Event: 4/12/17 The Road to Wujal
Our first night in Australia was spent in a hot, humid, and slightly cramped room. Several bunk beds lined the walls and a couple of fans were spread sporadically throughout the room. Despite all of the seemingly poor characteristics, after almost two days of non stop travel, we slept soundly and gratefully. We joined together for breakfast at the restaurant downstairs in the hostel. Our guides from Red Earth, Nick, Rael, and Jasmine, met us and we began our introductions. We loaded all of our gear into three 4WD vehicles and hit the road out of Cairns. The road followed the coast and presented us with stunning views of the tropical mountains and forests, cane fields, and the sea. Our first stop was at a grocery store to pick up supplies for the journey ahead. Next, we drove to a crocodile tour on the Daintree River. Our guide, Bill, took us up the river in a covered boat and gave us facts about the ecosystem of the Daintree River and its inhabitants. Such facts included information such as: crocodiles can go up to a year on a single belly full of food, crocs have a resting heartbeat rate of about 40 bpm but can lower it to as far as 2 bpm if necessary, the baby sunbird will excrete outside of the nest and have the mother pick the excrement out of the air and drop it away from the nest to avoid attracting predators. Throughout the tour, we observed two baby crocs and a green frog that was stowing away under one of our seats. After the tour, we drove to the Marrja Botanical walk. There we experienced the inside of the dense, Australian rainforest for the first time. That rainforest is one of the oldest and most diverse tropical rainforests on planet Earth. We observed some of the oldest evolving plant organisms in existence . Some of the tree ferns are considered one of the first plants to ever evolve and help transform Earths atmosphere. We came across many fruit bats and golden orb weaver spiders. After our walk, we drove to a dirt road that led to Wujal Wujal. It wasn't a particularly rough road, but I was glad we were in 4WDs. We drove through several creeks and came across a recently fallen tree that completely obstructed the road. We got out and began breaking, lifting, and sawing the tree. Despite our teamwork, the tree still would not move. Several strangers became entangled in the same predicament and joined us. We eventually towed it with a wench and lifted it to the side. We drove to our campground on the outskirts of Wujal Wujal. The campground was a recently mowed field next to a rugby oval. We set up our tents and found some of the infamously large Australian spiders. We set up a hamburger dinner with the guides and were joined by a group of elders and some children from Wujal. We exchanged yarns and conversed late into the night. We said goodbye to them at headed to bed. Many of those people would become integral characters in the storyline of the adventure ahead of us. We went to bed with curiosity, and maybe some trepidation, for what the future holds for us.
It takes many things to live in the harsh Australian outback. One theme that I have observed throughout the journey through the outback is the necessity to depend on oneself. This does not mean that one must become a recluse, but one must be able to rely on oneself rather than provided luxuries to survive. Not only are grocery stores and the like, sparse, but the food they provide is manufactured and often poisonous to people that have never relied on it before. I have spent much time recently reflecting on the various insidious poisons that lurk in our American (even all first world) society. I believe that our food system in one of them. I met a man of the land named Mick. He has spent his life living off the land and he told me he has only traveled on a plane once. He once went to a grocery store and was sick for days after due to the preservatives and chemicals in the food. He also used to work on an apple orchard. The owner refused to eat his own apples because "he knew what was in them". People out here use the bush as their grocery store. They walk into their backyard and take only what they need. We participated in this hunter-gatherer lifestyle one day when we went hunting for crabs and mussels in the mangroves by the sea. We took our catch and threw it on the coals of a campfire that the elders made on the beach. The fire did all the work, and we consumed the morsels with our bare hands. It was by far the freshest sea food that any of us had ever had. It had gone straight from the mangroves to the fire within several hours.I knew because I normally hate sea food. I detest its fishy flavor. However, our catch didn't taste anything like that. It was the taste of freedom to me. The people of the outback also use the bush for medicine. Green ants are eaten to cure cold and put on the scalp to create breast milk in women that aren't mothers (but need to take care of children). Wild ginger is also used for colds. Ironwood sap is used for glue to seal spears. Everything the bush people need is already here. I firmly believe that this type of life can be found anywhere and, if one seeks to return to a pure way of living, depending on your self and the land that surrounds you is the way to live that life.
The dull glow of a street lamp, the doldrum of thought that comes after a smile from a pretty girl, a meaningless interaction, all these things pass before me like so many particles on sea drift. They have no meaning, but then again, does anything really? Sure they do, but in isolated circumstances. They create no pattern. There isn't a predictability to life. I always knew that I suppose, but I still have spent time, too much time, looking for this pattern. A meaning maybe. What does is mean to be an adult? A man? These aren't things that life will reveal to you in due time. They are meanings that we give ourselves. I saw an old homeless man yesterday. He had a beard down to his chest. He sat on the street, reading a big book. I asked him what he was reading. He turned the cover to reveal it was a paperback novel by John Grisham. I felt kinda disappointed. Why? Maybe I expected something else. Should I have been? No. We look for logical answers, expectations. This isn't how life works. Life isn't always a game of logic. Sometimes it just is a frothing mix of random interactions and strange, yet somehow monotonous, events. I'm ok with this I suppose. It adds to the fun of the guessing game. After all, I never liked math equations. I like finding the solutions to calculations, but if there isn't a clear way to calculate an incalculable problem, then maybe it is better to lean back, and breathe, love, live. Live unexpectedly.