We’ve been back home for a few weeks now and I’ve had time to reflect on our travels from Alice to Broome and through the Kimberley.
If I close my eyes and think back, I see a dusty red road, the bright white stars in a velvet sky at night and the glow of a campfire. Each day is punctuated by a regular routine. We’re up early with the sun, splashed awake by a cold water wash in the early light. Breakfast is a bowl of muesli, eaten standing. The pop top camper on the back of our ute packs up with a little tug of encouragement, folding down reluctantly with a rush of air and a sigh. Chairs away, a final check and we are off.
Each day we stop for a cuppa and a bite mid morning. Time to stretch our legs, laugh and chat with our fellow travellers and take a break from the road. A few more hours’ drive and it’s lunchtime. A sandwich, slice of cake or some fruit. A hot cup of tea. Simple pleasures.
Back on the road again until afternoon tea. Conversation turns to our campsite for the night. Will we make our target destination? With Beryl not at her best, we often plan to stop early, if a spot presents itself. Howard has a geographical memory. He follows a song line. Like an inscrutable aboriginal guide he looks into the mid distance, his eyes go misty and he rubs his chin. “I think I know a good spot.” More often than not, his sixth sense connects with an ancestral memory and we hurtle down some off-road track as the sun sinks and the light fades, trusting him to find the perfect camp.
In my reverie of reflection, I smell the scent of the outback. A herbal sandalwood aroma meets mint with an overtone of spice. Bush scents mingle with the charcoal smoke of the campfire.
I hear closeby the cackle of the blue-winged kookaburra and the caw, caw, caw of the raven. In the distance I hear the eerie howl of the dingo.
I feel the age of this ancient weary land. It’s odd, the eastern coast of Australia does not feel this way, but here, in the outback, the layers of history weigh heavy on the land. It creaks and sighs with the aches and pains of age. It hums with the power of ages. Travelling here could easily become a spiritual journey for those with their hearts open to such things.
This ancient land has a terrible beauty. Here you see wild untamed natural wonders, rocky gorges, dry creeks, wild flowers of all hues. The Kimberley is a wonder of the world. Nature here is on its own terms, huge in scale, dramatic and impassive before our human gaze. It’s the perfect antidote to our 21st century virtual world. Movies can’t reproduce this. You can’t capture it on instagram. It looks back at you and puts you in your place.
I saw indigenous rock art as if for the first time on this trip. The Kimberley truly is an extraordinary outdoor gallery, where you can see layers of art through the millenia. Where you can view artwork where it was created, framed perfectly by the craggy rocks that surround it. I need to see more and understand more.
I also saw with some trepidation that the Kimberley has opened up to the world. Campsites are full. The roads are busy with Britz campers. I hope tourism helps to protect this wilderness and does not convert it into an outback theme park, devoid of its spirit, its danger and discomfort removed. I hope, I hope.