We woke quite late, around six thirty, which was surprising given the noise of big trucks rumbling by on the highway and the fact that the sun had come up earlier. I guess we were both very tired and the sleep was deep and refreshing.
Getting ready for the day consisted of wriggling out of the swag and rolling it up; loading into the car and driving off. As we had slept in our clothes there was no problem about getting dressed and I had a pre-made thermos of hot coffee in the car so we sipped that as we drove along.
More Vinyl Café and more silence in between, admiring the gorgeous early morning light on the scrubby flat earth red dirt country that I love so much. I felt so full of emotion to be back in the region where some of the happiest times of my life were experienced. Something about that red earth always feels like home to me, in a way that nowhere else on the planet does. I don’t feel truly whole unless I am there but I don’t always realise that until I get back again.
That early morning, sipping coffee, driving in silence, occasionally resting a hand on my husband’s thigh for the pleasure of contact: a time of pure bliss.
About an hour’s driving later we came into Kumarina Roadhouse and filled up with fuel, grabbed a fresh coffee (a lot of outback roadhouses have proper coffee machines these days and road trips are one of the few times I drink coffee) and headed off driving again.
We started to see various hill ranges appear (on the map they are called mountain ranges but they are definitely not that high!), which broke up the red dirt and low scrub landscape. Every time I see hills I always wonder what secrets are at the base of them; here in Australia a lot of the time there are old fossicked mine sites from the pioneer days. Or, sometimes, potential pools of water, if there is a creek system nearby. Regardless, I always want to drive out on any tracks that seem to point in that direction.
There are a lot of mine sites around the region. Western Australia is known as the ‘Engine Room of Australia’ given all of the mineral exports it produces (93 different minerals, I have been told) and mining is the main economy of our state. As a result you see a lot of heavy haulage vehicles travelling to and from the mine sites and the remote towns; they clog up the roads as they have to drive at 100km per hour. Overtaking one of these four trailer road ‘trains’ requires a great deal of energy – you need a lot of straight, clear road and some courage as well because you need to get up over 120 kms to get the energy to pass before something comes in the opposite direction.
Generally, the drivers of these trucks are fairly helpful. They see you behind them and they look ahead and when they think it safe for you to pass, they put on their right hand indicator light. That is the signal for you to gun it and speed past as fast as possible – it often takes a kilometre to pass safely. I always like to put on my hazard lights for a moment, once I’ve got back onto the correct side of the highway, just as a ‘thank you’ indicator.
However, sometimes the truck drivers aren’t so aware of smaller vehicles on the road. Either that or they don’t care. It might be that they are extremely fatigued or even under the influence of some sort of drugs to keep themselves awake for long driving hours. Then you see them in front of you and the whole immense road train is whipping backwards and forwards across the sole single lane that is available for driving. You get a sixth sense for those drivers and I tend to hold way back because I am so scared that if I pass them the driver may jerk alert and cause the truck to hit my car when they do so. Sadly, there are very few road traffic checks because the areas are so remote. No speed cameras and almost no random alcohol breath testing units (although we did encounter one the first day, just outside Wubin – the first time in almost twenty years of travelling that route). People can get away with lots and they do.