Tag Archives: writing

Every Time I Enter the River

Every Time I Enter The River

Every Time I Enter The River

Every time I enter the river I find myself facing Death – two cucifixes nailed to a River Redgum on the opposite bank.

The gum is the tallest of all its compatriots along the bank for several hundred metres in either direction. It leans slightly forward and upstream, as if bowing to the oncoming murky brown waters in thanks. A twisted matting of roots slides quietly down the bank, slightly downstream of the main trunk, seeking and softly sipping those waters which have just previously been greeted by the giant gum’s leaning body.

About two metres up the broad trunk there is a distinct line where the river has previously reached in healthier times. Below this line the trunk is a dusty grey and appears compressed, squeezed to its inner core. In the centre of this section, staring out across the river, is a hand-painted cross – originally a brilliant white but now a dirty, weathered, forgotten white. It has been painted directly onto the bark and is perhaps 50cm tall.

Above the watermark line the trunk is fuller and a broader range of earthy hues is restored – from the heavier dark brown-black of the larger pieces of bark (which tend to hang slightly loose but disappear altogether the higher up the tree one climbs), through the mid grey-brown hues and on up to the platinum greys and silvery whites, the newest layer of life’s protective and sustaining skin.

Again in the central area, but slightly larger than the one beneath, another white cross hangs silently. This one is white wood, a whiter, fresher, newer white, and is nailed to the trunk. It is, perhaps, marking a more recent claim.

Mostly unnoticed, except from certain angles and at certain times of day, are two small reflectors. Yesterday, while floating downstream, a silvery glint, glass-like, caught my eye, drawing my attention to the haunting presence of the crucifixes for the first time; a signal to approaching life to pause for a moment in remembrance and in thanks (for that unknown victim, for family and friends, and for life.

Meanwhile, the dispersing and evaporating white jet-streams of two long-passed planes intersected high in the sky, forming another cross to mark the place where hundreds may have ended their journeys had timing been different.

And later, at sunset, another glint catches my eye as I sit on the opposite bank watching the river flow. This time a bright orange, the sun itself, reflects off a second reflector, marking a farewell, the passing of another day, a life, and a journey completed.

As I set out to photograph this scene I discover another element – even less discernable than the reflectors. I only notice it, disbelievingly, through the 400 mm lens and review it over and over again to make certain my thoughts. I am still not certain (maybe it is a trompe l’oeil created eerily by  the tree’s bark and texture). But it seems there is a particularly haunting skull with deep black eye sockets and a mouth seemingly devouring the top of the crucifix. I see myself and all of us suddenly magnified and brought to life.

…………………..

A story from a couple of weeks ago on The Murray River @ Grace’s Bend.

Images and Text Copyright Hunter G, 2012 and available for sale (FREE for not-for-profit activities – so spread the word widely – just include a link to this blog). All profits from sales will be re-invested in Save The Kimberley activities.

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Silver City Highway – Part 2

A few pics to fill in the space that lies between Mildura and Broken Hill

Approaching The Silver City Highway

Weed Spraying

Who’d o’ thought, way out here in the middle o’ nowhere? He stopped, asked me what I was doing. I said, shooting’ road kill. He didn’t flinch – I like the unquestioning, non-judgemental acceptance.

 We stood under the blazing sun chatting for half an hour: me getting some outback driving tips from him; and he telling me stories of bush politics, the need for weed spraying/roadside grading to keep the wildlife away from the road edges where any occasional rain runs off and collects, tempting the animals to tempt fate for a lovely fresh feed. $800 a kilo for the chemical spray, 3 kilos worth, lasts for about 9 months; and telling me how one of Australia’s most financially successful photographers, Ken Duncan, stayed on his farm a couple of decades ago to create a photo-essay. He was always with camera and up pre-dawn every day to catch the sunrise.

Roo

…but despite the weed spraying, it doesn’t always go to plan. In fact there was enough road kill out here to sink the proverbial ship.

Emu

…an extraordinarily beautiful and moving sight. What a striking resting pose.

Emu

…and here’s a beautiful live one to help balance the emu ledger and keep you squeamish folk on board 🙂

Emu

…but not so lucky this poor beautiful lizard. Is it a blue tongue? He looked fine from a cpl of metres away, and I almost expected him to lazily move on when I approached.

Lizard

Rest area, complete with Christmas tinsel…but virtually no shade…

Christmas Rest Area

…and then more of this…

Roo

…but then this oasis nearly smack-bang between Mildura and Broken Hill. Lake Politah, a natural lake, a drinking hole for many forms of fauna – unfortunately including beautiful but feral goats.

Lake Politah

The goats and other fauna make it v difficult to re-establish the woodlands of Black Box Gum and native Cypress Pine that used to surround these parts until, YOU GUESSED IT, whitefellas cut nearly all of ’em down for various reasons. The pine is v slow growing and therefore a v hard wood, resistant to termites, so was a favoured building material. And I think it was the Black Box that was used to power the steam trains.

Despite the signs informing us folk of their fragility, even at the rest area, limbs had clearly been snapped off the pines. Probably for a campfire. Baggghhhh!

Flowering Gum. Yummmm! Lovely delicate fragrance…

Flowering Gum

Eucalyptus Bark Patterns

And more bark patterns, in the form of ‘Tree Graffiti‘ – always a fairly common sight in remote parts but have any of you, like me, noticed a growing trend in this form of graffiti in Melbourne? I have, but mostly tagging as opposed to legible names.

Nice to see that legendary American photographer, Edward Weston, made a trip here to the middle of nowhere and left his mark…and only last year. Amazing! 🙂

What Bird is That? Anyone? Anyone?

And just a little further up the road I rolled into the only ‘town’ to speak of b’w Mildura and BH.

Coombah Roadhouse

Actually, there’s no town at all to speak of. Just ‘June’s Place’, where you can get petrol, make a phone call at the Telstra phone-box (!), use the dunny (but ONLY if ya buy something), order from the ‘a la carte’ menu (‘mm, not totally sure that even I’d risk that, in fact I didn’t – I politely changed my original order to “nothing…I’m not actually feeling that hungry” (hygiene seemed to be slightly, just slightly, lacking).

Sorry, No Petrol

But, if you’re really lucky, you might get to chat to June, herself….

June & Son

I got the distinct feelin’ that ya don’t mess with June. It’s ‘June’s Place‘ after all.

June & Son

Heaps of these bearded fellas and sheilas about…

Feral Goats

It was a fiercely hot day and even the bitumen couldn’t hold it together…

Heat Exhaustion

Melting: Bitumen & Me

The melting bitumen and me. My boots began sticking to the road with each step! Felt like Coyote about to get caught in a creative Roadrunner trap.

On The Road

And then it began – the nightly piritechnico spectaculo! Incredible silent scenes…

Sunset

Sunset Swirls

Storm

Moonrise & Lightning

And then night-proper descended…

Stare-Out Competition.

It’s difficult to drive, photograph and avoid fauna all at the same time! Stubborn Roo! Stubborn Hunter! We eventually came to a compromise and both have stories to tell our mates as a result.

Eventually I rolled into the ‘Welcome to Broken Hill’ roadside pullover where I decided to spend the night, just under that tree over there, past the burn-out skid-marks and burned out rubbish bin enclosure. And just next to the delightfully stark concrete table with its reassuring message…

Welcome to Broken Hill

Welcome to Broken Hill

‘Mm. Welcome to Broken Hill!

But I did wake to this. Not bad for ZERO dollars a night.

Room with a View

Images and text Copyright Hunter G, 2012 and available for sale.

A New World Beckons – Save The Kimberley

Hi folks,

This blog came to life due to an extremely ugly proposal by an extremely greedy and ugly-spirited man, WA Premier, Colin Barnett, and his main partner in crime, Woodside Petroleum. They plan to build Australia’s (and possibly The World’s) biggest LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) processing plant in one of the world’s last great remaining wilderness regions, The Kimberley, in far NW Australia.

But don’t worry, the blog won’t be full of hard-core political pieces – only an occasional rant. Mostly it will be a light-hearted and informative documentation of my crossing of this vast and ridiculously beautiful and varied country, Australia, from Melbourne in the SE to Broome, at the opposite corner in the NW. And here’s  a mud-map for the geographically-challenged amongst you….

Once in Broome I intend to do whatever I can to help out the courageous locals who have been fighting a very draining fight against their State Government and a huge Mutli-National Corporation for the last seven years.

So please join me on the trip and do whatever you can (however small) to help stop this disastrous proposal. Visit http://www.kimberleycampaigner.com for some simple ideas on how you can help stop this madness.

And in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about….anything at all, really: Perhaps a response to something I post or maybe one of your random, long-lost epiphanies that suddenly reappear from the recesses of your vast and complicated mind. I’d love to hear them all as it can get a tad isolating out in the middle of a the second driest continent on Earth.

For those that would like a little more serious background before we set off on the adventure, read on below. And for those who start feeling sick in the stomach at the slightest thought of reading anything remotely serious or political, I suggest you skip to the next entry.

But before any of you go, I’d love your help naming my mighty van that is also my  mobile home for the coming months. Here he/she is

It’s a Toyota Town Ace, and boy will it be getting some out-of-town ace action, especially if I take the legendary Oodnadatta and Tanami Tracks as hoped. So far I’ve thought of Tony or Tina as in ‘Tony Town Ace’ or ‘Tina Town Ace’, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. And it’d be great to name my new mobile home soon as I’m actually already 10 days into the trip (won’t tell you where yet, you’ll have to come back) and wouldn’t want it to suffer an identity crisis like me (I went nameless for 6 months post birth….and some of you have seen how I’ve turned out).

So now, farewell to you sensitive folk. Hope to see you at my next post. Bye for now, Hunter G.

Ok, those of you still here for the heavier details, the following is an altered version of a short piece I recently wrote for the Abbotsford Convent newsletter.

‘All Roads Lead to Broome’

“Can you tell me how you would feel if the church you went to all your life, the church that you sang at with your parents, your grandparents, the church that your grandparents and your great-grandparents are buried at, how would you feel if that church was bulldozed and had a gas plant built on it? How would you feel about that because that’s exactly what’s happening to my friend Joseph.” … A question to Colin Barnett from Jon Butler Trio, a well-known music band. Joseph Roe is the Law Boss and custodian for the Northern Tradition and the Goolarabooloo people. Colin Barnett is the Premier of Western Australia.

Shortly, Hunter G will be rolling across our country searching for forgotten things from lost worlds. Cutting a diagonal path across this vast continent, Hunter is ultimately bound for Broome, in Western Australia.

Why Broome? Because it’s just north of there that Woodside Petroleum is planning to build Australia’s biggest ever Gas Processing Plant, equivalent in size to 21 Melbourne CBDs. The exact site, Walmadan (a.k.a. James Price Point), is in the SW of the incredible Kimberley region, a vast wilderness rich in many things, but to the financially powerful with an insatiable appetite, rich in the most prized possessions of all – fossil fuels and minerals.

There are hundreds of sites dotted around The Kimberley that have been earmarked as potentially lucrative in this manner. Woodside’s proposed development at Walmadan is only one of them, but it is a big one, a very big one. It is expected to bring in 6000 – 8000 workers to process LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and will play a very significant and, in a growing number of peoples’ minds, devastating role in the continued industrialisation of the relatively untouched Kimberley.

For anyone who has not been to The Kimberley, it is impossible to accurately describe its beauty and significance. If this project goes ahead it will destroy Broome as we know it within a very, very short time and in perhaps three decades will devastate the entire Kimberley region due to various flow-on effects. Simply on an environmental level, it is extremely important to protect this region from industrialisation. It is one of the last great remaining wilderness regions in the world and there are many alternative options with respect to building a gas processing plant.

A protest movement has been building over the last 7 years to try to stop this development. In recent months the protests have grown more rapidly as the deadline draws near (Woodside is expected to make a final decision in the first six months of 2013). The protest is about so much more than the already significant environmental concerns. It is about the devastating long-term impacts on the social, cultural and spiritual fabric of the region. If this plant goes ahead it WILL lead to the opening up of more and more areas of The Kimberley to the destructive impact of industrialisation, particularly due to the seaport which is part of this current proposal and which would create huge incentive for other developments due to the export opportunities and cost savings resulting from a pre-existing port.

Saving The Kimberley is bigger even than the Tasmanian Franklin river campaign 30 years ago. Both areas are relatively out of sight and out of mind to mainstream Australia due to their remote locations. And as a direct result, both were opportunistically described by their respective State Premiers in very unflattering and misleading terms: Colin Barnett described the relevant Kimberley coastline as “an unremarkable piece of coastline.”; and the former Tasmanian Premier, Robin Gray (if my memory serves me correctly), described the incredibly beautiful and dramatic Franklin River as nothing but “a leech-ridden ditch.”

But we can all take great hope from the Franklin protest campaign (people of my vintage and older may remember the triangular green ‘No Dams’ stickers. I was 12 at the time.) and the more recent great examples of community protest over many years such as the one that lasted about nine years but saved the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne and created a public arts precinct instead of a private apartment development.

Please do anything and everything you can to stop this current bout of madness from leading to the destruction of one of the most significant areas of wilderness in the world. Visit http://www.savethekimberley.com/ or The Wilderness Society’s dedicated site, http://www.kimberleycampaigner.com/about/history/ for some background info and simple ideas on how you can help. Please help save this priceless gem.

Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoy the journey. Thanks and bye for now, Hunter G. xo