Menory Lane - The Wide Brown Land 3

The Pimple Oozes

Once outside the reaches of Perth and the green fringe of coastal Western OZ, we hit 'the wide brown land' with full force. Nothing in all the 'blurb' really prepares one for the openness which is the scrubland of the Nullarbor.  I am sure I mentioned that Australia is the world's largest desert island.  Desert is determined by the aridity of the land, not by the litres of sand it holds. 

Beyond it's green fringes, OZ is D.R.Y.  Capital letters, full stops.  

Treeless Tracts of the Nullarbor
Images taken from HERE
But that doesn't mean that it lacks life.  Nature is a determined creature.  So are the things she seeded here.  Once the green fringe drops away, at the point the Nullarbor begins, nothing grows beyond  six feet in height - and even those are rare.  Majority plant life is 'saltbush' and 'bluebush', hardy shrubs with thick, fleshy leaves.  (In case it escaped your notice, the name is latin - 'nulla arbor' = 'without trees' - - and you thought it was the local koori name?!) Also, once the green fringe becomes a line on the rear horizon, the road becomes, long, long , long and straight as a die.  In 1984, it was also not wholly sealed.  A significant portion was simply graded dirt.  Ridged, like cattle grids.  So the best approach was high speed, thus minimising the rattle and hum.

Ansett Pioneer are no longer with us.  If memory serves, they were already a bit on the skids even then, particularly the airline wing.  We still had them though and opted for the all Aussie travel rather than the immigrant Greyhounds.  The tickets issued resembled those of airlines, but a bit smaller.  The office we had gone to in Perth to collect ours, issued them by hand when we arrived.  Handwritten.

Long way before the arrival of the e-ticket.

Anyway, along came our departure from Perth and onto the bus we climbed.  Main bags in the hold, of course and there was cabin baggage - err sorry, on-coach items.  There were two blokes in uniform.  Tag-team pilots - err sorry drivers.  The off-duty driver also doubled as the hostess - err sorry, tour conductor.  Ahem.  He did come round with snacks and stuff and made sure we all had pillows and blankets…  just like a 'plane.

The driver had a talk-over microphone and informed us he was our pilot for the duration till we reached 'the road house'.  Yes, I swear he said pilot… well maybe it was 'coach captain'.  The road house is the café/petrol/camp stop two thirds of the way to Adelaide. 

Our first pit-stop though, was Kalgoorlie, the famous gold-mining town, some 600kms East of Perth.  We had moved perhaps 200km and realised that the driver-pilots had surely been picked not just for their coach-handling prowess, but also their ability to provide on-board entertainment and sight-seeing advice.  Sight-seeing?  In a desert?  Well yes. 

"ROO!" would yell 'Captain Brad'.  Or "Camels ahead!"

That sort of thing.  Then there were the stories and jokes. 

Kalgoorlie was a welcome break from the Aussie onslaught.  The accent seemed to get thicker as we hit the Nullarbor itself and there were lots of blank moments as we tried to work out if we were A)having our legs harshly stretched or B)missing a subtle philosophical point.

This was the quintessentially OZ experience.  Two dozen strangers confined within a metal bullet careening across a table of brown and red, going cross-eyed from gazing at nothingness, being lampooned and serenaded in a tumble of 'Strine' (that's what the word 'Australian' sounds like when spoken by one).  Thus when we were let loose on Kalgoorlie, the mostly foreign passengers were able to cope with the local conditions. 

Kalgoorlie is not there for about 590kms of the trip.  Then it's all there.  No Urban lead-in (at least not thirty years ago).  Just desert.  Then town.  An hour to stretch legs and obtain hot food and drinks then piled back into the 'plane - err sorry, bus.  I do believe there are things to see and do in the place.  We just didn't see or do them.

Our focus was the razor-blade road.  Long, dry, dusty, … bumpy.  The bus we were on, it must be said, was showing signs of wear and tear from repeated journeys across this vast tract of corrugation.  Cap'n Brad was getting a wee bit 'flighty' and, I think, was working on the concept that moving the wheels sufficiently fast would in fact permit take off, thereby avoiding the rattle, if not so much the hum.  All was going speedily well until there was an enormous clanging sound.  

Screeching to a halt was not an option.  After all, we were airborne and had to land first.  That having been achieved, the braking required careful pumping in order to ensure we remained fully on the runway - err sorry, road.

Once that was accomplished, it was a small matter of reversing some ...ooohh… one and half kilometres to see what had happened.  Cap'n Brad was certain, apparently, that this was necessary.  He chose not to turn round, as such, for this might result in steering loss - or so he informed us at that point.  It seems that things were getting a bit loose in the drive column…

Looser still was the exhaust muffler we found waiting for our return.  This was a special event, so we all off loaded to have a 'gander'. 

Hmmmm… about 2.5 metres of hot metal pipe, looking rather the worse for wear and decidedly forlorn.  Cap'n Brad, the other bloke (let's call him 'Len') and a couple of the fitter male passengers loaded the separated item onto the front of the bus, wedged between the enormous roo-bar and the machine itself.

Despite the fact it was useless, it is not the done thing to leave one's litter in the desert.

I have been in some hot spots in my life, but man that place was simmering.  For the first time I experienced a mirage.  Only one other person said she saw it too.  It had something to do with our being under 5 feet in height.  Angle ratios and light vectors and stuff……

Back on the bus.  Cap'n Brad didn't want us to linger in case a dingo decided we were dinner.

Wild Camels on the Nullarbor. These ships of the desert were first brought to Australia in the 1850s. Since then they have roamed wild over much of arid Australia.Roos, camels, dingos - what else could we expect?  Oh wombats, snakes of 'varying varieties'  and certainly life-taking spiders.  Right.  And these are all native to Australia are they?  Yes.  Well, except for the camels of course.  They are feral pests.  Some bloke had the idea that surveying the inner deserts required the famous 'ship of…' and imported camel trains from various places.  One of those brilliant Victorian plunderer notions which turned nasty.  Seems the camels thrived in this particular desert - well they would with all that lush vegetation.  Not normally found in the Persian Sand-drifts, is that stuff.  Compared to thorn trees, the saltbush must have seemed like landing in a vat of chocolate.  In camel terms.

So once they were no longer required, they were released from their tethers, mated and motored and before you could say Ned Kelly, the OZ interior had a new feral pest.


t.b.c. tomorrow folks!
Pee Ess - Aitch has been doing some decluttering and has come up with some piccies.  Will include a couple as we go along, but will put most onto next week's Me-Now-Views page.  She also found 'despatches home' so keep your eyes peeled, if Lady Victoria gets a hold of them, you could be experiencing parallel universes…



3 comments:

  1. I does believes I would go mad kerazy out in da desert with no buddy to talk too...then again, I not mind talking to myself...hehehehe. But I is like a desert...determined.

    I likes them camels, I thinks I should gets myself one.

    Puddles

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  2. Wow, crossing the Nullarbor Plain!
    People told me I could do all those kinds of things if I didn't take my mother's kid (my 14-year-old brother) to Oz with me, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Traveling with a young artist was fabulous, and a bonding experience most brother/sister pairs 21 years apart seldom have.
    Now I'm anxious to hear the rest of your adventures.
    But it is very late and I have a very sore back. Best get myself to bed.
    Luv, K

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  3. Hari OM
    Puddles, darlin' you're cracking me up! There were times even on this busy bus that I felt like I was talking to myself... but that's a whole other tale 8\. You wanna camel? You getta camel. Plenty room in that new bedroom of yours!!! xx

    Kay - Once done never forgotten, as you witness right here. Don't think I have mentioned this was all 30 years ago!!! :< Sympos with the back, mine is playing up this week too. Well, make that the whole skeleton. But hey! It's only a body...;)

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