It was pre-dawn when I woke this morning. Soon the mudlarks and magpies started to sing and signal it was time to get ready for the day ahead.
I’m leaving again today for the north. To mining country. And, to somewhere I haven’t been before. Previously, the thought of travel to new places in the regional areas filled me with dread. No more!
The feeling of fear and excitement is generated in the same part of the brain. It is perception that distinguishes one from another. I anticipate each new experience by researching the area. Driving on country roads in Australia is hazardous. Distance between one town and another is deceptive. Adding another half an hour to travel time is a must. An unsolicited travel tip from a frequent traveller. Roads are only as safe as the drivers on them and are either straight and monotonous, or winding and with surprises. Visitors to these parts of the world, fail to appreciate this. On the other hand, familiar travellers on these roads, may drive with over confidence and impatience. The vital link between city and country for all kinds of produce and material is the road trains whose enemy is deadlines. Reflection on road statistics is always sobering. The numbers are written in small crosses bearing names, by the side of the road.
I’ve learned how to prepare for trips. Safety first. Plenty of water for myself. And, a little extra, just in case. You can never carry too much water. A good car that has been serviced. Telling someone when leaving, what road I’m travelling, estimated arrival time and letting them know I have arrived, is common sense. Good music. A handful of organic nuts. Some fruit. A muesli bar. All set. I then shift my mind into enjoyment mode.
Long before I gained confidence in doing this, I recall a feeling of dread on one trip when I realised, in the middle of a heat wave, I had a stretch of some 70 kms of isolated road ahead of me. I focused on the destination and missed the journey.
I have since returned to that area several times for work. There is much to enjoy about the trip. Flanked by big farms, yes, it is mostly an isolated drive. When I started to take in the surroundings, I discovered a grove of gum trees, between Three Springs and Eneabba, small towns in the Midwest. I sometimes stop and eat my lunch here, or just take a break from driving. It is quiet and peaceful. During one trip something broke the silence. Not having seen cars on my journey, my senses accelerated to heightened alert. I have always regretted watching Wolf Creek! My eyes scanned trees a short distance away. Did someone step on a twig? I scanned the area again and saw no one. I relaxed and distracted myself by examining the beautiful bark of the gum trees. Then my eyes caught a movement and travelled higher, high up in the gum trees. I zoomed in to find a pair of Australian ringnecks hovering over a hollow in a branch. I clicked. The sound ricocheted and alerted them. In the silence of the grove, their raucous indignation at the intrusion is something I always remember vividly. In rural and remote Australia, Nature rules. Nature demands respects and gets it. I cut short my break and left the ringnecks to their parenting.
On roads less travelled I am always the visitor. Always the observer. That’s how life is for me. And, I would not want it any other way.
Until next time, I am off to do more observing
a dawn bird