Nomad Together

Ever wonder “why” we travel full time?

Listen in to this interview with NomadTogether and hear our very candid story. We share the in’s and out’s of community life, music, and marriage/family on the road.

*Topic for this podcast interview: Swimming Upstream-Redefining Your Reality 

We live in a culture that is individualistic and prides its self on being independent and self-sustainable. Comfort, independence and, security are at the top of the list for most people. But, what if these norms that our culture values are masking our longing for a deeper sense of community and adventure?

What we have learned thus far…

To clarify, when we talk about swimming upstream we are talking about swimming in the same waters as everyone else, just moving in a different direction. We are not talking about jumping out of the river into a whole other body of water and creating our own stream (flow). That would be too easy. We are not of this world but we are surely in it. And, because we are in it, we seek to understand the flow, the systems in place and the direction whatever society we are in is going.

One of the keys to swimming upstream culturally is to begin to ask questions. especially “why” questions.We asked questions like, Why do we care so much about status and wealth? What role should education, healthcare, and the pursuit of happiness have in our lives? What is freedom? What is interdependence and why is so vital to our existence? Who are we and what are do we do best as a team? 

That doesn’t mean that we have it all figured out, but to ask questions in and of itself is the beginning stroke of swimming upstream. Not in any sort of snarky or “we’re better than you sort of way,” but why as a curiosity, as a way of engaging the culture around us, challenging and probing into the possibilities or ways of defining the reality.

Also, to swim upstream requires an exceptional amount of patience both for ourselves and those around us. It requires that we have compassion for those going the other direction, going with the flow. It means offering a humble example of flowing another way but understanding that not everyone is keen and rejection is inevitable. It means that when we think we have it all figured out that we’ve probably jumped into a pond and are no longer swimming upstream but rather, we have isolated ourselves with only those who are like minded.

Our hope is that those we meet along the way would be encouraged to start asking questions for themselves. Not for the purpose of getting them to a place where they clone our nomadic lifestyle. Rather, to inspire them to start dreaming and move into the mystery of what swimming upstream might look like for them in their context, with their gift set. 

We unpack all of these things in the Podcast Nomad Together. Have a listen.

The Path

There was a family, a mother, father, sister, and brother, bound to one another in blood and a vision to spread a deep and unequivocal love throughout the lands. They ran and ran as fast as they could to as many places as the fingers on their hands.

Then, one day, they stumbled upon a cave. They wandered in, finding many along the way who were hiding in the shadows. They offered light and love to all they met along the way. They followed the path deeper into the cave and finally into a large open cavern. They halted to observe the many openings.

They knew this place for this place had been foretold to them and they knew that it was time for each to take their own path. They were told that this was an important part of their journey. That the individual journeys would strengthen them and they were assured that these paths would one day all wind back together.

They meandered around the opening for quite some time contemplating, praying, putting fears aside and saying goodbye. And then, one day they got up, bid farewell and each entered into their path.

 

Shambhala In Your Heart

Two years ago we visited friends of friends in the Northern Thailand town of Pai. Once there we discovered not only the beauty of a new place but also sincere friendship at Shekina Gardens. We kept in touch with our new friends and recently reached out to them for a return visit. They told us about a 10-day festival called Shambhala in Your Heart, hosted by a Japanese community, based in Thailand. They said that the festival happens every February and suggested we join them there. We contacted the festival to inquire about performing and they accepted our proposal. Our friend and fellow bus rider, Jeffrey, contacted us and asked to join as well. He met us in Australia and we all flew over together.

We arrived in the small town of Chiang Dao on a warm Thursday afternoon and found our way to the festival grounds. We were greeted by the mighty, mist-shrouded Doi Luang mountain. Teepees and tents sprinkled the grounds, prayer flags blew in the breeze and happy hippies from around the globe frolicked in the stream. We met a new friend named Totto and asked her what Shambhala actually meant. She explained that in Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Shambhala; is a mythical kingdom and suggested it was like being safe in the palm of the Buddha’s hand.

The days were filled with workshops in the arts, history, crafts, every kind of yoga that exists, sound therapy, and meditation. In fact, our friends from Shekina Gardens hosted a gentle and exploratory “Christ-centered” meditation every day in one of the Teepees. This was the first year they were invited to lead and we found the gesture to be quite progressive and affirming to our faith practice. It complimented the intercultural nature of the festival and enhanced what seemed to be a core ideology of an open and simple life for all, free from greed, destruction, and war.

One favorite workshop was about the history of the indigenous people, or the Ainu people in Japan. (Ainu” means “human”.)  Some attention was given to the plight of the Ainu people in Japan and how in 1899 Japan created a law that restricted the Ainu from participating in their own cultural activities. In other words, the Ainu people were stripped of their land, customs, and language in hopes that they would assimilate to Japanese culture. It wasn’t until 1997 that this law was lifted and the Ainu people were allowed to practice their own customs again. It was both enlighting and disheartening to learn of this considering the plight of our own indigenous friends in both Australia and the US and stirred in us an advocates heart. Most of the class, however, was on the rituals and beliefs of the Ainu people. We learned that they regard things that are useful to them or beyond their control as “kamuy”(gods). In daily life, they pray to and perform various ceremonies for the gods. We learned about the ancient practice of “stitching”. In this practice, Ainu women weave and elaborately decorate the traditional ceremonial clothing with symbols of the of the gods including “nature” gods, such as of fire, water, wind and thunder and “animal” gods, such as the bear or crow. Then we were given opportunities to learn the craft of stitching ourselves. It was a fascinating and inspiring way to spend an afternoon.

Another fun activity was just a short walk down the road to the sulfur hot springs. It was free to the public and offered a variety of tubs varying in temperature. Our new (10yr old) friend, David, from Russia, joined us one afternoon and we had a lively discussion about how much he loves fire. When I suggested he become a fireman when he grows up, he looked at me and said with disgust “I do not want to kill fire! I want to make fire big! Very big! I want to be fire!” Haha!! Watch out world!

In the evenings there was music, fire twirling, and dancing. At some point during the night, there were announcements. Three speakers took the stage, one spoke Japanese, one Thai, and one English. It was fascinating to watch them translate for one another. Most of the announcements had to do with interacting with and respecting the local village and culture; things like respecting the village by putting on more clothes (not cool to run around in bikini’s or shirtless in Thailand) or quiet hours starting at midnight. It was refreshing to watch these leaders setting a tone of humility and harmony by offering us wisdom to better interact with the local culture.

There were two performance stages. The kitchen stage ran during the afternoon and featured open mics, poetry, and spoken word. The main stage was in the middle of the grounds and ran in the evening from 5:30pm-midnight. The bands varied from singer/songwriters to full-on rock/reggae bands and most were from Thailand or Japan. There were also a handful of performance art/dance acts.

The Hollands! performed a rollicking set on a Wednesday night just as the sun was setting. We shared six songs and invited our friends Ro and Aya to join us on Morning Star, our last song. The crowd was enchanting as they danced, sang and encouraged us with their smiles. It was most certainly one of our favorite performance interactions. Besides our official performance, we also spent quite a bit of the festival jamming old bluegrass and folk tunes with other muso’s. Jeffrey really stood out at the festival with his mad violin skills! He was even invited to play a haunting set during the fire spinning show. It was fire and violin, quite the beautiful combination.

On a side note: We stayed at Koko Home. (There was camping at the festival but the cost to buy all the gear was about the same as staying at Koko’s, so we opted for comfort). We rented out the family room for four people, with a queen and bunks for about $1000TBT a night (That’s about $30USD) The room was clean and air-conditioned, which was refreshing as some of the days it got up to 98f. We also rented one moped from Koko and used it to shuttle back and forth. Koko and his family were amazing hosts. Koko spoke English well and invited all the guest, including us, to a home cooked meal and jam one of the nights. His wife made Khao Soi, which is a soup-like dish made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chilies fried in oil, and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk. It is our new favorite and we will be looking for it on every Thia menu we can find it on!

PS. If you are keen to go to Shambhala in Your Heart and want more information on logistics,  Joanna’s “Blond Travels” blog was very helpful.

And be sure to like the festival’s facebook page.

Earthships, Mud Baths and The Taos Pueblo

We have been to New Mexico every year for the past six years. We normally stop in to see some of our favorite kinfolk in ABQ. We love New Mexico and as residents, they obviously love New Mexico too. Inevitably our conversation drifts towards other great places in New Mexico to visit and Taos always rises to the top of their list. So, this time around, we decided to stop in Taos to see what all of the hoopla was all about. We are glad we did! What a fantastic place!

We only had two days up our sleeve so we decided to book an RV spot at the Taos Monte Bello RV Park, which sits about fifteen minutes northwest of the city center. The park was clean, gated and provided a beautiful backdrop for our big ol’ rig, “Celu.” We paid with cash and used our Good Sam discount, paying a total of $76 for the two nights.

We pulled in to our site around 2 pm and spent a few hours settling in, putting together a picnic. At 5 pm we drove 40 minutes west, popping in for a quick view of the Rio Grande Gorge, then on to Ojo Caliente’ Spa and Resort to enjoy a sunset soak.  We arrived at Ojo Caliente’ at 6 pm. The sunset soak runs from 6-10pm and is $17.50 per person. It includes 7 different mineral soaking pools, a mud bath that stays open for the first half hour, as well as, a sauna and eucalyptus steam room. The price also includes a towel, the use of a locker, fancy essential oil soaps, and other amenities in the locker rooms.

The facility was clean, beautiful, quiet, and the calm incense of sage wafted through the grounds. We soaked, laid in hammocks, read books and soaked some more. Then about 8 pm we dried off and went out to the picnic area to refresh with veggies, hummus, cheese and crackers and a fruit bowl, then we went back in for a final soak, sauna, and steam. We made it back to the bus about 11 pm and slept hard through the night.

The next morning we enjoyed a lazy start, eating breakfast on the bus before heading into town to do a little thrifting.  We found a few great thrift stores but our favorite was Pieces. The items were higher end and the prices reflected that. So, we went straight for the sale tags and found a few reasonably priced treasures, including a beautiful tunic from India and an NM Turquoise ring.

After our treasure hunting thrill, we drove through the touristy downtown and snapped a few pictures, then made our way to The Coffee Spot to refuel. I ordered their house made Chai with Almond Milk and was pleased with the blend of spice and flavor.

Craig had looked up things to do in Taos and discovered the Earthship Village. An Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by the architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970’s. Taos, NM has a large village and a building school where you can go to learn the craft. Craig, being the learner and builder that he is, was very interested in hearing the inside story of this place.  We inquired about a tour but found that the cost was prohibitive for us wanderers. We decided to trek over anyways, just to have a look and despite the signs that read “no trespassing,” we ended up doing a drive through the neighborhood. Our roadside view allowed us to see just the tops of the homes but we were fascinated and declared that next time around we’d seek out a local to show us the ropes.

Another finding of Craigs was the Taos Pueblo, which is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. This special place is the only UNESCO Site in the United States and the Taos Pueblo has been one of the only continuously inhabited neighborhoods since time immemorial. We found it a remarkable example of preserved traditional architecture from the pre-Hispanic period of the Americas and learned it is unique to this region. We also learned that because of the living culture of its community, it has successfully retained most of its traditional forms up to the present day. And so, we trod lightly through their neighborhood, respecting their desire for tourist to withhold from taking photos. In fact, the only photo I took was a view from the parking lot. However, there are several really good shots on the UNESCO Site.

After a quick bite to eat we made our way a few miles down the road to the Taos Mesa Brewery to see our friend, Nahko, and Medicine for the People, perform at the breweries amphitheater. The facility and grounds were artsy, industrial and funky with mountains off in the distance and the staff was laid back, which made for a very relaxed evening. While at the concert, we met a few locals around the bonfire and had an opportunity to hear stories about what life was like in Taos. We also met folks from the Earthship school and were able to pick their brains about what they were learning, which rounded out our curiosity and made some of the things we had seen in our driving tour make more sense.

The next morning, we sat and had a coffee, enjoying our view one last time and then drove off into the distance towards Colorado Springs.

Changing Skin

It’s been two years since we ditched the bus to roam around the globe to learn, listen and encourage. We’ve been to nine countries in that time and written story after story about that season.

We detoured back the US in November of 2016 and when we left Australia in November, we arrived minus one Holland. Our daughter, Graciana, stayed back in Australia to navigating the world of “adulting.” We have watched from afar as she has learned some hard lessons. Good Night! What a paradox to go from being so engaged in the development of your child, catching them when they fall, to then having virtually no ability to reach out and soften the blows. And yet, she has rallied and it has been a joy to watch her begin to fly!

For the past six-month we’ve been in Phoenix, AZ. (our longest stop in six years!) and have been just soaking in good family time. While here we have been journeying alongside my parents as they both went through a sort of metamorphosis, getting their new skin as I like to call it. They have both been working through their difficult cancer diagnosis. My father, battling an aggressive Prostate cancer and my mother with a slow growing non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  It has been an absolute joy to participate in daily community with them, lending a helping hand and watching them both overcome the obstacles set before them.

I have always loved my parents but I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that this intense time with them has allowed me to fall in love with both of them in a new and fresh way. They are each so unique and fantastic in their own right and together they are team Price!

I have loved just sitting and listening to them reminisce and share stories of their lives. Some of them stories I have never heard before. If I could have kept a recorder going the whole six months, I would have. For now, those precious memories have been captured in my mind’s eye.

Over the months, we watched them go from about a three to an eight and as they continue to exercise, sharpen their minds and use food as a source of healing, they continue to excel. My dad has had a rebirth of creativity and over the time we’ve been with them, he has designed websites, written books for 2BRealMen and written curriculum for an online class for his Twisted Thinking Transformed material. It’s been a blast to watch him soar! Then, this past week we all pitched in and moved my parents into their awesome new apartment. They are happy and healthy, ready for a new adventure! And, as we leave them, we are expectant that it will be the richest chapter of their lives.

The season of backpacking/global travel, releasing our daughter into the big wide world, dovetailed by our current stop over with my parents, has been the most difficult and most engaging two years of our journey thus far. We have experienced a refining in ways that are still manifesting and will most likely be for the years to come. We have discovered that like the honey bee, we are built to pollinate. We launch, refueled and ready to ignite love, truth, and life…to any we meet along the way.

We’ll kick start our six-month journey in Phoenix, AZ and route north to CO then jog east to MI, loop back west through UT, then north to Calgary, Canada! Then west to Vancouver and south to LA, finally back to PHX!! That will take us approximately 8000 miles. Our hope then is to fly back to Australia for another trek around the globe. More info on our actually routing HERE…

Lastly, it’s been brought to my attention that I need to ask more often for help/support. So, if you feel led to give monthly, so as to spur us on practically but also build up our faith, you can do so at MODERNDAY.

Thanks for caring for us with your faithful prayers and encouraging words this past season. We look joyward to continuing to share the love and stories along the way.

 

From There // To Here

It’s the final countdown!! We launch for our 2017 US/CANADA TOUR on JUNE 9! Dates below…

Craig has been working like mad to get our bus in good working order for our six-month trek around the US and Canada! He’s been dealing with all the mechanical issues, installing under cabinet lighting, a new Air/Con system (which we’ve waited nearly six years for), and giving the bathroom a facelift. Plus rehearsing and writing music, helping my parents with odds and ends and working a part-time job building stuff for other people, the man is an absolute machine!

Anyway, we have a pretty amazing route set before us, which will take us approximately 8000 miles. We’ve got loads of stops and we can not wait to see so many of you kinfolk!!

If you see yourself on our route and would like to connect with us, we’d be delighted! Just send us a message at thehollands @ thehollands.org

Our routing will be as follows:

June 9-11 Los Cerrillos, NM
June 12-13 Taos, NM
June 14 Colorado Springs, CO
June 15 Wellfleet, NE
June 16 Omaha, NE
June 17 Des Moines, IA
June 18-21 Mt. Vernon, IA
June 22-25 Green Bay, WI
June 26-29 Sturgeon Bay, WI
June 29-July 2 Urbana, IL
July 3-14 Muskegon, MI
July 15-16 Chicago, IL
July 17-26 Sturgeon Bay, WI
July 27 Milwaukee, WI
July 28 Elkhart, IN
July 29-31 St. Louis, MO
Aug 1-2 Kansas City, MO
Aug 3 Hays, KS
Aug 4-6 Denver, CO
Aug 7-10 Timberline, Frasier, CO
Aug 11 Heber City, UT
Aug 12-20 Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 21-25 Yellowstone, MT
Aug 26-31 Bozeman, MT
Sept 1 Somewhere between Bozeman and Calgary?
Sept 2- 5 Calgary
Sept 6-7 Banff
Sept 9-10 Kelowna
Sept 10-13 Vancouver and surrounding areas
Sept 14-20 Mossyrock, WA
Sept 21-22 Portland, OR
Sept 23-28 Bend, Or
Sept 29 Somewhere between Bend, OR and Redding, CA
Sept 30-Oct 1 Redding, CA
Oct 2-8 Oakland, CA
Oct 9-15 Carmel/Monterey, CA
Oct 16-17 Los Angelos area
Oct 18-25 Phoenix, AZ

Of course, we’ll be merrymaking all along the way and our tour dates are up at www.thehollands.org

Look forward to seeing y’all out on the open road!!
Love,
The Hollands!

Bordertown Sheep Farm

With a head count of 75 million sheep, the second largest sheep population in the world, and traditional sheep shearing bush songs like Click Go the Sheers, Australia is definitely known for its sheep farms!

I’m a sucker for those timid but wild beasts and am always telling my husband to pull off the road so I can get a photo! I’ve even written about them in one of our songs, where I dream about one day owning a sheep farm. So, a few years ago, when we meet a sheep farmer named Trevor Thomas and his family at the Bendigo Blues and Roots festival, we made sure to stay in contact in hopes of one day visiting their sheep farm in Bordertown, South Australia. Their oldest daughter, Sarah and I exchanged Instagrams and eventually we wound our way through Bordertown for a lovely afternoon meal and tour of the farm.

Bordertown, SA sits about 18 klm from the South Australian/Victorian border and is the halfway point when you drive from Adelaide to Melbourne. It’s a small town of about 2500 population and the hub for many of South Australia’s farmers. This part of the country is ripe for agriculture, specifically cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats, as well as, livestock such as sheep, cattle and pigs. The terrain is flat, with thinly lined trees here and there, similar to the landscape of Nebraska in the USA. At night, you can see the stars all the way down to the earth’s horizon and on clear day you can see a good three miles out.

The Thomas farm was established many generations ago and is home to hundreds of sheep and a few large wheat fields. When we arrived, Trevor invited us into the shearing shack where we got a little homeschool lesson on the in’s and out’s of this very manual process of shearing.

Sheep shearing 101: Cutting or shaving the wool off of a sheep is called shearing. Shearing is similar to getting a hair cut. However, shearing requires skill so that the sheep is shorn efficiently and quickly without causing cuts or injury to the sheep or shearer. Most sheep are sheared with electric shears and the fleece is removed in one piece. A professional shearer can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes and the world record is 37.9 seconds, set in 2016 by Ivan Scott from Ireland.

Sheep are usually sheared once per year, before lambing or in the spring before the onset of warm weather. Sheep with long fleeces are sometimes sheared twice a year. Shearing prior to lambing results in a cleaner environment for the baby lambs. It also keeps the fleeces cleaner.

We were in the shack for approximately thirty minutes and during that time we saw about 20 sheep get their annual hair cut. It was intense but the shearing team, (a father and son) were so calculated and precise that the sheep barely had time to really understand what was happening before it was all over and they were ushered out of the shack in to the greater holding pen. They would then be washed in a special liquid that would help clean and heal any nicks or cuts and finally set out into pasture.

As the sheep were sheared, Trevor explained the process of taking the wool to market and which would eventually bring the wool into the hands of spinners and finally to the yarn shelves across the country.

It was intriguing to be in able to learn about this fantastic tradition of sheep shearing! However, the highlight of our visit was sharing a meal around the farmhouse table prepared by three generations of Thomas ladies! The aromas were delightful as they had been cooking all morning and the spread they made was that of a Christmas feast!

I asked if it was a special occasion and they answered, “no, that this is what they make every day for lunch during shearing season.” The three coarse meal, of roast chicken, lamb and veggies, potatoes, and a salad also including a delicious homemade dessert. It was part of their offering to the sheep shearers for their hard work, which by the way, the shearers only had thirty minutes to eat and get back to the shack. That thirty minutes was so fascinating however, as we were able to ask all sort of questions about daily life on the farm, how they handle the uncertainty of weather patterns, global warming, farming technics, the costs and factors that make up good farming practices.

It’s one thing to learn about these sorts of things from a text-book or a TED Talk and a wholly other thing to actually sit across the table from those you are curious about and unpack ideologies, preconceived notions and ultimately talk about dreams for the future. Thankful for kinfolk like the Thomas family, willing to take in us weary travelers and allow us to engage, even if just for a moment, catching a little glimpse into their every day, extraordinary lives.

Songlines

The East and West MacDonnell Ranges stretch out for hundreds of kilometres on both sides of Alice Springs. The traditional owners of the Alice Springs area, the Arrernte people, believe giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye became the Ranges – they entered this world through one of the dramatic gaps in the escarpments of the area.

While in Alice Springs we stumbled our way around these giant caterpillars, spending a lot of time in Simpsons Gap. We found it fascinating how we could walk for hours and always end up in what seemed like the same place. To the untrained eye it can be overwhelmingly disorienting with the extreme heat, blurred vision and an eerie stillness in the air.

However, the day we arrived everything was in full bloom and fresh cool water was in the rock pool. Some of the dead tree trunks showed the remnants of fire, presumably from a sacred ceremony.  I though about the stories I had heard about the ancient Aboriginal songlines, also called dreaming tracks.

From what I had learned, these (paths) songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and paintings. By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous people can navigate vast distances, citing landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. However, songlines are more than just a pre-goggle maps way of navigating the aired land. The songlines also carry the history of the land and of their people in harmony with the land. They believe the footprints of their Creation Ancestors are on the rocks and learn from their elders the sacred sites, the stories, song, dance and with them the Tjukurpa (the Dreaming Law). Thus, the songlines are acts of remembrance, involving mind and body. Through the songlines the Aboriginal people continually recreate the Tjukurpa connecting them to past, present and future.

I could feel the history of these ancient people under my feet and respectfully I treaded lightly. I felt welcomed though, welcome to take time to reflect on my own history and faith. As I sat under a giant old gum tree, precious memories of my own Grandma Grace’s songlines came to mind.

I meditated on all the ways that she passed on tradition and story, of self and of God, singing in her beautiful angelic voice, sweet old hymns about the paths set ahead and those who have gone before us. She sang of a Creator God who longs to walk with us, to talk with us and to tell us we are not alone. Oh! To know we are not alone!

I remembered her voice in the stillness. As tears rolled down my cheeks, a song began to flow off of my lips and I joined her in harmony singing.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Beyond Thunderdome

img_2714Upon first appearances, Coober Pedy, South Australia, feels like a post-apocalyptic scene out of a Mad Max* movie. And, rightly so, it was the backdrop for the film, Beyond Thunderdome. It’s eery and vast with mounds of sand and rock piles as far at the eye can see. Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual places in Australia and perhaps the world. It’s also one of the hottest places in Australia, with summer temperatures often reaching 45°C, and ground temperatures reaching as high as 65°C.

Before white fella came into the territory, Aboriginal nomadic hunters and gatherers travelled the rugged terrain constantly in search of food and water supplies as well as to attend traditional ceremonies. In fact, the name “Coober Pedy” comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means “boys’ waterhole.”

img_2703The first European explorer to pass near the site of Coober Pedy was Scottish-born John McDouall Stuart in 1858, but the town was not established until after 1915, when the first opal was discovered by Wille Hutchison. Miners followed in 1916 and by 1999, there were more than 250,000 mine shaft entrances in the area. With laws in place discouraging large-scale mining  any novice with equipment and fortitude can test their luck mining for an opals. Once a license is acquired, each prospector has 165-square-foot to claim their lot.

img_2686

img_2708Coober Pedy has a modest local population of about 3,500 and attracts folks from over 45 different countries. Most of them come to Coober Pedy for one thing; Opals.

Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called “dugouts”, which are basically mine shafts, built into homes. Some of them with elaborate interiors, large ballrooms and underground pools.

One of our favorite dugouts was the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian’s came in droves to Coober Pedy to try their hand at Opal mining in the early 90’s and the church was built-in 1993. It is the town’s largest and most impressive underground church, with intricate rock-wall carvings and a gorgeous vaulted ceiling. The stained glass window provide a celestial atmosphere in the standing room only sanctuary.

 

img_2952Another interesting area in Coober Pedy is “the Breakaways.” The Breakaway Reserve gets its name from the massive rocks and plateaus that from a distance look like they have “broken away” from the main range.

Our favorite was the formation known by non-aboriginal people as “salt and pepper” or the “castle”. To the Aboriginal people, they are known as the “Two Dogs (Pupa)” sitting down, one yellow dog and one white dog. To the south-west of Two Dogs is a peaked hill, known as Man (Wati) who is the owner of the dogs.

Practically speaking, the town had all the amenities that one might need when traveling through. There is a local grocery store with a decent organic section, a backpackers, camping, plenty of Air BnB’s and a few nice hotels (most of which are underground), gas to refuel, and one of the best Pizza joints in South Australia, John’s Pizza. There is even a golf course, which you have to play at night with glow in the dark golf balls. And, of course there are Opals.

Whether you are heading north to Alice Springs or south to Adelaide, Coober Pedy is the place to stop.

*Other major movies, filmed here on location include, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ground Zero, and Pitch Black.

Our Epic City Hike

One sunny afternoon, early August, we took an epic city hike. That’s right, I said city hike. We love our nature hikes and have been on all sorts of amazing hikes, from Tent Rocks in New Mexico, the Singing Saguaros in Arizona, to the Mississippi Head Waters in Northern Minnesota. We’ve also been to many awesome cities around the globe but the city hike in Sydney was extraordinary!

syd-hike-jpgOur hike began just after lunch and took us home by dinner. We started off at St. Johns Anglican Church on Glebe Point Road and walked north to the Sydney Fish Market, had a quick look around and I say quick because we couldn’t quite handle the smell. We kept walking north to the Australian National Maritime Museum, where we walked the docks and caught a glimpse of all of the tall ships before heading east over the foot bridge into the heart of the city. The city was grand with its tall buildings but it was the gardens that really caught our eyes.Sydney was definitely not a concrete city as the common spaces were beautifully orchestrated with trees, flowers and ferns.

We made our way north towards the Sydney Opera House, where we sat for a bit, soaking in all of the sights and sounds. Their were birds in the air, ships in the sea and people hustling here and there. Honestly, we could have sat there on those steps for hours and hours watching the world dance and interact with each other. But alas, the day was getting on and we were only half way. We began our trek south past the Governors house through the Botanical Gardens where we took a little coffee break at the gardens cafe. The coffee was average but the opportunity to sit for a moment and catch our breath was worth the stop.

Once we had our legs back under us we kept on towards the Art Gallery of NSW. We spent a good hour in the gallery, (which is free to enter, by the way) we spent our time specifically in the basement, which is where the temporary installments are displayed. After the Art Museum we started to make our way home via St. Mary’s Cathedral on through Hyde Park where we caught a bus the rest of the way home. All up our day cost us $30 for coffee and the bus fare. Had we wanted to spend more time in the Maritime Museum we could have paid for the family pack at $75 but decided to save that for another day.

img_1727Being based in Glebe for six weeks, and it’s location was ideal for our grand city hike. The assurance of a warm and comfortable home to come back to and catch our breath made all the difference in the amount of energy output we needed to walk the 10 kilometers throughout the city.

I had made a delightful dinner ahead of time, so when we returned we just flopped down in our seats, enjoyed dinner and eventually the boys found their way back into to their favorite position.

The memory of this day is special not only because Sydney proved to be a beautiful city to hike but because we experienced it together, as a family. Our little nephew was even able to fly up from Melbourne to join us. We cherish these moments, savory them, every single one.