Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: The Outback looms.
Date: July 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.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --