This travel report will contain references to persons I have met in Australia, show pictures of some of them, name them. If anyone of you feels offended by this report, please don't hesitate to contact me. I will gladly remove any references or pictures that violate your privacy or even, if you don't find yourself in this report, add references and/or pictures, if you want it and I rememba you :-).
I, Thomas the German, travelled to Australia for roughly a month in 2012. I chose the November, because there was a total eclipse about to happen. How did I hear about that eclipse? We have to go back ten years in time, when I first visited Australia. Back then I "work & travel"led Australia for 9 months (November 2002 - July 2003). At 4th December 2002 there was a total eclipse about to happen and some german friends I met in my first hostel - The Altamont Hotel in Sydney - persuaded me to come to the Outback Eclipse Festival in Lyndhurst. Lyndhurst is roughly 600km north of Adelaide. So we travelled there by car, took the Great Ocean Road, met another dutch guy who also was heading for that festival and then came to that awesome festival.
So having that wonderful experience still in mind, I searched the internet a few years ago for some similar events like a total eclipse, maybe in Australia, maybe with a crazy hippie festival like the one back then... and BINGO, there was one they planned for quite a few years and the date was 14th November 2012. About two years ago I decided to come back to Australia around that time, asked my boss 18 months ago, if he would let me go for a five week holiday and this report would not be here if he had said no.
Day Zero, Sunday, 28th October 2012
When I talk about Day Zero, it is actually Day 1, but since it is departing day, there is no big story about it, at least usually not experiencing something special. So I call it Day Zero.
This time, Day Zero was about waiting. My flight was about to depart at 6.40pm and, as you can imagine, I was very excited, not only to depart to Australia, but also having my first flight with the A380, the biggest civilian airplane in the world. But the time wouldn't pass. It was an eternity until I decided to make my way to the airport. About four or five hours before departure. I always put some buffering hours in between, just in case, and this time certainly because of being so fucking excited!
Having arrived at the airport, I made my way to terminal 2, looking for a British Airways check-in, found it, checked in and ... that was the first checkpoint for me to be a little relieved. So I now had the time to look for a nice bar to have a beer or two. I went to the "Fly Away Bar" and had a Beck's from tap, relaxed a bit, told my facebook friends that I was relaxing a bit and yeah...
After strolling around a bit, watching arriving and departing planes, one of my favourite hobbies, finally there was the time to get on the plane. The first one was the flight to London where the actual journey began. London was ... rainy. "Of course it rains in London, it always does!" I was told from one English guy I met later in Cairns. So that was the moment that earworm found me. And stayed with me the whole trip. His name was "Toto - Africa". You can imagine, that it shouted to me every time it was raining in Australia.
After having found the next flight, the magnificent Airbus A380, I wondered how this bloody thing would be able to fly. You don't get the answer to that question flying with that plane. It just does. Proof of that you will find here. It is actually the departing flight from Sydney to London, but it is still the same plane.
Imagine now around 20 hours of time. Time that is timeless. It wasn't too uncomfy, but it is still a long time. But then, you know, it is a long way, too. I flew only to Perth, which is around three or four thousand kilometres nearer than Sydney. But that would still be around 13000 kilometres. I love flying, it's a kind of magic. But after flying that long you just need some rest. No matter how long you slept on flight.
On the flight from Singapore to Perth I met a German girl who was sitting next to me in the flight, I recognized her origin by the book she was holding in her hands. It was a Bill Bryson book about Australia. It was the German version. I know Bill Bryson from when I went to Australia back 10 years ago, so I told her she made a good choice. She was just starting that working holiday I was doing 10 years ago and it reminded me of that time a lot. So we talked about that a bit and I was glad that I could give some advice and tell about my time back then.
Arriving in Perth. It was definitely a lot warmer than in good old Germany. It was around midnight and I think it was 15 to 20 degrees. Which is fuckin' warm, bro'! We soon found an airport shuttle which dropped off all the people where they booked their stay. So I finally arrived at my hostel, the Spinners Backpackers, 342 Newcastle Street, Northbridge, Perth.
From Day One, Tuesday, 30th October 2012
Day One. Two days after Day Zero. Yes, get used to it. There's a lot that's different when you make a big journey, including time and space. So I knocked at the door of Spinners Backpackers and Milan, as I learned later, opened the door. As this is an honest journal, I will be honest and like to say, that my first impression of Milan was not so good. His first question, if I remember right, right after he asked me how many nights I'd like to stay, was if I had the money for the room. That might not be unusual but the way he asked me was irritating. After I gave him the money, he was taking me to the hostel facilities (kitchen, lounge and stuff) and I wanted to take my luggage and he just said "stehenlassen" which is German and means "leave it there", so I felt like leaving my luggage somewhere unattended, which is for a guy (like me) who just departed Europe a bit unsecure. But I obeyed and followed him, showing me those facilities. After that he showed me the dorm room where I finally got some rest. I hoped to get rest soon, but that Milan guy somehow irritated my idea of Australia and the thought of having made the wrong trip crossed my mind. I would have been wrong...
I did not get so much sleep, at least not compared to my last Australia trip where I slept 18 hours after arriving in Sydney. This time it was only about 6 hours with occasionally being awake. I wasn't used to the sound from the airconditioner ... Anyways, next day I met the owner of the hostel, Spinner. Yes, he is actually called Spinner as in "Spinners Backpackers". What he might not know, that his name is the german word for some kind of a wacko or idiot. Sorry Spinner ;) Besides that he is a really nice guy and I think he had his mom with him at the reception. I told him a bit about my planned trip. This encounter immediately lightened the bad feeling about my trip.
Next thing was visiting the city. What I found a brilliant idea were the CAT-Buses. They were free buses that went around the CBD (Central Business District) of Perth. So between my hostel and the CBD it was the Blue CAT that brought me into the city, though the first time to the city was a walk, just to get used to the crazy left-driving traffic. Actually the first crossing of an Australian street made a pickup car to make full stop for me. Very nice of him, thanks :) It took about the whole trip to get used to the left-driving and when I arrived back in Germany (yes, I survived!), I had to get used to the right-driving (I love that wordplay) again. The city I found was completely different to what I had in mind from back ten years ago. I probably forgot lots of places, but I actually recognized only two buildings. The one was the Bell Tower and the other was a nice blue café called Valentino. The rest I just forgot... or aren't there anymore, like The Rise, ohh I loved that nightclub. Third possibility: They are now construction sites. Half Perth is construction at the moment.
Later that day I got tired again and went to sleep for the afternoon so I was awake at night, tried my first Emu Bitter, which was excellent and very cold. And expensive. 2.50A$ for a can, no discount on 6packs. So I had only two beers, since I was used to german prices and was a little too tight in the first days. I also made contact with a few other backpackers, including an italian guy who works as a reggae DJ at home, a french guy and an english guy who worked as a pool restaurator in Perth. All there for work and travel. But for making friends I was still a bit too jet-lagged. The hostel itself had a great kitchen, a connected lounge with a very big TV whose volume was almost all the time on "full throttle" and was playing Top 5 MTV Charts all day. So besides Gangnam Style I also know the song with the girl on fire and "don't you worry child" or whatever it is called inside out. There were more, but I don't remember and they're probably not worth it. The lounge also had a pool billard (which I played with the girl on the left and lost twice) and three PCs with Internet. There was another room in the back for smokers (not only cigarettes) with a dedicated fridge for BEER. And this beautiful brick wall, where everyone could leave a unique piece of art. I didn't, I am not an artist in painting or drawing.
I had a book with me which I used to get over the jet lag time. Kill Decision from Daniel Suarez. It is about feeding small drones (killing ones) with a swarm intelligence taken from an african weaver ant model. I won't spoil anymore of this, it is just a brilliant and scaring book. One of these where you know that possible realization is not too far away. I took about two days to read it through. It were the two days it was raining in Perth. Raining really much.
After finishing that book, I finally felt having beaten the jetlag. Having left my lonely planet in Germany - I found it when I came home, it was in the sauna bag... - I went to the precinct to look for a new one. The big one cost only 20 euros in Germany. Since I wouldn't travel all around Australia, I thought I could go cheaper or at least more informative for my further travel with the Queensland & NSW lonely planet. On my way to the city I recognized a girl at the bus stop from the hostel, Lisa, actually German as well and walked a bit around the CBD with her. She was also doing work & travel, (who didn't?) with her friend Katja who I later met at the hostel as well. We then went into a book store where I hoped to find that lonely planet. And it was there... for only 42A$. FUCK! So we've got 2.50A$ beer, 42A$ lonely planets, 130A$ festival buses, 420A$ flights to cairns... oh now that I mention that: I really like the service personnel in Australia. Not only that they always smile, but they're really talkative, seem to be interested in your travels and stuff, it just feels great. In Perth it was the girl from Flight Centre and the other girl from Vodafone :)
From Day Five, Saturday, 3rd November 2012, still Perth
Mein lieber Freund...
One day, after buying some VB for a huge amount of money, our east european jail guard inspected my purchase. He found my sixpack of VB and the receipt and then said: "Zuviel!" which means "too much". He explained me, that the shop where I bought the beer was so expensive because it hasn't got much competition around. He drew a map for me how to find the cheaper bottleshop: Dan Murphy's! Indeed, it was a lot cheaper. Still far more expensive than german prices. It was like 13A$ instead of 17A$ for a sixpack which I now call: cheaper. They also had a great choice of liquors, even Oettinger! If any Australian is reading this: Oettinger is one of the cheapest (and in my opinion worst) beers in Germany. All you Australians now hold on to something: A case of Oettinger (which holds 20 bottles with 500ml each) costs about 5 euros in Germany. All you Germans now hold on to something: A sixpack of Oettinger (which holds 6 bottles with 330ml each) costs about 11A$ (~9 euros) in Australia. A SIXPACK!
Ever since that day I thought less evil of Milan (he actually IS a good guy, but I wonder if he actually sleeps). Since then he always called me "Mein lieber Freund" which translates to "my dear friend" and once or twice I've seen a smile from him.
From now on I thought about departing for Cairns, paradise, as I have been told. I had booked a flight for the 6th November in the evening so I would arrive in Cairns very early. I also booked the eclipse bus so I would not have to worry about getting a lift to the festival site. A hostel had been booked as well, for the first three nights in Cairns. I made plans how I would gather my bus and festival tickets and some more info about the festival. And of course what I would have to buy: Tent, pocket knife, mattress, maybe some shading stuff.
Then the last day in Perth was underway and I decided to go to the Kings Park. Lisa and Katja recommended it and it was a good choice to follow it. It is a massive park, lots of different walks showing the diversity of the Western Australian flora, aspects of nature and also indigenous life. As I experienced once more, Australians have a passion for war memorials as you can see on the (pic). Not that I would mind, but the park was full of it. Also the park had a marvellous sight at the skyline of Perth. And of course it had the biggest of these strange trees which look as if the roots were above the ground and then directly came the treetop.
Last night in Perth. Katja and Lisa asked me to come with them to meed some friends at Kings Park. The one that I have been to at daytime. Since I had no other plans, I went with them. They had a car so I didn't have to do all the walking again... At the meeting point we met some more Germans, work & travellers, no shit. They were nice people, as almost all of those I met in Australia and with almost I mean around 98 percent. And then there was the skyline of Perth. It was even more beautiful at night and since there was a railing where I could put my camera on, I made my first experiments with time exposure. You can see the result on the right.
Next day was departing day. As I read in the lonely planet back home, there was supposed to be a vegeterian restaurant in Perth where you could pay by donation. I was very interested in this and so I visited it. It was located at the pier next to the Bell Tower. It was far more modest than I expected. It was a simple buffet with a soup, some salad, some rice, spicy and not, and some vegetables and another thing that I did not try. The soup had a very different taste that I can't really explain, but tasty nonetheless. Also the rest of the meal was very good. I asked the woman at the counter about this restaurant and they see themselves as a service to the poor people that come to the restaurant to have something to eat. And they naturally need donations to keep that restaurant alive. I loved the idea of that and donated 20A$ and told them that I'd love to see more of those restaurants around the world. This one seems to be unique, though.
Last thing before departing to Cairns was having a Kilkenny at a British Pub for 10.20A$. FUCK!
The flight to Cairns was late. But waiting is okay for me. What I don't like so much is waiting when it is uncomfortable. Which was not that one hour, but it was the four hours flight. It was not like flying in a cage, it was flying in a cage. That's a difference! However it got me to Cairns. Cairns was different. It was hot. Tropical hot. And I do not mean the weather exclusively ... Having not slept at the flight and having to wait six hours for check-in, I had a hard fight staying awake all the time. So I had early breakfast around 7am, strolled around the blocks a bit, but most of the time I embarrassed myself sitting half asleep in front of the reception. The sight wasn't too bad, but I guess the sight from the desk to my position was pretty poor. By the way, time difference was 2 hours between Perth an Cairns, so it fortunately took 2 hours off the waiting. And finally, an hour earlier than anticipated, I was granted reprieve and let move to my new room. It was a 3 (in words: three) bed dorm. For 22A$ (in words: twenty two Australian Dollars). Now that was a relief. Let's compare to Perth: There I had a ten bed dorm for 30A$ a night. There's another difference that I should add: Perth has a population of around 1.8 million and Cairns just around 150.000. There might be a relation. But then: Beer wasn't cheaper.
So after moving into that dorm (haha!) I finally had some rest. The hostel I stayed in, was the Global Central Backpackers. It is actually one of two hostels in Cairns that belong together. The driver of the airport shuttle told me that Cairns had 104 hotels and 40 hostels. Which I call a lot for a 150k village. Ok, let's say town. The other Global Backpackers was the Global Waterfront Backpackers. They were big. At least the Central was big. Two floors and 53 rooms I think. They had dorms with 10 down to 3 beds and some single and double rooms. You could have a bed in a bigger dorm for 16A$, but I paid for the luxury of a three bed dorm. That was okay. The entry to the hostel was within a passage with some stores. It looked like an elevator door. You'd never think that it'd be a door to a hostel. The reception was inside the passage. Pretty cool. The rooms were all equipped with aircons and they were blowing all the time and it got pretty cold sometimes. The time I got there, the hostel was booked out and it was a coming and going even in my three bed dorm. I met a guy from Taiwan, a girl from Perth who gave her colorful hat to me, since she didn't want to travel with it. Understandable. Then there was a japanese guy and finally a french not so bad looking girl. All of them in that one dorm in four days until leaving for the festival.
But let's stick to that day of arrival. After having my rest, I went to the reception and got my voucher for a dinner meal at P.J.O'brien's Irish Pub which was opposite of the street. Actually I had everything around, the hostel was in the very center of the town and I had to go only a few steps to get what I want. A woolworths, a bottleshop, a pub, another pub, some cafés, a pharmacy just under the hostel... So the voucher was for a meal for just 5A$ plus a free drink. Now that's the ticket. I took the veggie meal - which they actually had every night, always varying! - and it was superb. And the free drink was a pot (half pint) of Carlton Draught, one of my favourites. Inside the pub was aircon and so it was pretty cool in summer clothing, but you also could eat outside. Which I did and that is how you meet people. The first one was an italian guy who also just had dinner and that free drink, but he came from another hostel. We talked a bit together. He told me that he just stopped smoking weed after doing that for four years. And he was only 19 years old. He must have done it pretty often, for his memory wasn't so good anymore. Forgot things that I told him half an hour before. Like my name and stuff. But he was alright. We watched a gypsy girl doing some hula-hula dancing. She was very good indeed.
After 9pm we went back to P.J.O'brien's. There the happy hour had arrived. Happy hour means: Jugs of VB for 7A$ instead of 14A$! Yeah baby! To the ignorant: a jug is just over two pints. I should tell you a quick lesson: 1 jug is 1140ml, 1 pint is 570ml (original would be 568ml, but we're in Australia!), 1 pot is 285ml and one schooner is 425ml (at least in Cairns Casino). There are regional differences, but that's how I learned it. Lesson over. So we had some jugs together and met some new guys. Tyron and Jason from Tasmania, for example. Those two guys were also there for the festival, so I talked to them a lot. Tyron gave me some advice, I should buy a cheap tent from woolworths and a mattress. For shading I should look around the festival for some guys to camp with. Then there was Sarah, a danish girl and her friend whose name I don't remember, but I think she was from England. Sorry, babe :) Well, Sarah was disappointed that I didn't quite know about the fairy tale "The little mermaid". I looked it up on Wikipedia later, so that I could talk with her about it, when me met another time, but we didn't :( I actually knew that tale, but It wouldn't come to me at that very moment. Might have been those jugs...
While falling in love with Cairns and its people, I had to start preparing for the festival which was about to begin on Saturday, 10th of November. I decided to stay one more day in Cairns, 'cause the Eclipse bus had only that one option left where I had a chance to arrive at the festival site at daylight time. It was important to me so that I could see where to put my tent and to avoid all those deadly animals they told us about (crocs, spiders, snakes, scorpions, feral pigs, dingos, ants, mosquitos, sharks, ... no. no sharks). So I bought some stuff: A tent, which I didn't get at woolworths, they were sold out. So I had to go to Rays Outdoors. It is an outdoor supermarket where you can get everything you can imagine for camping. So I found a tent for 49A$, a mattress for 10A$ (single use) and a cheap pocket knife (I think it was 13A$). At the pharmacy I got tea tree oil and a mosquito repellent. The strongest one, just to be sure. And loads of sunscreen. I also bought an extra cooling bag, not for cooling, but for my extra portion of water which everybody should take for the first few hours. I took an extra six litres with me. I could not really carry more so this should have been enough.
Before I tell you about THE festival, I have to say a few more words about lovely Cairns. Just after two days staying there I already felt like being in paradise. It was very hot during the day, so you had to take care about yourself not being burned or dehydrated. But you're able to manage that, if you're not too stupid. At night it was still warm. Definitely warm enough to wear shorts. The pubs had aircons operating at night and when you leave the pub you actually think it is hot outside. Then the people. It is really hard to not meet someone new at night at P.J.O'brien's. So I didn't stop with Tyron, Jason, Sarah, the English girl and the Italian guy, but met more. There were Vernique and Edina (hope I spelled your names right), two wonderful dutch girls which I met at two different nights, there was Jordan, a rastafari-like guy from the States. He actually didn't go for the festival but he would have definitely been the type for that festival. We had an interesting talk about alcohol and weed. Then there was the German guy who lived in Australia for around 25 years, coming here as a backpacker as well. He regularly visited P.J.O'brien's having a beer or two and talking to the travellers like me. It was funny because he said "no worries" all the time, more often than any Australian I ever met. No worries, mate :)
On the last day before leaving for the festival, I sat on the balcony of my hostel and an asian girl sat down at my table. She had a ukulele and started to play and sing some asian song. Wonderful. It just is... another world. It was then, when I decided to leave out Brisbane, so that after the festival I could stay in Cairns a little longer.
Eclipse 2012 Festival
So finally the day had come. 11th November 2012. I took the airport shuttle to get to the Eclipse bus. Of course I met a girl on the shuttle already that also was off for the festival. So we were two who were looking for the bus which wasn't there when we arrived at the airport. Neither there was any processing station where our bus tickets might be checked. We didn't have bus tickets, only receipts. We asked several people and got three different opinions from two people asked. So the adventure was already beginning :).
After a while more people were gathering at the airport and also the scheme of a processing station was forming and finally, around two hours after planned departure our receipts were being checked, it was chaos. Fortunately I had them printed so I was one of the "faster" processed ones. Around 2.30pm, three hours late, the bus was departing for ... the site. I think it is time now to recite the words that were chosen by the festival crew to prepare those who were going to chase the total solar eclipse:
WELCOME TO ECLIPSE 2012 FESTIVAL
The time has finally come!
We'd first like to welcome and thank every single eclipse-chaser out there who has travelled from near and far to join together in Queensland, Australia to celebrate one of nature's most spectacular celestial events - a total solar eclipse.
Take a moment to soak in the spectacular beauty of the land which surrounds you. Honour it and the people around you, for this upcoming week will truly be one of those memorable experiences that stays with you forever.
There is so much to be explored during out time at this event - with a full week of ground-stomping music, eclectic performances, visionary artists, workshops, markets, and much more - be sure to familiarise yourself with the schedules and map listed on the following pages. Remember that it's important to pace yourself, so please keep yourself hydrated and balance the fun with downtimer, especially in the heat of the day. Be sure to get plenty of rest an protect yourself from the tropical heat.
We want to take a moment to thank everyone who has offered their energy and time over the past few years to make Eclipse2012 Festival a reality. It truly has been a collaborative effort on a global scale, and without the passion and dedication of so many we would never have gotten here.
From the entire Eclipse2012 family, we wish you all 7 days filled with harmony, beauty and wonder.
Look after each other and enjoy every moment!
After having soaked in those wonderful and promising words several times, the bus arrived at the site, which was located some kilometres west of Palmer River Roadhouse, a gas station which certainly made a fortune these days. The way to the site showed what they meant with "get yourself a mattress, the ground will be rocky". There was no prepared camp site. It was camping in the bush. Between the trees. Just in the wild. Well, of course there were main paths for driving and walking, but the camping itself was just in the bush. So I spent the first few minutes in that bloody hot and dry climate to look for a place for my tent. I found a spot where there were no visible rocks but a pool of dust which looked like ash. It seemed comfy enough so I asked the guys who camped next to that place and of course I could camp there. Everybody seemed to by your friend here. No, actually, everybody was your friend here.
After having set up my tent, I decided to explore the area a little. The music was more than loud enough at the camp site, but I had paid for more than that ;) So I started to make my way along the big lake - which had several crocodile and no swimming warning signs on it. Thats what I call authentic atmosphere :). When I arrived at the festival area, I was stunned! I saw ... art having been built on the ground. A little later I realised that it was the moon stage. It was a ship which was broken into two parts. In the middle the people were dancing, the nose contained the DJ area while the tail contained all the other technical stuff. There were solar sails to provide for shading. Of course there were some "standard" sails to make it even more look like a ship. And even those provided some more shade.
It was then, when I made my first mistake, when I tried to soak in that spectacular beauty, that was described by the text I cited above. Along with that beauty came some dust into my nose, which wasn't too pleasant. More pleasant was that it was gettin' a little chillier, the sun was going down slowly. I went to the food markets where I had a traditional Yemen wrap which was delicious. Something with tomato, egg, some other vegetables and some Yemen spices whose name I forgot. I was delighted by the vast range of vegetarian food you could buy there and I looked forward to those culinary days coming. I then made my second mistake when I decided to try some more exploring. I got to something which was called "The Village", but I couldn't see very much due to the coming night, so I then thought it might be better going "home". I realised not to bring a flashlight was a pretty bad idea. Fortunately I had my iPhone with me and this flashlight app on it. So it took a while until I found my tent. Since it was a pretty strenous day and it was dark and I wanted to explore at daylight, I decided to go to sleep, although it was not later than 8pm. I listened to some beautiful jazz-like sounds (trumpets and trombones, I thought) before I fell asleep.
The visit from the Alien Monster...
But that first sleep didn't last very long. It was around 12.30AM when I woke up. I opened my eyes and I saw... a shape of... of... I jumped! I think I sat still for around five minutes staring at that shape. That shape had six legs and was about 7-8cm long. As far as I was concerned it could have been a scorpion which was about to cut through the tent and eat me as a whole! At the time writing this down, you must know, I am living through this moment again. I tried to sleep, trying to feel reassured that the thing crawled outside the inner tent. But I found almost no sleep until next morning. First thing I tried to do is ask someone at the info tent. I showed them the photo of that beast. They didn't recognize it. Great. I should try it with first aid. So I asked them and ... they didn't recognize it. GREAT! They said that it probably got lost and tried to find a way out. And that I should try to set it free... :-/. I had no choice but to make the encounter again... myself. Of course that little cunt was still there. So I tapped at the tent and eventually he fell on the ground, seeming a little confused for a few seconds, before he ran off into freedom. I took those seconds of confusion to take another photo of him. I then felt relieved. And a little sorry that I held him so long in my cage. I actually spent so much time with him that I gave him a nickname: Croc.
The same night, when I was trying to figure out what kind of lifeform my little visitor was, I was looking for my flashlight, was getting on my knees... and knelt on my glasses. So meeting Croc was not the only incident that night. I wasn't able to do something about the glasses except cursing and thinking of running around with sunglasses at night. But the next day I met John, a school teacher from north of Sydney, and one more time I felt being under friends and very helpful folks. He had some isolation tape which we used to fix my glasses. It was not very pretty, but it worked. Well, under the circumstances it actually was pretty :). I hereby must again say "thanks, John". He also unravelled the mystery around Croc. His species is called "praying mantis". I heard of it before, of course, but I never have seen one in real life before. So I actually have to say "thanks, Croc" :)
After those first adventures I now explored the festival site. There were six stages: Moon Stage (weird music, mostly not too fast and with deep beats), Sun Stage (fast music, not my type), Chill Stage (you name it), Axis Stage (made by Australian locals), Earth Stage (live music, mostly Reggae) and Sky Stage (very special location). I will go into more detail later. Just wanna say that there were around 15.000 people and six stages. And there was the "village" which consisted of huts for workshops and stuff. It was just a fuckin' vast festival site. I realized just then, that they did a hell of a job with that. They were actually building it for 2 years. Not like a Wacken Open Air which is built in two or three weeks. Besides the six stages and the village there was a huge food area with around 20 different food shops. There were some more near the village. There were a lot paths around the festival and here and there were signs that told you something about the area, the aboriginal people living there, the climate, the great dividing range... It was made with passion.
They had an info tent where you could ask questions, get directions and pick up eye protection for the eclipse. There were also boards made of some kind of cloth where you could attach messages to others like "Hello, I am looking for you, where are you?". I liked the idea of that and pinned a message to Tyron on it, because I didn't know where to find him as well. But fortunately we found each other at a mexican food shop. He and his friend Jason hitchhiked to the festival site with another guy who had a small campervan. They had found a nice spot in the bush above a tiny valley-like ground so it was like a mansion above a canyon... just as a miniature. That's where I visited them from time to time and we had some interesting talks or just relaxed and enjoyed the heat together.
As I mentioned before, the "village" housed many workshops a day in different categories. There were lectures where a someone was speaking about a specific topic and the audience asked questions from time to time and there was a discussion at the end of the lecture. Most topics were about spiritual things like one I visited that was about "The Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor". I don't quite recall everything, but the basic idea of this prophecy is that there are two dimensions in which we are living and neither dimesion knows of the other. There is a time period when those two dimensions exist parallely and after this time period - when the Eagle meets the Condor - they join together and something big will happen. Of course there were similar lectures that all somehow related to the "End of Time" - "Arrival of the New Time" meaning the Mayan Prophecy where the end was supposed to be on 21st December 2012.
Another workshop I visited, which I found highly interesting, was called "Sustainable Festival Spirit - The seed for urban renewal". The speaker was Andre Soares who is the "Sustainability Director" of the "Boom Festival" in Portugal. At that festival they take care of building the festival site out of natural material. I think he said that 80 percent of the used material was not industrially processed before. And on the other side they also used a lot of junk to build new stuff out of it. The main idea is of course to not stress nature any more than necessary. They also build composting toilets which means, that no chemical is used and all remains are composted by nature. On top of all they recycle all the water they use so no water is wasted. More info is available at www.boomfestival.org. Definitely a festival which I intend to visit - 2014.
The third workshop I recall was about "Yoga bass". It was held by the DJ FreQ Nasty and his girlfriend Claire Thompson, a yoga teacher. He spoke about the peak experience that people have on the dancefloor. The moment where you feel like you were one with the music, the beat, or even the other dancers. He explained that this is a similar experience like the yoga experience, that it has in the end actually a relaxing effect. In between Claire Thompson made yoga exercised with the audience. They should remember such an experience described above. I didn't listen to the lecture to the end. It was very interesting, but I was physically exhausted - which is not surprising in a > 40 degrees environment.
To give you an idea of the other available workshops I'll just name some:
- 2012 Survival - Freedom, Bushfoods & Survival Skills
- Om Healing Circle
- Sacred Geometry & The Art of Numbers
- Synergy and Psychoactivity - producing herbal tinctures and alchemical elixirs
- Earthdance - Global Transformation Through Festival Culture
- The Hoop and the Tree - A Hoop Dance Meditation
- Reality Selection and the Power of Disbelief
- Journey to Meet Your Power Animal
Probably not all of them are believable, but I think it is important that there is a platform for those people and topics. In the end everybody has something to say.
Some special stages
One of the special stages I want to mention was the Sky Stage. It wasn't directly visible. You had to go past the food shops, where a dirt track was going downhill and ended in another camping ground. Then there was sand and then you saw a broken sign of a beach bar. It looked very authentic, I just wondered how it came there :) But then there was music leading past that sign and behind some trees you saw the actual beach bar. I found it astonishing how good that was made. On top of that there were street names which had german names. Actually they were Berlin street names. Later I found out, that this stage was indeed made by a german record label. The music was also very good here. You can find some set on soundcloud, for example this one.
The second stage to mention would be the Earth Stage. That was the stage for live performances. This is where I got to know "Tijuana Cartel", a band that played live music (guitar, drums, vocals, some other instruments like trumpet) and combined that with electronic additions. My favourite song is Letting it go. A live performance you can also find on youtube is Tijuana Cartel live at Peats Ridge 2011. This is also the place where I listend to some good, relaxing reggae music. As I later found out, I have seen Johnny Clarke live, which appearently is a reggae legend.
Moon Stage was not always my music and it was the one responsible for the noise in my tent :) But there were some weird DJs with weird music. A good example is this here.
...then came the eclipse. I set three alarms and hoped they'd wake me. The eclipse took place some time after 7am, so it was important to wake up early enough. The first alarm was enough for me to wake up. One guy in the neighbor tent overslept the whole event. Poor guy. So I grabbed my eclipse-glasses and searched for a good spot and found one some metres uphill. Meanwhile most of the stages went silent which was a wicked feeling after all these days with non-stop noise. It took a long time until totality, but it was worth it. Just before darkness you felt a chill. The sun was losing strength, the sky changed colors and finally the sun went dark. Now I removed the eclipse-glasses and there was a beautiful shining corona around the moon. The sky around it was black, but in the distance it was blue and on the horizon it went yellow. A very surreal picture. So it lasted about 2 minutes until the sun came back. And it came back as if a new life was born. The two minutes of missing sunlight made the lake to go completely silent. Even after ten minutes or so when I walked past it, it was still pretty silent. It was a very short, but very intense experience.
As was the whole festival. So I had two more wonderful days and on friday I took the bus back to Cairns. I had booked for six more nights in Cairns or so. I had to relax from the festival a bit. Coming back into civilization so to say. I used those days for writing postcards. I used three different pics I made at the festival and printed them to use them as postcards. (photos coming someday)
There was of course one thing left that I had to do while I had the chance: Visiting the Great Barrier Reef. So I booked a flight over it - I'm not so good with water and love flying. I thought that I booked a helicopter flight, but it was actually a cessna flight. And that was even greater. It was my first flight in a cessna (photos and videos coming someday). We flew out to a reef, made some rounds over a coral which had the form of a heart and then flew back. We were by the way flying from Cairns International Airport. It was a funny feeling sharing the same runway with the big planes.
The other day I made a tour to the tablelands southwest of Cairns. It was a guided tour and we had a tourbus for around 15 people. The tablelands are a plateu which is at about 800m altitude. We visited a little bit of jungle (cathedral fig tree), a lake where we could swim and the Mount Hypipamee Crater, which is a hole in the ground with water in it and it is supposed to go several hundred meters deeper, but no one can say because divers didn't reach the bottom of it. Before we went back to Cairns, we held at a small river where we spotted some platypus. Our last station was a hotel which belongs to the tour company (forgot the name) and then we drove back to cairns.
After this wonderful time I had in Cairns and at the eclipse festival, I flew to Sydney over Brisbane. Of Brisbane I only saw the city from above and the airport from inside. My initial intention was to visit Brisbane for a longer time, but Cairns was so good, I decided to stay there longer. So I came to Sydney where I stayed 10 years ago for around one month. Sydney was the perfect place to get used to the hectic living again. Sydney is huge compared to other cities that I have visited. Bigger than I remembered. And different compared to it was 10 years ago as well. For once the weather. I met two women in the airport shuttle who told me that Sydney is now the Melbourne and Melbourne is now the Sydney. Meaning that 10 years ago you had four seasons in one day in Melbourne and that is now obviously the case in Sydney. In November 2002 Sydney was hot, the November 2012 was not. Now Melbourne gets better weather apparently... Then the food courts. They consist of 9 asia restaurants and 1 Subway, maybe a pizza restaurant. So I had the choice between Subway and maybe a pizza. In 2002 there were food courts with more variety and you could buy a 0,5 orange juice for 1$. Now you pay 5 and above.
But Sydney was not overall bad. One night I thought that I might want to visit the hostel where I stayed in 2002. The Hotel Altamont. It actually is a hotel but it had 2 or 3 dorms for backpackers. The owner was a nice guy with the name Adam. I thought, maybe he is still there, maybe not. So I walked to 207 Darlinghurst Road and looked from outside in the hotel and indeed, there was an old man sitting at his desk and I decided to say hello. So I went through the door and the man looked up at me and said: "Hello Thomas, how are you?"
to be continued...