A month filled with celebration and devastation.
March began with a pine cone blast to our windshield that left the passenger side looking like a pond full of ripples. With our time coming to an end soon at Josef Chromy, we went out for the night with our work mate Declan, Andy joined as well. It was a mini pub crawl that led to meeting a few other work mates by the end of the night. Ben decided to stay out longer, Andy and I went home. The next day Ben and I had to work but wasn’t sure if he was going to make, we also planned to drive down to Hobart in the evening. Knowing him, he was bound to be waiting for me at work. Sure enough as I pull in to the car park there he was lying on the ground. Once I parked he got up like a scene from a zombie movie, after a quick change it was time for work. As we finished so did Andy, he was working for Josef Chromy as well but on the vineyard. We convoyed home, Erfan from Newkind Festival called to meet up. Finally he made it to our house, it was great to finally put a face to the person organizing the festival and giving us these tasks that drove us crazy.
After a chat and some heavy rains, we decided to drive to the festival site then Hobart the following day. It was yet another beautiful drive down south. All was well until the truck started making funky noises up the hill. As I pulled over the truck turned off on its own, stranded in the middle of nowhere we called RACT for help. After a couple of hours we got towed to a town towards Hobart in what turned out to be a mistake. The driver was nice enough to drop us off at a campsite but the morning came the realization that the truck was fucked. We were dumbfounded and in the ultimate boondoggle, we waited a few hours for another tow truck to take us back to Launceston.
We took it to the same mechanic that fixed it back in December and Andy waited for us there to take us home. Feeling distraught and devastated, we got home to explore our minds. The next day the farm family knew something was wrong by our faces and offered help. To go with our truck breaking down, our visa was also set to expire soon and needed to apply for a new one. Dave let us use his car and we set out for the library to use the WiFi and apply for a visa. The visa application took hours and was a process that took several hours. At one point I refused to finish it as I knew we would get rejected. In theory this is what we wanted to happen. With a ticket booked for March 22 to Borneo, we just needed an extra week for Newkind Festival. Now that the application was complete we felt a bit relieved and drove back to farm, as for the truck it was a waiting game to see what the mechanic’s diagnostics was.
Wonderful Dave drove us to work the next morning and had to find our own way home after. Work was simple, a few functions were going on and washed dishes for most of the day. It was fun, I was on one set of dishes and Ben on the other. It was a mindless job, just what we needed. Got our knock off drink and enjoyed them with the beautiful scenery. Now it was time to figure out how to get home, we figured it was best to hitchhike. After 40 minutes or so, a couple who were there enjoying their friend’s wedding gave us a ride. They were lovely as they lived in the opposite direction yet they drove us all the way home. Funny thing is they knew Dave and Sally, the owners of the farm. Small world.
Tuesday was the day off for both us; Dave lent us his car and decided to drive down to Hobart to meet James the farmer donating produce for the festival. His farm was so unbelievable, clean cut and so organized, also certified organic. The way he farmed was to maximize the space he had available and rotated the crops to put nutrients back into the soil. We hope to learn more from him when we get back from Borneo. It was a day of meetings, next was Michelle who we got some dry goods from. It was a mission to meet her, we drove past the street several times. After meeting her, we finally got a response from the mechanic who said the bottom end bearing had disintegrated and that it wasn’t worth fixing. That left us feeling delusional and sick. To cap off our trip in Hobart, we met up with our friend Lily and went out for some pizza and wine. It was time to drive back to our farm 2 hours away.
The next days were spent figuring out what were our options. On my day off, I spent the afternoon helping Sally and Mary on the farm planting trees. It felt relaxing being outside and getting the mind off of life’s challenges. Dave again was so optimistic for us, he drove us to work every day. The talks on the way were inspiring and uplifting. We decided to get the truck towed to the farm, Andy lent us his van and it was a game of hide and seek to find him on the vineyard. It took nearly an hour to find him, finally made it to town and organized a tow truck to take the truck away. Waited nearly 3 hours for a tow truck that never showed up, drove back to the winery to collect Ben. On the way home we each got a call from immigration stating we should withdraw our visa applications as the result would be a
denial and look bad on our record.
The tow truck driver came through the next day and delivered our truck to the farm. He happened to know Dave. With work slowing down, it was perfect time for our departure. Saturday was again both our day off and the last chance to pack all our shit and store it away as we wanted to travel light to the festival and Borneo. Dave did us a great favor and purchased our truck off us and let us leave our belongings on the farm. It was also the day where we all helped to wrangle up the sheep. Erfan the festival director told us to hire a ute and he’d pay for it to get us to the festival site. Again it was a trip to library which was closed, to use internet and book our hostel in Borneo and find a ute to hire. To celebrate our last days on the farm we purchased what the doctor prescribed, a bottle of whiskey. That night we played cards and enjoyed the evening with Georgie and Frank.
It was Sunday and the last day of work, we were excited to see our work mates one last time. Of course though it wasn’t that simple, the work said they only need one of us that day. This is what I don’t understand about places, if you schedule someone they should work that day not get told a few hours before that they are not needed. In the end we both got to work and dropped off by Papa Dave. Following a few hours, work at Josef Chromy Winery was done. We got our final knock off drink said our salutations to the workmates and savored the moment of getting to work at such prestigious place. And to cap off working there we bought a dozen bottles of wine to send back home as we got a 40% discount. Also in need of a ride home and Georgie wanting wine, we got her 15 bottles at a discounted price and she came to pick us up. Life was moving to the next chapter.
Dave took Ben to get our new ride, a hired ute. But again nothing is that simple for us as we were told we can hire the truck and drop it off at a town closer to where we would be staying. Once he got there, he was told it has to come back to the same location which was a waste of time. With all are stuff packed for the festival and our trip to Borneo we departed the farm. Dave, Sally and Georgie were so much help and it was saddening to leave them but knew we would see them again since half our stuff was left behind. It was time for Newkind Festival. We did the drive to the south for the third time in a week in as many different vehicles.
The drive was strange as we knew there was much more to figure out after the festival and Borneo trip. Just before the festival site, we met up with other festival workers at a café. There was also one big problem we need pots to cook in for the festival. And not just any pots, we needed titanic size pots, we were after 150L plus size pots. Eventually we made it to the site and it looked unready for a festival. There was so much work to be done. Arriving there was overwhelming; everyone was talking to us, asking questions, giving suggestions. James the farmer was there and seemed to feel the same, he was telling us that the produce might not be enough to fulfill the needs of the whole weekends cooking. Wanting to just escape and eat, Ben and I snuck away and talked to Andy. He had been there for the weekend. Even as we snuck away to have a bowl of cereal people kept fogging our brains, we knew it was going to be a long week.
We spent the next days finalizing our menu with the quantity of foods we ordered. Did a trip to Hobart, which was stunning and were able to sneak away and chat. We expected to relax a few days before the start of the festival but no, they wanted us to cook for the volunteers and workers on the days leading up to the festival. To make it even better, we were sleeping in a small tent that Andy lent us. There was barely enough space for Ben and I, let alone our stuff. We only had sleeping bags to sleep on and felt it the next morning after sleeping over stones and twigs. On one afternoon, we went down to the beach to wash potatoes in the ocean. The kitchen was coming along well and quick, thanks in part to Daimen. He was coordinating the building aspects of the festival and felt the same as we did. Thursday was going smooth, until all the produce came, then the dry goods to go with Ben leaving to take back this ute. Returning the truck was a 5 hour process as the drive was long. The amazing Andy was in Launceston waiting to bring Ben back.
Finally, it was Friday and the first day of the festival. The morning threw off our organization as we had to make breakfast with only being told the day before. These weeks were filled with bombs just like in a mine field and everyday something in life made us walk over one sometimes multiple in a day. The day was field with meeting so many amazing people and our kitchen crew began showing up and smashing out lunch and dinner prep. It was also a day for learning to properly use a rocket stove made of bricks and earth. Ben and I were trying to organize the kitchen in the way we wanted it.
All was smooth leading to lunch and it being served. Dinner was brewing up and the next round of helpers came through. We took this time to go through the initiation part of the festival and that came with getting a new name. Ben was Pepper, Junior was Salt. This was our only time away from the kitchen that day. The process was great though, it was a time to meet more people and shared our marbles and kaleidoscope. The parents of Erfan made some dahl and basmati rice to go with dinner. Soon dinner was getting served and the first day of cooking was coming to an end.
Everyone ate and it was time to go the main stage for the opening ceremony that was filled with a lot of theatrics. Ben and I couldn’t get a grip on the theatrical story part of the festival. The first night was the coldest of the week. To cap off the ceremony was an Australian based Electronic group that played some good shit. Many gathered around the different fire pits and chatted away. Breakfast went smoothly and with the kitchen crew, we smashed the prep out for lunch and dinner. Again, we were in the kitchen until midday. Lunch got served and explained to the crew what was going on for dinner as we wanted to take time to visit some workshops.
We were able to sneak away for a bit and checked out our new home the Paul built, it also had a bed. It was a much more comforting place to sleep in than the tent. I went for a dip in the ocean and Ben stayed at camp. Getting back to the kitchen I knew something wasn’t right from the get go, dinner should have been getting served since it was ready. Ben wasn’t there which was uncanny and found him walking to the house. Turns out the parents started cooking an overload of food that affected our menu plan. They wanted to feed the people to the point where they felt stuffed, where as we wanted to fill the hunger and have no waste as that was the concept of the festival. After a one-to-one between us, we knew we would need more supplies to just drop from the sky. It was the halfway point and couldn’t let this beat us down so we made our way back to the kitchen to take control.
As we got back in the kitchen, only the festival crew were getting served and seemed to know something was wrong. We stayed calm, cool and collective. Our kitchen crew understood the style we set in place for the kitchen and meals. With the parents having different views and portion sizes we asked them to leave the kitchen. So many people were offering help in the kitchen. The festival had a great atmosphere and we didn’t want to ruin it. It was a situation that Ben or myself have gone through nor want to go through it again. Finally dinner was served, learned what more we needed of food to be bought. Now it was time to dance our brains out to the Formidable Vegetable Sound System. Funny thing is we got see them perform at a small pub while living in Wanaka, New Zealand.
Sunday was the day of our workshop, which was organized to do down in the mud pits. It started with an experimental breakfast of flour porridge that turned out delicious, just flour water and some spice. Our workshop was at 4pm so we organized the meals for the day in a way to be finished after lunch and enjoy the rest of the day. The kitchen had a good vibes atmosphere from the start, music was going, smiles on everyone’s faces. Before long lunch was served, it was time to escape a bit and take a dip in the ocean. With our friend Laura, we took a few sacks of potatoes and went down to the beach to wash them. Feeling refreshed, Ben and I planned our setup and began cooking the beans for our tacos. We chilled at our house and Daimen was next door so we joined him. It was time to start making the tortillas and redo our sign. Jamie another amazing Novalander had a taco costume and was set to be our mascot. With about an hour to go we got help taking our modular kitchen and supplies over to the mud pits.
The mud pits was chosen as the location because Jaime was working down with David teaching people the greatness of mud, clay and earth. Besides it was different from all other workshop spots. On the way, one of the head festival goers said to change our workshop time and said okay but in reality we we’re still going to do as we planned. No one can stop us! With everything set up plus a fresh amazing sign made by Lorin, and blue tortillas heating up, it was time to share our story with everyone. The crowd was building up. Since the tortillas were fresh they took time to cook that gave us the opportunity to tell people what we’re about.
The tacos are gluten free, vegan, free of charge, authentic and most of all delicious. It was like a celebration of life, we had Mark playing mandolin, Jamie with a taco outfit, some people full of mud, people recording and interviewing us. In the end we made about 50 tacos and others joined the process of making tortillas with the tortilla press. It was time to pack down after a successful outing and took a minute to look around and savor this moment. Ben and I have come a long way from working at Beach House Tacos in California to have now traveled/worked in New Zealand and Australia, now being the chefs for this festival.
We found a group kicking the futbol around and joined them, it was so relaxing to kick the ball and forget about cooking. The kitchen was under control for dinner so Ben and I walked to this half built teepee and sat under it for some time and chatted away. This is a moment where our teepee would have fit in so perfectly. The night soon came along with chilly weather. Monday was here, last breakfast that went out smoothly. Half the kitchen crew began leaving and realized we should pack our shit up as well. Cecilia offered us a ride and to stay at her house, it was a relief to know we had somewhere to go. Midday was filled with getting contacts and salutations but knowing we will meet up again.
Andy, the great Andy took our shit up to Launceston to the farm. With our ride ready, we did a quick run to see our new friends and tell them cheerio. This was a bittersweet moment. In the car was Cecilia, Eva both helped in the kitchen, Nardine, Ben and myself. The scenery was spectacular and the conversations meaningful. Halfway the car overheated and waited for the wonderful RACT, it was the smoothest breakdown and just prolonged the delightful talk we were having. Eva has a voice that was soothing, journalist like and the questions she asked, diverse and got you thinking.
By the time we got to Cecilia’s, it felt like we got back from some crazy marathon or so, the mind and body so tired. The morning she made us a wonderful breakfast of scrambled tofu and vegetables, she left to work and took this time to chill. With others from the festival also in Hobart, we tried to meet up with as many as possible. First we took a walk to the Botanical Gardens to meet Nico, stunning garden, there was even an Antarctica section. She mentioned a talk by James Aspey who spoke at the festival and that was the goal for the evening to visit. A walk to town led to bumping into Bethan and Shantel who joined us on our adventure. Saw a few other Novalanders from a distance and started making our way to the venue. There we met up with Devi another kitchen crew member. At the talk were quite a few other Novalanders. The talk was great, it was about how he became Vegan after never imagining in doing so and how it was positive life changing experience. He mentioned of few things that Ben and I do already and believe in, also some new things that interested us. The talk took away from eating dinner, starving and nothing around we just walked him and slept our hunger away.
It was finally time to visit MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), we’ve been wanting to go since December. To describe it, a museum that is state of the art, pushes boundaries and makes new ones. Others from the day before also joined. You start off by going three stories underground and there are four main rooms that have many more rooms in them. The art was funky, mind blowing, puzzling and interactive. If ever in Hobart, Tasmania visit MONA. It then goes up two more levels that keep you wanting more. After seeing everything it was time to head to the airport. Again we ran into more Novalanders and learned our plane was delayed though it didn’t matter as we had to wait at the next airport as well. The day was filled with waiting and sitting. Hobart airport 4.5hours -> 1.5 hour plane ride->Melbourne airport 5hours->8hour plane ride->Kuala Lumpur airport 7hours->1.5hour plane ride to Brunei.
We were greeted by Bel whose house we were staying at, he took us on a quick tour around the centre. The weather was warm felt Darwin like, at the house he offered us drinks and relaxed. Later he took us out for dinner. The following days we explored the city which was a strange place. We took a stroll through the water village and hung out with the local kids who taught us a bit of Malay. Then wanting food we rode the bus to the night market, later we learned buses stop at 6 so we had to catch a taxi home. After a couple days we set out for Kota Kinabalu on journey that required several bus rides and couple of ferries. It was Sunday morning and we learned that in Brunei on this day they close the roads in the centre as it is the day for exercise and sure enough plenty of people were out and about. We originally thought to also hop on a 5 hour bus to the next town but decided to stay in Kota Kinabalu.
Filled with hunger, we went out to the night market for some food. We took the morning to rest a bit and booked a half day river cruise. That day we had the best food, Bana Leaf Vegetable for lunch. Its rice, a few curries and sauces that you dump all onto the leaf then munch away. The drive to the river was the first glimpse of Palm Oil Plantations. The guide was awesome, he grew up in a village in the jungle and had a lot of knowledge. A highlight of the trip was at dusk when the fireflies lit up the mangrove trees like a Christmas tree. At the hostel we booked another tour to Kinabalu National Park and some hot springs with a canopy walk up in the jungle.
We were headed to Sandakan next and found a three day river cruise and booked it. While leaving the hostel two others Alice and Louis were headed to the bus terminal as well and joined us. The bus was five hours and the scenery mostly Palm Oil Plantations for miles and miles. It was depressing. Finally we arrived to a hostel and Alice & Louis were able to book the same tour for the next days. We went out for some food and drinks. Pubs are hard to come by and we found this café style pub that had table service and after a few sips they filled your glass back up. A bit strange but it must be their culture.
All four of us walked up the road to the van waiting for us. There were two others Mischa and Kim, it felt something like a scene from MTV’s Real World. A couple hours later we were at the lodge right next to the Kinabatangan River. Everything was built about a metre and a half above ground including the walkways. It was an incredible place in the jungle. On the first boat ride, we saw macaque and proboscis monkeys, also a big male orang utan. It was incredible to witness one in the wild. At night we went on a very muddy jungle walk that included many mosquitos.
The following day started with an early morning cruise and a couple others during the day. This day we saw a mother and baby orang utan chilling in the trees. The way they move in the trees looks so majestic and easy. The bodies are round with long arms and legs but they are shorter than you think. Back at camp the macaques try to eat anything they can get a hold of, they are some cheeky animals. There were a few different hornbill birds along the river which are unique to the island and heavily threatened. On the final day we saw a couple of crocodiles and sea eagles. The time here was remarkable and peaceful. It was time to head back to the city.