Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. -Maya Angelou

Saturday, October 8, 2011

We of the Never Never

Behind the Back of Beyond, in the Land of the Never Never;
a land that bewitches her people.
Called the Never Never  because those who have lived in it , and loved it, Never Never voluntarily leave it.
But those who do leave know that their hearts will Never Never  rest away from it.
                                                          Jeannie Gunn 

We headed down into the Never Never under a pall of smoke. Down into the "Woop Woop, Way out back, Beyond the black stump, to the Red Center.".................... but which ever way you say it its still a long 3,033 ks down the middle of Oz from Darwin to Adelaide. The fires went before us leaving only termite mounds as tombstones in a blackened landscape. We found another Eden at Mataranka, birthplace of Jeannie Gunn's great Australian classic novel We of the Never Never .  Having a hot bath was taken to another level, as we floated serenely downstream on our noodles with the steam rising gently from the thermal springs amid the lush tropical vegetation and bright blue kingfishers. We were only going to stay for a day ......it turned into a week of baths.

Daly Waters

On the road again we had a pitstop at the famous Daly Waters Pub. it was started in the 1930's to service the crews and passengers of Qantas as a refuelling stop. Its walls are festooned with anything the weary traveller can leave as a memento after that ice cold "stubby" Bras, panties, T shirts, foreign currency and more are pinned to every surface. We had a delicious "snag and bum nut toastie" aka sausage and egg toasted sandwich, very tasty. The curio shop  across the road was doing a brisk trade in real kangaroo paw "back scratchers" and stuffed cane toads.......NASTY!  Then it was on to a quick detour round the Devil's Marbles, bum nutts of a more generous size. Huge granite boulders which the local aboriginals claim are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent.
Devils marbles
We have reached the center of OZ and its almost a year since we started our Great Lap. I had heard of,  read about and seen the movie, but was enchanted by the real Alice Springs. The Alice as she is affectionately known by her locals, seems to be the destination of choice for every man and his dog. Over 350,000 visitors a year at the last count, and that's not counting the dogs. Nestled between the scenic Mac Donnell Ranges its a neat town with a strong aboriginal flavour. Shops full of aboriginal art and didgeridoos ,and a strong cultural presence that I hadn't felt before. The air was like champagne ,crisp and clean and a welcomed relief after the humidity and smog of the top end. It was cold! The first few nights we snuggled under double duvets and blankets and took advantage of the camp fires which were lit every night in the caravan park. We explored the surrounding countryside and went to markets where there was some exceptional beautiful aboriginal artwork, full of vibrant colour and quite different to the traditional dot paintings I had seen before.



We spent our last evening huddled next to a roaring fire with other campers singing along  with a local troubadour . We all joined in with those well known Aussie favorites"The pub with no beer"  and "Give me a home among the gumtrees' What talent we lacked we made up with enthusiasm. Besides after a couple of drinks everyone thinks they sing like Freddie.  As the night grew colder ,the southern cross shone brighter , and our songs more sentimental. As  the last strains of "I am, you are, we are Australian" there wasn't a dry eye, even the good old bastard was brushing his cheek.

I came upon the prison ship bowed down by iron chains.
I cleared the land, endured the lash and waited for the rains.
I'm a settler.
I'm a farmer's wife on a dry and barren run
A convict then a free man I became Australian.

I'm the daughter of a digger who sought the mother lode
The girl became a woman on the long and dusty road
I'm a child of the depression
I saw the good times come
I'm a bushy, I'm a battler
I am Australian

I'm a teller of stories
I'm a singer of songs
I am Albert Namatjira
I paint the ghostly gums
I am Clancy on his horse
I'm Ned Kelly on the run
I'm the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian

I came from the dream time from the dusty red soil plains
I am the ancient heart, the keeper of the flame
I stood upon the rocky shore
I watched the tall ships come
For forty thousand years I'd been the first Australian.

I'm the hot wind from the desert
I'm the black soil of the plains
I'm the mountains and the valleys
I'm the drought and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian
I am, you are, we are Australian.

Soul Food Kitchen

Red Center Soup. This is a quick and easy recipe to keep you warm on those cold outback nights.

1 x410g tin of Tomato soup
1x210g tin crab meat, drained
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper
dash of Tabasco

Prepare soup according to directions on tin using milk not water as the liquid. Heat through then add the crab meat and dill. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and a dash of Tabasco. Swirl through the cream before serving with some warm crusty bread or damper.
"It will warm the cockles of your heart, it will!"

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