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Bruce Chatwin-author of In Patagonia-ventures into the desolate land of Outback Australia to learn the meaning of the Aborginals' ancient "Dreaming-tracks." Along these timeless paths, amongst the fortune hunters and redneck Australians, racist policemen and mysterious Aboriginal holy men, he discovers a wondrous vision of man's place in the world.
if the skeleton of a fish had been impressed on it. 'Good day to you, sir !' 'Good day,' I said. Across the street, some Aboriginal families had parked themselves on the municipal lawn and were freshening up under the lawn-sprayer. They sat close enough to get sprayed and not too close to kill their cigarettes. Some snot-nosed children were tumbling about and were glistening wet all over. I said hello to a bearded man who said, 'Goodonya, mate.' I nodded to his woman who said, 'Go and suck eggs
squatting in the shade. Paper cartons and bits of sheet plastic were flying in the wind, and over the whole settlement there was a glint of glass. Glossy black crows hopped here and there, blinking their jaundice coloured eyes and pecking at old bully-beef cans, until driven off by the dogs. A small boy, recognising Arkady, shouted, 'Ark! Ark!' and, within seconds, we were surrounded by a mob of naked AT THE GATE TO (8 6) children clamouring, 'Ark ! Ark ! Ark !' Their fair hair looked l ike
marker posts with a hammer. He was off, in an hour or two, to Adelaide on leave. 'Oh boy, ' he said. 'Am I ever glad to get out of here ?' The road had gone. Our vehicles crawled and slewed in the loose red dirt. Three times we had to get out and push. Arkady was whacked. I suggested we stop for a break. We turned aside into the sketchy shade of some trees. There were ant-hills every where, splashed with bird shit. He unpacked some food and drink, and rigged up the groundsheet as an awning. We
strayed from his Songline ?' 'He was trespassing. He might get speared for it.' 'But as long as he stuck to the track, he'd always find people who shared his Dreaming? Who were, in fact, his brothers ? ' 'Yes.' 'From whom he could expect hospitality? ' 'And vice versa.' 'So song is a kind of passport and meal-ticket?' 'Again, it's more complicated.' In theory, at least, the whole of Australia could be read as a musical score. There was hardly a rock or creek in the country that could not or had
- was of a 'scientific' experiment at which an Aboriginal had sung his Dreaming, a Catholic monk had sung the Gregorian Chant, a Tibetan lama had sung his mantras, and an African had sung whatever: all four of them singing their heads off, to test the effect of different song styles on the rhythmic structure of the brain. The episode struck Joshua, in retrospect, as so unbelievably funny that he had to hold his stomach for laughing. So did I. We laughed ourselves into hysterics and lay gasping