5 things you need to know about driving across Australia.

Okay, maybe you are very adventurous. Perchance you are just plain crazy like us and want to see how big, wide, and brown this continent called Australia really is. Here’s 5 things you should know before leaving the house:

1) Petrol stations aren’t everywhere.

In fact, as you go through the outback, you might only see what Aussies call a “servo”, as in service station, every 100 kilmetres or so. Therefore if your fuel light’s a-flashin’, I suggest you get a-pumpin’ at the nearest servo, regardless of the price. The difference in the price of petrol between capital cities and country towns can be as much as 15 cents a litre, but across the Nullabor – actually anywhere from after Port Augusta in South Australia, to 200 km outside of Norseman in Western Australia – petrol can be as dear as $1.97 a litre. That’s in AUD, folks.

2) Car service stations can be found in most small towns.

Still on the car: if you should say hit a kangaroo or get into any car trouble along the way, you can always find a workshop at the small town nearest to you. They typically have a towing facility, although I’d say that if you need towing, you’re probably in no shape to continue with the road trip as a drive like the one we’ve undertaken is arduous.

We drive a Toyota and through the many small towns we’ve been, we’ve always seen a Toyota service station. Places like Toowomba and Port Augusta, obviously the “bigger small towns” have workshops for other brands of vehicles too. Eucla had a mechanis who quite cleverly put a sign saying “NO RAC.” Meaning, your automotive club membership probably doesn’t cover these parts.

3) Food, glorious food.

Now please don’t expect chef-quality tucker while barreling across Australia’s dusty backyard. If you do, you’ll be in for the sort of surprise Weigh Watchers and Jenny Craig charge its members for: as in you’re gonna starve from all those skipped meals.

If you are health and weight conscious like me, and into rice like HRH, the best thing to do to appease your fastidious taste buds is to stock up on fruit at a supermarket before you set off and when passing through any town with a supermarket – some towns only have a petrol pump and a motel. Do please remember to throw away any fruit BEFORE entering South Australia or Western Australia as on-the-spot fines of $200 applies to anyone found transporting fruit into either states.

You may expect restaurant meals to cost between 15 and 50%  more than in Australia’s capital cities. The handful of groceries you can get at places like Eucla are twice what they are in a capital city. The typical truckstop along the way only serves fried food like fish and chips, chiko rolls, and bangers and mash. Once in a way, you will find one that makes salad sandwiches (not salad), but be prepared to pay in the vicinity of $6.90 for two slices of bread with two slices of tomato, some shredded lettuce and a slice of beetroot in the middle.

4) A clean bed is a good bed.

Again, it pays to have reasonable expectations when it comes to somewhere to rest your weary head for the night. Many places claim to be “hotels” but they aren’t hotels in the regular sense of the word. Some are highly liveable serviced apartments, many are clean, tidy motels, many still are just rooms with a bed and a TV.

We paid an average of $150 a night; in every instance we stayed at either the best or second best accomodation available. There were certainly many others on our route who decided that camping was more their style and they saved a tidy bundle in accommodation that way.

5) There is no network between Eucla and Norseman.  

Yup. You might as well forget about being contactable because Telstra doesn’t reach these parts. I dare say it doesn’t cover other parts of outback Australia either. While we were passing through the area, a couple of thousands of kilometres long, we had no signal on our phones; no signal also means no internet. It was good though; being uncontactable is rare in this modern world so we relished just having some time to ourselves.

 

 

Our 9-day road-trip from Brisbane to Perth (Part 3)

Day 5

Thankfully yesterday’s mother-of-all-heatwaves has subsided and Port Augusta is a cool 19 degrees C this morning. After reloading the car (it was HRH’s bright idea to “reorganise”), we set off down the road for the famed “Nullabor Plains.”

Now, why is a 1400km stretch of arid, definitely inhospitable, land famous? I suppose if you can survive the boredom of seeing absolutely no one and nothing for hours on end, then you can lay claim to having very good mental concentration and perhaps sign up to be a pilot or a long-distance truck driver. For everyone else there’s the rugged beauty that is outback Australia.

“It’s my birthday today,” says Amanda from the back, for the umpteenth time.

“Yes, I know,” says HRH. “I’m taking you to see the desert, like I promised you.”

“Lily (Amanda’s best friend) had a disco-party. How is this better than a disco-party?”

Trust a newly turned 8 years old to ask all the right questions. There’s no hoodwinking them with promises we adults lap up every time a general election comes around.

“I’m taking you from one end of Australia to another, Amanda,” says HRH, in a tone that implies the magnitude of such an undertaking.

“How is that better?”

HRH shakes his head in disbelief. From Amanda’s viewpoint, it can hardly be better since she was made to give away many of her prized possessions – clothes, ribbons, knick knacks that little girls like collecting – leave her school and say goodbye to all her friends.

“She’s too young to appreciate this never-ending road-trip,” I say to HRH. To Amanda I say, “We’ve gone from Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, to Moree, a small country town in Queensland, to Dubbo, a small country town in the state of New South Wales, to Broken Hill, another small country town in New South Wales, to Port Augusta, where we stopped the day before yesterday, a small country town in the state of South Australia. Today, we’re off to Ceduna, a border town, still in South Australia. How many classmates of yours can say they’ve seen so many places?”

“And how many states does Australia have?”

“6 states and 2 territories. 1 Queensland can make 5 of Peninsula Malaysia. That’s how humongous a country Australia is.”

“People have died trying to find their way out of the desert,” says HRH.

A picture of the countryside outside Port Augusta, South Australia, heading towards Ceduna.

A picture of the countryside outside Port Augusta, South Australia, heading towards Ceduna.

A picture of the road leading away from Port Augusta, South Australia.

See how low the clouds hang? A picture of the road leading away from Port Augusta, South Australia.

A picture of the landscape leading away from Port Augusta, South Australia.

Did you say “melancholic”? I did too!

While we were in Port Augusta, we heard on the news of a South Australian man who’d gotten lost in the bush. Rescue police were still out looking for him when we left.

A picture of the landscape leading away from Port Augusta, South Australia.

“I once saw this programme about surviving in the wilderness and it says that a) you must build a shelter to keep yourself warm during the night b) search for a source of drinking water…You can get water from leaves by tying a plastic bag around a bunch of them in such a way as to collect the condensation, presuming you had the good sense of bringing along a clean plastic bag and a piece of string before getting lost…c) search for a way of signalling to rescuers. Apparently my lipstick is very handy. If our car should get lost out in the middle of nowhere, we stand a better chance of being spotted by rescue choppers if we use the lipstick to mark a huge X on the roof of the car.”

“I once went for this Aboriginal wilderness survival tour,” says HRH. “You can get water from these plants you see around us.”

“How?”

“I’ve forgotten. It was some 10 years ago.”

“That’s very helpful,” I say, changing the discs yet again. We can’t possibly be listening to Jay Chou another 20 times.

Soon enough we come across one of those towns that seem to exist only to extort petrol-thirsty travellers like ourselves. The price at the pump is a $1.90 a litre. Across the Nullabor, petrol prices go as high as $1.97 a litre. You can either fill up your tank or be prepared to walk until your legs fall off.

A picture of a poster in a window between Port Augusta, South Australia, and Ceduna

A picture of a  giant bird between Port Augusta, South Australia, and Ceduna.

I know the name of this bird but have forgotten. Excuse me. I’ll let you know at a later time. A picture of a giant bird between Port Augusta, South Australia, and Ceduna.

A picture of a shop between Port Augusta, South Australia, and Ceduna

The sign says everything: we’re half way across Australia! A picture of a shop between Port Augusta, South Australia, and Ceduna.

A picture of a locally mined gems in a shop between Port Augusta, South Australia, and Ceduna.

Amanda was in heaven seeing this. A picture of a locally mined gems in a shop between Port Augusta, South Australia, and Ceduna.

After another hour and a half on the road, we reach our accommodation for the night, the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel and Motel. Known as the “Oyster Capital of Australia”, Ceduna boasts some good fishing and correspondingly, seriously tasty seafood; HRH and Amanda have a couple of battered banana prawns and fresh scallops and I, on my new cholesterol-lowering diet have marinated octopus for tea. Allowing our stomachs an hour of rest before the onslaught of more food, we return to our hotel room to watch Spongebob Squarepants on Nicklodeon.

At dinnertime, I get a bone lodged in my throat from eating locally caught pink snapper and thus spend the next forty minutes trying to dislodge said bone by chowing down on 2 crusty bread rolls. That doesn’t work so at HRH’s advice, I have only my second coke for the last 2 years, while watching a gorgeous Ceduna sunset. Oh, and I’m still producing nose wontons.

A picture of Amanda giving me attitude in Ceduna, South Australia.

A picture of Amanda giving me attitude in Ceduna, South Australia.

 A picture of a Ceduna, South Australia, sunset.

Now tell me that ain’t a beauty!  A picture of a Ceduna, South Australia, sunset.

Day 6

It’s official: my nose has eloped with my make-up bag. We set off for yet another of HRH’s beloved “short drives”, this time to Eucla in Western Australia. It’s a teeny tiny dot on HRH’s travelling map, so I’m not expecting much other than a clean bed to sleep on at night.

 A picture of the road leading away from Ceduna, South Australia.

It’s another day on the road. A picture of the road leading away from Ceduna, South Australia.

 A picture of the landscape leading away from Ceduna, South Aus

Where have all the animals gone? A picture of the landscape leading away from Ceduna, South Australia.

 A picture of Amanda fast asleep at the back of the car.

I have to smell Amanda’s feet as she decides to put them up the entire way.

Almost every road-train we meet on the road West is considerate of other motorists, especially smaller vehicles like ours transporting an entire family. But along comes this guy, who you can’t see because I belatedly decided to take his picture from my side-view mirror, who tries to PUSH US OFF THE ROAD when we attempt to overtake him. Before that he’d been careering from left to right. Lucky him, I hadn’t taken down his vehicle registration number if not I’d be placing a call to the relevant road transport authority.

 A picture of the road train that tried to push us off the road just outside Yatala in South Australia.

Most road-train drivers are considerate of other motorists but this one was a menace. A picture of the road train that tried to push us off the road just outside Yatala in South Australia.

Since we are still celebrating Amanda’s birthday (like the Queen, her birthday goes on for a whole week), HRH detours for us to see the Great Australian Bight. Just what is a Bight? Beats me, but you are supposed to be able to spot seals, whales, sharks and other marine life when they are in season. Whale-watching season folks, is in October and November. We are many months too early and instead, only have rugged coast to admire for the bargain price of $5 per adult. Children visit for free with one paying adult.

 A picture of HRH lifting Amanda up to view marine life at the Great Australian Bight, Yatala, South Australia.

A picture of HRH lifting Amanda up to view marine life at the Great Australian Bight, Yatala, South Australia.

A picture of The Great Australian Bight.

Sorry, no animals folks. They go elsewhere to spend the summer.  A picture of The Great Australian Bight.

 A picture of a poster about the Great Australian Bight.

This poster tells you about the marine life visible from the Great Australian Bight.

A picture of me and Amanda on a deck overlooking the Great Australia

Yes, there is no point dressing up when only absent marine life are going to see you and your runaway nose. A picture of me and Amanda on a deck overlooking the Great Australia

Yet more driving follows. We pass through the border of South Australia and Western Australia where we are stopped for a routine fruit-check. Just so you know: you are NOT allowed to bring fruit into South Australia or Western Australia, if travelling from other parts of Australia. This is to prevent fruit fly from damaging the citrus-growing industries of either state.

Once again, we arrive at our destination in time for tea. But instead of stuffing our faces with hot chips from the one and only café in Eucla, we check out the pool for houseguests and picturesque gardens, which the hotel’s restaurant looks out onto.

From our hotel room you can catch a glimpse of the sea.

A picture of our room in Eucla, Western Australia.

It’s not the Ritz-Carlton or the Shangrila, but it is clean and comfortable. A picture of our room in Eucla, Western Australia.

A picture of  the view from our room in Eucla, Western Australia.

You can catch a glimpse of the sea. A picture of the view from our room in Eucla, Western Australia.

 A picture of father and daughter moseying down the rocky path in Eucla, Western Austra

Trying to walk to the beach; never got there as it was a lot further than what it seemed from our room window. A picture of father and daughter moseying down the rocky path in Eucla, Western Australia.

A picture of a giant whale in the kids playground at Eucla, Western Australia.

A picture of a giant whale in the kids playground at Eucla, Western Australia.

A picture of HRH and Amanda at the "Traveller's Cross" in Eucla, Western Australia.

So far from civilisation. A picture of HRH and Amanda at the “Traveller’s Cross” in Eucla, Western Australia.

 A picture of the swimming pool at our hotel in Eucla, Western Australia.

Can you see the sliver of sea in this photo? It’s a different blue to the sky.

A picture of the gardens at our hotel in Eucla, Western Australia.

The restaurant looks out onto this gorgeous garden. You’d appreciate the effort it takes to establish and maintain such a garden if you saw the hard, clay-like soil. A picture of the gardens at our hotel in Eucla, Western Australia.

 A picture of Amanda having another plate of spaghetti bolognese in Eucla, Western Australia.

Amanda wanted spaghetti even for her birthday.