1000s of years old Aboriginal rock art in North Queensland | image GJ Coop

1000 generations, huh?

a couple of days’ notes from a 595 day cycling tour across Australia.

Day 421 | near Lakeland

Some days out on the road have a different course from what you might initially imagine.

At the 3 km mark today, riding 16 minutes, I went past a sign pointing at Split Rock. After tootling a bit past I turned back and went on the walk, it’s a major Aboriginal rock art site, apparently. Most things marked in red on the local Hema maps are worth a short detour.

It was just 10 or 15 minutes up to two substantial rock art galleries, the first showing a splendid array of wildlife, a turtle, crocs, echidna maybe, roo, human figures, etc, and the second with a few Tall Spirits, of the genial kind.

I started talking with Dave, another early riser, who’d come from Cooktown and had a guide book that detailed a 4 km circuit to lookouts and further gallerias, just past that new looking No Unauthorised Access sign.

What sign? Probably for a different track we surmised.

We decided to wander around anyway, the book said nothing about restrictions, chatting on, spectacular lookouts in various directions, and then the biggest surprise a string of art galleries, the biggest series I’ve come across in my travels, with a huge variety of images, animals, more crocs, turtles, brush turkeys, etc, spirits, plenty of hand outlines, overall there were hundreds of images.

The hand outlines are common to many sites I’ve seen, the faint trace of humans from another age, some many thousands of years old.

You fit your hand over the top and let your mind wonder about what life was once like, who had made that particular outline. These days we might leave a faint digital trace when we are no longer here but it’s unlikely much will remain after even a dozen years.

Day 422 | near Spring Creek

“You come up the hill?”

“Yeah,” I reply, not stating the obvious, mate, when you are standing at a lookout on a high outcrop you must have come up.

The said climb sure was a grunt, but like the Spooners Range south of Nelson you keep plugging away, often in the lowest gear of the 27 and after a couple of stops, to look back at the view, or, perhaps, catch some breath and let some lactic acid dissipate from the lower limbs, bit by bit you get there.

He has eyebrows you could plait, a gnarly face that’s seen plenty of weather over the years and an aggressive demeanour, beer gut, puffing away on a cigarette, may well spend as much on the cancer sticks as it costs me to live my current fully austere lifestyle. My full daily budget is about the cost of a single packet these days.

“That’s a fair load,” he continues, motioning towards my bike and caravan, pale blue smoke following his hand movement.

“Yeah, although there’s a few things I could get rid of,” not saying there’s little in the way of provisions aboard, it’s now way low tide.

I don’t point my eyes towards his decked out bus, converted to comfortable living, looking quite new, a full sized, also new, 4WD hanging off the tow ball, might be a million bucks on those automotive wheels, because I’m an agreeable type, at least on occasions when there’s little discernible upside to the conversation, but he surely senses my antipathy for his style of transportation, his heavyweight affluence precluding much engagement with nature and the world out here.

Contrast that inane exchange with some more pleasurable banter with a gorgeous Dutch gal who comes over, all white teeth and intelligence, wavy shoulder length hair that if she was Australian would undoubtably be straining credibility towards the platinum blonde end of the spectrum, but she is a self assured European and it’s soft brown, might even say mousey brown, provided those mice were looking lovely. Topics including finding a cassowary, as yet unsuccessful, the bizarre decoration of the nearby Lions Den Hotel and, from me, excitement about yesterday’s Split Rock Aboriginal rock art.

An Aussie bloke, scrawny although he probably thinks tough looking, wanders over from the silver backpacker’s style camper van, unhappy, edgy eyes, maybe it ain’t going so well.

“1000 generations, huh, what did they produce?”

“Err, I suppose they survived, at times thrived. That’s an achievement in this harsh country.”

A snort of dismissal, both at me and the world’s longest standing society.

At the rate we’re going, ie, 7 billion of humanity, we’ll be lucky to survive another 5, make that 3, generations.

So much I don’t say but I’m grinning wildly, an echo of Her Gorgeousness.

There’s some people I don’t mind being around.