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from the desert beyond the darling, easter 2008


about this book we headed for the darling just before easter in 40 degrees, not really knowing what to expect. they told us in mildura not to go to mungo in that heat so we detoured via wilpena & arkaroola to parachilna, then back to the barrier range. driving through the desert, seeing places we only knew from maps, camping in creek beds and on dusty ground with apostle birds and pink cockatoos. in and out of broken hill, buying opals and silver, meeting artists, talking with rangers and aboriginal custodians, ending up four weeks later sleeping in shearers' quarters at lake mungo, six degrees at night and the sky full of stars. just a few of our 600 photos make up this book. - john, april 2008.


from the desert biblical stories of the origins of things often assert that "from the desert prophets come", and aboriginal dreaming stories from the broken hill region tell a similar tale of the giant wounded bird flying out of the northern desert to scrape the barrier range along the line of lode, it's entrails becoming the rich silver seam. but we, robyn and john, barely scratched the surface of this corner of the continent. broken hill became our base as we reached out to national parks and tourist attractions and came back in again for supplies. we lost our tent in a storm at silverton, met the artist albert woodro!e and watched him paint, toured an underground mine, almost wept at the memorial to dead miners, almost wept at the desolation that is wilcannia, explored gorges and found water holes, stood on the bends of the darling, marveled at kinchega woolshed, almost wept at the country stripped by grazing, marveled at aboriginal cave paintings thousands of years old, stared at an engraving of sturt's boat - he was seeking the inland sea - counted feral goats, saw but one snake - an enormous python - and gave up counting the stars. we discussed australian geography and history and found in the burke and wills story the essence of what we whites have done with this country. burke and wills and william wright lie like ghosts beneath the modern veneer of highway and mine and irrigated farming. the darling itself lies even deeper, an artery of the land, as albert woodro!e depicts it, drying up and twisting around endlessly as obsessive humans build weirs and pipelines and take and take with no intention to give back. when we finally arrived at mungo in an extreme dust storm we could almost hear the people from the millennia, roaming around in the dark as the wind howled and the old station buildings creaked. there's a photo in the information centre of footprints stretching across the clay, 30,000 years old. this desert lake bed was once an actual inland sea, a sort of paradise where longgone people hunted and fished, laughed and lived. now tourists come in busses for a quick tour before shu"ing o! to the opal shops. and then we find out, after our return, that robyn's uncles and cousins worked as shearers at kinchega and possibly mungo, and we contemplate the web of connections that lay there all the time, unknown, such a little book can barely do justice to the river and the desert beyond. you make an album like this and it's just for yourself really - there's more left out than what you can put into it. for us, it just prompts the memory and starts the stories.


we arrived at mungo in the middle of a sandstorm but the next day was bright and crisp


silverton - home to mad max and many other movies, with ruins and galleries and history - caught in a dust storm, stranded, tent blown away! but a nice little pub to flee to.


also - silverton, once silver mining capital with 3,000 people, now home to artists and galleries.


ruins of daydream mine, left & top; our tent after the storm, flash floods in the creeks creeks sent us back to silverton hotel.


strange oasis in the desert - broken hill, the line of lode, miners' monument, sculpture park, 50's milk bars, heritage architecture, so much history.


wilcannia - once australia's largest inland port, now a boarded up ruin. camels on the road.


after the rain - lake peery was full for the first time in ten years. aboriginal markings (kangaroo) and a bend on the darling at coach and horses campground. above - the darling at old kinchega station


previous - kinchega woolshed, above - remains of the paddle steamer providence, right - mutawinjee


mutawinjee national park - permanent water holes, desert plains, sacred sites


and finally, lake mungo, home to indiginous people for 40.000 years and whites for just 150.


photos by john and robyn easter 2008 published with iPhoto


from the desert robyn and john along the darling - kinchega, wilcannia, mungo, mutawinjee, paroo, silverton and broken hill

From The Desert  

A photo book about our trip to Broken Hill and Lake Mungo, easter 2008.

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