As we drove out of Exmouth, there was excitement in the air. I could almost smell it. The prospects of an open road through the Australian Outback in a fully contained camper van was a dream come true. Andrea and I were grinning ear to ear as we drove and talked and enjoyed the solemn scenery.
Driving south on the Minilya-Exmouth Road and traveled for about 70 kilometers before turning east on Burkett Road. As we drove away from the ocean and into the interior the landscape gradually more arid. We crested one small hill after another and the black road snaked through countless miles of red sand. The earth gets its color from the rusting iron ore that is common here and our map is dottted with ore mines, some abandoned and some still in action. The rich minerals of Western Australia helped this country to stave off financial crisis when the rest of the world plunged in 2008.
Just after we turned east we began to see dark clouds of what looked like falling rain. The clouds moved and danced about on the horizon and I wasn’t sure what to make of them. As we came closer I began to think that they were large flocks of birds but when we finally arrived to these “clouds,” we began to realize what they were.
We were at once greeted by a pinging sound reminiscent of hail falling on the roof of a car. We could see that the cloud was made up of hundreds of thousands of grasshoppers, maybe even millions of them. We could see them flying this way and that and quite a few of them were not quick enough to dodge our van and became the sound of a deathly insect music as their lives ended in a most abrupt manner.
… each of these “black dots” in this photo are flying grasshoppers…
I have seen insect swarms in Midwestern America and in Iraq. The flies and crickets in Iraq were in similar numbers and the locust swarm that we drove through when I was a boy was much the same in that it smeared our windshield with bug guts. That memory came back as one by one, these grasshoppers splatted on our windshield, in the radiator grill and on the hood, fenders and mirrors of our vehicle. It was quite surreal to see so many insects and to hear them smacking against our van.
In addition to a few photos, I flicked the camera over to video – give the video below a play and see if you can see and hear the wall of grasshoppers that we drove through:
Wall of Grasshoppers video
When we stopped at our next fuel stop I spent a few minutes picking some of the grasshoppers off of the windshield wipers and out of the radiator. Not only were these grasshoppers numerous, but they were quite large too. I was a bit surprised to see such a dense swarm of insects in the Outback; I had pictured the interior of Australia to be more bleak and lifeless but I would be pleasantly surprised on this trip to find a wide and diverse variety of animals, plants and insects.
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