PEACE RUN

Australia 30 May: Balladonia, WA - Norseman, WA

Back to the familiar

Emerging from wet tents onto a sodden campsite we made a quick breakfast and an attempt to wrap soggy tents. I was lucky enough to be first out on the road from Balladonia Roadhouse, running down the road towards Norseman.

For the first time in over a week, we encountered a headwind today ....

Soon the team caught up and it was back to our accustomed relay style ...

Everywhere there was evidence of last night's drenching ...

The thrill and beauty of running in the bush after a night of rain is indescribable. The air is fresh, the birds more melodious, nature is bursting with life, energy and eagerness, green becomes not so much a colour as a symphony ...

Lush undergrowth, trees aspiring skyward, birdsong in the air – after the Nullarbor Plain, these more familiar sights and sounds of the bush surrounded us today, as though welcoming us home.

We took every opportunity we could to try to dry everything that was still sodden from last night's downpour.

Grahak is a busy chap these days, lining up all our engagements for the coming week ...

Our travelling art exhibition continues with us every step of the way ....

As the morning progressed, the sky, for the first time since Adelaide, revealed a complete hemisphere of blue – not a cloud to be seen. It was like running in an upside down bowl.

A perplexing sight, for long stretches on either side of the road, expanses of these trees, seemingly dead yet bursting with newer growth at the same time, like skeletons sporting brand new clothes ...

For much of our way today we were passing the vast Dundas Nature Reserve, with its extensive wetlands – quite a contrast to the countryside we have been used to this past week!

Unfortunately the sky did not maintain its brilliant blue for long ...

... clouds kept creeping in and then darkening as we closed in on Norseman. We were preparing ourselves for a repeat of yesterday's camping deluge ...

With our boys teams making good progress toward our destination, let's wind the clock back and see how our girls have been faring: they were taking the final section towards Norseman today ...

As we set our first runner out on the road, we had an auspicious good sign: a miniature Lord Buddha, found right by the side of the road!

Wow, trees!

Two French travellers, Remy and Aunelie, stopped to see what we were doing, and were only too happy to hold the torch and be photographed with us, thank you both! As we were leaving the great Nullarbor Plain behind us, they were just approaching it, on their way to Adelaide...

The Nullarbor has been a unique, sometimes challenging, and ultimately memorable and beautiful experience. Although it is primarily uninhabited, we have encountered some of the friendliest and most heartfelt people of our journey thus far along this desolate, striking, and timeless stretch of land ...

... from the local residents to truck drivers, tourists, cyclists and miscellaneous visitors, there is something about meeting in such a remote and deeply silent, ancient space that wordlessly binds us together, reminding us of the very essence of our life's purpose.

At 11.30 this morning we came into mobile phone range just in time for Hastakamala to give a live-from-the-road interview with John from the local ABC radio station in Albany [this photo is a re-enactment of the actual phone call, taken later in the day] ...

Are those clouds becoming darker?

Yes, those are droplets of rain, and there proved to be many more where they came from! ...

We arrived in Norseman early and found time for a brief stroll around town ...

Although it will be hard in some ways to re-enter the hustle and bustle of modern civilisation, I have to confess that most of us are on the whole more than ready, and the exciting anticipation of hitting Norseman was sensed amongst all team members ...

... Norseman may not be a bustling metropolis, but anything more than a roadhouse seems big for us right now! Not only were we able to visit a school with a gathering of more than two children, but also shop at a supermarket for fresh fruit and vegetables!! We unanimously agreed that the oranges were about the best we had ever tasted.

Norseman was named after a horse, commemorated by this statue in the middle of town. The horse reputedly kicked over a stone in these parts which proved to be a large gold nugget – and the rest, as they say, is history ...

'Are you more curious to see us, or are we more curious to see you?'

'This is our Peace Torch, we are carrying it around the world ...'

'... would you like to hold the Torch and make your own wish for peace?'

'Smile for the camera, please!'

The children from 3 classes at Norseman District High School met with us this afternoon ...

... our first school visit in nearly a week, and our first in Western Australia ...

... it was an intimate setting, with attentive and eager children.

We all watched the Peace Run DVD together ...

... before heading outside to the basketball court for a few laps with the Torch ...

... and some final group photos.

... then we were on our way!

While most of our team were meeting with Norseman District School, a small group of us decided to make a start on tomorrow's kilometres to facilitate tomorrow's scheduling (ie not have to start at 6 am). Our Mongolian hero Bayarkhuu was one of the volunteers who ran a further 8 km to reach a record for this Peace Run of 30 km for the day ...

... Antara-Prabhat and Amalendu also contributed more to go past 20 km for the day each.

To our delight on returning to Norseman, the boys team had settled into the Norseman Railway Motel & Inn, thus avoiding another dreaded night of sodden camping.

Rodney (from Wales – happy birthday Rodney!) and Heidi (from Durham) (and Audrey – she's the one on all fours) are our gracious hosts for the night ...

This place is full of character and history ...

... best of all, we have a lovely fire going in the living room fireplace.

As the rain began to set in during the late afternoon, our girls team had also received some exciting news. We were scheduled to be camping but at the last minute, Bruce and Val from the Salmon Gum Hotel Motel generously offered us a night's accommodation. This made us all very happy, especially our team captain, Stacey!!

Thank you a million times to Bruce, Val, and their daughter Tegan not only for giving us shelter from the rain, but also supplying us with a delicious feast of pizza, chips and drinks, as well as many stories of the history of Salmon Gum, and their dreams for the future. They recently purchased the hotel and are in the early stages of restoring it and upgrading the accommodation, which looks spectacular! We wish them all the best for the future ...

... we cannot begin to express how grateful we are for the kindness, goodness and hospitality we received from our new friends, thank you very much!!

After shamelessly beating Harita at pool by a country mile ...

... Hastakamala gave our two Mongolian runners a few tips for the table...

Another great Peace Run day!