I meet my fellow travellers at the hotel in Kununurra. We go to a café for a quick lunch before heading off to Wyndham, about 100 km northwest. Despite the air con the ride is hot. I am silent for most of the trip, taking in every moment. This, after all, is a major ticket item on my bucket list this year.
Once off the main highway in Wyndham the road is unsealed and corrugated for another 40 km. We pass the salt flats, now covered with a film of enough water to draw in the birds. I see some species I have never seen before. Some how I manage to spot the tiny red capped sand plovers. It’s the movement that always catches my eye. They are exquisite creatures. I am a child in a toy store. I take it all in.
At times we drive through riverbeds, some dry and some a low running creek. The wet season has left its signature in the tumble of smooth stones, boulders and river debris. We drive along the narrow shoulder that adjoins the King River. It is brown as coffee, flowing lazily, somewhere below. When the tide recedes, there is a sooty line left in its wake. We scan for crocodiles on the banks. None today!
Soon the open spaces of station country and the Cockburn Ranges come into view. Horses and cattle are grazing. From where we are they are just specks in the landscape. We are at the cattle station.
We have been watching a bush fire for several kilometers. There is anxiety in the crackle of voices on the two-way radio. The paddocks are on fire and being monitored. There is concern about the feed for the animals. We finally arrive at the homestead. Someone alights and opens the white metal gates. Now, with arms wide open, the cattle station welcomes us with benevolence. We drive through slowly.
We are introduced to the homestead and to the verandah that skirts it. We can see for miles past the paddocks to the Ranges. The horses lean over the fence in curiosity. The blue face honeyeater is a familiar visitor. I did not realize at the time I would spend a few minutes every day chasing it for that perfect shot. I’m not sure if I succeeded. It is a beautiful, if unusual, bird. Olive brown, black and white with a vivid blue face. I separate myself from my group briefly to take it all in. The camera is my ruse. It legitimizes the moments of ‘apartness’ I need in a crowd when seeking a moment.
Most of the workers or volunteers are out somewhere in this vast station. Those who remain are introduced to us. A family with three young children ranging from 9-16 years, are taking a break from the city. Travelling around Australia for a year they are experiencing life as a classroom. I’m intrigued to hear they even joined a circus once for a short time, doing odd jobs. Oh! To walk in the shoes of the 9 year old! A young woman from Tasmania is on a path to healing after serving her country. She has driven across to this remote region in a caravan with her dogs. I am filled with admiration to hear of her courage. Two European backpackers, skilled horsewomen, are busy with chores in the corral. A cowboy walks into the kitchen with spurs clinking on stone floors. He says, “g’day!” to all within ear shot.
I have arrived in another world.
These were the first steps in an amazing journey.
Until next time
a dawn bird