We left Melbourne City for a country get-a-way on a sports-based public holiday.
Southern Cross Station was full of humans; it was very, very busy, and many, many, many of them were waiting to get on a specially-specified train that would take them from that biggest train+bus station in the City straight to the station that was the one next to the Race-Course, where the horses ran around in a circle and The Nation Was Stopped because loads of people thought it was good and proper and expected and fun to dress a certain way and get drunk and do gambling on the outcome of the constructed competition of some beautiful animals who were bred specifically to do running around in a circle for the entertainment of humans who thought that it was good and fun and proper and expected and entertaining to take pleasure in that thing.
hashtag raceday hashtag cupday hashtag racethatstopsanation hashtag colosseum hashtag cocaine hashtag downfall
So Pete and I weaved through and sat near that cultural and corporate muck for about 40 minutes longer than we originally intended to, because we’re good travellers who prefer the ease of being early than the stress of being too close to being on time, waiting for the train that would take us to Bendigo, from which we would take a bus to the border of Victoria and New South Wales, to a town of about 12,000 humans, a town named Echuca. Took about four hours of solid public transport travelling through regional area, something I would recommend to everyone who eats food in this country.
Why? Because you see it, you see heaps of it. Regional Australia is where heaps of our food grows, and where most of the Liberal/National Party Coalition voters grow, and viewing some of it from a coach-bus that winds through towns you’ve never heard of that have loads of humans living their lives in and around all that agriculture is an interesting thing if you’re open to the experience of it.
You see where the cows that you eat live. You see where some apples and pears come from. You wonder where the pigs are. You look at the pastures and the sky, the clouds, and the road and the intermittent suburban sprawl from a strangely bus-elevated view-point through polarized windows with protection from Victorian (European understanding of climate) spring rain, and everyone on that bus is just doing their thing, going where they gotta go, and everyone outside of that bus is just doing their thing, and it’s a funny brain thing to move through that country so quick and wonder what the stars are like without all of the light pollution and then you can connect-wonder to be like: “what the fuck was it like to live in this climate before colonialism?”, and it’s a fucking awful bummer that very few people can even attempt to answer that question with true knowledge, because the people who lived there first were brutally removed from that land for the sake of the cows and the wheat and unseen-pigs and the apples and pears and everything else. Fields and Fields and Fields of it.
And the traditional ancestral owners of that land? They’re either fighting a badly weighed legal battle for claims on that land, or they’re unknowing of their ancestral ownership because of colonial land-grabbing-forced-removal-with-heaps-of-people-with-guns,
and then the decades upon decades of governmental policies that made sure their great-grandparents and every generation after that had no more connection with the land their families were born-and-raised on (sustainably) for thousands of years before the guns, for the continued sake of the cows and the wheat and the unseen pigs;
and/or maybe the true owners straight up can’t even think about that stuff because of the many other reasons that any human that lives on any part of this planet can’t deal with anything outside of their own immediate survival+the survival of their children;
like how it’s hard to be flush with cash and legal resources if you don’t have access to affordable education and affordable healthcare and all that stuff that some people easily get and not everyone else can easily get…
…and on that Cup Day on the bus on the way to Echuca the bus driver decided to play the radio feed of the Horse Race while we drove north north north inland and I remember looking out the window with my hand gripping a little anxiously on Pete’s leg, enamoured by the view, and also confronted by the older gent wearing colourful suspenders who walked up and down the aisle forcing conversation with strangers who didn’t want it, creeping around, looking for a chat on a packed bus, I didn’t trust him… (I wish I could have walked the journey with rain-proof clothing and rain-proof portable shelter because I want to experience what that is like one day but whatever; another time): BUT: Murray River for the first time, and an old-time colonial port that still stands;;;;;;;;;; Oh the photos, the history, the bushland, the water.
Border town: We slept on someone else’s property, as we always do, always.
We walked through riverside bushland close to residential areas on paths made by decades of non-mindful feet but also cars. I pissed in the bush and no one looked, not even Pete. We saw introduced weeds and graffiti on trees and bridges, saw piles of burnt clothes and bags of clothes possibly waiting to be burnt, and I saw cow’s milk being poured in to the river by the tired old white guy who made coffees for tourists on the tourist paddle steamer we paid tourist dollars to stand and sit on, while I drank my tourist priced glass of wine and watched Pete watch the rain drops fall in to the river. I took photos like a tourist. I took photos of some of the tourists. I took photos of all the staircases I saw that lead from the water up to the bank on the New South Wales side of the river;;;;; How’s that epic bank erosion?
And I didn’t see a single mention of the Yorta Yorta Nation on any of the tourist placards touting seriously stupid colonial historical information around the tourist walks and points of tourist interest, or anywhere else in the town for that matter, and the only pub that was open on Cup Day was The America Hotel, which was hosting a big ol’ Cup Day Celebration complete with a dude of Islander ethnicity playing covers of shitty American pop/rock songs for hours while everyone in the venue ate overpriced “contemporary American cuisine” and got drunk on whatever booze they felt like ordering, and I could see them posting photos of themselves being dressed up in their cheaply-made special hats, special dresses, special suits and shoes on social media. We sat amongst that muck until we couldn’t take that culture anymore and got the fuck out of there. Hashtag bourgeois.
The next day, we visited the local antique shop and I paid $2 to take home an old photograph of a white man smoking a ciggy in what looks like war bunker + a letter that was sent by a man named Brian from 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, from Korea, to a woman named Helen for her 21st birthday. I can’t make solid assumptions about the date because the stamp has been torn off. But. Korea, maybe the 50’s? Brain said he’d been trudging through water, and had seen no battle as yet, and more to the point, had seen no “Chinamen”.
And on the bus home, looking at more Fields and Fields and Fields out the polarized windows, with those #history items in the backpack I carry my camera around in everywhere, the one that has the Aboriginal flag painted on the front, I wonder: “How the fuck would you feel trying to defending your land against a foreign invader who’s coming at you with more advanced weaponry than your culture has ever considered even being as a thing that is necessary?”
Pretty fucking flabbergasted, I imagine. And then angry. And then fucked up when you couldn’t defend against those military weapons anymore.
The descendants of the people who survived those wars on this land, they’re likely to feel pretty fucked up too. And everyone who lives on this land has to deal with that.
But it doesn’t have to be guns any more. We’ve got cultural understanding. We’ve got social inclusion. Humanity is a family.