"When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose," crooned Bob Dylan, as my ute shuddered its way over the cattle grid and the hot air whipped through the open window.
I was on my way to Pooncarie after spending the morning in Mt Hope, and I was determined to travel the roads that had defeated me during flooding last year as I'd travelled across from Perth. I'd been forced to turn around at Mossgiel to travel home to Goolgowi via Broken Hill and Mildura, but this time around the unsealed roads stretched out ahead of me like an open invitation and I couldn't help but smile as I watched the dust billow behind me in the rear-view mirror.
It had been a long few months. Returning to an office-based job after tiring but satisfying days pen riding at a feedlot had left me feeling pent up and yet strangely exhausted, and I was pinning my hopes on this trip to lift my spirits.
I thought back to Mt Hope Station earlier that day. The manager and her family had been so generous in taking the time to show me around, and for the umpteenth time I felt grateful to have a career where I could meet so many impressive people.
They'd pointed out a white kangaroo and her joey as we'd driven around the property, and I took it as a good omen that I'd been lucky enough to see such a rarity. But driving away from the station I felt isolated once more, and I scolded myself for feeling glum when I was surrounded by such amazing scenery.
I watched with satisfaction as the number of cars began to dwindle and the landscape slowly changed from the rugged hills of Mt Hope to the wider plains past Hillston. My aircon was broken but the warm air was strangely comforting, and I hung my arm out the window and chatted to the station cattle as they meandered across the track in front of me.
A wedge-tailed eagle eyed me from under a tree and I crept to a stop and carefully slid out of the car to try and take a photo. I lined him up in the viewfinder and held my breath as he watched me back before lazily taking off into in the air. I'd missed the shot, but I still felt the same sense of wonder as when I'd first seen one when I lived in Kalgoorlie all those years ago.
The sun dipped lower in the sky and the long shadows stretched across the track as I travelled through the Mungo World Heritage Area. I pulled over for more videos and listened to the birds as they flitted out of sight between the bushes.
I longed to sit on the tray and watch as night fell, but the day was escaping me and I was forced to keep going. It had been hours since I'd be in contact with anyone and my vehicle - which had already broken down on me once before - did not particularly fill me with confidence to travel the roads in the dark.
"Miles to go before I sleep," I told myself, and pulled onto the track once more and made my way to the Pooncarie Hotel.
Livestock editor Rebecca Nadge made the trip out to south western NSW recently where she visited a range of properties along the way. Those stories will be coming your way in the next few weeks.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.