On a new (old) road

Journal: 073

Bron, if you’re planning on settling down to read this with a glass of wine you’d better make it a small one. I was working on a different post when I got a phone call 8am Thurs to offer me a load from Perth to Pt Hedland [Ok, they’ve emailed pick up instructions. Must dash.] So this is going to be a short one just to let you know where I’m at.

[Now it’s 7.00 pm. I’ve spent all day loading in the rain. One more pick up first thing tomorrow and then I’m off. Actually then I might come home, put some stuff together, do some shopping, and then I’ll be off.]

The thing is, I’ve given up crossing the Nullarbor, given up being in permanent isolation, and I’m chasing work up north. You can probably tell by the number of books I’ve read/reviewed recently that ‘chasing work’ involves a lot of sitting round waiting for the phone to ring, but things are slowly coming together.

Ten days ago I did a one off job to a new iron ore mine north of Newman (Koodiatery). You can see in the photo above that I pulled up at the Tropic of Capricorn sign outside Newman to take a celebratory snap. But this current load is from people who have ‘promised’ me regular work. Fingers crossed!

Some history: One hundred and twenty years ago Daisy Bates was in Western Australia, having returned from a five year visit to England, to be reunited with her husband Jack, who was then working at Roy Hill station, and her son Arnold, whom she had dumped in a Catholic boarding school. Daisy had what was left of her father’s money after the bank crash of the previous decade and Jack had been offered the lease of a station (all outback properties are grazing leases), Ethel Creek, between Roy Hill and Jigalong (of Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence fame, though this was around 30 years earlier).

Daisy caught a coastal steamer from Perth to Cossack (1,500 km north) where Jack met her in a buggy, and they spent the next few months together, first making the trip up the course of the Fortescue River to Roy Hill, then inspecting and purchasing Ethel Creek and finally back across country, probably following the course of the Gascoyne River, to Carnarvon.

These days Roy Hill is an iron ore mine, 120 km north of Newman on the Nullagine road which runs through to Marble Bar (but which is too rough for trucks, which must take a roundabout route via Pt Hedland).

When I first started running north, say 15 years ago, Roy Hill was still a cattle station. If you came out of Newman on the highway to Port Hedland, when you crossed the Karajini Range to Auski Roadhouse/Munjina there was a dirt track heading east out to Roy Hill (map), which was more or less the path taken by Daisy and Jack coming from Cossack. A few years ago 160 tonne trucks laden with iron ore started using that track as a short cut between Roy Hill and Pt Hedland, and just recently 40 km from Munjina was bitumised to service a new mine, Koodiatery. To which I went for the first time, last week (I was probably the only person on it thinking about Daisy Bates).

[Fri night, getting on for 9.00. Stopped at Paynes Find, a speck on the map in the endless desert north of Perth, 150 kms from the nearest town, an old pub/roadhouse and a gold mine operated by a couple of old men with pickaxes.]

Last trip Maya Angelou, 4 hours, and Salman Rushdie, 18 hours, took up all my driving/listening time. Mom & Me & Mom was Angelou’s last, an overview of her life concentrating on her relationship with her mother, and I think it will give me some insight as I (eventually) listen to the rest of her life.

The Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, however hasn’t stuck, for all its fame. I remember thinking it was more straightforward than I expected – my previous Rushdie was Midnight’s Children – but I’m going to have to check with Wiki before I can write any more.

[Sat. night. Got to Auski/Munjina and the Koodiatery turnoff around 5.00pm. Helped a guy out and he bought me a beer. Had to persuade him one was enough! Dark now, and I’d better finish this post. Tomorrow, after my Koodiatery delivery. I should be in Port Hedland around lunchtime for one delivery in the afternoon – mines don’t take Sunday off – and one delivery Monday morning. Another contact has offered me some freight home which should pay the (very expensive) fuel bill].

Ok. I looked up The Satanic Verses in Wiki which reminds me it’s the story of two Indian actors in England plus three mystical stories interwoven in a way which makes a lot of sense. I enjoyed it (particularly the brothel where the prostitutes adopted the personas of the women of the prophet’s harem).

Today I was listening to another Nikki Gemmell, Rapture, a YA fable about the descent of an unnamed country into male-dominated authoritarianism. Tomorrow evening I should have time to finish writing up KSP’s autobiography, Child of the Hurricane.

I’m sorry that all you guys are in lockdown and that I am able to sidestep it by remaining in Western Australia, but having been in isolation for nearly eleven of the past twelve months I just couldn’t do it any more.

Already I am being called on to resume my role as the family’s driver – I’ve got out of bed to drive an hour to ‘rescue’ teenage granddaughter from her boyfriend (she was back with him last time I asked); I’ve driven Milly to and from her drumming class (she is unable to drive after dark); and I’ve been booked by one of my many sisters in law to help with an upcoming move. At some stage NSW’s failure to control the virus will result in its spread Australia-wide, but until it takes hold in WA, I’m taking the chance to live a ‘normal’ life.


Recent audiobooks 

Maya Angelou (F, USA), Mom & Me & Mom (2013) – Memoir
Salman Rushdie (M, Eng), The Satanic Verses (1988)

Currently reading

Katharine Susannah Prichard (F, Aus/WA), Child of the Hurricane
Georgette Heyer (F, Eng), The Talisman Ring
Elizabeth Jolley (F, Aus/WA), Lovesong
CJ Dennis (M, Aus/Vic), The Sentimental Bloke
Nikki Gemmell (F, Aus/NSW), The Ripping Tree
Minae Mizumura (F, Jap), An I-Novel
Belinda Castles ed. (F, Aus), Reading Like an Australian Writer

54 thoughts on “On a new (old) road

    • Paynes Find is sort of touristy.The intrepid grey nomads who take the inland route go that way. It’s on the northern edge of wildflower trails – which I meant to write about as this is the season. And there’s always a few old men with metal detectors looking for gold nuggets.

      The freedom to visit my daughter and grandchildren, the freedom to go out for dinner, the freedom to escape the four walls of my flat occasionally (strictly I’m only meant to leave for work, to buy food and if the house catches fire – in which case I must return as soon as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m looking forward to reading about the wildflower trails (with photos I hope). There’s been a drive over here for a few years now to put wildflower seeds on roundabouts and verges. Great idea

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s always a joy to drive through outback WA in the Spring. Coming home yesterday everywhere south of Newman (ie. south of the Tropic of Capricorn) the dry red earth was carpeted with flowers – white, pink, gold, mauve, and small patches of blue or red – under and around the sparse, drab scrub, and I was wondering how to write about it. There are other, better photographers than I who don’t have the problem of pulling a road train to the side of the road (I tried at one spot to photograph the truck through some wattle and purple mulla mulla but my screen (and my glasses) were black in the bright sun and I couldn’t see what I was doing.)


  1. Given that’s it only 8.30am here, I’m enjoying this post with a cup of Buddha’s tears tea (even in lockdown, I have to wait until at least lunch before cracking a glass of wine :-D) The rest of the family are enjoying a Sunday morning lie-in, it’s lovely having the main part of the house all to myself for a while.

    So, I had to google a WA map to find Paynes Find and Roy Hill. I love picturing you driving along these long dusty highways thinking about Daisy Bates. And I’m very pleased to hear you’ve given up crossing borders for now. You have done more than enough iso, so I hope more WA jobs come your way.

    After reading up on how delta is playing out in the UK and some states in the US (Florida looks like a real mess again), I’ve come to the conclusion that even if Gladys had shut down harder, sooner, (which she should have) delta would still be amongst us. Getting back to zero is virtually impossible, it’s too contagious. Other countries are living which much higher case numbers, but they are also closer to the magic 80% double-vaxxed number as well. Although it seems to be the unvaxxed 20% that the virus is ripping through right now in Florida.
    I’m beginning to think that the best we can hope for is that by being double-vaxxed we will reduce the chance of us ending up in hospital on a ventilator when (not if) we get covid.

    As for Salmon, I read Midnight’s Children on my first trip to WA in 1999 when I did a driving touring round the SW coastal and wine (surprise, surprise!!) areas. Whenever I think about the book (which I actually do quite often), I get a curious mixed-up collage of India and WA in my mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Victoria is probably proving right now that however good your lockdown you can’t keep delta out for ever. Though Gladys should probably be [insert punishment of choice] for letting it get amongst the outback Indigenous communities and it’s a disgrace that no one holds Morrison to account for his complete failure to vaccinate the 1A cohort months ago. I intend being triple vaxxed at the earliest opportunity – preferably Moderna next March (ie. at the 12 month mark).

      Coming from the Eastern States to go to the south west is just to get more of the same, though probably more laid back. Go north, young girl! Breathe in the red dust. (But by all means fill the fridge with wine first).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly it has taken this threat to get a lot of people moving to get vaccinated. Even in outback communities, the reluctance has been very high, until now. Morrison stuffed it up completely, but the way the majority of the media played it certainly didn’t help either.

        B21 was telling us that all his close friends have lined up for their first A-Z shots now. They want to be ready as soon as they say that vaxxed people can return to pubs!

        I have been to Broome up north but it was a lying by the pool, riding camels in the beach at sunset kind of holiday. Our one day with a jeep out on the red roads was a lot of fun & something we promised ourselves to do more of…one day.


      • Vaccinations for the 1A group should have been made as easy as possible way back in February and March, not left for them (us) to chase up. And the failure to send mobile vaccination clinics back then, or any time since, to outback Indigenous communities rests on one set of shoulders, Morrison’s.


      • Once again I’m wondering how I missed this post. After all, I’ve been in lockdown for over three weeks now with not a whole lot to do. I was hoping for a post on your northern trips but didn’t see this come through. I clearly subscribe to way too many blogs; the emails just bank up, and I struggle to catch all the priority ones!

        So, I enjoyed the post, and hope that one day you will photograph the wildflowers. When we lived in Southern California, for three years, we did the wildflower trails every Spring, and have done them at least once on a return visit. There is nothing like desert/dry country carpeted with wildflowers.

        12 months for your booster? We are hoping for 8 months, and Pfizer or Moderna. Do you have a reason for choosing Moderna? Our 30-something daughter decided to get AZ, and just yesterday managed to get her 12-week appointment brought back to 6 weeks under the new guidelines, so will be fully-vaxed next week. Meanwhile, our (insert adjective of choice) son is waiting until mid-October for Pfizer, and he’s the one with a 3-year old and pregnant partner. Hmmm… Love him dearly, but I don’t think this is sensible. Fortunately, pregnant partner has had her first Pfizer, because she got priority being pregnant.

        NSW is a disgrace. I do believe they wouldn’t be in quite such a bad way if they locked down sooner and harder, but it will be interesting to see how Victoria goes. Hopefully, they will get the vaccination percentage up before they get to NSW figures. In the ACT we are on a bit of a knife edge. Numbers are plateauing a bit but not sure if it’s a real trend yet. There are still a lot of people out and about while infectious. Just hoping that with masking (though I must say compliance seems to be a mixed bag) and social distancing, their infectiousness has low transmissibility.

        It is gobsmacking how, with all we know about Indigenous communities’ vulnerability, they weren’t made priority in Western NSW. It is gobsmacking how blasé Morrison and co were last year about sourcing enough and enough variety of vaccinations. Where is the failure in the vaccination roll-out, besides supply, which of course is a major issue?

        Oh dear, I’m writing an essay … so will stop here!


      • WG. I agree with everything you say. Obviously, you put me off till later and then forget where you have put me. I can handle it. I live on my own and no one sees me cry. I had my first AZ in March and then #2 11 weeks later. I read that AZ dropped off rapidly after a year hence planned to have a booster in March ’22 – Moderna because it should be readily available by then (though we don’t seem to be any closer to manufacturing it in Oz). I haven’t asked my kids about their shots – one a teacher and one married to a teacher – isn’t that remiss of me.
        Desert wildflowers are sparse and when I photograph them I can’t capture the way they make multi-coloured carpets through the scrub. And, to be honest, I hate stopping. But, for you, I’ll try.
        On a different subject: I still haven’t made an AWWC General Fiction roundup, but it was nice to make it in Hist.Fic (good of Theresa to ignore my reservations), and thank you for your comment.


    • Brona, many states in the south of the U.S. are a hot mess right now, though technically all 50 states are considered “high spread.” I’m not 100% sure how they determine the amount of spread because while the CDC said Indiana (where I am) had high spread in my county, the Indiana state website, and even local health officials (who are quite liberal, otherwise I might be suspicious) have the numbers looking more positive (like, “good,” not positive as in “infected”). My new college has required all students to get vaccinated with at least one dose by August 30th (yesterday) and wear masks indoors on campus. Fortunately, I am fully vaccinated and get to wear a face shield in my one on-campus class because it’s American Sign Language, and you have to see faces to do it. Many school distracts in the states that have made it illegal to require masks in schools are getting around the law by adding masks to the dress code, putting the governor’s in the fun spot of either banning dress codes (for shame! what if a girl wears a tank with straps too skinny?!) or get over it.

      Liked by 4 people

      • My Southern Californian friend keeps me up to date with “Mask wars” in our weekly correspondence. But, I hadn’t heard the dress code solution. Good one. (BTW my friend has just retired from teaching, but is keeping an interest in the school system there.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t imagine continuing to teach in this hot mess. What’s happening in Indiana right now (school started about 3 weeks ago) is schools open with masks optional, everybody and their brother goes into quarantine, the school realizes, “gee, this isn’t feasible!” and they go to masks mandatory. Unfortunately, so many people had to get sick for them to wake up. I’m very, very glad my nieces’ schools required masks from the beginning. They’re in central Michigan, which is more Democrats.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Local is a relative term. Perth-Pt Hedland is almost the same distance as Melbourne-Brisbane (and about 40% of Perth-Melb). And I think the route from the road train hookup in Perth (Kewdale) all the way to the NT border involves zero traffic lights (depending how you get on the highway north). How good is that!


  2. Glad to hear that you will get some relative normality for the time being – I have very much enjoyed being able to see friends and family over the summer, which has made it easier to contemplate restrictions perhaps being brought back later this year. ​

    Liked by 1 person

    • It hadn’t occurred to me that Boris might have to reimpose restrictions. Not good news for the NSW Premier who seems to want to follow the England path.
      It has been surprising to me just how much I depended on those few friends and family I was able to have (mostly brief) conversations with over the past year. I thought I would manage iso quite easily.


      • I don’t know if there will be new restrictions – our case numbers are very high but our vaccine coverage is sufficient that it’s not proving too much of a burden on the NHS yet. They’ll have to reevaluate when winter starts. Though I think they would find it very difficult to reimpose full lockdown now, and hopefully it won’t be necessary.


      • We started this epidemic with terrible hospital staffing ratios, which means frontline staff are under tremendous pressure just with the current relatively low level of cases. And now there is talking of poaching staff from third world countries. But really we can just cross our fingers that eventual high vaccination levels will hold the line.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lou, I was thinking you might be the only person I know who has Bill “beat” for time in isolation. I’m hoping you both are doing well and can finally go out and be “normal.” Also, Lou, were you able to get a ride or access to a COVID test?


  3. Sounds great Bill! You’ve done enough solitary. We are inundated by Delta here especially thanks to our prison. Guess nobody thought about vaccinating the inmates and prison guards? A friend who works in disability care is still waiting for her first vaccination – incredible. They were hijacked for Sydney. In hiding here until I can get my second AZ shot in 3 weeks. Everyone I speak to here ready to throttle our PM and Premier. Good on your for taking off mate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have family hunkering down in your neck of the woods too.
      It seems no one is left in the state or federal public services to plan a properly prioritised vaccine rollout. And neither the Ministers nor the Departmental Secretaries had enough familiarity with their Departments to take advantage of the systems already in place for the annual flu vaccines. Instead their default position was as always to toss money to merchant banks and accounting firms and buy the appearance of a solution.
      Predictable and sad that no one in authority attempted to prevent the 30% of prisoners are Aboriginal from taking Covid home with them when they were released.

      Liked by 1 person

    • My mom works in a prison in the U.S. and vaccines for both inmates and corrections officers were optional. Here, if you work in a prison, you tend to be a hard-core conservative, so unfortunately, many employees are not vaccinated (my mom is neither conservative nor unvaccinated, thankfully). Because there is no visitation, the only way a prisoner can get COVID is through staff….


      • I know they are broken down into units, so prisoners can do things within their own unit, they just can’t mingle with other units in an effort to prevent mass spread of COVID. Some have brought back visitation, but it’s on certain days and folks have to take a test before they can come in. From what I’ve heard from Biscuit about the state of Michigan, I think they’re actually doing a good job overall.


      • I’m glad. It would be hard for your mum if she was working in a system she couldn’t believe in. When I answered you last time, I had just finished reading an article about (Australian) Indigenous kids being imprisoned, including solitary, as young as 10. Which is heartbreaking.


      • That’s cruel and unusual punishment. There was a famous case recently in the U.S. in which a young man not yet even brought to trial was kept in solitary confinement for ages and then died by suicide.


  4. Sounds like a good choice. And I’m glad you’ve read some Angelou – hooray! As for the Satanic Verses, I promised myself I’d read the Qur’an before I read that and I have done neither, even though I have a copy of the latter …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoyed meeting Angelou and I’ll read some more as I come across it. The Satanic Verses stands reading without doing background reading first, but I’m sure the more you read, the more the allusions Rushdie is making to scripture would stand out.


  5. I’m in agreement with your earlier comment Bill about being surprised at how much you relied on the casual chats with family/people you knew – I thought I’d manage lock down fine (introvert, happy with music, podcasts etc) but I’m surprised how much I miss the casual chats with the library staff I know, or to sit outside with a few friends (can’t do that – no groups). I find myself having long phone chats with a couple of friends further north on the coast who are also beside themselves with staying home – and I would describe all of us as pretty resourceful people. Good on your for travelling while you can mate! I have a friend in Bunbury and she thinks the virus will never reach there – alas I fear she is wrong!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Last year some of us were discussing, in Comments, that until Lockdown we thought we could survive solitary (ie. prison) relatively easily as long as we had books. And it was pretty quickly apparent that we couldn’t. Makes you feel even sorrier for the poor buggers imprisoned without books.

      I think Milly (ex-Mrs Legend) began to get worried about me and made a point of sitting on my balcony once or twice a week when I was home, to get me through – neither of us is very comfortable on the telephone.

      Re your Bunbury friend, I found out last week that a mate from work is in quarantine after having dinner in a remote roadhouse (Norseman) at the same time as two infected NSW drivers. It will get into the local community sooner rather than later, I’m sure.


    • I reckon that’s putting her head in the sand. Of course we in the ACT are much closer to the action that Bunbury, but we felt for a long time that we were on borrowed time. And, of course, as it did for you, it got here.


  6. Phew, what a lot to take in. I’m glad that you’ve found a new coping technique and hopefully it works out well, for you and yours. I’ve not been anywhere other than the neighbourhood grocery shop and the library since March 2020, but had just started to meet other family outdoors (with masks, even though some felt this excessive) this past season, summer for us, and now the instructions are to reduce your social contacts by 30% to avoid a more stringent state of lockdown, which the majority of people don’t seem to want to do, so I fear things will be worsening here once more too.


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