Yesterday I and my friend Gilliane left Western civilization in our dust. We drove south along the foothills of the Darling Range. Around a 100kms south we veered left up into the scarp and the granite and the jarrah. We stopped at a view point and we were here, soon standing on a titanic and prostrate jarrah log, looking out through a vale of foliage on the curve of the green hills and the wide plain beyond. Pea-flowered shrubs glowed orange in the understorey, and vined their way through the lattice work of an exuberant macrozamia leaf. The little buggy had got us quickly deep into the natural world. Far, far behind, yes, left far behind were the cars and the tarmac and the people. Here it was just Gilliane and I and wallabies and grey kangaroos and scarlet robins and thousands of other nonhuman others.
We camped beside the Murray River. A grey, slightly muddy area was the only place I could see that was flat enough. But we scooped up lots of sand from up the hill and dropped it on the area and we had a camping spot. We found ourselves beside a big pool fringed by towering jarrah trees and vocal frogs. That night the frogs chorused in three dimensions through the dark space, while the fire flickered over our faces. We sat on granite stones I had carried there from a river bed nearby and drank a bottle of red wine and ate sandwichs. And talked. It was good to be there with my friend and the fire and the dark and the thumping on the other bank of roos in the wilderness and intimate conversations about our loves and losses and our hopes and fears. With the flat pan of the river before us smoking with mist and the trees and bushes sheltering us behind and to our sides and the fire there on the sandy edge of the river, just as it would have been for the white explorers like Dale and Wilson of this river in the 1830s. And our little mia, our little cabane des naturels, behind us, into which we would later crawl and relax and sleep. That night I slept covered by my buka, the soft downy press of kangaroo fur on my cheek.
Today we ventured through the private property of a beef-farming couple in a salubrious farmhouse further west of this point on the Murray, with the auspices of the owners (they even gave us a map), and took my little car on perilous journey over high hill. We parked eventually and walked. After an hour of walking we neared the summit of the tallest hill on the edge of the Darling Scarp where the Murray exits the hills. It was hot and Gilliane was tired from the very steep ascent. Down, far down, in a crook of the valley behind us, a wide and fast flowing Murray River glinted and accentuated the romantic nature of this already green and beautiful place. It encouraged us backwards. I encouraged her forward.
Soon we reached the top, clapping our hands loudly as we waded through tall grass to scare off errant dugites. A large granite boulder crowned the bald head of the hill. That was it. We climbed on top of it and stood, finally, looking out on the vast table-cloth of paddocks and trees stretching out beneath us to the west, fringed by a lagoon, Lake Clifton, and then sand hills and then the Indian Ocean in the distance. The well earned thrill of topping out and having big perspective on the world was ours.
Later we walked back down the red gravel track to the bottom of the valley. A big black tree monitor shot off its basking place on a granite boulder, and scurried out of potential danger. Soon we were naked and swimming in the cool and fast flowing Murray. My feet touched the bottom of a deep section in the bend of the river. I wondered which other human feet had touched the bottom of the river at this exact point. I clung to the edge of a rock while Gilliane enjoyed the sun on her skin. Feeling the bottom with my feet and seeing the slopes of the valley, full of granite boulders and balgas and jarrah and marri and not even the memory of a footprint of a tourist, feeling the fast flowing water on my body…
Go forth with your eyes wide open. Shadows sway. Surfaces are real. You are human.
Go up into those hills. They are waiting. They are always waiting.