Monday, July 06, 2015


Day Two of my cross-country drive took me off the edge of the Darling Scarp and down into the Nullarbor Plain.

In the middle of the plain, where it meets the ocean at the western end of the Great Australian Bight, I stopped to celebrate our progress with the only martini within a 500 km radius, and quite possibly the first martini that this corner of the world has ever seen. You’re welcome, Australia.

As evening fell I stopped at Nullarbor Roadhouse to spend the night. My motel room was built at some time in the 1960s, but while the hotel at Norseman was a faded reminder of a more elegant and prosperous time, the hotel at Nullarbor was always utilitarian and unlovely. The walls of my room were unpainted cement brick, and so thin that I could hear every word of the couple next door (and the wails of their baby). There was a tiny TV, an original bathroom with amber faux-onyx benchtops and harvest gold tiles, and bed linen the colour of haemorrhages. A small sign on the wardrobe warned that the water should be boiled before drinking. The whole room gave the impression of being designed to be simple to clean out after a depressed trucker shoots himself in it.

I stepped out into the cold night to take a walk. It may not be an advisable thing to do around most motels of this scabrous type, but Nullarbor has the benefit of being in the middle of nowhere, and thus outside commuting distance for most ne’er-do-wells. I walked some way down the highway, and once I stepped beyond the illumination of its floodlights and the sound of the idling rigs and the motel’s generator, I was enveloped in darkness and silence unknown in my normal life. There wasn’t a single vehicle on the road for over half an hour. The whole cold, silvery arm of the Milky Way was visible from horizon to horizon – the only visible thing in the darkness other than the lights of the motel a kilometre behind me. The silence was so complete that my mind hallucinated the faint chirp of insects, to add to the faint background hum of what I assumed is marginal tinnitus.

I normally love darkness and silence, but this was too much. Darkness and silence remove distractions and allow you to experience the small things, but in complete darkness and silence there are no small things, and you just experience emptiness.

It was in this nihilistic frame of mind that I walked back to the tiny speck of civilisation of the motel, and watched 'Alice in Wonderland' on illegal Bali DVD that they were inexplicably showing on my tiny TV.


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