They say that once you cross the Thomson River you’ll keep coming back. I think they may be right. Last week I flew from Bundaberg to Brisbane to Barcaldine to Longreach then drove to Winton for the Outback Writers Festival. I watched the landscape change from blue and vivid green to tan and rich ochre. I saw roads that twist and turn straighten out into dusty two lane highways with fences that run for miles, fencing in straggly stock.
As the car door opened in Winton the smell of bore water was thick in the air. They’ve had rain out west, not enough to break a four year drought, but enough to wash the land leaving a pale green haze. The dust has turned to mud that cakes the soles of unwary shoes. The light is extraordinary.
The welcome was warm and friendly with wide smiles and broad accents. There’s optimism out here, amongst the pain of the last few years. Winton has dinosaurs and film production, and both of those are growth industries. There’s a ‘can do’ attitude that sweeps you along, a strong sense that anything’s possible if you all pull together.
The sunset from Rangelands took my breath away. The horizon disappears into the night and there’s a sense of infinity that isn’t there in cities. You can feel the ageless creak of the land and a spiritual presence amongst the rocks and the jump-ups. I could imagine early pioneers dragging themselves to the top of these escarpments and looking out across the plains, dreaming of their future.
The stories are thick on the ground, filled with rich characters. I know some of those characters will find their way into my stories. They’ve certainly made their way into my heart.