other “wilderness” areas, however, if you were actually to go there, you would find a formidable mining presence, invisible on the maps and if you had only “tourist information”, un-mentioned and non-existent. But once you’re there, too late…you may not believe what you’re seeing and that you weren’t told, but..gotcha! The tourism industry already got your money and will get more as long as you’re there.

Fairly quickly we got an unexpected ride with another couple, a young guy from Berlin (we could tell because his van…a VW of course, as well as his t-shirt, were emblazoned with “BERLIN”…no swastikas, though!) and a girl from New York. We were surprised when they offered to bring us at least to Carnarvon; it was a tight squeeze as Liesbet and I loaded our gear onto the bed in the back and had to put our legs over our heads to fit in. We had to listen to what had to be some of the worst “music” we’ve ever been afflicted by…right up there with Greg and Julia Evans at Nitmiluk…one song in particular was quite painful, a piece of “electro-pop” sosmasm that repeated “…tonight’s gonna be a good, good night…” over and over ad nauseum. The worst thing about “music” like that isn’t the “music” itself, but the fact that someone would deliberately choose to listen to it. Similar to choosing to have your lunch sitting by a cess-pool.

We stopped off briefly at the Carnarvon blow-holes, which is a powerful and spectacular place. The occasional “king wave” visitation is attested to by the presence of a token life-preserver and 20 meter rope, placed there in honour of some fisher-person who got taken a few decades ago. Our last visit there was with Mike and Jana, and we must have spent an hour or two there, taking pictures and taking it all in. This time, the couple, whose schedule we were on, had seen enough in about ten minutes. But, we went with them to camp out at Quobba Station, where we’d never been before. This is a working station joining right onto the beach, and as a $10-per-person camp-ground was actually pretty ok. There was no kitchen or place to sit or eat at all, but the “ablutions block” was one of the nicest we’d seen, large, spacious, and solar-powered! Gotta like that! That evening the almost new moon was clearly visible; I pointed it out to the couple, neither of whom had ever seen such a thin crescent or “Earth-shine” before, being city-slickers and all. I took it for granted that they each had their own battery-operated coffee-grinder in their back-packs. I took some photos of the Milky Way after it got dark, and the German guy was inspired to try it with his new digital camera, or so he said. I tried to explain to him how to do it, and offered to write down a page of basic photographic techniques for him, as he was just starting out. Then, with a note of Aryan…or was it “semitic”?...arrogance, he said, “Don’t bother…I’ll just go and buy a book.” I didn’t bother to tell him that what he’d get from me would not only save him about $40, it would also tell him what he really needed to know to be a great photographer and in only a few sentences, based on my 40+ years of still photography.

The next day they dropped us to hitch near Carnarvon, after relating that their next destination was in fact Monkey Mia. I told them about the “wild” dolphins who everyone feeds there…supervised by DEC personnel, of course…were actually known to be quite unhealthy, physically and mentally. And I told them about Gregg Ridgely and the Aquarush. They just gave me this funny look, as if to say, “But our Lonely Planet doesn’t say anything about that…” What if, however, there was an alternative to Lonely Planet that told the whole story about places?

Relatively quickly, that is, in about an hour or less, we got a ride with a single middle-aged somewhat over-weight woman named Bessie. She was on her way from Karratha, where her husband was hard at work in the mine, back to their home in Perth. She was marginally cool and inquisitive, and she persisted in asking me all kinds of questions about this and that, “America”, for example, as she had always wanted to travel there. She had a tape playing of Bill “ain’t no sunshine” Withers live, which was very interesting; he sounded very much like a comedian when he talked. Bessie was one of those people that you aren’t quite sure about, however, as sometimes there would seem to be this tone or “edge” to her questions; hard to convey but a feeling that seemed to say “you need to be a little careful with this one.” For example, she took us onto a look-out off the road so we could see the view, which was all the way out to the Indian ocean. I don’t know why, but when we were getting out of the car, and she was still sitting at the wheel, I couldn’t help but think that she momentarily considered leaving us there, just for fun. I was probably wrong, and of course, we’ll never know, but these things do occasionally cross your mind. The key is not to allow the window of opportunity, if there’s any question at all. Bessie was of course another “apologist” for the mining industry; an interesting thing she related was about how the Chinese have gone to the next level by actually buying an entire peninsula called Cape Preston, near Karratha, building their own industrial facility with their own labourers, and running it themselves. It wasn’t a bad thing, of course, because there are Aussie sub-contractors…but essentially a Chinese company bought a huge chunk of western Australia in order to extract its resources.

About mid-way through our ride with Bessie we passed by the Overlander roadhouse and the turn-off that goes back north up to Denham and Shark Bay, an area of exquisite natural beauty in the shadow of appalling socio-ecological phenomena. This world heritage area should be renamed “George Orwell Theme Park” in honour of Gregg Ridgely and his Aquarush/Monkey Mia “eco”-tourism scams backed by Bejder’s “excellent science” and Minister of Transport Simon O’Brien’s “robust legislative contexts.” Ever since we returned to Australia in March, Liesbet and I’d been debating what to do about Ridgely, since no one who was supposedly getting paid to care actually did. Were we going to go back to Denham and confront him with our video cameras in his face? “Gregg, what was that you said about never having hit anything that you know of. Does the name Charles Cole ring a bell?” Cole was the snorkeler that Ridgely killed in December 2008. We seriously considered doing this, but were reluctant potentially to put ourselves at risk; knowing what we did about Ridgely, and the fact that he was still in operation unfettered, for all we knew the local cops might be his closest friends. The only way we’d have confronted him is if we had a quick way out of there. Or if Big Owl was with us. As we passed the turn-off to Shark Bay, we figured that the next best thing we could do was just to “boycott” the whole area by not going there at all, because, if you’re there at all, you’re supporting the local economy. This would, in fact, be the way to create “conscious tourism destinations”, if there were enough aware and concerned prospective travellers: boycott areas who exhibited flagrant violations of ecological sensibility. The tourism industry would be sure to love this…and might hopefully get in line with true “ecology” rather than the dollar. But this is probably just a pipe-dream because “industry” of any kind and “ecology” in a real sense are totally incompatible.

Our destination was Kalbarri, which is about 50 kms off the main highway. Bessie was headed further south, and as it was late in the day, we didn’t want to get out to hitch this last 50 kms from an intersection in the middle of nowhere that had absolutely no facilities, and very little traffic even at its busiest, where we may have ended up spending the night. So we continued on to Northhampton, where there was a caravan park strategically located precisely at the intersection where the southerly route into Kalbarri branched off. She dropped us right at the caravan park, and was on her merry way.

We met the manager, who was pretty nice, and started setting up camp just as the sun was going down. We really noticed that now we were in a very different ecological zone from the arid desert where we’d been for weeks; when we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn coming south after we left Exmouth, we realized that we’d been literally in the “tropics” for over seven months. Now we’d entered a more temperate zone; we could feel a coolness and moistness in the air that was very refreshing, a sensation we really hadn’t felt since New Zealand back in March.

This little caravan park also had several “gazebo” things built out of bamboo in the tent area; we had our own private one, which was very cool. We ended up staying there two or three nights as we needed to get some rocks painted, and the gazebo was perfect for this. The rate was good and it was pretty quiet, too. Here I “celebrated” Carl Sagan Day by writing an article about him as I understood his work and vision; in response to this I became aware of the lengths to which he’d gone to suppress the writings of Immanual Velikovsky, which was quite hypocritical for a person supposedly committed to the pursuit of scientific “truth.” I’d always honoured Sagan’s contributions for creating a sense of “cosmic awareness” through mass-media and for his unique and out-spoken opposition to the existence and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

When we were hitching to Kalbarri, we’d been standing there maybe 30 minutes or so when a nice woman stopped to talk to us. Her name was Madeleine and she was originally from Switzerland but had lived in Australia for over 15 years and in Northhampton for several. She was quite cool and said she’d done a lot of travelling herself, including hitch-hiking around Europe as well as extensive travel in good old America, which she loved. She said she’d even written a novel that was about her travels in the U.S. Much to our surprise, she said, “Well, I don’t have anything to do. Put your gear in the back and I’ll drive you to Kalbarri.” Wow. How cool was this?

A couple hours later she unloaded us at the caravan park by the Murchison river and invited us to stop and see her on our way back through Northhampton. We had a nice three day visit to Kalbarri, and visited Red Bluff, one of our favourite places there. We also inspected the mural we’d done there in 2007; it was holding up fantastically and was still a landmark and the most colourful sight in that part of town. As in almost every town we’d gone through in WA, there was some major construction going on, here a new wharf was being bulldozed out of the riverbank. Kalbarri, although a very beautiful place in terms of nature, had always seemed pretty bleak in terms of the people thing. It always seemed a little unfriendly or even depressing. We heard that now, because of the “gfc” or some other nebulous crisis mentality, over 100 houses were up for sale, in a town of only a couple thousand people. But Kalbarri always seemed “empty” anyway, as a lot of the houses there are holiday homes that are only used for short periods out of each year. Kalbarri could be a place where “whitey” set up shop on what used to be a sacred aboriginal burial ground, just like Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road and probably many other coastal towns around Australia. What’s Lonely Planet got to say about this? Nada.

We came and went from Kalbarri uneventfully, noting that it seemed to be becoming more and more of an over-priced tourist town with little character that hardly does justice to its awesome natural surroundings. Then again, that’s the story of many small towns in western Australia. The one image and observation that sticks with me, more than any other, from the realm of “stupid human stuff”, is the guy parked in the corner of the caravan park where stayed. It appeared to be a single man with no pets, wives, etc, in what may not have been the absolute largest…but in the top half-dozen, for sure…”fifth-wheeler.” Now, for those of you who are out of touch with the state-of-the-art in tourism macrophilia, this is the latest trend: caravans so large that they have to be pulled with a separate “tractor” or cab, just like a tractor-trailer truck; and they have to refuel in the areas where the lorries usually go, unless there’s no roof overhead. And what made this one multiply ridiculous to the point of terror, is not that this guy, for at least two days in a row, appeared to do nothing other than hose down and wash this snow-white monstrosity with precious fresh water that is a limited commodity in Kalbarri; we couldn’t believe that the caravan park management didn’t stop him. As I learned later, she was too busy watching tellie. And get this: when I zoomed in on the front of the cab, guess what brand the vehicle is? “ECO.” I shit you not AND fair f*cking dinkum! But remember, this town is home to “environmental quads” and possibly a burial ground.

When we hitched out of Kalbarri, we took a cab to the edge of town and surprisingly got a ride in less than five minutes with this over-weight guy who had used to be a cop in Perth but now owned the company that supplied all the ceramic insulators for the electric power lines. At first he had some interesting things to relate but when he started boasting about how he was thinking of buying a tract in the new but totally sterile housing development on the edge of Kalbarri, his IQ seemed to plummet. He was complaining about how his whole family had been attacking him, so he just up and left for his holiday house…or one of them, as he told it. He supposedly also owned holiday homes in Bali and in Jurien Bay, plus, of course, seven boats of various sizes, plus he had to pay over $100,000 per year just for automotive insurance for his family. They were pretty bad drivers, we took it. This was all well and good; again, he was one of those people who I took care not to accidentally antagonize by saying the wrong thing. So I had to chuckle to myself when he started telling us how nuclear power was the way to go for electricity. I never really commented on anything he said, but noted both his certainty and his ignorance concerning “all things nuclear”; it would seem that he derived his knowledge from the John Howard school of nuclear physics, whose maxim is “safe and clean.” His closing statement on all this was something like “Nuclear reactors are totally safe. Did you ever hear about a problem with any of them?” Dude…what planet is your brain from? There, Three Mile Island was just a holiday retreat and Chernobyl must have been the president of Russia. The eight-foot sponges near the Farralone Islands…just a freak of nature, too.
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NORTHHAMPTON REVISITED

This guy was the perfect ride to have before we returned to visit Madeleine in Northhampton, because one of her favourite things to talk about was how the people in Australia seemed to be quite uneducated and uninterested in learning anything of importance.

Madeleine came and picked us up from town, and took us to her little house on the hill above Northhampton. She has two cool dogs and two nice cats and lots of books. She is a big fan of America…the United States, that is, and has a lot of books about American presidents, her favourites being Abraham Lincoln, JFK, and…Obama? Remember, she is who had the John Pilger book A Secret Country, that tells the stories, for example, of Australian mass-genocide and CIA-backed coup d’etats.

I explained to her the similarity between Lincoln and Kennedy…not all the freaky but insubstantial stuff concerning details like Lincoln had a top assistant named Kennedy and Kennedy one named Lincoln, and so on, but that they were the only two American presidents who challenged the banker influence that Jefferson had repeatedly warned of; Lincoln and Kennedy both attempted to wrest the usurped power of government money from the bankers and to restore it to Uncle Sam. Lincoln actually got so far as to print “greenbacks” and get them into circulation; Kennedy was on the verge not only of de-commissioning the Federal Reserve but also the CIA. Both were assassinated by secretive banker operations.

I could understand Madeleine’s love for Lincoln and Kennedy, but when I saw the huge smiling simian photo of Obama on her fridge, I had to tell her what John Pilger says about him: he’s nothing more than a creation of Wall Street and the CIA, a veritable “yes-man” for the most advanced agendas of globalization, yet a “likable” guy who is able to say what almost everyone wants to hear from the “leader of the free world.” That Obama “seems” better than Bush is an important observation, emphasis on “seems”; that his administration is over-seeing even greater planetary atrocities is obvious to anyone who has dared to investigate.

We had a lovely time there, but it felt almost claustrophobic and anaerobic to spend a night under a roof in a house, after weeks of fresh WA air. Madeleine baked a heap of wonderful muffins for us, and I ate more “buttah” that night than in the previous three months! And she played us a lot of Nashville bluegrass, something she came to love while travelling state-side.

The next morning she dropped us at a good hitching spot down the road, where I’d hitched from several times. We got a late start, however, and when we were still there three of four hours later, we decided to go back to the little caravan park with the gazebos and start out early the next morning. While hitching we had an amusing encounter with a police officer, only the second time in over ten years of hitching in Australia that any cops stopped for us. This guy came past, and I was holding our sign up. I usually take it down when a police officer comes by, just for effect. Plus, I know they aren’t going to give us a ride! An hour earlier, another cop had come by and just smiled and waved at us. This guy, however, swung around into the parking lot behind us. He didn’t get out, so I went over to talk with him. He was a friendly younger guy, but who seemed to be pretty new to being a cop, and possibly a little uncharacteristically “gung ho.” The first thing he said was that, “Hitch-hiking is illegal in western Australia.” I said, well, technically I guess it was but that we’d been doing it safely for years with no problem, that we were very “road conscious” and weren’t endangering anyone, including ourselves. At first I thought he was going to make us get off the road, and there was a moment of silence. I politely asked, “What would you like us to do? Do you want us to get off the road?” He said, “No, but just don’t be so obvious about it.” Right. I thought it was funny…what were we supposed to do, pretend we were standing there waiting for a bus, with a sign that said “Bunbury”? But he was nice enough. I added, “We aren’t criminals or anything”, to which he replied, “I didn’t say you were.” It was a friendly encounter with a variety of “public servant” who I’ve basically always looked at as being friendly.

NORTHHAMPTON TO BALINGUP IN TWO DAYS

The next morning we headed out not long after 7 a.m…the sun had already been up for over two hours…and the owner of the caravan park gave us a lift a few kms down the road, well past the edge of town. In about 20 minutes we got a ride from a nice young Dutch woman who lived in Northhampton who was on her way to take a nursing exam in Geraldton. She dropped us on the far side of town, and in another 20 minutes or so, after dodging an army of ants along side the road, we got a ride with a cool guy from England who now lived in Dongara. He had used to be a fisherman and as it turned out, he was friends with George Bass, a lobster-fisherman from Dongera who’d given us a ride to Fremantle in 2007, after he took us to his house and showed us his vintage/refurbished Chamberlain tractor. He was a member of a Chamberlain tractor group who did stuff like take a convoy of tractors pulling caravans across the central desert of Australia. The guy giving us a ride said they’d recently done a similar trek across the USA. Interesting considering that to do this, they’d have to transport dozens if not hundreds of tractors and caravans on a ship to and from the states. Alas, what a different world we’d have if people acted as if the Earth actually mattered as a living being. And what a different, and far more deadly, world we’d have if all of a sudden radically renewable and inexpensive or worse, “free”, energy forms became available on a mass-scale…human stupidity would be amplified to such levels that the entire infrastructure of industrial civilization might burst into flames. This would literally and metaphorically be just like throwing petrol onto a fire!

Our hitching “luck”, which is always pretty good…even for the three consecutive days we stood there hitching with no ride attempting to leave Katherine! This enabled us to spend three nice nights in one of the best campgrounds in the territory, and to swim in a beautiful sacred spring there three times. So in this case, not getting a ride was a good thing. But it’s not everywhere you’d want to be “stuck”…seemed to be getting better all the time, beginning with Madeleine, after a string of, shall we say, people who were kind enough to give us rides but with whom we didn’t really feel much of a connection.

After standing there in Dongera for not more than 15 minutes, a nice lady named Judy stopped. She loaded us into her 4wd and said that she was on her way home to Perth, and that she hoped we weren’t in a hurry as she was going to drive down the recently completed “Indian Coast Highway” which connects Cervantes, near the Pinnacles, to Lancelin. This was very cool to us, as we hadn’t been this way before. I believe this road had only opened a few weeks earlier. Judy was someone who it was a pleasure to meet, someone who was not what you’d call “liberal” but who was quite aware of what was happening in the world, and in western Australia. We started talking about our love of the land and the dangers we saw from the exploding mining industry. She related that Colin Barnett, the Premier of WA, is now widely despised because of his “selling out” to the energy and mining interests; this backed up what we’d been hearing from other people. She said that her network of friends were actually becoming “activists” in the sense of writing letters to their representatives in government. At least this is better than sending out petitions on the internet!

The landscape we passed through on the new stretch of highway was beautiful and unspoiled…except for the new road, of course. We could still feel the until recently-pristine and undisrupted vibe of the land, whose aura shone in the same way that remote coast-lines all throughout WA do. This is an extremely arid area of low scrub and brilliant white sand dunes. At one point we came over a hill and there before us was an entire region filled with more grass-trees than we’d ever seen anywhere. I never knew that they grew in such numbers and density. They are a beautiful Gondwana-land remnant and there’s nothing like them anywhere. The weird part is that this area where they were in such high numbers was on land that the Australian military uses as a bombing range, and one of the areas where DU (“depleted uranium”) munitions is believed to be deployed.

The one thing we noticed along this new highway was that every so often there was an additional turning lane, with little stone or brick entrances, and a few street-lights. These side-streets led up into what we soon learned were embryonic housing developments, with nothing there yet except the streets and “lifestyle blocks” laid out with string and signs. We didn’t count how many of these “projects” we noticed but there were quite a few in a stretch of only 40 kms or so.

In western Australia, it’s like there’s literally nothing stopping anyone from doing anything. Not so much at the individual level, but at the level of big business, developers, energy, mining and construction. I am led to believe, after hearing that mining company CEO’s want Australia to become “the Saudi Arabia of uranium”, among other diabolical visions, that on someone’s drawing board somewhere must be plans to have the entire west coast of Australia covered with thousands of this astronomically bizarre huge sky-scraper apartment towers like you see in Dubai and Abu Dabi, kind of like a “Gold coast squared.” I saw a photo of one of the penthouses in one of these things once, and it looked like a Kerry Packer version of the Taj Mahal, and I think it went for something like $2000 per night.

Judy dropped us in a nice little town called Gin Gin, where we considered hitching back the next day to the Gravity Centre. Judy had been there and said it was very interesting and educational. It’s a combination of research lab and tourist/educational facility, and is supposedly located where it is because of its distance from the electromagnetic fields of civilization. I think this is a thing of the past, however, with all the development coming that way; it’s just like when you go to a “look-out” on a mountain highway but you can’t see anything because all the vegetation has grown so high. It’s no longer a “look-out” but it still exists anyway, and people stop just because it’s there.

We decided not to visit the Gravity Centre, not this time, and early the next morning we were out on the main highway with our thumbs out. There was very little traffic and we were stressing as to whether we were on the right road or not, as sometimes in Australia it’s hard to tell what the “main” highway actually is.

Suddenly a large white Mercedes van pulls over, after coming out from the road that goes back to Gravity and the Indian Coast highway. After we got in and started talking with Roy Humfrey a bit, we realized that our hitching “luck” had indeed risen to yet another level! Roy was a potato farmer and was on his way to Midlands to take care of some business. As it turned out, he was one of the most aware people we’d ever met on the road in terms of his understanding of what’s really going on behind the scenes in the world. As a large-scale farmer, he’d been approached by companies like Monsanto to get him to grow their GE crops and use their carcinogenic herbicide Round-up. He was right to be highly sceptical of the whole GE thing, and although he wasn’t doing “organic” farming (and even had his own stash of 1080 that he used to kill foxes), he was moving in that direction, and was engaged in a process of replenishing the microbial population in his soil, after an all-too-successful campaign to get rid of them had caused his fertility levels to plummet. He was very aware of the fraudulent nature of the whole banking industry. He asked me what I thought about a lot of this stuff, and I told him what I thought, as we kind of bounced possibilities and questions off each other. He said that what I related in various areas really backed up what he had suspected was the case, for example, the destruction of the World Trade Centre towers, and the NWO goal of micro-chipping the human population…that is, the ones that are left after their depopulation agenda has been fulfilled! Of course, I don’t claim to be some kind of “expert” on any of this “conspiracy theory” stuff, but I have been looking into it all for a long time, from the perspective of it all being the on-going tumour circus of man’s inhumanity to man.

Roy entered the halls of legendry when he offered to take us all the way to Armadale so that we could avoid having to go all the way into Perth on our way south. If you don’t know Perth it won’t matter, but it’s a pretty good sized metro area, and quite difficult to just get through to the other side, regardless of what your mode of transport is. Roy took us all the way to the far side of the city, and put us at a good hitching spot headed south. If we’d had to go into town via train, then back out again, it would have taken at least two-three hours and heaps of gear-toting up and down ramps and through train stations. We’ve done it plenty of times before, and this is probably the most physically difficult aspect of how we travel: negotiating transport terminals.

Roy’s extraordinary assistance saved us hours of time, thousands of kilo-joules of energy expenditure, and set us up for what was one of the most highly tuned in hitch-hiking days we’ve ever had. We took the by-pass around the city; even though it was pretty full of traffic, we moved along nevertheless, and were able to talk with Roy in greater detail about things.

He let us out on the inland route to Bunbury. This was late morning, sunny and pretty warm, but not hot by NT standards. Soon a guy pulled over and even though he wasn’t going our way, he handed us a 1.5 liter jug of iced water, which was very “cool” of him! Then, after maybe 45 minutes or so a girl stopped and, again, offered to go a little further than she was actually going and dropped us at Pinjarra. Once again, a mining person, as her husband was at work up in Karratha; she got to stay home and be the house-wife and do stuff like ride her horses and learn how to be a pilot.

After she dropped us off, an old geezer pulled over to give us a ride. He was driving a 4wd vehicle pulling a large flat-bed trailer. At first he seemed like a rude bastard and we were wondering why he even stopped. Liesbet in particular didn’t like him. But after we started talking with him, he became quite friendly. Tommy Talbot was his name. And he turned out to be one of the most interesting rides we’ve ever had. He is a professional pilot, specializing in single and twin-engine prop planes, as well as jets. I believe he used to fly jet-liners. But his real love is the helicopter. He said he’d flown over 20,000 hours in 50-plus years of being air-borne. He also used to do a lot of hot-air ballooning, but had given it up because his knees no longer allowed him to jump in and out of the basket.

A lot of what he was relating seemed pretty fantastic. Not unbelievable, but extraordinary. Our usual approach to people is that we simultaneously give them the benefit of the doubt, and take what they say at face value, realizing that a grain or two of salt might be in order as well. Some of the stories we’ve been told could, in fact, be complete bullshit…just like anything that you weren’t personally there to witness. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter too much.

Tommy also told us that he had just built a small experimental helicopter and that it was almost complete. Then, surprisingly, he said that if we didn’t mind coming to his house for a few minutes so he could drop the trailer, that he’d then take us down to the junction where the road to Balingup turned off.

His place was a several thousand acre farm that had been in his family for at least three generations. And there in his garage was the experimental chopper, complete with a USAF insignia. Liesbet and I were pretty impressed. It was fairly small, and it’s frame was made of very thin aluminium or titanium tubing. It had a clear bubble around the cockpit, but was extremely minimal in design and weight. We asked him if he’d take us up for a spin. He was pretty into it but added that before he could carry passengers legally, he had to fly it several more hours to make sure it all worked properly. I don’t think the “legal” issue ever stopped Tommy Talbot from doing something fun and adventurous, but he said that it would be better to fly it in somewhat cooler weather, I believe because it had an air-cooled engine. We’d already been put on alert for chopper crashes after learning that one had crashed in the Bungle Bungles two years before, due to over-heating. We had in fact done a chopper flight there in 2007, and it’s possible that it was our pilot who had gone down; but the chopper we flew in was a larger model than the one that crashed. We made a tentative plan to come back in the next week or two for a flight, and Tommy said that would be cool.

He dropped us on the road to Balingup, being not only our third ride that day, but the third person who went somewhat out of their way to put us in a good place. After little more than 15 minutes, a nice woman stopped named Rebecca. She lived in Donnybrook, and after talking with us for a while, invited us to come stay with her in her brand new house, as she had an extra bedroom and her husband was away…guess where…up at the mine at Karratha working. We appreciated the offer, and we stopped in to meet her two kids; but we wanted to try to make it to Balingup if possible that day. It was only another 30 or so kms, so she offered to drive us there. She became the fourth person that day to go out of their way to get us to a good spot.

She dropped us in Balingup around 5pm or so. We’d been invited to stay with Debbie and Trevor, the mom and step-dad of our lovely friends Aquaria and Gregor in Darwin. They knew we were coming but not that we were already there. We didn’t want to just “surprise attack” them, so Bec dropped us at a very nice little camp-ground by a stream on the edge of town. It was an awesome mid-summer’s late afternoon, and the pond was alive with ducks, frogs and dragon flies.

Miraculously, thanks to the help of four very cool people, we’d made it all the way from Gin Gin to Balingup without having to go through either Perth or Bunbury. If you’re familiar with the area, you know that this is pretty remarkable to have achieved in one day of hitch-hiking.

A note on those extra kilometres that many people have driven on our behalf: THANK YOU! We are the first to acknowledge that the automobile, its over-use and over-all scenarios of fuel consumption and damage to environmental and human health, constitutes probably the single greatest form of ecological war-fare that the individual human being participates in. This awareness is what originally inspired me to start hitch-hiking in the early 1980’s, and to live without owning a vehicle since 1984. If I could get by without owning a vehicle, that would be one less on the road; if people were going that way anyway, why not give someone a lift? It’s only possible to hitch-hike if people are driving, right? Right. But if you can get somewhere by sharing a ride instead of driving alone, it conserves resources and energy and lessens the traffic volume, however slightly. Hitch-hiking is in fact a form of conservation. This is not the place for a digression into travel by thumb, but I wanted to acknowledge our awareness as well as gratitude to everyone who has ever given us a ride, but especially to those who have gone the “extra mile” to put us in a better place to hitch from, or actually delivering us to our destinations. In hitch-hiking close to 400,000 kms since 1980, I’ve accumulated a lot of good “fossil fuel karma”, or should I say “hydrocarbon fuel karma”; and I don’t think we’re damaging our dharma to receive gifts like these on occasion.

BALINGUP: SACRED OASIS IN THE “TASMANIA OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA”

South-western Australia is a very special place, home of a wide diversity of indigenous florae and faunae, many of the plants being true Gondwana-remnant species. A lot of huge trees still stand, and there’s even a few small areas of old-growth forest that have yet to be molested. Valley of the Giants, between Denmark and Walpole, is a well-known protected forest, home to dozens of amazingly huge, freaky-looking tree-beings. There is a good deal of “forestry” going on, but it’s a relief finally to be in a place where every other person or vehicle doesn’t appear to work for a mining company.

We’ve spent a good deal of time in the south-west of WA, most notably for several weeks two years ago in Albany, where in winter a rainbow or two can be seen almost every day. Our visit to Balingup was special in many ways, not only because it’s well away from the coast and up in the forest, but also because of the really nice people who were our hosts for two weeks.

In the south-west area are dozens of little towns with aboriginal-sounding names that all end in “-mup”, “-yup”, “-gup”, or other “-up’s.” This suffix has to do with water; it’s the south-west aboriginal counter-part to the New Zealand Maori prefix for water, which is “wai.” We never actually learned what “Balingup” meant, but what if it meant “the place where water was scooped out of your sinking boat?”

We did learn, interestingly, that the Balingup area had been a long-standing traditional meeting place for women of many different tribes in the region. A place of women gathering, and of water…the ingredients for a ‘sacred site’?

Also very interesting, and in harmony with being a ‘sacred site’, was the name and purpose of Debbie and Trevor’s business there, a native plant nursery called Tintuppa, which is an eastern aboriginal word describing “the spirit of trees.”

So here we were at our destination of the past two months, after hitch-hiking approximately 4,000 kms, at a place having to do with indigenous women’s meetings, water, and indigenous plants…very cool indeed! Debbie, Australian, operates the Tintuppa nursery, which is also part of the international WOOFing network; Trevor, originally from Sri Lanka, is primarily a computer repair person…one who actually knows what he’s doing!...but is also involved in bee-keeping and assorted shrubbery projects.

We stayed in our tent the first few nights, then moved down to the WOOFer’s quarters when Shannon, a cool chick from South Africa, went to see her family for the holidays. This was really nice, as it was the first time we’d had our “own place” since camping out in Peter Cholmondeley’s office in Darwin. We got a lot done, as we had heaps of rocks to paint, including a special set of Australian animals/landscapes for our friend Christian in Germany. And Liesbet got to “woof” by helping with the nursery, planting microscopic baby trees and watering more mature ones. One of the treats we enjoyed there was our daily leaves of gotu kola, a small ground-cover plant which, according to ancient Chinese herbalists, contains a plethora of health-boosting nutrients, enzymes, and phyto-chemicals. We even learned that the Chinese government documented the age of a doctor born in the late 1600’s, who only died in the mid-20th century, at the age of 253. That’s Earth-years. He out-lived over 20 wives, and supposedly had the body and health of a man of around 50 the whole time. His secret: gotu kola.

Debbie and Trevor are quite active in the community…Trevor belongs to a pistol shooting club, and Debbie spends her evenings belly-dancing, doing T’ai-chi, or playing tennis. As well, their daughter Harley lives at home and her new boy-friend (caught on the net, as it were!) was visiting from Brisbane.

All in all, it was a fantastic and productive two weeks. It was like being part of an extended family. We got a lot done, caught up on rest, and met some truly wonderful people.

But the road was calling. We had an immigration dead-line to be aware of, and we had planned to extend our visas in Melbourne before going to Tasmania. This meant that we had less than two weeks to hitch from south-western Australia to central Victoria, another trajectory of several thousand kilometres. Before heading east, we also wanted to make it down to Pemberton, and possibly to the coast, as this was another special place we’d visited on our last two journeys through this area.

BALINGUP TO MELBOURNE

PEMBERTON AND BIBBULMAN

Debbie dropped us off in Balingup to hitch, and our “Pemberton” sign worked so well that in less than five minutes, a nice guy from England who worked for the occupational safety administration stopped and dropped us at our friend Sue’s place. We’d met Sue as we were leaving Pemberton two years ago, when she stopped and “rescued” us from being accosted by a local crazy person who bore down on us in his car, screetched to a stop, and told us that “a backpacker has disappeared in Bunbury”, so therefore he was going there. Eh? This kind of spooked us, and Sue had given us a ride to Manjimup where we caught a bus to Bunbury.

This time, the crazy guy wasn’t around and Sue let us stay in the old house on her property she uses as a bed&breakfast. We only had a couple nights before we had to head east, and Sue was busy with this and that, as she owns some cattle, and had an outing planned at the coast with an old friend. We did get to have dinner with her one evening, though, which was nice.

We already knew that she had lost her lovely Labrador a few weeks earlier, because it had eaten a poisoned bait designed to kill foxes…the lethal agent was our old friend 1080…that crows had apparently brought into her yard. She had more to tell: she knew other people who had lost dogs to 1080. One of them was even a solicitor who had considered taking legal action against DEC but decided not to, as he reckoned it was futile to oppose such a well-funded government agency. Another friend of hers was a farmer who, like Roy Humfrey, used 1080 on their farm.

This began to strike me as strange, since in New Zealand, where tons per year of 1080 are deployed by the DOC, private ownership of 1080 is I believe fully illegal. It seemed like just about anyone in Australia could order up a batch of one of the most deadly pesticides…and neurotoxins…that exist. I asked Sue to contact her friend to determine what the origin of her 1080 supply was, who the manufacturer and/or distributor was. We also loaned her our copy of Kate Winters’ auto-biographical novel Scenic Dream or Silent Nightmare, her own story of being poisoned by 1080, and tried to get her to contact Kate via email.

While we ate dinner, the radio was on, the ABC I believe, with veteran journalist Philip Adams interviewing John Pilger about the Wiki-leaks thing, which was all over mass-media and the internet for a while, but has since vanished like a fog bank in full sun. I heard Pilger say something about “passports” and only a couple days ago I discovered that former prime minister Kevin Rudd had expelled the chief Australian Mossad (Israeli version of CIA) officer because they had been forging Australian passports or something like this. Since the Israelis have no less presence, power, or ruthlessness in Australia than anywhere else in the world, this would explain why Rudd was eliminated so quickly and replaced with an extremely “Judaeo-friendly” Gillard regime. Coup du jour anyone?

Sue also shared with us a very disturbing piece of information. The governing bodies of the whole Perth region have somehow decided to…get this…pump waste water from Perth back down into the giant aquifer that lies beneath a large portion of south-west WA supposedly to preclude increased salinification at the surface, on farm land. The story goes that when the aquifer levels begin to drop, the salinity levels at the surface increase, and because Perth sucks out so much water from this subterranean reserve, the salinity of soils across south-west WA is rapidly increasing. What better solution to salinity than pumping waste water into the aquifer where all your fresh drinking water comes from, permanently contaminating it. This is very much like dumping sewage into your town’s reservoir of drinking water, or maybe even adding sodium fluoride to it! It’s all poison and guaranteed to cause immense damage to human health…by design, one must presume. Sue was incredulous that officials could possibly concoct such a plan; it only makes sense if the underlying agenda is indeed one oriented towards decreasing human health and therefore longevity.

One day we caught a ride with Sue into Pemberton and Liesbet and I walked through the nice caravan park where we’d stayed a couple times, visited the huge old sequoia tree we’d visited before, and walked a few kilometres of the Bibbulman track, a walk of several hundred kilometres running from Albany, following the coast to west of Denmark, then heading inland and running through Balingup to terminate north-east of Perth. Some day we hope to walk a much greater portion of this track.

After a couple relaxing days of watching Sue’s massive Angus bull Colin eat his way through half of a hay-stack, with his head buried up to his neck, and fending off what seemed like mild-mannered ghosts in the old house…when we have occasionally felt “presences” like that, we always wonder if it had something to do with Europeans who had died or been ill there, or if the “energies” might be aboriginal in origin…no way to tell, but the feeling was distinctly there. Sue invited us to join her and her friend on their walk along the coast, something we really would have liked to do, but we ended up deciding to go ahead and leave, just because we had a lot of ground to cover and with a time-line we had to adhere to.

TWO DAYS TO NORSEMAN

The next morning we packed up and carried it all down her long drive-way to our hitching spot by the road. This is the main highway that runs from Perth to Albany, through deep forest in general, and is quite a nice drive. But right at this intersection, where the road to Pemberton turned off, road construction was under way, as it is in so many places around Australia. The usual components were all there: the over-weight guy holding the “stop/go” sign, using the skills he obtained a degree for at TAFE, and talking on his mobile phone most of the time; a guy sitting in a dump-truck with the motor running, doing nothing; several other flo-yellow-vested workers mainly standing around talking; and a couple other ones coming and going in trucks or utes with all kinds of lights, antennas, and other attachments on them. Some of them seemed to be “perving” on Liesbet…or was it me? You never know these days.

Then there were the people in the cars. We were standing right beside where they all had to stop when the guy held up the “stop” sign; consequently, every one of them had to stare at us like we were the footy game. It’s at times like this that I wish I had a t-shirt that says “F*CK OFF” on it! You know, just to be a step ahead. The weather was over-cast but quite warm, and zillions of flies were buzzing around us; over half of all the energy we were expending was to do the “Aussie wave.”

Most of the people looked like the usual semi-zombic pseudo-sapiens we were accustomed to encountering, but one really stood out as being truly and unexplainably bizarre: a woman driving a van wearing a gas-mask. NOT a white surgical mask, but a full-on gas-mask with the air hoses, filters, etc. The van didn’t have any “dangerous substances” identification emblems, and we never did figure out what was up. Luckily, this person didn’t stop to give us a ride. Maybe she was on her way to release her pay-load in a subway station?

After about an hour a guy named Robbie Williams stopped. He didn’t start singing to us, but gave us a ride to where the road to Collie turned off. After a good deal of deliberation, we’d decided not to head east to Norseman via Denmark, Albany and Esperance, which could easily take at least three days, but to head north up to the main highway coming out of Perth, as on this route there would certainly be heaps more long-distance traffic than in the deep south. From Collie we’d hitch over to Narrogin and up to Northam, on the main road east. Robbie as it turned out had grown up in Brunswick Junction and knew our intrepid experimental chopper pilot friend Tommy Talbot, and he verified that everything Tommy had told us was fair dinkum. We already knew this to be the case.

Then a nice musician named Lisa McBeth gave us a ride, and went about 20 kms out of her way to drop us in Collie, a major coal town with both mines and stations generating electricity for Perth and surrounds. She was pretty onto what was happening, and she, too, was aware of and disturbed by the Perth regional plan to contaminate the aquifer, the Yalingup aquifer I believe it’s called. For the first little while Collie seemed like an ok place, but then after we kept standing there for an hour then two, and there was no traffic to speak of, we began to wonder if we were doing the right thing. Often it’s our own excess good vibes that make dismal places or people seem temporarily endurable. Then, all the people passing by started to look and seem weirder and weirder. Occasionally someone would blow their horn, as if to annoy us. All of a sudden it seemed like we were in a…mining town. We WERE in one. Somehow it had cloaked itself in illusory good vibes, our own perhaps, but now we were THERE. And this is a very concrete feeling, when you’re hitch-hiking somewhere where you don’t know anyone, and there’s no where to go, no phone, no nothing. Brother you’re THERE.

I realize now that this is one of the ways that our guardian angels work…when you start getting creepy vibes from a place it means that you’re supposed to re-navigate your plan and then you’ll be on track with the higher guidance. This is exactly what happened; Liesbet looked at the road atlas and discovered that there was a road leading directly from the other side of Collie to Brunswick Junction, which was now not so much where Tommy Talbot was from but where a really nice little caravan park was located right beside a river. We’d seen it on our way to Balingup and had wished we could stay at it somehow. So now we set our sites on getting there.

This meant going to the other side of the road as well as making a new hitching sign. Not a problem, but still the people looked weird, even suspicious, of us; and no one was stopping. Coal dust must affect the brain as well as the lungs, I surmised. I had seen a cab pass us by before, but there was no public phone that I could see anywhere. About this time a bloke pulled into his yard directly across from us, so I went over to ask if I could use his phone to ring a cab. He was quite cool, Colin, I believe, and he offered to give us a lift to the other side of town.

Within a few minutes of getting there, a nice Dutch chick stopped, Henrike, who was on her way to a class in Bunbury but who, again, went somewhat out of her way to drop us at the little caravan park by the river in Brunswick Junction. She was quite cool, and a student at Sophia College. She was studying art and colour therapy, and after we discussed the physiological effects of television, something she was quite interested in, she said that we could stay at the guest quarters at her school for $30 each for the night. I’m sure we might have had some interesting conversations, but for around $20 or so we figured we could camp in Brunswick, so that’s what we did. Except for the fat semi-retarded guy who pretended like he worked there, it was a very nice low-key place with willow trees and a river. Oh yeah, we were right next to the train track, and every time one came past, all through the night, it had to blast its horn. When we mentioned this to the owner/manager the next morning, she said, “Yeah, someone complained to the railway about the noise so now they do it every time they come by.” If they’d rung up the head office to thank them for the noise, would they have then stopped? Does even “reverse psychology” work on chronically moronic bureaucrats?

The next morning was beautiful and sunny and we got an early start. We were now headed directly north back up the way we’d come, and from looking at the map, it seemed that Midlands was our most logical immediate destination. There we’d be on the main road east. I wrote “Kalgoorlie” on our sign, which would tell prospective ride-givers we were going on a long haul east; I didn’t write “Melbourne” just yet.

Our hitching “luck” was still holding at a high plateau of coolness, and within about thirty minutes a dude stopped in his 4wd. Daryl McLean. He had so many interesting things to tell us that I have almost a page of notes; he didn’t want to be filmed so we have no video, but I’ll share the gist of his stories.

He actually worked in Collie, presumably at the mine or power station. But he was also a “prospector” and was on his way to Midlands to get a new metal detector. He, too, like our friend Arni Balarni, had a bit of “gold fever”, and even had a “nugget” around his neck that was the approximate shape of Tasmania.

One of the most interesting things he related was how he and some mates had found a place they liked way out in the back of Woop-woop to the east of Perth, near Lake Rason, which is about 400 kms north-east of Kalgoorlie, or about 200 kms east of Laverton. They built themselves a shack there where they’d go from time to time and just kick back, drink beer, and have a good ole out-back time. He said that the council who had jurisdiction over the land where they were actually had a huge picture of their shack on the office wall, and had no issues with them being there.

We started talking about topics of interest that we’d discussed with other people, like the water thing. He had not yet heard about the plan to dump waste water down into the aquifer beneath Perth, but he believed it was possible. He already knew about fluoride in drinking water. He told us about how the big water desalinisation plant near Perth, which we knew about, discharged all its salt directly back into the ocean, just a short distance from where it was located. This we didn’t know about. If you’d asked me what I thought happened to the salt which a desalinisation plant removed from ocean water, I would have thought that it might end up as crystals or powder that might be dumped on land somewhere, isolated in an SIF (saline isolation facility) or at least put into shakers or those little white packets for McDonald’s, or possibly utilized for industrial purposes, just like those white mountains you see near Karratha or Dampier. But I reasoned that the very intelligence behind the pumping of waste water into the aquifer must be the same intelligence behind dumping the salt back into the ocean. It’s all about salt control. See, they have to keep the salt from coming to the surface on farm-land, because the farmers might one day realize that they can harvest it themselves and sell it, which would blow the lid off the salt mine markets; and the powers that be have to continually replenish the ocean salt to provide job security for the desalinisation plant, simultaneously preventing this salt from being used for industry, thereby protecting the salt mine interests. All this is so crazy, so bizarre, and so stupid that it therefore has a high probability of being true.

Since Sue and some of her canine-loving friends had encountered 1080, we asked him about that. I explained that fluorine was the central ingredient in 1080, the same poison they put into public drinking water supplies. Darryl then shocked us by relating that way out in the desert where their shack is the DEC had an established practice of killing camels, lacing their meat with 1080, and then dropping it from planes in order to kill dingos. Darryl had used to be a camel culler himself, but told us that now, instead of killing them, the relevant interests capture the feral camels and sell them to the Arabs, because the Australian ones are free from disease, and the Arab camels are sickly.

We were talking about dingos, and I asked if dingos would attack adult humans. My belief was that in general they would not. Darryl related, however, that two friends of his were driving a truck across the outback somewhere, and they stopped to sleep for the night. One of them was wary of the dingos, and slept on top of the truck; the other guy wasn’t worried so he rolled out his swag under the truck. In the wee hours he was awakened by several dingos staking him out. They both quickly jumped into the cab, and said that the dingos started growling and actually jumping onto the bonnet of the truck trying to get at them. Who knows if they were hungry for pakeha (Maori name for the white man, means “white pig”, apparently quite salty!) meat, or if they were just a visitation of dream-time ancestors come to teach whitey a lesson, or maybe to remind them of the blackfellas their ancestors had possibly murdered.

I asked Darryl if he’d ever seen any ufo’s. This is one of our standard Australian hitch-hiking questions, usually preceded by “So what kind of job is Peter Garrett doing as Minister of the Environment?” This often leads to a mention of the Min Min lights, which are more of a Queensland phenomenon. He said he had never seen any unusual optical phenomena, so I asked what might be the freakiest or weirdest thing he’d ever seen. He thought for a minute and then told us about a feral cat that had been killed by a friend of his that was so big and ferocious that it could have seriously injured a person. From what he said, it sounded almost sabre-toothed and quite nasty.

He shared stories about two other Australian animals, the tiger snake and thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger. We’re familiar with tiger snakes because at Arni’s place on Flinders Island they come right through the house, as you’ve seen if you watched our film The Chronicles of Balarnia. They are quite venomous, and the ones on Flinders Island are twice as deadly as those on Tasmania proper (kills you twice as fast I guess, and the ones on Chappell Island are thrice more deadly than the regular variety); we were always careful around them, and very aware that they were around, but never had any problems. Darryl said that once his father was picking some fruit up in a tree and accidentally disturbed a tiger snake that was up in there. It bit him, and if it weren’t for an amazing series of circumstances, including an ambulance just happening to be on that block already, he’d be dead as a rat. As it turned out, he lived but has sustained brain damage leaving him at only around 70%.

Darryl also said that some friends of his have video footage that clearly shows what appears to be a thylacine, at low light and in the distance; but he claims that it had the build, stance and horizontal back-stripes characteristic of this legendary animal, thought to be extinct since what was believed to be the last one died in captivity in Tasmania in the 1930’s. I think that if I had video footage of a thylacine, I’d probably destroy it before anyone could find out about it; an army of the biggest jerks known to man would mobilize instantly to try to…“protect” it, right…for sure.

Darryl was a very cool Australian person. He was fully “Aussie”, (not to sound condescending) yet very aware of a lot of “real-world” issues. During our discussion about the water contamination issues, he reckoned that the powers that be “are determined to get rid of us all”, and had experience with their disregard for human health or life. He told of how when he’d been in the air force, one of his jobs had been to clean the fuel tanks of F-111 fighter planes, a job that required him to suit-up and then insert himself into tiny passage-ways armed with pressurized hoses spewing highly toxic methyl-ethyl-something-or-other. Apparently it soaked through his suit, so now, decades later, he has this debilitating syndrome whereby if he fails to take his medication, the skin all over his body starts dissolving.

Finally, he told about a massive new mine that had opened way out in the desert near where his shack is, called Tropicana Anglo-Ashanti. I told him that historically, WA had no uranium mines but now over one hundred were going to be opening. He said that in reality, uranium had already been coming out of several mines in WA, it was just that they started out as “nickel” mines, for example; a scam the mining companies use to dodge taxes is to claim only the least taxable metals, and sell off the high-dollar goods tax-free. “Hey, mister…that sure is some shiny-looking coal you got in your train there.” “Roite, miy(t)e, it’s a new kind we discovered called ‘platuminous aurocite.’ It’s got a very low carbon-content.”

Darryl dropped us at a servo in Midlands. We were on the main highway east, but still in a densely populated suburban area. Hitching from here was futile, as there only curbs, servos, and shopping centres. We were going to take a cab a few kms up the road, but then we noticed a bus-stop close-by. Luckily, a bus came in about ten minutes that took us all the way to Mundaring, which was a much better place to hitch from.

Where the bus let us off was in the middle of town, and it looked like we were going to have walk about half a km down the hill past the stop-light to get beyond the curb. As we were standing there thinking, an semi-retarded over-weight old woman comes up and starts telling us, in a somewhat derisive tone, that NO ONE is going to stop and pick up hitch-hikers from the bus-stop here. I’d been holding the sign just in case, and I started to ask her how she knew this to be the case. Instead, we just turned our backs on her and finally she ambled off to annoy someone else. Just as a back-up plan, I was going to make a phone call to the bus-line to see when any might be coming through, but before I could go inside, a girl stopped to get us.

Her name was Sabrina. She’d seen us and turned around and come back to pick us up. She was pretty cool and was on her way to Merredin to visit her parents for her little brother’s birthday. She put us down by the road-side on the far side of Merredin about 3 hours later, right across from a caravan park. She gave us her mobile number and even offered to take us all the way to Kalgoorlie the next day if we were still here. This was extremely cool of her. It was highly unlikely that we’d ever ask anyone to do that much driving just for us, but it was inspiring to know that someone cared enough to offer.

The day was late, and after an hour or two of standing there, we decided to call it a day, camp out across the street, and get an early start. The next morning we were out there bright and early, probably around 7 a.m. Behind us was a pull-over area where trucks would stop and sit for a while. A white tanker-truck had been sitting there for a while, and when the driver came back, we scrutinized him from afar. He seemed to be ok. The day before we’d turned down a ride with another truck-driver going to Kalgoorlie, who we didn’t feel comfortable with. But this guy was ok, especially after we talked to him.

His name was Michael, and he was originally from England but lived in Perth now. He was a lot like Roy Humfrey, the Gin Gin potato farmer, in that he was both aware of and interested in the goings-on behind the scenes in the “real” world. You know, the stuff that unaware people disparagingly refer to as “conspiracy theory”, as if to imply that it’s this stuff that’s the bullshit, not the mainstream news. Once in Tasmania, a friend of ours asked, “Jeff, do you believe in the conspiracy theory?” Note that she said “the.” As if there was just one unified plot that covered it all. Aside from being what I consider to be Mel Gibson’s best (and only decent) film, “conspiracy theory” is not a phrase I use. I might explain to people the etymological root of “conspiracy”, which is Latin, “conspirare”, meaning “to breathe together.” Beyond that, I just say that what I’m pursuing is the reality behind the appearances, and to create awareness about how appearances are used systematically and scientifically to hide the reality. It’s at this point that I lose most people, who’d rather talk about “conspiracy theory” because it’s a little simpler and easier to assimilate.

Michael, fortunately, is a truth-seeker and has a “conspiracy-theorist friend” (who turns out to be his wife, actually, we think!) who’s pretty onto it all. Because of her, a lot of the stuff I talked about was already in his field of view. I did jot down…in “truck-scrawl”…if you’ve ever tried hand-writing from inside a moving cab, you know what I mean…it all the same, it’s huge and looks like it was done by a cross-eyed simian with two fingers…the names of several books, films and web-sites that I reckoned were excellent sources of valid information.

The truck he was driving was a new kind of tanker that was carrying ammonium nitrate, a precursor substance for the high explosives used in mining. It was a warm liquid in the tank. The truck itself ran on a combination of liquefied gas and diesel, I believe using the diesel to ignite the cleaner-burning gas. It was a more complex design, and not yet as fool-proof as a standard diesel engine, but they are coming into greater and greater use. If we were suddenly to find ourselves within an actual modern mine site, we would probably be just as amazed and disturbed as we might be if we found ourselves inside a modern air-force base, with the degree of high-tech this and that, the automation, macrophilia and robotulism that would be rampant. Neither the military or the mining industry has ever been restrained by lack of money.

Michael was headed for Kalgoorlie, by far the largest mining town in all of Australia. It’s surrounded by gold fields and thousands if not tens of thousands of mine sites of every size and description. We’d never been through there before except on the “mighty” Indian-Pacific a couple times. It was always at night, and it always seemed pretty depressing, just one long street of shops, pubs and brothels. Half the chicks on the street looked like hookers.

We knew that Arni had a good friend there named Hamdi, and that it was possible that Arni might be around, although it was more likely that he was at his gold-mine property a few hundred kms to the north near Wiluna. After we scrutinized the atlas, we realized that the main highway doesn’t actually go through Kalgoorlie but cuts south at Coolgardie. So this is where Michael let us off, to continue hitching to Norseman in preparation for the journey across the Nullarbor.

This was early to mid-afternoon in summer in the outback of western Australia. All of a sudden we realized that not only were we not in Kansas any more, we were not in the southwest any more, but in the full-on desert. Plus, there was almost zero traffic. A nice Kiwi woman named Tanya had pulled over just as Michael was letting us out, and gave us a short ride in the taxi-van she was driving around the bend onto the road to Norseman.

Almost all of the minimal traffic seemed to be passing us by, going either to Kalgoorlie or coming from it. The extremely few vehicles that passed us by had to be going to Norseman, or so we thought, but none stopped. Later we noticed that there were a lot of mines along this stretch of road.

After a couple hours of shrivelling in the sun and wondering what we were going to do, as there was no taxi in this town and the closest caravan park was a km or so away, which we’d have to do on foot in the heat.

We renavigated a little and carried our gear back to the intersection so that vehicles going to Kalgoorlie would now see us as well. We considered going there for the night, but really didn’t want to. Liesbet walked down to the road-house a few hundred meters to get information on the caravan park situation. I’d been wishing that Tanya would come by again, so that we could ask her advice or assistance, and low and behold, she did! She graciously gave us her mobile number and said that if we were still there in an hour that she’d come get us and take us to the good caravan park, and not only that, that in the morning she didn’t have anything to do but would have the company vehicle, and that she’d run us down to Norseman, about an hour and a half away. How cool was that? We were surely being looked after from above!

But, even cooler, before much longer a Trans WA bus came along, and when I held up our “Melbourne” sign he actually stopped. I ran up to talk to the driver. We knew Trans WA was good and affordable, but we only had about $60 in cash on us and weren’t sure if that was enough. Brian the driver said it would only be $38 for both of us, and he walked back and helped us carry our gear to the bus. We gave him a painted rock to say thanks for being nice enough to stop and get us. I doubt that any Greyhound bus-driver would have done that. Once we were rolling, we asked him if he knew Roger Goring, a really cool Trans WA bus-driver who’d we’d ridden with a couple years earlier. He’d let us watch Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail on the bus, as we were the only passengers except for one Japanese girl.

Brian said he knew Roger well, and that Roger had just brought a book back from Russia for him. Roger, you see, when he’s not driving for Trans WA, takes tour groups to eastern/Asian countries.

When we got to Norseman, the bus stopped for a meal break, and Liesbet and I started to unload our gear. We already knew how to get to the caravan park a few hundred meters down the road. We asked Brian how much we owed him and he told us to come over and look as if we were paying, but that he wasn’t going to charge us anything! How cool was this? Very cool indeed. So we gave him all three of our films, and asked if he could share the latest two with Roger, as he already had Cryo 2008, and had even asked if he could show it on his bus.

The day was late and we were pretty tired from a long hot day of hitching that had begun 500 kms west around 5:30 a.m. in Merredin. Brian was kind enough to stop the bus right in front of the caravan park and saved us walking all that way fully loaded. He had to come that way, anyway, but, as before, this was a nice gesture that he probably wasn’t even “supposed” to do. Thank goodness for people who do nice things they weren’t “supposed” to!!!

We set up camp after a brief encounter with the first “corporate” caravan-park person we’d met in quite a while. It had been since Kalbarri weeks earlier that we’d had to pay $30 for an unpowered tent site. This chick was fully slappable, and then she asked us NOT to set up our tent on the grass. I instantly said, somewhat indignantly, “Hey, so you’re charging us $30 for a piece of ground and we’re not even allowed to go on the GRASS? That’s pretty ridiculous.” It’s not like we were worried about being on grass or not, where we’d just come from, grass on an unpowered tent site was about as likely to be seen as a thylacine or people who weren’t affiliated with the mining industry. But it was the principle of the thing: when you’re forking out money for an unpowered tent site, what is it exactly that you ARE paying for? Oxygen? Gravity? “Hospitality”? Right. The only thing you’re actually paying for, other than possibly the “security” of being inside a fence and on a property where you’re actually allowed to camp, is a few watts of electricity, if you happen to “have” a shower (unless of course it’s one of the new breed of places where you have to pay for showers separately, via “gold coin donation.”) or boil the jug for coffee, if indeed they even have a jug, or even a kitchen.

The chick conceded her grassious prohibition, and then said, “Oh, ok, you’ll only be there for one night, right?” Gee, thanks lady.

We’d camped here before, and even though there was one tiny patch of grass that was trying hard to grow, although it didn’t look like it was getting any water, a lot of ground was covered with bark from the trees which was actually nice to camp on. So we stayed OFF her grass anyway! We celebrated making it to Norseman that day, as in Coolgardie it had seemed unlikely to happen, by having a couple Cooper’s and some of the great doobage that had been our travelling companion for a while. I’d set out for the pub to get our beer which was about 1.5 kms into town, but ran into a bloke coming out of the shop who greeted me with “What’s up, brutha?” He seemed like a cool person, so I asked him, if he was driving, if I gave him a painted rock, if he could run me down to the pub to get some beer and back. Norseman has no taxi, and normally I’m not reluctant to walk 3 kms for beer, but it was getting dark and this would have taken me 45 minutes on foot. He was quite happy to help out, and loved his rock. He even said that if we were ever in Mandurah that we could come and stay. In the pub there was a very cool vibe of the “old Australia” as it was a couple weeks before Christmas, everyone seemed in good cheer and some Slim Dusty played on the juke box. The chick working there was even so nice that after I paid for the beer, and asked if I might be able to buy a couple vegetables from them, as the grocery was closed, that she took me back to the kitchen and gave us a whole heap of stuff! How cool was that? Very cool indeed.

ACROSS THE NULLARBOR

If you’re an uninitiated hitch-hiker, and/or not in the right frame of mind, even the thought of hitch-hiking across the Nullarbor could be unsettling. We’d done it twice before, first from west to east, in 2007, and had actually gotten our ride with a trucker named Gary in less than ten minutes of talking to drivers getting fuel. We made it to Adelaide in less than 24 hours, a distance of over 2000 kms. Gary’s the guy who kept insisting that the story told in the crap movie Wolf Creek was true…but it wasn’t him! The second time was a longer trip time-wise from Port Augusta to Norseman in 2009 with a young guy whose car over-heated three times on the way but we made it safely!

We got out to our hitching site fairly early the next morning, but not too early. It’s hard to second-guess what the traffic flow is going to be in remote Australia. We knew that trucks tended to leave out of Perth headed east on certain days, but we didn’t know what days those were. We also knew there’d be at least sporadic tourist traffic, as well as “non-tourist” drivers, alone or with company. We already knew that a trucker was likely to be our best option, but we positioned ourselves so that any vehicle leaving out of Norseman going east could see us. It’s a tricky place to hitch out of because there’s several small roads and access-lanes to and from the servo parking lot.

Physically and psychologically we were ready and in full hitching form. We’d gotten a good night’s sleep and had been riding on a wave of enhanced hitching “luck” since Northhampton really. “The force” was with us. No matter what, though, when you’re standing there trying to get one ride that’s going to take you well over 1500 kms minimum, you can’t help to be a little anxious at who that ride might be. After all, between Norseman and Ceduna, South Australia, the next town of any size whatsoever, is a span of around 1500 kms. There are several extremely small “towns” in there, and a few road-houses, but nowhere you’d particularly want to get let out to find another ride. Even with close to 400,000 kms of hitch-hiking under my thumb, there’s still an unsuppressible program in my brain that insists on running through at least a small number of undesirable possibilities, just for fun.

The Nullarbor is a legendary place, so-called for it’s lack of trees. This is really only the case, however, for a distance of a few hundred kms, depending on exactly how you define “tree.” And the “town” of Nullarbor as well as the Nullarbor Regional Reserve are in South Australia, whose border is more than half-way to Ceduna from Norseman. This is wide-open country where almost no one lives. And it’s got what is supposedly the longest absolutely straight stretch of highway at least in Australia, and maybe in the world, a strip that’s just like a gun-barrel running for about 160 kms as I remember.

I am reminded of the time we met Capt. Paul Watson, aka Sea Shepherd, in Mechelen in Belgium in 2008. I was telling him how we’d been hitch-hiking around Australia and his response was “I have a mate who used to drive a truck there. He says that the Nullarbor is so flat that you could run off the road and never even know it.” Those were pretty much his exact words, but, unfortunately, it’s complete bullshit. I don’t know of anywhere in Australia where you could run off the road while driving and not know it, unless you were drunk or asleep. Later on we learned that Watson is the source of a lot more bulshit than just road stories from Australian mates, but we won’t go into that now.

After a nice box of breakfast chips and a good deal of indecision about where exactly to stand…ideally some shade would be nice…we went over across the road to the east-bound side, not too far past the servo, so that pretty much all traffic could see us, even trucks coming out from the back parking lot. The traffic wasn’t heavy, but steady; most of it was, in fact, trucks, but many of them pulled into the parking lot for an indefinite amount of time. When we saw a truck pull in, we had no way of knowing if they were stopping for fuel, a piss-stop, or if they were going to have a few hours of sleep.

After maybe an hour of checking out each truck, wondering if I should go over and talk to the driver or not, doing this a few times with no luck, finally one comes by and the driver waved at us. Obviously a friendly gesture, as most of them didn’t seem to even see us. I saw him park and sit there filling out his log-book most likely. I gave him a few minutes, then went over to see what the deal was. His name was Leith and he was in fact going to Adelaide. He said that he had a couple drops to make on the way, but that they wouldn’t take long and were not off the main route, and that we’d be welcome to go with him. He seemed cool enough…maybe not the friendliest person in the world but certainly not the unfriendliest. If it was good enough for Liesbet, it was good enough for me. He added that when he left he was going to stop and get us anyway, even if I hadn’t come over to talk to him.

About 30 minutes later he pulled his truck over to where we were and we loaded in all our massive amount of gear. Yes, we know exactly how much we have…a LOT. As usual, I sat in the passenger seat and Liesbet in the centre in the back.
Leith was a pretty cool dude. He was pretty intelligent and had a good wry sense of humour. He did have kind of an “edge” or something that made me a little wary…again, the “careful what you say” thing. Later on, when he confessed to being “psychotic” in certain situations and…this is the one that is always the clincher…that he had never travelled outside Australia and couldn’t get a passport because he’d served time in prison. We never inquired as to what he’d done…and I really didn’t want to know! If you’re not black, you don’t go to prison in Australia unless you get caught or at least convicted of some fairly heinous stuff. Either that, you steal a lot of money from people who already stole it from somebody else, or have sufficient funds to buy your way out of “the law.”

But Leith ended up being an all-right guy. He was very respectful of what might have been our “religious convictions” when he said he wasn’t really a “Christian” and hadn’t read much of the Bible but that he appreciated it all. He reckoned that if he were made PM of Australia, he’d make all drugs legal in order to cut out the crim dealers. I asked him if he’d ever transported any hazardous materials, as Michael, the driver who took us to Coolgardie, went into detail about the different classes of license drivers have to have for this and that. Leith said no, but that once they tried to load a 55 gallon drum labelled “radioactive” onto his truck, but he refused and it just sat there on the platform. This was many years ago. I told him I thought it would have been cool if he had a Geiger counter or scintillation counter so he could take an actual reading on what they were being exposed to, and that I thought every household in Australia should own one of these instruments, especially with plans in the works for high-level radioactive waste to be stored in the outback, arriving through the ports of Darwin and Fremantle and transported via truck and rail.

The most unique and unforgettable thing about our ride with Leith was that he was listening to an audio-book on his stereo. It was a kind of spy-novel entitled “Drinking with the Devil” by an author whose name I can’t remember. But I’ll always remember the different voices the “reader” spoke in, to impersonate the various characters. We couldn’t help but get into it after a while. There was no choice other than to put on head-phones. It actually wasn’t that bad.

We stopped for a few hours sleep on the Nullarbor plain itself. Here we had another first. Liesbet and I were wary of setting up our tent here after the story Darryl had related about dingos trying to attack the truck-drivers. We didn’t want to try to sleep sitting in the seats in the cab, either, so we inflated our Thermarests and set up our sleeping bags beneath the wheat-harvesting trailer that Leith was hauling on one of his flat-beds. We used our back-packs to block the wind. Passing trucks only a few meters away generated a lot of noise but we did manage to get a few hours of decent sleep, and were awakened in the early morning by Leith calling “Revelie!”

After another full day of driving, “audio-booking”, and two drop-offs, including one at a place called Pygery…the “g” is pronounced like a “j”…we made it to Port Augusta late in the afternoon, after seeing some spectacular vistas of the sunset-illuminated western slopes of the Flinders Ranges. I noticed that Port Augusta appeared to be cleaner and nicer than I’d ever seen it. We had originally considered going up to Quorn in the Flinders Ranges to see our friends Bob and Sue Tulloch briefly before heading to Melbourne, but because it was so late, we stood little chance of getting a ride there before dark. Not wanting to be stranded at the turn-off, which is not far from the prison, we decided to wait and catch them next time. Leith let us use his mobile to ring them to say hello, which was cool. And on we went towards Adelaide.

We weren’t sure what exactly to do, as we were going to be arriving into Adelaide in the middle of the night; Leith had to do his final drop-off of the wheat-harvesting bin in Crystal Brook, and we didn’t want to find ourselves in downtown Adelaide at 1 a.m. Leith offered to let us come and stay at his place way south of Adelaide, but we declined, as we wanted to get an early start the next morning and didn’t want to trouble him or his wife to give us a ride that might be half an hour just to get us back up to the highway early in the morning. After an hour in Crystal Brook, where we saw quite a few houses lit up by old-school Christmas lights that I hadn’t seen since back in America many years ago, and some fancy truck-maneuvering by Leith, to unload the wheat-bin onto a ramp backwards, we headed down the road. Port Wakefield seemed like the logical place for us to spend the night, as it was the last place to have a caravan park before Adelaide, and I knew that if need be, there were buses that we could catch the next day if we didn’t get a ride soon enough. I’d been through Pt. Wakefield numerous times, coming and going from Adelaide to and from the Flinders Ranges, but I’d never spent the night there.

We got to Port Wakefield around 11 p.m. or so, and saw that the only caravan park was located about a kilometre away, but off the main road. Until now, I didn’t even know that Port Wakefield had any other streets. Leith being the cool and helpful soul he was, “dropped his load” as it were, and took Liesbet and me to the caravan park in the cab of his truck. This was by far the highest and most powerful “taxi” we’d ever ridden in. Leith pulled into the caravan park, but not too far, as he didn’t want his “back-up” beepers to awaken anyone. We unloaded and thanked him immensely for bringing us close to 2000 kms, and reminded him to get his wife to email us so we could stay in touch.

This place didn’t seem too bad in the evening light. It was small, uncrowded, and right on the water, which is actually a far-north region of the Southern Ocean called the Gulf of St. Vincent. We set up our tent on a bed of rounded pebbles, which was ok, and got a few hours of real sleep for the first time since Norseman.

We were sound asleep at 9 a.m. the next morning when we were rudely awakened by a craggy voice reminding us that we needed to pay and that if we wanted a shower, we’d better go get it now. Then, as if this wasn’t enough, the old warthog came over and stook his head down and looked in on us from above where our heads were…something that no caravan-park person had ever been inclined to do before. It felt like a total and unnecessary violation of our private space, not to mention our groggy semi-awakened state. Liesbet in particular was quite angry with this goon.

I realized that we did in fact need to get on down the road, so up we got. Neither of us was in that good of a mood, due to lack of rest and being rudely awakened. But I burned some sage and called on the spirit of Black Elk to be with us, to help us remain “wakan” and at peace. And there he was!

I went over and had a chat with Peter, the caravan-park manager who we’d “met” earlier. In many ways he was the typical thick-skinned and small-brained Australian male that Kiwi women love to make jokes about; but he had an affinity for “Americans”, as a goodly number of Australians do, believe it or not, as he’d worked with a lot of them at Pine Gap. You know, the “secret” spy-base in the central desert. I explained our situation, and asked if he might be able to give us a lift out to the highway, since I could see that he had a large van parked nearby. I also asked him how much we owed him for a night on the pebbles, and he said it was normally $17, but call it $20 and he’d take us to the road. Fair enough. It could have been $30 for all we knew, and either no ride to the road, paying a taxi $10 or more, or walking.

Now our goal was to get through Adelaide without being held up, and hitching a ride towards Melbourne out the eastern side. We were approaching from the north, so we basically had to either by-pass the city to the east, which was essentially impossible since there are only hills and no roads in this area; or go into town, then get back out again as quickly as possible.

I scanned the bus charts and there was nothing going into Adelaide until several hours later, around 3 p.m. We had hoped at this point to be in the Grampians in west-central Victoria by night-fall, which was not impossible. In 2009 we got off the Indian-Pacific around 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, took a cab to downtown, took a city bus which dropped us at a pull-over at the beginning of the “controlled access” motor-way heading towards Melbourne, and one long and friendly ride later, were setting up camp in Halls Gap before dark.

We figured if we could get to and through Adelaide quick enough, we stood a good chance of making it to the Grampians before dark, as the days were still getting longer as we approached the summer solstice.

No one seemed to want to give us a ride, but then I noticed a large white tour-bus with no markings on it parked in the lot of the servo. I went and tried to find the driver but couldn’t; afer a while, though, it came out and the driver stopped right by us so we could talk to him. He was a really nice guy from the Eyre peninsula and was delivering this bus to Adelaide to be serviced. It was empty except for his daughter. He said he could drop us at a hotel on the north side of town, where we could easily catch a bus or take a cab. This was very cool of him.

When we got out, we opted for the cab since the traffic was heavy and loading and unloading from city buses can be a bit wearisome. The driver was a very pleasant fellow from India and told us a lot about travelling there, including that now you could take photos inside the Taj Mahal.

He put us down at the same pull-over just before the motor-way began, and we began our hitch for the Grampians. The traffic volume seemed only to increase as we stood there for one then two hours; I’m not sure if we were succumbing to breathing carbon monoxide from the passing cars, or if it was just the accumulated bad vibes from people leaving Adelaide, or both, but after a while we started to feel kind of strange and that even though we really wanted to get out of there, we weren’t sure how we’d do it. In no way did we look forward to the prospect of going back into Adelaide and staying in a back-packer. No way. Finally, a guy stopped named Tony. He was only going to Mt. Barker, which was maybe 45 minutes away, but at least it would get us out of here.

When we got there he was going to drop us at the top of the on-ramp. Here we were on a stretch of “controlled access” highway, what we call “inter-state” in America. You’re not supposed to go down onto the highway itself, here or in America; they always have little signs that forbid access to pedestrians, bicycles, animals, wheel-chairs, pogo-sticks or skate-boards. You get the picture. Riding lawn-mowers, rik-shaws…you name it, it’s not allowed. Only FAST things can go here. I’d hitched tens of thousands of kilometres on inter-state highways all across America with no incident, even though it was technically “illegal.” Once in a blue moon a cop might stop to tell me to get back off the highway, but it was never a big deal.

Even though this on-ramp was quite long, as I was thanking Tony for the ride, I mused that we would probably just walk on down to where the ramp joined with the high-way, for more visibility. Then unexpectedly he offered to drop us down there, even though it meant that he would have to drive several kilometres, then turn around and come back to get the road he needed to go on.

But, who were we to decline? Again, someone offering to go out of their way to put us in a better place. We unloaded our gear near the bottom of the ramp, and Tony was off. A few minutes later he tooted his horn as he past us going back so he could take his exit.

Hitching here reminded me very much of the hundreds of hours I’d spent in America in a similar situation, standing at the junction where an on-ramp joins the main highway. Legally, not “on” the highway but down far enough to be seen by on-coming traffic. You’ve got to be wary, however, as cars coming off the ramp are going to be watching for cars already coming full-speed down the motorway, and may not necessarily pay that much attention to us standing there. We wouldn’t want to inadvertently distract anyone from full attention to the importance of making a safe entry to the highway.

Maybe it was with this in mind that this cop pulled up all of a sudden, from the ramp. I’d encountered zero cops in close to ten years of hitching in Australia, but this was the second “meeting” in only a few weeks. If this was ‘Australia becoming a police-state’, I wasn’t too concerned. But this guy, unlike the rookie in Northhampton, meant business.

I didn’t ask his name or get close enough to see his name-tag, but it was surely Dick something or other. Even though he was obviously the Great Spirit acting in our best interests, he didn’t seem that cool. The young cop in Northhampton was at least courteous and somewhat friendly, but that was WA; this was the outskirts of Adelaide. This guy, a short, stumpy fellow with a big dark moustache, jumped out of his car, looked at me and said “Where are you from?” As if to say, “Hitch-hikers from MY country know they aren’t supposed to be down here.” But instead of saying that I was from a place where we knew better than to end sentences with prepositions, I answered, simply and honestly, “America.” There was that word again. It must have been an ok answer, though; he then stated emphatically, “I want you to get back to the top of the on-ramp. If you’re still here in 20 minutes when I come back, I’ll write both of you up.” Fair enough. We were already starting to pick up our packs when he paused before re-entering his car. “How did you get here?” he quipped. I said “Our friend dropped us here.” Then he asked what the guy who dropped us did next. I told him, in total honesty, that the guy went down and turned around at the next exit then came back to turn off behind us. Dick then retorts, “I find that hard to believe. That means he would have had to drive about ten kilometres to the next exit then come back.” As if to say that I was lying, because NO ONE would do that. Instead of arguing with this occifer of the law, telling him how miraculous occurrences seem to be the norm for us, and how we’d just hitch-hiked from Norseman WA only three days ago, I just gazed at him for a few seconds, as if to say, “Dude, what the f*ck?”, then continued picking up my gear. He departed as quickly as he’d arrived.

Liesbet and I started walking up the long ramp, back to “safety” at the top, where it would be ok to hitch. But she’d had enough, after having already been disturbed first thing in the morning by the caravan-park guy who intruded into our tent-space; now this. When we got to the top of the ramp, she was in tears and proclaiming that she was through with hitching.

I hated to see my leetle honey in crying, and it was already after 4 p.m. We knew there was a caravan park close-by, but I also knew that there was a nightly bus service from Adelaide to Melbourne called the Firefly. I left Liesbet with our gear, playing some flute in the shade and having a rest, while I journeyed up to Bunnings, the closest business of any kind. Once inside, I made contact with some service people who were very nice. The lady allowe me to use the phone, and I booked us onto the Firefly service that would come through in about 4 hours. We would then get out at Stawell, northern entrance to the Grampians, around 3 a.m., then walk a couple hundred meters to the caravan park where we’d stayed the year before. This would put us in the Grampians that night.

We took a cab over to a nice pizza place not far from where the bus would pick us up, had a good feed and a moments of relaxation before we took the cab again to the bus-stop. Seven hours later we were rubbing our eyes and getting off at the BP in Stawell at 3 in the morning. Before we could even pick up our gear, another cop car pulls up. It was just a pair of rookies, a young bloke and a fat chick who looked like she also worked at McDonald’s, doing their nightly rounds. But upon seeing a couple of travellers with heaps of gear on the street at 3 a.m., they had to check us out. They never got out of the car, and didn’t ask to see our I.D., but asked us our names and where we were staying and going. We told them, so far as we knew ourselves. After they left Liesbet says, “So is Australia a police state now?” I said that, no, we have to think of cops as friends and that in Amerika it would be 100 times worse. We carried our by now really heavy gear the couple hundred meters to the caravan park and set up our tent on the shore of a nice lake there, exactly in the spot we’d camped on the year before. This time I left a clear note on the door of the manager, who would remember us from last time, asking that they not wake us up and that we’d come and pay before leaving around mid-day. Off to sleep we went, back in Victoria, where recent rains, we heard, had ended a ten-plus year drought. It was the middle of the night, and we didn’t notice the locusts until the next day.

GARIWERD: NATIVE AMERICAN ENERGY AND A BIBLICAL “PLAGUE”

The next day in Stawell we saw the billions of grass-hoppers, or “locusts” who were passing through. I thought they were kind of cool, fluttering here and there randomly. Most of them seemed to be staying put on the ground until disturbed by walking through them; then they’d spray up into the air. The sound their wings made was an interesting and gentle scraping sound, not unpleasant to the ear. Even though the ground and air was pretty thick them everywhere around, nothing about it bothered me. Liesbet and I took turns running through the grass and taking pictures of video of each other and the swarms we’d create. You had to be careful that one didn’t accidentally fly into your eye, but other than that, they weren’t a physical threat to people. But, they were eating all the young tender grass; and people were having to clean their windshields very often to maintain visibility.

Since it was only a few dollars, we took the little shuttle to Hall’s Gap and met Roy, the driver. He wasn’t especially fond of the locusts. But he did have a lot of good things to say about America, since he’d travelled there over ten times in recent decades. Like a park ranger at Cape Keroudren in WA, and a few other people we’ve met, he had found the “Americans” in America to be really friendly and hospitable people; conversely, the same Australians who had liked America also tended to note that their “own” people were by contrast quite rude. We filmed a short interview with Roy as he had a lot of cool things to relate which you’re bound to see in Cryo 2010, which we’ll get around to making one of these years!

From what we heard, the locusts weren’t just a local phenomenon but were coming all the way down from Queensland and were even flying out into the ocean south of the Grampians. The word “biblical” came up in quite a few conversations. Several weeks later, in late January, as I write these words now, and have seen the massive flooding in Queensland and Victoria, I note that the locusts seem not only to have directly preceded the floods, but were migrating on exactly the same route the water took. There must be some kind of connection that could be ascertained here.

In Hall’s Gap two days later there were just as many locusts, if not even more. But they were just sort of an added dimension to the enchanted vibe we have always felt there. We’d been there twice before, and loved it, especially being able to camp out near the little stream coming down from the mountains. This time we felt an unusually powerful “native American” presence, and honoured it with lots of sage and flute-playing. Around the time of the BP oil debacle back in June, we’d felt as if native American consciousness was reaching out to us very powerfully. We made our third medicine wheel, Liesbet played flute to our garden and was always visited by the little “penguin” birds when she played; we also grew some corn, and there was one Sunday when the golden sun shone brightly. All of a sudden strands of silk appeared at the top of the corn, and I felt as if Hopi grandfathers were watching over us, honouring our maintenance of the sacred tradition of corn-growing not only in the spirit of Kokopelli, but also of my mom and dad, each of whom used to grow corn and many other crops and plants, who I also felt to be watching over us quite powerfully that day. We had also been reading Black Elk Speaks in Darwin and on our way down through WA.

We visited the Brambuk Visitor Centre, which is staffed mainly by aboriginal people, and saw an interesting exhibition of paintings. And we met a cool person named Danny who told us that a few years ago there had been a major “convergence” or meeting of spiritual leaders from various countries, including several native Americans as well as Maoris.

In Hall’s Gap we got a shock when we went on-line one night and read an email from Arni Balarni informing us that he had just sold his property on Flinders Island in order to raise enough $ to drill his gold mine in WA. He’d been gone from Flinders Island since August. Liesbet and I were both stunned and in tears we rang his place and talked with Afna, Arni’s friend who was house-sitting there. This was the first she’d heard about this. She agreed with us that this was an impossibly unreasonable decision for Arni to make. His land is such a special place, for the entire planet; we always felt that Flinders Island was a place where little if any actual “killing” of aboriginal people had ever happened, although many were sent there from mainland Tasmania and not allowed to go back to their home. Arni’s land in particular has an extraordinarily “clear” energy, as almost nothing’s ever happened there in terms of human disruption: no pesticides, no electricity, no roads, no waste. We couldn’t bear the thought of someone he didn’t even know taking over his land and who knows what could happen to it? Luckily, we talked to Afna a couple days later and she had somehow talked Arni out of it, so Balarnia seems safe for the time being anyway.

The spiritual power there at Gariwerd was higher than ever, and on this wave we set off for Melbourne. Our next destination was Tasmania, but we had our little appointment with immigration to take care of first. As things happened, we were called to return to Aotearoa, and our return to “little Tassie” was going to have wait a few more months.

“FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY”

We took Roy’s shuttle, then a couple more buses to Melbourne, as we were tired of hitching and this was quite affordable. We set up “camp” at the Oslo Hotel in St. Kilda, where we’d stayed a few times before. John, the manager, had always been nice to us and once again gave us a nice room at a reduced rate. Melbourne was doing its normal “four seasons in one day” thing the whole time we were there, dropping down to around 8 degrees or less at night. This was a stark contrast to the heat we’d been in almost continuously for the past nine months, seven of which were in the tropics.

Our few days in Melbourne were pretty much filled with “taking care of business” stuff, especially after learning that we had only three days to leave Australia, instead of three months! Miraculously, it was all good, although profoundly stressful there for a while. The highlight of our visit there was getting to catch up with Aquaria, our lovely friend who we’d stayed with our last couple nights in Darwin, whose parents Debbie and Trevor we’d “wwoofed” with in Balingup, and whose gracious assistance helped us immensely in a time of need! She was down south to visit family and friends for Christmas. We didn’t get to see Gregor and their girls, Ochre and Nimby, but will see them next time in Darwin. One other cool thing we got to do in Melbourne was to visit ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. They were having a show about Walt Disney’s animation that we didn’t have time to check out, but did get to see a short doco about the making of Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves. Unbelievable how much time and person-power went into those early animations. On the order of several hundred thousand individual paintings were done for Snow-white alone.

A SYMMETRY OF RELOCATION

Even though the administrative decision was made back in June that required us to leave Australia in December, not only did I not know about it until months later, but it also seemed to get us out of Australia at least a couple weeks before the massive flooding reached such proportion and became so disastrous. The exact area where we had camped in the Grampians and honoured the presence of the Great Spirit was in fact severely flooded a week or two ago.

There’s a symmetry, as when we returned to Australia in March and hitched from Brisbane to Darwin, massive flooding had just preceded us by only two or three weeks, and many places we went through showed serious damage, like uprooted trees and downed fences and signs. People were gradually doing repairs everywhere; also, all the way across central Queensland the usually dry grass was now green and lush. I also remember noting that in some of the smaller towns, all the houses were built on stilts, you know, like old-school beach-houses, so that they would be unaffected by floods. This architectural style demonstrated a “flood-awareness” that must be totally lacking in the mainstream Queensland of today.

And when we left Australia in September of 2009, we rode literally on the leading edge of a massive radio-active dust-storm originating in the central desert that actually turned south island glaciers orange from the dust.

RETURN TO NEW ZEALAND

So here we are back on the south island of New Zealand. It’s been very interesting spending a good deal of time in Christchurch, with all the still on-going earthquake activity. We’ve felt at least a dozen noticeable tremors. I kind of enjoy it, and I think the whole situation has created an atmosphere of increased awareness in people about a lot of stuff they take for granted, for example, the solidity and immovability of the ground beneath our feet.

Due to leaving Australia unexpectedly and suddenly, the contrast between the basic vibes of the two countries is more apparent. One of the first things we noticed was the people in New Zealand seem less stupid…or more intelligent. This was a first impression that’s pretty much levelled off now. Another observation is that the vehicles on the road here make a lot more sense than the extremely high per-centage of over-sized four-wheel-drives pulling macrophilous caravan monstrosities in Australia. There it’s almost as if there’s an unspoken national contest raging to see who can waste the greatest amount of fuel on the stupidest things.

New Zealand has been taking really good care of us. Thanks to Philip and Annika, we’ve had not only an apartment of our own for several days, but also their spare car with which to get around. Our “hydrocarbon fuel karma” is very high from all the hitching we’ve done, so this is a welcome opportunity to see a lot of place and also to gather rocks from some awesome and remote beaches.

Thanks to Barry Brailsford and Cushla Denton, metaphysical historians of the south island, we have been able to find heaps of beautiful pure white rocks, as well as others of amazing smoothness and colour. Thanks to Ian McAllister we’ve been able to do a short recording session with flute and guitar. And thanks to Don and Linda at the caravan park here in Waiau, we’ve had a nice little room to get creative stuff done in for several days.

I’ve been trying to get this massive document written for the past month, and now that it’s done, I can move onto my retrospective write-up of 2010, “year of the leak”, if you look at the BP, Wiki- and flooding scenarios. Reality is busting at the seams.

OK, so that’s all for now. Soon we’ll be out and about all over the south island. DOC is still deploying massive amounts of 1080, and Peter Jackson is starting on his new Hobbit films. I really wish he could somehow decide to make a film about something that actually matters in the real world. So there’s plenty to keep us occupied here, not to mention some of the most spectacular and breath-taking landscapes anywhere on Mother Earth.

JEFF PHILLIPS
23 JANUARY 2011
WAIAU NEW ZEALAND

1 comment:

valfrid said...

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