Pushing on in the early afternoon just out of Strathalbyn, I see a touring cyclist coming in the opposite direction. It’s always a special time meeting up with another rider, sharing stories and tips on what to look out for on the road ahead. Ross was 75 years old, obviously retired, from Sydney. Originally, he was traveling the roads of Australia at his whim. I had a tourist map of the area I had just come through that I was able to give to Ross who was keen on visiting Handoff a noted wine region.
Riding through the Australian rural landscape, I became aware of just how ancient this continent is. Neither malevolent or benevolent; rather indifferent to the passing follies of us who have claimed to have tamed the land.
Strathalbyn was a nice looking little town as Ross had said. Founded in 1839 by Scottish settlers on the banks of the Angas River, Strathalbyn is now well-known for its antiques and collectables. The area was once the homelands of the “Ngarrindjeri” indigenous people of the land who had lived in tribal groups around the area now called Strathalbyn for many thousands of years.
On Display at the local historical society museum were a few Aboriginal hand tools, boomerangs and pioneering photographs. Aboriginal men were represented in pictures of the early cricket and football teams, but I wondered about how far integration went as another forlorn but somehow dignified group were posed outside their humpies down by the river in an area I recognise now as the towns War memorial for those who gave their lives in the Great War.
I suppose Strathalbyn was really no different to many rural or regional Australian towns. Prosperous and proud, friendly but disconnected on a daily basis from its cruel and often violent past. The land wasn’t given freely.
I made camp at one of the caravan parks.