Australian Outback Mail Delivery

Today was “Mail-plane-day”. Tuesdays and Fridays are special in Punmu. Those are the days we get our mail delivered. Today the plane was due at 12.30 and I was the designated mail collector.

The airstrip is about 6Km from the community and I had completed my caretakely chores so I went out early. Clear skies and a few dust devils in the distance and the warmth of the wind let me know it was a hot day. Probably around 40C. I pulled up at the airstrip gate in my dusty Land Cruiser and let the engine die.

Once again I realised the desert is never silent. The first noticeable sound is the dull roar of the wind through the spinifex, rising and falling as the wind gusts across the land. The ear becomes  accustomed to that background and begins to hear the soft cooing of the spinifex pigeons. The squeaky-door calls of the zebra finch swell and fade but are always present as they scurry in flocks through the air, ground and trees in an always moving urge to feed, drink or evade the ever searching hawks.


The airstrip is hot and dusty, with just a small iron-clad shelter.


Over the noise of the desert day, yet still hidden by the hot sky haze, the aircraft is heard. Having travelled 170Km from its previous landing, and well over a thousand KM for the day, this will be just another stop for a busy aircraft.

It flies over the strip, looking for any camels which may have decided to begin eating gravel, then descends over the community to alert everyone to its presence. Turning, it flies back and is suddenly visible.


 With its cliched roar the plane touches the desert strip hiding behind the spinifex and low acacias. I remember other flights arriving. Of being in the aircraft, holding it up by the seat rests. I remember helping to put out the landing strip lights at dusk as a Royal Flying Doctor aircraft was due in to evacuate a seriously ill baby. It is worthwhile looking through their website. They are an essential part of outback Australia.


 After passing over the mail and allowing a pair oftourists to stretch their legs, the pilot closes up and takes off again though the heat haze for another bush airstrip about 200Km away.


 As I drive away the Zebra Finches flock back to their disturbed feeding, the pigeons resume their cooing and the ever present wind continues its undisturbed journey across this vast land taking with it some of the Punmu airstrip dust.

12 responses to “Australian Outback Mail Delivery

  1. cool! you postman travels in style. who lives in the outback (beside the aborigines) and what are the economic activities here!

    How much stamp to put for a letter to the outback since the postman travels in style?


  2. hei your postman travels style!

    2 questions…
    1. who live in the outback & what do they do for a living?
    2. how much $ to post a letter to the outback since the postman flys?


  3. Cool! But awfully dusty.


  4. Those are amazing photos. I felt as if I was there. Before I migrated to Australia in 2001, I imagined that all of Australia was like in your photo of the airstrip shelter. When I arrived in Sydney I got a bit of a shock…! I still haven’t been to the outback. It is a dream of mine to go there. I love the spinifex pigeons. I had no idea the outback was so full of life.

    And it’s 50 cents to send a standard-sized letter anywhere in Australia, right? My husband asked me that the other day.


  5. seefei, the Australian outback is mainly a mining or pastoral thing (more mining in the desert, tho) although a lot of aboriginals have moved back to their ancestral lands. Punmu is one of those communities. The mail is regular price. Just one of the services from Australia Post 🙂

    Buff, it is hot at times, it is dusty at times, yet there is a compulsive beauty about the desert.

    Helen, if you want to take the trip, do it. you will be rewarded far above your expectations. Once you develop a driving rhythm to take account of the extreme distances (and, where applicable, the rough dirt tracks) you can settle down to appreciate the ever-changing sameness of the Australian bush (At last – I have used that line – I have had it for a year and not been able to use it!) It is a special place filled with special people. If you want characters for your book – this is where to look. Yes, 50c per letter is correct.


  6. I do not know how people survive in temperatures of 40oC. I die quietly in the UK at 34.


  7. Come January or February, this area goes from a warm 40C to a rather hot 50C+. On one occasion it reached 57C. That last is almost unbearable, yet people lived here for thousands of years without A/C! In Perth, I once played cricket in 100% humidity (it was sprinkling rain) and a temp of 45C! I think I survived 🙂


  8. Sir (Mr Curmudgeon?), are these photos yours? I’m looking for the owner of the plane over the airstrip…just above the text about the Zebra Finches…the photo not the plane, to seek to use it in a presentation.

    All this time later, I hope this lands on your desk. Cheers. Tanya


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