Ora Banda Pub — A dalliance on the way to Lake Ballard

So many huge metropolises in the outback of Western Australia are now just broken glass, a bit of tin and some shrubs. Ora Banda has been a bit more fortunate and in its current manifestation it is a beautiful stone building that is operating as a pub.

A pub in the middle of nowhere as it is a one hour 40 minute drive from Coolgardie and Coolgardie is in the nearly at the end of the Earth.

Coolgardie streets were made wide enough to turn a camel train.

I was there on my way to the desert sculptures at Lake Ballard. This is a sculpture installation by Antony Gormley and consists of fifty one sculptures over an area of ten square kilometres. I wanted to “run the sculptures and this is what I eventually did.

Running the Sculptures in the salt

I will explain how I got to Ora Banda and what happened. 

Distant Sculpture on Lake Ballard

Around the Coolgardie area there are many tourist attractions but they are spread over 1,000’s of desert miles.

The locals know the way to these places because that is part of their being, the places of their childhood holidays and memories.

They have not looked at their signage in a way that makes the slightest bit of sense to a visitor.

I thought that I was on my way to Lake Ballard and I was doing my best to go via Rowlands Lagoon, however with many a side road unmarked I ended up in Ora Banda.

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Ora Banda Pub where an unsolved bikie murder occurred in 2000. I’m guessing that it must be a good place for a murder as it is so isolated.

I stopped at the pub because I decided to ask a local if I was on the right road to get to Lake Ballard.

I was planning to take the gravel road that didn’t take me via Menzies.

I like the isolation of dirt roads — the lack of traffic. I revel in the feeling of the slippery-slidey roll under the tyres as they spin and slide against the round stones so that if you don’t correct extremely gently you will be flipped and the car will simply spin, career out of control or tip over and slide on the roof for a while.

Meditation and focus at its best — a little slice of heaven.

Ora Banda pub is a beautiful stone building and as I walked towards it I wondered how it would smell. It didn’t disappoint because it smelt of alcohol and dust.

It didn’t have that terrible chemical smell of Perth hotels where they have used a bucket load of “products” that results in them smelling like public toilets.

The Ora Banda pub had that honest smell of sweat, dust and plonk.

It was dark inside in the way that old buildings are and it took some time for my eyes to adjust, and then I noticed that it was decorated with ancient photographs and quaint bits of history.

At the bar was a young man who looked Maori — and when I asked about the roads he said that he didn’t know a thing about the area and he motioned to the two women who were sitting at the far end of the long bar.

They only two patrons of the place at 11.30 AM — he said that they would know.

I walked down the bar to these women and I immediately had eye contact with a woman in her 30’s who had those sorts of 1980’s “Ita Buttrose” eyebrows that had been shaped so that she looked constantly surprised by life. She also had bottled jet-black hair with very pale skin. I started to ask her which road was the unsealed one that went directly to Lake Ballard.

The woman next to her simply took over—the surprised looking, black haired woman didn’t get a chance to speak.

This other woman was large in a brick shit house sort of way, not fat but huge — all muscle and tone. Her manner was butch and she walked over to me and hovered over me with a presence that seems to block out the rest of the world.

To me it was as though she had decided that I was someone who needed to be protected from my “delusional city slicker ideas “ and that I should not worry my “pretty little head” about driving on a gravel road.

Every query I had was answered with a protective “go to the left, there is bitumen” answer.

She had beautiful clear blue eyes and she eye balled me and twinkled them so that I knew that she was interested in protecting me.

Attraction energy has a sort of buzz and she was buzzing me with full force.

She kept telling me that the way that I wanted to go was simply too difficult, too many wash-a-ways, too much trouble for me. She even said that maybe my car would not make the journey!

My trusty “Landy” in Coolgardie – it loves the outback roads.

My heart was smiling at this situation and with that feeling I quietly said that my car was designed to drive down roads…

I decided to retreat as I had learned that the gravel road I thought was the right way would get me to Lake Ballard.

I moved over towards the door and she followed me and hovered that huge energy over me and it felt that she was trying to trap my will to leave.

Her presence was so huge and overbearingly protective that I could have felt small and dependant.

Yes, I am small but I don’t ever feel small except when I can’t reach a top cupboard. I only feel small when it is a bonus such as sleeping in the back of my car.

I don’t feel small around people — that’s not an option.

As I was leaving she followed me and at the door were tourist maps on the wall.

She took a few of them out and explained to me the best way —which was the way I didn’t want to go— and as she did this her alcoholic breath made me a tad dizzy.

At this stage the black haired woman decided to eke her way back in to the conversation — she agreed with her friend.

I thanked them both and left and took the “wrong” gravel road and had a wonderful trip to Lake Ballard.

The sunlight reflected on the salt with a distant sculpture that was quite a run away. I didn’t get to run all fifty one it was way too hot.

Harlem – New York

Some places have a vibe and others are more worldly and therefore average. For example much of Manhattan is just like other places in the world – cute bars, restaurants, boutique businesses plus grunge places being upgraded with plants. I am sure that many of these ideas probably came from places like New York, however, we have this sort of thing in Perth.

This world of ours is a global place and we are getting more and more homogenous in ways.

Manhattan – New York— unlike other Western cities I have seen — appeared to me to be a mixture of first world and  third world  scenes. There are neon screens in Times Square along with lots of beggars. There are piles of rubbish on the streets and the majority of vehicles driving past are expensive. The large number of poverty stricken street people are juxtaposed by the people rushing past them who are wearing Rolex watches, Armani or holding Gucci bags.

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Rubbish collection New York style. This man was on a bike at Central Park.

Other places are just unashamedly themselves and one of these places is Harlem. Harlem does grunge and cool better than any other place I have noticed on this planet so far.

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Harlem street shops on a usual day.

It is a mish-mash of races mostly of the brownish variety as there seems to be a fair amount of “great big melting pot” stuff happening. The major race is African American however there are Hispanic, Asian, Caucasians, Jamaicans, African/Africans and all the rest socialising and doing commerce together. I felt that everyone was casually OK to be hanging out in the streets I would recommend Harlem as the place to stay when in New York. Providing that you don’t frequent the streets too much late at night.

africa shop
Most people wear hats so there are lots of hat shops

I have to be racist here — and to be racist is not a popular thing — However, it appeared to me that the African and African American people are the people who make this place great, cool and give it the vibe of difference and aliveness.

Blue on blue
Blue on blue

For starters many of these young women are statuesque with braided hair that went below their tiny waists. They are elegantly thin and strong looking. Their elongated bodies not only have petite waists but this is enhanced by rounded butts that sway along with their braided hair when they walk — all very alluring. To make the whole look even more appealing they wear long tight dresses that hug every curve and it appears that there is little underwear worn as there are not bra or pant line to be seen.

typical hair style
“Out there” braids and florals for all and sundry, Harlem has its’ own style.

Many of the young men are pristine, coiffured within an inch of their lives and their clothing — no matter what their style — is exact and they look like they have just come from a modelling job.

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Mens style – they actually buy and wear this sort of clothing.

Their fit healthy strong bodies are shown off to perfection. Drool…

Harlem dress
A typical young mum…

Then there are the children — most of the little African American girls have their hair braided in cornrow braids, with colourful beads on the end so that when they walk they make a soft sound as they clank together. Others have ribbons or other random stuff stuck amongst the cacophony of their hair styles.

cute dresses
The children are beautifully dressed with braided hair.
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Close up of the hair and clothing

Every day the parents here can be seen walking their children home after school holding their hands. The children have to run at times to keep up with their tall strong healthy looking “cool” parents.

The little boys also have their hair styled — they are like mini adults with beautifully exact shaved stars, stripes or other shapes. Or they have elaborately stylised shapes on top of their heads. Only African hair could take this sort of styling. The rest of the world of hair would simply flop!

children in Harlem
Kindy kids and their hair

Now I will speak of the elderly — these people are the coolest of the lot. They wear whatever they like. Some of the men wear suits with matching shoes, tie, shirt and hat. The suit could be say cream and the shoes, tie shirt and hat could be green or yellow or orange —the whole outfit is wondrous to behold.

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All ages have their own style.

The more casual look is jeans “T” shirt and shoes all one colour. I have seen white, orange, brown, black, blue and green so far.

all red dude
Even the shoes are red.

When I say green here I am talking about lime green, and when I say yellow it is canary yellow. Orange is bright iridescent orange. Pink is of the lollie pink variety. Clothing here is always the brightest colour of the pallet.

canary yellow
Canary Yellow!

Then there are the African people both the men and women who were born in Africa. They wear those wonderful African clothes with the bright geometrically designed flowing floor length dresses with wrapped turban, shawl and all the rest … Brightening up the street for as far as the eye can see.

The Caucasians, Asians and Hispanic people are pale and bland and difficult to notice even although they are there.

The other thing about Harlem is the fact that the Avenues are very wide with wide footpaths and in summer the people bring out their chairs and tables and sit on the street in the sun.

cool dood in suit
Street life, look at the old guys clothing!

Discussing life at full volume — intimate details — at super loud volume, with comments like “this is so personal” “I don’t tell anyone but you this…” Not only do they discuss amongst themselves they call out to people walking along. I have been told : You are in great shape Miss” and that “I love your hat”. It is all very friendly and neighbourly this street hanging out.

dresses for sale
Primary colours for clothing

Just as every culture has some sides that are not so easy to be around Harlem is the same.

Some of the people also have their domestic tiffs right out loud in the street in front of everyone including their children. Here it is not “behind closed doors” it is in your face right out loud and open to the world, sort of dysfunctionally and unconsciously honest when I think about it.

The liquor stores where you can buy wine are like glass boxes where the wine and shop assistants are encased in a glass box. You point at your wine and the assistant gets it for you and then you play using a box where you deposit the money and ID and swing the thing around. They put the wine and change on it and swing it back.

lock the liquor
Wine and spirits lock down!
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How to get your purchase and pay. You need ID.

Personally I don’t actually understand this system because you can actually buy wine and beer at the local deli and supermarket.

I am sure that many of the churches here are wonderful places that are inclusive etc. However, they also have the opposite who seem to find difference and inclusion WRONG.

toxic church words
It reads; “WE WILL TAKE HARLEM BACK FROM THE PINCH NOSE NEGROS AND THE DEMONIC HOMOS NEXT MEETING 23RD JUNE 2014”. I’m not sure that this would be allowed in Australia it would probably break our discrimination laws.

Then there are the parks. In one travel advisor site it said to visit Marcus Garvey park so I did. What I found was the trees and grass fenced in. Large piles of human faeces on the stairs on the walk up the the summit of the hill. There is so little open space in Harlem so I was shocked to see it so neglected.

Locking the trees in
They fence in the trees and grass at the main park in Harem.

There are also some ideas that are so fantastic such as the solar mobile phone charging stations in the park.

phone chargng in park
Solar iPad and mobile phone charging station in the park. It included all the cables required so that you didn’t even need your own cable.

Then there was the man who was using the traffic island and traffic lights as his gym.

Street gym - you don't need money to get buff in Harlem
This man was exercising on a traffic island – He was using the signage as his gym. He was really buff, proves you don’t need money to look fantastic!

One afternoon as group of about 20 or 30 “bikies” were doing wheelies up and down the street I was living on. They were so loud you couldn’t continue a conversation. The children of the area would wait at the traffic lights and join in with the motor bikes as they went past so there were kids doing wheelies on bicycles and all types of motor bikes doing wheelies with them.  Some of the bikies had four wheel bikes with two people standing on them as they went along on the two back wheels.

Lastly there was the gun shots at night on the street to which I simply retired to the back room of the apartment and went to bed.

I loved Harlem and so when you come to New York don’t miss it!

Officious Officials USA style

Every country has a different way of handling officialdom.

In some Asian countries the officials have the power to do whatever they like — some are corrupt — so I have learned to keep a low profile so that I am not singled out.

I remember last time I was in Malaysia. I was going through customs in transit and an official simply stole my toothpaste — a new unopened tube of expensive stuff. Immediately a hawker kept badgering me to buy some from her — I repeat — this was in the customs hall during transit! The customs official seemed to be OK with the hawker — perhaps he took a commission? It took me some time to work out what was happening and to keep myself safe.

In northern Europe the officials I have encountered are simply like another human — they don’t seem to have any need to do the “power” thing, they talk to you like another intelligent adult and seem to allow a smooth easy flow of information.

Most Australian officials are friendly and helpful however when we get an ornery one they are passive aggressive. They simply make things difficult without saying much. I have learned to get around them with syrupy sweetness so they don’t affect me too much.

In the USA the officials such as customs, train conductors, or anyone working in an official way are like something out of a bad sitcom. My daughter streams those American sitcoms where they scream abuse at each other and it is meant to be funny I think that the officials are like that but due to the power they hold over you it is simply not funny.

They speak really loudly using commands — to put it plainly — they talk down to you. They command to see ID, command people to do things a particular way and their demeanor is as though they are the parent and you are their slightly dim whited child.

This takes some getting use to.

I have tried to be polite to them but they don’t crack a smile or show any sign of friendliness—they just keep on LOUDLY telling me and others what to do.

I tried to crack the code of how to respond but maybe there is no code and we civilians simply need to move along as commanded?

I found customs in Dallas particularly amusing as they officials “told off” person after person for not being able to guess the next step of a complicated security procedure. You are expected to know the procedure and if you don’t guess it right you get ridiculed or told off!

Kansas City Amtrak station
Kansas City Amtrak station — simply beautiful architecture

When I was in Kansas City Amtrak station they called for people to board the train 30 minutes before leaving time.

There were crowds of people around the exit towards the train. I thought they were queuing for that train.

Anyway to make sure I was doing the right thing I showed my ticket to the official there. He loudly laughed at me and made a joke about how stupid I was for not going directly to the train as requested by the intercom. All the people queuing around joined in with the joke laughing at his words…

Silly me!

No need to be polite here and queue!

Just get on that dang train ASAP as you have been commanded and all will be well.