I am writing this entry on Day 24 Friday 4th May as we wait to board the plane for Groote Eylandt. When the aircraft wheels leave the tarmac for the flight to Groote Leg 1 of our Odyssey will have come to an end.
The past eight days have been hectic: shopping, packing a pallet with around 250kg of pottery moulds, clay slip powder and glazes for shipment to Groote Eylandt and, in addition, Tim and Sara have had us running around buying stuff for a separate shipment to Groote. Tim and Sara’s stuff included a large sheet of aluminium to make underfloor fuel tanks for their boat, aluminium mig welding wire, outdoor chairs, drill bits, 30kg of washing powder, 15kg of meat and a big mob of groceries plus a myriad of other items which meant going from one side of Darwin to the other. After being in the isolation of the bush for the past few weeks it was a bit trying.
Bev’s shopping included a new handbag capable of holding the iPad toy, having a haircut and, of course, buying guff at the Body Shop. Groote Eylandt is a remote location and shopping locally is an expensive operation so the more we can ship over, the easier it is on our pocket.
However all the stress was outweighed by the fact we met some very friendly shop assistants and people during the shopping spree. At a photo processing shop to get some colour slides scanned the photo shop manager was most helpful. The photographs were taken when Bev and I visited Turkey, Greece and the old Yugoslavian states forty years ago. He asked what I was going to do with the images and I told him the blog and our Odyssey. He was amazed that a couple of old donkeys like us would consider undertaking such a trip. He shook our hands and wished us safe travels. It was the same at the handbag shop and a camping shop where we bought chairs for shipment to Groote. When I enquired about water purification tablets the shop assistant asked about where we were going. She was also interested in our journey.
At another outdoor shop when I enquired about water filtration units the assistant came up with a new device just released. All you do is poke one end of the unit into the water source and suck water that comes out if free of the nasties which are likely to strike the traveller down in countries where water is suspect. Apparently the units are being distributed to people all over the world where clean drinking water is unavailable. The money for this exercise comes from sales such as from the shop where we bought our filter. For every one purchased in clean water countries one is donated to a contaminated water country. It came up in conversation about where we were going and again for the fourth time a shop assistant was interested and wished us well. The water filtration gadget cost $30 and is capable of filtering 1000 litres of water and the amazing thing is to clean the filter you simply blow instead of suck and the nasties are blown out.
My first visit to Darwin was in 1971. Darwin then, as far as I can remember, had no high-rise office blocks or apartments much; it still had the air of a frontier town. Unfortunately Cyclone Tracey in 1971 obliterated the frontier town atmosphere. Lonely Planet travel guides put Darwin in the top ten cities to visit in the world. I’m inclined to agree as the tropical and cosmopolitan atmosphere makes it a unique destination.
There are two commercial airlines that fly from Darwin to Groote Eylandt, Vincent Aviation and Air North. We boarded our Air North flight and to our surprise sitting in the seats in front of us were Russell and Naomi who are the traditional owners of Emerald River country on Groote. In 2010 Naomi said to me one day ‘Russell and I have been thinking and we decided you should have some country here on Groote’. I will relate the circumstances with regards the land granting in the next leg of this blog.
For the nights of days 18 to 24 we have our tent set up on the outside deck of a friend’s place in Darwin. It’s not a bad bivvy as the surrounding garden is very tropical with bouganvillias, palms and other exotic plants protecting us from sticky beaks walking the footpath nearby. I’m glad we are sleeping in the open because having spent fifteen of the past seventeen nights sleeping basically under the stars I wasn’t ready to go indoors. I have never given a city bivvy a rating; I think I will from now on. I give the deck camp eight out of ten, it loses points because I can smell a very dead bush rat in the garden.
Leg 1 of our 2012/13 Odyssey has come to an end.
Whatever you give you get back.