Traverse 06 - Page 34

Seven years of drought has evident- ly taken its toll. But it was the sheep shearers strike, and hard times that followed that inspired Banjo Paterson to write “Waltzing Matilda” out here in Winton in 1895. Its lyrics are sad, and end in death, but that has not stopped it becoming Australia’s unofficial na- tional anthem. Kangaroos line the roads in the dry season to lick early morning moisture from the bitumen. The unfortunate consequence, when startled by traffic, is that they leap in any direction and frequently in to the path of oncom- ing trucks and 4x4s. Local vehicles all have kangaroo bars fitted, and mo- torcyclists are given stern warnings. Some sections are heavily littered with carcasses - it’s kangaroo carnage! Emus, and wandering cattle pose a similar danger, but all make a welcome feast for the birds. Buzzards take the first pickings, then Crows, Thornbills and Spinifex pigeons follow. Further along, dead possums, wombats, boar and the odd koala add to my fascina- tion for road-kill. Road Trains pull three articulated trailers. They seem to carry anything, and everything needed for life in the outback, as well as sheep and cattle to abattoirs. They weren’t the unstop- pable menace that I had been warned about. Overtaking was easy enough as the roads had so little traffic. The Red Centre of Australia spans four states. It is an ancient landscape whose soil has worn fine but supports diverse fauna. In an engaging con- versation with an Anangu Aborigine named Leroy, I learnt to source and selects fruits such as wild fig and bush plum, as well as bake with wattle seed. I also learnt how to source water from small pools at the base of trees with roots in cracks in the rock, as signpost- ed by birds circling above. Handy tip! Visiting Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, named after a British Chief Secretary of South Australia, was the prime motivation for my journey through the Outback. It’s a very big TRAVERSE 34