Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 189

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Friday & Saturday, November 26 & 27 2010 (diary)

The Devil's Marbles, Wauchope NT Every time I drive through inland Australia (as I am doing right now) I am overwhelmed again by the landscape : endless panoramic plains of largely undisturbed raw nature. A carpet of bushes and low trees in a variety of greens (of which especially the silver green and grey green shades form wonderful highlights) partly overlies the red or buff coloured soil and ruble with here and there some rock formations, or some bright yellow flowers, of wattle or other types.

Black scorched tree trunks are the scars of survival from numerous bush fires and "burn offs" (burning of the undergrowth to prevent large bush fires). Tree branches, twisted in agony, eventually point upwards towards their source of existence, but at times also their tormentor : the blistering sun.

Eccentric tree in Central Australia It is a country dangerous to men, not because of wild animals, but on your own and without water you could not survive here for longer than 48 hours. But when well prepared and driving in a comfortable air conditioned car (like I do) it is a wonderful experience to drive through this environment.

This landscape (from a geological viewpoint) has been there and done it all! Sedimentation, intrusions, volcanic activity, structural deformation and uplifting and finally repeated periods of total erosion to a perfect plain.

This is an environment where only raw, relentless honesty can survive. High pretensions and low lies succumb, are eroded away, like the mountains and valleys, into a flat silence.   For this is the landscape of eternity, and eternity does not speak, it only breathes quietly in and out.

This is precisely what I experience when I drive through this landscape : an enormous feeling of satisfaction, contentment, of peace and tranquility. But it also gives me inspiration and energy.
Central Australia Perhaps I am especially susceptible to it, because I am a Dutchman and grew up in a flat country, alert to its mood and to the most subtle changes as I drive through it.

At the Tropic of Capricorn, 50km North of Alice Springs But these two plains are of entirely different natures.
The Dutch clays and sands, barely dry from the sea from which they emerged, are like a newly born baby, innocent and without a single life experience.   The old Australian plains, on the other hand, have completed an entire life history and are like an old man filled with wisdom.

But do these two plains, despite their enormous difference, reflect (or perhaps echo) what lies before and after in time? For the baby has just emerged from the same unknown stillness the old man will return to when soon he dies.

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Sunday - Tuesday, November 28 - 30 2010 (diary)

British global telegraph network, 1900 In the book Empire (a most entertaining historical account "How Britain made the Modern World"), the author (Niall Ferguson) outlines the extensive network of telegraph connections with which London kept in close communication with all of its Dominions. The 3,000 km long NS line between Adelaide and Darwin, completed in 1875, was an important segment of this network. Several of the original telegraph posts have been preserved including the one just North of Tennant Creek and at Barrow Creek 250km farther South.

The Alice Springs telegraph station, completed in 1871, was the first white settlement in the region. When shortly after gem stones and gold were discovered in the area prospectors would follow the telegraph line from Adelaide North, then set up camp at the Alice Springs telegraph station. When this became too crowded, a street network was laid out nearby which became the present Alice Springs township.

Telegraph station at Barrow Creek NT On my way south I take photographs of the old Tennant Creek telegraph station and also of the Barrow Creek telegraph station. Both have been preserved as historical monuments. The one in Alice Springs is also still standing.
In Alice Springs I find excellent accommodation in the Palm Springs Resort, right next to the Lassiter's Casino Resort. Both are located along the banks of the (usually bone dry) Todd river.
I have dinner in the iconic Memo Club : a great scotch fillet steak grilled to perfection, medium rare.

During the war (WW2) Alice Springs was a large logistics centre for the army, with supplies traveling North to Darwin for the fight against the Japanese (1942-43). So there were lots of service men who established their own club. After the war however the club was no longer viable as an RSL (Returned Soldiers League) club, so it was opened to the general public and renamed the "Memorial Club". The Club has grown from strength to strength over the years and is still thriving today. A must visit place if you ever come to "the Alice"!
Natural salt lake in South Australia My journey south continues to be a "spiritual" one, with subtle variations in the landscape and trees as I drive along. These days it is a unique experience to drive through an environment that is barely touched by human hands. For hundreds of kilometers there are no houses or other man made structures at all and no human beings either.
It is only you alone in your car and the road. This establishes a wonderful connection between you an a timeless world, which existed millions of years ago before mankind came into the world.

It makes me realise in what a polluted and damaged environment we live, houses, roads, railway lines, cities. An ever spreading network of infectious disease across the globe.   And for a brief period I get right into that again when approaching the opal mining town of Coober Pedy on Sunday afternoon.
Opal mining near Coober Pedy
Whereas large mining companies are required to make extensive environmental impact studies and clean up their mess, in Coober Pedy that appears not to apply judging by endless rows of dirt cones that stretch almost to the horizon.
But on Monday all is good again as I pass some magnificent natural salt lakes along my route in South Australia. I finally arrive at my destination in Adelaide at around 5PM. It has been a wonderful journey.

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