Moving on…….

I can’t believe it has been almost 6 months since I moved to South Australia, the sea and salt of Newcastle left well behind.  For someone who has consistently moved, I still find the actual act of moving onerous.  Putting my life into boxes once again, the mix of emotion, the sorting, the photos – photos of those no longer with us, babies who are no longer babies and those no longer in my life for various reasons.  Boxes which tie to a collective past, a reminder of everything beautiful and egregious in my lived life.

After living in so many different places and countries, you would think I’d be used to moving.  Luckily for me, I have always unpacked with a roof over my head and with an openness for new adventure.

There has been much happiness to be found in my return to SA.  I guess some things just align with your soul.  It has been an incredibly busy time and there has been some travel yet I bow my head with a mingling mix of shame and guilt as I have lost touch.  Too many excuses but none of which I will use.  I have been busy, too busy – one of my many failings.  I try but fail.  I will be in touch soon with those dear to my heart whom I miss.  You know who you are.  I promise.

There has been a change of season during this time too.  Winter has arrived to SA.  The wattle is out in all its golden gloriousness.  I snip sprigs during my wanderings (one of the small yet special things about living here) and have the blooms throughout the house.  It is cold and crisp today with a chilled liveliness.  I can hear the occasional bird and the very, very distant hum of a train on the tracks given the air is so clear.

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I am missing the warmth of summer with its harsh light and that of my washing drying on the hills hoist in under five minutes and smelling so acutely of sunshine.  Now though, there is time for moments spent in my favourite room, fire side with the little cat for quiet company which is loveliness itself especially when it is rainy and cold.

I am also finding happiness in the restoration of the garden – the house will have to wait, it is ‘livable’ now!!   The garden is a huge undertaking so I work, rest a little, get more inspired then enjoy the solitude of getting back out there.  Its not a race.  There is no right or wrong, just an enjoyment of each moment spent there.

Some areas are no longer overgrown with dead plants, trees, weeds or rubbish.  I am hand pulling everything and composting what I can. Three huge skips have already been filled with ‘rubbish’ from the yard.  Plastics, drug paraphernalia, that which cannot be composted and more rubbish.  There were good renters and not so good renters in the end.  I can’t fret about it, these things happen.

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Gardening has become a passion again.  I love how the soil becomes ingrained under my finger nails and fills the small cuts, scratches and lines of my hands.  A welcomed tattoo from mother nature.

I am a very organic gardener, no herbicides or pesticides.  A healthy environment devoid of all chemicals so there will be ‘cycles’ of weeds to combat for months to come before eventually dying out.

In the heart of all this gardening there has been much compost making.  ‘Brown gold’, much coveted and which during the heat of summer was breaking down from scrapes, organic matter and garden waste into beautiful friable soil in only a matter of months.

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Cuttings, seedlings, succulents and colour have taken up residence in my collection of old, worn terracotta pots and rusting wash tubs and with the winter sun, are doing well.  The bees, bugs, lizards and birds are returning.  Everything outside has been finally swept clean of dust and dirt and it all feels so much better.

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The patch is beginning to take shape again too. I look forward to it being once again filled with berries, fragrant herbs, leafy greens and the root veg of winter.  It is an enclosed area, the wire allowing the small birds and insects through but it keeps the ‘bandits’ at bay.  The possums, as endearing as they are, do love the tender seedlings and blackbirds, the newly mulched soil.

Re-establishing the fruit orchard will be the next venture after completing the patch.  Something else on the ever growing list of ‘to-do’.  The once thriving stone fruit trees and citrus are gone but then so have the roses and natives which also once filled the yard.

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The fruit orchard.  Next on the hit list

The vegie patch, February 2019

Slowly getting there, March 2019

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May 2019

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My favorite gardening companion…….x

The garlic is spouting and the leaves have dropped, there is frost on the ground and occasionally rain in the gauge.  These are lovely liminal times.

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There are more weeds to pull, seeds to plant, garden beds to turn, trees to replace and wattle bloom to collect.  Small but ever joyful moments in South Australia……….x

Bound for South Australia…….

The South Australian border seemed a stone’s throw from Broken Hill.  As we travelled, there was still that overwhelming magnitude of land and sky and as the sunlight flooded down, we crossed the state border and the outback slowly made itself distant……

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We passed through small towns, passed rail lines and flocks of glossy black crows, saw pale sun bleached signage and watched the hot sun slowly move across the sky.  We saw hundreds of sheep in the driest of paddocks with nary a twig for shade and only hours later, saw hillsides of lush green vines.  I saw so many small things on this road trip which widen my heart that at some point I may well have wished I could drive on forever.

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The first night back in SA was odd.  The evening so hot and the sky so clear yet it somehow felt a little strange to be back.  I finally fell in to bed, warm and full of lost sleep and woke to this early morning view of ‘my backyard’.  The stunning Barossa and all it has to offer is right on my door step.

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So yes, we are in SA and back living in a lovely town full of community heart, walking tracks, heritage and history, and old sandstone buildings.  Established just over 180 years ago, the town smelt so acutely of summer heat and dust when we arrived.

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I had forgotten how small our home is.  A little place of crumbling plaster that is neither grand nor obtrusive but certainly a home of charm and squeaky floor boards.  The house and yard have suffered terribly under five years of rental neglect but as I drove up the dirt road which leads to the back of our property there was a feeling of coming home.

But nothing makes it home more than having our sweet little cat with us again.  Zoe stayed with her wonderful vet in Newcastle before boarding a flight to SA just as we arrived.  We are so grateful she is happy and settled and we could not ask for more.

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Jetlag recovery mode……..x

Home isn’t where I am from but it is where I live at that moment.  Each place I have lived has always served some sort of purpose yet I cannot help but wonder if when we leave a place, we leave a little of ourselves behind and if fortunate enough to return, we find a little something in the going back.

Often times, there is much negativity spread about South Australia but that could not be further from the truth.   It is one of the driest states and it has a reputation for serial killers but The Adelaide Markets, the wine regions, the craft beers and gin, the rad festivals, the food scene, the coast line, beautiful Adelaide, the state where a man was shot by his own camel! (I know right), Kangaroo Island, Wilpena Pound, Haigh’s Chocolate and 1,000 and one other things far outweigh the pessimism peddled by some.

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This is an amazing state so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and if you can’t find something nice to say or love about South Australia then there really is no hope for you…….x

You can’t do that with a ping pong ball??!!…….

I need not pretend of our exhaustion after travelling in the heat.  Days where it was almost too hot to think let alone drive yet I loved the outback.

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Though the heat was demanding and equally suffocating and the flies drove me mad, the outback is a place unrivalled in its dramatic energy and remote magnificence.  Dusk would see the big sky fill with colour. Pink’s and gold’s, shades not imaginable, would fade away to a huge rising moon followed by a night sky filled with a million tiny stars. Morning would come again with a sun which seemed to explode with heat and light.

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Droughts in Australia are merciless.  Even the feral animals, those introduced who normally thrived in harsh conditions, were dying off in these dust bowls.  I lost count of the number of sun bleached bones and skeletal remains I saw…….

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Broken Hill was a welcome oasis.  A remote desert frontier somehow rougher and smudgier than most large tourist-friendly towns, caked with dust and baking away in the heat.  And then there’s that soil. That rich burnt ochre which surrounds the town.  A colour so vivid you could not dream up a better backdrop if you tried.

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We stayed at the aptly named Oasis Motor Inn.  A passé little place – neat, quiet, well located and scrupulously clean. I highly recommend it. Once settled, we grabbed a couple of beers and headed for the pool which was absolute bliss!

Good pool soak done and dust washed from our throats, we headed on a short walk to the town centre in search of number one on my list of top five fabo things to see in Broken Hill’ – The Palace Hotel.

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There are a number of remarkable and beautiful buildings in Broken Hill yet this is the most famous with its cast iron balustrades and gloriously kitschy and stunning interior of colourful murals.  It also featured in the wonderfully iconic Australian movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

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Famished, we headed to the dining room for a meal largely held in silence.  We had argued during our walk.  Some vague, tepid argument which had been quietly simmering away of something I had held to weeks before leaving Newcastle.

The character of the hotel and the murals are fabulous yet the food was disappointing.  Nothing was ‘house-made’ and all in all, the dining experience was somewhat lack-lustre.  Thing is, I could have eaten there every night if only to sit amongst the painted murals, old furniture and the clatter of other peoples conversations.

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We healed our spat over processed desserts then headed to the Sidebar.  Sunday nights are good in Broken Hill as most tourists have disappeared for the night or simply moved on.  There were only two other people in the bar so the cocktails, a Japanese Slipper so green and quaint it made me smile, and the Martinis were all well made.

Navigating the quiet streets, we wandered back to the motel.  There was little left of the days fatigue and my spirits were lighter and somewhat lifted due to that remarkable hotels interior.  The next day we headed out to Silverton.

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Set amongst hot, wind-rippled sand and dust, Silverton, with its one pub and population of less than 40 people – it once boasted a population of 3,000 people – is a quirky little dot on the map.   This is also another location of more iconic Australian movies.

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The Silverton Hotel is one of Australia’s most filmed and photographed pubs.  A great place to find a cold beer, good food and to browse the film history of the area.

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On the outskirts of Silverton is an historic cemetery, a raw and harsh reminder of how life was lived in the early days of settlement.  Under a brutish sun we padded about in respectful silence.  Hot glittering sand filled my sandals and my feet were pricked by bone dry spines and thorns yet it mattered little just to be in this most remarkable of places.

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Three nights in Broken Hill was enough for me to explore, wander and to understand why we cling, with such sentimentality, to some things and not others.  I guess in the long run, most things will be okay and for me, it was all going to be okay.

There was no pressure to move on but South Australia awaited………x

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Footnote:  Quote in title from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Felicia –          “Oh, you can’t do that with a ping pong ball?!”

Bernadette –   “Do you wanna bet”

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‘Ping pong ball reaction’ – image courtesy RockyMusic.org

Coober Pedy: 845k north of Adelaide and 2,088k west of Sydney as the crow flies…….

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Sometimes I worry I have the maturity of an eight year old and other times, I am actually convinced of it.  Perhaps this imperfection is because of the way I often see the world.  I find an almost innocence of curiosity and enchantment where others find only the tiresome.  I still make a wish on a shooting star, I always want to see the best in people and continue to show them kindness even when they have shown themselves not to be deserving of it and most of all, by my spirited enthusiasm at the prospect of a road trip.

Now there is no sugar coating this road trip because heading to Coober Pedy is a bloody long slog so it requires many stops along the way to not only to fuel up and stretch the legs, but stopping also gives you the opportunity to really appreciate this iconic stretch of highway and its many eccentricities.

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It will take much longer if you go by bike though…….

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Truth!!…….

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I do love a road trip and this trip to Coober Pedy was no exception as it encompassed some of the things I love most about Australia………the outback and the characters you find there.

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These are the places where a local will tell you danger is highly overrated yet go on to tell you up until the 1980’s you could still buy dynamite over the counter at the local supermarket and that you can very easily disappear without a trace………as many have!

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The locals are hard working, hard living and hard drinking.  Boot Hill Cemetery is a testament to that fact and is so named because the folk of Coober Pedy work so hard and for so long that they literally die and are buried in their boots.  Charmingly macabre don’t you think.

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The locals really are a friendly lot if not a little wary, but they become sincere and entertaining when you get to know them.  People out here can also spend their entire lifetime with just a nickname.  No Christian name.  No surname.   Just a simple and often endearing sobriquet which everyone knows you by and of which I think is rather wonderful.

It is said some people are running to something but most are running from something and its a good place to head if you don’t want to be found.   The sort of place you can live the sort of life you want to live without judgment or persecution.  Isolation it seems, is good for some souls……..

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Coober Pedy is blistering heat, one main street, cold beer and the gin passable.  The skies are enormous and the earth is scorched, painted and peeling.  It is a beautifully multicultural community, rainfall is low, you can get a latte (the least likely advice I was going to take)…..did I mention the beer is cold 🙂 and there are no trees.  Summer days hit 50 degrees plus, the slow black flies are in plagued proportions, there is pizza and magnificent opal.   It is a place that doesn’t throw its weight around but holds its own with a commanding yet unassuming ease.

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Ventilation…….

Located in one of Australia’s hottest desert climates, ‘the opal capital of the world’, as Coober Pedy is often referred is a labyrinth of underground mining tunnels and dugout housing.

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Looking up from deep underground…….

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An opal seam…….

Attempting to avoid the stifling heat, much of the town has been built underground and you can visit homes, churches, the lovely time-warp that is Faye’s House and stay in the underground motel.

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And you know we did……. 😉

The dog proof fence, built during the 1880’s is about 10k out of Coober Pedy.  It runs 5,614k (3,489 miles) and is one of the longest structures in the world, even longer than the Great Wall of China.  It’s well worth the hike out of town just to see the fence disappear out over the horizon.

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This is about as tough as it gets and I knew being out here I could take no photo to truly capture that nor the immensity of it all and words, well they wouldn’t cut it either.  What I can say though, is that this really is one of my most favorite places on earth.

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Will I return?  Absolutely!  That goes without question.  I found a deep sentiment for this area and although almost apocalyptic it is one hell of a place so easy to love.   My plan has always been to live out in Coober Pedy for a while and fossick about in the burnished golden desert under that massive outback sky and I already have a name for my slag heap.  That life’s adventure has been a dream since I was a girl and I sincerely thank The Leyland Brothers for that 🙂

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I could not help but wonder that perhaps it was not the getting to Coober Pedy, but the idea of it that struck me so.   That starkly beautiful arid landscape, barren as the moon and riddled with thousands upon thousands of holes surrounded by mounds of white powdery dirt.

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Did my photos and text of Coober Pedy do it justice!  Of course not!  This place is like a wild brumby.  Too stunningly glorious to be captured and tamed but a girl with a heart for wild horses can always dream can’t she………x