Australia part 4: kangaroo valley, aboriginals, surgery, folk festival and back to the blue mountains

 

I made it to the Kangaroo Valley, but I was sick, very sick. This infection kept getting worse and draining my energy. I really wanted to be involved in the farm and with the boys, but I couldn’t do it. Most of the days I stayed in bed, trying to pull myself together to contribute to the household. I was so privileged to be amongst Mark, Marcus, their grandmother and Peter, I felt terrible not being able to spend time with them. I could hardly open my mouth and even talking was very painful.

 

The twelve year old twins Mark and Marcus were here to go to school and learn things like English, maths and reading and writing and experience ‘our’ western culture, which they call the Bellanda world – the Hollander world! After all, the Dutch were the first to step foot in Arnhemland and stir things up.. The boys were far ahead of the other boys in their tribe and are soon to be leaders, they already had their initiations as men. Their grandma is a very strong and sincere woman with fantastic weaving skills and she came down to spend some time with her boys and set them on track. Which was necessary 😉 The boys got in trouble in their first week at school on a cross country run when they suddenly took off and caught a kangaroo, with their bare hands! Felt like I was in a movie. The boys made an absolute mess off the house and we talked about how to handle them, so we could all live together but obviously avoiding to make well-behaved white boys out of them. Never thought I would be in the position to think about these things! The boys were very musically talented and spent a lot of time in the treehouse playing the drums and my guitar.
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If I had felt better we would have formed a band together, it was great 😀 They’ll be famous one day, im sure..

 

I felt very sick and stayed in bed most of the time, only to come out and make myself some liquid food. Not being able to open my mouth, it was even hard to stuff a pill behind my teeth.. pfff.. Peter drove me to the doctor and the pharmacy a couple of times and all of them kept checking up on me. I felt well cared for. When I found some energy I cleaned and cooked, which is by the way not easy when you’re unable to taste :p. And to make things more funny, my first tries were not welcomed with a lot of applause at all! Apparently they never eat vegetarian up in Arnhemland and they hardly use any spices. A dish where I could hardly taste the chili made them all run to the tap to wash their mouths hahahahahaha yaka menmak (no good), but ok Im learning :p

Badunbil (grandma) is not much of a talker and had been driven crazy the past weeks by all these people who wanted to talk to her and asked her a lot of questions. Probably another reason why my body prevented me from talking, so I would just sit and be with them and listen to whatever was said.

I felt incredibly grateful to be there and Peter did his best to make me feel comfortable and able to just be sick. I couldnt wait to get better and help out on the farm, improve the treehouse, harvest the honey from the bees, go fishing and kayaking with the boys, ride the horse and find any way to make a contribution to these beautiful good-hearted people.

One day I did feel a little bit better and I pulled myself together to get on the quadbike and go and harvest the honey. Oh boy… When I opened that box.. It was the saddest beehive I had ever seen :/
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The bees had gone, the pests had taken over, the whole box was black and rotten.. I sure hope those bees found a better home..

 

One night we all went to dinner at Peter’s friends place elsewhere in the valley (they were hosting another aboriginal girl from the same tribe, she was so sweet..). We were welcomed in this absolutely stunning and well-built hexagonal shaped mudbrick house (very inspiring!), while they were cooking a traditional bushcamp meal in big cast iron pots around the fire, yeah baby! I still couldn’t eat any of it, but it looked so good 🙂

 

After having visited the local doctor and pharmacy a couple of times, and still not feeling better,
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the family drove me to Nowra to visit a dentist. He was so kind to advise me charge free, after having my xray taken across the street, to visit a dental surgeon as soon as possible. So I did. Back at the farm I contacted a couple of surgeons the dentist had recommended me and the next day I was driven to Nowra again. Dr Peter Vickers talked to me in a mix of English, German and Russian (it was a bit weird..) and concluded that it was necessary to perform surgery right away. Within two hours I was fully anesthetized and Dr Vickers and Dr Van Tran were draining the abcess and pulling out all four wisdom teeth. I was sound asleep dreaming a pretty nice dream and was disappointed to wake up. I was brought to a recovery room where I stayed all day, night and the next day with antibiotics dripping through the IV.
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Nobody could tell me how the surgery went, besides that it went well. Nobody told me it was quite normal that the wound would keep bleeding for a while, which freaked me out. The nurses gave me big cotton things I was supposed to put in my mouth against the wounds, but I still couldn’t open my mouth! There was no decent liquid food either, the only thing they could offer was custard and highly processed apple sauce and yoghurt with a lot of sugar. How was I supposed to regain my strength on such a bad diet? Crazy hospitals.. It was nice to lay in a bed though where people are payed to take care of me, so I didn’t have to feel so guilty. The next day I was discharged though and Peter drove all the way down to bring me back to the farm.

I am so grateful for the help in the valley, of people driving me to all these doctors and providing me a bed and food. Being sick while travelling on your own, on the other side of the world, is really fucked. I felt like a humongous burden on these generous people (and I was) and my previous excitement of being there soon turned into a wide arrange of negative feelings. I just couldn’t give back what they gave me and felt stuck, I had no place to go. There was no way I would be able to load up the bike and hit the road again.. For the first time I started to get a bit homesick, missing my friends and family more than ever. I realized how important it is to have a good network around you, to build deeper relationships so you can all care for each other. And I love taking care of people. It’s horrible to need care though.. The biketrip was so perfect for me, because as long as I have food and water I don’t need anybody, I have my home with me and am independent. Whenever someone offers to host me or asks me to spend time together I am free to say Yes, but don’t ‘need’ it, it is beautiful 😀 Getting sick was not on my to-do-list though and for the first time I was really dependent and not in the right spot for it. It got worse when Peter couldn’t manage all his projects anymore, when his close relative got very very ill (eventually died), when Badunbil went back home and Peter got very stressed. I decided to ask my friend Andy from the Blue Mountains for help. I really don’t like to ask for help.. I know he was going to be in the neighbourhood that weekend though, since he bought tickets for the National Folk Festival in Canberra. He bought those tickets only to be able to enjoy the festival with me, I was supposed to go volunteer there. I had to cancel that though and Andy wasn’t able to get a refund or sell his tickets. Messaging back and forth he offered to pick me up and take me along to Canberra, winging it, seeing how we would go. I felt bad about leaving the farm without having been able to contribute, but I was so happy to see Andy and I started to feel a bit better every day in the good care of him. We left the kangaroo valley through this beautiful bridge
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and camped in the bush, made some fire and just enjoyed the nature surrounding us.

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It felt liberating not be a burden on Peter anymore. And Andys love for everything about nature is very satisfying and invigorating. We rescued a bluetongue lizard,
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gazed upon some goannas,
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kangaroos, wallabis,
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identified heaps of different birds and enjoyed many other beauties of nature. It’s so good to be able to share this with someone who enjoys the pure nature just as much, if not more!

Andy drove me to Canberra where he would attend the festival on his own and dropped me of at Lauras place. I had met here sailing at Pittwater bay weeks ago and she was such a lovely girl. In my desperation I contacted her for a bed, so I could be sick, waiting for the festival to end and Andy taking me with him on his way back to the blue mountains. Laura was out of town herself but offered me her bed, isn’t that super super nice?! Her lovely roommates kindly hosted me. Meanwhile I was improving little by little and decided to buy a day-ticket for the festival to join Andy for as long as I could (to buy of my guilt). The security was set up in such a way that I could join him at the campsite easily and I stayed the night. The folk festival was great! Luckily there were chairs at all performances so I could stay seated and just enjoy the music (much better than laying in bed!). There were some very good acts. Miriam Lieberman for example, wow! Check her out, she’s amazing; playing this fantastic instrument the kora (a 21-stringed west African harp); and her voice is so so beautiful.
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Wood and Horse was another highlight: Turkish snares and Mongolian throatsinging combined, absolutely spectacular. Absolutely refueled my dream of a horsebackriding trip through mongolia, when the eagles are out and the music is playing 😀
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We saw many great musicians and enjoyed a couple delicious chais.
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No party hardy at this festival, but it was very enjoyable eitherways. I just love folk music and the atmosphere surrounding it 😀 I was drugged and zombified and running out of painkillers. I decided to experiment how long I could go without the painkillers and I ended up stopping cold turkey, giving me back a lot of energy! Enough energy to help Andy harvest the >20 kilos of wild apples and pears we found on the way back to the Blue Mountains! I managed to sell most of them to the local food co-op, isn’t that great?!
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We made some nice detours through the countryside and we visited the Wombeyan caves, beautiful!

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There were some strange monkeys living there 😉
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Back in the mountains, Andy went to Sydney a couple of days, working on felling down an enormous tree in someones backyard. I used that time to catch up with my old climbing buddy and I met great people again back up at the climbing community at Mount York. After just one climb I realized though that it was too soon after the surgery, I had no strength and my whole body was trembling, even though it was a very easy climb. The next day I hooked up with William, the aboriginal elder I had been in contact with. It was great spending a bit of time with him, including a little drive around the area, telling me dreamtime stories about how the aboriginals believe this area was formed, millions and millions of years ago. One of them being the eagle story, can you recognize its head?!
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He showed me the soupkitchen and accommodation for the homeless (dont mind the money in the picture, that was a project for Andy),

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and told me about more of these great projects he was involved with, including starting a completely self-sustained community in the country, where everybody – no matter what start budget- could join. This area is just full of environmental conscious people doing great things for the world and for each other. I keep discovering the one great project after the other! It was interesting to hear that uncle Bill agreed that us people are not really helping the world evolve, but he believed other way bigger forces are at work for the coming apocalypse, just like there was an icetime and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Bill and I parted and agreed to go on our gold and gemstone fossiking trip next time I would visit the blue mountains, something I was highly looking forward to!

 

I still hadn’t quite found my mojo back and was super super tired. So I slowly moved around and visited one of the many great little art galleries around. This one had portrets of people who were prime examples for all of the acts in the declaration of human rights. Great pastime! On the way back though Andy’s 4WD started to act a bit weird on me, before finally breaking down completely on the start of a big hill with almost no space to pull over. I had to, though. It was already getting dark and with Andy in Sydney and me without a phone on me, I was a bit worried.. I tried to start the car again on gas, then on petrol then on gas again, nothing worked and I couldn’t find anything wrong under the hood. I had to ask for help. Very soon a car stopped and a fellow barefooted human being got out. He was great! Everything happens for a reason and this car breakdown happened so I could have the opportunity to meet this wonderful man, full of interesting stories and thoughts, giving us a lot to talk about (in raised exciting voices) and we were a bit sad to leave in the end. We drove a couple of times back and forth to the gasstation (first we bought the wrong fuel hahahaha classic, then we went back to get more of the right fuel, see if that would help..) but in the end we couldn’t get it to start again and I decided to go home and wait for Andy who was supposed to come home that night. My rescuer dropped me off (it was on his way) and we were both grateful to have met each other. He told me these stories of how he had been looking for people he could actually help, but they seemed to be hard to find. And he was happy to find this damsel in distress, haha the world turned upside down! I guess the least I could have done was to remember his name, but if forgot.. oopsie :p

Anyways, Andy came home we had another exciting midnight mission (one mission before we dressed up in black and entered someones backyard to pick the pears from a property that seemed to be quite abandoned and a tree nobody seemed to be harvesting; turned out not to be abandoned though and we had to abort the mission: Retreat! Retreat!). We towed the car to his friends place where he was able to fix it up later. Pfew..

 

Andy had to go back to the big job in double bay, Sydney and this time took me with him. I would catch a train from there into Nowra for my appointment with the strange Doctor Vickers about my surgery. I would help Andy as much as I could on the tree job, lowering down branches, playing with the chainsaw and carrying heavy logs up the hill. My energy was still very very drained though and after half a day of hard work I had to stop.. damn.. The next day it was raining so much that we couldn’t work so we went for a walk around town, heading towards the cinema. At first we felt very out of place, walking around in the big city but things got even worse when we entered the cinema! Grey hair everywhere. I wondered, was it because it was a Tuesday? Ah well, we found out a senior film festival was happening. But we didn’t let that stop us :p We even got student discount, the both of us hahaha. Still works.
We went to see this incredible inspiring movie called Back to the wild, where this beautiful young woman is on a mission to bring back the wild nature in people backyards, designing their gardens full of wild flowers and sacred geometry. I cried through the whole movie and so did Andy. A couple of scenes where shot in Ethiopia where a bunch of guys are planting lots of trees to rejuvenate the eroded bare earth into the beautiful lush forest it once was. It was incredible! That’s a very very good cause in life to spend your time on. Id love to be part of a project like that. We talked about this while walking back and looking at all the plants and tress around us, happy to see still so much nature in a horrible city like Sydney. Especially the streets full of fig trees (not edible) were very beautiful. We found a nice little sort of park where we read to each other from the books we found there. Beautiful 🙂

 

The next morning I had to say goodbye to Andy. It was time for me to head south for new adventures. I didn’t quite have my energy back yet, but Dr. Vickers was waiting for me!

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