I’ve been watching this show for the past three weeks and have been enthralled, but it seemed like I should see it all before I made a judgment. So Two on the Great Divide was screened on the ABC and if you hurry (and live in Australia) you will be able to see all three episodes.
The “two” in the title are John Doyle, a “comedian” to the general populace, but to me: an all-round-dude. And then there is Tim Flannery — a scientist, a geologist, plus a few other bits of paper he gives to his grandma to frame on the wall – and I think a one-time Australian of the Year. I guess you could also call him an environmental commentator too.
Two very different people at a dinner party. At least at a boozy, no-holds-barred dinner party I would hold. At that setting, I would much prefer John Doyle. If I was out hiking or riding in the wilderness, perhaps I would pick Tim. But then again, I would probably drag John along – just so we could bitch about Tim.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Tim, I just don’t really want to know him personally. And I certainly wouldn’t want to spend how many weeks it took to film this series in such close confinement with him.
I would describe Tim Flannery as quite drunk with excitement about certain things, but then incredibly sober when you want to just ramble and talk about poo.
The first part, the drunken enthusiasm – may seem charming. But Tim does this in a way that makes you cringe. For example: he uses your name a bit too much when addressing you. Personally I find that a bit subversive. I know from my humble psychology — PY101— background that if you want to endear yourself to someone you mimic their body language, you mimic a few of their actual key spoken words and you drop in their name a few times during conversation. Tim does the ‘name-drop’ thing so much you want to throttle him the next time he does so. He is also just too “decent”.
This is where John was conceived in Lithgow – I love that he would share that with us.
John, on the other hand, is just perpetually drunk. He might not be actually intoxicated, but he has a swagger about his prose. It is sometimes affectionate and considered, but then he will throw a grenade into the conversation. And sometimes you will think he is playing a diplomat — but then he says, or makes it impossibly clear — what he thinks. With a fantastic bluntness.
Plus John Doyle is crazily funny. And perhaps there’s a great wisdom in his words.
Anyway – the characters make this series. I might have actually grown to enjoy the fact Tim was a bit of a dip-shit. And then the actual main character — the Range — is, you know, spectacular.
The Gold Coast which Tim thinks, due to its geology and massive population, is in great danger of a disastrous storm-surge in the near future.
The Great Dividing Range is a strip of mountains that stretches from Melbourne up through the Snowy, across to the Blue Mountains in NSW, north to Barrington Tops, then New England, Mt Warning, over the Queensland Border at Lamington, then up to Toowoomba (where we are riding on Saturday) and then Carnarvon Gorge and Mt Bartle Frere and all the way to Weipa and across the Torres Strait to Dauan Island – only 7km from Papua New Guinea.
And crucially, ALL rivers to the west of the Divide (above Lithgow) flow west, and rivers to the east, flow east to the sea.
But the other thing that makes this series is the totally obvious FACT that our recent mining boom is raping our landscape. It is so omnipresent in this tiny strip of our nation. The Great Divide must only take up 10 percent (if that) of our country – but the influence of that activity is extreme. The point they keep drumming in is that there is a literal great divide amongst Australians, not just a big mountain range (which is quite pathetic — let’s face it, by world standards).
This is Toowoomba (where I was conceived incidentally) and where we are riding to – and back from – on Saturday. Toowoomba is where the Divide split into the great escarpment and the Divide.
We also get to see how the Brumbies of the Snowy are literally trampling other indigenous- species into oblivion (yet fools think that is cool), we don’t get to see poker machines at the Penrith Leagues Club (cause filming there is banned), but we do see how the club indoctrinates the next generation with skill-testers. We see the coal-seam gas debate in Queensland and how that has brought farmers and environmentalists together and John Doyle’s genius when he says that he thinks the Greens are at fault in being so bloody-minded and “black and white” when attempting (and failing) to reach out to rural Australia.
One of the big bits of infrastructure that coal-seam gas has generated. (pun intended).
We also see that the view from the highway is probably amazing, but just over the ridge, beyond any casual inspection, there will be a big, fat, hole in the ground that stretches for miles around. A scar on the earth’s crust at best or more likely a massive gaping wound on the once beautiful landscape.