Life on a mini coach.
Some of us headed off early Saturday morning, up to Orange where we met the rest of our leaders and young people and traveled to Nyngan for our first night of the pilgrimage.
A quote from one of our young people was:
‘It was good to reconnect with everyone that we met on the Uluru daytrip in March.’
This was a good time of connecting and settling into the journey and there were lots of laughs around the circle meaning we were traveling well.
The second day saw us travel to Mutiwingi National Park on dirt roads and camping with no electricity. We had some fun collecting fire wood, playing footy in the river bed and toasting marshmallows on the fire.
We went on a cultural walk on our third morning and had jonny cakes and roo burgers for lunch as we watched a demonstration of how to skin a kangaroo.
Our forth day saw us travel on more dirt road as we left Mutiwingi National Park and headed towards Port Augusta.
Our leaders and young people are enjoying the journey, loving connecting on the bus and in the evenings around the circle (around a fire where possible).
Dusty Feet Mob and the South Australian Border
We made it to South Australia. Last night after a quick camp set up we were welcomed by Dusty Feet Mob, who cooked us kangaroo tail (a great privilege) and a huge feast and performed some dances for us. To end the night they taught us a dance to “I am, you are, we are Australian” which we performed together. It was a really beautiful time of sharing and learning.
Day #1 – Bus break down!
After a bus breakdown this morning, we didn’t get on the road until 10.30am but we are finally away! Instead of camping tonight, we’ll be staying in some cabins in Coonabarabran! We have a long day of driving ahead!
Day #2 – Unexpected plus to the bus break down.
As we rolled over the state border last night we were greeted with an amazing sunset out the window of the bus. Due to our late departure, we were treated to some luxury in cabins on the first night as we rolled into Coonabarabran at 10:30pm. After a good nights sleep, we are now on the road to Broken Hill, NSW.
Day #3 – Making up time.
Our first night in tents went well and we even managed to get on the road 10 minutes early this morning! We’ve just been out to Daydream Mine in Broken Hill where we got to go on an underground tour! We’ll be crossing the border soon on our way to Port Augusta for camp tonight!
Being at the Coorong is like coming home to old friends.
Our morning began with visiting the barrages on the waters of the Coorong, a place we have heard stories about each time we visit the Ngarrindjeri. These barrages have been built by local government to control the water that comes in and out of the Coorong, causing a range of ecological issues. One of these issues is the New Zealand seal, these seals have taken up residence in the local waters. One of our Pilgrims, Lachie 14 states, ”These seals have become the apex predator of the Coorong”. Lachie is right, unfortunately these seals have caused an imbalance in the ecosystem.
The rich marine life has suffered greatly, in particular the numbers of pelicans have dropped drastically, pelicans the nga:tji or totem of the Ngarrindjeri. Ellie our guide today shared, “if the pelican dies we the Ngarrindjeri dies.”
Ellie even took us to Raukkan, an Aboriginal community not far from Coorong. This community was the home of David Unaipon a Ngarrindjeri pioneer inventor who is also featured on the $50. David is responsible for a number of currently used inventions including the a unique propeller mechanism on helicopters. He also designed the Church building that is also on the $50 note.
Our afternoon was spent being mentored in basket weaving by Auntie Ellen. Not to boast, but Victorian Pilgrims happen to be awesome at basket weaving. Some of us made baskets others placemats, even accessories such as bracelets. Basket weaving is an ancient craft of the Ngarrindjeri, the old people would trade items with neighbouring countries, as well as use a range of items for daily life such as hunting items, clothing and baskets for carrying belongings.
To finish up our evening at the Coorong Uncle Darryl took us through the Ngarrindjeri Museum. Full of incredible artwork, artefacts, pictures of and stories of the old people and even a whale that has been weaved by Auntie Ellen and is going to be exhibited in Paris. Uncle Darryl was full of stories and so willing to answer all our millions of questions, he made us laugh and at times even shared his deep sadness over losing so many of the Elders, Darryl is now one of only 7 Ngarrindjeri elders over 70 years old.
“My highlight was learning about Auntie Ellen’s story and how her family has impacted on her life” Angel 15
“I love what Auntie Ellen was saying about how they pull up a couple of reeds at a time, and throw back the seeds so they keep on growing. It made me realise how sustainability is just so natural for the Ngarrindjeri” Sarah 29
The Kapunda Pilgrimage to Uluru.
We left Port Augusta after a slow camp unpack in the morning – the first one.
We then headed for Coober Pedy, stopping at Woomera for moving tea and a quick look around. We then had a fun stop at the Salt Lakes, amazed at the thickness of the salt.
90km before Coober Pedy we discovered that the fuel gauge was not accurate and ran out of fuel.
We sent Dave off for more fuel and were then rescued by a passing tradesman who gave us his spare gerry can.
We were excited to be camping underground last night.
People from Geraldton gathered in the wee early hours of the morning when the birds were waking up and the sun was rising. They arrived with much excitement and anticipation for what is to come. With legendary drivers we arrived in Perth ahead of time and got to hang out with the youth leaders from Fusion. This was some fun and getting to know who was a fast shooter as we played BANG! We also found out the Hawaiian specialist as we did Hula near a Palm tree.
The Ellenbrook crew arrived and we had introductions and first connections made. We met the Fusion crew, Jessie, Steph, Jordan, Matthew and Jocelyn, not to mention legend teachers Laura and Jo!
Once the group photo was taken it was times to board the bus completely within schedule and with waves to adoring parents we set off.
The bus was attentive as house rules or should I say bus rules were explained along with helpful tips with how to survive the long trip ahead.
Steph our bus director acknowledged the people who’s land we were passing through.
Some bus games allowed more group bonding to happen with laughing and loopiness!
Tonight we heard from Uncle Mick, a local aboriginal man came to talk with the pilgrims.
He welcomed us to country and told some of the stories of how he grew up and what it was to be aboriginal in the Meredin area when he was young. He also shared some beliefs and stories about the local area. We were able to gain another perspective of the area and how it is important to honour culture in each nation and country and view it as unique.
Early start a a most pilgrims rose at 5am and were up organised and ready to eat by 6.30am. We had breakfast and started our trip toward Kalgoorlie for lunch. The bus trip today started with rest time, then we were activated by bus aerobics and some games. Passing the chezel was especially popular and Stepphanies group proved way too proficient at passing a chezel from straw to straw.
6 seconds was the time it took for us to tag Kenny the koala from the front of the bus to the back.
When we arrived in Kalgoorlie we stopped at one of the parks and participated in an acknowledgement of country and a ceremony to remember the violent protest that happened last year and remember the bravery of Hayley Garlett the cousin of an aboriginal boy who died. She stood between police and protesters and stopped possible escalation of violence. This was a courageous act and deserves recognition. The pilgrims were asked to light a candle and we prayed that we would be brave and courageous in the face of opposition.
Then we headed to Laverton. There were some beautiful kids that came and met us before we set up our tents for the night. For some of the pilgrims it was the first time setting up a tent and camping! Well done Charles and Laura! Jocelyn our camp cook prepared the best tasting kababs ever! YUM! After eating, clean up and small group time we pilgrims hit the hay. But not before we were introduced to the nocturnal wildlife that strayed at some pilgrims from the sink hole. It is a wonder how strong frog foot suction is! It was a hopping good time!
Life on a bus.
Is 6am a good time to make friends? Of course it is!
As a Victorian bus we began our journey coming together at 6am, loading our coach, meeting our driver Joe and cook Josie. We headed for Ballarat where the last two Pilgrims joined us, now our Victorian bus is complete.
We continued our journey home with another couple of long bus trips. Yesterday we travelled from Port Augusta to Border Town, for our final night together.
Along the way we had another appearance from Disco Kitty, more amazing bus games led by some of our peer leaders and had our daily reflection space. For many of our pilgrims, their highlight of the trip has been the bus trip and having space to digest information and have space to go a bit crazy!
In our reflection space we looked at the documentary ‘Our Generation’. The Documentary looks at the 2007 investigation into Indigenous communities and the state of emergency that was called leading to interventions in Aboriginal communities. This was a confronting documentary for many of us, as we now knew these policies were hurting our friends from a number of communities that we had travelled to (in particular the Mutujulu community at Uluru who were featured in the documentary). This helped many of us realise that we are not talking about issues of the past, but ones that effect our friends now. For many, this was a hard reality to deal with and many of us found ourselves asking, what can I do?
A number of us decided it was about sharing with our friends and family what we had learnt, others felt it was time to meet the Aboriginal people from our communities at home and make spaces for them to share with us, and others are still exploring what their part is.
When we arrived at Border Town the girls gathered to exchange their beads from our women’s business time at Cooper Pedy. We had colours that represented a number of traits, our pilgrims made a coloured bead to represent who they saw themselves as, what they wanted to grow in and one for another pilgrim and how they saw them. At Border Town we reflected on the beads we had chosen for ourselves and gave the bead we had made for another pilgrim, telling them why. In response, all we could say was thankyou.
This was a profound time for our girls to recognize more of who they are.
“The beads help you see different perspectives of yourself that you didn’t know you had.” Kayla, 16.
After Dinner we walked down to a local Church of Christ (that was generously provided to us) for our closing ceremony. We shared our highlights, looked at some of the photos from the trip and heard from Jake before having a bit of a party!
Jake spoke to us about believing being more than a feeling, but an action. We were invited to wash the (VERY) dirty feet of one another as a symbol of belonging to Gods story of service.
We finished of the preceding’s off the night with a dance party (and let me tell you, there was not one person who was not dancing!). Josh led us in the ‘funky chicken’ and we all let our crazy out before respectfully heading back to camp and getting some rest for the night.
And now we are on our final bus ride home writing affirmations for one another, enjoy each others company before we depart ways and go back to our respective areas.
Here’s some reflections from some of our young people:
Rilee (15 years old) – “before the trip I was an average teenage girl who knew very little about the Aboriginal culture. On the pilgrimage I have learnt that Aboriginal people can be so forgiving, even after everything that continues to happen. Going home I will try and spread the word about the power of the pilgrimage and what Aboriginal people have gone through.
The biggest lesson I learnt on the pilgrimage was from my leaders, that I need to keep on trying and never give up. Thank you to everyone who helped out to get me here, this has been an amazing journey.”
Zac (15 years old) – “This year I was elected to be a peer leader and have the opportunity to come alongside other young people and encourage them to get the most our of the pilgrimage and make them feel comfortable.
I feel like I have a sense of belonging here and it has given me the confidence to live by my faith and not fear sharing who I am when I get home.
I would like to thank Gemma and Lauren for putting me forward as a peer leader and helping me with fundraising options. I would also like to say Thank you to all the sponsors for taking money out of your own spending’s to help me have this experience.“
Eleanor (16 years old) – “coming on the trip I really wanted to learn more about the Aboriginals, their history and our effect on their lives so I could find a way to help. Being on the pilgrimage has given me a better understanding and motivation to help others. I’ve become way more confident in myself and got better at communicating with others.
I’m so thankful for the financial support to get here, without that help I would not of been able to come.”
Hallelujah! We are headed to Perth and then home. It was a wet start to the day with rain as we packed up our gear for the last time. Lots of lost gear today so name and shame was quite big!
Our final bus aerobics with many adventures and past moves and grooves, Mentos moments that went forever with numerous acts of thoughrfulness mentioned. Name and shame as property once lost was found.
Lots of conversation and sharing of memories as we did reflection time. The boys are writing a Rap song about our trip away. Can’t wait to hear it.
We waved bye to our home for the last 3 days the bus and our legend bus drivers.
Our South Australians have made it all the way home, but their trip wasn’t a straight one.
They left Yulara on Sunday, packing up and leaving immediately after the dawn service. After a short stop to say goodbye to the Basecamp crew, they headed up north, stopping at Alice Springs. There they set up camp at a caravan park, and had a chance to relax a little and reflect on the weekend. On the first day they went swimming. Then the next day they explored Alice Springs, doing a bit of shopping, and visiting a few art galleries and museums.
So after getting to take it easy for a few days, it was back to the grind for the trip back down south: waking up at 5am and getting on the road. “We didn’t have breakfast, just got up, got dressed, packed up and left.” Says Brodie. “We stopped for breakfast later”. But it meant that they made it to Coober Pedy in time to visit a few places.
So after exploring the opal mines and doing a tour in the museum, the group headed back to the Underground Church for their last night together. A time to celebrate everything that had happened, to say thank you and have a proper farewell party. The next day it was a 9am start to see more of Coober Pedy before heading down to Kapunda.
Here’s Brodie on his experience of the Pilgrimage to Uluru:
“The experience has been amazing. It’s not every day that you get to do something like this. To me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something I would never have done otherwise.
“To others I would say that you have to come. It’s amazing. I wanna tell everyone everything that happened so I can make them jealous. I’m definitely doing this next year!”
Thanks South Australia gang for being awesome!