We made it!! Finally we are here at the breath-taking Uluru. Our journey here was filled with laughter and reflection, which created an atmosphere that allowed us to find comfort on the jam-packed bus.
We focused on the theme of rock and stream during reflection time, which was extremely effective and allowed the Young People to understand how their actions can effect a situation. We explored how there are times to be a rock and stand up for your values and beliefs and times to be a stream and just go with the flow.
Once we arrived at Yulara the wonderful basecamp team welcomed us all. We began by painting our hands and leaving an open hand print on our welcome sheet to show we come in peace as friends, ready to learn from our brothers and sisters. After setting up camp, we prepared for our night in the big top with other pilgrims who have come from all around Australia.
Today was another early morning as we prepared for our long journey to the worlds Opal capital, Coober Pedy! We began the bus ride with our usual (and greatly appreciated) quiet time. This time came to an end when we were graced with the presence of the amazing Disco Kitty. Disco Kitty wakes us up from our slumber and makes sure we stretch our muscles and are pumped up and ready for the crazy day ahead.
We kept busy on the bus by making bracelets and playing lots of fun and interactive games. We had one stop before we arrived at our destination, which was Lake Hart, a huge salt lake. The lake is naturally formed and looks like a huge field of snow. We all had a blast walking on the lake and taking lots of cool photos.
Our final destination of the day was the famous Coober Pedy. Here we had a tour of the town followed by an insight into the conditions of the old dugouts where the miners gained the wealth through the beautiful Opal.
Dinner tonight was followed by the Pilgrims being split into two groups. The young women engaged in an old aboriginal tradition called ‘Women’s Business’ where we learnt what it meant to be a beautiful strong woman in a world where so many expectations are placed upon us. This sacred women’s business was so empowering for our young people to identify what true beauty is within ourselves and each other.
We finished our day by giving our tents a rest and sleeping underground, ready for tomorrow, where we will finally arrive at Uluru.
We can see Uluru!
Last night was a beautiful night around the campfire, we chatted and shared about being in community. What a special moment to share with the pilgrims. We have enjoyed the journey, the friends, the laughter and the food! Although the toilets were a challenge this was overcome by communal massage to relax , a bit of luxury!
There aren’t the words to describe the day we just had!
We started the day with our first experience of a day on the bus: bus aerobics with Disco Kitty, bus games and reflection time in our small group. Today we learnt about the Stolen Generation; after watched the Rabbit Proof fence, we had a reflection space to talk through the things we had seen in the movie and the policies relevant to them.
We arrived in Port Augusta around 4.30pm, set up camp like champions and head out to hang out with the Dusty Feet Mob.
Our level of excitement could not prepare us for the night that we had!
Our crew bound off the bus and joined in footy games, nursery rhymes and the preparation of our feast.
We were welcomed to join around the fire where the kangaroo tail had been cooking in the embers and were welcomed to Country by Rob, a traditional owner of the land. Rob shared of his Country as a connection point where 3 traditional lands join as 1; a gateway land that people had to travel through, now hosting 36 different Aboriginal groups.
After Welcome to Country we had the privilege of sharing a special dinner with the group, kangaroo tail (prepared especially for the occasion). Our gang could not get enough! Some went back for thirds!
After we had got to know one another better and shared in the feast we all head into the hall to dance! The Dusty Feet Mob performed four dances to reflect on the stories in history that have impacted Aboriginal people. With permission from the original 3 groups in the Port Augusta area, the Dusty Feet Mob shared dances about their love of land, the 1967 referendum, the Stolen Generation and Reconciliation.
This was not a performance, but a time of vulnerability; it was a time of sharing stories that were still so deeply felt. Each dance was introduced by Aunty Maria and by the end of the Stolen Generation dance there was not a dry eye in the room. For this moment to be followed by a dance of reconciliation to ‘I am, you are, we are Australian’ was even more moving. The invitation of forgiveness, of friendship, of moving forward was a sacred time. It didn’t stop here. We were then welcome to partake in the dance with them (KEEP YOUR EYE OUT FOR THE VIDEO!). The beauty of forgiveness, could not of been more evidently seen than in this moment.
As friends, we moved to the center of the hall where we were invited to join a memorial for the Elders who have past over the last 3 weeks. We learnt the reality of the health gap represented in the room. For many of us, we have only had to attend a funeral once or twice over the past year. For the Dusty Feet Mob, they have attended 3 funerals in the last 3 weeks! The layers of mourning were real: the loss of stories, the loss of family, the loss of time. To stand alongside our new friends in such a deep space of mourning as we sang, prayed, lit candles and listened is a moment that will not be forgotten by any of our pilgrims.
A moment of love and deep respect.
For us, this was a time of acknowledging our common heart. A heart to empower young people to find their place and purpose; a heart to understand our past; a heart for a better tomorrow.
The service didn’t bring out sorrow, it brought out hope.
We finished the night all over the place: some took part in a yarning circle around the fire, some ran around with the kids playing games, there was even Irish dancing lessons! Many of us did not want to leave. Many of the Dusty Feet mob did not want us to go. We had to pry off some of the children just so we could get our group to bed.
This was a night that will never be forgotten.
Here’s what Caty (15 years old) had to say: “I am so greatful to the Dusty feet Mob for opening up everything. To share in their food, their culture, their dance. For me, the dance about the Stolen Generation stood out. Last year I did an assignment on the Stolen Generation, so I knew some of the policies they were dancing about. The dance was different to writing an assignment. It actually showed me what happened and the hurt that would have been experienced when children were ripped out of their mother’s arms. I wouldn’t be able to go without my family they are everything to me. Family is everything. To loose your family like that, it is horrible.
After that dance, we got to dance the ‘I am, you are, we are Australian’ dance. To be surrounded by little Aboriginal girls who now have their family, I can’t explain how it made me feel.
Today I have a deeper understanding of what happened and the pain that is still so present, because some will never be able to see their family again.
Thankyou for sharing this with me.”
A day in the life of a pilgrim:
Wake up 5am
Pack up gear
Take down tent
Breakfast and conversation
Rest or reflection time
Bus Aerobics (with head bands)
Games fun with fantastic fellows
Small group discussion
Lunch at Rob’s mobile Sanwich bar
Movie in bus cinema or more conversation.
Day 3 saw us arrive safely, thanks to incredible bus drivers, to Warburton. What a blast to engage with lively beautiful children for the night. As our guide Matt showed us out to the community. Heart warming to see our team mingle with merriment with the children and adults. So welcoming and full of life. Another great opportunity to connect with people! What a wonderful world!
How lovely to be welcomed with smiles and anticipation. The kids at Mt Margaret community were a welcome distraction from driving today!
We were up with birds and breakfasted, thanks to Rob’s deft team of cooks, bottle washers and drivers!
During a lingering game of ‘Have you ever’ with highly competitive pilgrims and leaders (we won’t mention names… Helen) the alternator on the bus was fixed and we headed off from Merridin. Rest time was most welcome. Then a full on wake up by Minna and her, scrunchie wearing, bus aerobics instruction! Bus games were essential bonding time with records for ‘teddy passing’ smashed, songs sung and smiles all round
After a quick shopping stop at Kalgoorlie to stock up, lunch at Menzies, with road side sandwiches to rival Subway, we arrived at Mt Margaret.
The night was full of joy and laughter as we shared time with the local.kids. Face painting, balloon sculpting, stilt wallking and plate spinning were enjoyed by all. Friendships were started and for me you just can’t beat the smiles on the kids faces. Such enthusiasm and engagement from both community kids and pilgrims. Giving is so much more rewarding than receiving. Thanks for the oppotinity to share time with each other as we journey through this amazing country. May we learn the art of being who we were created to be and enjoying creator, creation and each other.
South Australia! What a gang! It’s the first time in 5 years that a bus has come from South Australia, and so we’re doing things a little differently to the other states. We are a team of six, and we’re figuring out how to do Pilgrimage SA-style as we go!
So far we have the ‘leaving home on a bus’ part down pat. And ‘home’ for all of us is Kapunda, SA. Dave (the one with the hat) is leading, but really we’re all making the decisions and learning the mistakes together.
Day 1 was a trip from Kaunda to Port Augusta – a short trip to start us off. We slept in tents at the caravan park, and together made the rissoles for dinner. Then it was an 8am start to get to Coober Pedy.
Mostly the bus trip has been talking and singing, but along the way we stopped at a few fun places. The first was the salt flats. For Pilgrim Brodie, growing up in the region meant that he’d seen plenty of salt flats in his life before, but had never had the chance to walk out onto one. When asked about what he enjoyed most about this experience, he answered ‘licking the salt’. Apparently it tasted like salt.
We also stopped at Woomera, ate some lunch and explored the old army base.
And then it was back on the road to head to Coober Pedy. One of the first lessons we learnt in making up the Pilgrimage as we go along, is that waking up later than we mean to, and spending too much time taking toilet breaks, means missing out on stuff at the other end. So we didn’t get to do the things in Coober Pedy that we intended to. Fortunately for us, we’re driving back this way and have another chance. For now it’s overnight in the Underground Church, before an early start to get to Kings Canyon.
We kicked off the day with an amazing hot breakfast from Joan (our incredible Chef) before having time with one another playing games before connecting with our Ngarrindjeri friends.
As always, Camp Coorong is an incredible space for our pilgrims to begin to grapple with the history of Australia and the ongoing implications for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. In the word of the late Uncle Tom, Ngarrindjeri Elder, “Like a stone that is thrown into a pond the rippling effect [of our past] is still being felt today”.
The beauty of the Ngarrindjeri mob, is their invitation to move past our heritage and share in the richness of their culture. Elly led us on a bush tucker walk and shared her love of the land, the lengths they have gone to care for it and the nutrients available from the local flora and fauna.
After lunch we were met by Aunty Ellen and Aunty Noreen who shared the love of weaving with water reeds. For Aunty Ellen, “The weaving pattern represents life. Stitch by stitch, circle by circle. The lands, waters and all living things are connected like family.” This was an incredible time of learning in action and building relationships between our pilgrims and the local mob here.
The high levels of energy continued into free time as we played games, sang around the guitar and finished off our weaving pieces. Some of our crazy pilgrims even decided they wanted to partake in a mini bootcamp!
We are looking forward to learning more about the history of the Ngarrindjeri people from Uncle Darryl after dinner.
Here’s what Devon (16 years old) had to say about his experience so far: “The Pilgrimage has been an amazing time to hear the point of view of our first peoples and how they express their spirituality.
Aunty Ellen was so welcoming and easy to understand; she was so passionate about he culture and helped me realize what a phenomenal community Aboriginal people would have been for the Currency Children.
You can find out more about Camp Coorong at: www.ngarrindjeri.com
Our journey began as a group of strangers with pilgrims from across Victoria coming together to take part in this incredible journey.
Regardless of where we were internally as we boarded the bus, everyone embarked on the Pilgrimage with a willingness to meet the stranger, that they were about to spend the next 10 days with.
It didn’t take long for a community to be built on the bus as we shared our dreams for the coming trip and played games on the 9 hour journey to the Coorong to hang out with the Ngarrindjeri people.
After a long day, we were welcomed to the Coorong by an incredible sunset as we learnt how to put up our tents, reflected on our first day of the Pilgrimage and celebrated the Birthday of Josh over dinner.
Here’s what Shanai (15 years old) had to say about her experience so far: “[the bus] automatically [had] a positive vibe… As someone who struggles in social settings, my biggest lesson today was to learn that there was no judgment here and I will be accepted for who I am. Accepting this has made me more excited for what will happen over the next 10 days and take part in all this journey has to offer.”
Saying goodbye to the cool blue sea we head for the inland country. The group is in high spirits, comfortably accepting each other as travel buddies.
Group discussion is hearty as we anticipate the evening meal. Activity is various with quiet tones. This is the life!