We are camped up in an alien landscape, deep in the Western Australian Goldfields Region. The landscape is so alien to us that I have been driven to spring clean … strange that. Spring cleaning is not my primary drive usually but The Man puts it down to expecting visitors. This is indicative of just how alien the landscape is as in travelling around, visitors for us are the people you camp-up with usually. Rarely do people actually drop in as they do when you live in a house. What is it about women that when you find yourself in an alien environment, you are driven to clean up!
Anyway … when we arrived here at Lake Johnston in the remote central SW Goldfields region of WA, we immediately felt at home. We felt comfortable, inclined to relax and enjoy the area. There wasn’t a soul about and the only company we have is the rare traffic found on the nearby wide dusty, red sand track that stretches for near three hundred klm before it reaches any kind of township or settlement.
It puzzled us, this sense of home and comfort that we found here. You see we originate from the sunrise side of the continent, in other words we are east-coasters. We are more accustomed to hills, mountains, thick forests or rolling cropping plains than the flat plains and broad deserts of Western Australia. Mind, we view ourselves as Australians and we take in the whole continent in our view and then some, this is our back yard. But here, on this broad salt lake of WA, there is something that speaks to us.
This had me pondering … was it the vast expanse of lake that I found familiarity in? We often camp by water, actually it is our preferred camp albeit ocean, river or lake but here it is different. The lake for one has swimming holes dug into its surface … yes someone has dug bl**dy great holes to recline in I guess but I don’t fancy I will be doing that. The water is liquid salt and I dare say there would be some beneficial effect and the novelty of a lake with holes in it has some attraction. We are going to go walking across the lake today … and I do mean across. The weather is not so hot yet as to stop us and the novelty of walking across a lake is too great to miss.
There are other things that I find familiarity in, yet which cause me to smile in wonder. Some git has been doing donuts on the lake surface, dirty big round donuts that are a scar on the pristine whiteness of the salt. I have trouble understanding why any sane person would be driven to this but I guess there is something familiar in it for the testosterone driven. Not sure what it achieves though.
There are other plusses, the lake surfaces raises a breeze that will keep the bush flies at bay and this breeze can at night become a desert howler quite easily. For those of you familiar with the deserts nights of the Western Australian inland you will know what I mean … The desert howler is stuff of nightmares and dreams, the haunting roar of the wind across vast landscapes and deep tunnels, places subject to huge temperature variations. It wakes you, keeps you alert and at the same time has a strange lulling affect that goes with the rocking of the van or the flap of canvas. It makes you feel snug like a mother holding you in her arms yet one who keeps you awake with the constant motion as she thrums a desert song. A song that has high soprano sections, that howl and whip about you, suddenly dragging you from sleep.
The savannah trees, clustered around the lakes edge are also of the dream variety. Not the lofty, towering and tortured green giants of the coastal regions but those strikingly beautiful ghost -gums and the grey and red gums. Along with others that are coloured all shades of burnt orange and silver grey. Their colourful dress is accessorized by the black scars from bush fires that have scored along their trunks. Their leaves canopy high in the tree like a gathering of olive green umbrella’s standing against a blue horizon. This is salt-bush country and the clumps of white grey brush also lay low to the ground like supplicants hiding the dark sliver grey skeletal stumps of older trees, those which once dominated the small world around them. It is country for the landscape artists and it is a visually stunning world, yet cruelly beautiful.
We are enjoying our time here and are tempted to dally some. We will not easily forget the strange views and odd shimmering landscape across the vast lake of crusted salt that hides the treachery beneath its surface. You imagine it is not so, but the furkids have discovered you don’t drink from the ponds that someone has dug. Beneath the crusted salt sheet is a coarse sand and then a deep thick black ooze, one created over eons of time. This is the mystery of the salt lakes… somehow strange and foreboding. Hiding below the pristine white surface is the dark black ooze from a place like hell, that is just waiting to pull you into its deadly grip.