We are driving into big sky country. As we distance ourselves further and further from the coast, I begin to see a new side of this ancient land.
The drive from Hahndorf to Hawker today took us from genteel horse stations nestled in grassy green hills and dales to vast big brand vineyards, from high tech wind farms to deserted ghost towns, and finally into the bleak beauty of the Flinders ranges. As the kilometres ticked by, the land around us flattened, broadened and gave way to bigger and bigger skies.
The country began to show its age. It seemed to grow more weary from the centuries of battering by sun, wind, rain and of course by man. How to explain this? In the lush green hills around Adelaide, there is still a freshness, a youthful exuberance. Anything is possible. As the land becomes more arid and widens into flat plains, it is as if it exhales. It settles into a stable but long suffering existence. It has seen it all. Nothing can surprise it.
We passed many derelict stone built houses. Monuments to the hopes and dreams of the past. Their empty windows gazing out across windswept acres. We come and go, the land lives on.
In the historic mining town of Burra, remnants of Cornish miners homes remain. They are little more than caves dug out of the earth, with more in common with animal burrows than with 21st century homes. This land does not give up its treasures easily. It is not welcoming. It demands resilience, fortitude and a spirit of never say die.
There are memorials here to people who were made of sterner stuff. People who could eke out a living from nothing. I saw a signpost that marked the Herbig Family Tree, quite literally a tree that had once housed the Herbig family. Man, wife and two children had lived in a hollow dug into the trunk of this 7 metre diameter giant.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression, dear reader, that these are depressing sights. On the contrary, the country stirs feelings of wonder at the history of both land and its inhabitants. It is a strong, fearsome beauty. It is the beauty of the never ending story of struggle, victory and defeat; the never ending cycle of life.