As we headed north from Esperance toward Norseman, the forests of the coasts gave way to scrub. Spindly gum trees and sullen little bushes dotted the landscape. Every now and then, we pass what looks like a salt flat. The evening sunlight was low and angled, imparting a glow of gold to every tree trunk.
I could see the scars of previous bush fires. Felled trees and scorched terrain spoke of the fires that burned on our left. The charred marks extended as high as my head on many of the gum trees. On my right, there was no scorching to be seen, indicating the fire never jumped the road.
The landscape may as well be Mars, it is so alien. Often, flat-bottomed cumulus clouds drift lazily across the Australian skies, looking a little like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ airships of Barsoom. Adding to the sense of alien-ness, the gum trees reach their thin, infinitely bifurcating limbs higher, topped only by thin green leaves that give way to drier, amber tips.
We rarely pass another car. For the most part, we have the road to ourselves. Highway 1 stretches out before us like a black ribbon, almost perfectly straight. I love it, the feeling of motion and freedom that comes with the drive. I also love that Julia is driving, and for the fire time in days, I can take in the countryside without worrying about flying off the road in a stray gust of wind.