WEEKDAY WANDERINGS with Leonie Kelsall

Published:November 21, 2022

where we talk about what we’ve done, what we’ve seen, and where we’ve been.

Today it’s ‘taboo places’ with Leonie Kelsall


Do you believe in forbidden places? Those where the ancestral taboo is so strong, you instinctively know you have no right to trespass?

Exploring the backroads surrounding our family farm, Taylor and I inadvertently ventured into such a place.

It was perfect weather, a summer late afternoon. Winding up steep dirt tracks and exclaiming like tourists over kangaroos—even though mobs live on the farm—we discovered vistas beyond our imagination, views that no photograph could do justice. Reaching a crossroad, we followed a ridge of hills. The velvet tones of twilight turned the depths of the valley on our left misty and mysterious, although bright sunlight still flooded the valley on our right.


Centuries-old gum trees arched over the dusty road. Tumbles of massive granite boulders and craggy outcrops studded the land. Long paddocks sloped serenely into valleys where stone ruins stole the last warmth of the sun. Farms boasted a cheery, story-book mix of alpacas, cows, and frolicking lambs.Gluttons sating our senses with the purity of a landscape blessed, rather than ravaged by time, we meandered.

Eventually, the road narrowed, descending into another valley. This felt different. It was beautiful; undeniably so, the steep hill on one side dotted with boulders, and a gully to our right veined by a line of ancient gums clinging to a rare watercourse. Yet I felt uneasy.

Taylor’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. We no longer looked for wildlife or exclaimed over the views. The further we travelled, the heavier the feeling became.

Taylor sped up. And the sense of trespass became worse. Not malevolent; but a deep knowledge that, despite the road, we had no right to be there.

We topped another hill. On our right was an almost sheer drop into a gorge. In front, impossibly far below along the winding road, a house. Between the hills across the valley we could see the far-distant Murray Basin, patchworked in green and gold.As we started the descent, foreboding tightened my chest, clenched my hand on the seatbelt. Something—someone—watched. So many eyes. And they wanted us gone.

‘Turn around!’ I gasped.

Taylor slammed on the brakes.

Intuitively I knew we mustn’t breach the treacherous pass. With a steep incline on the left and a drop-away on the right, Taylor executed the first leg of what would necessarily be a five-point turn, facing the car into the gorge. Then she slammed the gearbox into reverse and accelerated.

The wheels spun.

We didn’t move.

‘Plant your foot,’ I gasped, ‘We’ll get bogged.’

Yet that wasn’t what scared me.

I knew we should have stopped earlier. That, despite the house in the valley, we had no right to be there.

Though it was in reverse, the car started rolling forward, into the sucking darkness of the shadowed gorge.

‘Accelerate!’ Fear, a thick, suffocating presence filled the car.

But it wasn’t fear of the car plunging into the ravine, but of something more intangible. Far more ancient.

The tyres spun, the engine roared. The rubber suddenly found traction, scooting us back onto the track and levelling the nose of the car.

Taylor quickly completed the turn, and we drove back the way we had come.


Still daylight, still safe in our vehicle. Yet we now carried an uninvited passenger: dread.

Willing the kilometres to pass more swiftly, neither of us spoke until, as though we crossed some invisible line, we suddenly let out pent breaths, laughing a little shakily. The sherbet streaks of sunset lit the endless Murray Valley, the last of the lowering sun bathing the Adelaide Hills in apricot to the west. As we drove into the embrace of summer twilight, we briefly discussed exploring the track during the day, when we couldn’t imagine a fear of the encroaching night in the lengthening shadows….except we know that imagination played no part.

This place was taboo.

There exists there a deep, ancient power, something that belongs beyond our measure of time, and we had trespassed. We were given a warning. A subtle, yet terrifying reminder that we are visitors to this ancient land and, while we are welcome to share much, some places are simply not for us.



Leonie Kelsall

Bestselling Australian Author

Home, Heart and Heroes







Read more about Leonie and her latest Australian fiction release



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