What you can see if you just slow down 18



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I am driving from my carport towards the farm gate some 50 metres uphill at the top of the grassy paddock. On my right, in the next farm a huge dead single gum tree dominates the horizon with its twisted, black, naked arms. Set against the blue sky it provides a safe landing site for birds. White cockatoos routinely use it as a stopover between the Cox’s River and Katoomba in the morning when they head up towards Echo Point and back after four o’clock on their way home. They arrive one by one, do a great deal of screeching, then take off, one by one again.

At the farm gate, a dirt road separates my acreage from the huge cattle farm opposite. The land there gradually slopes downhill to the base of ancient escarpment that rises up culminating in Narrow Neck in Katoomba. To the right in the distance there are several undulating mountain ranges and plateaus with cows grazing. I call that area the Oz Switzerland.

At the gate I turn left and head towards the road that winds its way through a rainforest up to Shipley and Blackheath. The sunny open valley floor gradually gives way to the dense, dimly lit forest. Along the way hundreds of gum trees hug the road, forming an honour guard to nature. The vegetation changes to coachwood trees, ghost gums, huge mountain ashes and ever more fern trees holding umbrellas of various sizes over the road. The delicate embroidery of the tall fern tree umbrellas are as many matrixes stuck on the grey sky above them. As the road reaches the rainforest it turns into a wiggling serpent crawling uphill in the darkening forest. The road, my car and I, are swallowed up by nature. The tree tops touch and intertwine high above the road forming an oval shaped natural tunnel. The sun filters through now and again showing tiny patches of the sky only to be blocked out again by the evergreen jungle. I slow the car to thirty km/hour and what I see overwhelms my se nses. The front windscreen of my car is now a window to a huge stage of three dimensional live theatre. I am riding on the serpent, but it does not move, instead the scenery is moving towards me. Walls of trees, hill tops and huge rocks appear to about to collide with me head on as they approach me but in the last second they gently move to the side, just to leave enough space for the serpent and I not to be crushed as they pass by. Receding, they gracefully wave goodbye, allowing the next smorgasbord of indescribably rich scenery to seamlessly embrace us until that, in turn, passes us. I am on a winding rollercoaster in slow motion. One moment the sky heads towards me, then it falls behind a mountain peak, which in turn is wiped out by a plethora of deep green glittering tree tops. On the arms of huge, smooth, naked, yellowish-white mountain ashes, their shredded bark hang from some twenty metres high, down, near to the forest floor, like rows of torn flags dancing in the breeze. After numerous twists and turns uphill and crossing a creek, more light appears and the rainforest gradually gives way to stringy bark gums and wattle. My car and I are turfed out from the bowels of the forest to bounce back to the dominance of man inhabited landscape.

Over the years, I have been driving thousands of times up and down this rainforest road. But never before in such slow motion.

I am looking forward to many happy returns.

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Andris Heks

Andris is a former journalist, working on 'This Day Tonight' and 'Four Corners' -- ABC television's top rating current affairs programs. He has been a social worker, psychodramatist and yoga therapist, and enjoys singing and playing music, especially Hungarian Gypsy Music. He also enjoys swimming, cycling and writing. Andris is currently working on his memoirs. He welcomes feedback and comments on the opinion pieces published at Starts at 60.

  1. Very well said. I think as we get older we do slow down not because we have to but because we know it is safer and better. You said it perfectly slow down and see what you have always missed

  2. Please if you want to look around, stop and look around by all means, some wonderful things to see, BUT, safe driving requires 100% concentration on driving, not sight seeing. Drive safely.

  3. A beautiful picture in words. Recently, when towing our van up a lengthy steep road over a range we experienced overheating in the car. After we had stopped at a lay-by to cool down and add some water, the sounds and scents of the surrounding countryside were so lovely. When we continued on our nomadic way we left the windows down and took it slowly to keep the revs down. How lovely to take in the sights and sounds as we drove along with the wind blowing through my hair. Too often we rush along in our air-conditioned cocoon and miss the most enjoyable part of nature.

    1 REPLY
    • So many times as drivers we miss so much. I am sure we are talking about quiet roads wit little or no traffic. We would not drive to slow for other drivers.

  4. Sorry but if there are other drivers on the road, slowing down to check the view is selfish. Unfortunately in Australia unlike some other countries there are seldom lay-bys to pull up and take in the most gorgeous scenery. If you want to slow down and commune with nature, just check your rear view first and then as you drive. Your dawdle along the road might make one of those following you miss an important appointment or later get a speeding ticket trying to make an airport in time for that flight that’s part of the holiday they’ve saved thousands for. Or like me one day just trying to get a badly injured dog to the vet. Never assume the car behind you is just a ‘lead foot’ or impatient sod, they may have good reason to want to keep on the speed limit.

  5. Semi trailer and road train drivers just love people like you. The grey nobrainers with their caravans do the same thing- 85km on a 110km road. No wonder there are so many accidents, how selfish you are.

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