Walkabout 45 – Mad dogs and Englishmen … (Flanders and Swan)

Writing from Broome – I have a few stories to tell but will restrict myself a little… The new caravan is old news now and its attendant woes – it is now the car/Tardis.  Leaving Katherine where we relaxed very well and Alan changed the oil in the van, it went into ‘limp’ mode.  An expression applicable especially to Benzes when their computers go funny.  One wonders what offends the inbuilt robot?  We had done something.  We limped into Darwin into a very expensive caravan park, $55 pd – all sites had en suite showers and loos.  It was run down, under maintained and under-serviced but comfortable.  We found a man with a machine that could read and diagnose the Tardis computer, booked it in to see him.  Waited a week for the appointed time, nothing happens tomorrow here! and dropped it off.  We caught a cab into town thinking that that way we would get to Centrelink without getting too hot!  We did, for a price.  Then we did a bit of an explore of the town centre.  Saw the Chinese Museum, very interesting and uplifting, bought a book, had my sunglasses nicked in the bookshop and bought some sushi. (cf some pics of the city centre in the picasa link at the end of this blog.) Then we headed for the bus stop to go to collect the van.  Of course we had marked where to get off the bus!  It looked different so we got off too soon!!  and walked for at least 4 kms in the noonday sun… I am neither a mad dog nor an Englishman!  and was hot and pissed off by the time we reached the workshop.  Alan was hot too but was not allowing himself to be annoyed, he had rung the bell on the bus!  Worse was to come, the man with the machine charged us a total of $900 (+) to make the car go properly and said it had gone wrong because there was a little dirty oil left in the sump which confused the car’s computer!

All the stories I have ever read about robots running the world came back into my memory, especially those where they are malign and humans lose control.  He also told us to get the wheels aligned, the computer didn’t like that either and to buy a new tyre also because the computer said we had to.  We were prepared to act on the latter instructions but felt sore about the $712 labour charge to read the computer!!!  Not all bad in Darwin though.  We had two gourmet meals with Henk and Trish, they prepared them of course, what a welcome change from our caravan cuisine and take out meals… Henk also gave generously of his time to talk about my PhD work.   It was fun to hear about the FYHE conference where he presented the paper.

We had excellent markets at Nightcliff, desperately needed for the car etc… and then relaxed at the Ski Boat club on the water after the first one.  Straight home after the second because we were then staying at this wonderful spot – Comalie RV Park about 80 kms out of Darwin just past the Batchelor turnoff, (where Henk works).  Large park, powered site and decent amenities for $20 pd.  doesn’t come better than that.  Very interesting, people running the place with all sorts of great information about the area.  Only downer, the poor Telstra service wrt internet and phones,  so we were pretty much out of touch.  Did some work and resting and headed West when we got the tyre on Monday.  Had to wait a week for it to come from Adelaide.  No real sweat.

While at Coomalie, we went to Litchfield National Park, nearby, a lovely little park with a truly spectacular display of meridian termite mounds.  Such clever little critters – the frail termites – they build their ‘homes’ on a NS orientation so that one side never gets direct sun. (Pics in picasa link)

Markets are a bit different here though.  Katherine had to have a committee meeting before they could say if we could stand there.  Was pretty small anyway so no worries on that score, Mindil, the mid evening week-night market was too full for us, Kunnunurra next small town only allows handmade/grown produce, Derby also very small and Broome will only assign our site to us after 7.30 am once the regulars are all in!  We usually start setting up about 4am… ah well we will just go with the flow!  We drove for 3 days from Darwin to get here today, 4 tanks of fuel at $1.90 per litre… and put in the hours, we slept for 11 hours last night!  Still had good overnight stops, one at a creek which you will see in the picasa link when I have done it.

The changes in the country have been spectacular, still flat and dry and dusty but at about the NT/WA border the Boabs start. (Some of you will know them as Baobabs)  There are thousands of them, in all shapes and sizes.  I have 100s of pictures to sort through to find the definitive ones.  Also of the rock formations and the termite mounds.  The other thing that struck us is the amount of burning that has been done in both NT and WA.  Amazing, I wonder if it is so necessary?

Driving across “The Savannah Way” is a trek to avoid if you are not playing tourist. Long straight stretches that go forever and the sun gives the driver’s right arm a good tan. We hope if we ever come this way again we have a 4×4 so we can enjoy what is on offer…. which is plenty apparently.  Got to get off the road that winds endlessly like a blue-grey ribbon with red stripes down the sides.  There are caves, more rocky mounds, the Bungle Bungles, famous, they are.  At a road works hold up the guys came over to chat to us and reassure us that all was well and we would soon be driving again and all that, ours also told us that the Bungle Bungles were just that more dome shaped rocky mounds…  Ah well, I so wanted to go into the Keeps Park to see the Aboriginal paintings and the fabulous rock formations, but once again was thwarted by the presence of our darling Bella.  No dogs allowed.  It is just at the border between NT and WA.

Postscript:  Good markets in Broome but very rule-bound!  Got to suspend belief a bit and go with the flow.  Very good wind downs at Matsos Broome – a boutique brewery and restaurant with a deserved top reputation.  For me the main thing was the view over the ocean, such ambience.  We have missed our Bella who has been in kennels, she is too noisy in the caravan park and it is too hot for her to stay in the car.  Not sure where next but tomorrow I will do the washing in the caravan park laundry,  Alan will fetch Bella and we will pore over the maps and find out about the markets in the next place, Port Hedland might be IT.  Our post has gone there anyway.  More later.  Picasa link https://picasaweb.google.com/105183160149035139526/DarwinToBroome?authuser=0&feat=directlink

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Walkabout 44 – Into the sunset and across the divide …

We headed west and west again to get to the Drovers’ Muster Festival in Camooweal on the Queensland / Northern Territory border after the Bowen market. It got flatter and dustier and so much warmer. Wonderful changes.  Towing our new caravan felt really good. A strange thing this, that we seem to feel better, more relaxed and more content the less we have. Even the nature of the traffic changed, more road trains and bigger road trains and fewer ordinary vehicles except caravans… more of them and mostly heading south. The ‘Mexicans’ from the southerly states heading home for the summer having enjoyed the sunshine and warmth of the North.  The pictures do show something of this; https://picasaweb.google.com/105183160149035139526/Walkabout44AyrToCamoowealToKatherine?authuser=0&feat=directlink.

Camooweal Drovers’ Muster was a wonderful experience.  Camooweal has only 300 inhabitants and they all came to the Festival which also drew support from neighbouring stations, Mt Isa and other small towns.  The caravan park was full and the pub was open more than usual.  I enjoyed the warmth (although still cold at night), and the nice people.  Welcoming and interested in what we are doing.  The calf branding was interesting at first but as I didn’t know anyone competing I lost interest after about an hour.  The next day it was more interesting as I saw a very attractive young woman compete.  She was beautifully turned out complete with earrings and diamond studded belt she did a good job of roping her calves as well.  The calves didn’t seem to present much challenge once roped.  But marks were awarded for a range of things; time being important, tying the legs correctly, and applying the paint brand correctly as well.  The calves had already been branded properly, so we were spared the smell of burning hide!  They competed in teams so that was fun too but I had other things to do, like attend to the customers.

The Australian books, especially those of Bush Poetry were very popular as were the general reading which sell at $3 each, less than some op shops!  Alan sold lots of tools as well and we ran out of wrapping paper and plastic bags so we must have done well.  We were able to put some money into the credit cards which was pleasing as we have ransacked them!

We had some interesting conversations with our fellow stall holders, especially Trevina, the photographer.  I loved being able to share about that hobby of mine and learn a bit as well.  She makes Bush Medicine which we have been applying to our cracked heels and it is doing a good job!  Always good to hear about life as an Aboriginal Australian, especially a person who had such a healthy sense of humour and sense of her own power.  She and an Aunty of hers are currently engaged in battle with the authorities Federal and Indigenous to have something recognised…  thinking about what it was… She had a huge heart and tolerance for people who had wronged her people over the years.

We crossed into the Northern Territory (NT) and left Queensland behind us.  A big divide for me I have never been in the NT before and there was a real sense of heading into the unknown leaving behind friends and family and encountering strange and wonderful things.  Perhaps not so mystical, just hugely long stretches of straight flat roads with road signs that I am certain are put there to keep drivers awake!!  The colours and shapes of the trees change as does the earth and also the termite nests which are frequently dressed in T shirts or other funny clothes and make one smile.  We spent the night at (Pebbles) Kunjarra – just a space made for overnight stops, with toilets and trees.  It is a sacred place for the Aboriginal people and has been the subject of controversy.  The Indigenous voice won that one.  The picasa pics illustrate all of the above.

Onwards to Tennant Creek which was a depressing experience capped by the only public toilet in the town being out of commission and the shops not having one which I could have used.  One wondered what the shop staff did!!  Not!!  anyway I found Alan and he drove me to a servo at the end of town where the people were very nice.  But Tennant Creek was not redeemed by their niceness.  The people in the streets were mostly Aboriginal who looked poor and unwell.  I was pleased to leave.  Then on to a beautiful spot on the old main road for the night.  The pictures tell the story beautifully.  I loved the Telegraph Memorial, which we came to early next morning.  It was mind-blowing to think of those men all those years ago, 1890s, travelling those many miles on horseback to lay telegraph cable and then linking to cables that carried messages to Europe!  There too the pictures do a better job.

It was another one of those things, like the Snowy Mountain electricity generating scheme, that demonstrates the ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit and determination of those pioneers.  The landscape places demands on people, who in their determination to survive and maintain links and standards, created answers that cause me wonder and respect, to seemingly intractable problems.  While all the time I am mindful that the Indigenous people didn’t have such problems because of their simple lifestyle and living in harmony with the land, creating their stories and songs and art to celebrate life and living and who were brutally treated by the same pioneers.  Lots of history there to be discovered yet and appreciated by me.


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Walkabout 43 – and the wheel(s) came off – almost

This is going to be a longish post so you might want to take it in stages. I have headlined it to help. We have travelled from Esk at the end of May to Mataranka now since I last wrote a Walkabout blog post. So this is an attempt to fill the space of the last three months during which much has happened. We went to the Gympie guns fair again and then on to Bundaberg and Agnes Water (Walkman’s Beach) where we found Paradise Lost.

You will remember me raving on about Walkman’s Beach last year, well they have slightly changed the system, demarcated campsites, and now there is a Bogan Mafia who control the place, they victimised a bloke who ran his generator during normal hours, they had campfires and there is a total fire ban in the place, they had parties right next to us with loud boom boom music and generally spoilt the atmosphere. We were disappointed but as I did mention earlier there were positives; we met the delightful Italians who cooked pumpkin risotto for us and were able to get into Bundaberg to get the van key repaired, it broke off in the lock and the ambulance came very quickly when I had a vertigo attack. I went to the doctor in Agnes Water and now have the right medicine to take when I am so attacked. All good as they say here !!

Next was The Biloela Historic Machinery Annual Festival. This was a real highlight. Not many selling stalls but several selling old stuff and lots else to marvel at. There was a wood chopping contest, a demonstration of carving fence posts out of huge trunks, demos of how the draft horses was used to drive machines like wheat grinding and water reticulation and the Grand Parade led by the local members of the Light Horse and consisting of many OLD farm machines, trucks and cars, a 3-wheeled Messchersmitt among them. I was enraptured by the love and attention that had been paid to restoring those old things. We joined the crowds at the day’s end jollifications on the Saturday night and thoroughly enjoyed expanding my sense of country Australians who use expressions like ‘fair dinkum’ ‘you beaut’ and everyone is ‘mate’. The pictures will tell the story better.

We stopped at a ‘bush camp’ for a couple of nights beside Lake Victoria with some of the other marketeers, Carl, Terry and Dave and bought LED lights for the outside of the caravan and car, they looked splendid, (past tense re the caravan – more later). We camped in a ‘laager’ and I really enjoyed the company of humorous interesting people. Bella had a good time not being on the end of a chain all the time.

Childers Festival was a pretty good event, lots of music and nice food and then on to the Rocky Swap, also a good-ish event although down on last year, our neighbours arrived well after us and set up so that we were almost completely hidden. We were grateful for every sale we made. Rockhampton to Anakie is where we had the big adventure. Bowling along happily looking forward to seeing Glenda and family again when this loud BANG interrupted our happy musings.

The wheel on the passenger side of the caravan had fallen off, took Alan 400 metres or so to bring us to a stop with the caravan running on the hub which was new before we left Coffs Harbour in May. A woman coming towards us waved us down and showed us where the wheel had landed on t’other side of the road in the bush. But not before it had wrecked the cupboards and contents and counters inside the caravan, damaged the chassis and bowled off over the road. We were shocked to our core, what to do?

The CIL caravan insurance were so helpful, got a salvage vehicle out to us which loaded the ‘van onto a huge flatbed, pics to follow and video on You Tube, watch for it… and we followed into Blackwater where we booked our shattered souls into the motel. Sorting ourselves out completely preoccupied us for the next days. We hunted for a caravan to hire in the area and there was nothing available, this being mining country, the Gemfields, every form of accommodation is desirable. We hired a trailer, put the trade goods into it and the mattress and domestic stuff into the van and set off for Anakie. We stayed at the caravan park in a cabin a bit overdue for refurbishment but were grateful to have it as we needed the gazebos for the market so couldn’t have used them to live in.

All went well at Anakie, lovely to see Glenda and Shawna again, pleasant people came through the stall and we were offered a caravan to buy by one of them, he was camping at Sapphire so we planned to buy it from him. It is a good one we are in it now, slightly bigger than the first one and much more comfortable, also a few years newer. However it has left us ‘platsak’ – ie with no financial reserves at all. Got to have a home and who knows how much longer we will be given to enjoy it.

This time to Bowen in the Whitsundays. Supposed to be going to Clermont for the Gold and Coal Fest but the weather so confidently predicted rain for the Friday and Saturday of the Fest that we piked and headed for Bowen instead as the rain was supposed to be over by the Sunday. All this came true and Bowen was pleasant. We stayed in the caravan park there and weeded out our possessions so we fitted everything into the Sprinter not named Tardis for nothing! We even left our folding chairs. I was reminded of a story my cousin Noreen Ramsden tells of when they left London they left Mark’s high chair on the pavement, couldn’t fit it into the taxi with themselves – 6 of them – and luggage!! So happy to get to Ayr where we were due to take over the caravan and did although we had to wait. Left the Whitsundays and headed for Camooweal.

This was a huge highlight, after a huge drive, but I have to complete this asap as we have to leave the caravan park before 10 and it is 10 mins to go so I will tell about Camooweal, Bushies and Yarning in the next post.


Addendum – Sr Maria Corda

I forgot to mention Sr Maria Corda – she told Ruth she is 73 years old, hardly seems possible but there it is and she is stepping up to support Sr Mary Paule’s projects. Sr M C was in charge of the Aftercare when we went to Ikwezi and had specialised in art education for the handicapped. She had terrible trouble with her back and several sessions of surgery and finally went to Marian Hill to work where she would have less stress. She was greatly missed when she left but ably replaced by Sr Michaele Koch who was on home leave at this time, she of the gorgeous red hair which she used to allow the children to play with at length!! Sr MC and Ruth connected again wonderfully and it seems that might turn into another longer term connection between us and Glen Avent/Ikwezi Lokusa. Thank you Ruth for being there again!

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Sister Mary Paule’s funeral

Ruth went to the funeral a week ago today, 3rd July. She took the family with her in spirit and was welcomed by the Glen Avent family as family. She joined the sisters in the chapel early in the morning to celebrate Sister’s life in her home place. I am reporting Ruth’s words as I remember them, I didn’t take notes as she told us all in a group on Skype about it, was too busy dabbing at my eyes. In the chapel Sister lay in her magnificent coffin and everyone sprinkled holy water and said their good byes. Apparently the funeral parlour donated the coffin as well as the huge marquee for the later ceremony. After the service in the chapel all processed into the marquee and were ushered in by people identified as ushers by their chiffon sashes. It was all very orderly and everyone had their place to sit.

It was a full funeral Mass with the Bishop of Mthatha and 6 priests. In his speech the Bishop said that he hoped that the apprehending of the suspected hijackers would stimulate the police to solve the other 100s of unsolved murders in Mtatha. Patrick “Terror” Lekota also spoke very movingly, Sister had been his teacher at Mariazell. One of her brothers sent a letter in which he spoke about how she had been a beautiful social young woman and shattered the family when she announced, aged 17, that she was going to enter a convent and be a missionary. Apparently she could have had her pick of the young men in the town! As a missionary she founded 22 NGOs and in all cases they were partnerships with the local communities so are still sustained.

Ruth was thrilled to see so many of the people who had sustained and supported us at Ikwezi Lokusa, among them Sr Ignatia of the kitchen,  Fr Cass Paulsen and especially Sr Consolata who fetched her from the airport and who Ruth did not recognise immediately! She was the physiotherapist who taught Ruth to walk again after she was paralysed by Guillain Barre Syndrome. It was amazing after 30 years how many sisters had memories of our family. We have visited since we left but mainly to see Sr Mary Paule and Bethany.  I suppose we were part of the start of the After care service and the first family to live there so we are part of the history of the place.  I am thrilled each time by how the trees I planted have grown and the huge bougainvillea in front of our house.

Thank you Ruth for a rich account of the day and of how appreciative the sisters were that you spent your own money to be with them in their sorrow.  It all makes my grieving easier.  I have had to do a lot of that long distance sorrowing since I left South Africa in 2001  I am not rooted anywhere anymore and there is sometimes a sense of existing in a twilight world that is much limited especially now that we travel all the time and have no fixed points …

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Sr Mary Paule

It seems that Sister Mary Paule of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, Glen Avent Convent suffered a heart attack when she was hijacked on 15th June 2014.  This event has completely disrupted my head space and only now that I know that she wasn’t actually murdered am I able to think straight again, as straight as I am ever able!  She was my very close friend and support when we lived at Ikwezi Lokusa Mission where Joe built and managed a pottery for disabled adults.  We lived there for 8 years and it was a testing and growing time for our whole family.  Our children still hark back to that time frequently and especially to our relationship with Sr Mary Paule who was closely integrated into our lives as she was to all the families living on the mission and also to so many others in the town and environs.

To do justice to her life in our lives I would have to write a book and there has been much in the South African press anyway so I will not duplicate just add my voice and gratitude for her life and include here the ‘letter’ I sent with Ruth to be added into the tributes at her funeral.

On the Road

Dear Sister Mary Paule
This is Vale Sister, Hamba Kahle uSister Mary Paule.
Tomorrow Ruth will go to Mthatha to attend your memorial service. It will be 10 days since you met your untimely death. She will carry with her all the love and gratitude for your life that the Faraghers feel. In the greater scheme of things that won’t be much given the huge difference that you made to so many thousands of lives. The lives of the babies abandoned by their mothers and families to whom you gave a caring home and chance for a decent life, the abused girls and young women you created safety for and the many hundreds of us who you taught to care and forgive. Not that you actually ‘taught’ in any didactic way, it was just the way you were, that taught us how to live in the love of God and in His light. Your presence at Ikwezi Lokusa Mission during the years that we lived there 1977 – 1984 was often a kindly light in dark times when we needed someone to give us strength. We had some truly dark times in our family during those times and your care and practical responses made it possible for us to endure and grow through it all.
Of course we know that you didn’t do all this single-handed but in the teams and support you mustered you also gave some troubled souls a way to live their lives with meaning in the service of others less privileged. You were able to identify potential in the most unlikely places and release it through your many schemes and contacts in the community. You were a legend from Matatiele to Mthatha and all stops in between. I met people who remembered you as a young nun riding on horseback from village to village doing your work as a catechist from Mariazell, I always wanted to ask you what you wore to ride in in those days? The sort of habits you wore then as now wouldn’t have made it an easy thing to do to ride a horse! I am sure you found a way to do it with dignity and modesty as you did with all your many achievements. I cannot remember you ever claiming credit for any success, but I do remember you working in the background constantly to keep the school and the after care in a harmonious state.
Of course there is much more I could write and during the last 10 days I have been having flashbacks of the many and varied incidents in which you featured and I feel privileged to have had you as a close friend and companion. You were always there when I needed you except of course when you were at the Convent, (you never missed a service or ritual with your Sisters there) and I so respected the way, that although you didn’t sleep in the convent you were as much part of the life there as if you did.
We loved you and love your legacy and want you to know that whenever we can we will support Bethany and Thembelihle and the people managing them as much as we can. Tamsin gave us all an image to hang on to of Joe, Mr Faragher, to you (you never used our first names) rushing forward to welcome you to Heaven with a huge and loving hug! I add to it for myself and hear you saying “Oh Mr Faragher, have some care for an old lady with a bad back’ with your wonderful twinkle and smile.
So this is it and I thank you for your life and causes and the role you played for us when we were part of the Ikwezi family and since then when we have had time together.
May you rest in peace

Tamsin added this story…

one of my fondest memories of her, was driving home from pre-school in one of the Hiace kombis. It was one of the nun’s birthday’s and she had a cake for her with lots of white icing and blue writing on it. She carefully put it into my lap and made it K and my responsibility to keep it safe. But the potholes were too much and not long after heading off, the cake and I bounced, me back to my seat, it levitating off the board and onto our bare, dirty feet and gravelly foot well. The sheer horror of it is indescribable. She, on the other hand, took one look, carefully put it back together again, patted us on the knee and exclaimed that it was OK – Americans like upside down cakes. I will never forget that moment. And it was with great appreciation that I discovered pineapple upside down cakes when we were teenagers and realised that she wasn’t joking about Americans and upside down cakes…


Sister dining with us and Sister at Bethany.


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Walkabout 42 – Hitting the road

Makes me think of our dear friends of the early 80’s Philip Donaldson and Tina Calamaris who sang that duet, Hit the road Jack!  They were some of the wonderful young people who marched, threaded, infiltrated, joined our lives in Mthatha.  He was killed in a car accident in Spain leaving 2 little boys and we have lost touch with her.  So life is, it goes on and some of the people we love stay beside us and others we lose.

The time in South Africa was a bit like that, I didn’t see all the significant people I always try to see and some we did see got little of us anyway… but that is how it is, we had wonderful quality and quantity time with ‘the children’, grown up and littlies and now we are back to making do with skype!  Hope we can keep it up as it might be a while before we can get back there and we will have to work on keeping up the contact.  Do you remember your grandparents?  I do remember mine but don’t remember having close relationships with them, perhaps they were older than we are to our grandgirls?  Don’t know!  But I do know that I adore being around them all, big and small, and son-in-law.  Much of the trip was about Ruth’s 40th birthday – celebrated in teenager (sic) style in Cape Town with a Dr Seuss party at Tamsin’s very unfinished house, (maybe a bit younger than that.)  And with sophistication and elegance in Kirsten’s Sandton home!  Both very enjoyable and testaments to the Faragher ability to throw a good party!

A couple of non-party highlights were the reunion with Cynthia Mpathi and Nomfundo and Zola’s children.  What a joy that was.  We shared a lot of losses and loves in Mthatha and to be together again and catch up was wonderful.  She is an indomitable believer in the intrinsic good of humanity and she harnesses it wherever she goes.  She is presently turning her parent’s home into a thriving community garden. The other one was the visit to Jane and Allen’s farm on the Hantam River near  Calvinia.  (I need to squeeze in a mention of Rocherpan – Cape Nature Conservation spot – check the pics when they are ready).  I have never spent any sort of meaningful time in the Karroo and much of Pauline Smith’s and Olive Schreiner’s writings came to mind as we walked around the property and heard about how people live there and how self-sufficient they are. We saw amazing kokerbooms they have a whole hillside of them.  It was stony as but with many small fleshy leaved plants just starting to want to flower.  The peace and quiet was almost shattering it was so complete, frosty clear skies and bright moonlight like the night Olive Schreiner’s Lyndal walked about in her semi dream, hope I am getting that right. The links that follow all relate to the last 4 months or so.





Our conference paper has been selected for publication.  Woo hoo!  and that has given me fresh impetus to get stuck into the PhD work – so pictures will have to wait a bit as will blog posts.  There is much else to write about especially being in South Africa during the elections and some of my feelings about being a South African and living here.  Also about the insurance saying they will not come to the party to help repair Safety Beach, boo hoo – and our feelings of mortality.  So stand by for the next several posts…

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