“Understanding is knowing when accepting is better than helping.
Understanding is knowing when helping is hurting.”
The place is a mud bath and looks like a war zone. The cycleway has ended. Tahara and Tane are walking their fully laden bikes through the mud when it starts to rain.
They stop to put on their wet weather gear made out of natural materials from a variety of fibres and resins that are just about as light and waterproof as anything made before out of polymers.
'Do you really need to see this place?' said Tane. 'We'll be in Africa soon enough.'
'Come on Tane, it's just a bit of mud and rain,' said Tahara mockingly.'
'Maybe the rain's a sign that we should go back,' said Tane.
'Or maybe it means that reward comes to those who overcome,' said Tahara jokingly.
They trudge on through the mud for another few k's. Even Tahara is feeling down by the time they finally arrive at the town centre. To their surprise there's no Traveller's Rest. There is a bar though surrounded by makeshift huts. That's all there is so they enter to get some food and beer, which is surprisingly good considering the mess outside. There's a two piece band playing and the atmosphere is jovial.
They find out there's a stream nearby that is a good place to set up camp. The bulldozers stay clear to stop dirt getting into the stream and silting it up. There's also a shower out back which they are very grateful for even though the water is cold. After washing off most of the mud from their clothes and bikes they head to the stream and set up camp, going straight to sleep after such a long hard day.
The next morning the sun is shining and the tranquil setting by the stream belies the surrounding devastation. They eat a light breakfast and head out to explore, leaving their gear in their tents.
With their bikes unloaded and the sun out drying the mud, they plan to stay clear of the worst parts so should be OK. As soon as leaving the shelter of the trees, they're once again assaulted by the devastation. Bulldozers are clearing the land of life and caterpillars are following the bulldozers shaping the land and tractors are following the caterpillars ploughing the land into rows.
Following the tractors are about twenty people sowing seeds. They head for the people and Tahara tries to start up a conversation but is told that they will stop for lunch in a couple of hours and we can talk then, so if you like you can get some seeds from the trailer and help us plant. Tahara and Tane get to work but try as they might they can't keep up with the pace.
Finally the tractor comes and hooks on to the trailer. All the workers hop on. Tahara and Tane follow on their bikes to a shed with a shelter next to it where lunch has been set. After lunch they find someone willing to take the time to talk to them. Amy is a horticulturist and is planning where to grow what.
'Surely,' said Tahara. 'We can do this better, without all this devastation.'
'We are all shocked at first,' said Amy. 'But it's the same at your home, it's just here everything is done on a bigger scale.'
'Yeah but ploughing the ground,' said Tahara. 'We don't do that. We just plant directly into the remains of the previous crops.'
'That's how it will be here too, but this land is hard and must be ploughed to start with. As you already know, taking life is part of living,' said Amy.
“The patterns we find, no fault in design.”
Amy suggests they go further in, where teams of people are working transplanting trees and plants and everything really. Rocks covered in moss, ants, worms and snakes, everything that can be moved. Tahara is amazed at how much care is been taken and she convinces Tane to stay for a few days. After seeing what is going to happen here she must do something before the bulldozers flatten the place.
They start off working with Susan who is a surveyor. They have to hammer stakes into the ground plotting out the boundary between the land that will be used for habitation and what will be for nature. Susan has satellite maps that are almost one hundred years old. Back then the whole world was planned out while we still had satellites.
Firstly all the land that was needed for the preservation of animals that need large areas of nature was plotted, along with strips of land along waterways and the coastline. Then all the land that was not fit for sustainable human habitation. Either too steep or volcanic or contaminated by toxic poisons or nuclear radiation. The rest of the land, including the arid land and deserts was plotted out into one kilometre blocks in a grid. One for nature and one for people and so on. This connects all the nature reserves and provides people with water and air. Having each one kilometre block of land for crops surrounded by forest increases the productivity of the land and most importantly makes the land resistant to droughts and floods.
It takes Tahara and Tane two days to hammer all the stakes in the ground forming a one kilometre square. The next two days they help with moving all the life out of the square for when the bulldozers come. Tahara's pleased, she gets it now. She imagines what this place will look like in one hundred years.
After a day relaxing and swimming in the rock pools of King's Canyon, Tahara and Tane are on their way again heading north. They stop at The Traveller's Rest in the town where Tane knows of someone who is growing baobab houses.
'Well Tane, where are these houses you've been talking about?' said Tahara.
'They're north of here,' said Tane. 'I don't need to stay, so we can see them on our way tomorrow.'
'Sounds good,' said Tahara. 'And then, how about we make a beeline for the coast. I'm really keen to get to Timor and see the colours of Asia.'
'Me too,' said Tane.
Tane finally gets to the baobab tree houses. Leena, who is growing them has agreed to show him around. Some of the houses are hollowed out of the trunks, individual trees and some with four trees grown together in a square and hollowed out to make four rooms. Others are grown out of the limbs above the trunk with cut timber from other trees to fill the spaces and for the roof. He's thought about doing the same at home but for now he's going to try to grow the limbs together to make a weatherproof seam.
Tane likes what he sees, the cut timber does fit nicely with the live limbs but he prefers his tree houses better. He thinks baobab trees could be good for single room dwellings or for storage. He can't imagine a whole family home or town built like this. He's unsure on whether he's using the right kind of trees at home. Baobab trees won't grow in Orewa anyway so he's none the wiser now.
Now he can go to India where they have been growing tree bridges for hundreds if not thousands of years and more recently houses as well out of trees that are more like vines and easier to manipulate.
“First you see the differences then the similarities,
then you see the differences are different similarities.”
Tahara and Tane are buzzing. The landscape in Australia is different from New Zealand but apart from a few occasions, most of the people they have met are very similar to themselves. Just the few k's cycle from the jetty to The Traveller's Rest has left Tahara and Tane wide eyed and speechless.
The nature, the houses, the people and the clothes they are wearing are like nothing they have ever seen before. Tane's done a lot of research into different cultures but it can't compare to actually being there. The next morning they both wake up earlier than usual, keen to get out and explore the place and meet the locals. Starting the day with a swim in a communal swimming hole right by The Traveller's Rest that locals use too. It's fed by a natural spring and with the heat and humidity rising with the sun they enjoy the cool spring water, thinking there's no better way to start the day.
Tahara and Tane stay a few days on the southern tip of Timor, having a rest from the sailing from Australia and getting to know the place a bit. While waiting for the boat to Flores they meet Eke, a young man their age who lives in a village on the island of Adonara. He invites them to his village as they are having a traditional festival over the next few days. They say they would love to go and they board the boat to Adonara with Eke instead of the boat that goes directly to Flores. Eke's been away for a year in Timor learning the relatively new practice of growing food in the sea. Tahara and Eke have lots to talk about.
Tane spots a few really old men chewing something and spitting out something red off the side of the boat.
'What are they chewing?' Tane asks Eke.
'Betel nut,' said Eke. 'It's a mild stimulate.'
Tane doesn't need to be told twice. He jumps up and walks over to the men.
'Hello, do you have any betel nut I could try?'
'Sure,' said the youngest one and starts to explain the process.
Very few people chew betel nut these days and they are happy to show someone obviously from far away something which has been a part of their lives since they were young.
'I'll show you how, you've got to do it quickly for it to work properly. First of all you bite this,' he says while putting a slim green bud in his mouth. 'Then you put some lime on the mush and then you bite on the betel nut. The lime activates the active chemicals in the nut.'
Tane does as he is shown and all of a sudden there's an explosion in his mouth. Red saliva comes out of nowhere.
He jumps up and leans over the hand rail. Red saliva pouring out into the water. The old men are all in stitches. Must be a first time thing, thinks Tane. He gathers himself and sits back down buzzing. He likes it but doesn't think he will try betel nut again. His head is swimming.
Tahara is talking to Eke at the stern, watching a school of porpoises that must number in the tens of thousands leaping out of the water. As they get closer to the island of Adonara they are greeted by flying fish.
The village Eke is from is on the other side of the island. It's a beautiful day with barely a breath of wind so Eke suggest they don't take the cycleway but instead ride their bikes along the walking tracks so he can show them around. They stop for lunch and a swim at a beach before going to Eke's village which is made up of two parts. The new village near the coast and the old village up on the top of a hill. Eke's home is unfortunately, thinks Tane in the old village.