The Community Hall Part 1

 

It was late afternoon and we had been riding our bikes over unsealed roads into a powerful headwind for most of the day. The wind was far stronger than the weather report had indicated. Along with the wind, we also had to battle the dust. We knew we weren’t going to reach our destination, a town where we had planned to stay the night at a caravan park.

We desperately needed to stop. But we were surrounded by undulating crop land as far as the eye could see. It was autumn and everything was barren and dry. There was nowhere we could pitch our tent and our water was low.  

I was in a bad mood. The grievances piled up.

When we  had arrived in Australia that January, our plan was to leave in March/April, fly to Beijing, and then take the train to North Korea. Now thanks to Covid-19, international travel was impossible and who knew when – and if – the world would ever return to what it once was. I had this uncomfortable feeling that a viral Frankenstein was on the rampage.  Former irritations – e.g., crowded airports, endless cues and long flights – were now reasons for nostalgia.

So here we were, plan B, making the best of our situation by …riding our bikes into a vortex of dust and wind with no water, no prospect of stopping for the night, surrounded on all sides by a great nothingness.   

 Then it appeared in the distance, like a mirage…..

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The Community Hall Part 2

 

On first appearances, the community hall, an abandoned galvanised iron shed, seemed like the last place where anything significant might be found. But our guide, a 93 year old man, knew its story and he was keen to tell it to strangers, conscious of the fact that he and the hall were living on borrowed time.

As he talked, I sometimes felt that he was talking to himself, to the darkness….

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Andu Part 1

 

Looking out the windows of the SUV, we saw it: the gaunt outlines of the northern Flinders Ranges, a metallic red brown vein of cliffs and ridges and valleys running deep into Central Australia, one the most arid, barren places in the world.

Then we knew we were nearing our destination, the point at which one journey ended and another began.

From hitch hiking 400 kilometres to walking 200.   

They were tired looking those ranges, almost as if their venture into the heart of one of the world´s greatest wastelands had proved to be too much and they had renounced any ambition of being a normal range.

But early in the morning and late in the evening, they burst into a spectrum of colours, all the colours of the rainbow. It was a transformation as miraculous as the animal which had once thrived there and learnt to dress itself up in a coat of many colours, like the biblical Jacob – and to merge into its environment during the critical times of the day when it went to forage for food…..

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Andu Part 2

 

It had been my idea to go in search of an endangered species.

It had been her idea to hitch hike from Adelaide to the northern Flinders Ranges.

I didn´t think much of that idea. I tried to talk logic to her. 

‘Why not use the organized forms of transport as far as we can and then hitch hike? From the 400 kilometers there, at least cover 250 with a bus?

Anya wasn’t interested: ‘Lets hitch hike all the way. It’ll be an adventure’, she said.

‘It’ll be impossible getting lifts with our heavy rucksacks.’ I retorted, ‘it´ll take bloody weeks to get there!´

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The Tears of Tjilbruke Part 1

 

Her name was Ivaritji.

She was the last one left.

The last member of the Kaurna people who inhabited the area where today’s Adelaide and its sprawling suburbs are situated.

There is a photo of her in the Aboriginal Culture Gallery of the South Australia museum – one of the finest ethnographic displays in the world, thanks largely to the pioneering work of one of Australia’s greatest  anthropologists, Norman B. Tindale.

The photo of Ivaritji was taken by Tindale in 1928 shortly before she died…

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