The “Outback” what images that word conjures up for me. Images of a big, vast, empty landscape, stretching endlessly to the horizon. Devastated by drought, dry and dusty, the pitiless sun beating down from a cloudless blue sky.
I wonder will this be the reality.
In a hire car we leave Adelaide heading for Broken Hill. One of Australia’s most isolated cities. It is over 500 kilometres away, a 6 hour drive according to Google. So we decide to make it a 3 day journey. Day one saunter, stopping and starting, 400 kilometres to Mildura, a pleasant regional city on the banks of the mighty Murray river. Stay overnight, spend the next day exploring Mildura (more in another post) Then the final 200 kilometres to Broken Hill. This city is unique as it is the only city to be included in the National Heritage List. There is so much to see and do here that it will also be another post.
So first this is the road trip to get there… Some people call this scenery boring, monotonous, uninteresting as they race along cocooned in the isolation of their cars. To them the journey is just about the destination. They do not stop to absorb the silence and beauty of a vast and ancient land. To notice the changing colours and wonder at plants that manage to survive these harsh conditions. But to us it is the journey, the experience. So we stop often, get out of the car and walk over the land, marvelling how some scrubby plants hang on to life. Our artists eyes take in the contrasting colours of sky and the rusty-red of the land .
Amazed to see flowers along the edge of the road. So pretty and delicate looking.
The land is very flat and far in the distance a line of trees dance and shimmer in what appears to be water.I think of the early explorers trudging day after day across this land. No road to guide them. How excited they would’ve been to see this, but imagine the disappointment as the reality became a mirage, a trick of the light. But the trees are real. We stop at this bridge made to span a wide river.
Ancient gum trees stand testimony to the fact that a long time ago there has been storms and torrential rain to fill this river bed. But it is a long time since there has been rain here. The ground is parched and cracked. This area is in the grip of a 7 year drought. Many saying this is the worst drought in living memory.
And signs of how harsh and difficult it is to survive in this environment are scattered around. Just as I’m wondering about a toilet stop a Roadhouse appears. What a lonely life it would be for the young woman behind the counter.
A welcome stop and a cup of coffee. A sign says it is $1 to use the toilet if you are not a customer. Across the road movement catches my eye, 3 goats are difficult to see as they blend into the sandy soil, the camera goes into action. Goats are the main live creatures we see along the road. We see only 3 live kangaroos along the journey. But dead kangaroos and wallabies are scattered about. Not as many as I expected, but I was later told that a meat truck patrols the road every day throwing them off the road. The days recent road kill is surrounded by healthy, well fed crows and the occasional eagle. As we approach they disdainfully flap a few feet to the side of the road, then, as soon as we pass, flock back to the feast. The land changes again and these goats are easier to see. We are getting closer to Broken Hill now and rubbish, that scourge of civilisation, start to appear scattered through the scrub. Along the side of the road a wide swathe of recently cultivated dirt intrigues me. I wonder what it was for. So when I spot these signs I had to stop and investigate.
I enquire about it when we get to our Airbnb accommodation and our host Jenny tells me that a new mining venture is starting up and they need more water to sustain it, so more water is being drained from the Darling River. A contentious issue. These huge electricity pylons marching across the land are a sure sign that we are nearing our destination. A convoy of road trains carrying machinery roars past.Then we reach Broken Hill and this is the first thing we pass. What a huge contrast to the landscape we have just passed through, now the grass is green and the water abundant. This is the main mining company operating the iconic Broken Hill zinc, lead and silver mine.
The late afternoon sun highlights the gum trees.
We have arrived.
This week Tina has chosen “big” as the Len’s-artist photo challenge. I live in Australia such a “big” country so of course this is what I had to show you…