You're just watching a dream come true', I told Larry. He, his white-and-black-spotted mongrel bitch, Cutie, and I bumped along on a very, very rough track that had been molested by the previous wet season. We drove through high grass towards the Diamond Gorge. Ever since I had seen my first Jack Absalom documentary about the Kimberley, I'd had a dream about taking a 4WD vehicle through the golden grass toward a mountain range. And now this dream was unwinding in front of my eyes. Flocks of green budgerigars flew in front of us. Kites circled above us. Roos jumped up and fled as Fidelity disturbed their morning rest. Quails tripped around in the grass and over the road. Brolgas—big pink and grey birds—danced in front of the car.
Driving with Larry was very instructive. As a one-time tester of terrain vehicles in the Army, he could give me a hint or two on how to drive a 4WD in the bush. We were the second vehicle to drive out to toward Diamond Gorge. Cory was the only one who had been here before us with the canoes, dumping them on the riverside. The animals were not used to people, and were scared away. It was a visit to the Garden of Eden.
We reached the river and launched one of the canoes. Going upstream was not possible. We quickly turned over in the rapids to my and Cutie's rapture and Larry's anxiety. Going downstream proved to be more rewarding. We left Cutie on the shore to guard our belongings. After having passed one set of rapids, we glided beneath high cliffs. The view was so stunning that even Larry the Motor Mouth fell silent. None of us said anything. Closer to the wonders of God's creation would be hard to come by. We had entered an outdoor cathedral where the red cliffs were the walls, the cloudless blue sky was the dome, and the clear water was the aisle up to the altar.
Striped Archer fish swam in the Fitzroy River. They caught insects by spitting streams of water on them. Turtles paddled beneath the surface. Livingstonia palms grew high up on the cliffs. A falcon dived and caught a lizard on the opposite bank. The best thing was being alone out there, without 468 Eejits screaming, disturbing the wildlife, polluting and generally being a nuisance. Solitude is a luxury that you do not find in a city but which Diamond Gorge offers unstintingly. What is beauty? Why do we find some places beautiful and others ugly? A 17th century traveller would have seen nothing but a wild and undomesticated landscape, possibly full of hostile savages and other dangers. Garden landscapes like those in Kent back in England were beautiful, untamed nature foul and repugnant. In our century a city boy like me rejects the creation of man and turns to unspoiled nature in search of beauty. In spite of any culturally inclined opinions that form the way we think about nature, Diamond Gorge evoked a spiritual feeling within me.
I pointed out a rock formation on the shore that looked like a woman lying down to drink water. ‘No wonder the Aborigines think everything in nature is the remainder of some ancestral being or their doings', I said to Larry. He agreed, but continued to tell me a most gruesome story. Tribal witch doctors had executed people they didn't like by inserting a fine bone that worked its way through the nasal passages and then got into the victim's brains. This they did, alleged Larry, as a means of keeping the superstitious natives under control. His story said more of the folklore of the lower-rank officers' mess in the Australian Army than of the actual Aboriginal culture.
We paddled back upstream, managed to drag the canoe over the rapids, and said hello to the relieved Cutie. We swam in the shallow waters and had a kip in the shadows cast by the trees along the riverbank, waiting for the heat heat to dissipate. In the afternoon we drove back through the shadows cast by the trees along the riverbank, waiting for the heat heat to dissipate. In the afternoon we drove back through a landscape that was painted gold in the setting sun.
Chapter 20 →