The wilderness as infrastructure of settlerism: Timothy Neale, ‘Roads to Coen: Cape York and the infrastructure of wilderness’, Meanjin, 75, 1, 2016, pp. 124-132


Abstract: I was driving south on the Peninsula Development Road (PDR) in the early afternoon of a dry season day when, ten kilometres north of the Archer River crossing, my four-wheel-drive went into a sidelong slide. Within a few seconds the car came to a shuddering halt, inverted in a ditch, its headlights now facing back towards the Lockhart River turnoff. What happened next escapes me, but some specifics remain: a plume of red dust entering the cabin through the driver’s side window; a line of blood travelling down my arm onto the right hand that held me up against the shattered windscreen; I told myself out loud to get out of the car. Crawling out of the vehicle, my foremost thought was that I had been the subject to a significant clerical error that could be set right through appeal to an unknown cosmic authority. But the accident was tenaciously real and within minutes a couple in a ute two teenagers in rugby shorts with working dogs stopped to inform me of as much. One helped me take photos and clean the dust off my face while the other salvaged my belongings out of the four-wheel-drive, now slowly pouring its twin gasoline tanks onto the clay verge. I spent the next hour squeezed between them, re-narrating the crash over booming country music, before parting in Coen, the closest township with a mechanic and a police station. The duty officer told me to come back tomorrow. A domestic violence complaint would take up his afternoon, he said, flicking his head towards a woman sitting behind him. In the meantime, he suggested I recover wreck towed before it was stripped for parts.

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