Crossing the Hay Plain - Ooopps! I mean Kansas

Have you ever crossed the Hay Plain? It is a vast, flat, hot, featureless zone in outback New South Wales stretching from one horizon to the other with nothing but salt bush and scrub. (For some great photos by a fellow blogger - click here).

We have been driving across Kansas for the last two days and the closest comparison I can come to in Australia is the countryside around Hay. Kansas is like the Hay Plain with grass - hot, flat and vast. The only difference is the colour of the grass. The Kansas grasslands are green although the locals say that is unusual.

When we talk to Americans they struggle to understand how Australia can have such huge areas of barren land. We tell them there is no water, in the centre of Australia - absolutely no water. They look at us kindly - as if the water is hiding somewhere, it is just a matter of knowing where to look.  More than anything else I think that water, or the lack of it, has defined the divergent histories of our two countries. Without so much water I wonder whether the massive westward migration of so many pioneers from the eastern states in the mid 1800s could have taken place.

Kansas - hot, flat and vast.

We are in Independence Missouri for a couple of nights, just across the border from Kansas. Independence was the jumping off point for pioneers, traders and gold seekers heading west. Traders followed the Santa Fe Trail to what was once Mexico, gold seekers followed the California Trail and pioneers followed the Oregon Trail. All these trails had one thing in common - water - they followed the rivers. Rivers so wide they make our own Murray/Darling River System look like a creek.

A Conestoga wagon - used to carry trade goods on the Santa Fe Trail

The temperature is in the 90s F (30s C) and after a short cycle this morning we escaped the heat by spending a few hours at  The National Pioneer Trails Museum. There were two other Australian couples there at the same time. The lady on the desk thought there must be an Australian convention in town. We meet other Australians all the time. Sometimes I wonder whether anyone is left at home - Would the last person to leave please turn out the lights!

Crossing Kansas was mainly monotonous but a few things broke up the boredom.

A roadside oil well.
Okay I've cheated a bit with this photo. I actually took it in Utah last year - but you get the idea. Kansas was littered with similar small oil wells. BHP - eat your heart out!

Atomic Annie
Just outside Junction City we came across Atomic Annie. Annie is one of three surviving artillery pieces built in the 1950s capable of firing a nuclear device. Unlike the cannon which sat for 100 years in The Rhode Island State Legislature Building before someone discovered it was still loaded I imagine that Annie has been safely disabled.

The Kansas State Capitol building.
A Kansa Warrior standing on top of the dome.
In Topeka we stopped to admire the Kansas State Capitol building. The impressive statute of a Kansa Warrior on top of the dome took 100 years of controversy before it was completed.

For the next post in this series click - here

For all my posts on this road trip click - here

24 June 2014

1 comment:

  1. Did you click the heels of your red shoes and asked to come home??