There is a 750 kilometre circuit that one can follow in outback Queensland called The Dinosaur Trail. It begins near Winton and includes Richmond, Hughenden, Lark Quarry, and Bladensburg National Park.
Here there are fossils and dinosaur footprints, a stampede of dinosaurs at Lark Quarry. But of course, it is all signed, encased, labelled, storied, displayed, explained, and enclosed. And for this they ask a fee of course; pricing dependent on how much you want to explore these earthly treasures. Anywhere from $30 to $200 as far as I could work out. We can afford the fee but are strangely reluctant to go. If we had children with us, then we would go in; probably follow the whole trail.
Now we are excited about genuine dinosaur fossils and footprints as any human, but we balked at the commercialism of the whole endeavour. It seemed wrong somehow. I am sure the money goes into the staff, infrastructure, protection, and preservation. These would be ruined if not protected and left to the unthoughtful amongst us.
But there was something else and having read the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance several times, I know what it is. It is the notion that when something is labelled and signposted it is robbed of its essential wonderment; the intrinsic quality is lost. We don’t want to be told or shown what is obvious. We are treated as stupid. We want to discover these wonders on our own, then delve into the research on the topic in our own time and way. Pirsig uses the example of the Old Fella geyser in Yellowstone Park. This natural phenomenon is signposted and the character in the story feels robbed of experiencing the innate wonder of it.
I love this book and have written about it before. Over the years others have studied the ideas and the discussion about quality continues.
“And what is good Phaedrus, and what is not good – need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”
The recent online reviews about the dinosaur exhibits don’t help because people said they were herded into a crowded auditorium (no COVID social-distancing applied), then spoken to by a person who was “lack-lustre”. These comments were counter-balanced by the number of “wow!”s.
We followed our gut instincts and kept driving on the main highway through the dry dusty empty flat landscape. We saw eagles, emu, kites, brolga, and hundreds of dead kangaroos on the road. We tried to imagine dinosaurs here in this harsh ancient landscape.