4/27/2008 07:58:00 pm

Apartheid and Saying So

Posted by Unknown |

I’m currently in the Traveller’s Retreat in Mount Isa. I’m not able to get on the internet because there is some dude there MSNing it up. So I’m on Jem’s computer doing the dry blog. I just made that term up but I figure it’s a good one.

We’ve been driving since yesterday morning. We left Alice Springs only an hour and a half shy of our 10am departure. But it was pancakes that held us up, so there was no reason to be upset.

On this leg of the road trip there are only five of us. Jem, Tracy, Ryan, Daniel and I. Driving is all rather uneventful but quite lovely none the less. There is something therapeutic about driving through the outback. Seeing straight roads that stretch on over the horizon. Having hours and hundreds of kilometres between towns and knowing that, were you to stop the car and start walking away from the road in any one direction, you probably wouldn’t see another person before you died somewhere in the desert. You feel the need to respect the country, to take it seriously.

Plus the hours of just sitting gives you time to read, sleep, listen to music, think, pray, talk. You’re forced to stop, and it’s pretty nice.

Last night we stayed the night in Tennant Creek. It’s somewhere in the middle of the Northern Territory. The town isn’t actually at Tennant Creek, the story goes, there was a bit of a settlement at the creek, and there was a wagon carrying beer and the pub for the town up from Adelaide, but the axle broke about 15km south of the creek, so everyone packed up shop and moved to the pub, and that’s where the town is today. I’m not sure if I believe the story but it’s a rather Australian sounding story, at least Australian in how we like to view ourselves, so I’ll keep it.

Anyway, we stayed in Tennant Creek at the Traveller’s Rest Backpackers. It was classy in the extreme. It kinda looked more like someone’s garage, with junk and bird cages everywhere, lit by those ugly yellow fluro lights, than a beacon of rest to the weary traveller. They even had the radio playing all night in the concrete and steel outdoor setting with the classic hits only interrupted by the occasional chatter of air traffic control which sometimes hi-jacked the frequency.

After having an opening drink in the depressing but endearing Memorial Club we wandered up to the main street in search of some dinner. Walking down the main street was on of the strangest cultural experiences I’ve ever had in Australia. The place looked more like Africa than Australia. The whole time we were there we only saw three other white faces in the many indigenous people that wandered or sat on the side of the road at 7pm on a Saturday night. We weren’t even in an Aboriginal township, we were in a normal, Australian country town.

When we went into the pub, the only place open to give us food, it was chock full of whities. Like they were taking refuge in there from the black fella. It was rather sad. I’ve never seen segregation like that in Australia, or anywhere for that matter. It made me rather sad. I wish I could do something, but I can’t. I’m just a tourist passing through.

Dinner in the pub, despite feeling like we were hiding from the marauding black mob outside, was nice. It was good to hang with my road trip pals.

Walking home was a similar experience to the trip to the pub, only this time we saw more white faces, they were in the police cars that regularly drove down the street.

We went to bed early so we could get up at the literal crack of dawn. I stayed out later than the others to Bible, look at the stars and pray. Yep. It was pretty good.

Today was another speedy trip down the highway. I got to see the sunrise, and then we left. We left at 7:20am, 10 minutes early, which we managed to nullify by getting lost at the first turn, and heading resolutely into the unknown desert. We were saved from certain death and cannibalism (probably not in that order) by a shrewd mix of pessimism and GPS.

But once we were on the right track it was straight on till Mt Isa. We arrived here just after 2pm (I think, the time zone change stuffed me up a little) which is majorly early. We have heard reports that Mt Isa is by area, the largest city on Earth. This is a pretty big boast for a town of just over 20,000. But considering that they seem to consider towns 200kms west of here part of Mt Isa, I can see why that would make such an outrageous claim. I also found out that you’re not a real Aussie until you’ve been to Mt Isa. Which, again, seems to be rather audacious thing to say, but seeing as we only found out about that little part of the citizenship test on arriving in Mt Isa, I reckon most people in Australia are blissfully unaware that they are, at best, just permanent residents, and it’s probably better to leave it that way. Otherwise Mt Isa will either be inundated with people visiting to make sure they are “real Aussies” or destroyed by a rampaging throng of pretend Aussies upset to find that Mt Isa has dared deny them of their supposed identity.

But seeing as we were here now, and safe in the assurance that we are as Australian as Rupert Murdoch, Russell Crowe and Greg Norman, we figured we could see the town. So we bought some bad Asian from a place called “Happy Box” (awesome!) and went to the lookout. The rest of the afternoon was filled with sleeping and people feeling sick.

Tonight Jem, Tracy and I went to church at the only place we could find with an evening service. It was a unique church going experience. While I didn’t hear anything much about Jesus, I did hear that they’re getting a new 400 seat auditorium. The sermon was basically talking about how we needed to get on board with the church vision. We were told that Jesus had a “sole vision”, his was the Kingdom of God, ours needs to be the new auditorium. We can’t serve the vision of any other churches, we must get on board with the sole vision of the church, because you cannot serve two masters.

Perhaps the highlight of the service was an inane song I have never heard before. The chorus was:

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so
Say so
Say so

I have no idea what that means, but as one of the redeemed I am now going to get in the habit of saying “so”.

Tonight we had curry for dinner which we cooked ourselves. We’re amazing and I’m off to bed.


*In doing my research I have come to see that this is an adaption of Psalm 107:1-2 where it says "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say this". But I can't say I really got the impression from the song that I was singing about the goodness of God, but the limited vocabulary of the saints.