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This Is Northern New South Wales

On the road with Kate Atkinson

PhotoCredit_KirraPendergast-1Five years ago, Kate Atkinson left her home of fours years in Bellingen and headed south. She was heading to Melbourne, but on arrival, it did not feel right, so she kept on going. Four years passed and Kate was still on the road, working festival contracts, managing bands, running away with the circus and embarking on tours nationally and internationally as a tour manager. As well as working in the creative industries, Kate took on a project facilitator role that saw her spend lengths of time in remote indigenous communities, helping to development grass roots micro enterprises in places such as Minyerri and Doomadgee.
These various contracts have taken Kate far and wide to places such as Iceland, Scotland, the Northern Territory and Mississippi and more.

With a camera hanging around her neck pretty much her whole life; since the very first pink Kodak as a small child, to a 35mm Pentax of her dad’s she claimed as her own, Kate is now armed with a beloved digital she uses to capture the roads she travels and people she meets.

Kate finally settled in a home just this year, living by the beach and working for Bello Winter Music and Mullum Music Festival. She isn’t on the road as much but takes any opportunity she can to get out into some wide open spaces.

12. Yosemite
Yosemite NP: 
America. Land of big things.

3. Yarlbun. to printYarlbun. For making johnny cakes. Tastes like popcorn: Yarlbun, or lily root, are a prized feed in Minyerri but are hard to obtain as they are a considerable distance from the town. The walk is too scary as there are many wild water buffalo about, a creature not known for its’ friendly nature!  When I rocked up with my car, we went bush to collect some. 

You can roast them on a stick like marshmallows or you can grind them up to make johnny cakes and cook them in a pan…with salt of course.

6. U.S. Route 61. The last road taken by the Empress of the blues
Route 61. The last road taken by the Empress of the blues:The road that claim the life of the Empress of the blues, Bessie Smith in 1937. She was buried in Philadelphia in a grave that remained unmarked until Janis Joplin paid for a tombstone in 1970.


mae storm 38The Mae Trio – Tambo:Storm chasing with The Mae Trio in Tambo. The sky really turned it on that evening.


1. Savannah WaySavannah Way: Wet season in Doomadgee. For months on end over the summer, this aboriginal community in the Gulf of Carpentaria of 1200 people is only accessible by air.  Only the biggest of trucks can take on the immense amount of water and mud that will render most vehicles stuck.


10. Ron. camel Trainer. Taxi driver. Smoker

Ron. Camel Trainer. Taxi driver. Smoker: Ron lives on the outskirts of Katherine in a house shed. His bed is under a hanging tarp that stops dust and spiders from falling on his bed. Now he drives a taxi but he used to be a wild man of outback Australia. Years spent out bush made him a very strong and skilled bushman. He can wrangle a camel, knows all about guns and taught me to tie a load to 4WD using nothing but bailing twine.


9. Renewal in LitchfieldRenewal in Litchfield NP: The Northern Territory in summer is shrouded in a constant haze of smoke due to controlled back burning. Each time I drove back to Darwin from work out in Minyerri, I always explored a new road. This time, driving through Litchfield National Park, I was treated to a fiery display of reds as the sun pushed through the smoke.


4. NesjavallavegurNesjavallavegur: 2.5 half days in Iceland….grab a car and hit the back roads!  With it being summer, there was over 20 hours of light each day so I managed to see a lot in the beat up old Subaru I rented.


nalira6Nalira of Minyerri. : I met this bubba when she first got out of hospital. It was nice to see her some months on. Very chubby and healthy. She seemed much older than she was. Kids are strong in Minyerri.

8. JundahJundah. QLD: 8 days, 6 shows, 1 tiny plane, 4 jazz musicians and I take on outback Australia. Expansive and sparse, there is much beauty in simplicity to be found out here.

mississippi 1It never snows in Mississippi:So lucky to see this beautiful sight, cypress trees covered in snow in an icy blue swamp.


iceland 157Geyser. Iceland: A blue umbrella stands out against the hazy sky created by the geysers and thermal waters.

2. Doomadgee boy2Doomadgee boy: It is after hours. All the workers have gone home. Days are spent in air conditioned offices made colder than it could possibly ever get this far north in Australia. Outside, the ground is littered with cigarette butts from smoko. I busted this boy looking for ciggies. He asks me not to tell his mum.

11. Mississippi. They say Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil hereClarkesdale, Mississippi. They say Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil here: It very rarely snows in Mississippi, the last time being over 10 years ago. Schools shut down, frustrated snowboarders dusted of their boards and found whatever slope they could and crows painted monochromatic pictures in the sky. 

Not far from here, according to the legend, Robert Johnson took his guitar to a nearby crossroads where he was met by the Devil who tuned it for him, not before belting out a few songs himself. In exchange for his soul, Robert Johnson was granted mastery of his instrument, which in turn would make him famous. Sadly, Johnson was never famous in his lifetime but is now recognised as King of the Delta Blues.

CAT7_2Claire Anne Taylor:The beautiful Claire Anne Taylor in the incredibly amazing Never Never Creek at The Promised Lands.

5. A855Isle of Skye:4 weeks on constant driving and gigging, zig-zagging across the UK, hopping on multiple ferries back and forth to Ireland, driving south, then north, only to go south again. London traffic, Welsh mountains, teeny tiny lanes, no parking…… enough to wear one out. Of course, arriving at the Isle of Skye and all of the stresses are forgotten. Perhaps the most majestic place on earth, I am reminded about how small I really am.