MARK: A TRUE HERO

If you ever find yourself at the Overlander Roadhouse south of Shark Bay on the North West Coastal Highway, just keep driving. There’ll be nothing there that wasn’t drenched in grease and 5 minutes down the road you’ll find the Billabong Roadhouse, next to the hotel.

The people are lovely. The food is unbelievable. Gluten free options, fresh fruit smoothies, mango and macadamia chicken filo wraps and a wall of tattoos – it’s not a billabong, it’s a bloody oasis.

At night time, several hours and several hundred kilometers later, I can’t find my wallet. This is nothing new. I loose it several times a day but this is some kind of last straw that breaks this camels back. I tell Chris I don’t want to eat at the fish and chip place, or anywhere in public, because I’m about to cry like a child. I storm out of the car, find a beach to sob on then call a girlfriend. Afterwards I wander back to find Chris at a bar, talking to a bona fide sailor. This guy has a long white beard, a red face and the proper sailor hat – he’s the real deal. I can’t remember his story but Chris reckons it was a good one.

We get takeaway and watch episodes of Community in the van and say we’ll look for the wallet in the morning. We don’t find it.

Chris gets on the blower to all the roadhouses we stopped at and it’s the lovely Jacque at the bloody lovely Billabong Roadhouse who comes through with the goods. What a good sort! He hands the phone over to a bloke called Mark who is running a tour group down to Perth the following morning and is more than happy to bring my wallet with him. What a champion!

A few hours later I get a call from Mark, who apologetically explains that something complicated has happened to his bus. He tried to fix it himself and did something even more complicated to it. He’s stuck in Kalbarri until the mechanic comes the next morning. ‘I’m so sorry love,’ he says repeatedly, ‘It’s me own stupid fault.’ What a gentleman! We decide to hang around in Geraldton until he gets there the next morning.

A few hours later I get another call from the even more apologetic Mark, who explains that his mechanic has to go to a funeral in the morning, so he’s going to fix the bloody bus himself. I ask him what he drinks so I can buy him something to say thanks, but he says ‘You don’t need to get me anything love, that’s just the Australian spirit for ya isn’t it?’ What a man! He’ll be a few hours late so we decide to have a lazy breakfast in Geraldton and meet him at the Greenough Wildlife Park 20 ks out of town.

As we drive into the Wildlife Park it’s like preparing for a blind date. What do I say? Am I dressed OK? How will I know what he looks like? Chris is concerned that we don’t have a gift for Mark and grills me to show genuine gratitude. No sooner had we jumped out of the car than I get a call from Mark and see him waving from the park.

We trade yarns.  He tells me he always brings busses to this park because it’s run by two volunteer ladies who rescue injured animals. Chris wanders off to feed some kangaroos. I bump into Mark again and tell him our emu story. With his finger he demonstrates where to cut the neck of an emu to kill it quickest and dares me to put some bird feed in between my teeth for the emu at the park to peck out!

I give him a Museum of the Long Weekend postcard and tell him his face’ll be on the internet in a few days.

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Here’s Mark and me with my wallet, carefully transported in a plastic bag for 377 kilometres! What a holiday hero! Mark, if you read this, you’re a legend! Hope your bus got fixed up alright and wishing you many more happy trips up and down the WA coast!

 

-Elspeth

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TASMANIANS ARE GO!

The Spirit of Tasmania is pulling out of port as I type! And the Tasmanaian convoy is on the way….!

Warwick Lee’s Crusader in the boat:

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The send-off party at The Bluff in Devonport:

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The Fossickers bangin’ new black feature panels pre-departure in Wynyard:

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Last minute washing drying:
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Beth in the swish Spirit Cabin:

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Andrew in the cabin. He got the A bed and I got B (for Beth):

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Van line-ups on deck G3:

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Sun sets on tassie:
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Leaving Roebourne

This time last week was my first day on the road.

About an hour past Karratha I realized had left Roebourne.

The community I’d worked with for the past two years and maybe only just started to feel a part of. I’d just driven outta there with a 1966 Viscount Ambassador in tow. On the way out I bumped into Allery and Marlene at the BP, who suggested that we call the van ‘Jinna buunu,’ which means ‘walkaround too much’ in Yindjibarndi. Is over 5,000 ks in 3 weeks too much?

About 100 ks down the road I realized that this is my life for the next three weeks. Driving from one chapter of my life to the next.

View from Mt Welcome, Roebourne/Ieramugadu, WA

View from Mt Welcome, Roebourne/Ieramugadu, WA

The night before leaving we had our first short film screening at Harding River Caravan Park on the banks of the Ngurin. The sun was low. I smashed a fire hydrant. It dinted the van and made a big noise. Everyone came out to have a gander, a jest and to offer help.  I’ve since learnt that you can’t even badly reverse park a van in a caravan park without everyone knowing about it, let alone completely removing a fire hydrant. In these little nomadic villages, everything is a public event to be watched and probably discussed again later.

A family with teenage daughters, some miners and a few kids came down to watch films projected onto the side of the van. Images of Roebourne kids dance across the van – dressed in teeth costumes riding quad bikes, or teaching Photoshop to Koreans or emerging from the Ngurin River: 

All week I’d been packing and ticking things off lists of things to do now, later or never. I didn’t run one last dance workshop or take a car full of kids to the beach, telling myself I’d go to the disco on Friday night and see all the kids at once. They’d all be there. We could dance. Maybe play musical bobs or make a circle dance or do the bloody heel n toe for the billionth time.

I packed up the screening stuff into the van and rocked up to the 50c Hall around 8pm. The fluro lights were on. My heart sank. The kids were gone. I knew where they’d be. I didn’t want to see them now. Not disparate on the streets at night where the mood changes within seconds and the anticipation and tension is thick.

I cried all the way home.

 

 

-Elspeth

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On Tour – Cairns to Townsville

On Wednesday 25th September we awoke in Cairns Holiday Park ready to set off on the first day of the tour down to Canberra. The morning was fresh and the caravan park was drenched with dew, the sky was an exquisite shade of blue. The perfect morning to begin the epic journey along the East Coast of Australia with such passionate van/travel enthusiasts and like-minded folk. The drive to the next destination although only a short journey was filled rich with beautiful scenery, scorched red fields, abandoned houses, the roads lined with banana trees and sugar cane.

 

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The first stop was Kurrimine Beach, a quiet and unspoilt tropical destination with the Great Barrier Reef curving it’s bay. Kurrimine is the epitome of an old North Queensland town with friendly spirit and warm hospitality. The Caravan Park was right on the beach filled with characters eager to hear the stories about the convoy. Some of the local stories were fascinating too, with the office of one caravan park made from an old school bus damaged in Cyclone Yasi. The evening was spent  in a charming old Hotel eating fresh seafood, discussing caravans and travel. The weather in the morning was perfect, with some of the other campers taking the opportunity to shimmy up palm trees and collect coconuts. Everyone has different ways spending their leisure time, but away from the hustle and bustle of cities with the warm tropical breeze and waves gently lapping the shore, it’s easy to see why caravan and camp culture is so prominent in the Australian lifestyle.

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The next day was the drive through to Townsville. Many stops were made on the way: the usually rainy Tully, the short beachside stretch that is Cardwell and Ingham with it’s legendary deli. In each town the convoy stopped and people of all different backgrounds flocked to admire the beauty of the vintage caravans and cars, always commenting on how meticulous the renovations are. The convoy made it to Townsville last night and is spending tonight in Ayr.

– Update by Jess Hay and Aaron Ashley (photographers local to Townsville)

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Filming in Roebourne

Greetings from the Pilbara!

Over here where the desert meets the sea we’ve been busy covering the walls of our caravan with beautiful portraits and collecting stories on film. Our yet-to-be-named caravan sets off Saturday on an epic journey of over 5,000 kilometres, screening films and sharing stories in caravan parks along the way!

We’ll be at the Harding River Caravan Park this Friday at 6pm, then at Bayview Coral Bay Caravan Park on Sunday 29th.

Before we head off, here’s some photos of what we’ve been doing so far:

We pulled up on the main street in Roebourne, between the shop and the Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi Foundation…

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… and invited people like Gary from Ngarda Radio to come and share their holiday stories. That’s Tyson from Weerianna Street Media filming and Cav on sound poking his head through.

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Tracy told us about NEARLY catching a goanna while on a road trip

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Then we went decided to have a long weekend on a Wednesday, and went out bush for a cook up with Allery and her family.

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Alec arrived at dusk to share stories and Johnny Cakes.

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Aileen showed me and Maxie how to chop the roots for good firewood out at East Harding River.

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The Roebourne caravan is a collaboration between Weerianna Street Media and the Yijala Yala Project. For more photos and videos check out icampfire.tv and yijalayala.bighart.org

Photography by Martina Lang. Words by Elspeth.

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Tropical Convoy heads south

MOTLW Cairns Departure 24 Sept 13 50s

Today’s the day! This morning our first convoy of caravans left Cairns, in far north Queensland, on the long drive south to Canberra.

Cairns Indy Media was there to capture the moment as some icons of mid-century Aussie holidays rolled out of town.

MOTLW Sunliner Van leaves Cairns

Tonight our vanners stop at Kurramine Beach, then Townsville 26th/27th Sept, Home Hill 27th/28th Sept, Mackay 28th/29th Sept & Rockhampton 29th/30th Sept.

Catch up with them for a cuppa and a chat along the way

MOTLW Cuppa Tea Cairns

REAL WORK

OK caravanners, you’ll be pleased to know that things are all making sense for me now that I’ve finally started some ‘real work’ on an early 60’s Sunliner down in Tasmania. I thought I was just swanning in to make some art inside but oh no no. There’s a whole lot of sanding to be done, retro light fittings to be sourced, paint to be matched, shelves rebuilt, wiring to be done etcetera! Wynyard local Chris Symonds, who’ll also be joining us in Canberra has done a stellar job so far and I’m happy to be able to help out on the interior stuff. Skills acquired in my days as part of an all-woman gang of house painters in Melbourne are going to come in handy.

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You can read more about my burgeoning love affair with The Fossicker on my website here but on to some exciting updates about Museum of the Long Weekend!

We’re welcoming a few more people to the creative team. Firstly Robyn Marais and Tyson Mowarin up in Ieramugadu (Roebourne) in the Pilbara who are teaming up with Big hART’s Elspeth Blunt in a collaboration with the Ieramugadu community. Their work will take tales of travel, holiday food and family recipes from Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi families as precious cargo and collect stories from the west coast along the way. These stories will be shared in Perth, Kalgoorlie and finally at MOTLW in Canberra as a multimedia installation inside the caravan.

Secondly film-maker Ewan McLeod who’s based up in Townsville is going to be traveling with the convoy from Cairns down the coast to Home Hill and then skipping on to Brisbane to work with Lisa Mora from Vintage Caravan Magazine and some caravan park residents to make a film piece about their experiences to show in Canberra in Lisa’s van.

I encourage everyone to check out the ‘creative team’ page on this site to familiarize themselves with the diverse range of artists who are involved on the project and who will be in Canberra as part of MOTLW.

Big hART director Scott Rankin and I have been talking about creating boards/collection points for written stories, perhaps akin to supermarket notice boards when people can contribute snippets of holiday/leisure-time related memories in four categories: ‘Lost n Found’ (descriptions of objects lost and found on holiday), ‘Missing Persons’ (…eg someone never seen again since summer of ’92), ‘True Heroes’ (the time that Dad rescued Lilly from the killer geese…) and ‘The Museum of the Unsaid Thing’. So get your thinking caps on about these as we’d love to hear what you have to offer in Canberra.

We’ve been casting nets far n wide for people interested in organizing small local events for the convoys as they pass through regional towns an cities en route to Canberra. So far there will be events taking place in the following locations: Home Hill, Castlemaine, Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cowra, Townsville, Maryborough and Devonport. Activities under a broad umbrella of ‘a cuppa with the convoy’ include: Fruit Salad under trees by a river, a tea-party in the middle of town, sausage sizzle at the caravan park and a welcome to country in the local botanical gardens. If you know people in places who would be interested in helping organize a little something please tell them to get in touch beth@bighart.org

It’s getting closer! The first convoys depart from Carins/Roebourne in less than a month!

Looking forward to seeing you there. Beth.

CONVOY DETAILS

Hey team, some of this info has been sent out in e-mails but I just wanted to share a bit of updated info here about where things are up to in the production department, and some exciting plans taking shape for events along the way for our three convoys…
Jody has been working hard to make sure the most reasonable and discounted (where possible) accommodation offers are available to you, as detailed in the e-mails. We’ve allocated spots for the convoys in a range of quality parks and locations along the way.
A reminder that there will be power and toilets and showers at the site in Canberra!
Jody and I have begun contacting local councils/galleries/clubs etc to arrange mini-events and cup of tea/story swapping picnics in the locations that the convoys pass through. More info coming soon. Free to send us a list of ideas of places to contact if you have some local information.
We will be documenting the convoys with all the caravanners collaboration and blogging it online with a twitter hashtag etc so people can follow the journey prior to arrival in canberra. We like to think that the journey is as much a part of the project as the destination. We can also create something with materias and documentation collected along the way to display in Canberra.
To clarify – during the event in Canberra the focus is on the vans who’ve had artists working with them but all are welcome to open their vans to the public and be around for casual conversations with the public about holidays/caravanning etc PLUS all will be, in their own ways a part of the evening events at Grevillia Park.
We will be arranging promotional materials to accompany the convoys and there will be an artist or Big hART person (more and more the closer we get to Canberra) on each convoy to help with this side of things, plus liaising with local groups etc.
Hope this is all clear! Any questions please get in contact beth@bighart.org
Beth

Protection

Found by Reg Lynch and his partner Narissa somewhere in Roswell….

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