Tarago Diaries #27 – Misty Mountain

Travelling, searching for Australia, in face of natural disasters.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 13 March 2020.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/2498588153580842?__tn__=K-R


Article Text

(pic by Jack Howard)

There’s a patch of earth just north of the Goldie where they’ve turned the swamp into a suburban miracle.

Turn left somewhere off the pacific freeway. Right about where the joy rides are ludicrous and Queenslanders drive express in the slow lane because that’s just how it’s done up there.

Just when you thought you’d seen Australia. There’s always more of it to stand in. A place with no centre. The GPS pin drop.

And everyone’s holding onto their bit as though it’s the real deal.

If you’re serious about finding it, you’ve got to commit to the long drive. Hours spent gazing at the passing land. Distance with no end. And no real arrival. Here, a version of the dream. Then another. Twisted. Made up. On the edge of a swamp, behind the sugar cane.

A vaste estate of gobsmacking houses behind gates of hardened steel. Riverstone walls, manicured nature strips, driveways full of prestige SUV’s ready for the school drop off, the supermarket jaunt, the quick ride, with the newly minted freeway on hand to sweep you away to everything else you could ever dream of needing to sustain life and limb.

Woollies was in there somewhere. Bananas make great road food. Found it eventually, hidden in a car park full of transplanted palms. The green leafie ‘W’ tastefully embedded in the stonework of a wall gushing recycled water straight of the million dollar golf course.

so as not to disrupt the ambience.

And no signs of panic. YET.

Another weekend. Nine hundred k’s to the south. Saturday arvo. North west Sydney.

‘Hillsong country’ they call it.

Cop the view from a sixth-floor hotel window of a hillside plastered with mansions, windows glinting in the afternoon sun. Everything built quickly on a massive scale to a breathtaking sameness. Bricks. Trees. Pebbled drives. All clean, elegant. Perfect. An old idea regurgitated for the new believers. The way a suburban landscape was always mean to look. But then it’s the stillness that gets you. Nothing moves. And that old feeling is relived. The teenager in Doncaster. Australia forty-seven years ago. Nothing has changed.

‘Get the hell out of here.’

And where the hell is everybody anyway? We’re talking hundreds of homes, rolling off into the distance and not a sign of movement. No random dog walker. No kid on a scooter or some bloke with a whipper snipper. Not even a moving curtain.

No one. Just pristine order. Brutal, empty. DEAD.

Friggin’ awful.

Burt hey. Someone built this place right? And had the decency to clean up afterwards. They’ve moved on. They’re building utopia somewhere else. Right now. Wherever that is. Where actual people are carrying shit around, blowing stuff up, bulldozing, then raising walls, floors, attaching light sockets. And when it’s all done the winners will move in there too and hide behind the tinted glass.

Blink and you’ll miss it.

Ah yes. Make no mistake. They’re in there alright, in their niche corners and if you’re really lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of the odd troll rushing out to grab toilet paper.

then scurry home to avoid the sniffles.

You’ve got to admire the endeavour though. Humanity being what it is. Striving to show off. And why not? It’s only vanity after all. If you’ve got it flaunt it. May as well.

But where is my country?

I’ve always shunned the cloister. Having grown up in one. Then played in one. Preferred to live amongst people I didn’t know. Well suited to a suburb you’d think.. but for some reason,

I’ve gone in search of Aussie. It’s always been somewhere else.

But where?

How long’s it been? Decades of looking for the sweet spot in the valley, the teeming city, the green boutique village. Each with its mix of wisdom, self-regard, it’s own unique sense of place. Each crowd alive to it’s immediate circumstances. I’ve gone to where they live. Vocal, unadorned. Punters in their own yard.

But not until this run have I seen nature so smash up the furniture. Yep. Nature’s ‘goin’ hard my friends. Through all of it. The schedules, sound checks, booze, banter and the heavy lifting of crew,

All suspended on the knife edge of potential disaster.

By fire, flood. And now a friggin’ virus.

We move in a bubble of comfort. Airport lounges, delicious food, king size beds, motel staff only too happy to help, smiles and wit all ‘round, and the late night buffoonery.

Just when you thought there were conversations you never thought you’d have again, you find yourself back inside one, untouched by a world seemingly on the brink.

And now, suddenly we’re descending through a mountain range stripped and blackened by holocaust. Trees stand like vacant shadows on the bare forest floor and all around, the acid stench of death. The devastation rolls on as far as you can look as the highway twists between great muscular ridges.

My country in mourning. Even here, far from the smug Hillsong utopia, we are a nation drowning in our own silence.

Batemans Bay was always a daunting prospect. How to speak to people who’d suffered and lost it all? ‘Be mindful’ I was told. They were there, somewhere in the crowd. Whole families.

Everyone was coming.

The air hung warm and still over us all. Where would the energy come from? But it did. It erupted like a summer storm. Overwhelmingly. Along with smiles. Laughter.

Living End singer Chris, waved a toilet roll in the air. A fitting irony to what these people had faced..

Panic in the isles! Compared to what?

These thousands had been monstered by natural terror on a scale no mind could encompass. And here they were. joyous. Nothing was beyond hope.

And they roared more.

In the crisp morning light, we climbed back up onto the high plain through the stands of blackened eucalypt and I thought of the years of driving done, through lonely towns, singing together.

There was sign at the top of the ridge..


My country.