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November 16, 2004

Conservation, preservation and slackerisation Part 2

Back with the second half of the story. Click on the left of the page if you haven't read the first part yet.

The evenings over the two week period weren't exactly stimulating. I have watched so little TV over the past three months that to have it at the centre of our evening every evening seemed a little strange. 'So do we watch two Simpsons episodes every night then?' I naively asked. To which Lyndsey matter of factly replied; "Yes the schedule is Simpsons-Neighbours-Simpsons apart from on Wednesdays when it is 'Simpsons-Neighbours-Simpsons-Simpsons". I started to become engrossed in Australian Idol, hating the sulky fat girl and rooting for the jolly fat guy. Fortunately the week came to an end and we were sent back to Geelong.

On the weekend inbetween our two conservation weeks we drove the Great Ocean Road which is one of the world's great drives apparently. We rented a car for the occasion. The drive winds along the edges of cliffs and the rocks jut out into the ocean which all makes for a very rugged look. It was overcast, very grey and raining: that, and the rough sea all made it look very menacing.

About halfway along the drive it becomes the 'shipwreck coast' owing tothe great number of ships that have been sunk along it particularly in the 19th Century. We stopped at Loch Ard gorge where in a wreck in 1878 only 2 of the 54 people onboard survived. The positioning of the shipwreck coast puts it only a day's sailing from Melbourne. That was the destination of the Loch Ard which had sailed for 13 weeks to get to that point. However, the ship was pulled into the rocks on a stormy night and smashed to pieces. We arrived at dusk in the bad weather and the ferociousness of the seas is easy to imagine. At Loch Ard gorge is the thunder cave where the water rushes through and makes an almighty crashing noise.

After that we drove the short distance to Mutton Bird island. I'd read that just after dusk all the mutton birds return to this island so we decided to wait around and check it out (you have quite a lot of time on your hands when you're travelling you see). It was a very strange experience: we were the only people there and then all of a sudden thousands of birds began to fly above us and circle the island and us which was just a little way out to sea. Apparently there are 50,000 birds and at a certain time each evening they all return home (just like commuters it would seem). It was a quite incredible sight. The darkening sky above us with thick with birds. I had never seen anything like it. I was a little bit nervous as well you might be. If I had ever seen the film The Birds I think I would have been much more so...

On to the second week of our conservation experience. Back to the Geelong house with a new bunch of Koreans to meet and good old Grump and stinky back again. This week we wer emoved around form project to project we did some weeding and planting. We also drove to a volcano which gave us great views over the surrounding flat lands. We dug holes and put in some posts but given that the site was one and three quater hours drive away I questioned the usefulness of the day. Given that the CVA working day is strictly 8 hours and you get a full lunch hour after driving time and the lunch hour I worked out we were at the site and did three and a half hours of work which excludes setting up and putting away. Taking into account all the fuel burned by taking a people carrier type thing and trailer on a three and a half hour round trip I reckon we probably did more environmental harm than good.

While I was pleased with helping out and staying in one place for a little while I was happy to be finished and looking forward to be travelling again.

Here's some other bits of pieces that don't really fit elsewhere:

On the street in Melbourne. Some Aboriginal type guy started randomly talking to us and I nearly got myself punched: 'Where are you guys from?' he asked. 'Err England' I said as we tried to quicken our pace. ''Well you know where I'm from?' he said as he unhelpfully quickened his pace too. ' The question hung in the air for a few seconds as I desperately tried to search for an answer ' Ummm from the streets?' I asked hopefully. But as his face started to twist into grimace a quick check-back over what I'd just said revealed my answer to be not only stupid but probably offensive. 'No' he said fiercely 'I'm Aboriginal....Australian' as he walked off.

There was actually a local radio feature done on us when we worked at the Mill (in part 1) for the link to the story click here.

Richard, Wellington, November 17th

Please leave comments below or email me at:

Posted by Richard on November 16, 2004 09:36 AM
Category: Australia

I also wonder about what exact good these volunteering efforts, especially the short ones, do. This isn't meant as a criticism of course - my own experiences are that I've gone away wondering quite what I did, exept make myself feel better about myself. Sometimes I've felt I would have been better just giving money...

It's also not easy to be valuable until you've got some experience and training, and can anyone really achieve that in a short program?

But that said, good on you and Tuely for doing this. Perhaps also use see it as an experience to help guide any thing similar you do in the future.

Posted by: Daniel on November 23, 2004 02:49 PM

I agree. You don't often feel that useful because you don't necessarily have the skills. But often I felt they were underusing us anyway. Still though I didn't meet anyone else in Australia doing any volunteering so it's not all bad.
Cheers for the link on your site by the way!

Also Neal no I didn't eat all the pies - I think your sister did though!

Posted by: Richard on November 25, 2004 01:25 AM
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