My contract at Workcover was rolling to a close by the end of July, and at that point I still had not seen anything out side of Sydney! I remedied that on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd July. I had been at the Billabong Backpackers on Egan Street since arrival on April 16th (except for two days at the dreaded Wake up! hostel) and was starting to get cabin fever, even though I had met some cool people. I had been playing Shit-head most evenings and had bought a backgammon set too and had played it to death...
One evening I got in from work. It was raining hard - the pool in the hostel (more of a paddling pool really) was getting more and more diluted by the moment and my mood was less than its best... I got talking to Rod (one of the hostel managers) who told me he was going to drive up to the blue mountains with a couple of people. Would I like to come along? Of course I signed up - Rod knows the area quite well and knows the manager of the Flying fox; a lovely little hostel in Katoomba.
My friends Sue and Graham signed up too. Here is Rod in the left (<) and the rest of us on the right (>). So we got up on the Thursday morning. Sue made some pancakes to reheat for breakfast the next morning. I made something exciting with pasta and pesto then the four of us got into the car and left. It was exciting the leave Sydney after such a long time - within minutes we were driving through suburbs that I had never been to. After so long walking everywhere, travelling in a car was great and because I had called shotgun (still a child at heart) I had a great view... We drove and drove and drove, stopping once for some 'English tea' (a.k.a dishwater in a teapot) and then making further stops for a bit of sightseeing. (This is when it gets a bit sad for me because I managed to lose so many of my photos...). Well, I say sightseeing, but there is not a lot of sightseeing to be done when the whole place is covered in fog! Hahah!! Here is another photo to show you what I mean...
Fog is very pretty obviously, but not when it is blocking my view of "rolling vistas"... We would stand out on the side of the road looking out into nothing from a viewing spot (ever seen the Neverending story? - looking at The Nothing is like being blind). We would have to guess what we were seeing from the little plaque - 'here is a waterfall' (great!)... After we had stopped half a dozen times, and the fog showed no sign of abating, we were getting a little jaded. We decided to stop at the chocolate factory (no, I didn't know there was one in Katoomba either) and have some hot chocolate. From a glutton's point of view, this was one of the high points of the day. The idea is this - take a handful of high quality chocolate buttons, melt them in a little pot that looks a bit like an oil burner, then pour the result into warm milk. I did not think it was possible to overdose on chocolate, but I was wrong! I had to roll out of the chocolate factory and felt green for at least 20 minutes afterwards!
The plan was to have a bar-b-q that evening, so we went to the IGA (ozzie Sainsways) and stocked up on kangeroo steak. Contrary to popular belief, it tastes nothing like chicken. It is very gamey and almost sweet. Yum yum yum!
The hostel was very cool - there were guitars and didgeridus (tourist rubbish mind you). The staff were cool too. One of them was a smiley german called Katherine, who ended up eating pancakes with us all on Friday morning. So that evening we sat around with Mr Flying-fox and ate bar-b-q. We drank too. The next day, we slept in a bit then got up for pancakes, maple syrup, ice cream and fruity-stuff. The drive home was very chilled. We stopped off at the skyrail and picturesque (I don't like that word!) views. By the time we got back to the hostel, we were all pleased to relax with our legs stretched out.
I saw 10 Canoes on Saturday night (1st July) and loved every minute - it is a great film for so many reasons: it is very funny, the story is complex enough that it keeps you entertained and it is groundbreaking too. Its tag line is "Ten canoes, three wives, one hundred and fifty spears...trouble", which I like because it is very witty. It has to be seen to be believed. I went with my friend Julia, who is interested in Australia for some of the same reasons I am, with the addition of art as well. Julia was the person that told me about the Bangu Yilbara exhibition at the MCA (near Sydney Harbour), and knowing someone like her is good because it means I have someone to discuss some of the things of interest while in the hostel, such as Garma. She is not just here to get pissed - she wants to see Australia, and I am sure she will. She is good humoured and intellectual so the film was spot on for her.
Anyway, back to 10 Canoes.
10 Canoes is a story within a story, narrated by David Gulpilil. David tells the story of ten men who went into some marshland on their canoes (which the audience watches being made). One of the men is called Dayindi and it is his first canoe making trip. Dayindi, it turns out, is falling in love with the young, lovely, third wife of his elderv brother. The elder brother knows this and spends the rest of the film telling Dayindi a story about a group of ancesters in an attempt to make Dayindi see his folly. In that story, Yeeralparil, yet another young man, has fallen for the third wife of his elder brother too. Yeeralparil tries to see the girl as often as he can, much to the irritation of his sisters-in-law. The film splits and converges several times. The punchline is very funny, and I don't want to spoil it. The story is told in the Ganalbingu language and it's website is here. Two nights later (Monday) I went back and watched it again with some other people. It was even better the second time.
The next weekend I went back to the Blue mountains, this time on the train for a didgeridu (yidaki) lesson with a chap called Mike Jackson - a well known player who plays in the traditional style. I had been having problems making the sounds and breathing in the correct places. I was expecting to go over some of the similar stuff that I went over the Jeremy Cloake during his lesson, but that did not happen. Instead of talking about Yolngu yidaki mouth sounds, we talked about how to punctuate a yidaki rhythm with toots (the horn tone): e.g. toot! toot! digi digi digi digi toot! toot! etc; useful for strengthening the mouth. Things got exciting when he started to show me how to inhale on the toot! That'll mess with people's heads!
Near the end of June, Ryan (a friend from back in the UK who used to live with my good mates Leon and Tracy) got in touch and invited me a beer convention. LOL! Good bloke! I rolled up to that, 'sampled' a few beers and rolled home. A few days later he invited me to his house party, in Bondi Junction. I was quite excited to see Ryan and to finally get to Bondi (even though it was late in the evening. I went and got larrupped! I spent the evening drunk and chasing an american girl round the party. So that was nice... :)
I had my last day at Workcover on June 30th. I took the train up to Gosford which is roughly 1.5 hours northish of Sydney. I worked, closing calls during the morning and then was taken to Iguano Joes for lunch! It was a good feed: Thai Green Curry and Rice :) Brett, one of the guys I worked with then gave me a lift him, which was jolly kind of him.
Garma is not long away - it is a huge indidjinous festival of dance, music etc. The blurb about Garma goes like this (taken from the website): “A garma is a sort of place – of rich resources for many people, this garma thing. For all yolngu [people]. Like this, all yolngu always used to come to this thing garma, coming together, all different groups.” - Gunygulu Yunupingu.
At Julia's recommendation I went to the Bangu Yilbara exhibition Sydney's museum of contemporary art. The blub is as follows: Bangu yilbara: works from the MCA Collection11 May - 1 October 2006The MCA's collections are extraordinarily rich in their diversity. This exhibition reflects the variety of directions contemporary artistic practice by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists has taken over the last two and a half decades as represented in the MCA’s collection. New and recent acquisitions are presented with earlier works shown for the first time or rarely exhibited. bangu means “to make” or “to do” and yilbara means “now” in the local language of the Gadigal people, acknowledging the traditional owners of the land where the MCA is situated. The exhibition includes Tracey Moffatt’s Adventure Series, Dennis Nona’s Sessere, and David Malangi Daymirringu’s Dhornbal/ Guwatjuru ga Nungula/Bimbudi (lawyer vines and water plants).Artists included are Ian W. Abdulla, Brook Andrew, Gordon Bennett, John Bulunbulun, Destiny Deacon, David Malangi Daymirringu, Lena Djamarrayku, Tony Djikurlurlu, Tony Dhanyala, Fiona Foley, Mary Gubriawuy, Melba Gunjarrwanga, Wally Lipuwanga, Tracey Moffatt, Jack Nawilil, John Ngarrarran, Dennis Nona, Brian Nyinawanga, Elizabeth Nyumi, Eddie Puruntatameri, Giovanni Tipungwuti, Bede Tungutalum, Joseph Warlapinni, Micky Wungulba, Dick Yambal, Lena Yarinkura and the collective Redback Graphix, Karen Casey, Alice Hinton, Merrille Lands, Fernanda Martins, Marie McMahon, Arone Raymond Meeks, Sally Morgan, Trevor Nickolls, Lin Onus, Jeffrey Samuels, Bede Tungutalum and Paddy Fordham Wainburranga.
It was not a big exhibition, but what was there was lovely. There was 'traditional' using the four standard colours - red, black, yellow and white. Then there was also art from 1988 (the bicentenial) and art about racism. A good example of this was a white on black piece that said 'coon, coon, coon, coon, coon, coon, coon' etc.
Still early days in my art-appreciation, but I am glad I went. I'll get to discuss it after, too.