On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

Sustainable buildling and light habitats. to transform the act of building and rethink our relationship with living things.
Transition tales. towards an ethical, sustainable and united future.
Travel dispatches. discovering the world between solo journeys and life experiences.
Creative approach. photographic work and videos.

1 June 2016

On Australian ground

After six months in Japan, I spend six weeks in Australia with my parents.
Outback, Australia © Claire Blumenfeld
DISPATCH

I left Japan, one fine day at the beginning of May, to fly to other horizons. After six months in Japan, I have decided to make a detour to Australia before heading for New Zealand. Six weeks in the land of kangaroos to see my parents and discover the country where I was born. The plane took off from Tokyo and I left the land of the samurai with a touch of sadness in my heart. But a violent headache quickly made me forget all that. An invisible hand hammered my forehead and I felt like my skull was going to break at any time. Bad pressure in the plane linked to a completely blocked nose was playing tricks on me. It was actually, as I learned later, the onset of sinus problems that caused me a lot of trouble for the next three years. I arrived in Sydney almost fainting, my ears so blocked that I was almost deaf. It took several days for my ears to return to normal and almost three weeks for my sinuses to deflate a bit and my nose to stop running.

Sitting on a terrace enjoying the sun, I found my parents who had arrived in Sydney a day before me. It was the first time for me to walk in my country of birth. I was born in Melbourne on June 7, 1989 while my parents were doing a doctorate. They only stayed two years and I left the country only a few months old and without any memories. Throughout my adolescence, we regularly raised the idea of returning to Australia but it never happened. Distance, time and money were making it difficult for us. But following my decision to leave Japan a little earlier than planned and go to New Zealand, my parents suggested that I take a detour to Australia for a family road trip. It was an opportunity not to be missed. So two weeks of vacation for my parents and a road trip launched.

The reunion with my parents is happy although I do not feel very well and I do not hear much. We spend a few days in Sydney walking around the city, the Opera and the harbor. The city is big and pleasant but the sudden return to a “more European” civilization disturbs me a little. After six months surrounded by Japanese signs, calligraphy, temples and shrines, I have a little trouble adjusting myself. An then it is time to leave the city and sink into the outback and off we go at the wheel of a small camper-van to cross the State of New South Wales. Here, in Australia people are driving on the left and my father is slightly tense during the first hours behind the wheel. Fortunately once out of Sydney, the traffic is more fluid and the large expanses of meadows and forests spread out on the sides of the road. Australia has changed a lot since my parents left it, 26 years ago, and a strange feeling linked to not recognizing the place hovers in the air. Added to this are long hours of driving to cover the kilometers, a very small living space and the difficulty for me of getting used to the sudden permanent presence of my parents. All this makes the atmosphere a bit tense and disturbs the experience. It is a shame but it is like that.

We reach the Blue Mountains, a mountainous region west of Sydney where we go hiking for several days through the eucalyptus forests and the steep hills. My parents know the area well, they often wandered there when they lived in Australia. The forest is very beautiful, filled with ferns and eucalyptus with colorful barks, some of whose trunks reach spans of several meters wide. In the branches an infinity of birds and parrots sing and feed.

Some of the birds have absolutely fascinating songs, resembling bells, alarms or gurgling sounds. A certain type of bird, the Bell Miners also called Bellbirds, are small birds with green plumage living in large colonies. Their song resembles little bells and is used to defend their territory against intruders. One afternoon while we were walking in the forest, an entire colony began to sing, performing an incredible symphony whose echo amplified the tones. It was incredible to listen to. It lasted for hours and when we finally left the area where the birds were, our ears were tinkling a bit.

The days pass by between hikes, driving and nights by the road or in small campsites. The landscapes are immense, often identical for hundreds of kilometers and I begin to understand how big the continent is. Sometimes we drive late at night to swallow up the miles and watch some great sunsets. The more we sink into the outback, the Australian hinterland, the redder the soil is and the landscape become desert. The vast majority of the Australian population is located along the coasts. In the center spreads the desert and the great wild spaces.

We cross paths with kangaroos, emus, possums, magpies, parrots, ants and spiders. These are much larger than in France and I am afraid of coming face to face with a Redback, the famous little black spider with a deadly red back. On the snakes side (many and dangerous), it is calm fortunately. It is the end of Autumn on the continent and perhaps the cooler temperatures have already pushed snakes to limit their activities.

I watch the birds, fascinated by the colors, the songs and the behaviors. Yellow-crested Cockatoo, King parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Kookaburra, Fairywren, Crimson Rosella, Australian ringneck, Magpie, Longup Columbine, all are more beautiful than each other and absolutely magnificent. They are also, for the most part, larger than the birds found in France and present in greater numbers. Their observation is therefore facilitated. The parrots are curious and not very shy and I can observe them closely breaking seeds using their claws and beaks. At night in the trees red eyes like those of vampires appear, testifying to the presence of possums in the eucalyptus trees.

We go see the huge open pit mines of Cobar, follow the Murray River and descend to the south to reach the state of Victoria and Melbourne. Here I am, finally arrived in the city where I was born. Melbourne looks a lot like Sydney, like most of Australian cities, but still retains a certain charm due to the presence of old districts with Victorian architecture. Dating back to the 1850s and the gold rush, these neighborhoods are characterized by pretty, colorful terraced houses with balconies and patios. My parents show me the hospital where I was born, the house where they lived and the neighborhoods they surveyed. There was the Italian pizzeria, there the library, there a small supermarket. But a lot has changed in the last thirty years and they are having a little trouble finding back the atmosphere of the time. A certain nostalgia hangs in the air and we leave the neighborhood of my birth in silence. In the evening we go for a walk in the big central park of Melbourne where my parents used to see possums walking around at nightfall and pilfering in the trash cans. And indeed in the light of day which dies out a dozen possums suddenly appear not afraid of anything. Some even come very close to me until they touch my leg. They beg for food but be careful, their claws are sharp and can hurt you. I watch the marsupials, impressed to see them so close. Few wild animals in France allow themselves to be approached by humans. Centuries of hunting and destruction have instilled in them the justified fear of human being.

My parents’ trip is coming to an end after two weeks of traveling through the states of New South Wales and Victoria. We go up slowly towards Sydney along the coast. Walhalla, a small mining village where my father did geological surveys during his doctorate is still here. A large group of King parrots peck at the crumbs on the edge of a cafe. By the sea, Tamboon Inlet offers us the contemplation of a superb colony of pelicans. A last stop in Canberra, the capital to visit the parliament and here we are back at the starting point. Time has passed quickly and the country is so large that we have only seen a tiny part of it. My parents go back to France and I stay with a Chinese friend I met in Japan for three more weeks. I had the idea of taking advantage of my free time before joining New Zealand to go and explore the center of Australia and the famous Uluru mountain but the price of the plane ticket, accommodation and activities cut short to my desires. My savings are dropping visibly and I need to limit my purchases if I want to be able to visit New Zealand for a few weeks before I try to find a job.

I am disappointed, regretting not being able to discover the continent and its culture in more detail. I have barely started to understand it! And I don’t know if I will ever be able to come back. I ruminate on my options but the result remains the same. Spend what I have left for barely ten days of fast travel in the center of Australia or save for a month of travel in New Zealand … After several days of hesitation, the decision is made. So I stay in Sydney, working on my articles and organizing my trip to the land of the kiwis. I also take the opportunity to attend the Vivid festival, a light and sound festival taking place every year in the city. It is quite impressive with pretty projections and illusions on the roofs of the Opera and the library. The days are passing quickly and here I am again at the doors of the plane, ready for a new journey

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