Frozen grapes

Frozen grapes: a real treat

Frozen grapes: a real treat

We learned about this only two weeks ago: frozen grapes. You buy grapes at the supermarket (or grocery shop…. that does not really matter), put them in the freezer and when frozen eat them. For hot days it is great: a very healthy, icy treat. We are addicted….

Canungra, here we are!

Playing the tourist

Playing the tourist

We moved to Canungra near Tamborine Mountain last week and are now using our time here to socialise with friends on Tamborine mountain, friends in Brisbane and with a ‘couch surfer’. My friend Jeroen from Holland is a real globe trotter; after Antarctica, Chili and Kiwi-land he now spends a week with us in the bus before moving on. Thanks for visitng, Jeroen!
Nightwalks, poffertjes, wonderful lunches, afternoon coffees (an teas), dinners, drinks and conversations with lots of friends food our ‘spirit of curiosity’.
The pictures tell the story.
Plan is to move to Beenleigh/Brisbane in two days, to get a leak in the air suspension of the bus fixed. After that we will be back in Canungra for another week.

Crimson Rosellas are funny!

Crimson Rosellas are funny!

Okay, it is fun

Okay, it is fun

The Dutch Haute Cuisine: Poffertjes!

The Dutch Haute Cuisine: Poffertjes!

Making Poffertjes on the top deck

Making Poffertjes on the top deck

Jeroen and Elisabeth don't trust photographers... it seems

Jeroen and Elisabeth don’t trust photographers… it seems

Leaf tail gecko spotted at a night walk

Leaf tail gecko spotted at a night walk

Young cricket

Young cricket

Curtis falls still going strong after recent heavy rains

Curtis falls still going strong after recent heavy rains

Peter and Marc during the night walk

Peter and Marc during the night walk

Glowing mushrooms

Glowing mushrooms

Cancer free

 

During my chemo in 2007/08 I wore mouth masks to protect me against bugs and infections. Boris misunderstood that concept though....

During my chemo in 2007/08 I wore mouth masks to protect me against bugs and infections. Boris misunderstood that concept though….

“I am ecstatic”, says Dr. Steven Stylian when he reads us the results from the latest CT-scan. Five years ago, in February 2008, I received the last of six chemotherapies and I learned that the final result would be pretty unpredictable. The common treatment of my form of incureable leukemia, called CLL, was at that time chlorambucil, leading to a suppression of the disease for 3 – 5 months. I chose for the more experimental and very expensive (over sixty thousand dollars) treatment called FCR. Steven Stylian today: “At that time I could never have predicted that you would be disease free for 5 years, but here we are! The results so far are excellent, it can’t be any better.”
He added that some patients in the world are even disease free for 8 years! Who knows whether I will become yet another one of those?
For now we are both happy; very, very happy. No tests anymore for the next 6 months and no CT-scan for a year.  Our journey in ‘The Spirit of Curiosity” can really take off.
Without cancer, without worries.

Ready for take off

jimnybewThe first of February is the foreseen date of the launch of our journey into Australia. Elisabeth has to leave her house in Byron by that date, the leaks in the roof of the bus will be fixed and the painting inside will be finished.
We have taken time to live together and work together; that has been a great experience. Also the dogs are okay, even though Zilla is ageing rapidly. Visiting friends here in Byron and on Tamborine Mountain was great, including a nightwalk. Thank all of you for your friendship.
The few things I had in storage have been collected (thank you Peter and Marilyn for your support!) and will, together with a very few goodies of Elisabeth, go in storage again. We have bought another Jimny, a silver one with a bull bar and a roof rack!
We still have to sell Elisabeths car, a 2005 Honda Civic with only 91,000 kms! If you know anyone, please contact us. This beautiful black Honda is for sale for a relative bargain: $ 10,900 ONO. Mind you, it was bought for $ 12,990 only 10,000 kms/7 months ago…. (More info click here) img9840a
The plan is to go to Canungra for a couple weeks early February to visit Tamborine Mountain and Brisbane.

Great barred frog in Joalah National Park during our night walk.

Great barred frog in Joalah National Park.

Then we will move to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide and cross the red center in Autumn/Winter. We’ll spend July and August in the Top End.
Last but not least, we linked our two blogs. You can access both blogs with the same username and password. So, if your French is up to scratch, or you use the automatic translation module, you will be able to follow Elisabeths blog as well. Just click the button on the right. And because I had to set up this blog once again, I lost the comments so far…. sorry’bout that! Comments are really appreciated.

Elisabeth house

Elisabeths house

Inside

Inside

Crabs keep bubbling in 2013

Here, in Elisabeths house near the beach of Byron Bay, we celebrated the closure of 2012 and the start of 2013. I wish you a very happy and healthy New Year.
At the beach the little sand bubbler crabs continue doing their own thing, as if nothing has changed. The crabs begin feeding by collecting sand and quickly sifting it in search of microscopic food (detritus) between each grain, inadvertently cleaning the sand. When the sand is stripped of any nutrition, the crab gathers it into a sphere (or “sand bubble”) and tosses it behind its legs.
In between we are preparing to take off, within two months, for a long trip to Darwin, via Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. You might also have noticed that Elisabeth started her own blog; if you like to follow that as well, just send me an email and I will give you access to her blog with the same username and password.
If your life is going as well as mine/ours at the moment, than you are blessed. We hope that 2013 will bring you a lot of positives.

Antons Alpha Forest

 

Antones sculpture in Alpha

Antones sculpture in Alpha

We drive into a little town called Alpha, halfway between Barcaldin and Emerald. We park the bus opposite the shops, look outside and then I recognise the sculptor… these have to be sculptures by Antone Bruinsma… a very distinguished style, different from anything else. And then I remember that Antone told me, just before I left Tamborine Mountain, that he worked on a project for ‘Alpha’. This is it.

Two vertical 'trees'

Two vertical ‘trees’

This stone sculpture represents a boulder, opened to present its mysteries and treasures – a fossilised tree. The inner beauty of the earth is revealed in the polished surefaces, contrasting to the rough outer crust. The horizontal piece invites visitors to be seated, touch, and contemplate… as we do. The tree forms carved into the stones are symbolic for the flora and fauna thriving here in the Dinosaur ages.

Elisabeth lying on the horizontal tree

Elisabeth lying on the horizontal tree

The ‘Fossilised Forest of Alpha’ sculpture tells the story of our connections with the past, present and future of this land.
To me it also tells the story of my past, present and future links with the vibrant and inspiring artistic community of the Tamborine Mountain region, Antone in particular.

Flat tyre

Flat tyre

We had a flat tyre, and got that fixed in Barcaldine. We expect to be back in Byron Bay around the 22nd of December. We are having a nice time on the road and really enjoy our life in the bus, despite the long distances and the very high temperatures. Boris and Zilla also struggle with the very high temps; it will be better now we are almost back at the coast.

Flash photography

2 pictures combined, high zoom, 30 sec.

2 pictures combined, high zoom, 30 sec.

We’ve been well into the Tropics, just arriving in Mount Isa. The monsoon is on its way and that means storms, every night. Till now I managed to get photos of lightning only using video recordings and then selecting the right frame from the video. But the quality in the sense of both resolution and colour is far from optimal in that way.

One lightning strike went horizontally

One lightning strike goes horizontally; combination of three photos, 30 sec each.

I’ve tried another method and that works out much better. When it’s really dark, using a tripod, taking pictures with a 30 seconds shutter time does the job. In the two examples here I’ve combined a few photo’s from the same spot to get more lightning strikes in one photo.
In between we have a very good time travelling together. We are getting on very well and we expect to be in Byron Bay just before Christmas.

Time to move on

Fltr: Irene, Jaap, Elisabeth

Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mistery
Today is a gift

Therefore, it’s time to move on. Last Thursday, the 6th of December, Elisabeth arrived at Alice Springs Airport. We met online and she decided to fly to Alice to join me in the next few weeks for the trip back to her home in Byron Bay, NSW. We expect to arrive there a few days before Christmas.

BBQ on the top deck in Ti Tree

We hit the road on the 8th and made it to Ti Tree, 180 kms North of Alice. Elisabeths friend, Irene, drove to Ti Tree as well, from her home in Willowra, a very remote aboriginal community in the Tanami Desert. Irene stayed overnight till Sunday, sharing her experiences in that community with us. Irene: “I teach the years 2, 3, 4 and 5 in one classroom of the local school. About 20 kids of the community should be attending my classes.

Irene and Elisabeth on the first floor

Last week I had 11, which was the most I had the entire year. And 11 is essentially too many. These children have no attention span and are not really interested.” The kids that go to school get a shower first, in the morning…. that says something about the hygienic standards of the community. Then they get the school uniform, and at the end of the day the leave the uniform at school again. Despite the shower most kids still go to classes with snot hanging from their noses….

Elisabeth at the Devils Marbles

What do you try to achieve with these kids?. “If I can plant one seed in one mind… than that’s it. If one kid gets some kind of inspiration to do something with his or her life, than that is a great achievement. It’s impossible to achieve anything else.” It does not seem to discourage Irene, because she has done this work for 3 years and still likes it. We also met some of her colleagues and all notice the impossibility to achieve results that would be normal in any ‘mainstream’ school. The reason why they do the work is diverse, a mixture of idealism, ‘contributing to the society in a meaningful way’, and the financial advantage (housing and energy costs are free, and salaries are higher than normally).

The dogs encounter a dingo at Devils Marbles

For Elisabeth this is the first time in the Outback and seeing Aboriginal people outside the settings of the East Coast is quite an experience, especially the lethargic feeling it gives.
Anyway, we had a lovely visit from Irene and enjoyed a BBQ meal on the top floor. We went to Devils marbles and are now on our way to Queensland. Doing that, Elisabeth and I try to learn to know each other better as well. So far, so good.
Today is a gift again.

The sun is in the South

 

Shadow Northwards, so the sun is in the South

In the Northern hemisphere the sun is in the South at midday, in the Southern hemisphere in the North. That is the rule of thumb. Today though, here at the Devils Marbles, the sun was South… and we are still on the Southern hemisphere. The arrow in the photo points North, the shadow as well, so the sun is South. How come (hardly anybody wonders, but I do…..)? It’s almost the 21 of December (many people reckon that the world will fall apart on 21/12-2012 because that day marks the end of the Maya calander, but that is not the issue now). On the 21st of December the days will be longest in the Southern hemisphere (and shortest in the North), because the Sun will be right above the Tropic of Capricorn, 23.4 degrees South). The sun today is already above 23.1 degrees South…. and we are at 20.4 degrees South. So we are North of the Sun, and therefore see the sun to the South. For me it’s the first time in my life that I’ve seen the sun South of me in the Southern hemisphere.
Okay, I agree, it’s not a world changing event, but nevertheless it feels like something special.

Water in the river Todd, really!

How long have you been living in Alice Springs, I asked the guy at the hardware store.
15 years!Let me see, errr, almost
So, you are a real local now?
Not really, he says. You are considered a local if you have seen the Todd river streaming for at least three times. I’ve only seen it twice.

It’s my seventh visit to the Alice and I have never seen anything but dry sand in the Todd River, that runs through the town. But today all of that changed. Let me take you to the River Todd in a short pictorial story.

The ‘regatta’ called Henley on the Todd takes place every August.


Dark clouds predicted a storm last night

…and so did the thunder

Today the water filled the riverbed, and the roads going through the Todd

The water level on the road was not that high, but it was wet.

The river Todd passes the famous ‘Gap’ South of town

Aboriginal people picknicking along the water

Aboriginal women painting in a park in town while drying their bedding. Many indigenous people visit Alice from remote places to sell art; they sleep outdoors.

Truckin’on in 47 degrees

47 degrees in the shade of the bus

Time to move on. In many ways, but not too fast… the thermometre indicated 47 in the shade today; thanks to the aircon, it was inside ‘only’ 34.
Earlier this week I was invited to a dinner with the staff and board of the Museum of Transport and Trains. A pleasant night with the opportunity to learn more about the Australian world of transport. I like to share a few of the things I heard.
Australia is the only country that accommodates trucks the length of road-trains.

Truck driving in the ‘good old days’

That has, of course, to do with the extra-ordinary situation of a vast continent with a relatively small population: there is a lot of distance to cover to get supplies to every corner of the country. These huge road-trains, up to 53 metres in length, require very strong trucks, with engines required to be bigger than anywhere else. But… truck manufacturing is a world business nowadays. So Australian transport business has ‘to do it’ with trucks available on the ordinary market. 16 litre, 400 horse power engines are available. But they sometimes come in a truck designed not for the Australian situation. For instance, because of the enormous distances more sleeping accommodation is required than elsewhere in the world. The answer could be: buy the right truck and the right engine and put them together.
‘In the old days’ that could have been the answer. But because in our global economy only a limited number of manufacturers make trucks, they often require exclusivity for the engines they buy off engine manufacturers. No tailor made exceptions allowed.

Cummins engines on display at the museum

The result of all this is a limited supply of trucks suitable for the Australian market. And it also means that less and less transporting businesses are capable to survive. Only the big ones, that is.
Interesting also is that renewing engines is an ongoing process. The fuel efficiency of newer engines is remarkable. Many trucks gain up to $ 50,000 / year in savings of diesel costs simply by renewing the engine. In a transport business with 200 trucks that is a staggering $ 10 million per year…. extra profit!
Another interesting issue is driving at the left hand side of the road. A majority of countries in the world have right hand side driving, that is left hand side steering. The trucks and buses in the world are, in essence, built and designed for steering wheels at the left hand side. For countries like Australia the trucks get modified. It may easily lead (and has lead) to dodgy steering wheel constructions, because the steering mechanism itself is not changed, only the steering wheel and its connection to the steering mechanism. Many accidents have occured because of the adaptation to right hand steering.
This left/right problem also has yet another effect. The exhausts and other hot parts of the engine of many trucks and buses sit at the right hand side under the truck, to avoid the extra heat effecting the driver. In Australia though, the driver sits at the right hand side… right on top of the hottest part of the engine. Also that requires adaptations, in the sense of insulation, but if that is not possible it simply is rather inconvenient for the driver. And that is not a minor issue if you have to sit there for many, many hours per day.

53 metre Road train, with the Cube as freight….

Dining for three hours with six owners of big trucking companies from all over Australia and several others involved in the trucking industry is an interesting experience in a, to be expected, ‘liberal’ envrionment. It was remarkable though that the issue of carbon tax was not raised once. More so the increase in power and electricity bills in most states, nowadays governed by liberal/national governments. A lot of grumbling about their own side of politics making it hard for business…..
Anyway, it was a pleasant, delicious and cheerful night.
Still a few days of work at the Museum in the next week, and then I will leave Alice. The support by health care professionals, counsillors, has been successful and has ceased by now, so I am ready to go. On the 8th heading off to SEQ/Northern NSW to spend X-mas and New Year over there, as well a (part of) January. Also to buy another Suzuki Jimny.
Because that little car is truckin’on somewhere else… or resting abandoned along a remote outback track.

Nicked Jimny

A flashy rental car at my rather barren, remote location

It was a hard time after Louise left.
It even got harder when on Friday two weeks ago, on my first day of volunteering, one of the staff, Sherryl, came to my work place at the Museum and asked about my car: I thought you had a blue car, didn’t you? Sure, my Suzuki is parked in front of my bus. To cut a long story short: it was stolen that afternoon. And they broke into my bus to nick the keys. Police was called in etc.etc. Because my camera was on the table in my bus and not stolen I told police that nothing had been stolen. Do you have any alcohol in the bus? Yes, officer, a half empty bottle of wine. Check it, please. And yes that was gone, together with some food. That painted the picture of the perps apparantly… Aboriginal guys nicked my car…. the common sense knowledge of Central Australia.

The beauty of Central Australia: Simpsons Gap as painted by Roland Hemmert

Anyway, during the interview with the police I broke into tears and could not hide that I already was in a very bad emotional state before all of this happened. To cut yet another long story short: the police organised some support with the hospital to help me deal with these problems, and now, two weeks later, I am in a much better position.
The professional support I received here in Alice was magnificent and I am doing well again.
I have rented a car (see photo on top) and I am back on my feet.
My car is most likely to be found, sooner or later, burned out at a remote location, with the tyres taken off.
I’ll have to buy a new one. And I’m fixing the damage to the bus. And to myself. I manage.
Life is smiling again. And so am I.

“I almost shot Boris”

 

Fltr: Debbie’s bus, black dog, Gypsy cart, camel (one of three), caravan and second bus….

It’s a remote location, here, at the grounds behind the transport Museum. A week ago a gypsy cart arrived, with three camels and a dog and their owner, Debbie. She also lives in a caravan, and two buses, as visible in the photo. She leads a nomadic life with her camels and she also volunteers some hours at the museum, where I met her for the first (and so far only) time.
She is a roughy, or, as some say ‘a feral’.
“Tell me, whose dogs are the black and golden one?”, she asked.
“They’re mine”, I answered. “Boris is the blond lab and Zilla’s the black one.”
“Mmm, you’re lucky you still got both of’em. I saw your Boris near the highway yesterday and thought it was a dingo. I already had my shot gun ready when I noticed his collar.”
After that story she also told about her pistol… and, as a warning, “I don’t like dogs barking at my camels”.

Army trucks amidst the old train carriages in front of the bus

Okay, I got the message….yeah, living in the real Outback is an interesting experience. In all honesty: I love it. I am not a tourist, I am blending in with the real life out here. To me that is what I like of this nomadic life.
Yesterday a contingent of army guys arrived and are camping here, just for the night. Big trucks, swags and army atmosphere. Yet another experience.
No lack of guns at this place. Neverthless, even after other locals nicked my car, I still feel very safe.

It certainly is a real Outback experience here.

Welcome to The Spirit of Curiosity

This blog, The Spirit Of Curiosity, starts now, November 2012.IMG_1996-1

This blog is not be a daily update about my menu and the weather situation. It is focused on Australias natural and cultural beauty and the occasional personal remarks and keyboard adventures with extra attention for art, photography and video.

With Elisabeth I travel through, or better: live nomadically in, Australia, in our bus the Spirit of Curiosity. We are accompanied by our two dogs, Boris and Zilla.

What we do and how we live is all based on spirit sparked by curiosity. I hope that you will experience that in this blog as well.