Map of Trip-2006.
Map of Trip-2008.
Map of Trip-2009.
Map of Trip-2010.
The very beginning of June had us with the camper
trailer in tow
heading back down that bumpy road to Daly River for the 'Merrepen'
Festival. There is a circuit of festivals that run through the dry and
this is one of them. They are spread from one side of the NT to the
other and so far we have been able to see two of the half dozen more
famous ones. The first one that we saw was in Jabiru on our last trip
in 2006. So we headed off at lunch time on Friday and our destination
the 'Mango Farm' which is located on the Wadeye side of the Daly River.
well as a mango farm it is also a large tourist park with powered and
unpowered sites and cabins. It is right on the Daly and has it's own
boat ramp so is very popular with the fishermen. The Daly is
as one of the best areas in the NT for Barra fishing. Unfortunately
this time we did not have time to throw in a line but it is on our list
of things to do.
The mighty Daly River that had us held prisoner for so long earlier
year is now just a trickle of it's former self. It's hard to
imagine that crossing with 18 metres of water over it now.
It was nice to get the Camper out again, with this
being the first time
we have used it since arriving here in early February. Other than the
fact that we had
completely forgotten how to put it up, and that I bent the jockey wheel
so badly that it wouldn't go up or down and needs replacing, the set up
went well. Oh I
think there was one other minor disaster but it just slips my mind at
present. Once again we were very happy with the camper as not one bit
of dust made its way inside during the 190km of dust, dust and more
dust, despite the outside of it looking like
a mound of dirt. Let me tell you after a long, bumpy, difficult and
tiring drive, the last thing you want to do is then have to clean dust
out of your mobile home. So the Traditional Camper has passed yet
Saturday we drove the few kms into the community of Daly River or
'Nauiyu'. What a beautiful place and how different two communities,
are so close together can be. All the houses were well maintained,
clothes hanging on the clotheslines(!!!), no rubbish, no graffiti and
facilities. Now I have no doubt the place was cleaned up to some extent
for the festival, but it was very obvious that this is basically what
it is like
all the time. For a small community it had the best sporting facilities
we have seen. A green lush football oval, dedicated soft ball pitch
and a huge indoor basketball stadium, all of which were 100%
maintained. The community has a well equipped shop, service station, a
Catholic School & Church and a very, very flash Arts Centre. Talk
about chalk and
The festival was mostly about art with hundreds of paintings for sale,
some traditional dancing
and sport. The majority of the art was of a very high
standard with some paintings going for up to $3,000-00 and a few even
over that. There were also plenty in the up to $500-00 bracket. We did
not see one single painting that we liked as much as our Timothy Dumoo
but in saying that we certainly did not walk away without buying
anything. In fact we ended up
with 3 masterpieces that look very striking on our wall. The first was
painted by a 5 yr old, the second by an 8 yr old and the last one by a
10 yr old. They are all on mounted canvases and cost $15-00 each from
the local school, which was selling the art as a fund raiser. These
young people have a real future ahead of them if they pursue their
There was also a lot of sport that ran continuously all day. The
football was the focus of the day with some great games played.
Unfortunately the Wadeye team was knocked out in the semi by supposedly
some dodgy scoring. Well that's their story!!!
The month also started out on a sad note with the death of the
Traditional owner of Fossil Heads. His death seemed to create a chain
reaction and there have now been 6 deaths this month, a number of whom
are traditional owners of different areas around Wadeye. It has been a
very sad time for the community and there has been quite a morbid air
about the place.
After the death of a traditional owner or a respected elder, their
homelands are closed to everybody. The length of closure can range from
weeks to years, so we are really glad we have got to see so many of the
local places as now everywhere around us is closed. While we expect
most to open soon, we expect Fossil Heads to be closed for a very long
With deaths come funerals and I was lucky enough to be invited to one
recently. The gentleman was someone I had got to know very well who
passed away late last month. A true gentleman and respected elder to
the end. It is common for the time between death and the funeral to be
weeks at best to more than a month. I am not sure why the time frame is
so long, with the most likely reason being the time it takes to arrange
for family and friends to fly in for the funeral.
was an incredible experience with an outpouring of grief like I have
never seen nor could ever imagine. The funeral was attended by most of
the community and went for 2 1/2 hours. The whaling, crying and
screaming was mildly distressing as a visitor, but at the same time
moving. I was particularly moved when asked by one of the family
members if I would be the person from the clinic to place some flowers
onto his coffin. I felt very proud at that moment and felt an
acceptance by the community
and particularly by his family. It was a very special moment that I
will remember forever. Rest in Peace George.
Our string of visitors continued. We had just got rid of my mum when
Chris's sister Anne flew in for a week. Then she left and less than a
week later Chris's mother, Jan flew in for 10 days. God I hope there
are no more family members out there. Then we were about to get rid of
the mother-in-law and Chris's sister Anne, came back again
with her son Nic (our nephew) in tow for another 4 days in a 'Wicked'
van. Now didn't that stand out in down town Wadeye. What have I done to
deserve this??!!!! Obviously we will have to shift further into the
middle of nowhere to deal with this issue. And I thought we were far
enough away!! It was excellent having everyone to stay but must say
after nearly 6 weeks of people staying most of that time, it was nice
to have our little house to ourselves again. Everyone had an
interesting holiday and one that I am sure they will remember for a
long time to come. With diesel now $2-50 a litre out here now we had
Anne bringing in 40 litres for us to get us back to civilisation where
we will only have to pay $1-85. Who would ever have thought we would
have seen prices like that!
So June has come and gone in a flash. We have seen a few people
work leave, with a couple being reasonable long-termers (Lexi 6 months
and Noella 9
months). I have never been to so many farewell do's since shifting out
here. Rarely does a week go by when somebody, usually a short termer is
not leaving. We recently had another bloke out for a month which was
a nice change. Simon is from downtown Melbourne and really enjoyed his
time out here. He spent a lot of time at our place which was great as
he always bought over expensive beer and enough meat to feed half the
town. In fact we are still eating the meat he left. He was good fun and
we were sorry to see him leave.
It was also a sad month for Alex and Harry as their mates
Tom, Ned and Charlie have left town and moved back to Bright in
Victoria after being out here for nearly four years in a couple of
stints. They will be a big loss as they were either at our house or the
boys were at theirs almost constantly.
It was also a busy month for me at work as I was given the task of
facilitating the 'Trachoma Treatment Program'. Trachoma is caused by a
bacteria in the eye that if left untreated can amongst other things
cause blindness. At school screening it was detected that we had a high
percentage of kids with this infection so we had to treat every child
0-14 and every adult living in a home with an infected person. In a
community with over 2,500 people this was a huge task and one that I
was glad to see finished. We had to drive around the town and visit
every house, weigh the kids, dose them and mark their hands with 'white
out' so they would.not line up again for some more, plus dose the
While we had nowhere near a 100% treated we were very happy with what
we achieved. That little gem can certainly be someone else's next year.
We went out in the boat again (with Grandma this time) and even threw
in a line.
Alex caught a catfish which we threw back in. That barramundi still
remains elusive, but I am patient so it will happen, just give me time.
I have been out for a few rides on the motor bike and explored a few
more areas that are now accessible. There is certainly a lot of things
that we will miss when we leave here and certainly having unlimited use
of the bikes and boat is one of them.
I had one of those great Wadeye moments a few weeks ago. I was driving
through the back streets of town when Mikalas, a local lady I know
called out to me and waved. I pulled over and walked the short distance
to where she was sitting in her back yard. She was sitting on the
ground surrounded by other members of her family. Lying on the ground
next to her was a half cut up wallaby that they had just caught. It was
being diced and thrown into a huge stew that was boiling away on the
open fire. While the stew was cooking someone else was mixing and
kneading some flour to make another damper, with one sitting in the
ashes almost ready to be removed. I sat on the ground with them for
ages chatting about their lives and some of the local traditions. It
was a very special time and one that you only get when you live in a
community for a length of time.
The end of June sees us head off for 2 weeks holiday which was
of 'Foil' (fly out of isolation leave - which we get 3 times a year),
(time off in lieu) and a few days annual leave. We will head off to
Litchfield NP, Darwin and Kakadu and we are really looking forward to
it. When we get back we will only have a month left before we pack up
and leave Wadeye on August 10th, what has been home for 6 months. As I
said a number of times before, it will be a sad day leaving but with
plenty more experiences ahead. A few weeks ago I thought I had best
send out a few emails for a little work in Central Australia just
after we head to Uluru to see the Priestleys. Within a few days I had
offers of work for Ti Tree, Hermannsburg, Docker River and Utopia. We
chose Docker River as it looked the most exciting. To get to Docker
River you head out past Uluru and keep going until you get to the WA
border. That really is Central Australia, in every sense of the word.
This community in nestled in the Peterman Ranges and is
reported to be very beautiful, be it a damn long way from anywhere.
Should be exciting. There is absolutely no doubt that our 6 months here
has been a great apprenticeship and with Wadeye on my resume it has
me look very attractive to perspective employers. The work is endless.
The weather is still warm at home with no jumpers needed, although you
can notice a slight chill in the morning air (down to about 22 C). I
can assure you it
doesn't last long with you being hot again by 0900. Every single day is
just more blue skies. You could get sick of this weather, in about 100
We all remain well with the boys plugging on through their home
schooling. They enjoy having the run of the town and are constantly
riding their bikes everywhere and finding new 'jumps'. Chris continues
to really enjoy her 3 mornings a week at
school and is known as the 'hearing teacher', as her main job is to
work with kids with hearing loss and monitor their wearing of hearing
aids. She will also be sad leaving her job as with anything like this
there is always so much to do, and you are leaving lots of things
unfinished. The Principal is already pleading with her to stay longer.
Until next month- Stay well.
'The journey of a
miles begins with just one step'