My final lift was with a bloke named Scott, an industrial chemist on his way back from a uranium mine on the edge of Kakadu. He was about my age and we had lots in common so it was a relaxed trip with plenty to talk about, but I didn’t find it particularly captivating. Throughout this journey the people most similar to me have captivated me least.
As we rolled towards Darwin I traced my journey back through the people who had driven me, or helped me in some other way. About 35 of them. That's as great statement about people, that there were so many willing to take me so far, all generous, friendly and mostly interesting. I know many of you have been following the blog since we met, so - you know - thanks heaps for the lift!
About 100km from Darwin the scenery changed. Mango orchards and palm trees began to line the roads, bougainvilleas appeared as red and purple gashes of colour against the green, and huge frangipanis reached into the sky like coral. I spent two days in Darwin. The sky opened up half a dozen times and dropped heavy sheets of water on the place but the temperature never dipped below 30. It was a beautiful redneck town where the people were larger than life and the insects almost as large as the people.
I’m now sitting on the plane back to Sydney, flying more or less over the route I have just traveled. The land is baked red and cracked with huge scars that run for miles. They look like dry riverbeds that have crumbled over centuries and worn grooves into the earth, or like ancient ancient scars shaped by spirits of the dreaming. This year sunlight catches pools of water that have fallen on the dry places. From my window they appear as little drops of light sprinkled across the outback.
The airplane passes over my home on the Hawkesbury River and circles into Sydney, the harbour sparkling below with the bridge and the opera house appearing as miniatures in the distance, little figurines whose iconic symbolism fails to convey the romance that exists outside the cities of Australia, where the wild things are. I am glad that I have visited a few of those places and have met the romantic people who inhabit them, people who love a good story and have plenty of them to tell.