Indian Pacific: 2 Dimensional Drift

The train pulls up in the middle of the plain. This is in theory a station called Watson. There is nothing but small grassy clumps and red soil. An aboriginal woman and her small child step down from the train together with a steward with their bags. I overhear their conversation at the door. She is a teacher; her husband is a mechanic.

A thin dirt road ends at the railway line; and a white ute waits to make the pickup at the side of the track. There are no buildings. The woman and child get into the ute, which drives off into the distance down the long straight road. The train slowly rolls back into motion.

The place names seem random. Even the aboriginal names don’t seem to fit. The land is so old it defies being named.

The entire train stops at Cook, a bundle of sheds. Everyone gets out to walk around. I pick up a small fossil shell from beside the tracks. The air is cold and dry, despite the sun being high in the sky.

A single camel wanders past the tracks. The passengers are quiet and preoccupied; the two dimensional drift of the landscape becomes disorientating after a while and distances seem to lose their meaning. Peoples eyes turn away from the windows; they read, or sleep, or wander down to the lounge car.

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