Monday, September 19, 2011

An open letter to the Australian Desert, by David Hocking

Dear Desert,
As you know, on May 20th, last year, I left Perth, and began a 12 day odyssey across the desert in a 1986 Toyota Tercel*. The car was full, as was my ipod, and I was leaving the great state of WA as part of a plan that would see me relocate my entire life to somewhere greener, somewhere hillier, and to somewhere different.
The route took me 4000km east across the Nullarbor plain to Sydney, then a further 1000km up the east coast, to the peaceful streets of Noosaville, abutted without rancour onto the end of what the world calls, Noosa Heads.
Disregarding distance, there were three distinct phases to the journey. (painted after I got to Noosa)

The first was the six day trek to Sydney, the second I’ll allude to at the end, I think, and the third, somewhat orgasmically, was the final and glorious stretch that saw me arrive at my new hometown, Noosa, Queensland.

Now, Desert, how are you? I have a few questions for you: firstly, are you flat enough, do you think? Are there enough crows out there? Are you sick of the trucks belching their way across your sacred belly? Does the constant wind not drive you insane? Or does it lull you with old memories? What about all those poor little scrubby bush-spinifex things....are there enough of them? Are you tired of looking at them? Do they ever get enough water? And what about these humans? What do you make of them all, out there sticky-beaking? Do you really think they’re increasing their worth as free-standing individuals by being able to say, “Well, Roger, I drove the Landcruiser from Coffs down to Melbourne, along the Great Ocean Road (God it’s lovely) up past Ceduna, over on up to Perth, and then way up yonder to Broome, and then across the Gibb River Rd to Darwin. We stayed with my sister, Noreen, and then pushed on back across the top. Only took us eight months. And the petrol....well she’s a diesel, you know? Oh, the caravan uses a bit, but you know....what else are you gonna’ do? What’s five tons of burnt fuel between friends?”

Desert, my friend, I drove 5222km Perth to Noosa, and I saw only two native quadrupeds: one dingo and one wallaby – is a wallaby a quadruped? I’m not sure, but I definitely spied no camels. No, I didn’t drive at night because I didn’t want to hit something, plus I wanted to enjoy the scenery, which I did, actually. In an empty desert you are duty-bound to feel completely free because you have no choice. Don’t you agree, Desert?
I saw three wedge-tailed eagles – one that was airborne about 3 feet from my window at 100km/hr, and had he or she taken off half a second earlier, or later, I would’ve collected them, which would have broken my heart. This brings me to another question: is your wildlife getting smarter? Are you advising them, finally, not to go near the roads or are they just kind of non-existent now?
And what about all these crows? Seriously? Were they always there? A friend of mine, ages ago, once told me, Desert, that each crow was a reincarnated black fella. (I can say black fella, cant I? I used to know a black fella in Broome, and even he called his friends black fellas?) Anyway, when they told me that, I scoffed. Not for disbelieving of the afterlife – i have no idea about the afterlife, or most of this life, truth be known – it just seemed such a silly possibility at the time. But now, do you know Desert, I’m not so sure?
Have all the black fellas been replaced with crows? Is that where they went?

The city was a bit different, though. Crows didn’t exist in downtown Sydney, naturally, and i’m not sure i would have noticed them anyway. I was too stressed.
After 6 days of flat-nothing flat-nothing, Sydney, and phase 2 of the journey, proved to be a claustrophobic hell. Without a map and without the sun in the rain, it took me 90 minutes to drive from Mosman to Rose Bay. I stopped 7 people on the way to ask for help - hotel concierges, the police, coffee vendors, servo’ attendants. It was a miracle i made it.
Then, the real rain started. You should have seen it - you would have loved it. And then, my right front wheel started to click. At first a little, then alot. The more I turned the louder it got. Like viewing the picture of Dorian Gray, it snuck up on me hideously. I sensed disaster. 6 days; 4000km...nothing went awry, but now, i felt it. The Desert was coming to reap her penance. Weren’t you? I could feel you coming to get me.
Then, just when i felt like I might know where i was going, I turned a corner in Newtown, and ‘BANG!!!’ Bang went the front wheel!! Bang, i say!
The only noise louder was the echo of despair that rang out through my heart, for the Tercel had ceased. All my gear in the back, my new life, it was all about to end, here in a tropical rain storm in gloomy Newtown!! If it was Newtown. My life was over! How would i recover?
I got out of the Tercel and stood in the rain. Soaked to my skin. Drenched to my soul. What had i done, leaving Perth? All my friends? Was i insane? Surely it couldn’t be true? I rang the RAC and the NRMA answered – what the hell was happening to me? Even they struggled to know who i was! I was doomed!
Then, you Desert, you came to my aid, didnt you? It was you, wasn’t it? I looked up amid the downpour and there, right next to the car, my now silent, dead and laden car, was the Alexandria service centre! A mechanic!! Hark, I heard the angels sing! And I heard you Desert, I know that now. It was you, wasn't it?
The NRMA man arrived and towed my car 2 metres to the corner, and a further 8 metres down the street and into the mechanic’s workshop – I swear, the only dry place in New South Wales – and i nearly wept the tears of the unforsaken as Zam and Jimmy went to work. They fixed my CV joint in 2 hours, but you put them there, didn’t you Desert? You saved me. And I love you. I love all your crows. I love every lonely spinifex, who are not lonely at all, for I am with you brothers and sisters. I can hear you now. Hope not for nothing ever again, way out there in the stunning expanses, for all of us are connected, by the power and the peace and the capacity of this great brown land, to forgive.
And to live.
Australia, I love you. Every bloody centimetre.
Thankyou Desert.

Your humble servant,
David Hocking

(from left to right, Zam and Jimmy.)

*. As far as I can tell, a mid-80’s answer to the Subaru 4WD station wagon.
You can buy David’s app, Name Guru, at any good itunes store, and the Android version is iminent!!

1 comment:

  1. I know the Tercel well. My mum taught me how to drive in hers. It was a great source of ridicule. I loved that car.