When the world changes shape, there’s always opportunity for those that seek it. Karrinyup Island once was a part of the Australian mainland, but the water level has caused Perth to retreat and entrepreneurial people have settled the abandoned territory in a bid for a new life. But don’t get too close; Australia has a sovereign boundary to protect, and a wall to keep the undesirable tide out. SY
Lewis was the first Australian I ever met. He came to Karrinyup Island when I was fourteen years old, sailing across the strait from Padbury on a fishing skiff and tying up at the docks at the end of Newborough Street. He wore boots and jeans and a broad round hat, shading his pale face from the sun. I couldn’t believe how white he was. I’d seen pictures of Australians before, but seeing one in the flesh was different. He fascinated me from that very first day.
None of what happened later was his fault. Not really. But when I think of that day now it makes me sick.
It was a cool morning in the dry season and the Sanmadi was chugging south at eight knots, carefully picking her way between the crumbling, weed-covered towers of what had once been called Jolimont. Flocks of seagulls went screeching and whirling from their nests twenty storeys above our heads, and a gentle breeze whipped the smell of seaweed across the deck. My brother Okitha stood at the prow with the depth sounder, calling numbers up to Dad in the wheelhouse—these waters were rarely travelled, and the wreckage in the sunken streets shifted and moved with the tides. Kadek, Dad’s Balinese dive partner, stood barefoot on the roof of the wheelhouse itself, scanning the south-east with his expensive Korean binoculars, looking for drone patrols or the red warning lights of sea mines. In my two years aboard the Sanmadi we had never come so close to Perth’s outer perimeter, and my nerves were jangling.
Traversing the Nullarbor can make you think you’re alone in the world. But this time, it’s not just a feeling. An Australian twist on apocalyptic fiction that’s sure to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. SY
You didn’t think you’d have bad weather in summer, yet here are grey skies lying sulky over the Nullarbor in the middle of February. Nothing you can do about it. You take the tent down and stow it in the panniers before straddling the Kawasaki and continuing east. With luck, you might hit Ceduna before nightfall.
At Balladonia an Irish backpacker serves you coffee and a sandwich, and looks wistfully out the window at your bike parked by the petrol bowsers, the clutter of occy-strapped luggage teetering on the rear of the seat. “You take carr on dat boike, all right? Just take it easy.”
Ravens flutter and croak in the spindly trees at the edge of the road. The flat and barren landscape is broken only by the occasional road sign or ruined farmstead. You gear down every time a road-train approaches, lowering your head so the whoosh of displaced air doesn’t pick you up off the bike. At 120 kilometres an hour, the buzz of the engine levels out as a steady drone. The frigid wind picks out the exposed bits of skin between helmet and jacket. Still, the weather holds out.