Driving back along dusty outback Arnhem roads tonight, through sacred country, around this solemn sandstone scarp, I sync the bluetooth on the troopy and tame impala and radiohead blast as animals and plants in this strange burnt place loom in the headlights and I realise I've always done this.
Even as a kid, getting on my bicycle
and just riding, far as I could, anywhere, away. New places. To the
other side of the lake. Then further afield. Up into the hills,
wagging a day in my first year of high school to escape claustrophobia and boredom,
all the way up into the hills to find the railway tunnel that cuts
stone black and dark through the rock, where a runaway train once
failed and sailed spectacularly backwards down through the Darling
Even before I got my first car, wild
and lost missions to Wungong Dam to find huge, mythical concrete
pipes to skate. And even when I did get a car, just heading out on
mad, hashish-driven treks to Kalbarri, Margaret River, anywhere.
Away. New places.
One new year, taking a clapped-out Lite Stout to a place on the west Australian map
simply because it had nothing marked on it. Just another one of those
big, blank white spaces that marked the whitefella's idea of country. Wondering what
was there, wandering out along some thin track northwest of Kalgoorlie, to Lake
Giles, finding that explorer's cairn atop a lonely granite ridge.
Repairing the radiator at an empty fossicker's shack to sail on past
the shimmering flat salt of Lake Barlee, along the back tracks
thinly disguised by my large-scale paper maps. Before Google of
course. Even now, even with Google maps, I can barely trace this road
on the satellite. Reaching a place called Sandstone, I place I never
knew existed, to be welcomed by country people there with beer and rum counting down to the pointless celebrations of the early morn.
Shooting ceremony on country today. Amazing. Just amazing. Devil
dancing in the twilight against the sacred stone sites of this oldest
living culture. Yidaki and clapsticks from Elcho Island echo fresh in
my memory with such foreign singing I can't begin to describe.