I met Dhaniella (Dhan) three years ago in Japan on Project Tohoku, where just by looking at her dreads and how she dressed knew that she was a hippie. It was not until after talking to her though that I learned she was living off the grid three and half hours outside of Brisbane in the community of Utopia. When I decided I was going to take the monetary plunge and head to Australia I knew she had to be one of my stops, which happened to line up with her rain water tank raising party. Since she doesn't drive and obviously no buses go to where she lives she arranged a ride for me with her friends George and Mel. They are the type of people that you feel like you know for ages after knowing them a few hours.
One of the main things you need in life is drinkable water. Off the grid you can water your gardens, wash dishes, and take showers in dam water, but to drink even after boiling was not a great idea, so instead of buying water from town, borrowing from friends, Dhan thought it was time to build a rainwater collection tank. One of the many tasks on her list of comfortably living away from societally conveniences and the annoyances that come with them. When we arrived she had already dug and leveled the base for the foundation, we were going to build with recycled tires. We found the tires that would provided the best base and started filling them with dirt and gravel, and then we packed it until we thought it was sturdy with our feet and sledgehammers, but of course it wasn't. So we repeated this process for about 5 hours, quickly finding what make tires so great to build with with, their side walls our nemesis, as that is the hardest place to pack the dirt in. Finally we took all the bounce out of the first layer of tires, and were able to level it with dirt and dancing. The next day we completed another layer, but only taking half the time with the lessons we had learned from the day before, pack the sides first as when you fill the center expecting it to move to the sides, it won't work. Duh, it's a dry substance not a liquid. Unfortunately people had to leave before the last layer of tires and rendering was complete, so Dhan will have to have another party which I will not be able to attend. I can't wait to hear how the rest of the job goes, and see pictures of Dhan drinking water from everyone's work.
There were a lot of great times in Utopia but I want to share the two most memorable.
One afternoon Dhan and I choose to relax by taking the hour walk through her community to the neighboring national park, Mount Walsh. While there we hiked through more open forests and grassy woodlands to Waterfall Creek, which due to lack of rainfall was at a trickle. Even still the natural rock pools that have potholed into the granite by years of water erosion where still breathtaking. Dhan enticed by the fresh water decided to plunge in, after 30 seconds, enough to get one layer of red dirt off she was back out, where as I was happy just dangle my feet in and see watch the baby crawfish try to bite my toes.