Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything... 42.  Everyone who has read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy knows this.

But this post is more about what the meaning is for us, or in other words why Cor and I are on this journey in search of "the good life".  We are often asked why we left good careers, a happening place like London (in an Olympic year), and all our friends, to go off travelling the world.  Well, actually that part people understand, but what they don't understand are our plans of buying a smallholding / hobby farm and growing our own food.  That seems just like a crazy amount of work, right?  Why go to all that trouble?  So a post to explain a bit seems in order.

Back in December 2010, Cor and I were back in Australia on holiday driving from Ingham to Albury when we had a nasty car accident on the highway between Mackay and Rockhampton.  We aquaplaned off the road at about 105 - 110km per hour headfirst into a ditch and flipped the car over.  We were lucky, and for the most part walked away mostly unscathed.  I had a broken nose (check out the Disaster post for the issues this is causing now), whiplash, a gashed leg, a busted head plus some soft tissue bruising courtesy of the seatbelt, while Cor had a tiny scratch on her foot.  But more than anything else it was a wake-up call.

If we had come off the road 5 metres earlier we would have hit a massive gum tree and be dead.

There was lots of water on the drive and if there had been just 1 to 2 feet of water in the ditch, we would be dead (upside down, it took us a while to get out).

Take a good look at the photo of the inside of the car.  See that small tree above the driver's seat?  6 inches lower and one of us would be dead.

See what I mean about wake up call??

We owe thanks to our family Justin Burnside and Vayne Monzeglio for coming to our rescue after the accident.

At the time we were living in London going through the motions, but after this we decided that it was time to reassess our lives and live where we could engage in what made us happy, which is being outside.  Whether it is climbing, running, diving, fishing, camping, hiking or skiing, we love being outside.  So we decided to move somewhere we could do that from home, rather than living near work and commuting to what made us happy.  Our friends Tim and Lynne had done this with their new massage business and were an inspiration.

The other thing we love, though, is food.  We love growing it, cooking it and eating it.  We had an allotment and a great garden in London and were largely self-sufficient for fruit and vegetables 8 months of the year.  It had always been our dream to do a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Gourmet Farmer, raise our own animals and be self sufficient in food as much as possible, but that was always off in the future in a semi-retired state.

Well, after our wake up call, we aren't putting it off anymore.  Bucket list?  Doing it now.  There is no point being rich but dead and therefore unable to dive Sipadan, or climb El Cap, or ski some insane off-piste.  The time is now.  And as for a smallholding, well why wait to do the things we have always dreamed of?  Some people ask if we have enough money to do it, and as anyone who has followed their dreams will tell you, you can keep chasing "just a bit more" but you will never have enough.  Far better to get out of the comfort zone, and see what happens.

I hope this goes towards explaining why we seem a little crazed, and perhaps inspire a bit of craziness of your own.  Perhaps we'll see you on that dive boat this year or maybe coming up the drive of our little farm one day for a cold cider and a warm welcome.  Palya!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Northern Territory Road Trip

Palya y'all!  When we last posted we were pretty low after getting the bad news regarding my shnoz and the cancellation of our Mt K. climb, but since then I have taken a metric tonne of antibiotics, rested up at Cor's parent's place and tackled a two-week tour of the Northern Territory.

When we flew into Darwin, Jetstar screwed us around as usual - a 3-hour delay resulted in us missing the first 3 days of our 9-day tour.  We are so pissed off with that airline.  They truly suck and will never form part of our travel plans ever again.  Adventure Tours did a decent job getting us onto a couple of day trips to Kakadu and Litchfield parks, but these brief trips only reinforced our desire to go back with a four-wheel drive and explore these marvellous places more thoroughly.

Once we joined our tour, we headed from Darwin to Alice Springs.  We were a bit disoriented to begin with - Katherine Gorge is called Nitmiluk, the Olgas are called Kata Tjuta, Ayers Rock is Uluru.  OK, the last we knew but the others were a surprise.  We had a really great group and did some sleeping in swags under the most stars you will have ever seen.

The area around Uluru wasn't the red desert we were expecting.  Instead, it was full of life, and there were so many animals, edible plants and even waterholes by the rock.  It is no wonder that it is such an important part of life for the indigenous peoples of the area.  It is culturally important too.  In a culture where their stories (tjukurpa) have physical manifestations (tjukurja), these are all over the rock.  There are areas for shelter, and areas for teaching young people how to hunt and gather.

The moon over Uluru
We didn't climb Uluru, and the Anangu people ask you not to.  There are a number of reasons which were explained to us by Rebecca, our Anangu guide.
1.  Uluru's water, food, stories and ability to teach is around the base, so why climb?
2.  The climb is a sacred path taken by two of their ancestors in their stories.
3.  The climbers have worn the oxidisation off the rock, leaving a white path to the top.
4.  The Anangu people feel responsible for people at Uluru.  35 people have died climbing the rock over the years, and the Anangu people feel their spirits can now never return home.

For these reasons we felt that climbing Uluru was not a necessary part of our trip, and I hope the new management plan that is pending removes that option.  Visitors will still come as they always have, and will learn so much more as a result.

One of the other cool things that we learned was that the Anangu people prefix edible plant names with "mai" or "food".  So the bush fig they call ili is "mai ili" so they know it is edible.  They do the same with medicine plants and the like - how cool is that??  Imagine if we had 50,000 years of trial and error and prefixed our plant names with what you could use them for, rather than just its Latin genus?  That would be awesome!  OK you would still need to know whether it needs cooking, or grinding or whatever, but it is still brilliant.

To finish off, we took the Ghan rail line, so named for the Afghan camel trains that were our first lines of communication and supplies through the red centre of Australia, from Alice Springs to Darwin.  What a great train trip.  Now that is the way to travel!

So now we are back in Ingham, North Queensland, to spend a couple of months with my parents doing some fishing, some beachcombing, and some general relaxing.  I will do a post at some point about our motivations for this trip and our plans for when it finishes..... until then there are pics on the links to the right as usual.

Palya!  (This is Anangu for hello, goodbye, OK and a whole host of other stuff - a really great word.)