The stretch of Highway One between Kununurra and the turn-off to Wyndham was a long series of road works but not too many traffic lights. The bush was a little greener here with blossom appearing on some trees. At the junction we joined the Great Northern Highway heading southbound. We stopped at the Doon Doon Roadhouse for a break. It has a little bit of everything you might need for your journey including some new and secondhand books. Further on hills appeared and the landscape became drier and rockier.
We passed the sign to a mine which my road atlas said was ‘Argyle Diamond Mine: no public access’. Most of the small creek crossings on this part of the highway are single track bridges. However, at Bow Bridge a new bridge and road access is being built. We stopped for lunch at a rest area and for the first time in the last couple of weeks, were not pestered by birds, just a few flies. Many of the trees surrounding the area had peeling bark and James suggested it might make and abstract painting. I only have a sketchbook and a few pencils with me on this trip and I might get started on some ideas.
Not long after the lunch break we passed this cow sitting by the road.
Halls Creek is the only sizeable town on this stretch of road. Its population was only just over 3,600 in 2016 of 70% are indigenous. On Christmas Day 1885, a prospector found a huge gold nugget here. The subsequent gold rush was very short-lived but the Visitors’ Centre still has a leaflet on tips for gold prospectors. The town is the administrative centre for the locals and the surrounding cattle farming region with a hospital and police station in addition to a school and some shops and churches. There is also an indigenous art centre but unfortunately this is closed at the weekend so I could not visit it. If you have a 4WD vehicle with high clearance e.g. A Toyota Landcruiser, you can drive the 52km from the highway north of Halls Creek into Purnululu National Park or drive 200km south of town on the Tanami Track to the Wolfe Creek Crater. Other options include rather expensive helicopter or plane flights over the National Park. We had decided to have a fairly lazy day so drove the 6km on the Duncan Road to China Wall. The last 1.5km is on gravel but easily accessible with 2WD.
China Wall is a vertical layer of white quartz which in places is 6m high standing above the surrounding land. The section near Halls Creek can be viewed from the path in the wet season but in the dry season you can walk right up to it across the creek.
There were a several wildflowers in bloom in the bush.
Heading back into town there was a long queue at the filling station as some of the pumps were out of order but the shops were open so we got stocked and prepared to continue our journey the following day.
Two things conflict with my drive to a more sustainable life – my love of travel and despite decluttering, still finding the very occasional item I feel I must have. Today I failed on both counts. We were driving down to Gatwick for our flight to Sicily tomorrow. Amazingly we avoided two accidents on the M6 which happened after we had reached the M42. A red soft top Ford Mustang brightened up the motorway in the midst of all the HGVs. James decided to stop at Bicester Outlet Village with the intention of doing some early Christmas shopping. Needless to say we did not really see anything for anyone’s present but enjoyed a walk in the sun, our picnic lunch and a break in the driving. Despite saying that I did not really need any new clothes or shoes, I wandered into LK Bennett and spotted the dress. A black long-sleeved sequin evening dress which looked just fabulous. The rail only had very small sizes but as I was about to give up when the shop assistant said she had other sizes in the back. I could not resist and attempted to justify it to myself by saying it was to replace one worn out evening dress and one that no longer fitted. This photo is not quite the same as it as mine has no train but you get the idea.
The M25 was not too busy and we soon found the airport and our hotel. Now it’s time to relax before final preparations for the flight tomorrow morning. There will be no need for eveningwear on Mount Etna.
Interesting article on lone female travelling
This could just be a story about countries deemed dangerous for women to travel to. But it’s more than that. This is a story about our perception of danger and how we’re told time and time again that the unfamiliar and the foreign are more dangerous to us than what is on our own doorstep.
A couple of months back, British tabloid the Daily Mail ran a story in their travel section titled ‘Sex attacks, muggings, and harassment: World’s most dangerous holiday destinations for women (and some of them may surprise you)’. The top ten list declared India; Brazil; Turkey; Thailand; Egypt; Colombia; South Africa; Morocco; Mexico; and Kenya to be the most dangerous countries for female travellers.
We’ll get back to that shortly. First I want to tell you about a strange encounter I had in Medellin, Colombia in 2001.
After a hard couple of days travelling…
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A family birthday celebration in Derbyshire and roads closed due to snow dictated our route over the Staffordshire Moorlands and into Derbyshire via Leek and Ashbourne. Driving over in the late afternoon just as the sun was dipping below the horizon and finding a layby just after sunset and where sheep were feeding was a good opportunity for some photos. The return journey was in the dark.
It was a strange feeling, driving up to Edinburgh on Friday evening, wondering what it would have been like to be living in two different countries. This was the first trip done in almost total darkness, no doubt to be followed by many more over the winter. On Saturday, after a long lie we went to a talk given by artist and bird watcher, Leo du Feu at the Arts Club. I really enjoyed his talk about his work (landscapes of Scotland and birds) and how he develops paintings. One of the things I find frustrating sitting on trains or as a passenger in the car is when a glimpse of landscape or some arrangement of objects is just asking to be turned into a picture but there is no time to take a photograph or it is not possible to stop. He has done a lot of work by train and uses sketches with colour notes to capture a picture. I must try that on the next long train journey. James was attending a course on Sunday so Flora and I had a walk down to the Meadows (she cannot manage Blackford Hill any more). I had a coffee at the dog-friendly Pavilion Cafe while Flora watched much younger dogs racing after balls and bring them back to their owners. This morning it was time to come hom. The mist was clearing and the day warming up as we drove back down the M74. The roadside and railway banks were covered with seedheads of Rose Bay Willow Herb, a plant my grandfather (a locomotive engineer) called ‘Railway Flowers’ because of their propensity to grow in disturbed ground. A reminder that this warm weather will come to an end was the sight of seven new snow ploughs heading north.
Two smaller journeys today – the walk from my hotel to the University and back, along the beachfront. In the morning, everyone I passed who was walking, cycling or jogging said hello. South Wales is definitely more welcoming than the South of England in that respect. Much of the path is shared with cyclists and they all seem to have bells and acknowledged me when I stepped out of their way. The other side of the road has numerous hotels and guesthouses. The University is just less than two miles away and in a pleasant setting. I soon found out where I should be and had a very stimulating day. The glorious sunny weather continues and after finishing a workshop, I walked back. The tide was beginning to turn and there were several fishermen nearer to the hotel. I asked them what they were fishing for and they responded ‘anything’. I wished them luck and headed inside for a fairly lazy evening and early night.
My train journey home on Friday was enlivened by the company of three fifty-something Liverpudlian women who were heading to Birmingham for the weekend. Nail varnish was applied, eyebrows tweaked, hair colour and texture discussed and family misdemeanors dealt with on the phone. They had a discussion with the woman opposite about the standard of nightlife in Liverpool, Wolverhampton and Birmingham – conclusion: Liverpool is for young people, there is nothing happening in Wooly these days and Birmingham is the best option. Drinks and crisps were consumed (and I was very generously offered some) and then one turned the music on her Blackberry up and we enjoyed some Michael Jackson as we crossed the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge. The train manager emerged after Runcorn to check tickets and had not got very far down the carriage before he returned to our table to ask that the music be turned down as someone had complained. The volume was reduced by a small amount with the knowledge that it would take the train manager some time to do the whole train and return to us at the back. All too soon I got to Crewe and wished my companions a good weekend.