This journey has given me a new perspective on Australia, the continent and the country. I’m new here. I will always be an outsider looking in. But, am I so different from the majority of Australians? 12 years, 60 years, 230 years, how long before we truly belong?
We all huddle together on the coast, safe in our hustle and bustle, living our remote version of the European lifestyle. Out there, not so many kilometres away, the ancient heart of Australia beats on.
Travelling through Europe, I’ve marvelled at the sights, sounds and tastes of different cultures. I’ve stared in wonder at the remnants of great civilisations, Roman, Greek and Ancient Briton, and sought my origins in the stories of my Anglo-Celtic ancestors. On the North American continent I’ve admired the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, the Arizona desert and the Colorado mountains. But never before have I been touched by the spirit of the land.
What was it about this journey and this continent that was different? Was it me? Am I at an age where I am more receptive to the unseen, intangible feeling of a place? Or is this the natural response to travelling in a land that resonates with an unknown, mysterious past; a land where we do not truly know what layers of human history lie below the superficial patina laid down since our recent arrival?
Somehow, the red centre has a power that transcends human history. The never-ending expanses of shining flat gibber plains, the strange otherworldly forms of the rusty red mesas and escarpments, the ochre sands and crystal clear water holes. They were here before us and they will continue to exist long after we have made our mark. This may also be true of the continents of Europe and America, I have never felt it so keenly before.
How insignificant we seem in these wide open landscapes. And yet, there is a sense of the sacred here, in the nature of the land and in our inescapable attachment to it.
The aboriginal peoples are another mystery, unknown to me as they are to most modern Australians. I’m confused by the apparent contradictions. They have an innate feeling for the land, but leave the debris of modern life piled high near their communities. I’m saddened by the history of our dealings with them.
I hope the knowledge of the people who have inhabited this land for tens of thousands of years will not be lost, that somehow we can find a way to come together to listen and learn. But, I’m not naive enough to imagine this will be easy, or perhaps even possible. The barriers seem too great.
I loved my journey into the red centre of Australia. I loved the companionship of my fellow travellers. I loved the new experiences.
I have treasured memories – a campfire circle on a starlit desert night, a swim in cool clear water under pink and gold cliffs, a dingo in the desert, the crisp white expanse of salt lakes, the taste of fresh made damper and the magnificent splendour of Kata Tjuta and Uluru.
But greater than these, I’ve come away with an unexpected feeling, a respect and awe for this vast and ancient land.