Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
No amount of money will get you a seat on the whale-watching flights operated by Frank Walker, owner-operator of Dirty Fokker Flight Services at Jindaroo Creek.
And no amount of searching will pinpoint Jindaroo Creek, a tiny bush town in the South Australian outback, where the pub looks like a London double-decker bus, and where you can donate your (unused) G-strings to the so-called "Eurovision Thong Contest".
Don't bother trying to locate the airline, the pub, or even the minuscule Australian outback settlement on a map. Or on satellite pictures.
Jindaroo Creek doesn't exist. Nor does Dirty Fokker Flight Services. Well, not in real life. But you can still read about Jindaroo Creek. It's where two chapters of my fiction-based novel, Vegemite Vindaloo, are set. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that I would never have been able to conjure up the imaginary place if I hadn't made a trip to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, back in 1999. All the photographs published with this post (taken with a simple point-and-shoot Ricoh Instamatic) portray the real bush scenes that are rendered into fiction in my novel.
For someone with an Indian upbringing like mine, I have always been fascinated by contradictions such as great vistas and little details. It is why I hanker for the view of Kachenjunga from my school, North Point, in Darjeeling. It is why the barren expanse of Alaska (and we're not talking about the pubs, either) captivates me. It is why the Yukon and the unspoilt beauty of Muskoka in Canada inspire me.
It is why the Australian outback touches my heart, not just as a writer, but as a photographer as well. I guess I'm just a sucker for stark beauty.
But when I was on the Eyre Peninsula, not for one moment did I think the unique terrain would spring to mind when I was casting about for an arresting outback location for a couple of chapters in 'Vegemite Vindaloo'.
In the middle of the Nullarbor (that's Latin for no trees - and they're not kidding) the track is red gravel and as dry as a bushman's wit. There are no distinguishing features, just low scrub as far as the eye can see. No trees, no plants. Nothing. There is a strange beauty in the barren surroundings.
The Head of the Bight is where the country comes, dramatically, to an end. The sheer cliffs are practically vertical, down to the thundering ocean below. It is not recommended that visitors peep over the edge. Standing a few feet away, you can see why. The fall is so steep, so dramatic, that it looks as though someone used a mammoth bulldozer to cleanly scoop away the rest of the land. Like so much of this vast country, the beauty is borne of the startling, unexpected severity.
Welcome to the Bunda cliffs (above). Everything here is one colour, yet it is many subtle shades. Everything here is serene, yet the crash of the ocean below reminds you just where you are. Everything here is bare and barren, yet there are, at my feet, impossible splashes of colour.
Amid the red rock and ochre shale are delicate, tiny pink flowers. The wildflowers are not out yet, for the winter has been bone-dry and harsh, but these tiny blossoms thrive where the ground is unbelievably parched.
So I guess it's no surprise that Jindaroo Creek turns out to be located in the vicinity of the Head of the Bight, the Bunda Cliffs and the amazing sand dunes that fringe the area. No surprise, either, that one of the characters in the novel tosses in a city slicker's life to live in the outback and fly tourists on whale-watching flights.
Yes, I had a whale of a time. The place is so beautiful, it darn nearly made me blubber.