Heading Bush – Day 3

On day three of the outback tour we started the day off with Terry again. In the morning he took us to an ochre quarry. Ochre is a type of multi-colored clay that has many uses in Aboriginal communities.

Before we got to the quarry Terry started to talk to us about spirituality. He pointed to a mountain which he said was the oldest piece of land known anywhere in the world. He told us that life first developed here, as it must have, because it was the oldest place known in the world. He said that you could see the evidence of the first sea if you climbed and looked at the top of the mountain, and that geologists are fascinated by this place because of this.

Terry then pointed out a tree that had many branches. He said that the tree symbolized family. We all started off as one twig, and then we start growing and branching off, and going our separate ways. Oh, and I was wrong about yesterday’s post. The story of the man who wanted to have his tongue eaten was actually told today. Please just insert your memory of that story here! I guess it is to be expected trying to recall what I did 10+ days ago. So he told the language story and then talked about how the different languages made people branch off as the families branched off. Just like the tree.

Just as I thought things couldn’t possibly get more philosophical, they do! Terry told us that while we might think that we are just on a trip to central Australia, heading bush, having a good time – that is not really the case. In fact, it is Mother Earth who is sending out signals that we are tuning into. The signals are calling for us to get in touch with our origin – which is this spot because this is where life began. He said that we are all a part of the animal world. Most of us would like to think that we are far superior to animals, but we do have animal instincts. He said that when an animal feels insecure, it will go back to it’s home for security. He said that we are here now because we are tuning in to this. We are coming back to our origins so that we can cope with what mother earth has in store for us in the future. He said that she has already sent out some warning signals (i.e. the melting of the poles, tsunamis, etc) and she is saying that we need to wake up and smell the coffee, and treat her with respect. So we are not only on a journey to the Outback, we are on a journey to get in touch with our origin. He then said that from this moment on, if we can take these philosophies of caring, sharing, and love, we will be able to enjoy our trip that much more – and then he asked us to all hug again.

After this talk, Terry began teaching us about the ochre and it’s meaning. He told us that the Aboriginals would walk huge distances to gather ochre because of it’s many purposes and uses. It could be used in ceremonies like births, weddings, and funerals, and could also be used for medicinal purposes and art. He said that in order for the Aboriginals to carry it such long distances they would wrap it around their hair and pile it on top of their head. This way their hands would be free to hunt or protect themselves as they were traveling back the many miles across the landscape.

Here is one ochre mound in the photo below. If you look closely you can see that there are five natural colors in the ochre… white, yellow, red, pink, and brown.

He then told us that he was going to perform a ceremony using the ochre. That was exciting! Face painting with symbolic meaning… and all before lunch!

Terry mixed up the first color (white) in his hand with a bit of water until it resembled a paint. He spoke about what each color represented as he painted it on us.

White represents the spirit world. It allows you to make connections spiritually with mother earth. Spirituality and the spirit world are very important to Aboriginals. Initially, when the Aboriginals were being killed and tortured and pillaged when Australia was discovered by the white man, they allowed it to happen without a fight because they had placed so much trust in the spirit world. They figured that they were being punished by the spirits and that they must have done something wrong. By the time they figured out that they hadn’t done anything to deserve this, it was too late – and their culture was forever destroyed.

Here is Terry mixing up the white paint. Both the pictures I took of this had that white speck floating above his hand. It was most likely the spirit watching over the ceremony. Or ochre dust.

The male and female face paint design was different. The female symbol was a dot, and the male symbol was a line. Here are two pictures of people getting painted. The girl was from the other heading bush group and the guys were from our group:


The next color was yellow. Yellow represents the sun. The sun represents new beginning, life, and energy. The color on our faces represents a new beginning for us, new direction in our thinking, our attitudes, our behaviors, and the way we look at life in general. We will now have new beginning with spiritual support and guidance from Mother Earth.

Partially done:

The next color was red. Red symbolized the blood of the land. Blood represents life. When you are born you are connected with your mother and she feeds you through her body and blood. When you are painted with this color it reconnects you to your mother (earth) so you can have new direction, new attitude, and spiritual guidance.

Here I am with the first 3 colors…

Next was pink – Mother Earths breathing color. Internal organs, lungs, etc are all pink (except for in you smokers). He said breathing is an important part of life, but we take it for granted. When he puts this paint on us, we are to take advantage of it and suck in the fresh air. He said that if you are depressed, or things aren’t working out the way you’d like them to, remember this moment and meditate on it, and remember to breathe as this will help you think more rationally about how you can deal with your situation.

The last color was brown – mother earths cleansing color. It is the color of the liver – which is used to cleanse your blood. After this color is painted on you, you will leave this place cleansed, being able to breathe and able to call on mother earths fresh air when you need to. You will be cleansed enough to allow that connection to take place, you will also be cleansed enough to go on with your journey in a clear frame of mind, and cleansed so you can spiritually survive on this planet.

Here I am with all five colors. The brown paint is on my temples so you can’t really see it very well and the other is on my throat.

By the way Stacy, the Pluto shirt was a HIT today! Thanks again!

On the final part of the ceremony, Terry lit a fragrant branch ablaze and we all stood around it in a circle, holding hands. He told us that Aboriginals are always using circles, and that circles signify many things. The circle of life, what goes around comes around, eggs (beginning/life), etc. The circle we were in represented unity, joining hands in love, care, friendship, giving, and sharing. The fire is taking the spirits of this place, allowing us to be here. The smoke of the fire is allowing our unwanted past, anything we don’t want to take on our journey, vanish in the air with the smoke

We had a moment of silence and then our time with Terry was done. We were now full of spiritual significance and ready for our next adventure!

Oh, and check this out. Two of the girls that I have met from Heading Bush have had this piercing done. I’ve never seen a piercing like this in my life! The girl in this photo (Helen) also has an area on her chest done – the area that you can see when you are in a bathing suit.

The next place we went was to a cafe called “Quandong Cafe and Bush Bakery”. They had pie made from the same fruit that we had last night in jam form. It was delicious! I really hope quandongs are available in the US! Check it out for me guys, will ya?

We still had our paint on our faces while we ate here, and everyone stared at us strangely. I am sure they were just wondering where they could get their faces painted like us. I think they may have been a little jealous of our new found connection to mother earth. I know I would have been!

As I was eating my marvelous pie I started a conversation with a tour guide from Groovy Grapes, the same company that I did my Great Ocean Road tour with. Apparently Groovy Grapes also does Outback tours! There were some people on his tour who were on my Great Ocean Road tour here, so it was nice to say hi again.  I probably would have had fun if I had taken that tour instead of the one I did, but honestly, I am so glad I didn’t. First of all, they only have a seven day tour, and they didn’t rough it as much. Also, I got to meet so many wonderful people in my own group.

After our little middle-of-the-morning snack and coffee break, we drove to the Leigh Creek Coal Field. This is kind of a sad place to see because they pretty much destroyed it from all the excess mining. They actually mined this place so much that the people who lived in Leigh Creek actually had to move the entire town someplace else because the underground was caving in.

Here is one of the huge holes in the ground:

And here is all the junk they dug out of the hole:

And here is me in front of a big truck! Chicks and Trucks magazine, eat your heart out!

Here is me again driving a different big truck. The entire place is pretty much abandoned, but of course we had to go play on all the equipment. Oh, and you can see the color on my temples on this picture!

Our next stop was to see the famous Talc Alf, who is quite a well known outback character. He’s a little hard to explain. He makes art out of talc, which is how he gets his name, and he believes that all letters and names have deeper meanings than what you realize. It’s not very easy to explain what I mean without drawing the pictures for you, but I’ll try. For example, the $ represents the rising and the setting sun. If you turn the dollar sign on it’s side, one end is the sun rising and the other is the sun setting. He said this is appropriate because to most people the sun rises and sets on money. It’s funny, he says that you won’t find any of this information on the internet because it has been lost to the ages, but you have to wonder how he found it out, hmmm? He certainly was impressive though, because either he really knew what he was talking about or he was an extremely quick thinker, because every word that was thrown out at him he was able to find a deeper meaning to it.

He did have some great thoughts though. The one I particularly liked was about the Australian flag. He said that the Australian flag should actually look like this:

If anyone doesn’t know what the Australian flag looks like, it is the above only instead of that yellow circle on the top left it has the British flag. The yellow circle inside the red and black rectangle that you see above is actually the Aboriginal flag, and the Aboriginals were the first people in Australia, not the British.

Here is a better view of his flag:

He was an Obama fan too, because he said the meaning of the name Obama is:

O – Sun
BA – woman and man
AM (MA) – america

Meaning – The sun, rising over man and woman in America, i.e. the beginning of a new day.

And my name – Karen – means traveling toward the rising sun and the future. Beautiful!

If you are curious, he did have a worksheet that he gave each of us, and I made it into a PDF:

Talc Alf PDF

Here is some of his art:


And here is Talc Alf himself, showing us the similarities between a boomerang and a kangaroo paw:

After he talked to us all about the deeper meanings of letters and names, we looked around a bit at his stuff (i.e. snooped).

One REALLY cool thing he had was a self powered washing machine that he made himself! Here is a picture:

And lucky you, I also have a video!

Here’s another view of his property. Yes, it is very remote and very far into the desert.

After we all took a turn at the washing machine (and did Alfs laundry), we had lunch with Alf on his picnic table. Here is a picture of Alf and I. Unfortunately, I had two pictures taken, and in BOTH of them my eyes were closed. What are the chances?

After Alf we went to the town of Marree where we saw the truck that was used to deliver mail back in the olden days. I just wanted to tell you that for an excuse to share a picture of this cool truck.

I could also write a few stories we heard about the mail truck and the town it was in, but I still have a ton to write about on this post and its already so long! Anyway, that story isn’t as interesting as the rest of the day, so I’ll move on.

Here is another picture of the desert. You can see how the landscape is changing from where we started out.

Now we were headed to an oasis in the desert, but we saw a few fun things on the way. We passed by a place called Alberry Creek where a huge Earth party was held in 2002. It was like a rave in the desert. There were lots of strange art pieces in random spots in this area:


I’m sure the party must have been really fun!

So now I’ll skip ahead a bit to when we got to our first tropical oasis in the desert. The below picture is of a place called Blanche Cup. It was a small patch of water and grass in the middle of the outback. It was made possible because under about 1/3 of the whole country of Australia is an underground artesian basin that is a couple of million years old. The water collected there from heavy rains millions of years ago, and now it sits. In random spots in the desert the water bubbles to the surface, creating these tiny tropical paradises. The water is currently being used for cattle and was previously used to power steam locomotives after a desalination process. Gus told us that if we continue using it without it filling up fast enough, it could be used up in a couple of thousand years. Lets hope for rain!

Tropical paradise! (Albeit a tiny one):

We stopped at one more oasis before we were done. This place was called the ‘bubbler’ because you could actually see the water bubbling up from underground:


And of course… VIDEO!

I did taste the water at the second oasis. It was gross. Safe to drink, but too minerally tasting.

And at last, we headed to our camp site – Coward Springs (I assume it was named after a guy named Coward, not that it was for yellow-bellied people). Tonight we would have to sleep in tents because this was mosquito country.

The mosquitos were annoying, but we didn’t care too much because we got to go swimming again! There was a tiny natural jet pool just meters away from camp. It was a wood container pool with water pumped constantly into it. We could just barely all fit in it. Here are most of us in the picture below:

Awww, I miss everyone so much!

It was nice having a swim since we weren’t getting showers that night, but it was a little gross. The walls and the floor of the pool were slimy with mildew and whatever else you find in natural springs. But we had fun with it. We ran around in a circle as fast as we could to try to make a whirl pool, but it didn’t work too well – some people weren’t running!

After the swim, dinner, and putting up the tent with my tent-partner Christine, we all sat around the fire swatting at mosquitoes and chatting. One of the girls from the other Heading Bush group (Helen) walked over to our side of the woods because she was bored and her group had gone to sleep. Unfortunately, the poor girl was sick with the flu or something. She was coughing and sneezing and pretty much miserable. And to give you a little hint of what is to come in later blogs… what happens when you hang around a sick person? Yep, you are likely to get sick.

Anyhow, we finally went to bed after a night of laughter and good times. It was very common in our group to have laughter and good times! We rocked!

Oh, and just letting you all know, I don’t think I am going to finish these blogs in the next few hours. I may only have time for one more, or maybe not even. So you guys are going to have to wait another three or four days to hear more – but I will definitely catch up with everything in Cairnes!

Seven to go! (plus everything AFTER Heading Bush… yeesh)