Karumba is our stop-over now, for a week, a badly needed week to wash, wash and wash again. The dust we collected at Big Red in Birdsville is with us still, clinging like that friend you had in school, remember? Fisher-folk populate this landscape, catching, catching, catching and catching. The smell of gutted fish hangs low and oppressive in the morning light, and a carnival of boats departs every morning to try their luck in the famous Gulf! Fish ahoy!!
The Outback has seduced us with its difficult roads and shimmering heat, the unlikely birds, the kangaroos and bilbys, one-horse towns and battered folk hanging around in dimly lit pubs. Icy-cold beer after a hard day’s driving, exchanging some careful words with the locals and resting bone-weary arms and aching butts on unforgiving wooden benches. The Outback, with its indifference, its eternity, its ancient landscapes – it shrugs its shoulders as the hordes drive through and over it and somehow think they have conquered it. You discover something out here. You discover your insignificance. Standing on top of Big Red and gazing out into the Simpson Desert after you have driven and driven over the moonscape gibber plains with the flat horizon, chewing up the miles and tuning in to Desert FM and then knowing there is more, still more! Ancient Landscape. Ancient.
Our show has been reborn. Now we can see and feel the endless heat, the never-ending way forward, and we feel our travellers’ frustration and their joy as every day brings something unique, a constant merry-go-round of highlights. King, Gray, Burke and Wills had a time of it, alright. When I march now my eyes see only gibber plains and bright heat, the flies are real, the sweat is salty and my feet ache. My horror at returning to Cooper’s Creek and finding it abandoned is real. My fear at being left alone in the desert, with nothing and nobody, and a long way from home is real.
We have a long way to go before we reach home again, but in Melbourne we will perform the Burke and Wills Grand Adventure at Burrinja Arts Centre in the Dandenong Ranges in October, so we hope you will be able to join us then.