Watery extremes

Having heard about nothing but rain for the last two-and-a-bit months, today I finally got a taste of what things are like on the other side of Australia.

Flood waters are expected to peak today in Rockhampton and Bundaberg – two of the towns I’ve visited on my way the east coast. It’s been really weird seeing pictures of the streets I saw just a few weeks ago under so much water that people are travelling around by boat.

But it’s a completely different story heading west, and my five-hour flight from Sydney to Perth showed just how quickly things can change. Within an hour or so I’d gone from flying over greenery to desert, scrub, shrunken rivers and dried-out reservoirs:

Aerial shot of lake
I think the air hostesses must’ve thought I was a bit odd as I spent the entire flight glued to the window, but the landscape below was just so interesting – dead straight roads ran for hundreds of kilometres and then ended abruptly in the bush, while mines popped up in the middle of the desert, hours from civilisation:

Western Australia
Having landed in Perth I’ve found myself at the home of Brian and Tracy McAlpine, who have very kindly opened their home to an impromptu visitor. Brian is a Nuffield Scholar from 2003, and he farms 8000 acres about three hours north of Perth in Wubin, which is pretty much desert too.

Like many growers in the west he’s had problems with low rainfall this season, but reduced yields of good quality crops means the wheat he has managed to grow has managed to fetch good prices – at one point wheat for the Chinese noodle market fetched about $500/t.

It’s weird how the weather is causing such extremes of fortune for farmers over here. Fingers crossed I’ve seen the last of the upset water can cause.

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