Some travellers may tell you there’s “nothing” to see Outback. That it’s an endless, tiring, dead boring journey across some of the flattest country on the planet, with absolutely nothing to see forever and ever… and ever. As the Australian humourist L.W. Lower once wrote of “Them Thar Plains”:
Before us the road stretches… and by crikey doesn’t she stretch. When you give up for the day, you’ve always got a lot of road left over. We ask one of the peasantry, “What is there between here and Nevertire?” “There’s nothing to see, if that’s what you mean,” he replies. “And what is there on the last 50-mile stretch from Byrock to Bourke?” He spits slowly and methodically in the direction of Alfred, [the dog] and says, “Nothing”.
I had been advised to avoid this journey for exactly that reason. It was because of this, I was keen to see what “nothing” looked like.
I set off across the Hay Plains in early Spring. Having never driven this road before, I didn’t realise that the flat endless road did in fact go on and on, without a change pretty much all the way to Broken Hill; where it continued, in all directions, like spiders legs reaching out of the town centre.
It excited me. This freedom. Discovering that nothingness didn’t exist. I could still see vegetation on either side of this endless road. Soil changing colour as far as the eye could see and beyond. This was not “nothing”, this was vastness. Open fields that give one a sense of flight. An acute sense of being, amidst this sublime, vast flatness.
As with all the other roads I had taken, the Sturt Highway presented an ever changing topography. Varying species of plants and grasses colonised large areas of the plains, punctuated by weeds and native flowers. The colours transforming the landscape and language of this endless flatness as I drove on at speed, was like a slow dance of colour, shape and form. A painting appearing in slow motion as I drove through it. Subtle, yet complex. The motion and speed of my driving, was like unfolding a kinetic Rothko painting. I was driving this living endless painting.
For an artist, there can be no greater feeling of rapture and freedom than this.
Inspired. On an endless straight road with no traffic before or behind me, I slowed right down safely to a crawl frequently; capturing some of my best drive-by-shootings.
Capturing the essence of nothing.