26 October 2010

24 October 2010

Bali : whole other world

So, moving on from a series of rather orange photos, we come to some green. Quite a lot of green actually. Bali, or rather Ubud which is where we spent the majority of our brief six days, is so hot and wet that everything is impossibly green. Plants grow out of drains, on top of every roof, peer from gutters, and moss creeps over everything in sight.

I am still sorting and uploading several hundred photos, and anyway I can't say everything I want to say in one blog post so I think I'll take a leaf out of someone else's book and just hurl a few photographs at the blog every now and then and talk at random.

at the monkey forest

My friend (L) and I left our partners and children behind and nipped over to Bali for a few days. Ostensibly it was to attend the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, but although we're avid readers, spend a fair chunk of our working days writing stuff and started a bookgroup together (now in its fifth year), we're not serious literary groupies by any means. We booked one of the 'special events' (dinner with Booker prize winners Thomas Keneally and Anne Enright), purchased a one day pass to the Festival (Saturday, as it seemed to have most of the events we were interested in), and spent the rest of our days exploring and generally travelling about.

stallholders at Ubud market

The Writers Festival was excellent. Some of the organisation was a bit vague, some sessions were inevitably more interesting than others, and there were some squirmy moments in confronting the reality of participating in a Western bourgeois intellectual talkfest in the midst of a much more economically (although not spiritually and culturally) poor country. At one point when up on the dais a heated debate was taking place about the reading habits of white middle class Western women and authors' assumptions about them (ouch) and all around us beautiful young Balinese women were smiling serenely and serving drinks to the sweating white folk, I turned to L and muttered God, it feels like a big white wank, what are we doing here?

the flower seller

But on the whole, the sessions were lively and thoughtful, we were introduced to some authors we might never have otherwise come across, and we met some fabulous and interesting people. We will definitely go again, next time for a few days with our families and then we'll happily wave them off at the airport and stay on for a few more days of writers festival, yoga and massage. Oh yeees, the massage.

Off the top of my head, some of the writers there whose work I'd like to follow up (or already enjoy) were the aforementioned two former Booker prize winners, plus Christos Tsiolkas, Louis de Bernieres, Cate Kennedy (low key, down to earth, refreshing), Suad Amiry (must read her three books - she was a hilarious and thought-provoking speaker), Ali Eteraz (note to self, get Children of the Dust pronto), William Darymple (great speaker, must try his books again, my husband is a huge fan, me not so much), Kate Adie (well practised and polished storyteller). Also off the top of my head, Shane Maloney, Sarah Murray, Kirsty Murray, Sophie Cunningham, Frank Moorhouse (looked bored, holds strong views about privileging art over community apparently). Many of the moderators were well known Australian names - Jennifer Byrne (smiles and nods a lot but sure knows how to go with the flow in an interview and not stick strictly to the script), Caroline Baum, and Antony Loewenstein who did a marvellously low key but push-the-tricky-questions interview with Christos Tsiolkas.

gargoyle detail

All up the festival had an eclectic selection of writers. Some big names to draw the crowds, a large Australian contingent (due to its proximity to Australia and sponsors including Australian companies and governmental support), and a good smattering of British, Indonesian, American, Israeli, Palestinian, Pakistani, other Asian and local Balinese writers and poets.

carrying the groceries home

Uh oh, children and real life demanding attention. More later. Temples, rice paddies, moss, food, temples, tourism, privilege, heat, temples.

21 October 2010

from the sublime to the sublime

from the desert to the rainforest

From outback Australia to the lush rainforests of Bali with barely a breath in between.

A friend and I escaped to Bali for the Ubud Writers Festival for a few days.


17 October 2010


I could say much about how privileged we were to experience the desert ablaze with wildflowers after the first wet winter in decades ... to be introduced to some aspects of the local aboriginal culture through our guide Mark ... to create some wonderful family memories.

But in the interests of brevity (I have the contents of the bathroom and laundry to rehouse after the cabinetmaker fiiiinally finished), I'll let the photographs speak for me and merely say that if you are a camping family and interested in travelling to the Outback, I can highly recommend Mutawintji National Park as a destination. It was the first national park in Australia to be handed back to its indigenous custodians, and it's a model to be proud of. All profits from the park are fed back into the park's management, entrance to some of the sacred sites is only with a registered guide (most of them indigenous people from the area), and some especially important areas (the secret men's and women's business areas) are completely prohibited to tourists, as is right and proper.

Plus it's stunning. Look.

the creek bed walk

Mutawintji National Park

At the historic site, Mutawintji National Park

Our guide was fantastic. We went on one of the walks that you can only do with a guide, into the Historic Site. Due to it being school holidays it was quite a large group and Mark split the kids off from the adults and gave them special privileges (Secret Kids Business), taught them some commands in the local language and generally treated them like his own little posse. He recognised Son #2 from his school trip there in July and greeted him like an old friend, calling him Brother (everyone is Brother, Sister, Auntie or Uncle) and demanding to know which ones in the crowd were his parents and siblings. After giving us individual greetings, he then turned to the rest of the group and announced how every year "the kids from the Steiner school in Melbourne" come up to Mutawintji and how amazing and wonderful they are. (This was pretty special for us to hear although possibly tedious for the rest of the crowd).

Hand stencils at the historic site, Mutawintji National Park
at the hand stencils site

Mark and the kids at the engraving site
Mark and the kids at the engravings site

ancient rock art with William Wright's graffiti (in blue) over the top of it
rock art, thousands of years old. the blue triangle with WW in it, graffitied over the top of the indigenous art is by William Wright, manager of a local cattle station and part of the Burke and Wills expedition. because the graffiti is over 50 years old it's considered heritage and not allowed to be removed, much to the disgust of the indigenous owners

Playing bocce with the paddymelons
after a farewell hug from Mark, who promised to see Son #3 in three years time when he goes on the Year 8 camp, we returned to camp where the boys continued their never ending games of soccer and bocce with the paddymelons (relax, they're a weed)

river redgum by the creekbed
next day, more walks in stunning locations

look out

rock pool swimming

aboriginal rock art
more rock art

camping tea towels
tea towels drying at the campsite (the two on the right are from the Broken Hill op shop and are now the official Camping Tea Towels)

evenings around the fire


fire play

the desert really does have red sand
final shot of the red red sand before we headed home at the end of the week, through the sunset

driving home through the sunset

It was only a week, but it was the experience of a lifetime.

5 October 2010

some more desert for you

Sturt Desert Pea
more desert peas because you liked them so much

more bearded dragons

Susan and Brendan, near Broken Hill

Sunset at the Sculpture Symposium, Broken Hill.
more sunset sculpture scenes areyouboredyet?

The Mad Max car
the vehicles from the 1979 film Mad Max, which was filmed out there (in Silverton)

stumpy tail lizard
on the road, a stumpy tail lizard with a deathwish. We saw lots of these, many of them flat

Church in Silverton
a church in Silverton. Silverton is now almost a ghost town but just scrapes a living from tourists and as a film set for (apart from Mad Max) tv commercials, films and American westerns

wide open road
wide open road. if you squint you can see a lone road sign far ahead. this was so exciting I had to take a photo

as we approached Silverton, a horse wandered out of the desert and crossed the road leisurely in front of us
just outside Silverton, this random horse (again with the deathwish) appeared out of nowhere and sauntered across the road in front of our car, which was more exciting than the road sign I tell you


more emus on the desert roads
this sight brought such great excitement that I had to stop the car and get out. Look! A bend in the road, a road sign and three emus, all together! I was quite overcome

Emu and nine chicks!
ack! our emu tally (41 by the end of the week) was significantly boosted by this once in a lifetime sighting of a male emu and his NINE chicks. I seriously haven't stopped talking about this to anyone who'll listen

decorated tree just outside Mutawintji National Park
just outside the entrance to our destination, the Mutawintji National Park, was a tree with stuff hanging from it. christmas baubles, a tv, a chair, a dvd player, a packet of mints

(closer look here)
decorated tree just outside the national park

Mutawintji National Park
into Mutawintji National Park

campsite at Mutawintji National Park
to find the perfect camping spot

River Redgum
close to the prime spot by the River Redgum but not so close that it drops it branches on us

Time to pitch the tent and get some sleep, for tomorrow we see some 80,000 year old rock art. Whoohoo!