20. Western Australia

Like all places you know little of, for me, Western Australia had been a composite of images, stereotypes, snatches of information and expectation. The marvel of travel of course is that no place is what you might imagine it to be and all the www images, docos and brochures haven’t changed that.

As Richard Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy wrote about Space, Western Australia is big.. you won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggling big.. and that’s why I gave the visit to Western Australia its own category because the total experience was much more than the sum of parts or particular places visited.

Inevitably to someone like me, growing up in the sliver along the eastern coast, Western Australia is a chunk carving out much of the Australian map where in cobbled histories a pewter plate was tacked onto a tree by Dirk Hartog and the Batavia came to grief by natural disaster and murderess intent. We might have been to the southern bit of settled pockets.. of verdant land of wineries and stunning coast but the rest is largely unknown.

It’s a place of vast distance, and more recently of huge mining operations with their massive holes in the ground and equally massive piles of what has been extracted from them. There is incomprehensible scale of movement and transport and the often dislocated workforces that cluster around all this activity.

More than all this it is an ancient and overwhelming landscape which starkly reminds that our consequence to it is marginal. It is…and will be…

Staring out the window as we drove through the red, and the rains came down and the dry beds quickly spilled onto the road in wide pools, the words of the Dorothea Mackellar poem were suddenly in my thoughts

I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains…

Later in the year I was ‘behind the scenes’ at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Coming into an exhibition space, there it was. I was staring at the original hand written poem in a glass case. I was  transported immediately back into the rhythms and colours of Western Australia.

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