On the drive to Tom Price, eighty kilometres northeast and the entrance to Karijini, evidence of the cyclone that went through here in January was abundant in the washouts and road repairs. As the sun began to go down, the dry and tawny Spinifex softened the hills, and it was jarring to pass a road train laden with ammonia nitrate, explosives for the huge iron ore mine ahead of us that sits adjacent to the national park. Cyclones in a desert, mines next to parks--a great virtue of the arid regions of the world is that they expose the contrasts and contradictions of the world so clearly.
After checking into our hotel, Paul wanted to take advantage of the last light of the day to make a picture or two off the road, so we piled into the vehicles and drove back about five minutes to a rocky plain that had been exposed by fire sometime in the last year or two. Barry and I walked a random line through the charred landscape. He found two disks of exposed granitic rock surrounded by circles of stones. Nearby angle irons had been driven into the ground for surveying and claim staking; the closer we looked, the more it appeared that the land had been thoroughly disturbed by both Traditional Owners and more recent arrivals. It made me wonder how, from the air where the land had looked so undisturbed, that apparent lack of anthropic effect must have been more an issue of distance and scale. Few places exist on the planet, save the Antarctic, where no one has walked during the last several hundred millennia, scuffing and moving around bits of its surface.