November 5 - November 11, 2001
I'm starting this week in Port Augusta, a town of about 15,000 situated just about 300 kilometers north of Adelaide, and at the northern tip of Spencer Gulf in the Southern Ocean. While folks here refer to it as the crossroads of Australia, it is not one of those spots where my Australian friends would expect to see a guy spend 3 nights - but I do. Originally, I had hoped to get a mail plane flight out of here, but an opportunity developed (I must admit that I worked hard to help it develop) that caused me to stay over another day, and cancel the idea of the mail run. I had learned through two different contacts here that the Indigenous Community in this part of South Australia was very capably led by several Aborigine men, but perhaps the one man that was broadly recognized was a man by the name of Vince Coulthard. Vince is also a Director of Umeewarra Aboriginal Media Association, located here in Port Augusta. During my time in Australia these past weeks, I have had a lot of exposure to Aboriginal Communities in all parts of this great country, principally in the northern reaches, and I have also had interaction with any number of indigenous people. I have not felt comfortable aiming my camera at these very proud people, and so I've really gone nearly 85% of the way around this perimeter without giving those of you who are following my trip any feel for an incredibly important part of the culture that is Australia. If you read my intro, you know that the Aborigine of today has a heritage here that goes back 45,000 to 60,000 years. The past 200 years has not been an easy period for these people, and yet, because of people like Vince Coulthard, his brother, Cliff, and so many others, progress is being made to help others understand just why preserving this culture, including their languages (and there remain many dialects), will further strengthen this country and all its peoples.
Vince & Cliff Coulthard
Along with a third brother, Terry, Vince and Cliff have developed an area called Igawarta (named after a wild native orange tree) that is situated approximately 250 km north, and 50 km east of Port Augusta, in the bush, that is designed to help all people better understand the history of the indigenous people of Australia in general, and the Adnyamathanha Nation in particular.
Family and discipline go hand in hand. Here, Vince holds his granddaughter, Jaymisha, while next to him is Anthony, an uncle of Vince and Cliff, and Clive Coulthard. Cliff spent a good amount of time trying to help me understand just how discipline works in the family. Uncles and Aunties are the answer. Their theory is that Mothers and Fathers can love their children, but they turn responsibility for discipline for boys over to the designated Uncle, and for girls, over to the designated Auntie. Anthony was given responsibility for both Vince and Cliff, and judging from my time with them, I'd say he did a pretty good job!
(I think that here, Vince's daughter, Kiara, was reminding her father that their Auntie would discipline Jaymisha!)
Vince is a fascinating, and very bright and articulate man. I hope, one day to get back and spend more time with both Vince and Cliff. In the meantime, he'll continue to work hard to help his people in any way he can, while helping the rest of us better understand the indigenous people of Australia ---
--- and let's hope that the world for William and his mate will get better and better!
I head out early in the morning because I have a challenge to get across the Eyre Peninsula and into the Nullarbor and still get to the Nullarbor Roadhouse by 2:30 PM SA time. The reason? Today is Melbourne Cup Day, and I've been told from the first day I hit Australia by Brett's brother, Tony, and any number of other people since, that if I'm not in a pub somewhere to watch the race on Cup Day, then I might just as well not be in Australia! This country shuts down for this race! There is nothing quite like it in the states. Patty and I lived in Louisville, and we've been Derby fans for years, but there are people all over the US who could care less about Churchill Downs. Not so with the Melbourne Cup! So, stay tuned to see if I make it!!
From the time I leave Port Augusta, the pace of traffic, and the feel of the countryside begins to feel and look more like the outback again. Actually, I travel through what amounts to hundreds of kilometers of wheat fields, and a mix of gums and blue brush ---
--- and about the time I pass by this proud farmer's place,
--- cropland turns to more rocky scrubland.
Soon I'm into the Nullarbor (it gets its name from a poor translation of the Latin for "no trees", and you'll see why) ---
The camels are coming -- and they're not kidding !
I make it to The Nullarbor Roadhouse ---
-- the action's in the bar.
I have time to get my bet down --
--- and just in time to see him come in 6th!
Time to move on --- Cheers!
More of the Nullarbor -- and then
THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BIGHT
Brett - I can't believe you urged me to leap over this! I kid you not -- this is the single most breathtaking view I've seen in the entire trip!
The pictures don't do justice to the colors, but they are spectacular! All of a sudden The Nullarbor Plain, that desolate desert like area, has taken on a whole new personality, as the highway tracks along The Southern Ocean !
I have heard and read so many stories, about The Nullarbor, about it's history prior to sealing, it's reputation for trouble in the roadhouses, the loneliness of the drive. It's a little over 2700 KM between Adelaide and Perth. I lopped off 300 KM when I got to Port Augusta, and another 950 KM yesterday when I made it to the SA/WA line. Today I hope to make another 900+ KM and get to Esperance, so I leave at 5AM, and I'll pick up 45 minutes via one of Australia's most unusual time zone changes!. It is mostly still driving through the treeless Nullarbor Plain, and while it has a stretch of 150 KM where it is absolutely straight (Caiguna to Balladonia is said to be one of the longest straight stretches of road in the world), I find it anything but boring. For one thing, there is plenty of road kill, and I don't want to add to it, for another, the road is narrow, and truck trains are frequently coming at you, but beyond that, there is beauty in the desert, and I find myself stopping to try, not successfully I'm afraid, to capture the colors on film that are all around me. (At one point as I'm down low attempting to photograph some wildflowers, my knee howls as I straighten up, and I'm laughing! I'm laughing because the thought strikes me that this punk kid from East Aurora is actually in the middle of a desert thinking about wildflowers and shrubbery --- who'da thunk it?) Anyway, the Eucla Pass, just a few kilometers into Western Australia, is about the only hilly area along the Nullarbor, and has a unique look.
It's kind of a gray day, but I still enjoy the drive and the change from grasses to brush to wildflowers, etc.
All of this, and more in the "boring" Nullarbor! There are obviously other things that get your attention - Emus added to our "Warning" signs --
A widened stretch of road, and small clearing, for The Royal Flying Doctor's Service, which you see every 100 - 150 kilometers -
The "Aussie wave", even from the "truckies" ---
-- and then we hit the most incredible period where for about 10 kilometers the sky is absolutely filled with yellow/green grasshoppers (or small locusts?), and we're talking about zillions of them, and they just keep coming!
We eventually pull out of that, I stop and clean the screen covering the radiator which is just covered with hoppers/locusts (and of course the snorkel works for us here as well), and we're back on the straight --
-- and the straight turns to straight plus outback style cover,
and soon becomes very much outback bush!
Beautiful, but rugged!
Just before we head south from Norseman for the last 200 KM to Esperance, we come upon the Dundas Nature Reserve, which is thousands of acres of mud flats today, but will change dramatically with the rains.
If you're beginning to get the impression that I find the diversity of this country fascinating, then you've broken the code!
As I make the turn, and head south for Esperance, we get a pretty interesting sky. Couldn't quite capture the degree to which this was a mixed sky, but picture the area to your left as bright a day as you can imagine, while off to the right of the frame, it was almost pitch black!
It's clear as can be when I get to Esperance, and based on the Norfolk Pines, I'm betting I'll be bringing Patty back here. A pretty town!
Getting across the Nullarbor sort of signals the winding down of this great little adventure, but I still have a few places to go, and people to see, so hang in there --- and for a little more about what Esperance and The Bay of Islands has to offer ---