Sacred Run 2000 - Australia

Runners entering Cairns, Queensland ( home of the Great Barrier Reef )
 
This story was originally published in the Auckland Express newspaper on February 1, 2001 at Auckland, New Zealand. I wrote this story after having just returned from this remarkable journey through Australia, while it was still fresh in my mind. I have just recently come upon these great photos taken during the Run by Billy "Turtle Warrior" Ledger, one of the runners. I want to share this story and these photos with you. Please enjoy.
                             Gorran Gilkerson (2nd left) at Split Rock Aboriginal art area near Laura, Queensland, Australia

                             Gorran Gilkerson (2nd left) at Split Rock Aboriginal art area near Laura, Queensland, Australia

Mike Suess gives a story about himself, about running, about the wide open spaces of Australia, and about the human spirit.
The Sacred Run 2000 Australia started in La Perouse (near Sydney) on June 1, 2000 and concluded on August 26th, 2000 back in Sydney. I was with the run from the start through August 15, when the run went through Apollo Bay, near Melbourne. There were 25 runners from different parts of the world including myself. We covered over 13,000 kilometers in just under 3 months.
The purpose of the Sacred Run was to connect with the indigenous peoples of Australia and together in a spiritual way, try to raise people’s consciousness towards issues affecting not only the Aboriginal communities but also our future generations and the fragile balance between humanity and our environment.
                                                                     Elder in Council chambers.

                                                                     Elder in Council chambers.

Spiritual running differs from recreational running in that while you are running, you are “focusing your attention” on the reasons why you are running. I was not only running for all the amazing Aboriginal people we met along the way but also for All Beings everywhere!
The Sacred Run was started in the United States in 1978 by Dennis Banks, an Anishinabe American Indian activist and leader, with the purpose of carrying the message that “All Life is Sacred”. It was inspired by the ancient Native American tradition of running great distances, even to the most remote villages, to spread the messages, news and information. Although this was Dennis' Sacred Run Foundation he was not on this run but he was clearly there in spirit.

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I think there were two main reasons we were welcomed into these communities. It was Dennis Banks' organization and he has a large following among the Aboriginal communities, I think they see similar struggles. The second was our No Drugs/ No Alcohol policy. Unfortunately, in a lot of the communities alcohol & drugs are a big problem.
Our course for the run took us through every state in Australia. We “targeted” Aboriginal communities so we would often go out onto rough, out of the way dirt roads in order to reach the different communities.
             Every morning, before the different teams would leave for their starting points, we would have a "Prayer Circle"

             Every morning, before the different teams would leave for their starting points, we would have a "Prayer Circle"

We purposely started the Run in La Perouse, the closest Aboriginal land to Sydney. From there our route took us north through New South Wales and the Aboriginal communities of Quirindi, Armidale, Moree and Toomelah. In Queensland, we ran through Toowoomba, Cherbourg, Eldsvold, Biloela, Sarina, Tully, Cairns and Laura.

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We tried to get to Weipa in Cape York and the Torres Strait islands but we were stopped by the Stewart River. In the outback, the only way to cross most rivers is to drive through them. One of our vehicles (mine) got stuck in the river in the evening. We knew that there were hungry crocks in the river and it was hard for us to see. We posted several people with torches to watch “for the eyes” while the rest of us got out and pushed the vehicle out. It was a little scary.
My car stuck in the Calvert river. Whenever this would happen to one of the vehicles we either pushed or pulled it out, Most of the rivers don't have bridges so you have to drive through them.

My car stuck in the Calvert river. Whenever this would happen to one of the vehicles we either pushed or pulled it out, Most of the rivers don't have bridges so you have to drive through them.

Our route through the Northern Territory took us right in the heart of Arnhamland then on through the center of the country down to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. We got to spend several days with the native peoples from Mutitjulu, right into Uluru National Park. That was a treat!
Laurel, the only Aboriginal runner, at Uluru National Park. I was fortunate to have her as part of my team. She was always warm and cheerful.

Laurel, the only Aboriginal runner, at Uluru National Park. I was fortunate to have her as part of my team. She was always warm and cheerful.

Often times the communities would send out their elders to greet us and their young school age kids to run in with us, sometimes as many as 40 kids would show up with the elders. We would run into the town carrying the Aboriginal flag. Occasionally we would get a police escort or a tribal elder’s vehicle to lead the way into town. Sometimes this was seen as a big and important event in some of these Aboriginal communities. Members of the local community were sometimes out on the roadways waving and cheering as we went by.
                                                                      Near Uluru National Park, Northern Territory

                                                                      Near Uluru National Park, Northern Territory

Keep in mind that some of the places we visited were way out in the bush, the longest being 350 KM’s away from the nearest town, on a rough dirt road.

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Most of the communities would have a meal of some kind for us. They knew that we would be coming on a certain date and sometimes these were quite elaborate events. In several of the communities they had BBQ for us. I suspect that on more than one occasion, I ate kangaroo and other local game. The most exotic thing I ate (and knew about) was stuffed fruit bat. I was hesitant about trying it but this one particular host was quite insistent that I try it, so I did. It wasn’t bad.
                              Fruit bats sleeping upside down. In this area, there were hundreds, clustered in a few trees.

                              Fruit bats sleeping upside down. In this area, there were hundreds, clustered in a few trees.

The only thing that I did not try was grubs. We were in one community way out in the bush and they put a plate of baked grubs on the table but I just couldn’t do it. A couple of the runners tried them and said they were “kind of nutty” tasting but I’ll never know.
                                                                   Cultural demonstration for the runners

                                                                   Cultural demonstration for the runners

In some of the communities, especially in the Northern Territory, we got demonstrations of how they make the didjiridoo and how to play it. One elder showed us how he hollows the stem out. He puts sugar in the middle so the ants eat the insides out. It was cool to see.
                                               Elder playing a didjiridoo he just completed in Northern Territory

                                               Elder playing a didjiridoo he just completed in Northern Territory

In other communities they showed us how they make boomerangs, the different types for the different needs and how to throw them properly.
After dinner we always had an evening social where the runners would share stories about their lives and listen to the lives and concerns of the local community. It was a great exchange of ideas.

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After the social we needed our rest, sometimes these events would go on quite late. We had many different types of accommodations but most required our sleeping bags and usually our tents, too. We stayed in community halls, churches, parks, hostels, gymnasiums, schools, etc. When we were traveling to the more remote communities it would take several days to get there so we would sleep wherever our run ended for that day. On rare occasions we would get to sleep in beds. This was especially true when we were near larger towns, it happened in several places and when it did, it was a treat!
Paul & Billy "Turtle Warrior" Ledger with Wadjularbinna in Doomagee, Queensland. Wadjularbinna is an activist working to save Aboriginal traditional values and the languages. She's an amazing woman!

Paul & Billy "Turtle Warrior" Ledger with Wadjularbinna in Doomagee, Queensland. Wadjularbinna is an activist working to save Aboriginal traditional values and the languages. She's an amazing woman!

Having completed the run, I can now take some time to “digest” all the places we have been to and all the people we have met. The only drawback to a run like this is that you are always on the go, never able to spend more than a day or two in any one place.

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All in all, I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience first-hand the Aboriginal communities, with their trials and tribulations. I have met elders who are committed to restoring their unique languages. I have met dedicated traditional people who are taking control of their own school systems and restructuring them to better meet their own needs. I have met some wonderful community leaders whose vision will successfully take Aboriginal peoples into the next century and beyond!
                              Emillio posing with 2 semi-tame Kookaburras near Halls Creek, Western Australia

                              Emillio posing with 2 semi-tame Kookaburras near Halls Creek, Western Australia

DAY                   DATE                   DESTINATION              KMS

 

1    THURS                   1st June                      Sydney to Newcastle       nsw          220
2    FRI                         2nd June                     Newcastle to Quirindi     nsw          214
3    SAT                        3rd June                      Quirindi to Armidale      nsw          188
4    SUN                       4th June                       Armidale  to Moree        nsw          305
5    MON                      5th June                       Moree to Toomelah       nsw          127
6    TUES                      6th June                  Toomelah to Toowoomba    Q            225
7    WED                       7th June                                  REST DAY        
8    THURS                    8th June                Toowoomba  to Cherbourg    Q            209
9    FRI                         9th June                     Cherbourg  to Eidsvold      Q            217
10    SAT                      10th June                           Eidsvold to Biloela .   Q            173
11    SUN                      11th June                    Biloela to R.ockhampton   Q           145
12    MON                     12th June                     Rockhampton to Sarina    Q          310
13    TUES                     13th June                                Sarina to Bowen    Q          190
14    WED                      14th June                         Bowen to Townsville    Q           200
15    THURS                   15th June                                 REST DAY        
16    FRI                         16th June                           Townsville to Tully    Q           200
17    SAT                        17th June                                 Tully to Cairns    Q           160
18    SUN                        18th June                                REST DAY        
19    MON                       19th June                                Cairns to Laura    Q           251
20    TUES                       20th June       Lakeland to Cohen  ( Musgrave)    Q           310
21    WED                       21st June                        Musgrave -  Laura         Q            
22    THURS                   22nd June                              Laura to Cairnsns    Q

23    FRI                         23rd June                                     REST DAY  
24    SAT                        24th June                                     REST DAY    
25    SUN                        25th June           Cairns to  Forty Mile  Scrub N.P    Q        207
26    MON                       26th June       Forty Mile Scrub NP to Georgetown  Q        148
27    TUES                      27th June                  Georgetown to Normanton    Q        300
28    WED                       28th June                    Normanton to Burketown    Q        230
29    THURS                   29th June                      Burketown to Doomagee    Q       100
30    FRI                        30th June                                   REST DAY    
31    SAT                        1st July               Doomadgeei to Robinson River    NT       250
32    SUN                        2nd July                 Robinson River to Borroloola    NT       160
33    MON                      3rd July                   Borroloola to October Creek    NT       215
34    TUES                      4th July                October Creek to Daly Waters     NT       169
35    WED .                     5th July                      Daly Waters to Mataranka     NT       168
36    THURS                    6th July                          Mataranka to Katherine    NT       112
37    FRI                          7th July                                      REST DAY
38    SAT                         8th July                               Katherine to Jabiluka    Q       299
39    SUN                         9th July                             Jabiluka to Darwin      Q       261
40    MON                      10th July                              Darwin to Pine  Creek    Q      230
41    TUES                      11th July                     Pine Creek to Timber Creek    NT    373
42    WED                       12th July                    Timber  Creek to Kununarra    WA    227
43    THURS                    13th July                     Kunanurra to Turkey Creek    WA    151
44    FRI                         14th July                  Turkey  Creek to Halls Creek     WA    163
45    SAT                        15th July                                      REST DAY        
46    SUN                        16th July                            Halls Creek to Billiluna    WA    170

47    MON                       17th July                             Billiluna to Rabbit Flat    NT    279
48    TUES                       18th July                         Rabbit Flat to Yuendumu    NT    307
 49    WED                        19th July                             Yuendumu to Papunya   NT    90
  50    THURS                   20th July                        Papunya to Alice Springs     NT    250
   51    FRI                       21st July                                  REST DAY               NT    250
    52    SAT                     22nd July                             Alice Springs to Uluru    NT    443
    53    SUN                    23rd July                                           REST DAY        
    54    MON                   24th July                                 Uluru to Umuna          SA    220
    55    TUES                   25th July                                Umuna to lndulkana    SA    310
    56    WED                    26th July                        lndulkana to Cooper Pedy    SA    300
    57    THURS                27th July                                         REST DAY        
    58    FRI                     28th July                     Cooper Peddy to Glendambo    SA    254
    59    SAT                    29th July                            Glendambo to Woomera    SA    113
    60    SUN                   30th July                           Woomera to Port Augusta   SA    173
    61    MON                  31st July                   Port Augusta to Port Wakefield    SA    224
   62    TUES                  1st Aug                           Port Wakefield to Adelaide    SA    102
   63    WED                   2nd Aug                                         REST DAY        
   64    THURS               3rd Aug                     Adelaide to Goolwa (Hindmarsh)  SA    150

   65    FRI                      4th Aug                   Goolwa to Cantara (Kingston SE)    SA     183

   66    SAT                     5th Aug                                   Cantara to Mt Gambier    SA    155
   67    SUN                     6th Aug                                   Mt Gambier to Portland    V119
   68    MON                    7th Aug                                     Portland to Apollo Bay    V259
   69    TUES                    8th Aug                                 Apollo Bay to Melbourne    V183
   70    WED                     9th Aug                           REST DAY    (Ferry to Tasmania)    
   71    THURS                 10th Aug                                   Davenport to Smithton    T    131
  72    FRI                       11th Aug                               Smithton to Queenstown    T    253
  73    SAT                      12th Aug                                          REST DAY        
  74    SUN                      13th Aug                              Queenstown to Tarraleah    T    129
  75    MON                     14th Aug                                      Tarraleah to Hobart    T    121
  76    TUES                     15th Aug                                         Hobart to Bicheno    T    182
  77    WED                      16th Aug                                    Bicheno to Scottsdale    T    182
  78    THURS                  17th Aug                                Scottsdale to Davenport     T    171
  79    FRI                        18th Aug                 REST DAY·    (Ferry  to Melbourne)
  80    SAT                       19th Aug                             Melbourne to Bairnsdale       V230
  81    SUN                      20th Aug              Bairnsdale to Lake Tyres (Nowa Nowa)  V   230
  82    MON                     21st Aug                                Lake Tyres to Maliacouta    V 150
  83    TUES                     22nd Aug                       Mallacouta to Wallaga Lake     NSW  240
  84    WED                      23rd Aug                          Wallaga Lake to Canberra      ACT    240
  85    THURS                  24th Aug                                         REST DAY        
  86    FRI                        25th Aug                              Canberra to Moss Vale      NSW    170
  87    SAT                       26th Aug                                   Moss Vale to SydneyNSW    150

                                                   

TOTAL KM's    13137