By Matt Sykes, Founder of Peninsula Hot Springs
One day I get a message from my boss, which says “We’re going to the desert to meet an Aboriginal elder who will guide us to the world’s biggest terrestrial hot spring. It’s next week, can you make it?” For a second my mind tries to tell me that I have too much work to do and can’t spare the time but I know it’s already too late. The universe has conspired and the decision has been made for me.
A week later I flew into Alice Springs in the red centre of Australia. At the airport we met Uncle Dean Ah Chee, a Lower Southern Arrernte man who is the keeper of traditional lore for Irrwanyere, a place called ‘healing waters’ which non-Aboriginal people know as Dalhousie Springs. Travelling with me were a group of super creative people, from musicians to photographers to academics, entrepreneurs and of course an Elder – our guide. Our mission was to lay the foundations for a festival which is set to take place in 2022 where one person from every country in the world will bathe together in a giant geothermal pool - a simple, timeless act of global unity.
The days that followed became a life-affirming tale of collaborative adventure. Each day we walked up Dingo Dreaming Hill to be welcomed by the sun and then we sat on Medicine Hill as it melted into the endless desert horizon. We bridged cultures through listening and bathed in healing waters that have literally flowed for millions of years. At night, we sat under the stars and shared stories around the campfire. Uncle Dean welcomed us into his homeland and taught us how to see the giant serpent in the sky. Filled with inspiration, all manner of creativity poured out, from songs to drawings to photography, film and event ideas. This festival, called ‘Bathe the World’, took on a life of its own, we were just puppets bringing it to being.
One of the most profound moments came when we harvested rich peaty soil from the hot springs (precious gold in arid Australia) and then carried it to a nearby salt lake. We covered ourselves head to toe and within moments found ourselves immersed in an impromptu hot springs yoga performance.
From there our pilgrimage continued … we retraced our tracks, journeying past the geographic centre of Australia along endless roads until we reached its spiritual heartland, Uluru. Despite the fatigue that comes with long distance travel in an arid climate (not to mention the flies) I kept reminding myself to be open to the abundance of transformative experiences that kept presenting themselves. After a week of rich desert culture, we returned home with a swag full of stories and a resonating feeling that changed us all forever.
‘Bathe the World’ continues to meander purposefully towards its realisation on June 22, 2022, like the geothermal streams of Irrwanyere.