On the 19th of April 2007 I stopped at the eastern end of Australia’s longest stretch of straight road, the Nullarbor, and took the above photo. There was 2,800km behind me, but the next 146.6km was the true threshold between me and the west coast. This stretch of road was my right of passage.
What’s famously called the Nullarbor is actually only a small portion of a highway, known as Eyre Highway, which crosses the Nullarbor plain. The highway was named after the explorer Edward John Eyre who in 1841 became the first European to cross the Nullarbor plain, after a previous attempt in 1840. To Edward Eyre the plain was “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams.” To me it was a desert paradise. If that was a bad dream, then bring on the great! This was my country… my Australia in the most original state I had ever seen it in.
I have always viewed the below photo as a self portrait, but looking at it now, tonight, it’s a photo of me and one of my only companions for almost 4000km. The australian road was the star and me… its understudy. A fellow traveller pointing me towards my destination. My yellow brick road to a place I would soon call home.
If my flight west was a movie the Nullarbor was that quiet moment. The point of silence which forces you to breathe in and ‘live in the moment’. To take in what had just happened before steadying yourself for what is about to happen. I pulled over on Eyre’s edge, hopped out, looked back east, turned my head left and looked west. At that moment I knew I had escaped a past and my future was on the western horizon. In all directions there was nothing but me and the Australian road, sitting upon one of the oldest lands on earth.
“No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road.” I laid in the middle of the Nullarbor, arms spread, simply looking up into the blue sky above. I could have taken a kip, pitched my tent or ‘skinny dipped’ dry.