I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to travel broadly in my time. It is well known that travel broadens your outlook and widens your view of life and lands. You learn to value what you have and it gives you the insight to see things, which others see as normal in their lives, and yet you can see, in them, something extraordinary. This is our Outback, our Country and the broad land of Australia.
Firstly, our land is a continent, which is an asset others in the world find beyond value. Many other nations out-there would love to be a continent… those such as the Yanks and the many countries in Europe. Britain understands this, which is why they insist that Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland are really all part of what we know as Britain. Britain is really countries and islands that make up a collective. Such as the Commonwealth is a collective, they are truly an aggregate of countries combined into an entity that they insist is a Nation. They truly want you to believe they are one nation but try telling a Scotsman he is English and see what reaction you get.
The collective called ‘Britain’ are all countries or nations in their own right, as is the countries of greater Europe, but those living in the British Islands don’t like us to recognize this. In these days they are pushing to amalgamate Europe (including Britian) though the merits are debatable in economic terms at present. While we were touring the region I tried my darndest to find a map showing the demarcation of the countries of England, Wales, Scotland etc… such a thing simply does not exist. It’s almost a conspiracy they have long engendered.
Australia on the other hand is truly a continental Nation and there aren’t many of them around. Our borders are ocean and we gather the islands around us jealously. We also let them cut themselves loose such as New Zealand, which never really ratified its separation and could easily once again become a State of Aus’ if it chose to.
Though the most striking thing about our land, Australia, which I noticed in our global travels over the years, was that unlike the rest of the worlds nations, we have never fought often deadly battles down the ages, over every little damn cove or peninsula as they have in the Northern Hemisphere. On most headlands in the Northern Hemisphere there is a history, a crumbling forte or a buried artefact such as a boat, or a hut or the like. Wilderness such as ours is truly scarce throughout the rest of the world.
Australia has true wilderness. In our recent trek around the NW of Yankie land and the Southern Canadian Rockies I had reason to question the meaning of ‘wilderness’. In the middle of crossing the Canadian Rockies I was told that I was in wilderness… though there were hundreds of people around me, settled campsites, telephone boxes, main roads and rail lines… it confused me. If you look into the meaning of the word it essentially means ‘where man has not left much of a footprint’. Yes… the Rockies are this, but it is not the wilderness I could recognize easily.
As an Aussie, wilderness is remote, isolated, untouched, not just without a footprint and this is what I recognize as wilderness. Not so in the Northern lands. I like to recall often how a Scottish visiting relative of ours once packed a backpack in readiness for a stay in ‘our’ wilderness. We were taking him into the wilds of the central Qld region on a sapphire hunt and camping trip. When we reviewed what he and his girlfriend had packed we tossed certain items they had considered essential, items such as hairdryers and other electrical conveniences. But the most entertaining was a few coins which each had packed diligently. These were for that all important phone call should they find themselves lost. Our vegemiter’s at the time found it hilariously funny that they even thought they would find a phone box.
Our visitors had packed these coins as an essential at the time. Though I have to admit that there is one solar, public phone box in the region we were travelling to, that I know of. It was remote, isolated and serviced a community of resident bushwhackers. It had always amused me to rock up at this phone box in the bush, and stand in line with the locals of a Sunday night to take advantage of the then cheaper rates. This was of course pre-mobile phone days… such conversations that were to have had were often gems, while you found yourself standing in that line.
Anyways… at this point our visitors explained to us that the wilderness of the Scottish dales they had often trekked through, meant that you could always find a phone box over the next hill. That was when my sense of wilderness first took an international shaking.
We’ve had some funny incidents when showing international visitors our land. Once when travelling between Brissy and the Gold Coast with some Japanese visitors, we were curious about the expression on our guest face as we ripped down the M1. When we enquired as to his odd expression… he had little English and we had no Japanese, so we had to wait for a ‘knowledgeable and bilingual’ soul to enlighten us… we found that our guest had found it truly remarkable that the long golf course between Brisbane and Suffers was so large!
It seems that every mountain in Japan is a reserve… loved and revered as their particular wilderness. Each mountain has its ‘temple’, to help maintain its reverence. Such is life in much of the lands of the Northern Hemisphere.
Most remarkable though in our recent tour of the Northern Territory, was the realization that there was a whole demographic of travellers who arrive into Aus’ from other lands, people about which we rarely hear. We hear of the backpackers, of the wicked campers and certainly of the Grey Nomads but we rarely hear of those who touch down into Darwin, Broome or Perth, who rent a vehicle and head out across our wilderness to be found along the route from Perth – Broome – Darwin. They are here to visit our beautiful wilderness, the unique regions such as The Ningaloo Marine Park, The Kimberley’s, Litchfield, Argyle Region, Kakadu and the like. They are generally self-sufficient as this is what they prefer and indeed it is the experience they are actively seeking.
These travellers and visitors who are a hidden multitude frequent the freecamps, the National Parks and the Reserves in their ‘kitted out’ forbies’ and tourers. They fly below the radar because they mostly seek out our wonderful wilderness areas rather than the commercial offerings of the cities. It is our very vast wilderness regions, our wildlife and the purely natural bush that is the attraction. They bring hundreds and thousands of $ into our communities and it is about time we recognized and considered them.
Yes Aus’s wilderness area’s are something again. The like of which is to be found nowhere else on the earth. As we buzz around our cities, going through our lives we need to remember this and to guard our valued reputation from those who would sell it for insular commercial gain. As one international tourer asked… “We don’t meet many Aussies… Why?”
I had to remind them that our land has true wilderness area’s and in Australia that means true wilderness with few people, fewer services and even less development. “Remember that you are on holidays and most of the Aussies are working, earning a buck in the cities with their familes and elsewhere. Here in our brand of wilderness commerce and industry hasn’t yet reached these area’s, and thank God!”
Jan is an author and traveller and you can read of her travels in the stories of “Oldies at Large Series” of ebooks. For less than the cost of a cuppa you can join her and ‘The Man’ on their adventures across the Land.
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