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Friday, August 29, 2014

Visiting Dhan's Utopia

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.
We arrived on Dhan's land in the dead of night, with only her solar powered rainbow lights and a sliver of a moon giving me any clue of what I had gotten myself too.  I quickly asked for something warmer to wear even as we settled in around the fire with beers in our hands.  Dhan provided me one of her well worn house coats, a bright blue silk lined with fleece.  It became a trusted combatant against the falls nights during the duration of the stay.  The first night I squeezed in Dhan's caravan with her so Mel and George could sleep in Dhan's summer tent under the mango so they didn't have to put using headlights.
When I woke with the sunlight the next morning with a Rudolph nose, I finally got to see the home Dhan created.  The huge mango tree not ready to bear fruit, but covered with enough leaves to provided extra protection of a four man tent (now mine for the rest of my stay) from the cold nights and warm days.  The "toxic" teepee, where you went number two in a hole that Dhan dug earlier in the year, which actually was quite magnificent.  You sat on a toilette seat attached to a milk crate, with the teepee and pirate flag guarding you from human eyes, while facing nature's glory.  I know this is t.m.i. but night poops soon became my favorite, where I could enjoy the release of one of our amazing meals while wishing upon stars.  It you could replace the milk carton with a Japanese heated toilet, I might have never left that space.  The tin shed used as a kitchen with a new added refrigerator  and gas  burner stove that you have to be careful doesn't go to crazy and burn the roof.  Then of course Dhan's caravan, and the creation from her last party, raise the roof overhead, which added an extra layer against the elements, a better place to collect solar, and soon to be rainwater collector/director to the water tank we were building.
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. 
One night we decided to pass the time by watching movies on laptop charged earlier by sunlight, next to Dhan's potbelly wood stove, drinking hot chocolate under the stars.  For what we choose to watch you really couldn't be in a better setting or set-up. We watched Waking Life an animated movie is centered on a young man (the kid from Dazed and Confused) who wanders through his dreams encountering numerous individuals who willingly engage in insightful philosophical discussions including but not limited to, how can one distinguish dream life from waking life and do dreams have any sort of hidden significance or purpose?  The second movie we watched was Into The Wild based on the travels of Christopher McCandless across North America and his life spent in the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s, even with the tragic ending, the movie was the perfect choice for the setting we were in and the hippie road trip we were about to embark on as it mirrored the lives of many of the people I was about to meet.

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