Travelling in Western Australia brought a number of issues into sharp focus for me. This is a vast, vast continent and so much of it is empty. We travel on the edge of the continent which even though remote, is near enough to some pockets of population and activity. Once you are away from this there is really nothing but red earth, flies and scrub land. (More of the scenery from above in my next blog.)
The land is harsh, inhospitable and difficult to eek out a living from it. I think of how inspiring a culture the First people of Australia are- they were on this land and found ways to make it work, to find the food where we would not even think of looking, to find the medicines in the bushes and the trunks of trees and to use all that the land and sea had to offer, to co exist upon it and have utter, utter respect for it. Sadly I suspect we don't have the same understanding and sensitivity about how to deal with the land and how we must take steps to look after it - it is really the only thing we have left.
I have given you pictures of the long and empty roads. These are punctuated by the occasional and welcome roadhouses where yutes, trucks, travellers and bikers stop for filling up their tanks and replenishing their food and drink. These are actually full of wonderful historical records of artefacts of bygone days, married to modern day requirements.
We stopped at Billabong Roadhouse - a billabong is a branch of a river forming a pool of water flowing from the main stream during a flood.
The roadhouse was full of memorabilia and tourist tat. But also some good food and meals served to hungry and tired travellers. Notice the modern day addition of Gluten Free Food on the side. We chatted to the lady who served us. She served for three weeks on and then took one week off to go back down to her family.To compensate for the lack of companionship a wall full of tats - tattoes this favourite of ozzie things, which I just have to share with you, if only for the one favourite that stood out on the wall.
Its a lonely, empty kind of life and one which I don't envy but most of us zip through it without a second thought. They wait for the rains to paint the pastures green. Meantime, the sheep and cows, interspersed with a few emus, wander around the punishing and desolate landscape, looking for some food. The Stromatolites lakes I blogged about are another example of the desolate and extreme conditions which prevail. They are extremely saline. We saw virtually no bird life on them. The standouts were for 4 wedged tail eagles which were totally exceptional, hunting in amongst the scrub land which we saw on the road.
So what does the future hold for these areas of Australia - very little I fear and unless steps are taken to reduce the effect of climate change the only thing I suspect which will thrive are the flies buzzing around your head. They find you wherever you are.You would have thought they would be the best reminders of the urgency of getting things done because it doesn't matter who you are they will not stop buzzing around your head. How about sending all politicians down there to see how long they would last amongst them!