On The Road, New South Wales/Queensland



Monday 7 July 2014
Eltham to FINLEY,NSW

It was a cold morning and a late 10.30am start before we finally left Eltham on our road trip to visit my cousin Aprile in Queensland and begin a painting trip with our camper trailer. We headed out towards Shepparton and had a couple of stops to the Subaru shop for some rubber floor matts and across the road to a 4×4 store to have our trailer hitch sorted out. We are wondering about the weight of the car/trailer ratio. We are being reassured its ok, but to look at the way the weight is hanging on the back tyres makes us wonder if indeed we will see any wild back Qld country.

The days are cold and short and of course the sun sets early. We had very little daylight time left before we headed into a camping ground for the first erecting of our new camper trailer. It wasn’t all that difficult; second time around. And for $20 a night very reasonable for a powered site. Not that we needed power – we had our own battery pack and nothing with a power plug; thought I did use it to charge my phone. This was the first night for setting up the bed. It was an incredibly warm and comfortable night, under the doona – the air outside was somewhere around freezing.

Tuesday, 8 July 14

About twenty minutes to fold up the camper. There is a lot of mucking around with all of the gear and getting things in and out of the trailer.

There seems to be a bit of heavy weather heading our way from the north west. the weather report on the TV news seemed to confirm that too. Of course rain will put a damper on any camping. Snow down to low levels!! At least for now we are in the hotel and that will help. Tomorrow we just keep on pushing up north.

Not much to report about the days activities – road, trucks, trucks, caravans and more trucks. Stands of grey box trees, Murray pines and iron barks.

Passed through the town of Jerilderie NSW where my father was born and had a look at the very old school my father must have attended. He was born in 1903 and the school build the century before…

Decided it was best to try and hurry up and get to Ipswich as fast as possible and not spend too much time setting up the trailer and its cold and winter is not the best time to be camping.

Took a motel at Dubbo for the night – in the morning there was a thick white frost covering everything and we had to scrape the ice off the windscreen when we finally got away.

Wednesday 9 July 14
Sheepyard (Near Lightning Ridge, NSW)

Heading towards Ipswich and saw a sign to Walgett. I had often wondered what had become of Walgett. Many years ago I spent some time in Walgett with an Biggibilla, an Aboriginal friend and an artist Jenni Roe. We were travelling with Biggibilla with the task of meeting the Aboriginal community and setting up an art school. I was to teach painting, Jenny ceramics and Biggibilla to teach the local youth about their culture. Biggi was an elder from the region; he had told us. Jenny and I were to return to Melbourne and put together the funding proposals for a three month stink in the community. We spend a fortnight putting together details papers about the cost of art materials and all sorts of bits as well as some funding for ourselves. Never heard a word about our submissions. Much later we heard that the manager had taken off with the funding… Was this true? Who knows. It’s more than 30 years ago now and I wanted to go and have another look at Walgett as we were so close. So we department from our first task and headed north west instead.

My memory of Walgett was of buildings boarded up with steel grills over the doors and windows and it being an unsafe place to wander at night. At least Biggi had Jenny and I pretty nervous. Sure enough, the shop fronts were still pretty dismal looking with wire grills and steel doors. We found a lovely café run by a community for the disabled. It was very clean and the food good and simple. Paintings and carvings were also part of the show. There is a art community now. Clearly something must have happened during the years.

Leaving town we saw a sign to Lightening Ridge. It was also out of our immediate route. But oh so close and once more I had always wanted to visit the opal mining town. So now we are completely off track and heading to Lightening Ridge.

The country is very dry now and the green has all gone from the landscape. We are in quite rugged country with Bulloke and desert trees.

We see a turnoff to Sheepyard and other opal communities. We keep on to Lightening Ridge and call into the tourist centre. I found the chaos and business of the town a little too much. Where to camp for the night? Everything seems so full of people. Tourist information says to head back to Sheepyard if we are really interested in looking for opal and no you do not need a permit to fossick. It you did go for a permit you need to also complete a safety program. It was 75 ks back to Sheepyard. What to do? We were loosing light. OK, lets go. We take the drive back towards Walgett and turn right to Sheepyard. It’s a dry looking country now. Plenty of sheep on the road looking for a feed and far too many colourful wild goats on the way. The road was also littered with dead roo carcasses and sheep that had been hit.

As we entered into the opal mining sites the country became rougher. White mounts of stones from exploration sites littered scrub. The landscape seemed generally grey; grey trees, grey earth grey road; with areas of red sand. The opal mining dumps grew bigger and soon all sorts of rough tin humpies appeared. It is a real hill billy community. Bush humour abounds with signs nailed to trees that read ‘cars with brakes give way’ and this way to the Hilton and so forth. Tin sculptures litter the community – bits of car bodies and broken vehicles everywhere. Mine shafts that are left dangerously unprotected that are too deep for snakes and other wild animals to crawl out of. Abandoned equipment and dreams that are made and broken everywhere. Sheepyard is a pub with a generator and old buses and huge dumps of underground earth piles everywhere.

The publican says we can pitch our camper just by the old bus. We do and find some colour and potch in the mullock heap first up. Beginners luck! And then we see much potch in the tailing. We were told there was not much around – all been picked over. There is soooo much tailing everywhere and there must be so much opal in these mounds. Its easy to see how opal fever begins. We set up the trailer and cook a sort of stir fry with some of the fresh food we have. I didn’t want to go to the pub – beginning to crave the sense of outback and getting away from people. As soon as the sun goes down the temperature drops quickly. Soon it’s cold and time for bed. There has been a strong wind all day and lighting a fire seems out of the question and its now too dark to really get a feel for our surrounds. We heat up the hot water bottles and what a difference it makes. We sleep well.

Thursday 10 July 14
Sheepyard (Near Lightening Ridge, NSW)

Cold morning… I wear leggings under my jeans. Take a stroll down a wash away creek in the hope I am avoiding wandering onto any opal claims. There is evidence of claims everywhere and not a good idea to step onto another person’s patch. Fossicking is considered OK around these parts as long as its not on a lease. Pretty soon I am finding potch and little bits of colour and pleased with my find along the dry sandy creek bed. It seems to me a good place to begin as surely the water that washes off the mullock heaps into the creek would wash the dust off the stones. The such a find dust the white clay like rock; its into everything.

Meanwhile Mervyn has been talking to the lady at the pub and she has suggested we go and fossick on the nearby tailing dumps – where all of the new tailings go and where most people fossick. We drive back and have a look and my god – there is just so much to look at it seems impossible to know where to begin. and its so fresh I cannot imagine looking through all the stuff. We look for a while and give up and think the old mullock heaps seems simpler. Even if they have been over many times they are weathered and to my mind easier.

We drove around and looked at the other communities in the district and at all of the old make do bits of equipment strewn through the scrub. This area is what Lightening Ridge used to look like – a back block hill billy wild west place. The residents live in make do humpies, though some even have bricks and motor and cactus gardens. Most humpies have tin and poles and not much else; perhaps a few old car bodies for parts. Most cars are in need of panels; though there are quite a few new looking 4 x 4 vehicles; perhaps the more successful miners. Deep shafts litter the place; some with pieces of tin over them and others with a star picket fence and barbed wire. There is not much to prevent falls if you were not careful.

The people are mostly wiry with long grey beards and its obvious water is scare. The dam where the washing of the rocks takes place through old cement mixers is also dry.

Called into a community shop that is also an art gallery. Mostly knitted and crocheted goods from locals. There were small vials of opal and two jars of colour stones that I admired.

Overnight I thought about those stones and whether they would be a good buy or not; given we were going onto Queensland back to Lightening Ridge the next day. I did not buy them…

Made a fire in the mullock heap next to the camper and cooked vegetables in the camp oven. A pretty little black and white flycatcher hung around. I made a pastel of the quickly changing pink mauve sky over the tailing piles. Mervyn did two small pastels while I was stone hunting earlier in the day.

Friday, 11 July 14
St. George, Queensland

Woke to ice inside the tent… Thought it was very cold overnight. Extra Cold. Unbelievable. Mervyn got out of bed and made a fire. Even our gas stove didn’t want to work it was so cold. Have taken to wearing thermals to bed; under the pyjamas.

Most of the time in leaving camp is about how much time it takes to pack the boxes away; not how much time to set up and pack up the camper. That’s now the quick bit…

It was past midday by the time we left Sheepyard and drove back past the other communities. Called into the Art shop for another look at the coloured stones. Had thought about them during the night. They were really lovely and I bought both jars for a good price…

Back in Lightning Ridge I knew I had got a bargain when I looked at the range and price of the opals on offer in the store. There surely were some beautiful stones for sale; but the price… I think I saw the best and most vivid black opals I have ever seen today in the shops in Lightening Ridge. For sale also was a stunning large piece of polished Labarordite that had come from Canada. It would have looked good in my showcase…

There was not much daylight left by the time we left The Ridge and actually crossed the border. Parts of the countryside are so dry and any stock we saw was sadly thin and close to the road. It breaks my heart to see cattle sitting by the road; I can still see them in my minds eye.

Leopardwood Trees and Quantong trees, Bulloke and other desert trees give character to this corner of the country. The flat dry gave way to some grassier pastures as we headed back east towards St. George. We deliberated as to whether to keep driving – or stay at St. George. It’s just that the sun goes down so early and there is not much time to drive in daylight. Seems too dangerous to drive at night judging by the carcasses lining the roads. We really only came a couple of hundred kilometres today.

There is a noise that appears to be coming from the wheels when we make a turn. Must be all of the fine white dust we are carrying in everything – opal dust.

We decide to stay at St. George. This is new country for me. The largest town in this part of the state. Several motels and warm showers. Time to stop off for a good shower and a meal in town. A night or two of camping and the odd motel – and maybe we will get to sit under a tree and camp for a few days in one place… I wonder.

The Sisters of Dominican Convent – Tuesday 2 July

At the Convent – 2 July 2013

I can see it’s going to be difficult getting a journal out. With the constant black outs – or brown outs as the nuns refer  to the frequent daily power failure – things to do and slow internet only available through my phone ‘hotspot’…

I will try to catch up on the activities of the recent days – but to begin from this morning…

The morning meditation bell is sounded around 5.00am. It is still dark but at least a little cooler. The overhead fan is on all night, as the two small fans – as much to keep the mosquitoes away as anything else.

I was up for a bucket wash in the shower cubicle this morning and just as I was half dressed the bagging began. The bagging of the motor of the mosquito spraying machine. It was so loud. The sisters had called the spray man because two of the residents, one sister and one novice have contracted dengi fever. The girls have been washing the floors in kerosine for the past two days. The place stinks of petrochemical.

As I hurried to dry myself and put on some clothes to the loud pump noise I began to see a fog coming through the wooden louvers of the shower block. I quietly began to panic as the stench reached my nose to the loud banging sound. It was too much as half naked I started out along the corridor for my shared room. I could not see in front of me for the fog mist of the insecticide spray. Open my room and Mervyn and Chris were also cowering from the fumes. It was so thick we could not see each other. I held my skirt to my face and closed my eyes. Then I noticed Mervyn had gone. Sat on the bed with the cloth across my face and after a few minutes Mervyn came back and said we needed to get outside. i had thought that would have been worse. At the back of the convent the spray had begin to dissipate and we sat there coughing and choking into the stench. Soon the air cleared a little – like a fog rising from the early morning dew. We tiptoed through the mist back to our room and opened the door; but it was still too thick in our room and returned outside and waited.

Even now, several hours later I am in my room writing to the smell that will be here for some time; I think. I have a little bottle of lavender oil and have sprinkled that onto our beds to cover up the smell.

It was time for breakfast which we had with the sisters and novices. There are 11 people living in the convent full time and several others coming and going. Always active; visitors and members of the order passing through.

After breakfast I was to bake a cake and work with the children. But first; needed to go with sister and Mervyn to buy more plumbing needs and building materials from the highway. Mervyn has now become the convent driver. He is also the supervisor for the construction and repair of the library and other outbuildings. He says he is not a plumber and would rather take orders; but he is now plumber, builder and painter; driver…

Yesterday I worked with the 4 and 5 year olds. There are 75 pupils for the community attending the school. The families pay $10 a month which covers the cost of the oil to cook the children’s lunches. The rest of the teaching costs and food are paid by the convent. There are 20 children paid for by scholarship from an Australian church parish. The cost to the parishioners is $20 a month. That’s about a cafe latte a week. Maybe more of us could spend a coffee  a week on sending a child to school. Being here has shown me just what is needed and how the poorest of the Timor Leste people live. The convent is situated in the poorest part of town. I will post photographs as I can. And maybe not until I return to my first world computer desk and fast network to make it happen.

This morning a group of visiting Australian students passed through led by a Catholic church volunteer. Mervyn is out there alone trying to fix the shed and the sisters are concerned there is no one to help him. I suggested to the visitors that one of their strong men could assist Mervyn. The answer was ‘Oh no, couldn’t allow our visiting Australians to do more than look. Work safe and heath thingo’s back home wouldn’t allow the school children to touch anything…’ They can look and go back home and share the problem. Form what I can see from here we need more than that.

a little later…

I’ve come in from teaching the young students again. Today we walked around the garden and chose a leaf to bring in and put on the table while observing the difference in colour and shape. I then demonstrated how I would draw and paint the leaf and then one by one they came to try for the first time my brushes and how to hold the brush. Thought this would be first way of teaching how to hold and put brush on paper.

Last night Sister showed me the bags the women have been making from the outer community. They are like lined shopping bags and beautifully sewn by hand decorations. I have bought a number of them for the gallery.

Sister asked one of the local youth to climb up the coconut tree to pick coconut. Unfortunately when he was up in the high branches of the tree he was stung by a bee and it was very painful for him. I had some anti-histime pills and gave him one. So what happens at other times? He was quite distressed. And yet he shot up that tree like a monkey. Many of the community come to the convent during the day. It is like an oasis among the hessian and concrete homes. Some whitewash would be great here too. Some people are managing to build homes from concrete blocks and it is possible to see the beginnings of a loved abode.

Last night Ian had arranged a dinner for the new tribe of Rotarians that arrived the night before. We had promised Sister to take her to the market along the beach. We missed the dinner but instead had a great experience of shopping Timor style. The beach is lined with stalls where the locals come to sell their produce. I hope I can find time to return to photograph. Stalls with taro, pumpkin, bananas, greens I do not know, cocos; all beautifully displayed. The prices were varied and bargaining was not successful. Sister tried to bring prices down but the stall owners held their own.A pineapple was $3,50 – $5.00 and water melon $7.00; and that’s for a small one only.

We had a lovely drive out to the other mission a couple of days ago – up high along a dangerous mountain road. Perhaps more dangerous the way Ian drives; though he has tried to convince us he has been driving and avoiding events for many years. He is a good guide for certain bits of history – anything to do with the unrest and the Australian Peace keeping forces. He has been here many times over the past few years, firstly as a army major and now as a rotarian bring teams like us along.

He has quite a job on his hand keeping the three convent sites repairs flowing. Getting anything here is difficult; though I think not as difficult as Mongolia! It’s about the time and process of driving.

Yesterday there was a killing. A Timor Leste student who had attended the St  Dominican convent as a student was killed for visiting West Timor. He was studying the language and the local killed him for being perhaps in their eyes a traitor. He was from this community. I am unsure of anymore details other than we heard many sirens in the streets yesterday and they seemed to go forever. There was retribution. So the tension is still here, barely beneath the surface.

On our first night one of the sisters; Helen, visiting from the highlands had warned us to not run over any dogs. What did she do the next night but run over and kill a neighbours dog. That was bad enough but she didn’t stop. We are wall warned about being out at night alone and for a sister to get out of her car in the dark is considered dangerous; so she kept coming to convent. The dog owners were furious and in general terms to run over a dog will cost $50. They came to the convent and tried to negotiate $500. The farce ended up at the police station. The dog owners said it was their special guard dog who protects their shop. All at the convent were nervous because of the short fuses of the local and it does not take a lot for the unrest and frequent stonings to begin. They threatened to destroy sister Helen’s car.

will write some more later.

Eltham to Timore Leste

ImageThis photograph is NOT how we will be travelling to Timore Leste from Eltham. The photograph above depicts a traditional Mongolian Nomadic family moving camp with their Yak train for better pastures.

We will be flying from Melbourne and arriving at 1.00am in Darwin. Sleep for five hours on the terminal floor; seats, whatever we can and waiting until 6.00am for the 1.5 hour flight from Darwin to Dilli. Leave Melbourne winter behind and arrive in around 30C tropics.

Purpose of our trip? We are part of an NGO team from the Eltham Rotary Group involved with the building of an accommodation unit at an ophanage 25 kilometres from the capital city, Dili.

Hair Cutting Ceremony

It is customary for the children’s hair cutting ceremony to take place around the time of Children’s Day in Mongolia. Today we we’re invited to two separate families having their childns hair cutting day. At 11.00am ikhama and Tugi invited us to take part in the first cut and eat a feast with them. This is an honor for us to attend one of the most significant days in a child’s lie, the first hair cut. It was explained to me the boy, also Tugsoo has turned four, but from the mothers position he is a lady five because of the time spent in her womb. Iklama and Tugi’s family were present and a lovely table with food had been prepared.

We had taken a taxi part of the way and walked along the river wall where we were able to view the development of the town and the river. We looked down on many new outrages double story stand alone houses in the ritzy edge of town. A family was harvesting seeds from the wild trees growing along the river banks. We had to pick our way through fences and rubble to find a path in the general directn of where Tugsoo thought Tugi and Iklama’s apartment is. We did eventually find it, a new apartment in a new development on the sixth floor, no lifts.




The ceremony took place much as I have previously described. Firstly the child and then the first cutter takes a sip of special milk from a silver bowl and is handed the scissors with a blue silk tie. The first cuts of hair by the family are tied into another blue silk tie to be kept for a hand over ceremony when the cod reaches a good teenage age, say 18. When each person has cut aiece of hair and handed over gifts of money and presents there are more speeches and well wishes for the child’s destiny. Snuff bottles of tobacco like snuff and also shared as is vodka and wine.

Food keeps on coming all day.

We three left to then attend another ceremony of hair cutting across town. This time it was tugsoos relative. The house in in the ger district. Tugsoos sister is also a pasted at the local evangelical church and the congregation have. Built a simple timber structure next to their house. This is a coles area of houses and gers, lane ways, to fences and a multistory apartment building built out of slabs of second hand concrete. I don
T know how they can get away with this. Unench says it has been under construction the past five years and the give away was the multi-colored walls or mixed wallpapers that Alcorn the structure that we thought was being Demolished!



Desert Sharing Exhibition – History Museum Ulaanbaatar

Desert Sharing: Two Women, Two Deserts, Two Cultures, One Friendship

In 2006 Mongolian artist Tugsoyun Sodnom travelled to Australia and met Melbourne artist Jenni Mitchell. They soon realized they shared a love of wild places; both previously spending much of their artistic pursuits and journeys into the deserts and countryside of their respective countries.

Excited to discover a kindred spirit in each other Jenni invited Tugsoyun along on a painting trip into the South Australian Flinders Rangers with partner artist Mervyn Hannan.

The three artists set off for a journey to Parachilna in the Northern Flinders Ranges. Togsuyon was surprised how many features of this rugged part of Australia reminded her of parts of countryside Mongolia. The wide expanse of horizon, the dry rugged cliffs and sandy soil had a familiarity; except for the fauna and vegetation which was fascinating in its difference and abundance for Togsuyon. Together as they journeyed the artists swapped the words for each feature of landscape and began learning and sharing customs. Even the use of soft dry pastel was a new experience for Tugsoyun who was more familiar with an oil pastel commonly used by Mongolian artists. The brilliant intensity of the хех тэнгэр; blue sky, was the same. As Tugsoyun shared stories of her beloved Mongolia Jenni and Mervyn vowed to visit and the project of Desert Sharing was born.

Days were spent painting together under the shade of ancient red river gum trees growing from the stony beds of the wide dry desert rivers. The gentle sound of the diamond dove call contrasted with the harsh screech of the many large flocks of white cockatoos along the river banks. And in the evening back at camp the artists marveled together at the spectacle of the wild sun fire as it set below the horizon backed by the beauty of a soft pink and mauve light.

On return from South Australia to Jenni’s Eltham studio Togsoyun and Jenni worked for several weeks side by side listening to the music of Mongolia, and sometimes that of Australia. The Mongolian traditional music seemed to fill the studio appropriately with a sound for the artists to paint the large canvases that followed. ‘I am usually more comfortable working alone, and yet with Tugsoyun sharing my space was easy, our work is quite different in appearance, but the essence derives from the same influence; that of the spirit of the landscape in its great expansiveness or the small fine detail as that of a small plant or composition of a stone.

The culmination of the three artists Flinders Ranges work came together in an exhibition held soon after at the Eltham Montsalvat Art Colony which was officially opened by the then Consulate for Mongolia, Peter Sloane who recognized the importance of the three artists embarking on an their cultural exchange in partnership, ideas and friendship.

Although Mitchell and Hannan were unable to join Sodnom until several years later; by invitation they were able to ship some paintings to Mongolia to be shown in two invitation exhibitions in Ulaanbaatar.

It was not until 2010 that Jenni and Mervyn embarked on their first visit to Mongolia; and their artist friends home city Ulaanbaatar.

Again the three artists were able to travel and work together. The first trip from Ulaanbaatar was made to Kharhorin; old capital city of Mongolia where once more they set up their paints and made sketches and small paintings of the Mongolian countryside.
‘The Mongolian Steppe appeared endless. In comparison to the breadth of an Australian desert landscape Mongolia’s countryside seemed even larger. The great Steppe plains interspersed by outcrops of green hills behind which lay further vast plains of countryside seemed to have no end’.

The fenceless countryside of Mongolia; a ger camp with family, herdsmen and satellite dish contrasts against an Australian with collections of tin sheds and outback humpies. Thousands of kilometers of fence posts and wire divide Australia into parcels of ownership. Nowadays the Australian outback station is more likely to be owned by an international syndicate and use light aircraft and bikes to muster stock that was once tendered by stockmen on horses.
The presence of the eagle is important in both landscapes: a symbol of the power and fragility of life.

You do not need to travel far across the Mongolian Steppe to find evidence of human life. From seemingly nowhere will appear a herdsman on a horse, or a small settlement of gers, a relic of a past Buddhist temple, an earlier carved stone or a fresh blue silk offering laid upon an Ovoo. In both our countryside’s bleached animal bones abound. These are among our countries differences and similarities and the subject of our paintings and photography.

The artists travelled together a second trip into the North Eastern Khentii Amig region to experience a different kind of landscape. This time, in Chinggis Khan birth country the landscape was more hilly with great open plains and rivers. The further north the more vegetation and birch forest appeared as a contrasting subject matter. Timber building constructions instead of Gers and a lot of water and swamp land to traverse. The abundance of wildflowers was fascinating to the Australians who were familiar with many of them at home as cultivated garden varieties.

The three artists have been preparing work over the past years from these journeys to present as the continuing story of Desert Sharing. Works from these share journeys will be on exhibition at two venue. The first exhibition opens at the History Museum May 28 Desert sharing ii and continues for one week, the second show in Ulaanbaatar, desert Sharing iii at the Union of Mongolian Artists gallery commencing June 35 for one week.

Selected Australian and Mongolian paintings, drawings, photographs and silk textiles will be presented across the two venues.

Each of the artists have travelled far in their pursuit of wild landscape including the Antarctic, The Arctic, Norway Africa, Europe as well as Australia and Mongolia.

The project will return to Australia In 2013 when Tugsoyun plans to return to Australia and continue the exchange of culture, landscape and exhibitions.

Ulanbaataar May 24

Well, we just turned down a trip with a tour company to first fly out west to the Alti mountains, horse and camel riding and camps by beautiful lakes before driving south to the three parts of the Gobi desert. The price tag was more than a month is Paris, with air fare. And we have exhibitions to organize and a short trip with Togsoo to the Gobi. We would have been the only people on the tour. We would be met at the airport by a driver, cook and English guide. Guess the Alti mountains and the Gobi will still be there is we decide to return.

Toogsoo invited us to a presentation with the Korean and Japanese university today out of town a bit past the Russian region of Ullaabaatar. There is a lot of ceremony in honor of artists and people who do here. We met a few more of Togsoo’s artist friends today, some of who were in the celebration of international artists.


We also spent some time looking at picture framers who may be able to cut some mounts for the works on paper that we did not bring mounts for. Unfortunately framers here do not seem to have mount cutters. Instead the Korean framers in Togsoo’s studios only make mounts by slicing each side with a mitre shape… A painting could then have four different color around the frame. The second framer nearby appeared to be a dealer too for there were hundreds of well framed paintings on the walls and no, he would only makes frames if you bought the whole garish frame. And then he would only make very fancy mounts, not the simple mount we need. The solution will be to pin the works directly to the walls in a more contemporary manner.

I bought one of Togsoo’s beautiful etchings today. Her studio is full of many large oil paintings, some we have seen previously and many new works. Her Lino cuts and few etchings available are very fine.

We have also spent some time in one of the Ulaanbaatar fine art museums where we saw many fine artists in the making. I was surprised to find most students here in the art school male. We seem to have a ghee percentage of females in fine art at home.

Impressive was the quality of the work being produced and how much still life and traditional work was set. I met some students mastering traditional Mongolian painting using pencil sketch and gouache paint. It was exquisite work.

Also interesting was how small a space each student had to work, and on entering the room the ‘quiet of concentration’ and work was happening; with maybe six to eight students easels on top of each other.


Below is a photograph of the ‘Childrens Art School’ where Togsoo says she learnt to paint when she was young. What a great thing and how good would this be back in Australia. children here are introduced to art at the earliest age and some of the young children musicians are just wonderful. The sculpture is that of a young Lenin.



Ulaanbaatar May 22


Photo of paper mâché artist and some work.

Snow from last night could be seen on the hill surrounding Ulaanbaatar though very little had settled on the ground in the city. It felt very cold, reminded me of the arctic, temperature about 0 in the morning with a chill factor of -7. Exhilarating is one for it. The novelty wore off quickly and after a walk to some studios to meet some artist friends of Togsoo’s we returned to our apartment to spend the day organizing the show and writing. Mervyn finished stretching the canvases for the show. The state let the hot water run through the city pipes again today. The notice was that we would be another week without hot water. I wonder if the cold snap and the elections coming up soon inspired the hot taps to be turned on.




Ulaanbaatar May 20


We are back here at the Amsterdam cafe at 8.00pm. We have been walking aimlessly all day through the city visiting various locations such as the Natural History Museum. We saw this museum last visit two years ago and it was good to see the amazing dinasoeur bones again. The museum appears to be struggling with its upkeep and all of the exhibits seem as if they need attention. It is a pity as they hold such an amazing collection of animals. Excepting the fossils I thought it would be more helpful to have a zoo to see the animals live. Then again I would wonder what state the animals could be kept in when they’d re wild steppe creatures. It all seems unfair; the thought of creatures being shot for our viewing in the name or science or keeping wild animals in confines.

There is a exhibit of Mongolian man in space, complete with the suit he wore. Also a fine collection of minerals found in the Gobi and throughout Mongolia. Tourist shops can be found everywhere selling antiques, imitation antiques and beautiful traditional hats. Prices vary enormously for the same items across town.

Ulaanbaatar Monday 21 May

It is snowing outside. Yesterday the temperature was 30c. I am resting in my bed in the apartment because it the warmest place. Looking through the pink curtains, muddy glass and iron grill (our cage) I am watching snow fall. it is not heavy and every now and then the wind gusts and blows it sideways so it appears to be driven sideways. The forecast tomorrow is for more snow. Pity, as we were going to go to the country to meet a sharman tomorrow.

This morning Togsoo’s Mervyn and I went to meet Tugi at is office at Dragon Printing to organize the printing of my photographs for exhibition. The price is good in comparison to Australia, and the work will be completed tomorrow. I am impressed at the speed in which printing is done in Ulaanbaatar. Maybe not so impressed with other areas; traffiic especially.

After the printing we walked into the street where the fabric shops are. Several shops in a row selling silk and Chinese Mongolian fabrics and it is so beautiful I hardly know which way to look or where to begin. Totally seduced!! I had wanted Togsoo to take us to the black market for fabric stalls but she decided I should buy from city stores as the market is too grubby and dangerous for pick pockets and bag slashers. We did go two years ago and it was rather exciting; stall after stall of cloth and antiques as well as day to day needs. At the back of the market I remember set out upon the ground rows of Mongolian saddles – Made from wood and brightly coloured mostly in traditional orange and blue patterns.




Ghingiss Hotel


This is a photo of our new office, the foyer of the Ghingiss hotel in Ulaanbaatar. It is our closest Wifi connection. Buying data daily for iPad and iPhone has become too expensive!

It is Saturday and we are wandering around familiarizing ourselves a little more with UB.

Ulaanbaatar Sunday May 20

Walked from our apartment block to the Ghingis Hotel to use Wifi and look around. Australia should never complain about about our streets or infrastructure. The sharp contrast between our cities is apparent when walking the streets. The pavement is generally broken due as much as anything by the extreme weather conditions the country suffers. Great lumps of concrete or blocks are raised, holes and pieces of steel rio jut from buildings and paths. Edges of buildings often are sharp and it is up to the individual to be careful when going about. Man holes are often without covers and may or may not have lumps of concrete lossless covering them. This is not a wheelchair friendly city. The paths are often broken by a concrete curbing you need to step over. And yet these streets are walked by elegantly dressed women wearing the highest fashion heels. For me, flat shoes are still awkward.

Walking along the river path this morning we notices great shells of ice formed on the cool underside of the bridges. these must have been at leat one and a half meters thick, left over from the frozen winter river freeze. A homeless persons camp was made beside the ice under the bridge.

The city is in an obvious state of change as new apartment blocks rise all around the city. The old soviet apartment blocks are tired and looking shabby as the paint work and iron grills covering the windows stress from the harsh climate. Cracks and lumps of concrete loosen and fall with age.
New apartment walled enclaves are developed with grand gates and gleam with fresh paint; in waiting of the new Ulaanbaatar that is sure to come.

We are living in an older part of town where the Soviet style apartment blocks are built on a regular grid with a park of shorts in the centre of each apartment tower. A children’s playground with painted steel equipment for residents is provided. This equipment would have been removed years ago from our parks; deemed unsafe. Here they are used constantly by happy laughing children. On bench seats outside the apartment blocks sit older residents in an array of traditional dell and western clothing.

Some happy children are riding bikes clearly delighted with the new road surface that was laid yesterday. The black tar is a bright addition to the dusty block.

We met up with Lkhamma and her husband in the evening. Lkhamma stayed with us in Melbourne on her vist last year. Lkhamma is the Foreign Arts contact for the Union of Mongolian Artists where our second exhibition will be displayed in there beautiful gallery in the centre of town.

We were taken to dinner at a fine Indian Restraunt in a fine hotel. Her husband, Tugi owns a printing business and will be able to print my photography for the exhibition. He explained he has a very good Japanese printing machine exported recently. He also has a Chinese machine. If the Chinese machine breaks down they need to bring in a Chinese technician. This requires first contacting the makers, organizing a visa for the Chinese to enter Mongolia, organizing accommodation and a process and down time of at least two weeks for the business. It makes it very difficult to compete in business as there are many printing shops in UB.

We were woken in the evening by the sound of shouting emanating from the apartment next door. Alcohol is a problem here, as anywhere. Tugi explained vodka was the problem here and not so much with illicit drugs as in other places. Vodka is cheap, as little as four dollars a bottle, up to maybe $20. I asked if there was any difference in the quality of the taste between the cheap and the more expensive. Tugi says no, only in the quality of the glass and the labels. In the countryside where vodka is fermented by the country people is there a marked difference. The country vodka is much softer. Togi owns a ger camp and has promised to take us out to his camp for a weekend.