The Outback

In The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough vividly depicts a turn of the century sheep ranch in the Australian Outback. The hardships of working an unforgiving landscape, conditions that seem too extreme to be real, and the isolation are all accurately portrayed.

You’re already yawning, right?

All right then, how about this? In The Thorn Birds, young heroine Meggie and the priest Father Ralph de Bricassart, many years her senior, fall in love. Their life long passion is both forefront and backdrop to the fates of a family in the Outback.

That caught your attention!

I’m not usually one for the guilty pleasure of romance novels, but this one works on so many levels that it’s irresistible. Whether as romance, family saga, or historical portrayal, The Thorn Birds is a great read. It’s also accurate to a fault. As you read this book, you experience Australia’s hard climate along with McCullough’s characters.

Uwe and I drove through a small portion of the Western Australia Outback. Our goal was the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and we had a long, stop-every-3-hours to stretch our legs drive to do. The Coolgardie-Esperance Highway goes on with no bends or turns (and very few trees).

We halted briefly in Norseman

Norseman, Western Australia

and purchased sandwiches and drinks for a planned picnic stop. But there was a problem: no picnic tables anywhere. We drove and drove. Why, on such an endless highway, were there were no facilities?

We finally gave up and pulled over to the side of the road.

At least there was a tree and some shade
Note the deep red soil

I got out of the car and spread lunch on the hood. I was too hungry to wait for Uwe, so I unwrapped my sandwich and yummy cake, and gazed out into the endless empty brush.

The Indian Ocean is somewhere on the other side of those mountains

Every fly in the endless empty brush left wherever they’d been snoozing. Within seconds my eyes and mouth, my hands and arms, and my lunch were engulfed with fat hungry insects. My sandwich was rendered way beyond salvaging; it had vanished under layers of crawling flies. I wrapped everything back into a bag to throw away later and contented myself with a piece of fruit (eaten in the car, with the windows all closed).

In case you’re eating your own lunch as you read this I won’t tell you what it is in The Thorn Birds that’s covered in flies. But man, that McCullough sure can write!

(All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)

9 thoughts on “The Outback”

  1. This is very true, Jadi. Australia is quite amazing in lots of ways. I noticed, you mentioned that you did a lot of travelling. I wonder, what it might feel like to have visited that many countries.
    Over the years. we’ve been back to Germany for visits a number of times. We also have had people from Germany visiting us.
    My husband and I are at a very advanced age. Over the years we’ve been travelling to Victoria as well as Queensland for visits. We live in New South Wales about 100 km south of Sydney. We go frequently to Sydney. A few places in Sydney we like very much, but we also like the area we live in, which is the coastal area of the Illawarra of NSW
    I forgot to mention our capital, Canberra, which is not very far from where we live. Naturally we’ve been there a number of times. Ah, we also have been flying to Perth once for a family visit. But this is about it. The rest of Australia we do not know at all. Our country-continent is nearly as large as the whole of Europe! We have now close to 24 million inhabitants.

  2. In the outback you should wear a hat with corks to keep the flies away! 🙂
    However, once they smell some meat on your sandwich, I guess it would be impossible to keep the flies away. I’ve lived in Australia for fifty-six years, but I must admit I have hardly any experience with the outback.

    I too think that Colleen McCullough was a great writer. I loved all her books.

    1. So THAT’S what the corks on the hats are for! Thank you for clearing up the mystery. That day was our first (and last ) picnic in the Outback. I still laugh whenever I tell anyone that story. I enjoyed McCullough’s ancient Rome series, but The Thorn Birds is by far my favorite of her books, this being said by someone who does not care for romance novels. What she described, though… You live on one amazing continent!

  3. A tiny tidbit of information. The Thorn Birds and Little House On The Prairie, were both filmed near my then home, in Simi Valley, California. They thought our area was quite like the two places where their stories took place and they were correct. It was fun watching all of the equipment, etc. go up Tapo Canyon Road by our house and out to the film set.

    1. Hi Gator Woman, I just now noticed this wonderful comment here! I read and reread Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as a child. Funny that producers would think the American prairie and Australian Outback are the same. Hollywood…
      You lived in a magical place.

  4. After I told everyone else about your new blog, I forgot to bookmark it, myself! I’m so glad you’re doing this – I so enjoy your writing, and the personal way we see places you’ve been through it. Keep it up!

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