Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lost In Wilderness

It was actually too hard to get lost in the little town called Wilderness along the Garden Route roadtrip in South Africa. However, working up the courage to kayak along the Touws River, into the forest areas, allowed some time and peace to lose myself, and escape the world.

Another stop I made on my return trip along the Garden Route, Wilderness captured my heart. The people were friendly, the air was fresh, the scenery of forest and river and beach was spectacular, the food was great, the pace was chilled, and there was loads to do, whatever you are in to.

Being a non-swimmer, I had to psych myself up for the little solo paddle along the river, but right from the first drive through of the town, I was keen to do it.

I needed to enter the National Park, before I got to the landing spot of Eden Adventures and arranged the hire of my vessel. Laughing at myself with the staff who helped me launch, I think they thought I was joking when I asked them to come find me if I wasn't back after a reasonable time.

The valley was still covered in thick morning fog at the mouth of the river, towards the road and ocean, which made everything seem still, eerie and quiet.

Heading off up the river, life jacket on, camera tied on to myself, I glided down under the bridge and through to the section of the river with forest-covered slopes towered on both sides. Once past the camping site on one side of the river, I was alone with all that nature, so dense all I could see was trees.

I turned back when my arms had had enough, which was well before the waterfall that could be part of such a day outing. On my way back, I passed couples and families paddling out to swim and picnic down further.

I was pretty impressed with myself for doing it, when I reached the landing point again - to a relieved looking staff member. It was a beautiful way to spend the morning, before returning to the road for the remainder of the solo portion of my Garden Route roadtrip.

Pulling out of Wilderness, I felt sad to be leaving the little town, and I am sure I will be back one day for another escape from the big, crazy world.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Faces Of Adelaide

At the very end of the Words To Go Blogger conference I attended, I spotted some impressive pieces of street art on my way back to the hotel. A new-to-me area of the city of Adelaide too.

The top two faces are familiar works to me, from all the street art spotting I have done in Melbourne. The top one, found on the side of a terrace-sized building along Leigh Street is a Rune piece, and the striking middle piece is an Adnate work of art. Don't recognise the boy, but he is a mischievous paste up that also caught my eye along the same pedestrian strip.
The Bridge Beauty was still there, too. Adelaide does have some life about it after all, if you going looking for it!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rugged And Pristine Robberg

Mentioning on Facebook to me friends that I was in Plettenburg Bay for the evening, a South African friend replied to say I could not miss a visit to the pristine Robberg Reserve.

A quick little bit of research online, through mainly Google Image, I set myself an early sunrise alarm for the next morning.

This was part of my Garden Route roadtrip, and one of the stops I returned to for some more time on the way back, because it impressed me the first time.

Being so early, to beat the heat, actually meant that I was one of only a handful of people on the Nature Reserve that morning. Robberg is about a 4km jut of pristine land, featuring cliff faces, natural wildlife, and untouched beaches.

I started out from the carpark, and made my way along the high cliffs, facing Plett, the bay and the mountains beyond. From this initial trail, it wasn't long before I could smell, and then hear, the colony of Cape fur seals. Basking in the morning sun, they were just down below at the waters edge, on the rocks below.

Further along was expanse of Witsand, which was a bank of sand dune right across the jut of land. I took this path, as the warnings on everything I read talked about danger at high tide, and I had done minimal research!

Taking in the isolated, hidden cove with the extra jut of rock out past the end of the Witsand - where it was just me, the sounds of the ocean, and the birds - magical!

These footprints to the left are just mine, on that amazing little sand bank.

This recommended find really brought up the idea of the Garden Route to my roadtrip, with spectacular views at every step. Clean beach at one point, crazy jungle-like rainforest bush land at other sections of the walk.

Definitely worth the early morning wake up for this special morning, all to my self.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Port Elizabeth's Faceless Lady

Standing on Donkin Reserve in the middle of Port Elizabeth is a tribute to the founder of the city's wife, Elizabeth Donkin. But also, as the artist Anton Momberg explained, she is a symbol of the nanny, the slave, the faceless helping woman servant. A nod to all the women who contributed to the development of the city.

She stands in line with the city's settlers landing site, and faces directly toward Elizabeth Donkin's memorial on the Reserve. She's striking, and beautiful, and with no explanation around the art installation, strangely intriguing.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Couple Of Interstate Matches

Thwarted at last minute attempts to go to this weekend's match in Adelaide, given that I have been unexpectedly grounded from work, - the match was sold out over a week ago! - I have managed to see the Hawks play at a few more interstate matches this season. More interstate than home at the MCG, in fact.

The first of these latest ones was a much anticipated match up against trade traitor Buddy Franklin - the Hawks played the Swans at ANZ Stadium on a Friday night before I was due to go back to work, and fit in perfectly.

A gathering came together in outer Sydney, before we all made our way to the match. B and her parents, Cass and Flash, Melissa and LB and myself found ourselves our seats right in the middle of the Hawthorn supporters section - a delight for the home supporters in our group!

Nervous about the match ups, as this game was and is always a real test for the two sides, we were most impressed with our Hawks for much of the game. Buddy seemed to have a usual match for him - inaccuracy after frustrating inaccuracy, and his deflection did not seem to bother us at all. But then he had a third quarter burst of brilliance, as he is want to do, and blew the game apart. Bloody Buddy!

The next match, many weeks later, was down in Tasmania. An annual trip for me, I got down to Launceston bemused after reading a ridiculous article about how the footy experiment in Tassie wasn't working out.

Laura, and her mates joined me from across the country and from down in Hobart, for the match, between Hawthorn and West Coast.

The Hawks had a great day out, as this Tassie jaunt often gives us a happy hunting ground, and the lads were cheered off with enthusiastic cheers and singing.

All throughout the weekend - spying Hawks and Eagles colours of people in the streets on the Saturday morning before the match, seeing a pretty decent crowd at Aurora Stadium, and then spotting Hawks fans all over the town that night, and still more brown and yellow to be seen on the roads leading south, all the way to Hobart - I couldn't help be reminded of that spiteful article. Yeah, footy down in Tassie is not working at all!

Our group alone enjoyed the little city for a night, sampled the ciders, the beers and the wines. I vaguely remember some local food being consumed also. Then we took in some local sights before roadtripping to Hobart. The trip to Tassie for the footy is such a great Winter getaway.

Haven't been to a live match since, stuck with waking in the early hours over my recent travels and streaming the radio coverage. Still, the Hawks are looking good to me this year, again!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Remembering Mandela Around South Africa

Visiting South Africa not that long after the great man's passing, it was emotional seeing images and remembrances of Nelson Mandela almost everywhere. The man responsible for the birth of the Rainbow Nation, and it's constitution built on equality and human rights, the former President is remembered all over the country.

One of the most significant sights around the nation was the very new Mandela statue on the grounds of in Pretoria. The 9 metre bronze version of the great man, with arms outstretched, overlooks the gardens and then the spread of the South African capital, and is very impressive.

The temporary Nelson Mandela exhibit within the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg at present is powerful, and lays out the journey of the powerful work leader from his childhood, to his university and working days, into his political and activist involvement, before his imprisonment. It works through the history of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, and the eventual election of Mandela as President.

Another significant vision of Mandela around the country  is the metal cutout of him in the Voting Line of people, standing strong on Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth. Representing the monumental vote in 1994, and depicting people of all walks of life within South Africa.

After the Port Elizabeth Test, I hit the road on my own on a mission to visit Qunu - the tiny rural town which was where Nelson Mandela spent his childhood, and where he is now buried.

It was incredible to see the small rural area, and the very basic village life, of the area where such a significant man to the world's understanding of equality came from. Such very humble beginnings.

The little village is not at all set up for tourism, and the Nelson Mandela Museum is not fully finished nor ready for visitors. When I made it up to the gates, after a harrowing drive through rain like I have never seen, the groundskeeper agreed to show me around nonetheless. The open space overlooks the N2, and the Mandela home was pointed out to me across the vast countryside. I had just unknowingly driven past it - it's not at all marked from the highway.

The Museum is Mandela's idea, and houses learning spaces and accommodation for conferences, in addition to 2 rooms displaying timelines of history and the Mandela story.

Robbin Island off Cape Town is another important place to visit, to gain an understanding of the life of Nelson Mandela - which I went to visit, including the cell in which he was imprisoned for 26 years, back in 2006.

His image is really everywhere - it adorns political and public health messages, is outlined on buildings in the cityscape of Cape Town, and is the inspiration of many brilliant pieces of street art around the land.

The death of such a man touched the world, and is remembered well all over South Africa.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Criticism Of My Work On Nauru

This comment from Anonymous came through on my blog during my last rotation - one of the toughest rotations I have done.

Wow. I haven't published it because it was posted on a completely unrelated post. But it's a reminder to me of the views of my work by the average Australian. Most reactions show me that a wide section of our community just cannot manage to view the world from someone else's perspective. The reason the work is available in the first place. And the reason my clients are having to endure such harsh conditions. Anonymous reminds me that most people don't seem to consider what the experience is like on Nauru for the people detained there.

My current contract certainly gave me pause when deciding to take it, for the very reason Anonymous has eluded to - a profit organisation has taken on the Welfare services. Sleepless nights were had trying to reconcile this for myself. The protests around the arrangement just before I was set to return to Nauru made me rethink again - I admired the stand the artists had made.

But for me, ultimately, it's about continuity of care for my clients. It's about feeling like I am part of something good within this whole horrible political situation. It's about ensuring that someone who actually cares about the plight of the men I work with is there to be an advocate, a support person, and companion.

Without such support, the men would be very alone in the camp. Their voices for basic things would rarely be listened to. Is that what people like Anonymous would rather? 
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