The land of Oz. It’s as random and surprising as the otherworld Dorothy finds herself transported to in that famous film.
In one corner there are cosmopolitan cities packed with well-dressed urbanites, cocktail bars and posh restaurants. Not forgetting the ground-breaking architecture, golden beaches and modern culture at its very best.
Move northwards and you’ll reach a never-ending rainforest, perhaps the oldest in the world. Prehistoric reptiles bask on river banks and lurk in creeks. Roads end and nature takes over. The rarely sighted cassowary populates the forests, a bird so odd in appearance that the giant horn on its head doesn’t seem that weird. Here lies the largest natural wonder in the world, a barrier reef teeming with vibrant coral and fish of every colour.
There is a magical island made entirely of sand. Skinny wild dogs roam, scrounging for a morsel of food amongst the sand dunes. Trees grow from the dust, defying the impossible. Birds chatter and goannas saunter along by turquoise lakes. A sand dune melts into red-coloured water – cool, refreshing and naturally infused with tea tree oil. On the beach a decaying ship-wreck lies, battered by the salty ocean spray. The husk is barely recognisable it’s so covered with barnacles and scuttling crabs.
Somewhere off to the east is the most perfect beach in the world. Pure as silicon can be, the white plain curves around and the shallows dance a thousand shades of blue. Huge sting-rays and lemon sharks bask just off the shore. Dolphins abound, their sleek grey shapes frolicking playfully in the waves.
To the south the coastline goes on forever. The ocean carries a chill and is a deep, true blue. Big sharks infest these waters. Stacks line the cliffs like sentinels protecting those ashore. This is the ship-wreck coast, and it’s easy to imagine the disaster awaiting old ships steering through these rocky waters. Cracks cut through the cliffs – a sign of the destruction yet to come. The waves pound and erode, their sheer power evident with every crash.
Find a few gum trees and a furry grey shape is perched on an outer limb. Koalas move slowly, if they move at all, and their lazy inaction sums up the laid-back environment this land encourages. A kangaroo stands alert in a nearby yellow field. He’s huge, muscly, and his legs seem to be on backwards as he bounces away to the woodland. A possum hangs down from the tree using its tail as an anchor, cute nose twitching as it sniffs out a meal. In the crook of a tree a huge python is curled up asleep, oblivious to the humans staring in wonder at its beautiful skin.
The sun is harsh, the land dusty and the grass yellow. Australia is a testament to the extremes this Earth is capable of. Somewhere in the middle a red rock stands alone, surrounded by desert, and its spiritual powers cannot be denied. This is a land of nothingness and of plenty. In one corner, growth abounds and the grapes make the sweetest wine. Fruit hangs heavy from the bushes, fresh and succulent. Across the land, the dust is everywhere and salt lakes dry up under the heat, lifeless.
The land of Oz is a wondrous place. Ever changing, always surprising and undeniably beautiful. If I didn’t know better I’d think my house had been picked up by a tornado and dropped into another world. I don’t think I’d have a need for those ruby slippers, though.