12 Mar

Great Northern Highway

It’s incredible.  Truly incredible.  It’s hard to believe that somewhere like this exists anywhere on earth.  This Martian landscape­ was formed so long ago, that the only life on earth was small blobby creatures and rock spewing volcanoes.  The rocks are still here, just as the volcanoes left them.  Huge mountains of rust red boulders that look for all the world like an oversized digger dumped them here yesterday.  It’s cyclone season, and unusual amounts of rain have been dumped on this dry country, covering the rock mountains in a fuzzy bum-fluff of pale green spinifex grass.  The orange sandy ground is covered in bright green teletubby hummocks, their velvety appearance belying their hedgehog spikiness.  If you know where to look, and clamber up the boulders in the scorching sun, you can find pre-historic rock art, a man with a boomerang, emus, a kangaroo, children’s hand prints.  This landscape is so ancient and so forbidding that it’s hard to comprehend.

What is even harder to comprehend is the vastness.  For two days we drive.  Hour after hour, and then some more.  This incredible landscape stretches in all directions, under a blue bedspread of sky, giant cotton wool clouds floating above the rock piles, the narrow tarmac road the only evidence of man’s existence.  The towns are hundreds of kilometres apart, with very little in between.  A roadhouse every three hundred kilometres, a couple of dead cows, an emu, a few tracks leading off to cattle stations, one mine, vehicles, perhaps one every five kilometres or so.

Driving out here is awe inspiring, but it’s also dangerous.  The heat when you step out of the car is overwhelming, we get through litres of water but are still thirsty.  The flies are like a Biblical plague, feasting on the remains of roadkill and buzzing around our eyes and mouth, searching for moisture.  There is no mobile phone coverage, no handy phone boxes, we are utterly alone.  The frequent sight of exploded tires a sobering reminder that breaking down happens all too often.  In many places the road is flooded.  Sometimes a couple of centimetres of water, on one occasion, so deep that the car struggles to make it through and my heart pounds scarily in my chest.  Despite the straight, empty roads, there’s no temptation to speed.

So far we’ve driven just over a thousand kilometres, visited three towns and stopped in both roadhouses.  Can you imagine that?  It truly is an incredible place.


5 Responses to “Incredible”

  1. English Grandma 12/03/2011 at 9:25 am #


    Ever the mundane me…you must be using vast amounts of petrol, how much is it in Australia? Ours has reached 133.9 a litre!!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 12/03/2011 at 9:28 am #

      It’s anywhere from $1.50 to $1.70 a litre here.

      • English Grandma 12/03/2011 at 10:34 am #

        …and how many Aussie dollars to the pound?

        • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 13/03/2011 at 9:55 am #

          Not sure, something along the lines of $1.70

  2. Trish @ Mum's Gone to 12/03/2011 at 9:42 am #

    I’m parched just reading that!

    It’s when you see nature in the raw like that, realising what made the landscape so long ago, it makes you feel quite insignificant!

    Brilliantly written, by the way x

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