In a land that's mostly hot and dry, it's no surprise that the hunt for water has seeped into the Australian consciousness. The Aborigines spent 40,000 years learning to tease it from the desert; modern Australians know to the nearest percentage point the current level of their local dam.
In such a land, the rivers that drain the coastal plains or are rained into brief existence across the parched outback are of great significance. On a commercial level, they sustain rural industries that produce $A30 billion a year in global farm exports. Historically, they opened up the forbidding interior, drafted the stock routes for drovers to walk cattle hundreds of kilometers, and helped inspire the nation-defining poetry of Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.
In this special Journeys issue, the magazine's Australian writers fanned out across the country to meet the people who live and work around its rivers, as well as those with some special connection, be it practical or spiritual, to the waters they carry. Rory Callinan traced the mighty Snowy from source to sea, learning as he went that its beauty is matched by its dangers; Michael Fitzgerald visited writer Kate Grenville to see the Hawkesbury and soak up the history that informs her work; Daniel Williams journeyed to Tasmania, where students use old-world skills to shape the Huon's fragrant pines into beautiful boats; Elizabeth Keenan enjoyed the taste of a bush-tucker revival on the Top End's Daly River, and camped beside the Finke with the Mad Max warriors contesting Australia's toughest bike race.
As always, our stories are brought to life by the superb images of some of the country's best photographers, expertly marshalled by art director Michelle Turcsányi. Most have worked with Time before: Lisa Hogben, who shot the striking cover photograph, braved the winter chill of the Snowy; Ross Bird went south with Williams; Robert Young covered the Hawkesbury; while David Dare Parker focused on the Margaret River. And we welcome David Hancock, who shot the Daly River, and Stuart Bowes, who captured the Finke River race, to the select group of Journeys alumni.
As if Australia's weather needed to prove its harsh unpredictability, drought-breaking rain hit much of the east coast in July, just as some of our reporters were out in the field. There were a few soakings, many bruises and endlessly recounted discomforts involved in bringing these stories to you. I tell the writers their pain was worth it, and hope you will agree.