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You have been driving for untold hours through a landscape which shifts imperceptibly. You find it hard to connect with the outside world. There is no way of knowing what to feel; boredom, awe, self-pity, hunger... You are desperate for a fix, anything to situate the here and now, the there and then. And when something appears, it is greater than ever before – too much volume, too much mass – because that is all you have. You make the most of it.

There are animals everywhere. You are conscious of their presence and every movement. Each encounter requires an instantaneous reading of physical qualities, character, motive, behavioural possibilities and potential scenarios. In most cases you achieve a limited understanding which enables both of you to survive. You do not need to know everything. Partial knowledge is perfectly satisfactory.

Cattle have bulk – just meat – but you feel nothing for them, not even curiosity. They are merely dumb beasts, unwilling to even acknowledge your presence. You look at them and see isolated homesteads, ragged hats moving through clouds of dust, the safe, heart-warming tug of craggy-faced characters and the clang of iron implements. Some of the cows are dead, complete write-offs.

The native fauna is more varied and unpredictable. You expect it to be scared. You rely on it to disappear into the bush with a sudden explosion of adrenalin-pumping activity. But you worry that perhaps it is too frightened. It may be too petrified to move. It may be incapable of behaving naturally. It could be seriously disturbed.

When the sun goes down, you stop and pitch your tent in the middle of nowhere. You light the hurricane lamp and within minutes, hundreds of insects are launching themselves at the light. You sit in the tent and watch the tiny black bodies crawling over each other, desperately throwing themselves at the glass, bouncing off it and yet unable to leave it alone.

In the middle of the night, you are woken by the sound of something moving about outside your tent. You lie very still, barely daring to breathe, and listen to the shuffle of a nocturnal prowler just beyond the flimsy fabric wall. Next morning, your tent is ringed by a circle of tracks in the sand like tiny frozen ripples marking the spot where your body fell to earth.

The dawn air is so cold it makes your eyes water. You drive as fast as possible to the nearest roadhouse and wrap your hands around a cup of instant coffee. You stay away from the families, people in four wheel drive vehicles and campervans who are busily filling water tanks and wiping the dust off their windscreens. When everybody has left, you use the pay phone on the forecourt, even though you know it is the wrong time of day and nobody will be there. You let it ring for a long time.