A two lane road stretches ahead, more than 526 kilometres long, with only 2 comfort stops and hot food to be found between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy — the opal mining centre of South Australia. Empty fields of red, orange and reddish brown soils are occasionally dotted with tufts of spinifex grass and the ever present salt bush. Our timing was right on cue as we caught the salt bush in bloom, decorated with myriads of tiny white flowers. Its sage green cover appears to be dusted with splashes of silver when the salt bush is bathed in sunlight. Nature has created an unbelievable landscape to blanket this immense and dusty land. The colours here are intense. We are immersed in total silence.
In this primal bushland, drought never seems to break and those who have settled here only receive 10 – 12 inches of rain per annum. Occasionally short, stubby acacia trees reach their maximum height of 3 metres. In this primal bushland when a tree loses its leaves, only the desiccated trunk and branches remain. These ghostly sentinels silently guard the vast, barren landscape until they too finally collapse to litter the area. Underground water will seep up to form a pond or small lake that quickly evaporates, leaving only salt crystals behind.
As everything lies baking in the sun, is this landscape too monotonous to enjoy viewing for hours of travel? We don’t think so. When we leave the car for an occasional leg stretch or a photograph, to tread upon the rocks and bones of this land, we feel we are being transported back to the very beginning of time. Under the mesmerizingly beautiful, austere landscape, that weaves its spell to draw us in, we are only intruders in this most ancient country on earth.
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Photos by Mary Mageau. Photos and text ©Mary Mageau