...we found it. Eventually.
Only the best part of a hundred kilometres away. But that 100 kilometres? Brilliant.
We were hunting for a gilgai. It’s a term from one or more of this region’s indigenous languages. Essentially it means a depression in the landscape that collects water. In our experience, it is more common in a different soil type further west of here, so it may not be the right term for this language area... however, our English language tradition for adopting a pretty word means gilgai has stuck.
There’s not much to this story. We are both a bit crook and it was easier to go for a drive than to to work around the property and just make the rhinovirii worse. We’d been told that the gilgai in Pilliga National Park still had water in them from a particularly big rain event back in April or May. So we decided to go and check it out given it could be decades before they do it again...
Piled into our old SF Forester and blasted off through the Pilliga. Eric Rolls in his very nearly unreadable Australian classic work of non-fiction called the Pilliga....’A Million Wild Acres’... that was about as succinct as he got.
It’s a vast blot of trees and scrub and landscape that most people would think why does this exist if most people actually didn’t even wonder why it does exist because most people have better things to do.
The reason it does exist is simply because it is agriculturally useless. If you expose the soil for crops, it either blows away, sets like concrete or turns into this amazing substance called Pilliga Spew. Put simply, it has all the nutritional value of modern political discourse.
It does however grow a couple of very fine trees. One is a lovely old girl that we call White Cypress. It’s a kind of conifer (a pine tree if you are a heathen) but one that beats the usual northern hemisphere suspects like Monterey Pine and Douglas Fir into mere weeds in every respect...except one (it’s a bit slow growing). The other is Ironbark. There’s a couple of species but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that these things grow tall, straight and true. Slowly. But they put on the sort of mass and density that would make a sumo blush. And the timber is...amazing. A cubic metre of it, dried, would destroy the suspension of our ute....1,200 kilograms. Dense, strong and very saleable.
And that’s how the Pilliga has been used since European settlement.
We used the roads that are used to extract this resource (what’s left of it) to navigate our way from one end to the other...just to see a bit of water.
In the meantime, I had so much fun I forgot that the clutch in the Forester is 263,000 kilometres old AND that M’lady no longer appreciates drifting through sandy corners.
The smell of the clutch and the slightly dirty look when we stopped halfway at the Salt Caves Fire Tower was both alarming and life affirming.
The view from the fire tower is also life affirming. Especially if you don’t look down through the see-through mesh to the ground 30 odd metres below...
After many more sandy corners, busted creek crossings and fabulously lonely tracks...we found water. Deeply insignificant water to most people but they’d be the ones chock full of mindfulness.
This stuff just is. A tiny little spot in the middle of nowhere. Full of life that just couldn’t exist without a chance rain event. An event made even more unlikely given our current drought. It was a grand outcome on a lurgy filled adventure.
The best bit though was having a top day out over some entertaining dirt/sand roads driving a 19 year old one owner Subaru Forester on its original clutch with original head gaskets, having a whale of a time in some corners despite the owner of the car saying please don’t do that again...and that little old car never skipped a beat. Sometimes...Miata is not always the answer.