My friend Chris and I drove from Melbourne to Adelaide along the coast, a comparatively small section of this vast country. Still, it took us two days and 1500km in the Camry.
This is a country of the long road headed for the wide horizon. Small towns spaced a hundred kilometres apart or more, acres of vineyards, sheep clotted under huge gums, a always landscape thirsty for rain. It reminded me of countless road trips through the Free State and the Karoo to the Garden Route. Those used to Europe or the UK might feel intimidated, but South Africans will feel right at home. Even the light is the same.
No poverty in the areas we crossed, though. No informal settlements and townships echoing the nicer formerly white town on the other side of a hill where no one will see, though the shadow of poverty is out there, somewhere. In this country of new immigrants, the land’s original inhabitants are barely visible. Acknowledged everywhere in an outpouring of official contrition, but, in the great numbers of game that is democracy, safely consigned to a relatively minor interest group. “Aggro-culture” as one of the artworks in Adelaide’s Migration Museum described it.
Still, it feels possible to leave someone else’s history behind when you speed past it. When you’re on the road, time and space both retreat to a respectful distance. You are suspended in a state of perpetual movement, and the world is a diorama that is always passing into the distance. Along the endless banks of the Coorong, nothing matters except the here and the now.
I look at these images, frustratingly out of focus though they are – my iPhone makes for a hopeless camera – and that is what I want to hold onto.