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Jesse Miller

Catching a Moment - Silhouettes

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 18 April 2013 | Views [212] | Scholarship Entry

Somewhere just south of the tropic of Capricorn is where the motel - rather, a cluster of glorified sheds - stood on a forlorn strip of highway in the thick of nowhere, covered in plumes of loose, red dirt. Red. Clothes faintly stained with red; the sun-bleached bricks of the walls, red; the underside of my fingernails, red. The presence of red dirt was fitting, yet remorseless in this portion of the North-Western Australian outback.

In a semi-circle around me, my travel-companions stood haphazardly, constructing our mildew ridden tents on top of dry twigs. Scratchy beards were at ten days growth and unrelenting flies were buzzing around our heads, unwashed except for that rare plunge into water. Stomachs growled with hunger and skin tingled with sunburn. Our tour guide had once said the trip would be “full on” and despite the splendor of it all, he was right. Elation had made way for exhaustion and with each passing kilometer, the ecstasy of the trip was quickly fading with the re-introductions of what passed for normalcy so far from modern civilization back home. Our adventure into the bush would soon be but mere pictures and memories.

In the midst of setting up camp, I felt inclined to go onto the roof of our van, where we’d been storing our luggage, to escape my grounded thoughts. I climbed the rusty rungs to the top and was greeted by fireball-red sunlight that engulfed our little camp behind the hotel in a deepening light. Suddenly, while gazing at my friends aglow around me, I felt an overwhelming wave of nostalgia. Images of deep, twisting and largely unexplored canyons, cavernous pools of untouched water, dry and flat desert, skittish dingoes, warm campfires and an uninterrupted sea of blinking stars crowded my mind. Even now, details that had been etched clearly a few days prior were eroding together. Different shades of red mixing into one.

With a huff and a grunt, a few of my travel companions suddenly pulled themselves up behind me, interrupting my reverie, but also giving me reason to smile. Despite our inexperience, we’d all seen these sights the bush had to offer and we’d done it together. Looking around, I kept waiting for someone to say something monumental, or for a life-altering thought to cross my mind – anything to mark myself and the past week in place, forever. But instead, we remained silent and gazed ahead as the light slowly washed out around us.

A group of darkening silhouettes on the roof of a van.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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