margot wiburd - minimalist australian still life artist

Australian artists are grateful...

It's true. Australian artists have the most extraordinary natural resouces at our fingertips. The unique light of this country is often exquisitely reflected in our art and remarked upon by visiting artists. One more thing Australian artists have is...the scope and freedom to travel!

In 2004 I drove across the unforgettable Nullarbor Plain from Melbourne to Perth with my dog Cassie and dear friend, Ron "Beaver" Campbell.

I'd decided to leave behind my solitary and financially-challenging artist life in the Victorian countryside (near Hanging Rock) and take up residence for a while with my brother Alan on the other side of Australia in Mandurah, one hour south of Perth. (Nearly four years later, I still live in beautiful Mandurah, with its spectacular ocean and dolphins.) So Cass and I packed up our belongings, crammed my little car to the rafters and with the conversation and humour of my co-driver, off we set.

Crossing the Nullarbor Plain is quite an achievement in terms of distance alone. The distance from Melbourne to Adelaide is 730km (453 miles) and from Adelaide to Perth, 2,700km (1,678 miles). (A warning - the cost of petrol was beyond expensive in the centre. Stock up whenever you can, with the cheapest you can find.)

Crossing the Nullarbor Plain

The photo above sums up the feeling of liberation I felt crossing the Nullarbor. (And yes, my dog went on a diet soon after.)

The reds and oranges at sunset were outrageous: richer, redder and spread over more sky than I've ever experienced, almost shocking. We drove through a storm, and to feel the space and grandeur of the Nullarbor under a deeply leaden, gray-purple sky was humbling. And there was so much mauve in the landscape by day. Many, many nuances.

On the journey, we narrowly missed hitting an emu which had blended perfectly with the landscape and manifested out of nowhere, somehow immediately in front of the car. (We swerved and held our breath!) Such excitement is to be expected.

The kangaroos are something else. We nearly got into trouble by changing our travel plans and attempting to travel after sunset. Big mistake. This is a NO NO! At that time, kangaroos suddenly come out in their hundreds on the road, making travel very unsafe.

Scared to drive and regretting our change of plans, we pulled over to the side of the road to contemplate our dilemma. The sight of three...five...twenty or more kangaroos appearing out of the twilight and hopping all around us in close proximity was truly unnerving, like being surrounded by zombies in a B-movie. Please plan your trip with plenty of stops so you don't travel after sunset!

We stayed in relatively inexpensive places which allowed accommodation for dogs, and one that didn't. (In that particular motel we had to be secretive about the large rottweiler we were hiding, but didn't know what else to do as we had nowhere else to go.) We got out of town fast when my normally perfectly housetrained dog decided to mark her territory in two motel rooms - oops! Beaver reckons "CSI Nullarbor" are still after us.

When we crossed the border into Western Australia, an officer asked us if we were carrying fruit or livestock. "No," we replied. "Well, what's that?" she asked, pointing at Cass. I've never thought of my dog as livestock. Cassie was checked for tics. She had none, but when we reached Perth some days later, I discovered a tic behind her ear and freaked out. The vet told me it was nothing to worry about - just a kangaroo tic she'd picked up on the way - and plucked it out easily using a little alcohol and some tweezers.

Australian artists - and anyone else who needs further enticement to travel the Nullarbor - click on this link for just a few more pics.


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