Monastery of Eleven Strings


The previous journal entry left us with the breakdown of the van and the hopeful starting the following morning in chilly Canberra, the saga continues….

The engine, like every other time, started and ran, as if yesterday’s troubles never existed – I gave the dashboard an untrusting squint and slowly got out of the cabin as if the slightest movement would end the pleasing purr of the machine.

A few more minutes passed and the good fortune continued, my confidence increased to the point of tearing down camp for the next leg of the journey. Andy, whom I met the day previous pulled up next to me in a wonderful display of compassion to ensure I was OK. He remarked at its operation and I responded with a prideful grunt – ahh, the world was right again.

Onward along the flat black conduit that would take me to the Monastery of Eleven Strings, the sanctuary of flora, fauna and the graceful abode of Victoria and Bunk. It appeared to be the season of inconvenient breakdowns, Vic’s car had been the casualty of clutch malfunction and they had both hitchhiked to Sydney for the weekend while the local mechanic exchanged parts for dollars to get it running again – oh how we so much rely on these things.

It was the day after, that I coasted down the no-through-road dirt track leading to the monastery, going the other way to me, forcing both to the opposite shoulder was a cage tray truck, one that you might see hauling masses of cans and bottles for recycling. To my surprise this white rattling giant housed those of whom I visit – joy, happiness, smiles, hugs through the window. We drove off in opposites, one questing for the sanctuary, the other for the now repaired transport.

The Eleven Strings Monastery is a haven for artistic aficionados, be it with paint or graphite gradient, film, fancy lighting, or the tapestry of life. I stepped along the rocky driveway toward a cabin, stilted against the gentle slope of a hill, cactus and acacia the floral theme toward my eye, solar panels pointed gaze to where the sun could pierce if not for the cloudy skies, and a wide wooden balcony, bathed in the experience of many a gathering overlooked the intensely steep hills all around. Climbing the pine wood steps to the front door I looked adoringly at the seedling nursery, protected from the elements on all sides by green shade cloth. Crossing the threshold to the interior was a wash with – how can I explain it – exciting quirky décor, a life size Princess Leia, caught my eye and aimed a blaster pistol in my direction as she stood before folding partitions that separated the front room, one who’s bed looked out a full size window to the bushland opposite. The kitchen had an old fashioned warmth that gives evidence of the love poured into meals prepared – spices adorned the wall while the pantry, abstaining from a sheltered environment, spread over shelves covering an entire wall. The lounge room separated by books, movies and vinyl music was hung with tapestries, artwork and Chinese lanterns that invited a feeling of undersea mystery. I dropped bag, made tea and made self at home.


Three fantastic felines varied the Eleven Strings retreat, each with unending descriptive personality – Lucy, the affectionate tabby who will suck on your ear lobe if you – ignorantly stay motionless on the couch – the lover. Sketchy, the vocal black and white who gives much amusement in his unusual sleeping positions, his subtly played role – the guardian. And Cat, the old soul, personified as a patient and gentle domestic miniature lion – the silent observer.

Looking over the front steps I could see the Mandala Garden, bordered by wiccan bundles of local woods engulfed by climbing rose and native passionfruit. I swung the gate leading to a pathway separating herbs, vegetables and amphibious sanctuaries – the mossy path I walked ended at another gate opening to a fire circle surrounded by large logs, sat on in celebration by those enjoying the fiery warmth. Behind this my gaze saw the orchard, young fruit trees protected by tyres and sprawling edible greens covereing the ground near the chook ship, a rammed earth structure designed to soon house poultry for the land – fragrant herbs grew over the planter boxes moulded intentionally into the dwelling.

I came to the magic bus, this ancient transporter has been converted to a living space, complete with sun generated electricity and an internal fireplace. The outside of the abode a beautiful mural, awash with colours, patterns, quotes and symbols that stood out boldly against the greens and browns of the bushland.


Returning to read my book on the porch with a hot tea I found Vic and Bunk rolling up the driveway in the now fully functional wagon –“finally” I thought, “real, standing up hugs”. I descended the steps to reap my harvest.

Almost straight away the three of us ventured to the creek, a fifteen minute drive down, down, down the steep track, soft wet branches reaching out to brush the windows of the four wheel drive  – as was mentioned ‘like an automatic car wash’. We kindled a fire, despite the not-so-dry wood available, it appeared to have been raining quite a bit lately. On cushions we sat, a few beers were passed around and we enjoyed the peaceful music of the bubbling brook behind us.

The next day was slow and easy, Vic, only having arrived a day before me was off again this afternoon for further employ, bolstering the coffers reduced by her car’s cry for attention. And, as if in sympathy, my van also shed tears of malfunction and failed to start when I attempted to move it down the driveway. I gave a sigh, it is hard to be comfortable when stuck in the back of your mind is the constant knowing that your house and car is in disrepair – perhaps this lesson is to be at home wherever I am – a good friend back in Adelaide once said to me “Home is where the heart is”, the words which I had heard many times before but not understood made new sense to me.

Bunk was now living up at what was called the Hermit Hut, a small abode far removed from the main house, no power and solitude were the key and this cartoonist was able to spend much time dedicated to his craft. The surrounding area was being transformed into beautiful meditative mandalas in pattern with bricks and bush resources. We spent the night at the cabin none the less and melted into the couch with a couple of movies. The next morning we would trek to the van and try the engine again.

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