Remember when I started my extremely popular blog? Nah, me neither.
‘Twas well over a year ago now and I had amazing intentions to write every day to tell my many, many followers of my amazing adventures in the wild outback of Australia’s Northern Territory.
Turns out my intentions suck, I don’t have many (if any) followers and my adventures in Arnhem Land were more wild than amazing.
I’ve been meaning to give it another whirl for quite some time, so here goes. I’m lazy, so bear with my procrastination. I’ll probs publish this tomorrow anyway*.
After a quick escape from the chilly “asshole of the world” (- Mick Jagger), AKA Invercargill, in my home country of New Zealand, I moved to the smokin’ hot and sweaty Nhulunbuy, which is a small mining town at the very tip-top of the Top End of Austraya.
After a year of remote living I’d had enough of being a 1.5-hour, million-dollar flight from any sort of civilisation/movie theatre/donut shop, so I took that flight and landed in the amazing Tropical North Queensland wonder that is Cairns.
Before I arrived all I knew about Nhulunbuy was: it’s hot, it’s in the middle of nowhere, there’s lots of creepy miners there and you can’t swim at the beach.
When I left I knew: it’s hot, it’s in the middle of nowhere, there’s lots of creepy miners there and you can’t swim at the beach.
But Gove, as most lazy Aussies (tautology?) call Nhulunbuy, is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The town itself is on Aboriginal land and is under a lease agreement with the mine company Rio Tinto Alcan and the local Indigenous posse, so everywhere outside the town boundary is pretty untouched. You need to have a permit to go anywhere outside the town, including water holes, four-wheel drive tracks, beaches, the look-out hill and the nearby Indigenous communities.
And, being that the town is located right in the middle of the troubled** Yolngu people’s homeland, you also need to have a permit to buy takeaway alcohol.
Both of those permits are highly recommended if you want to survive in Gove – not that I’m suggesting you go live there or anything. Don’t do that. Stay in donut shop vicinity.
PS. No pornography allowed here either. Pretty much the main reason I left.
Moving from Invercargill, where I was surrounded by bald-headed, beat-up Ford Falcon-driving hoons and face-tattooed Mongrel Mob members, to Gove, where I was surrounded by floral-clad, barefoot, usually drunk Aboriginals, and name-tagged, hi-vis-wearing, usually drunk miners, was quite an experience.
Also fun were car-sized buffalos trotting down my street, frogs that sound like ducks and gigantic vampire spiders running through my lounge. He was fast and he wanted to suck my blood.
It’s a quirky little place really. Crocodiles and dingos roam the streets, one of the two pubs features delightful topless barmaids, the town pool is often used for bathing and the Nhulunbuy Notice Board is an institution. The supermarket stores their loaves of bread in the fridge, there are security tags, not unlike a clothing store, on every bottle of spirits at the liquor store (or bottle-o) and the town’s only nightclub, The Jam (recently renamed to The G Spot…apparently none of the men can find it now) is renowned for its black and white checkered dance floor and toilets with no doors. I spent many a Sunday morning scrubbing last night’s Jam remnants from my feet.
I spent my first 7-ish months working as the Editor of the local weekly newspaper, the Arafura Times, which in hindsight was a pretty sweet gig – free house, free car (didn’t get to keep those, damit), free entry to stuff, no boss within 3000km (but not so easily ignored on the phone), work from home and just general fame/infamy.
In my job I was lucky enough to experience the magnificent Garma Festival, I went to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin, I visited the incredible Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre in the Indigenous community of Yirrkala on a regular basis, I interviewed Aussie band Mental as Anything‘s main man Greedy Smith (their song Live It Up is on the glorious film, Crocodile Dundee, which FYI is the sole reason I moved to Australia) and Costa from Costa’s Garden Odyssey.
I met famous (apparently) AFL legend Michael Long, I was a Celebrity Guest Judge at Gove Idol (people value my opinion), I hung out with a pair of pythons and baby crocodiles, I had a weekly radio chat/show on Gove FM, I went to basically every event in town – musics festivals, market days, album releases, sport, concerts, award shows – and I watched a big booby topless barmaid named “Prada” shave an old man’s metre-long beard off.
Check out my little clip from the Bunggul dance at Garma Festival:
In that job I was also unlucky enough to arrive at the scene of a terrible accident that claimed the life of my beautiful friend, Rachel McCaw, and report on a horrific murder in the small town, which an acquaintance has since been convicted of. I also had to report on several suicides, sexual assaults, violence and drug offences, which for a population of less than 4000 is pretty extreme.
After a bit of an unexpected rough time I decided I wasn’t cut out to be a lean, mean reporting machine and moved on to the greener (or redder? NT dirt is red, red, red) pastures of doing reception at a camp full of mine workers.
The Aussie mine-working dream! I was being paid a bazillion dollars to live in a cupboard (also known as a donga), wear cargo pants and steel-capped boots, eat cake and cheese’n’crackers all day, smile, get hit on, and piss off a bunch of 500+ grumpy/creepy/dimwitted blokes every day. Oh, what a dream it was!
With a ratio of about 20 men to 1 woman, meal times in the mess, or ‘dining room’ as us optimists prefer, was like walking through a fat camp selling pies and cakes…while covered in icing and peanut butter. And I’m not entirely sure they weren’t just imagining me covered in icing and peanut butter anyway.
Learning to eat while being watched is a great skill I have taken with me. Sign me up for a spaghetti eating contest any day. I had to give up bananas and hot dogs.
It is like a whole new world working for a mine company. A world of endless money, free food and rent, personal room cleaners and male attention. In a solar system of sleazes, morning breath tests, hazards, Take-5s and PPE. In a galaxy of isolation, depression and madness. In a universe of “eff this, I’m getting the hell out of here”.
So now I find myself in the magnificent city of Cairns, working for the oldest business in town – The Cairns Post. I am back to red-penning stories and I leave the rough stuff to the big-time journos.
Paying rent sucks and I have lost what small ability I had to cook for myself. But there’s a donut shop just down the road, so I’m pretty sure I’m in the right place.
* I did.
** Am I allowed to say “troubled”? If not, on the behalf of the government of Lisa, I say sorry.