Alice Springs, Unburdened by Expectations

we left the Gold Coast of Australia for the desert we tried
not to base our expectations on the warnings we’d been given. Take
plenty of water out there with you, an extra jerry can of fuel in
the back, a baseball bat if you’ve got one and make sure you lock
your doors when you get to The Alice. One mechanic’s wife even
suggested keeping a couple of jars of ground pepper in the glove
box, to chuck in the faces of any bushmen angling for a good

The Australian outback is brutal and never more so than in the
heat of summer in a ute with a broken air conditioning unit. Once
the fertile coast was far far behind us we rolled down the windows
and watched the road turn red. It took us four days to cross
Queensland, stopping along the way for gas, sleep, bags of ice and
jumps into local swimming pools when we were lucky. By the third
day all the creeks we passed had run dry, the cattle farms vacant.
We played ‘spot the dead kangaroo’ until we lost count.

While little seems to thrive on the surface of this harsh
lunar-desert landscape, there are butterflies and electric storms
in the air, opal fields and coal abundant below ground. At Devil’s
Marbles we read about the myths of the rainbow serpent and
allegories of children who were called into the shadows. For many
remote aboriginal communities – a further 500km or so from Alice
Springs – the outback is home and they continue to live in harmony
with the land. By the time we made it to The Alice we’d collected a
few more warnings. But these remote communities are the ones who
are truly under threat today as questions concerning land ownership
and the rights of indigenous people fly back and forth like
boomerangs, rarely landing on a solution.


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