In Search of the Lost City

Photo: Steve de Vroom

There were rumours. Stories of skyscrapers and ancient statues. Then there was the talk about a Cape with no ocean. And a place called the Heartbreak Hotel.

It seemed that something was Troppo up here. Perhaps I had been too long in the Territory. Either my imagination was running wild or the locals were a little bit loco.

Having left Darwin after a very pleasant 5 weeks I was determined to investigate these unusual stories. I headed down the Stuart Highway then turned East towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. Leaving civilisation behind I pushed deep into the Never Never, wondering if I would never never be seen again. The road narrowed. After a while I realised that it had been a while since I last had any human contact. An eerie silence settled over the jungle. A scream from an unseen bird, somewhere to my left, out of sight. They don’t call this the Terror-Tory for nothing.

There on the horizon I saw a settlement. Just an old tired building and some smaller huts. The sign told me what I had dared not guess… The Heartbreak Hotel at Cape Crawford. The Cape with no ocean! I stopped for something cool to drink, perhaps an excuse to delay the inevitable. I pushed on.

As nightfall swathed the bush in darkness I found a small clearing in which to camp. The night passed slowly. Surrounded by sounds that I had never heard before, I was comforted by the dawn as the promise of a rising sun painted the sky with apricot and rose. It was time to make a move.

Pushing deeper eastward I crossed the McArthur River and found myself in a village that the locals called… Borroloola. I was told that the name is Aboriginal for Giant Fish that Eats People. That was a comforting thought. I had been concerned about tales of giant crocodiles and was relieved to know that my life could end merely as fish food instead.

I stayed a week in this place, trying to solve the mystery of the Lost City. Asking locals only resulted in the subject being changed. There seemed to be a conspiracy of silence. What was the story here, I wondered. I set out with renewed determination. There was a place I had to see and it seemed that no one wanted me to see it. Leaving Borroloola I headed south again, scouring the landscape for clues.

It was then that I saw it. A sign. A sign that told me that I was closing in on the Lost City. The sign said “Caranbirini Conservation Area“. From my knowledge of the local dialect, Caranbirini was a word that you didn’t utter without consequences. It was a word that turned people white with fear. Even if they weren’t white to begin with. I changed course and surged deep into a place that in hindsight, I may not have gone, had I stopped to think about it. Then I saw another sign. It simply said; “Lost City”. A chill ran down my spine.

I was now on foot. Pressing further into the wilderness I came across a savannah plain and then in the distance I saw it. The towering skyscrapers of the Lost City. They were ancient and foreboding, shimmering in the haze of the noon day sun. Pushing through the thickening jungle I headed straight towards what could be the last city I would ever see.

There was a billabong that had to be crossed. Fortunately, someone had built a bridge so I didn’t have to get wet.

And there it was. I was standing at the gates of this ancient city, awestruck. The rumours were true. There were the skyscrapers and the monumental statues. Ancient pillars in sandstone. What was this place, I wondered.

Photo: Steve de Vroom

Quickly, in case my presence was about to be discovered, I took my camera and recorded some images. At least if I perished, there would be something to be found. I clicked away, documenting the layout of the city, the colours and the majesty.

I made my escape without being seen. I had accomplished my mission and lived to tell the tale. The sign that said “Lost City” was now obsolete, since from that moment on, the city had been found. I tore down the sign.

I have attached the photos for you to study, but be sure to do one thing when you have finished. Eat them. Destroy all evidence.

Farewell from somewhere in the Never Never.

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