Although the sign Prof is holding reads ESTONIA, Hippibus #2 didn't get as far as the Baltic states. The Activate dance party safari took 22 people out to Westonia in the northeastern wheatbelt to run amok with seedlings and glowsticks. What a great bunch of tree-hugging hippies! Sorry Mayhem, I must break the policy guidelines here and use an exclamation mark. (For those who are unaware, Art Director thinks people should be issued with a finite number of exclamation marks at birth. Once you use them all, THAT'S IT). Westonia has a population of about fifty, and the locals are all farmers, underground miners or bourbon drinkers. Or combinations thereof. I figure Westonia must be a mining town, with streetnames like Gold Street, Wolfram Street, Jasper Street and I'm a Miner Jack And I'm OK Street. Oh, and there's actually a street called Cement Street. Don't ask me why.
The multitalented Prof, who makes his own beanies, designs and builds bicycles, and does electrical, plumbing and construction at City Farm explains to me how I could holiday in Estonia, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter, by wwoofing. I am skeptical too at first. But then I find out that wwoofers are workers on organic farms, in all sorts of countries, from Argentina to Zambia (don't you hate that, when people write stuff like "from Aardvark to Zebra", or "from Academic to Zombie" - it's just so ... I don't know, contrived and smarmy) who put in about 7 - 15 hours a week in exchange for food and accommodation. If you don't believe me, look at their website. I guess this weekend's Activate project is a bit like that for me. My money is all gone, until I start in the portrait factory, so the opportunity to eat organic food all weekend in Westonia is simply too good to refuse. And the food, I must say, is glorious: my compliments to Prof on his amazingly amazing selection of freshly-baked bread, and to Amber for her most high-grade vego food. And I simply must get some of that East Timor organic coffee. Oh, did you find the man in that coffeebean picture from Celeste's post below? He's there all right. I wonder if he knows coffee is the second most heavily-sprayed crop in the world, after tobacco? Think about that next time you wake up and smell the coffee. Or have a cigarette and coffee. You may as well get up and do a line of David Gray's Weed Killer and be done with it. But I digress.
I would have liked to have taken the .22 and got a bit of meat to supplement all that lentil and tofu. I saw some mallee fowl darting about in the scrub that looked quite tasty. Not to mention the rabbits. But unfortunately the police have taken my rifle away, saying I needed some kind of licence to operate it. Well, it didn't seem that difficult to me. Next thing they'll be suspending my artistic licence and then what? Without guns, the trip up is fairly uneventful.
We meet Phil from Broken Hill, sitting astride his old Gold Wing 1000, at the servo in Meckering. He's travelling back to Broken Hill via Port Augusta. I wouldn't mind getting into HIS pants. Leather strides are just the ticket, I'm thinking, if and when I crash my motorcycle again.
We get to Westonia and find the house which is ours for the weekend. The Curtin University of Technology Mulga Research Centre has some truly delightful decor. Fine corrugated iron walls and ceiling, which were much in use around the turn of last century, plus a wood-burning Early Kooka stove to stop us freezing our dreads off. The metal ceiling features handmade timber ceiling roses, and the cupboards are the result of somebody's 1970's acid-inspired kitchen renovation. A number of rooms are already decked out with swags and bedding, as Hippibus #1 arrived here yesterday. We ask directions from some locals and head out to find the rest of the gang at the planting site.
It's an interesting gathering. There are two turntables and a microphone. A DJ and a disco ball. And a big freaking paddock, and I mean BIG. There's a girl from Brasil, a Marlene from Germany, even people from as far away as Bayswater. We are planting 25,420 seedlings as part of the Carbon Neutral program. Ollie from Junkadelic teaches me all I need to know about operating a tree-planting machine, and I grab a basketful of natives and trek up the slope to where the others are toiling in the distance. The music is good and loud and helps me get into the rhythm. The paddock has had a 'deep rip' run through it. Bang the pointy beak-like end of the tree-making machine into the ripped ground, push the lever with your foot to open the jaws, and the seedling drops down the tube into the ground. Pull up the machine and voila! there's a little baby tree. Oooh, they're so cute. Push the soil around it down with your Doc Martens, click the lever to reset the machine, pace out three metres and start again, reloading another baby as you go. I'm mechanically pacing away and concentrating on the little trees when I see my Turkish friend Gonja in the distance. She doesn't see me. She's busily planting away. I wander over with the tree-maker slung over my shoulder like a rocket launcher and say, hey baby, you avoiding me or something?
She introduces me to her Nikki, her suicide blond friend. Back at camp, ready to party after a hard day's work, Nikki's friend Michael from the Academy of Natural Therapies (remind me to tell you about Michael and the Academy of Natural Therapies one day) starts a huge bonfire, right in the middle of the carefully tended and reticulated back lawn on the Curtin University Mulga Research Centre. We have a drink, we have a choof, we go to the local hall to feast and dance the night away.
Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999, I think. Gonja and I go to the pub to buy some takeaways. There's about eight people there. An old timer asks Gonja for a dance. What's your name, asks Gonja. Hector, says Hector. OK Hector, she says, and takes him by the hand. They sail around the floor of the pub in front of the fire. The Edna May Tavern. One of the locals, Boris, asks me if it is okay for them to come up to the party after the pub closes at midnight. Sure, I say. We're not going to cause any trouble, Boris says. He turns up later with his mates, drunk, and shouts LET'S GET NAKED!
I talk to Boris later, sitting around the fire at 3am. Pretty drunk.
My name's Boris, he says, but everyone calls me Dave.
He looks into his bottle of bourbon.
No, I mean, my name's Dave, but everyone calls me Boris.
Why do they call you Boris? I ask.
Well, my mates think that I look a bit like Boris Yeltsin, and that I drink a lot like Boris Yeltsin.
Gonja is sitting on the opposite side of the fire on a log. She gives Michael from the Academy of Natural Therapies a kiss on the cheek before coming over, sitting next to me on the rolled-up swag, and planting one on me.
You tree-huggers are very open with one another, says Boris.
Yes, says the Gonj. You should hug seven people a day. It gives you energy.
Boris nods slowly. Maybe that's why I'm so tired all the time, he says.
Seriously, says the Gonj. You should try it.
Well, says Boris, there's only me Mum and me Dad and me brother, so after I'm finished hugging them and the dogs I'd have to chase a couple of sheep round the paddock. Can't have that.
Oh come on, I say. You know you want to.