The Riley family travelled north during June to the remote Western Australian town of Broome. The road to Broome this time of year is filled with travellers chasing winter’s warmth, including holidaying families in heavy-ladened caravans, dreadlocked twenty-somethings in cars packed with fire-juggling paraphernalia, and bus-filled retirees in the sunsets of their own lives – all careening up the Great Northern Highway.
Broome is such a wonderful winter escape during the cool middle of a southern hemisphere year that its population triples for three months. In the early spring, when the troops of travellers finally depart town, Broome returns to being a hothouse of humidity leaving residents wanting to live inside their own fridges.
But a centenary before this paved motorway sped travellers north by their tens of thousands chasing winter’s sun, there was another road twenty miles further west – the “Old” Broome Road.
This now forgotten road (if you could ever really call it a road) was the path poor sojourners either walked or sat astride beasts of burden as they travelled to and from Port Hedland in the south, and everywhere in between. Those with more money and sense travelled by boat, for the Broome road had too many depravations. The road was pockmarked with the heavy hooves of horses and cattle, sandy and windswept from the tropic’s summer blows, and devoid of any semblance of drinking water. Those who travelled it needed resilience and courage in spades, and maybe just a touch of insanity.
When gold was discovered ‘down south’ in the Pilbara in the late 1800’s, prospectors who had been chasing pearls in Broome walked over three hundred miles down this road to try their luck in the goldfields. To travel this road was to suffer. So many prospectors experienced significant hardship, and even died travelling this path, that the road became known as the “Madman’s Track”.
It was said that if a person wasn’t already crazy to travel the Madman’s Track, they would be by the time they finished.
Many centuries ago Jesus talked on a hillside to a large audience about a similar Madman’s Track: “In life” Jesus said, “make sure you travel the road no-one else is on. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and most people are travelling this road. Less people are walking the narrow way, and it’s this path that leads to life” (Matthew 6:13-14).
Jesus was talking about a path many people are still on today. A crazy metaphorical road chasing cash, fame and recognition, and earthly successes. This road, Jesus said, was temporary and led to destruction. His way is better He told His audience, and it had less people travelling it.
I do hope that’s the path my family is travelling on, as we continue to follow the Son.
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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.