BACKGROUND: In 2009 I went to Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia for work. After meeting 5 men who completely changed my outlook on life. I wrote Buller BLue. It is a novel that has had 5 drafts 2 rejections and is buried somewhere at another publishing house. Here is an abstract ( or polite way of saying pieces of it) for you to read.
If you do some tye of comment would be appreciated. Thank you
The last large town was Mansfield. I had driven eastward, hypnotically. Mesmerizingly being, coerced toward ‘. Not my birthplace’ home’ but a spiritual place of happiness ‘. Six kilometres out of town, is where, the road begins to dip toward a, once great prehistoric glacial valley. Where, 220 million years ago a great ocean had existed. Now there was only drought ravished loam and sand. Hard tussocks of dried grasses grow sparsely across the paddocks. Its toxic and palatable seeds spread far and wide on the ever-blowing air currents. In the distance, the pale golden soil gives way to a sub alpine geography. A distinct border creates a formidable edge from one, distinct, geology to another; like a turned page in a book.
The first real noticeable thing was the heat shimmer. The whole view before me seemed to be melting. Like a large three-dimensional Edmund Munch painting. Maybe it was more Salvador Dali or Yves Tanguy but it ebbed and receded like tiny waves on to a beach. A myriad of melting colours pervaded my view.
The mountains’ altitude stretched and soared blocking the far eastern horizon. The dark charcoal tipped peaks looked as though somebody had cut them out and stuck them against an azure blue sky. Their rounded peaks hid its deep cragged fern filled vales, waterfalls, creeks and rocky slopes covered in a myriad of heaths, ferns, and blackberries. Its intense beauty and fearful enormity threw off an air of mystery. Shrouded in varying shades of cerise blue, charcoal greys and eggplant purple, towering eucalypts, red gums, and mountain ash sent off a bruised blue like vapour that resembles smoke from a fire to the untrained eye.
The sun moved, hurriedly, across the range. A white wispy cumulus humulis cloud rushes across the sky looking for other clouds to join up with and form a late afternoon thunderhead. However, there was no smell of rain. The air was hot, stifling, and it was hard to catch your breath without feeling the earthy heat burn the back of your throat.
The paddocks were that scorched golden brown, bought on by many years of drought. A half dozen dirt brown and grey looking sheep grazed slowly on what little grass had survived. Heads down, trying not to look around too far abreast in case the world had changed. Even they were exhausted from the heat rising from the parched earth. Grass, where growing, was wavering in the hot northerly wind; almost too exhausted to do anything else.
Its resemblance was like brittle toffee. Yet, it somehow, was surviving in this harsh temperamental environment. The bitumen shimmered with a haze the belied the actually ambient temperature of the day at that precise mark on the clock. Liquorice black in colour; it wound its way across the valley floor disappearing into the mountains. It was, as though, somebody had taken a large black marker pen and drawn the way forward across the landscape. Lazily more black crows, white cockatoos and other bird life flew across the skyline. Where are they flying to; who knew. Their wings flapped just enough to maintain flight against the white blue sky.
Everywhere the countryside looked tired, as though it had given up on life. It seemed exhausted by Mother Natures’ constant change of mind.
Pulling to the side of the road, I recall, all the other times, I had been here.
This was my very own personal postcard of surreal déjà vu.
For there it was; right in front of me – the mountains or the High Country, according to folklore, legends and tourism campaigns. This is what a diversity of artists, bush poets and storytellers have written about over the century.
My car, seems to be safely, parked on the roadside verge. In reality, two, of its wheels, hang perilously on the edge of a large drainage culvert full of rocks. In the culvert sits the usual melange of cigarette butts, chip packets, lolly wrappers, and empty soft drink can, already rusting around the rim. Buried deep in the crevices and scattered across the nearby shoulder sits the ubiquitous smashed beer bottles worth of glass shards. Australia’s’ salute to postmodernism sculpture meets the living landscape. It really should be the symbol on our new flag!
On a nearby on a crooked fence post sat a large old black crow. With its lucent, black eyes, staring suspiciously at me. Many believe that crows are harbingers of bad news; so I mentally asked myself was this ‘a sign’ of what was to come?
Pushing, my sunglasses back on to my head. My eyes adjusted to the glare. The intensity of the sunshine makes my eyes ache. Maybe it was that they were dog-tired from everything else. Hurriedly, I pulled the sunglasses back over my eyes to shade them from this brilliance. My shirt had a light coat of sweat under the arms. Was it plain nervousness, apprehension, excitement or just the dry heat? Hypnotically my breathing slowed as though my whole body realised that it had left the city far behind and, as of now, switching to country ‘time’. The tension, ever present in my neck and shoulders seemed to subside.
Currawongs and magpies begin to herald the day in joyful song. Atop this mountain a breeze blows from the southwest; it moves playfully across the grasses, wrapping itself around each blade drying up the morning dew. Revitalising its’ life, again. The breeze rushes lightly through the trees, caressing their branches, and leaf tips, like a lover. The light breeze gains the upper hand and by mid morning, the sun will settle into a cooler shade of yellow. Feeling revitalised and awake to a whole new world, I wander back to the lodge.
As the sun and wind tussle with each other, my first morning begins.
All over the mountain, a gentle noise emanated from all the visitors. The mountain had come alive. Whilst the other people visiting the mountain settle into their routines, the music for the upcoming festival echoes across the village. However, a tranquil quietness prevails through out the day.
The wind waxed and waned throughout the day. The mountain gums opened their branches to let in precious light. They soak up the warmth in anticipation of the coming winter freeze. Down in the river valley the tree ferns reach high toward the sky for any sun they can grasp. The water ambles and meanders over rocks flowing westward. In the shallow areas, the midday sunlight refracts off the creeks, giving the vales a sparkly rainbow hue. Little blue wrens hop and skip about the water’s edge, playing in the sunny spots. The ambient air temperature is perfect for any activity that requires (minimal) energy. Just below the summit, the grasses stay dewy. Tiny rainbows dance off the drops of moisture. Creating that same effect that chandeliers have, when switched on. It feels slightly fairylike. Hundreds’ of tiny rainbows dance across the mountain slopes. As the day fully wakens my soul, too, comes alive. I leisurely stroll down the aptly named Athletes Walk, because you have to have some type of athleticism to walk back up it. Admiring, the architecture of the surrounding lodges. How do they get them to fit into such a sharp angular slope of the hill? In the forecourt of the Mt Buller Chalet is a carved flat area outside the bar, people sit, talk and drink. Sheltered by a huge monolithic granite rock this area radiates warmth and relaxation.
In the village centre, I wander aimlessly, across the quarried stone past the shops and visitor information centre. People mill around in the warm midday sunshine. Joyous laughter fills the air, conversations ebb, and flow in staccatos of tones. Sweaty mountain bike riders, cycle past. Resplendent in their standard uniforms of flailing check shirt, over the top of cotton T-shirts and shorts that display logos of anarchism, maschoism, and alcohol companies.
For all their bravado, they all wear armour; large vibrant blue, green, red, or white battle scarred helmets. Their faces are hidden, behind, matching meshed, ferocious looking guards. On their eyes are polarised sunglasses. Their plastic elbow guards display signs of battles, already lost with tree branches, soils, and rocks. Looking like long lost warriors going into battle. They head downhill toward the Horse Hill Chairlift. They are eager to wage battle with their own personal demons, and limitations (physically and mentally).
The Downhill mountain bike course awaits them. Hyped up and refuelled by coffee from a nearby outlet. They pedal away.
A large truck, full of goods for the supermarket crawls to a deep belching stop at the edge of the bitumen. With a high pitch screech, the driver applies the brakes, jumping out of the cabin simultaneously. His fluorescent green vest flaps in the breeze, not quite hiding the pale bare skin bulging over the top of blue drill cotton shorts. He strides toward a large rotund man standing in the doorway of the supermarket. The truck quietly rumbles an uneven engine noise, almost quivering like. It shakes with the idle noise looking as though it could easily roll backward at a moments notice. With the failing of arms and gesticulation of body movements, the two men talk. The driver returns to the truck, bounding in one-step into the cabin, just as a police van rounds the corner from the main road. They stop outside the police station. Upon alighting, they move toward the truck in an attempt to help the driver manoeuvre it in such a tight space. They wave to the driver, in recognition of him. Oblivious to the trucks movement people walk behind it. Not realising how dangerous this could be. Eventually the crowd parts, like a rip in the ocean and the truck shudders, coughs and roars as its driver precariously moves it uphill and forward.
Nearby a dozen youth, take turns jumping their skateboards off the ground, into freefall flight. Gliding and scrapping down the handrail outside the Cattlemen’s Camp. The thud of grinding carbon fibre, metal and rubber echoes across the concourse. Mingling, with the cacophony of surrounding conversations and music, this blares from the nearby retail outlets. Their shirts flap in the breeze, how their pants stay put I am unsure. Some wear oversized baseball caps, in a form of gang speak. A few wear them high and backwards mimicking their hip-hop heroes. A half dozen, other riders wear them on a strange angular tilt. The caps tilt away from their forehead, not quite hiding their eyes. They, too, wear t-shirts of punk and heavy metal music bands, masochism, grunge, and alcohol companies. On their feet, they all wear ‘50’s’ style canvas sneakers thinking they are all fashionable. Wherein reality they are, the next generation of, slaves to never-changing fashion cycles. I am envious of their athleticism. For they seem so fearless.
The large blue steel towers for the chairlifts stand rigidly; a testament to the modernisation of the mountain. They break the panoramic vista of the mountain range. It groans and whines a low pitch sound. As the next, few passengers fall backward into the chair to swing high off the ground toward the top of Bourke Street. Laughing and shouting out to people below they move higher up the mountain face.
I watch a woman, ashen faced, gripping the safety barrier, so hard you can see the whites of her knuckles, ride the chairlift. The man sitting next to her gives her a reassuring hug and then proceeds to turn backward to take a photograph. The chair sways backward, like a teetering see saw. This only heightens the sheer fear on her face. Ever so slowly, they move higher up the mountain. The coffee, I just purchased, going cold in it’s environ friendly paper cup. Although I did not want a coffee, I felt I compelled to purchase one, in a vain attempt to conform to ‘what everybody else is doing’
After mailing off the obligatory postcards, to family, who express a desire to come here but never will? I walk back toward my lodge around the ever-steepening Summit Road. The pitch blue bitumen radiates the late after suns warmth.
Stopping every few feet to admire the vista, in reality to catch my breath, I linger at the roadside dry stonewall. Behind, me, stand modern architectural sculptures’ in the form of buildings, trying valiantly to ‘blend’ into the surrounding environment with their muted tones of white, green, and beige. The late afternoon sun reflects off the dark glazed glass. Sending highly illuminated secret messages deep into the valley below. In front of me is the deepening valleys of the mountain, bright glinting refractions of light flash in the trees below. Coupled with ‘blink and you will miss it’ colours, the mountain bike warriors hurl themselves down the trails in a fight to the death; conquest of speed.
The groaning, belching truck now labours up the road toward the Arlberg Hotel, delivering the much-needed goods for the week. It loudly grinds through its gearbox, in an attempt to stay moving. As the engine sycophants a noise that seems as though it was dying. Its engine, now, reverberates, a long low rumbling. It signals impending engine failure. The road shudders and vibrates as it passes by me. The gagging smell of burning rubber and oil wafts through the, otherwise, pristine air.
The warm sunshine makes my face burn, and I turn toward the ski slopes. As I near the top of the Athletes Walk, two men, one in a police uniform, walk out of the medical centre. The shorter one is talking to someone on a mobile phone, whilst the taller one turns and watches me walk toward him. We smile ‘hello’ to each other. As I draw closer, my smile broadens, as I feel magnetically compelled to stop and introduce myself. His smile is full of happiness and sensuality. A shiver of sexual reciprocation runs through my body. No words transpire between us yet I feel as though I have met a soul mate. It is, one of those, intimate conversations, on the deepest level between lovers.
The sun, tries to repeat its effort from the day before. However, it is all too much even the sun seems to have lost its energy upon arising. There seems to be no playful breeze today. Only a lonely old currawong sings mournfully to signal the days beginning. As the sun rose, black gang- gang cockatoos and galahs wheeled, across the far sky, screeching, and squealing heralding the far away rain to come. The fauna seems to be steeling itself for a hotter day. There is no shininess to its leaves nor is there any brightness. The mountains colour scheme has changed to a more varied palette of dull greens, browns, and beiges. The wind rears up and rises like an unfurling flower. Promising a cooler day instead, it blows with a level of heat in it. Jettisoning out of the far parched North West, the wind gathers speed as it rounds rocks and trees. Small seed heads break free, of their stems, and swirl gaily away into the unknown. Tiny spiders fly free of their shiny webs. The sunlight glints off their delicate lines of life strung amongst the tree branches. Only in the open areas of the ski slopes does it wane to lighter, enjoyable warmth.
Finding a secluded spot on the large veranda of the lodge, I sit at an oversized outdoor table. It is made of red gum, a timber that holds its age and deep auburn red well. In front of me, laid flat on the table is the latest ‘girlie’ magazine.
Standing next to it is a coffee, in a large green soup style mug and two chocolate biscuits on a flowery saucer. My spirit forces my gaze to continually be hypnotically, drawn to the surrounding view. For, the first time in a very long time, I actually slept dreamlessly through the whole night. My grieving nightmares and bodily ache vanquished to another world. Tentatively today, I begin to live, again.
However, it was on this (everybody’s) last night the moon rose, floating like a huge soft buttery orange and yellow beacon from beyond the east horizon. As the last remnants of the suns’, pink and red show dissolved westward. The moon hangs high and beckoning, to all that noticed it. There was a certain briskness in the cool night air which seemed to warm to the moons huge presence.
It is a year later and I have left the city; again. This time I am heading for another journey. One, from where I have learnt to live. This one is to, actually, live. My life anew waits for me. True happiness transcends my heart and soul. Whether we will cross paths again who knows what fate will deal.
With the polluted air of the city now behind me, the landscape changed back to dry, drought ravaged paddocks. Empty dam and creek beds attested to the continuing drought. Only where water lay did the trees and bushes have a look of fullness. Pink and grey galahs fly haphazardly across recently harvested fields. Lucent black crows black crows, just sit. Mournfully on dead tree branches or decaying fence posts.
Dirty and grey looking sheep huddle for shade under lone river gums. Some graze nearest to the roadside shrubbery; foraging for any piece for any grass they can find. Occasionally there was a beautiful kookaburra sitting, watching waiting for their next meal on the electricity wires. Venturous crows, hawks and other birds swooped upon wildlife that had failed the mad dash across the four lanes of freeway, to safety. Otherwise, there the decaying bodies lie. Mangled and flat, on the bitumen by fast moving traffic. Truck tire rubber remains, weeds, and rubbish fight one another for roadside verge space. Everything has an air of complacency.
Once again, Mother Nature seems to have exhausted the environment.
Long haul freightliners speed past me, as though they are immune to any sort of road regulations. Their sides announce large corporate conglomerates or towns, whence they are from, as moving billboards. However, most seem to be hurrying back toward Queensland, for the next load of tropical fruits for the southern markets.
Whilst in the southbound lanes more semi trailers rush laden with all types of freight. A large convoy of defence force trucks and jeeps wind their way back to Puckapunyal from some type of army style maneavoures.
Where the freeway comes close to the main rail line from Melbourne to Sydney an enormously long train rushes past with three large engines pulling, what looks like, countless shipping containers. It, too, seems to be in a hurry, as though it is racing the freightliners to their destination.
Hypnotically I quickly glance at my speedometer. I, too, see I am speeding; approximately five km’s over the legitimate limit. Will it really matter? We are all heading in one direction because it is a divided freeway. Besides there seems to be a lot more traffic travelling faster than I do. Grey nomads, in their varying campervans and motor homes are fleeing north like migrating birds. The, odd, local farmer, in an ageing utility (or truck), with requisite dog/s hanging out the back, traverse the many crossroads, of the freeway. Occasionally they turn out slowly pulling into the traffic flow. Showing ignorance of the, oncoming, fast moving traffic. Belching plumes of black oily smoke from somewhere underneath the vehicle. Dogs yap excitedly as the other traffic bypass’s in a whirl. There is one, slightly crazy, cyclist working, albeit very slowly, their way north.
Large super service stations, attached to the ubiquitous super burger places pass by. I have no need to stop at these ‘gastronomic!’ road stops, as my new car should not need fuel until well after the border. Large garish brown tourist signs herald an opportunity to leave the freeway and take the more leisurely route. They work as a marker of how many kilometres have gone by since I left the ‘city’. With each marker, my spirit feels enlightened.
To my right in the distance is the High Country. It shimmers and wavers, eggplant grey and purple, against the vivid blue sky. Teasing me, taunting, wanting me to change direction.
At, what seems to be a shady, roadside stop I pull off the frenetic freeway and stop for the briefest moment? Quickly, I jump out of my cool car, into the day’s heat.
Valiantly cramming, some rubbish, into already overflowing bin. A mini bus, loaded with tourists, pulls in alongside me. They, obstinately, stand around in the blazing heat – for a cigarette.
I quickly get back into the car and begin to head north. Whilst daydreaming I do not notice my speed drift upward or the dark grey GTS HOLDEN Monaro in the lane next to me. Thinking it will eventually go past, like so many other vehicles, I continue. Guns and Roses “November Rain” blares out of the stereo. However, for some strange reason the other car drops back behind and I don’t even take any real notice of this.
Maybe they, like I did earlier, caught themselves speeding and dropped off to a safer speed. Just as ‘Slash’ gets to that haunting guitar solo bit, I look into the rear view mirror and there it is. Very, noticeable, blue, and red lights are flashing on the dashboard of the GTS Monaro. This includes the cars headlights, also. I quickly look to my right to see if it is the car, just in front, of me, that it is chasing. No. It’s my car. I begin to slow down, cursing my stupidity and daydreaming. Indicating to the left, I pull off to the side of the freeway. The unmarked police car pulls up behind me with its lights still flashing. As other traffic flows past, they slow a fraction realising it could have been them instead. A couple blast their cars horn at me. What, don’t you think I realise I am an idiot?
Placing the car in park, I decide not to turn off the engine completely it’s too hot outside. Therefore, the air conditioner continues to run but engine is off. Taking my seatbelt off I reach across to retrieve my handbag off the passenger side floor. I mentally wonder was I using my mobile back there. I think I was because I had spoken to Anna for, a good, twenty minutes. Damn where is my licence? It is not in my wallet, frantically I begin to pull all the things out of my handbag. Oh god what did I do with it? Panic begins to rise in my throat. Is it in the glove box – No? Maybe it is in the console; I flip it open and find it under one of those fuel discount coupons. As I straighten, back up the officer is standing at the window. All I see is a blue cotton shirt tucked into a pair of trousers. A wide black belt snakes around the middle. Taking his sunglasses off, with notepad and pen poised. He bends down toward the window as I sheepishly; push the electronic switch to make the window go down. “Good Afternoon Driver. Did you realise you were speeding?” asks my bolt of lightning, and soul mate, from Mt Buller.