A pilgrimage to “The Dig Tree”, Coopers Creek, Queensland

The Dig Tree - image Keith Skinner
The Dig Tree - image Keith Skinner

Very recently I achieved my long time ambition to visit Burke and Wills Camp number 65 on Coopers Creek, the very famous “Dig Tree”.  At this point, if you are asking yourself; ‘What is a Dig Tree, forget it.  Stop reading right now.  However, if I have just touched your travel adventurous inner-self, you’re now moving closer to the text, looking for what comes next.

On arrival at the Dig Tree, my first thought was; I’m here.  But where am I, I asked myself?   I’m on the bank of a cream coloured river that could be one of many in South-Western Queensland.  Near trees that have provided resting relief from the heat, for travelling far before the white man arrived.

I placed my chair in the dusk under the shade of one of the riverbank trees and just soaked in my surrounds.  I asked myself; How old is this tree?  What has it seen during its life?  What tails it could tell?  A gentle breeze seemed to answer my questions, or was it the ghosts of past travellers.

The tree I sat under, I assumed, was there in the 1860s, and may have been fully grown then.  There was almost no sound.  Just an occasional turtle jumping from a floating branch.  No other current-day traveller was there, but me. I found myself being drawn into the ‘country’. If you can understand that concuss moment, I am describing. I could almost see the fading bodies lying beside me, gasping for a cool breeze.  I could almost see Aboriginals watching from the other bank.  Standing on one leg, unable to understand why white men would come to this place, so helpless, so beaten by the environment. It was a meeting of contradictions.

I asked again, where am I?  The answer…  I’m at a place I will remember with a deep respect, every time I travel these lonely roads or when I hear someone ask; What is it to be an Australian?  This country is not to be taken lightly.  Travellers beware.  Respect the first Australians who understood what was needed to survive in this land.  Respect the later explorers who through themselves into crossing this great land.

This trip and this isolated place, was a pilgrimage to my understanding of “self”, my Australian “self”.  A link to this land, and why I travel!

Keith on the road
Keith Skinner

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