Summer sunset – Murrumbidgee River, Western Riverina

The serenity in this photo of the Murrumbidgee River at Balranald, outback New South Wales belies the harsh environment that would’ve faced 19th century explorers Burke and Wills on their ill-fated journey from Melbourne to the coast of Carpentaria, a distance of over 3200 kilometres.

The explorers camped in Balranald in 1860, a time when non-indigenous Australians hadn’t travelled or mapped the vast inland of the continent. The journey ultimately cost the lives of both explorers and five of their companions from malnutrition and exhaustion.

Sunset over the Murrumbidgee River

Done and Darbie’d – story extract

It took a special kind of man to ride out into dense scrubland hunting escaped convicts, but Tyrek Lind knew he’d never be that soldier. View from Port Arthur Penitentiary cellHe inhaled sharply as a cluster of eucalyptus brushed past his face; a scent he knew would strengthen as the Tinderbox sun climbed over the forest canopy. He loathed it; the wilderness, the witless horse beneath him. His fear of these ominous, overgrown hills was boundless.

Fear that ran its chill finger down his spine in the dead of night, the fear of being lost while a dead man’s boots trod in his wake, a ghost seeking retribution.

Book cover for The Never Never LandYou can read the rest of my short story ‘Done and Darbie’d’ in The Never Never Land, edited by Mitchell Akhurst, Phillip Berrie and Ian McHugh.