We went into the Kimberly bush in the 1980s and 90s to find rock art and discover the country. In those days there were few tourists and the land was empty. The local Aboriginal people went into the country occasionally, but usually by truck. The station owners nearly always drove or went on horseback.
Our parties were usually 4 or more – we tried not to take too many, and 6 was about enough. With 4 people, if one gets injured, then one stays with them and two run out for help – we would be up to 5 days from the nearest habitation. We didn’t take a radio and were self sufficient in all our needs (two of us were experienced doctors). Usually we had a food drop somewhere on the route – occasionally by helicopter, but more often using a roadside drop or dropped from an aircraft.
We tried to live off the land, eating mainly fish, occasionally I took a rifle and shot a kangaroo or turkey, and we ate water lilly roots.
After a few days the chattering in our heads from our life in ‘civilisation’ faded, and we started to really live in the bush. The peace and insight was not something we sought – we were not going on some ‘new age’ pilgrimage – it just came. It is something I often experience when away for long periods in the bush, and I get an understanding of the way nature actually works in itself: we tend to see nature as being subsumed by ourselves and our life, but in fact it is all happening by itself. With or without us, the interaction of animals with each other, the weather and the earth just keeps on going. When I truly saw that, I saw our place here in a different way – we are just part of the story.
Returning to civilisation was always the same – difficult at first because of my amazement at all the fuss people make of their lives. So unnecessary.