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Posted on December 25, 2011 by
on the road at
Fine girl boy with Akubra Lake Eyre Tommie Breakaways Painted Desert Pink Roadhouse Alice and Nugget current photos »

Some ideas knock loudly on the door to your mind and demand immediate entry, although they are often the first to leave. The Electronic Swagman was not one of those. It lingered outside my daily life for decades, waiting patiently, never giving more than a polite but regular tap. The idea surfaced at a time when blogging sounded like an act best performed in private. Since then the internet has exploded and my life is spent on the road and in the bush. The time has come to answer the door. 

The eSwag's first incarnation emerged on a solo walk from Melbourne to Sydney along the Great Dividing Range as a simple desire to record the stories of people, alive or dead, encountered on the road. Amongst hooting owls and creaking snowgums the spirits of aboriginal mobs were easily conjured. Characters such as Jack Riley, an old hermit stockman, who had lived for 20 years within the slab walls of Rileys Hut in which I tried to sleep. After a few hours I moved outside, his memory or ghost too present for slumber. In deep solitude imagination fills the spaces in the mind.

Mostly the eSwag emerged from conversations in old towns like Bowral and Bundanoon after I'd dropped down off the high plains. Word had spread as it does in little country towns that a young man was coming through on foot. Old ladies and men sought me out. In my quest they saw someone with links to their own past. Tales were told of the Great Depression and the swagmen who travelled the outback, sleeping rough and chopping wood for a feed. Of brothers who hit the road looking for work and then walked for thousands upon thousands of miles. Embedded in their voices was an urgency to be heard, something of a last will and testament. This priceless folklore has all but disappeared.

Soon, my dog Tommie and I will leave the safety and comfort of home. We will travel in a Toyota rather than on foot as the swagman did, replicating Toyota Dreaming whereby modern blackfellas drive between sacred sites during men's business. Our mission is to collect personal and cultural histories in a modern idiom. Not just of the past but of the present because we know how quickly that lasts.

The Electronic Swagman website allows for images, writing and video to be shared. I seek your contributions as well, whether that be with an online reply, a story or with your art and photography. Consider this a Virtual Exhibition Space [ VES??? ] for you as well.

I don’t know what will happen or what we will find. But thats the thing about an adventure. 

I shall wrap this first blog up with the images from my last season in the desert. The image of Tom disappearing into Lake Eyre [he did come back], and the picture of a blue sky above our camp. An unsmiling and defiant young woman from the Finke community. A young boy with a snotty nose wearing my Akubra. A little dog outside the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta who felt safer on the table than under it. Reflections of Tom and I against the reddening Breakaways near Coober Pedy. Mt Arckaringa in the Painted Desert where, in the dying light, the sun deposits its gold into the rock. Alice and that old fella, her husband Nugget, who just turned 100 years of age and got a letter from the Queen. Blindness does not stop his mind envisaging the country he travelled as a drover, thousands upon thousands of miles into Queensland and Western Australia. 

I am glad to launch this new website as another new year commences and I sincerely invite you to join us. It could get lonely out there otherwise.

Raymond - The Electronic Swagman

PS. If you like this story hit the LIKE option below. You can also make a COMMENT or SUBSCRIBE or SEND to a friend. If you care to contribute just email your story, art or photographs to  .

PPS. Tommie contributes a blog as well, The DOG BLOG, although personally I don't think it's particularly well written. It would be nice for you to leave a comment on his blog as a bit of encouragement. 



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Rob Brennan
Raymond, your comments ring many bells for me. As a city dweller, one is reminded daily of the disconnection with the land and nature that city life imposes. A good antidote is to get away to the bush -- or better still the Outback -- on a regular basis. Your mention of Oodnadatta, the Painted Desert, and the Breakaways reminded me of recent trips which I have made to that region. It's a magic part of the country. Camping at Arckaringa Station was also memorable, but would be dismissed by the 5-star brigade as frightful. They don't know what they're missing!
Hi Rob ... Arckaringa Station was funny for me. They have a young German Shephard who slept beside my tent for the entire night. I thought he was minding me but when I got up he stayed there. He was minding the tent. Never seen one before because the road had been closed for 6 months and he was about that old. You are right. You would never see that in a 5 star resort. eS
Hugh Dillon
Raymond, this is a very cool website blog. I havene't been out to the desert since the 80s but this is making me want to see it again. My German friends, Jörg and Katrin, are fascinated by the desert. Your walk from Melbourne to Sydney seems to me to be one of the epic walks -- 1000 kms or so. I'm just off for a couple of weeks at Jervis Bay, but I will be walking every day and thinking about the red contrast with the blue and green coast. Beautiful work.
David White
There comes a time in every man's life where he needs to feel like he's a part of history. Raymond, this may well be your time. Although, the gestatation period of this particular activity would suggest an incredibly large animal (or, perhaps an incredibly large ego!). Either way, I like the concept. It reminds me of the launch of World Series Cricket by the late, great Kerrry Packer. Well done!
I could have been a contender... eS