Daybreak near Wilpena Pound

Pulling out past the pub onto the pre-dawn highway,
the car headlights cast a narrow channel of white to guide the way.
Beyond the sweep of its incandescence,
the wider world is locked in darkness.
Imperceptibly, a pencil line of blood orange appears on the horizon
and outlines a rugged range of ancient mountains
where strata of jagged rock tip sideways,
layer upon layer of mille feuille patisseries.
Mist skims along the ground like smoke from a grass fire as the dawn breaks,
an ochre crayon smudging the rim of the sky and melting into the clouds.
The road dips down across a dry riverbed,
where pewter boulders lie among the shadows.
As the sky fades from slate grey to white to pastel blue,
fresh roadkill provides breakfast for a murder of hungry crows
while raptor hovers over its prey, focussed, intent,
awaiting the perfect moment to plunge.
We turn off the main road and the dirt track bucks beneath our wheels,
the corrugations rattling our bones.
Woolly sheep conversing on the verge
scatter, and dash blindly into the scrub as we pass.
A yellow-footed rock wallaby bounds across our path,
recklessly playing chicken with the car.
And a long-limbed emu flounces in a feathery tutu
chasing a broad chested, belligerent kangaroo
bounding ahead up the crumbling hill
as a silent stand of silvery gums salute the sun.

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