We made it all the way to Adelaide on that first day, despite the big bus breaking down. We got it back up and running and arrived in the evening at a large country home on the outskirts of town where we had a big fire and ate a delicious dinner provided by Food Not Bombs.
I wandered out from the group and found a trail near the house that led to a small grove of trees and walked through with the light of the moon shining down overhead. The air was fresh and wet with the scent of eucalyptus. The time alone brought out pangs of sorrow and I curled up crying for a long time. I don’t always know what I’m feeling when piles of emotions puke out of me. What comes from my own personal tragedies, what I’ve absorbed from others and what’s coming from the collective grief pile of human suffering.
When I woke up the next morning my tent was soaked with dew. It was another bright sunny day though, and it dried out pretty good by the time we were all ready to leave. After the bus broke down the previous day, I ended up moving into an SUV with some long-time activists and they had tales of various actions they had taken to address the nuclear industry, logging and human rights. They were all incredibly intelligent, passionate and dedicated and had some amazing stories to tell.
Another reason why I was nervous to go on the RAD tour is that I haven’t always had the most positive experiences with activists. There can be a lot of insularity and self-righteousness in various political and social movements. So I was really appreciative of how instantly friendly and accepting everyone was and how open they were to answering the many questions I had.
Something wonderful happened after we got into the deep of the desert: All of the boxes of donated 'Loving Earth' chocolate – really fancy raw chocolate - started to melt. So we had to eat as much as we could in a short period of time. We were passing the gigantic bars around in the van and I shoveled back as much as I could stomach without getting sick and gave myself a huge head rush as we ripped down the highway.
We drove 300 km to Port Augusta and met an elder called Eileen Wingfield, who was a lifelong anti-nuclear activist and was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2003 for her participation in a successful campaign to oppose a nuclear waste dump in Southern Australia. She was also the author of a book called Down the Hole about her experiences evading the authorities when the Australian government was removing mixed race children from their homes. She was an incredible woman and had been involved in many campaigns throughout her life, often collaborating with “greenies” - as the mainly urban environmentalists were called- and she had 13 children. We all sat around her near the port, and shortly after she finished sharing her stories and experiences with us, the night began to fall and a the moon started glowing in the sky over the buildings along the water front. Eileen passed away a few months after the tour.
On a side note, in 2009, in an incredible act of hypocrisy, Peter Garret, lead singer of Midnight Oil, who in the 1980’s sang a song called Beds Are Burning - a passionate plea for Aboriginal Rights - approved the expansion of the Beverly Mine and the opening of a new uranium mine in Southern Australia during his role as the Environment Minister after moving from music into politics.