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troublemag | May 26, 2019

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Greetings From Beyond the Pale: Not Climbing Uluru

Greetings From Beyond the Pale: Not Climbing Uluru IMAGE: ”Ayers Rock - Kuniya walk (Rock climbing)”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons Ben Laycock, Big River Bend (detail) 2013, hand coloured etching, 15x20cm.

 

Ben Laycock

 

To set the scene for my escape, I am an artist, starving in a garret in St. Kilda, back in the days when stragglers in the rat race could still afford to live there. I am having women trouble. I thought l was splitting up with one woman, having a little fling, then starting a relationship with another woman, but somehow, what are meant to be consecutive affairs, take place concurrently, causing no end of bother. l do the only sensible thing in the situation; I run away, as far as l can go from human society, especially the female version of it.

I fill my rucksack with dried foods and stick out my thumb. Nothing to report ‘til we leave Port Augusta. I find myself in a truck next to a young English woman. I feign complete indifference to her feminine charms.

 

The monotony of the landscape has a soporific effect until the English woman says, “Wow, look at that”.

 

I open my eyes to the sight of a barren plain. “There is nothing there”. I say.

 

“Yeah, isn’t it amazing, I have never encountered such emptiness in all my life,” she says.

 

Ben Laycock, Big River Bend 2013, hand coloured etching, 15x20cm.

Ben Laycock, Big River Bend 2013, hand coloured etching, 15x20cm.


 

There are a certain number of people who have spent their entire lives in the confines of a metropolis, but when surrounded by the vast emptiness of the outback, feel a resonance deep within their soul, as if they have come home at last. She was one such person. As it turned out, ‘Kate’ had whiled away many hours of boredom in some nondescript suburb of some nondescript regional English city, dreaming of one day climbing that big red rock she once glimpsed in an episode of Skippy. I and several others we had gathered along the way, while away many more hours of boredom on the road in convincing her not to do it. The effort takes all of our collective wits, as she will not easily abandon her cherished childhood dream.

 

Apparently the local blackfellas don’t like us climbing Uluru. Apart from it showing a lack of respect, they also feel a duty of care to all who visit their country. They get quite upset when people fall off, as they tend to do on a regular basis.

 

The most common cause of this phenomenon is attributed to the taking of happy snaps; often whilst stepping backwards to get the entire family in shot … whoops-a-daisy, over they go, tumble, tumble, tumble to their doom. If the camera survives that last fateful shot turns out, more often than not, to be a most beautiful picture of a clear blue sky. Perhaps a premonition of the afterlife so soon to be encountered?

 

IMAGE: ”Ayers Rock - Kuniya walk (Rock climbing)”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: ”Ayers Rock – Kuniya walk (Rock climbing)”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


 

So we head off, brimming with pride at our respect for the local culture, to circumnavigate the vast edifice. It is a long way, the day is hot, we are escorted by many flies. We lunch in a cool, dark cave looking out upon the endless plain, and imagine ourselves natives in the stone age, gnawing on a kangaroo bone 40,000 years ago. We find an idyllic rock pool in a shady glade and spontaneously shed our sweaty clothes and frolic in our delicious nakedness and newfound affinity with the cosmos, blissfully unaware we have stumbled upon a sacred birthing pool that is not to be seen by men under pain of death, let alone nude white people whooping and squealing and cavorting about.

 

Sorry!

 

In the next exciting episode your intrepid wayfarer meets his very first real live Aborigine, in the flesh!

 

Ben Laycock grew up in the country on the outskirts of Melbourne, surrounded by bush. He began drawing the natural world around him from a very early age. He has travelled extensively throughout Australia, seeking to capture the essence of this vast empty land. In between journeys he lives in a hand-made house in the bush at Barkers Creek in central Victoria – benlaycock.com.au

 

Want more? See all of the Greetings From we’ve run to date.