The Outback looms.
6, 1994 08:08
23:20 Brisbane, Australia :: 6 JUL 94
Tomorrow begins a new adventure. After shedding parental units
in Kingscliff today, my sister, Louise, and I drive the Toyota Camry we
hired into the great Australian Outback. Get out yer atlases; find Quilpie;
drive north about 50 kms or so: you find yourself now somewhere on the
property knows as Canaway Downs. You won't find the name on any Rand McNally
maps. It's a 263,000 acre 'station' or 'property'-we'd call it a ranch-supporting
some 13,000 sheep and perhaps a dozen human workers. A cousin of my newly
marriage-licensed brother-in-law manages this enormous spread along with
his wife and three young children.
To my understanding, Canaway Downs epitomizes the term, 'remote.'
My sister, a Doctoral student in education, keenly anticipates observing
the "Radio School" in operation. A teacher, in Quilpie I think,
broadcasts her classes over short-wave radio. Students listen and reply
or ask questions via the airwaves. The only other possibilities would
be a live-in tutor or shipping the children to a far-off boarding school.
To the west beyond Canaway Downs and Quilpie, the Outback sucks
you into a vast emptiness. In British Columbia I have seen signs warning
drivers of the remoteness for the next 80 kilometers, just some 60 miles.
From Quilpie it is 400 miles to Queensland's western border. From there
you must travel another 300 miles to the Stuart Highway and Alice Springs,
the nearest significant settlement in the Northern Territories. These
distances I describe are direct line, as-the-crow-flies. For the earth-bound
traveler, the line will be indirect, circuitous, drawn through the landscape
by graders; the roads leading west are not surfaced or patrolled. Surely
settlements will be found on the road to Alice Springs, places to buy
food, water and petrol, but my maps show no roads at all through the Simpson
Desert that lies on the beeline between Alice Springs and Quilpie. You'll
have to go around. The warning signs at Quilpie's western outskirts remind
you to notify the police of your destination and ETA; to carry extra water,
food, tools and car parts; to advise police when you reach your destination.
One must display a healthy respect for a land that repeatedly masters
the humans who forget their fragility.
I will stand on the border of this emptiness. I will look in
and wish I'd the time, equipment and know-how enter it.
Thus far my experiences in the populated east include a wide
variety of difficulties connecting to the InfoBahn. I can't imagine what
new problems the remote Outback will toss into the mix but I do know that
CompuServe is accessible in Australia only through FALNET. Adelaide, Melbourne,
Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth: I can access FALNET and CompuServe
through nodes in these cities only. Connecting to CompuServe will require
long-distance rates for the next couple weeks. That presumes the means
for connection exist.
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