With just a week left to spend in Australia before our flight to Thailand, we were faced with the obvious decision about what to do with our remaining time. There were still a few things we would like to have done that never happened. We never made it to the tropical far North. We never saw the turtles hatching and swimming out to their destiny. We didn’t even make to the Aussie Sunshine Coast, which is a strip of high rise condos stretching from town to town that has gotten so overdeveloped that kitsch is the only way to describe it. Heck, we never even made it to the outback! I mean, who goes to the great land of Oz without seeing the outback? And Ayers rock?
Well as it turns out, the outback would take a full days drive to reach, and we had been warned of the trucker caravans which link 3 trailers to 1 semi, and cruise at 120 km/h, stopping for nothing or no one. Apparently the roadside carnage of kangaroos, cows and even horses is not for the faint of heart. Hmm. We had seen a desert, in fact, lived in the desert in Southern California. We didn’t really feel the need to see another one. We were also daunted by the tale we had heard from a fellow hosteller who had been camping out in the outback with her boyfriend only to hear some yelling in the night and some gunshots. Panicked, they both bolted from their tents, and ran in separate directions. After spending the night huddled beneath a bush, the girl returned to the tent, to find no traces of her boyfriend. She waited for him for two days, then drove to the nearest town and contacted the authorities. She made her way back to Sydney, and had been waiting for several weeks for any news of her lover’s whereabouts. The authorities were skeptical that he would ever be found.
As for Ayers rock, it would cost us more to fly there than to Thailand. Just to see a rock. Possibly the most beautiful, largest rock in the world, and as a stand-up comedian said, ‘Can you imagine how many bugs you would find if you picked up Ayers rock?’ We decided that relaxing and prepping for our trip to Thailand would be in our best interest.
We cruised some local small towns with mouthfuls for names, like Mullumbimby, which seems to be comprised of new age bookshops, coffee shops, health food stores, and vegetarian restaurants. It was everything Byron Bay tried to be, without the throngs of tourists. We went to the Crystal Castle, a new age castle with a gem shop, metaphysical store, and Buddhist statue trail walk, which we all enjoyed. So much, in fact, we went twice. We discovered a petting zoo called the Macadamia Nut Castle not 10 minutes from where we were staying, which had all of the animals Violet had wished to see within her reach, in a natural setting. We enjoyed the many sushi bars and beaches of Byron Bay. We crammed as much enjoyment as we could out of our brief remaining time in the area.
We also made the decision to call one of the connections I had made at the Vipassana retreat, a French woman named Carina who lived in a camper in Byron Bay, spending her days meditating, surfing, doing healing work, and teaching Reiki. It was this last thing that interested us most, as we both held a long standing fascination with this ancient healing art. Reiki means “Universal Life Force Energy”, and is a healing technique that was re-discovered in the early twentieth century by Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist living in Hawaii.
The principal of Reiki is to have a series of “attunements”, which open up the energy channels in the body to be able to transfer qi (chi) from the practitioner to the patient. Qi, in Taoist, and Chinese philosophy, is the universal energy, from which all things are made. It is also known as Prana in the Ayurvedic healing traditions, and “the Force” by those who call themselves Jedi. By transferring qi to the recipient, their body is able to heal itself in a slow and deliberate manner. A Reiki attunement also benefits the practitioner, by allowing them to transfer healing energy to themselves. Reiki attunements happen in three stages, Reiki I, Reiki II, and and Reiki Master. A Reiki master is able to pass attunements to students.
Carina stayed with us for several days, passing the attunements to us, and teaching us how to use Reiki as a means of treating ourselves, and those close to us. Reiki can also be used on inanimate objects, as all things, according to the theory, are made of this energy, and can be ‘healed’ by bringing more energy to their form. Strange as this may sound to Western ears, various forms of energy healing have existed in many cultures for thousands of years, and are practiced around the world by millions of people. For us, it was the continuation down a lifelong path of devotion to the healing of ourselves, and the world around us. It felt like a completion to our journey in Australia, and we felt ready to move on to the next phase of our journey and transformation.
As strange as it may seem, flights were cheaper from Sydney to Bangkok than from Brisbane, although Brisbane was relatively closer to Asia. Despite having made arrangements to drop our car off there, we drove the 700 km drive back down to Sydney to take advantage of the cheaper flights. What had seemed like a painful 4 day journey up North, we now did in 1 and a half days going South. No detours, just cruising down the highway, stopping only to eat and sleep. We spent the last two days in Sydney just exploring downtown, and found several treasures that we had missed out on during our previous visit. The Dhamma bookstore had volumes of Buddhist books available by donation, and a wedding ring for Theresa to replace hers, which had broken several weeks before (insert transformational metaphor here.) It was an identical match for mine, which I had purchased over the internet straight from Tibet, and it felt good to have her symbolically be my spouse again.
One often painful subject for Aussies is their country’s origin as a convict colony. I learned at a relatively young age that it was not a wise thing to say to an Aussie “yes, but wasn’t your country founded by a bunch of criminals?” They tend to be offended by that statement, and with good reason. On our last day in Sydney, we visited the original barracks where they housed the prisoners from 1819 to the 1840’s, which later served as an immigration depot.
They had a wealth of information, artifacts, and listings of a great number of the prisoners’ names, complete with crimes and sentences. More than half of those listed were there for petty theft, and largely due to the overwhelming poverty created by the unfair class system in England at the time. Scores of men and women were also lured to Australia with the promise of abundant work, land, and opportunity, only to be dropped off and told to fend for themselves in one of the harshest environments on the planet. All things considered, the Aussies have done well for themselves. Good on ya, mate!
We left Australia with little fanfare, returning our car to the Travelers Auto Barn, and spending one last night in the Original Backpackers Hostel. Gone were the throngs of backpackers, who had fled north with the onset of the autumnal rains. Sydney, like Vancouver, is a dreary place when the skies turn gray, and we were only too eager to be flying to a place that boasted endless summer, and had in fact, just ended a deadly heat wave. Exotic, and hopefully, not too deadly.