“When vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings…” – Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness  North of Westport, State Highway 67 followed the coast on a narrow, scrubby littoral. The outer edge of the Denniston Plateau, where vast amounts of coal were hewn from the earthquake-rumpled landscape during the late nineteenth and early… Continue reading NORTH BY NORTH-WEST


Out here nothing changes,Not in a hurry anyway.You feel the endlessness,Running from the light of day…                             – Goanna, Solid Rock. East of Borroloola the back left tyre of my four-wheel-drive exploded.  I was driving fast, too fast, probably, on a hellish stretch… Continue reading THE GATES OF HELL


Out where the river broke,The bloodwood and the desert oak…                            – Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning At Roper Bar I was swimming with crocodiles. And not the harmless freshwater variety, either. These were the real deal: big ‘ol, bad-tempered, drag-you-under-and-drown-you saltwater crocs.… Continue reading CROCODILE COUNTRY


the emu-sextons pay me a last cursory glance… At Menzies, a dead-on-its-feet mining town a hundred kilometres north of Kalgoorlie, I turn off the bitumen highway onto a rutted track bulldozed through the red dirt landscape of Western Australia.  My rented car moves about on the loose surface like a schooner under sail on a… Continue reading IRON AND GOLD


You’re in by Karumba,Where the fishing boats come in;I can’t believe this feeling,But I wish that I was there,Every passing day…                    – Goanna, Every Passing Day Fifteen nautical miles north-west of Karumba the oppressive air presses down on us with an almost tactile force. Thunderheads massed… Continue reading UNDER THE SUN


And so I came, at last, to my final destination in India: the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. I had wandered through the stone garden of the Park Street Cemetery, sat quietly in the grand neo-Gothic St. Paul’s Cathedral and walked along busy, crowded Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road to the gardens of the Maidan. The… Continue reading MONUMENT


…the tomb of Nithar, lies reflected in the shimmering pool.  In Allahabad I find a secret garden. I have been walking for hours: exploring the parks of the city’s centre, the exquisite domed buildings of the University, the sad, barricaded, derelict cathedral. I have fallen asleep on a concrete bench beneath a shady tree in… Continue reading JAHANGIR’S GARDEN


It is sometimes said that Britain obtained its empire in a fit of absentmindedness. It wasn’t so much a desire to conquer and rule that motivated the British. Rather, it was more of a slow acquisition of territories by default: a kind of global game of pickup sticks where the sticks were colonies, countries and… Continue reading JOHN COMPANY


There is a simplicity and decency in a military burial, even in its plainest form… I am not the first Blakiston in India. My ancestor, Major John Blakiston, served as an officer in both the British Army and with the East India Company from 1802 until 1814. His book Twelve Years Military Adventures in Three… Continue reading CAPTAIN BLAKISTON’S WAR.