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Hulled up in Darwin – thrift, theft and fish in the top end

When we walked through the gates of the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association (DBCYA), we soon arrived at this little encampment,

and met Ray and his mate Ben. Ray is the brother of a friend back home in Djaara Country, and he kindly invited us to stay on his boat, which is ‘on the hard’.

Named after his sister who died from breast cancer, Crissy Anne is Ray’s steel hull boat, which he is working on in preparation to sail around the world next year. After we arrived, he invited us to join his local sailing cohort at the bar at DBCYA ,

where we spoke to many of the folk there of our desire to crew a boat over the drink to Timor Leste or Indonesia. We were advised to post our wish on the various yachting websites, and to put up a poster on the association’s notice board, which we did the next day,

coupled with doing some much needed washing.

The following days were spent adjusting to ‘Darwin time.’ We were a bit restless to explore this little city none of us had visited before. “Go slow and calm the farm,” Ray told us, and “drink a load of water first thing in the mornings.” We were still somewhat in our get-shit-done southerner harvest-season bodies, and we’d arrived to 32 degree celsius days with overnight lows of just 18. On our first day we walked a 6 km round trip to Mindil Beach Sunset Market, hoping for fresh produce. We got instead over-priced tourist food, though they didn’t skip on the sunset.

For we adults, while Woody sleeps, our morning tea ritual is a sacred time. Between Crissy Anne and the laundry, a large patch of Tulsi grows. A powerful herb of the subtropical regions of the world, Tulsi is a perennial basil and an adaptogen,

and a dear friend of the nervous system, especially in times of change and turbulence.

When Woody gets up, and has had his oat breakfast,

it’s time to get going. Our project on the third day was to go out to Ray’s other boat, Orfeo, which is moored in the harbour. Ray said we’d be welcome to stay on this old yacht, and help get our sea legs in preparation for crewing a boat. He suggested we travel back and forth to Orfeo by the canoe he was recently given. So we loaded up, and pulled and strained the old gal a few hundred metres,

down to the wharf, dropped the canoe into the water and left Meg on the landing, as we were concerned the load was already too heavy.

Patrick and Woody rowed over our packs, food bags and instruments, then came back for Meg. We all approached our new home with excitement.

While Woody fished, his parents cleaned up the galley and were settling in when it became evident that Orfeo was an ill-fated operation.

There were problems with the solar power system, so there was no electricity, meaning our perishable food was being cooked by the day’s heat collecting inside the boat. We tried to problem-solve with Ben by phone, but the multimeter was back on shore, and there was no way we could locate the problem. Then we discovered that the canoe was taking in water. Patrick used a cup to empty it and we repacked the little boat and rowed back to shore with our sea tails between our legs. We moved back into Crissy Anne and in the work area beneath her we lived, cooked, communed with Ray and his many friends, and in the quieter times Meg got some office work done for our dear friends and permaculture elders, David Holmgren and Su Dennett.

Patrick worked on Ray’s collection of bikes. We may not be sea savvy folk, but we are bike savvy.

Only one of Ray’s four bikes was in working order, so Patrick stepped into his mechanic body until they were all functional.

As soon as we hit the road on these cruisy contraptions, we began to feel more at home in Darwin. “You don’t get done for not wearing a helmet,” said Ben, “if you stick on the bike paths you’ll be fine. The cops have plenty of other things to deal with.” The cult of safetyism in Australia’s southern states was just not apparent here. Instead of KeepCups and lattés as the dominant cultural drug-milieu by day, it is stubby holders and beer up here, which creates a continual boozy social environment. For a family on bikes, we had to be vigilant.

The bike paths are numerous and the little city is mostly flat.

There were shouts of joy as we rode Larrakia (saltwater) people’s Country, and the warm wind whooshed over the stickiness of our skin. We explored fishing spots,

caught some lovely things such as Blue swimmer crabs,

and introduced ourselves to a shell fish we’d never seen before, and strangely couldn’t ID it.

We sat, reflected, listened and relaxed in saltwater Country,

and gleaned old line and tackle on the low tide, salvaging the useful parts and binning the potentially hazardous.

We caught a bunch of fish in the first part of the week we were in Darwin, but many of them were inedible (puffer and bat fish), or they were undersize (bream and trevally). The blue bike Patrick fixed, the best of Ray’s treadlies, was stolen from underneath Crissy Anne the night after it was back on the road. Alongside feeling relaxed here in Darwin, we have also felt an uneasiness; a discomfort.

After many conversations with locals it was becoming increasingly apparent that crewing a boat for a family of three with no sailing experience was a bit of a pipe dream. We were generously offered a passage to Indonesia with Sleepy Dave, but he isn’t going until August. India is calling.

Ray is a yacht race referee in Darwin. He presides over the organisation of a number of races and he told us many sailors stay in Darwin over the dry season to join these events or repair their boats.

Ray has been so generous, going out of his way to help us while in we’ve been in Darwin. But, having inhabited the belly of Crissy Anne for several days,

we don’t want to overstay our welcome. With a fair amount of reluctance we booked a short flight to Dili in Timor Leste, 720 kms away. For a little more we could go all the way to India, but that’s not the point of this trip, to travel so fast. Meg and Patrick haven’t been overseas for twenty years, and Woody never has. We were really hoping we could do it without flying. From Dili we intend to continue northward, island-hopping towards India. Now we’ve made that decision we have work to do. Foremost, biking our winter gear and sleeping bags up to the post office to send home,

op-shopping for summer wear,

by thrift and by chance,

and obtaining some US dollars for Timor.

It’s been a strange time in Darwin. It’s almost a segregated town, at least from an outsider’s view. There’s mob here that are not Larrakia people, who have come to Darwin from remote communities, or other parts of the country. Then there’s mob here that have big grief stories, who have turned to substances that bedevil them, which in turn keeps them exiled from their respective communities. These troubled street folk are treated sternly, sometimes viciously by settler shopkeepers, security guards and managers of supermarkets across all ethnicities. Visitors are warned by locals not to engage with blackfellas looking for coin, smokes or grog, so they are often ignored or avoided. Ben told us, “It takes about two weeks for newcomers to Darwin to become racist.” On the street you have drug and alcohol affliction, and then in the board rooms, shrewd tactics of corporate power use Aboriginal people and culture to both aggregate and make-look-civil the destructive extraction of Aboriginal resources, for empire. This reckless corporate mining company, for example, dons Aboriginal art in its foyer as false flags of progressiveness and care.

It’s easy for blow-ins to jump to conclusions about a place. We understand the problems here are complex because they are generational and because western civilisation is a sophisticated propaganda machine. Drugs and alcohol have different impacts in differing cultures, depending on peoples’ approaches. Clearer for us now, is how industrial grog and industrial mining come from the same mythos of greed and subjugation, and no good culture can come from these things. These activities done in an indigenous way would require ceremony and ritual, where over-extraction or over-consumption are not present because of the gratitude and connection these cultural expressions elicit. Indigenous activities done at a scale of bioregional accountability can never be systematically or globally harmful, can never produce man-made mass suffering. Suffering is an ordinary and sometimes necessary part of life, it is a great teacher, but not on the scale industrialisation causes. This, we’ve found, is a critical difference between industrial and indigenous ways.

Towards the end of our time in Darwin, we returned to the Fishermen’s Wharf and were reminded to speak to Saltwater Mother Country, a quiet ritual we often do down south. Before we fish at a place, we speak our intention for coming. “We’ve come to catch food for our family tonight, and we will only take a little of your abundance.”

Fairly shortly after we arrived and acknowledged Mother Country in this way, Woody’s rod started bending,

and the youngtimer began pulling them in.

Four beautiful bream (from $1.50 worth of chicken) made our dinner on the second last night.

Patrick’s attempt to add to the bag saw him bring in several little critters and this Moon fish, which is apparently good eating though, due to its size, he released it.

We are leaving Darwin with much gratitude for what Country and the people have taught us here. To slow down. To accept the stickiness. To acknowledge it takes time to adjust to new places and ways. To be with the disappointment of flying and not crewing on a boat. To better understand the life-wreckingness of industrial substances and extractions. To not reduce complexity to a facile judgement. To further behold the propaganda and hubris of this nation and its subservience to empire. What can a family do in the face of all this? Eat meals together, ask questions, meet people and find out our commonalities with them, and bring more love into the world.

We didn’t come to Darwin to catch trophy fish or take in the club life. We didn’t come for the burnouts of Supercars and military jets. We didn’t come to consume Aboriginal art or Aussie-ised Asian food. We came as pilgrims on an adventure seeking nothing famous or big, rather for the accumulations of everyday magic, provided by the goddesses of small things.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for continuing to follow our journey. We feel tremendously supported by our community back home, the community of subscribers here, and the community we’re meeting on the road.

68 comments

  1. Emma Rooney says:

    Wonderful, what a fantastic adventure. I love reading your blogs and understanding more about how you view the world. As always, it’s an important new way forward. Go gently, have fun.

    1. Yvette says:

      Thank you for bringing us readers along on your journey. Stay safe and have fun, looking forward to the next instalment. X

  2. Su says:

    So touched by your conclusion. Humility is very sobering and grounding…gratefully received

    1. Thanks Su, sending much love from near the border on Indonesia xx

  3. Ana Barret says:

    Thank you wonderful family for ALL your sharing – daily life inspiring journeys that have lifted my heart and thoughts on reading your stories over the years, way out here in the Cevennes mountains in France. Wishing you exciting adventures and learning on your travels and looking forwards to reading next installments as and when they appear. Stay well and thriving.
    Much love and delight
    ana

    1. Thank you for your love and support, Ana

  4. Penny says:

    I am so grateful for you sharing some of your journey, it inspires both hope and me, thank you – and may you stay grounded for the rest of your adventure! Very best wishes.

    1. Thanks Penny! Glad to have you along for the journey

  5. Dianne says:

    Yes, Darwin is an unusual place. I stayed there many years ago on my way to India. As a visitor, I loved the warm, heavy rains and thunderstorms but I don’t think I could live with it year in year out.

    Well done for courageously finding an alternative when doors closed on the original plan. Not always an easy thing to do.

    Stay well. I’m looking forward to reading your next instalment.
    Xx

  6. Devon says:

    We are celebrating your desire and efforts to stay present to the “everyday magic” and can sense it continuing to accumulate. I hear the willingness for slower travel and we are excited for the next instalment! So much love to you xx

    1. It certainly is accumulating big time, here in Timor Leste. We look forward to sharing the next leg. Sending our love xx

  7. Therese says:

    Thank you for sharing your adventures. Gives me hope that everyone has the capacity to live life with great connection to people & the planet. Nga mihi. Kia kaha.

  8. Herman says:

    Keep up the good work, may the Eternal bless you all.

  9. Loving the honesty and deep reflection, feeling the disappointment of having to fly (but appreciating the importance of pragmatism on the journey), relishing the fresh instalment and awaiting the next!

    1. We are learning so much, Sieta. Thanks for e-hitching along with us.

  10. Thank you, we are loving to read your posts! ♥️

    1. Hello Sambodhi and Sandipa! A new post is on its way. With love from remote northwestern Timor Leste.

  11. Jean-Marc says:

    Merry ways you go… bless the unknown…

    PS The shell Patrick is holding is a Murex used by the Phoenicians to dye textiles Tyrian purple

    1. Thanks Jean-Marc! We hope you had a beautiful FireChoir last night xxxx

  12. Helena Kreuzeder says:

    Thank you for sharing your adventures with us, you are a huge inspiration and I wish you all the best for your next step of the journey. Can’t wait to read the next blog post!

    1. Thanks Helena, we’re glad our story is inspiring you.

  13. Ellen says:

    Thank you for including me on your trip. Your great photos and writings gives me the opportunity to come along. I will be looking forward to the next episode. Safe and happy traveling.

    1. Thanks for coming on the journey, Ellen!

  14. Sara says:

    Wow, a different ”tone” in this part of the journey.

    Still full of kindness, hope and adventure but also a darker side to it, as to the expensive tourist food, theft and colonialism. Interesting view from Ben on people becoming racist within two weeks.

    Makes me sad and I know that it is so in many parts of Sweden and the world as well. It has to do with industrialism and segregation, since this is exactly what you guys see and mentioned about there as I see here.

    People who are forced out of community and society as a whole since they don’t ”fit” in… as the years go by I realise neither I fit in, but I’ve been lucky.

    I thank my teachers that are you guys as well for helping me see the world in a different way even during dark times. To not judge, to forgive and not take things personally, but also understand the complex and how some experiences can change peoples view of the world for life.

    I hope to never get there, I hope to always see my next person as someones beautiful child that wants exactly what I want, love.
    I hope to always see what I know in my heart is true, that we are all one.

    Love from cold and almost midsummer Sweden <3

    1. “…someone’s beautiful child.” Well said. Thanks Sara

  15. Jess says:

    Following along with great excitement! Thank you for reigniting a spark for travel.

  16. Murray says:

    A joy to vicariously accompany you three. Stay safe in Timor L’este. I look forward to the next blog burst.
    Murray

    1. Blog burst! Ha! Only a fellow gardener would write it! See ya well after bud burst, Murray

  17. Brigitte Kupfer says:

    Since you now have decided to travel by air I thought of this poem and I’m sending it to you to travel with you on your miraculous journey :

    WORKING TOGETHER
    poem by David Whyte

    We shape our self
    to fit this world

    and by the world
    are shaped again.

    The visible
    and the invisible

    working together
    in common cause,

    to produce
    the miraculous.

    I am thinking of the way
    the intangible air

    traveled at speed
    round a shaped wing

    easily
    holds our weight.

    So may we, in this life
    trust

    to those elements
    we have yet to see

    or imagine,
    and look for the true

    shape of our own self,
    by forming it well

    to the great
    intangibles about us.

    1. Thanks Brigitte, trust. Yes! “[w]e shape ourself to fit this world.” That was def our experience this morning on a crowded Timor Leste bus for 6 hours. xxx

  18. Eva says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring journey with us.
    Wishing you a wonderful and adventures time ahead. All the very best for you!

  19. Tommy says:

    beautiful writing! Loving following the journey

    1. Thanks Tommy, thanks for the love

  20. Tuli says:

    ❤️

  21. lisa says:

    Bless this blog…….I wait with baited (sic) breath for the next instalment…much love to you all xx

    1. Thanks Lisa, looks like we have a few days in a sanctuary with a beautiful family to write up our next leg. We don’t speak their language, nor they ours. Lots of goodly body gestures and laughter. Is Michael back from the big walk? Love to all you Yandoit mob xxx

  22. "PermaGrannie" says:

    May all that is beautiful and loving in the world continue to be your companion on this journey.

    1. Thanks PermaGrannie, it sure is turning out that way.

  23. trace says:

    good to see you lot fishing! Go woody feeding the family! and the reality of slow travel- being slow and going with the flow!
    its crisp down south- enjoy that hot and steamy! xxxt

    1. Thanks Trace, sending love near the Indonesian border, staying with a beautiful Timor Leste family xxx

  24. Jude says:

    Wonderful stories, thank you. As a southerner I have found Darwin complex and at times quite an uneasy place to be. I also feel your disappointment in not crewing a boat; 11 years ago my partner and I cycled from Melbourne to Darwin with the dream if crewing a boat, but like you time constraints made it difficult and we also needed to fly. Enjoy Timor Leste, I have fond memories of hitch hiking around the island.
    Have the best adventure!
    Jude

    1. Thanks Jude, that sounds like quite the adventure!

  25. Veronika says:

    Thank you for the beautiful stories, truly inspirational adventures. We are loving hearing about your connections with people, the land, the food and the culture. We wish you well for the next chapter, may you have plenty more unique experiences and adventures on your journey to India. Blessings to you all.

    1. Thanks Veronika! more to come shortly. Love to you mob.

  26. Kathryn Pegiel says:

    It is such an exciting adventure. I am living vicariously through you. In 2019 when my family and I were backpacking we met an Italian man how spent 2 years travelling around the world without flying. He took container ships to get from country to country. You could try that.

    1. Thanks Kathryn, we’ve certainly been trying to hitch a container ship. There are so many, but none so far are a good fit.

  27. Steph R says:

    I am receiving the nourishment of your story-telling. Thank you, thank you for this gift! And I am following along with rapt attention and big-hearted support.

    1. Thanks for your big-hearted supported, Steph

  28. Kate Beveridge says:

    Go safe dear friends. I lived in Darwin for 4 years, my Meg was born there. It is a place of many wonders and emotions.

    1. Thanks dear Kate, yes many wonders, big feels and relentless heat. The incremental preparations for adapting and accepting as we move further north.

  29. Eka says:

    Savouring your stories of real life and living, thank you 🙏🏽 for taking us on the road with you, I can feel, see and smell what you’re going through. Much love 💕

    1. Thanks Eka, it’s quite a journey now. We have found a small sanctuary near the border of Indonesia and will have a chance to write up the richness and complexity of what has been the last week in Timor Leste. Sending much love xx

  30. Jen says:

    yindiamarra winhanganha – the wisdom of doing, from respectively receiving. Much love dear family.

    1. Thank you Jen, sending our Timor Leste love to you beautiful mob xx

  31. El says:

    Wow love it. Very inspiring 💫

  32. Ali says:

    More beautiful words and food for thought, as always. I’m sure you will enjoy your time in Timor Leste. You are all looking so strong and healthy. Wonderful to see. You were mentioned on 91.1 this afternoon! Safe journey and sending love. xx

    1. Thanks Ali, hope you had a wonderful time in Japan.

  33. Rob says:

    What a fantastic voyage, good on you. I can relate to the feelings of unease in Darwin, and Mparntwe /Alice Springs too; living on stolen, sacred land. It takes humility and compassion to feel that and sit with it, I reckon. Many wonderful people there too of course, and healing is happening. So great to hear what you’re up to, go you good things. Love from Djaara Country

    1. Thanks so much, Rob for your thoughtful comment. Sending love to you and Neesh from Jakarta. x

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