Friday, June 23, 2017

Australia's aboriginal hyphenated-people.

I would never get a job as a Las Vegas card dealer, for I talk so much. Walking from the Nullarbor roadhouse I shuffled my feet like a pack of cards and that day I dealt out fifty-two kilometre aces. I was on the same stretch of road, a 1,200 piece of a the Australian jigsaw that my fellow world runner friends Tom Denniss and Kevin Carr had run along a couple of years before. 
Tom sends me frequent texts telling me what to watch out for. He has generously sponsored a steak dinner for me and Michael when we arrive in Ceduna. That day, I also stopped to talk to an Irishman called Timmy who was originally from Co. Clare in Ireland. He has been living here for eleven years and was on his way to the Northern Territories to buy a farm. 
The night before Michael drove off the road and into a clearing behind some bushes to give us cover while camping. It was no different to any other night, except this time he hit a patch of soft sand which was deeper than normal. In the morning we spent five hours digging, jacking up his car, and putting rocks below into the sand.  Unfortunately, his Toyota Corolla front wheel drive was stuck badly and we only made minor progress.
Thankfully, two young lads who were driving by came to our rescue. They worked at high speed finishing off our donkey work. The younger one called Blain cut up some dead eucalyptus branches. First he removed the leaves as they are slippery. These branches were pressed into gaps between the rocks which I had put into place earlier. Sam jumped into the car and with an aggressive reverse movement he stuttered the car in reverse back about thirty metres onto a slightly harder patch of sand. Then he managed to do a u-turn. The three of us then pushed. With another big effort, and much to our delight Michael's car was back on the road. Thanks lads, it was so good of you to stop. They wouldn't take any payment, just a kilo bag of licorice all-sorts! Karma will repay you big time one day.
Having dealt out a big days walking the day before the remaining half-day after our digging ordeal, I also dug deep and slapped out a sloppy twenty kilometres. Then another small chip day, for my tired feet felt like they were sticking to the road like strips of velcro.
  I was also stopped by a twenty- something year old man from Delaware, USA called TJ Weisenberger ll. TJ has a great attitude and loves traveling. He has been on the road for three years. In Australia he is working as a fisherman for almost a year.
When he stopped and jumped out of his pickup I was a bit confused for here was a man with an obvious American accent saying. "I saw your Irish flag and had to stop because I couldn't drive by one of my own people!"
It turned out that he has never been to Ireland and that he was on his way to Perth to pick up an Irish passport at our embassy there for he had just obtained Irish citizenship due to his grandmothers birth in Co Cork. Since Brexit there has been a rush on Irish passports by people who qualify. He told us that there used to be a waiting list of about eight weeks to process citizenship application. Now, it's six months. Just then Michael caught up with me, so we all stopped by the side of the road for a cup of TJ's espresso coffee. Michael now calls him O'Weisenberger ll. Ireland's latest adventurer has a big dream to ride a horse across Mongolia.
I walked on towards a (now closed down) former aboriginal run road house in Yalata. A sign mentioned the closure was due to asbestos construction materials which were discovered in the roadhouse. I am sure this was important and much-needed source of employment for local aboriginal people. 

From my conversations with many Australians I regretfully report  little sympathy for their indigenous people. Though they make up 2.5% of Australia's almost 25 million population. It seems to me they are almost hyphenated-Australian people in a country of 'them and us.' It's only fifty years since they were even included in the Australian census.

Others  speak of Australia being one of the most racist countries in the world and how the white man has crapped all over the aboriginal culture. Constantly, I  have to listen to stories about how they are ALL drunkards and stories of domestic violence and how they just take big benefits and won't work. While I am walking there are days when aboriginals stop and with big smiles check to see if I am okay. Unfortunately there are few too many that seem to make it through the loops and hoops to a better life.

It's to Australia's shame that there is little integration and how the Australian government doesn't appear to embrace aboriginal  culture as much as New Zealand proudly does with its Maori culture.

Indeed, I have read a BBC report  that there is absolutely not one mention of the word 'aboriginal' in the Australian constitution.

Recently, near Ayers Rock there was a First Nations Convention where some 200 plus leaders from aboriginal groups from all around Australia discussed recommendations to be submitted to the government with the possibility of having the Australian constitution altered to recognize aboriginal culture and also those of the Torres Strait  Islanders. This would then have to be put to a referendum to the Australian people to vote on. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten "respectfully declined" invitations to the convention, saying they did not want to influence the outcome.
The possibility of negotiating a treaty, and removing clauses criticized  as racist from Australia's founding document were discussed. This included two so-called "race provisions" which allow the states to disqualify people on the basis of race from voting, and allow laws to be made based upon a person's race.
Mr Turnbull has also spoken about Australia's Stolen Generations, a government policy of assimilation that was in place until the late 1960s.
"Today, we again acknowledge the Stolen Generations - those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly removed from their parents simply because they were Aboriginal. Again we say sorry," he said.
"We acknowledge that this removal separated you from your families, from your lands and your languages and cultures that for 50,000 years your ancestors had protected and cared for. We acknowledge the continuing deep personal pain that affects your lives and those of your families."

  One cop told me that he and two other officers have to patrol an area the size of Ireland. Most of his calls are in response to drunks  and domestic violence on fenced-off aboriginal lands which white people need a permit to visit. Several people have also mentioned that there is no violence directed at white people and that the most serious crime would be asking someone to purchase take away alcohol for them. I asked some questions about this and though some alcohol does get in it seems that most communities have a voluntary ban. Whereas, aboriginal people are served in bars I have been told that they are refused take-away purchases as local watering holes generally respect the voluntary community bans. Many years ago there was a total alcohol ban. This was later reversed when rights activists took an anti-discrimination lawsuit. Unfortunately, it seems that alcohol mixes badly with the aboriginal dna.

When I arrived at Nundrooo roadhouse I stopped for a hamburger meal. We got chatting to the manager an Indian man. He had previously studied in Australia ten years ago and then he took up the opportunity to run the roadhouse when it was bought by another Indian man. That was just one of seventy businesses his boss owns. Michael and I noticed that he was trying to look after petrol, shop, bar sales in addition to taking and serving restaurant orders. Not only was he overworked for his poor wife was preparing the meals in the kitchen. So as to catch up on my writing I decided to take a rest day there. Over breakfast to his credit Michael offered to help out in the kitchen. Michaels gallant offer was politely refused, it seemed that help was on the way as another Indian man was flying into Ceduna airport that very morning. The manager was pretty stressed as his own car was out of action after he had hit a  kangaroo a few days earlier. Now he was facing a $400 taxi fare for his new employee. It was 150 kilometres to Ceduna yet Michael offered to pick up the new employee. A phone call was made and the young man got out of the taxi just a couple of kilometres into his journey. At the roadhouse the manager mentioned that with that savings he could live in India for six months.
I had a good days work and after we paid for our expensive dinners we retired to our tents in the half empty motels campground knowing we ha done our bit for Karma.
After my rest day I brought myself out to play on the road. Like two children gone wild my feet cranked out 39, 37 and 40 kilometre days. I walked past some small homesteads, farms and even green grass and sheep. And I met yet another Irishman, Patrick from Mayo who has been living in Australia for most of his life.
Next morning, we stopped for breakfast at a picnic site in picturesque Penong. That means rocky water hole in aboriginal speak. It's also famous for having Australia's largest windmill. Though it's barely a village, it was the largest community we passed through in a month. Michael surprised my with a burger and a choc ice.
On the road I saw camels grazing in yet more emerald green fields. I wondered if those fields were irrigated using nearby salty sea water. Australian roadhouses operate by a serious of generators. On the Nullarbor drinking water is usually desalinated, an expensive process. Sometimes water is brought by water tank vehicles or rainwater is used.
That night we enjoyed our first campfire for we had run out of propane for our stove.
Wednesday, June 21st, the southern hemisphere's shortest day of the year we arrived in a small town called Ceduna. On the way I was stopped by a man who escaped from former Czechoslovakia 37 years ago.  Milos Krejci was a former champion amateur cyclist in the Iron Bloc country. He told us how the Czechs and Russians used sport for propaganda reasons. He spoke of an easy life as an athlete and lived in luxury doing little else but competing for seven years. Perhaps, Milos realized that a comfortable living would only last as long as his cycling career for he planned his escape to the west. His plan was simple, he bribed immigration officials. As many officials were loyal to their party it was not easy for the average person to find a bent official. Due to his sporting contacts he was able to find one. All it took was two bottles of whiskey to get a holiday visa for him and his family to get to Yugoslavia. Once in Belgrade he successfully applied for political asylum in the Austrian embassy. He came to Australia as he said it is the furthest place from Czechoslovakia. Once there he was put up in a hostel and given welfare assistance. Not happy with that Milos wanted to find work as a plumber. He said that one good thing about the communist system was the training that people received. Though he could do the work he couldn't speak English. Searching the Australian telephone directory he found a Czech man with the same name. That man was able to help him find a plumbing job where some workers spoke his language.
Ceduna has a population of a couple of thousand. I decided to take couple of rest days and am in debt to my friend Brefine Early for  contacting his friends Rob and Pauline Price. Unfortunately, Rob was out of town but we were made welcome by Pauline. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

A typical my world walk day

A typical day. 
Our rest day in Eucla roadhouse was spent exploring sand dunes around the area. Thanks to Rasa, the roadhouse manager for providing me and Michael with two nights in their motel. We also walked to the coast, which is called the Australian Deep Bight. One man told me that technically it's the Southern Ocean, an ocean which has escaped my knowing until now. It's where the Indian and South Pacific Oceans merge.
Back on the road we crossed to South Australia state. At the state line strict quarantine laws are enforced to prevent the spread of fruit flies which can destroy an entire industry. As a result heavy fines are enforced for talking fruit across state lines. Many people just dump huge quantities of fruit out onto the road, a pity they couldn't leave them for someone at one of the many rest/picnic areas dotted along the highway. These rest areas are rarely more than ten to fifteen kilometers apart. Most evenings we camp at one as Michael has a terrific guide book which tells us their locations. That way we can plan most of our stops. Usually, Michael stays behind me in the morning and catches up about two or three hours later. In that time he packs up our tents, boils water for my thermos and does some of his own work on his laptop. Sometimes he reads a book which can then be exchanged for another one in the roadhouses. When he catches up with me I could have as many as fifteen kilometers walked. Then I usually stop for breakfast. He will do his own thing for an hour as he enjoys walking into the fields and looking around at old fossils and observing bird life. I prefer him to crew from the back rather than me walk to him. That way if I have any major problems I can just wait for him rather than walking on. After about two or three more stops in which I should have about 25 kilometers walked I stop for lunch. Most days I have noodles which are cooked from the hot water from my thermos. In between I snack on candy, biscuits or something else as our car has no food shortage due to our massive food shop we made before the start in Perth. Yes, I think I overdid that, too much food, a first world problem indeed. After lunch depending on where the next decent picnic site is Michael will either stay behind for another couple of hourly passes or go on ahead. The weather has been comfortable, so that is never an issue. Sometimes near the end of the day I ask him to go on ahead (by as much as ten kilometers) and find a camping place in a rest area or wherever. That's a typical day, but it can vary. There have been many days when I finish in darkness but as traffic is light and I am well lit up I feel safe. Michael usually waits for me to arrive before we pitch our pop up tents. Every day is different and my daily distances depending upon how I feel, where the good camping places are. Or even how many days  I decide to walk to the next roadhouse in.
When I arrive at our campsite we take turns cooking dinner which almost always consists of pasta packaged meals. Well, Michael cooks most nights. Our biggest daily decision is if we will mix our pasta meal with a can of beans, spaghetti or corn. The latter usually wins, occasionally its canned beetroot or even chicken breast chunks. There were many nights when we retired to our tents at seven pm, other nights I drink copious amounts of peppermint tea while we listen to music from my iPhone music app. Those nights when we burn the candle at both ends its still only eight thirty!
Many nights I awaken and think it must be almost time to get up only to discover it's still only about 11pm or midnight, for the nights are so long. Despite all this I still find it difficult to get up each morning. We set the alarm clock for 6:30 but I usually snooze for an hour and break camp with a handful of snacks and a cup of lukewarm coffee made from the leftover water from my two litre thermos.

At the South Australia border we were stopped by Timmy, a bricklayer who is originally from county Cork in Ireland. So we went into the Border roadhouse for a memorable chat. That night Michael and I camped at the top of cliffs overlooking the ocean. We chatted to some so called grey nomads who traverse the country in their RVs. These senior citizens like to escape from the 'cold climate' in the cooler months for a few months on the road. Michael jokes that there is a caste system in Australia; as those in the top end motor homes  or plush caravans with expensive SUV's pulling them are at the top of the ladder. Below them are those who sleep in their camper vans. We, in our tents are the bottom of the social barrel, the scum of the road!
Next day I walked through 15,000 kilometres and thanked Michael for preparing a special sign to commentate it. That 'milestone' took fifteen months and ten days. For those that like comparative statistics that was only a few days slower than when I ran my 15,000th on the world run. On that global run I did take more rest days when I ran my 15,000th on the world run. On that global run I did take more rest days.  
The ever-changing scenery on the Nullarbor continued to impress me with what seemed to be a never ending array of strange and unknown shrubs, plants, trees and the occasional flower. One day a dingo walked across the road in front of me and then into a field, way beyond the limits of my zoom lens. By now kangaroos were a thing of the past and thankfully I saw few skeletal remains. That 12 hour, minimal-stop day my feet of dreams walked 48 kilometres. I followed that up the next day when I walked feeling like a king of the road and saluted 50 kilometre post soldiers who stood to attention precisely 1,000 metres apart.
Then I arrived at the Nullarbor roadhouse and noted that the so-called treeless area which the whole plain is name after is in fact just an area of thirty kilometres around the roadhouse.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks Into Springboards.

Many of my followers have commented negatively on the 90 mile straight road that I walked along couple of weeks ago. For it hadn't even got a single curve or even a bend.
Some readers even called it 'The Highway to Hell' and wondered if I was bored.
A couple of years ago Dr Claire Nana sent me a copy of her book "Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks Into Springboards" and asked me to write a review for it. 
That's exactly what we can do.. We can program ourself to jump  back from a defeat to achieve. Or even make a positive out of a negative.
For that long Nullarbor straight I was not bored for one minute. Why? A couple of weeks before that I was near a small town called Norseman. On the way there I had walked four days almost dead south. A bit frustrating as I am ultimately walking east. And later the highway will take me another two days north-east direction. Yes, with that southerly walking I didn't advance much. With that in mind there is nothing bad about a 146 kilometre/ 90 mile dead straight easterly road? Especially when every metre I walked was one hundred percent in my direction 😀 Who cares if there was not a bend in sight, I loved it
Many year ago after my 48 hour treadmill world record a journalist asked me this question. "So, is everything you do, every race you run like a separate ingredient in a big pot of stew?
My answer.. "Absolutely, it will cook away, simmer and one day when you need it most... It will come out and mature." On that Nullarbor straight road, I was eating my treadmill ingredient. I remembered back all those years ago when I hit difficult patches how I focused on a black bin liner which I had attached to the wall of the expedition hall. I used that focus to clear my mind of negative thoughts and replaced them with inspiring thoughts. That bin liner could mean anything you wanted it to mean. For me it meant only one thing.... Succeed. Nobody knew what that was for, only me and my handlers. Many people are limited by their mind and are not prepared to push it. To me my mind holds the key to my ambition. My body is lazy, a slave to its master. Our mind must always rule supreme.
Often it is in times of adversity, when the chips are down, and with our backs to the wall that we discover our true potential.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Thanks to the Eucla roadhouse for great hospitality.

Thanks to the Eucla roadhouse in Western Australia state for providing me and my crewman Michael Gillan with beds for the night😀 Their motto: Spirit of the desert is indeed true. My first bed in over three weeks.
Yesterday was international cancer awareness day and I would like to remind my followers of my message: life is precious and early cancer screening saves lives.

The road is my temple. Australia blog # 9

The road continues to be my temple. Each day I stride out to continue my worship. One man that I met  said... "You going to Sydney matey? You got a long walk ahead of you, at least TEN days." Lol for Sydney was 3,500 kilometres away at that time. 
I continued east and in the process walked past so many dead kangaroos that it was depressing. There was not one single minute on that stretch of a couple of hundred kilometres  when I didn't pass a dead roo or a skeleton or a carcass in various forms of decay. Once I walked past one which had recently been struck for the poor creature was still breathing. If I had a knife I would have put it out of its misery
In Caiguna roadhouse the manager, a friendly woman called Maureen gave me a big greeting. Michael and I had dropped a huge bag of food there on the way from Melbourne to my start in Perth. That way we would have city supermarket prices out here in the outback when a chocolate bar can cost five dollars. She kindly chipped in and added two dozen cans of Heinz beans and eight cans of chicken breast. Next morning we were having breakfast in the restaurant and she came out and handed me a Wedge Tail eagle cuddly toy, for I had been asking questions about it the previous night after making some sightings. What could I say or do,? Only hand her a thank you card I bought in her shop and say.  "I just want to give you back your card... And I will call her Maureen."
We continued to meet so many decent people on the road. People kept stopping to see if I was okay and needed water. There were days when I spent an hour in all just chatting away. There was so much of it that for one week I was getting up an hour earlier each morning.
One man gave me a choc ice and I enjoyed the envious look on Michaels face when I caught up with him. Another man from Brisbane had sold his house and was living out of a fifty-seater bus. He had converted it into a luxury motor home and even had a plush sofa and a well stocked bookshelf. He was on a road trip to Perth and stopped to give me a cold bottle of water. The days are warm, about 25 C, it's the winter but I am comfortable.
I walked past eucalyptus trees and so much brush. I was told that eucalyptus trees are a bush fire hazard due to their oil they contain that the trees just keep on exploding. This is another reason why many people don't live out here, also scarcity of
water. As one person said to me. "Last year we got nine inches of rain." It seems to me that vegetation and wildlife depend upon condensation, for I have noticed that there is plenty every morning on our tents. I guess birds and kangaroos know where to find it also. Some people have suggested that there are not any wallabies here because they require more water. Unlike the Stewart Highway when I ran from Melbourne to Alice Springs to Darwin four years ago it was all wallaby land and I can barely remember seeing a single kangaroo.
I also heard about a bush fire tragedy when the Western Australia authorities allowed a convey of trucks through a minor fire zone. Soon after the fire became out of control and tragically three trucks didn't make it through. I passed a memorial to those truckers last month.
To my left there is to me what looks like a fifty-metre high cliff. It's jutting up, almost like a mini Wall of China. Trees and bush are growing out of it, occasionally there is a hiking trail over it. I have followed alongside this for well over a week. A couple of people mentioned it's the result of a meteorite which crashed here in ancient times.
  I was walking a dream, as the Nullarbor was one of those 'must do' things on my list. Now I was living it, big time. Michael asked me was I still as excited as I was all those years ago. That was very perceptive of him. I was, even if a certain amount of road routine has crept into my life. There are times when I am not as much in awe as when I once eagerly and with almost boy-like excitement I fingered through books written by my fellow adventurers. Now I am living it and each day is special, sacred and unique in its own way. Each day is a spoke on a global wheel which revolves alongside me. Together we take the smooth with the rough, the ups and the downs.
One night I was scrolling through Facebook news feeds. One of the sponsored advertisements took my notice... It was for a dating agency website. Even though we were camped deep in the bush in the middle of nowhere the add said that this beautiful lady was only one kilometre away. However, I had a choice, for  another one was a massive ten kilometres away, and they were both online! Three days later these elusive ladies were no closer, so Michael told me I should walk faster! Just goes to show how stupid these adds are!
Then from Caiguna it was a three-day, 91 kilometre hike to Cocklebiddy. I didn't find it interesting, so we just stopped for lunch, walked two more hours and camped ten kms down the road.
 In Madura Pass roadhouse we got a great greeting from a young lady with a fabulous smile, I would have killed for! Her name is Walker, but she prefers to run lol! I began to spot grey and then brown kangaroos gracefully bouncing through fields and occasionally across the road. Before then, all that I had seen were dead at the side of the road. In the following few days there were so many kangaroo sightings, it was almost as routine as Latino dogs.
Millions of fossils scattered along the shoulder of the road. Perhaps remnants of prehistoric wildlife. The bones I am seeing today as I walk past will probably be fossilized for another world walker, a million years from now.
One day I saw a small grey snake and was puzzled by it for it was also the only one I have seen in five weeks. It was surely a baby for it was about the length of a carrot and as wide as the tip of my little finger. One night we stopped in a campsite and spoke to some campers who were sitting outside their motor home drinking beer. One of the men, a retired farmer knew his snakes and gave us a crash course.
"If a snake has a pattern it's venomous. If it climbs a tree it's not." 
"Why is that?" I asked. And his reply was obvious.
"Would you climb a tree to eat your dinner if you didn't have to?"
Next day on the road I met three young lads traveling around in a camper van. Many young people work a year or two and then do a road trip before returning home before their student visa expires. Two were from Norway and France and the other from Iowa, USA. After a few minutes chatting I recalled the joke acronym for the state of Iowa. And then the joke was on me when I stopped dead in my tracks.... I O W A.... Idiot Out Wandering Around! We all laughed heartily!
Then I marched the 116 kilometres in four days to Mundrabilla, my fifth roadhouse on the Nullarbor. I could have done it in an easy three or on my world run all those years ago I would have been looking at two days. Now, I don't care, whatever it takes. In cricket terms I am notching up a big score by clipping off singles and doubles. I don't need to hit fours and sixes, my big-hitting days will come when and if necessary. 
Then another two easy days took me to Eucla Roadhouse,
'Spirit of the west' they call it. Thanks to the kind manager called Razza who gave me a half priced dinner and then when we checked out the price of the budget hotel she gave us a complimentary room. We had a nice chat for she resonated with my cancer awareness message by not selling cigarettes on the premises. My message: Life is precious, early cancer screening saves lives.  
The Nullarbor plain continued to fascinate me. After two and a half weeks walking I am about 60% across it. The distance from the start in Norseman to the end in Ceduna, is 1,200 kilometres, further than from Amsterdam to Warsaw. Or, alternatively, from Paris to Madrid. And Western Australia state, Australia's largest is bigger in area than all of Western Europe put together. It's also 1.5 times bigger than Alaska. 
Thanks to Dave Dempsey and Kevin O'Grady for their help! 
Please check my live position when I am walking. Just click on the Spot track link on the homepage of my website.

Australia blog # 8 Thoughts from the road

Thoughts from the road.
I lived most of my life confused. Almost like I was riding two horses. The horse of comfort sometimes urged me to settle down into a steady relationship, just like everyone else. There were times when I galloped off like a nomad into the sunset, only to return to my stable. Somehow, after many years it seemed that this rider was finally unseated. I guess I grabbed the stirrup and rode the road towards freedom. Almost as if I stood up on the saddle and jumped off onto the road, my ultimate destiny. Wherever I may roam. The road has become my dream, my feet have become my means. I walk with an eye for detail, a nose of curiosity and hopefully a heart of love. For it seems I was born a wandering star, destined to travel, wherever I leave my head.
This walk has been more meditative than my world run. I have so much more time to reflect on the world I walk around and my life in general. I have found a deep tranquility, a calmness like I have never known before.
Road days = 378 Total distance walked = 14,879 kilometres
Website =
Thank you for your visit.
Remember that Life is precious and early cancer screening can save your life.
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Friday, June 2, 2017

ABC Canberra radio interview

Uploaded on May 15, 2017
ABC Canberra radio interview on the 13/05/17 with Tony Mangan as he begins his Australian leg of his around the world walk.