Wiluna, WA, Australia
Malcolm Merchant and his wife run a farm in Wiluna. Their original plan was to grow grapes, but that turned out to be unsuccessful. They were unable to keep the vines alive due to the continued drought.
Before embarking on this adventure, Malcolm had collected all the available meteorological data for the past 100 years. He intended to use these as a basis for predicting patterns in rainfall in the Wiluna area. ‘It turned out that the rainfall here was completely unpredictable. Nobody knows when it’s coming, and nobody knows how much will fall. And it’s very local. Sometimes we get nothing at all, while they could be having a 60-minute downpour just 10 kilometres from here.’
To support themselves, Malcolm and his wife now rent out the simple rooms originally intended for grape pickers and other seasonal workers. Their initiative has been successful. People travelling from the extremely isolated Gunbarrel Road, in particular, jump at the chance to sleep in a real bed in an air-conditioned room for the night.
Malcolm is a sensitive man. He talks about literature and expressively recites a poem about the beauty of life in the Outback, with tears in his eyes. ‘This poem so perfectly describes the blistering heat of a summer day in this area. The sultriness and the total stillness, with maybe just a hint of a slight breeze. I love it!’