Source: Eliza-jane Henry-jones Blog

Eliza-jane Henry-jones Blog On Maps

Three years ago today, my now-husband and I were in the ER at Royal Darwin Hospital, following my falling very, very ill in Kakadu. We were six weeks into driving around Australia in a 30-year-old van and had finally (albeit not how we'd planned) made it clear across the country from Melbourne. Travelling so far by road was a new experience for me. In order to travel 700km a day, you adopted two states. One is a state of abject calm, where the endless countryside, humming past, is something beautiful to look at, rather than scenery to get behind you as quickly as possible. Driving in such long bursts leaves little room for impatience. Talking, silence or music can accompany this state in stretches that last for hours at a time. The other state is one of great anticipation. If you spend twenty hours driving toward a particular destination, you get ideas about it. Alice Springs: A flat plateau. Dusty. Few trees. Darwin: Lush, tropical, beautiful. The map is so often misleading. Places you paint for yourself as barren so often unfold with rolling scenery and bushy, if not lush, foliage. Roads which appeared wedged into the beaten track, take you hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest roadhouse, where seeing another car is cause for excitement. Rolling hills, where you expected plains. Rushing water where you expected the cracked tunnels of dried creeks. Trees where you expected shrubs and dust. Towns, barely making it onto the map, are atmospheric, magic places and you find yourself the happiest you've been in weeks. In this way, maps are like the covers and blurbs of books. We anticipate, we envisage. Yet, so often, we find ourselves in places unimagined. We are surprised, we are unsettled, we are overjoyed by beauty or obscurity. This country (this story) within which you have such a profound sense of place, shifts before you and it is the map (it is the cover), giving so little away, which stays the same. (I'm still alive, by the way, with a newfound appreciation for being sick in places other than Darwin during build-up. So that's happy).

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