Australia, Korea, Random Rambles
Comments 12

Container Mania: Korea to…Kyogle?

Hey all,

Before this post kicks off, I just wanted to proudly point out that it’s number…

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Thanks to the local stingrays for the awesome zeros.

..for me on TGTW!

Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me on this highly erratic journey, and especially to Kate, my original and greatest fan, who’s kept me hitting “PUBLISH” even when I’ve been perilously close to throwing in the towel and doing something useful with my time. Cheers, and here’s to the next 300…

*          *          *          *          *

I flopped out of the car onto the grass and lay there with my head cradled in my arm and my eyes closed, opening them only to raise my head a few inches and greet Graham, part-owner of the property and its magnificently soothing grass. I listened as Alex embraced his brother and filled him in on my ailment — “A touch of car sickness, I’m afraid” — while I lay there luxuriating in the shady coolness and the levelness and especially the motionlessness. It seemed unlikely I would ever stand upright again, let alone walk. Getting back to Brisbane was going to be problematic.

We’d driven south for three hours, not counting a stop in Beaudesert for supplies, and another at the side of the Mt Lindesay Highway to wander the banks of a very pleasant stream:

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It was when we resumed driving…

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..and the road began a tortuous climb up and over the McPherson Range that the car sickness escalated from mild discomfort to full-blown nausea; for half an hour I leaned my head against the window, eyes shut, wanting to die, grunting occasionally out of obligation to Alex, who could happily deliver a very comprehensive tour commentary to a corpse.

Even turning onto the property at last, a sprawling expanse of hilly, eucalyptus-forested backcountry shared by two other distantly spaced households, had brought no relief, and I barely cracked an eyelid as Alex pointed out the other homes while we bounced and lurched up a rough dirt track and shuddered to a stop at the end — quite literally — of the road.

At last I staggered upright. I felt mildly guilty about my very unsociable entrance, but mostly it was Alex’s offer of a freshly mixed Moscow mule that drew me from the grass. Alas, I was immediately swooped by a grey butcher bird that shot from 12 o’clock directly at my head; I yelped and ducked, exclaiming “A freakin’ bird just attacked me!”

“Oh, don’t worry about him, he just thought you wanted to feed him.” Turned out he was indeed one of the household…

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The bird, who answers to Bird, and the wonderfully inviting guest quarters.

..and pretty soon I was seated at a picnic table, eyeballs intact, in a roofed outdoor area serving as living/dining room, draining a restorative vodka-based elixir, feeling much better, while Alex placated my feathered attacker:

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One day we will all do their bidding.

Bec, Graham’s partner, got home from a day of spraying lantana, a noxious, shrubby weed that has smothered untold millions of acres of the Australian bush; they have made major inroads in controlling the creeping menace on their very large property. With the nausea dissipating, I began to enjoy my surroundings, and what would be the first of several picnic-table discussions began as the sun sank beyond the ridges:

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A copse of eucalypts on the hill above the dwellings.

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The living quarters at present: the main living/dining area in the front, with the kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom, office & storerooms at rear.

After my second mule I wasn’t remotely surprised when a walking mattress appeared and headed to the containers that would be our cells guest rooms:

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Graham and Bec are shipping-container aficionados: they already incorporate a couple into their human habitat, not far from the small northern New South Wales town of Kyogle (“Kai-OH-gul”) and are embarking on the construction of a larger, more elaborate and more “permanent” dwelling, essentially a grouping of seven joined containers clustered under a large single roof.

Alex and I would get our own taste of container living that very night…

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..in what would be, depending on your point of view, either the most primitive of guest accommodation, or camping comfort of a luxurious standard way beyond what I’m used to:

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Alex’s quarters…

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..and my own.

Shipping containers were an ongoing aggravation for me during my two years in Korea. I lived in one of the more unsophisticated corners of the country, and an already severely compromised natural and human environment was never going to be enhanced by the addition of hulking rusted-metal boxes dumped in the most inappropriate of sites. There were containers everywhere — several had been dumped on my own street — functioning as storage spaces, meeting places, offices, dwellings or perhaps all of these at once.

I’ll say this about the Koreans: they’re a pragmatic people. Wherever I wandered, function took precedence over aesthetics, and I often wondered — as I wandered — whether anyone in the country took the slightest interest in the visual impact of their front yard, garden, farm, river bank or roadside.

There was seldom any attempt to hide them or at least make them fit into their surrounds, to paint or decorate them, to enhance them or soften those harsh, sharp corners. Swathes of my once-rural surrounds were being bulldozed into highways and ever-advancing apartment-tower suburbs; no doubt for poor farmers squeezed into apartments, with prized community allotments replacing farms, containers were cheap, durable options. Maybe the war had some role in the country’s love affair with durable, functional, just-about-bullet-proof boxes:

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Prime real estate facing Songjeong Beach.

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Typical rice-paddy scenery, Gimhae.

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Welcome to Container Nation — near Ulsan on the east coast during my Goat Killer Trail walk.

A recycling centre of sorts near my school -- standard container-office at left.

A recycling centre of sorts near my school — standard container-office at left.

Roadside colour, Korean style.

Roadside colour, Korean style.

Autumn colour near the base of one of local mountain hiking hangouts.

Autumn colour near the base of one of local mountain hiking hangouts.

But this was no time for flashbacks — pour me another mule, I’ve got the jitters. Graham set up tents (with mattresses) for us in our shiny, elegant and completely rust-free metal boxes, gave us the tour of our freshly dug latrine (I’ll spare you a photo — suffice to say it was magnificent), and we were just settling into a cosy backcountry groove…

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Although the property is totally off-grid, we were able to run two laptops using solar power & Alex’s phone as a modem. Not so long ago, we’d have had to drive into town & use a public phone to connect to the outside world.

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Graham working on plans in his caravan.

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Part of Graham’s prized collection. It runs in the family.

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Containers & caravans in the present living quarters.

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Footings under construction for the new house.

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Water is heated for an eight-minute shower.

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..when Graham let out a tremendous holler, leapt into their little Suzuki Sierra 4-wheel drive, and went screaming down the track towards something exciting…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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12 Comments

  1. Congratulations of #300! I love this post about the shipping containers. I’ve always been intrigued with them, but I also put a heavy emphasis on aesthetics.

    • Cheers! I was surprised when I reached 100! Containers are the perfect building material in a way: easy to stack & combine, solid, long-lasting, reasonably cheap. But yeah, they need to be used with imagination. There are more than enough ugly boxes in towns & cities as it is!

  2. Ahh…shipping containers. Our neighbours have a brightly coloured one just beyond our fence line. It’s a good thing my garden is so overgrown I can’t see much of it. They aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing of homes. But they are practical and strong, and being off the ground is luxury camping! Looks like a great getaway.

    Commiserations on the car sickness but congrats on the big 300!

    • A weak stomach is something I’ve lived with for a long while. I’m definitely not the roller-coaster-loving type! Strange perhaps that it only affects me in cars when I’m not driving. But the travel-sickness pills do the job.

  3. It’s a lot the Goat wrote with amazing detail and photographs added to it was a sheer joy to read your story of where you’re now. I bet you can write an amazing book about your experience.Thank you for sharing your interesting trip.

  4. I can’t believe Alex is so brave to have a bird on his arm! Didn’t he see the Hitchcock movie? 🙂 I(of course)love all of your photos but I especially love the tree one with the huge roots. Big trees are so majestic. We defininitly need some pics hanging around here of trees don’t you think? Something mangrovey…

    • We’re a rugged breed down here, Kate. I just wish our birds came with volume knobs.

      Photographing trees is a lot harder than people think. I can’t wait to get a real tripod so I can have a bit more flexibility with my camera placement. It’s no wonder I have a bad neck, with all the crawling around and craning of neck…

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