After completing a rather curly veranda over the space of a few days, with numerous "sh*t, f*ck, b*stard" moments that beset the beginner builder, I attached the guttering with some wire to a piece of wood on the roof and improvised a drainpipe of sisal rope. It is always a case of how many days I have out there. All I wanted to do this time was get the rainwater happening. Note the gypsyed-up rainwater tank - a thousand litre drum previously used for hydrogen peroxide, now painted camo and used for a completely different purpose that it was intended!
This whole time I was at Kundip a lightning storm hung over the Barren Ranges, snagged on the jagged edges. Nights there are always bright because there are no electric lights but the new gold mine infrastructure glows on the horizon. In my shack I can see the eerie orange reflection against the clouds. It is like driving a night time desert highway and seeing the lights of the roadhouse for a hundred miles before you get there. These Kundip nights too were lit up with consistent flashes, the 'sky sparks' coming from way out to sea off Hopetoun.
Daytimes were full of rain, blue skies, then the strange clouds announcing more rain, followed by rainbows - doubled and even trebled on the horizon and then more blue skies.
"The light is different out here," Dad said to me, on his visit. I was thankful for this comment. The light is indeed different to the south coast. It seems more diffused, gentler than the stark blue and white hues of the coast. He reckoned it is because trees on the horizon here part to reveal the sky behind them. It is not the solid scrub of the south. Of course light is different, in every country you enter. But I was grateful because the pictures I have taken of this country always turn out looking drab and grey and it is not like that at all. The earth is rich red or white with quartz and there is water all around and zany emerald native plants. The colours are almost too vivid for the naked eye but for some reason my photographs don't reflect that and I've been confused about this, until he said the thing about the light.
Anyway, after the sisal rope downpipe effort, I packed up my tools and my camp and hit the road, accompanied by a compilation CD of Joni Mitchell, The Pogues and Ella Fitzgerald. I was going 'home' to Albany. But on the way I wanted to stop in at the tip (always a good lurk in a mining town) and get a bit of a drive around the bush. These are some camels on the way ...
Across the road from the town dump is the old cemetary.
I went through town and took the next left down the Cocanarup Road. The last time I went down the four wheel drive track to Cocanarup, I stumbled across the bush grave of John Dunn. Finding this was a bit unsettling because I knew fragments of the story. The tombstone's inscription says something akin to "You never know when they are gonna get ya." (Matthew 24:42) In 1880, this man was executed by spearing. His killing sparked a massacre by his brothers and others.
I come to land scoured by a century of farming. It is grim country indeed. Just stones on earth and no trees, punctuated with wire lines strung through holes in jam posts. The original farm buildings sit in stone on a hilltop, windswept, rock strewn. Dunn Country.
Drive down into the Phillips River valley, just across from the old farm and the country becomes salmon gum green. It is a whole different eco-system in the valley. The air is cooler, the light greener. It is here that John Dunn is buried and perhaps also here that a lot of the Old People are buried - in a mass, hidden grave. People tell the story of survivors from that terrible day driven across the coasthills to Esperence and Bremer Bay. On their way home the horsemen poisoned all the waterholes so the Old People couldn't return to their country.
There is a report in the Albany Library on the Cocanarup massacre and Kim Scott's book, Kayang and Me also has a chapter about what happened there.
I forded numerous crossings of the Phillips River on that drive, to the strains of the Pogues, rolling cigarettes and pouring coffee from the flask. It took me several hours to crawl over sharp rocks and creep through huge forests. And those forests are big, almost like the karris, without the soft understory of leatherwoods. I saw where the now-dry river had pushed branches against the gums to almost three metres high in times of flood. Then I found the pool. Tracked with emus, snakes, bangaras and kangaroos was this waterhole. A remnant of bigger river days.
Imagine my laughter and surprise, when I realised I'd circled a massive amount of that grim, stony country and ended up back at the tip!