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21 years ago, A mission that was worth it.

Time do fly: Taking a road trip to Australian outback with a group of youths, with a mission of sharing the gospel has been and will be one of the greatest moments that I will never forget. It was worth it. What a honour and what a thrill to be part of that team. 

by i.c Golina

It was not until recently that I had a text message from an old friend asking me, if I was still in town. I was quite shocked/stoked to hear from him but not surprised as he always like to keep in touch. Without hesitation, I immediately replied, YES, I am still in Cairns. He kindly asked me, if I wanted to go out for dinner that same evening and if I know any nice restaurants in town which I said, Yes. As I began to get ready to pick him up at his hotel, I was filled with excitement and at the same time, I was very anxious to know what he has been doing. Finally, I picked him up and we both went to a Chinese restaurant on Spence street. Keon Kong restaurant is not overly classy but it is nicely set out in a way where diners can go there either dressed casually or formally. Many times, I have been there, I found this restaurant, less noisy and as a  peaceful environment. It is an ideal place to have a nice dinner and at the same time, having a conversation with friend and families without any disturbances. After ordering our meal, we started having our conversation while waiting for our dishes. I certainly had thousand questions on my mind to ask but we both tried to work out how long since we seen each other. To our surprise, it was 21 years ago and yes, time flies. As we continued our conversation over the dinner table and at the same time enjoying our meals, we both tried to reminisced about our past. Yes, we  have changed over the years. To give a brief review of our past and present – I met Ross when he was our Youth Leader at the church that I was attending. After leaving the church, he returned to study theology at the Avondale college in New South Wales. About half-way through his first year of study, he decided to go to Cambodia for 12 months but ended up living over there for  over 10 years. He then married a local lady over there and eventually him and his family moved back to Australia. His wife is now a doctor here in Australia and Ross have changed course and is now a doctor here in Mackay.This has prompted me to write something about which I thought was worth sharing – A mission for a good course.

Ross and i.c. in Cairns 2018

It was almost 21 years ago that a group of young Adventist youth from Cairns, decided to go on a mission to visit some of the indigenous communities in the Australian outback – Tennant Creek. The mission headed by our Cairns Youth Leader – Ross McKenzie and Cairns Church Pastor – Pastor Lindsay. They both put a lot of effort in planning and organising this two weeks return journey, not only to be successful but a safe journey as well. With carefully constructed planning, each segment of the journey was profoundly calculated – How many hours we were to be driving on the road, the approximate times of arrival and departure, where we were going to spend each night, what we were having each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each person was given a detailed information on what their tasks and roles for each day for the whole duration of the trip. We embarked on this road trip that to took us through some of the remote outback towns, cities, road houses and desert plains. This was a 6000km return trip by road that took us from Cairns, Townsville, Charters Tower, Prairie, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Camooweal, Avon Downs, Barkly Homestead, Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek, Ti Tree, Alice Springs, Uluru and Olgas.

To accomplish this mission in the Australian outback, we had take a road trip that took us right across to the Red Centre of Australia. It is an open wide space out there and one has to make an effort to go out there to see it and to experience the vast country that we live in. For this, we need to Go Outdoors and Hit the Open Road to know that LIFE is an Adventure. We Enjoy the ride but at the same time we must Embrace the Detours.

As I started to clear few shelves to downside on the amount of junk that are piling up on my cupboard, I came across few of my neglected photo albums. As I started to look through each of the photo albums, I came across a particular album which caught my attention and I just couldn’t get my eyes off on every page that I turned. Yes, it was the album with collection of photos of our road trip.

Group photo in front of Cairns church

Prior to the day of our departure, we had a group debrief and an itinerary to give us an clear indication of our journey. With anticipation, this was one of the highlight of my trip since my permanent move to Australia and I just couldn’t wait to hit the open road. Finally, the day had come where we had to meet in the front yard of the church in the early hours of the morning to pack all our travelling bags, suitcases, backpacks, sleeping bags and food. Also, other essential equipments that was needed for the trip including first-aid kit, excess petrol and camping gears. Finally, we were on our way from the green hills and low-land areas of Cairns to desert plains of outback Queensland and Northern Territory. Yes, we did live it rough at times on our trip but without a doubt, it was filled with fun and laughter.

After leaving Cairns early hours of the morning, we arrived in Charters Towers late evening where we spent our first night there at the church hall. After early breakfast, we headed for another long drive to Mt Isa where we spent our second night at the church hall.

Group Photo in Mt Isa
Lunch on the roadside
After leaving Mt Isa, we headed to Alice Springs and then onto Tennant Creek where we spent most of our time there to accomplish our mission before continued to having a tour of Uluru. In Tennant Creek, we were met by Sam Bobongie and family and others who travelled down from Darwin to join the the group.
After spending some quality time with the kids from the outback, we felt that our mission has been accomplished. From there, we headed further to Uluru where some of us climbed the rock and see the Olgas. Uluru is the Australian’s iconic red centre.
View of Uluru
Standing on the centre of the rock
From top looking down
View from the top

From what I saw in front of me, standing there and looking at this gigantic rock standing in the middle of nowhere makes me understand why Uluru is one of the most impressive landmarks in Australia. This huge chuck of rock is located down towards the southwest corner of the Northern Territory.

This rock is enormous and extends about 350m from its barren surrounds. It is very interesting that Ayers Rock extends even further than this amount below ground. There are other, similar types of rocks to Ayers Rock – like the Olgas nearby and Mount Augustus in Western Australia. A World Heritage site, Ayers Rock changed its name to its Aboriginal name of Uluru. Indigenous people were living in the area about 10,000 years ago. White men did not come onto the scene until the 1870s, when William Gosse named it for Henry Ayers, the then-South Australia Chief Secretary. The Pitjantjatjara Aboriginals own the land around and about Ayers Rock today. Ayers Rock is about 335kms to the southwest of Alice Springs – 463kms by road, about five hours – and is served by the small resort town of Yulara. This is where most tourists stay and spend the night there. It has hotel accommodation or camping and there are no actual camping or other facilities within the park itself. Visitors can climb Uluru – Ayers Rock as well as explore the base of it, which is around 10kms by footpath. The trip up takes a good couple of hours there and back. It is not recommended in the summer due to extreme heat. The best time to observe the rock is during sunrise and sunset. However, it is not recommended to climb the rock due to indigenous sacred site. Also, you can easily get lost on the top if you don’t follow the footpath signs and it is known that many people have lost their lives.

After climbing to the top of Ayers Rock, now known as Uluru (traditional name), we headed to Olgas which was more easy and leisurely walk.

Group Photo at Olgas
Olgas viewing platform

From a personal perspective: Now am looking back, it was just a stepping stone to where we are, where we have been and wish we could do it all again. For I have been blessed in this life that I have done so many great things with great friends.

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