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Published: September 14th 2019
Boats at anchor
Port Augusta, SA
I hadn’t finished my last holiday before I was planning the next. Inspired by my weekend last year in Barellan, I purchased a Toyota Hilux and set about kitting it out for some touring and offroading so I could see more of my own country. I set my sights high and planned a trip across the breadth of Australia, from my home in Sydney over to Western Australia to visit my brother and his family, and my favourite wine region of Margaret River.
I had a couple of test runs with local four-wheel driving and camping trips throughout the year, and before I knew it, it was time to leave on the big one. My aim for the first day was to spend the morning packing the car, and to reach the NSW regional city of Dubbo. I was my usual lazy self so the packing took longer than it should have, and my friendly neighbours wanted to have a lengthy chat too. I finally got away at 2pm, which meant I would be arriving in the dark.
The first day’s drive was uneventful, even as dusk came and went and night descended. As I passed through Wellington, the
last major town before Dubbo, my brain suddenly decided to remind me of everything I had forgotten to pack. Nothing major, although Douglas Adams would be ashamed that I had forgotten my towel. At least I would be able to buy another along the way. More annoying was the book I planned to lend my brother. Oh well, nothing I could do about it then. But it would have been nice if my brain had thought to remind me earlier in the day!
My plan for sleeping on this trip involves mixing it up between hotels (or motels) and camping. Thankfully, I have booked the hotels in advance because a large sports carnival meant everything in Dubbo was fully booked. I checked into my room and walked up the road to a pub recommended to me for some dinner. The food was nothing special, but welcome, and I retired for the night.
Friday was due to be the longest single day’s drive for the trip as I made my way to Broken Hill, 759km away. This was where my trip really started, I felt, because I had been to Dubbo before (admittedly, as a child). I had not
driven out west from Dubbo before though and I was looking forward to it.
The drive itself was, again, uneventful. Which, to be honest, is a good thing. I have plenty of audiobooks to listen to as I drive, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the miles pass without incident. As I arrived at Cobar, I saw a tourist sign for the Fort Bourke Hill lookout, and I decided to stop and check it out. Naively, I thought it may have been some historic site from the ill-fated Bourke and Wills expedition. It was not. It was instead a viewing platform to look down into the open-cut gold mine at Cobar. Although the environmentalist in me shuddered at the sight, the engineer in me still found it interesting and I was glad to have taken the diversion.
I pushed on, only stopping for the occasional toilet break and lunch. I had pre-packed sandwiches for the first 3 days, so I stopped at Emmdale to eat. Here I had my first major encounter with wildlife. Nothing exciting, or photo-worthy, unfortunately. Just flies. Lots and lots of flies. A few of them decided to come with me in the car as
Sunset on Day 1
Somewhere north of Orange, NSW
I continued on. I was able to shoo most of them out the window on the road, but one persistent bugger stayed all the way to Broken Hill.
The only other wildlife I have seen have been birds – lots of crows and hawks, with a couple of cockatoos – and goats. Lots of goats hanging out on the side of the road. I assume they are feral, but thankfully they were smart enough to move well clear of the road as my car approached. Not so for one poor lizard, though. He was sunning himself in the middle of my lane, and when I realised he was not going to move I figured I could aim my tyres to pass either side of him. Unfortunately, I think he panicked at the last moment as I heard something hit my tyre. Very upsetting, and a definite lowlight of the trip so far.
As I got nearer to Broken Hill, I noticed an inconsistency with the expected arrival time on my GPS. It was telling me that I would do the last 150km in just 1 hour. The speed limit was 110kph, so something didn’t add up. It soon
became apparent though that Broken Hill, despite being in NSW, is on Australian Central Standard Time. I did not know that before, but I suppose it makes sense.
I arrived at Broken Hill at about 4:30pm. It was still light, and I had been on the road for 8 ½ hours. A marathon drive, but an enjoyable one. I was pretty tired by this point so decided not to look around town and headed straight to the motel. Apparently there was a festival celebrating the 25th
anniversary of the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert, so I’m sure there was some colourful partying going on, but it was beyond me that night. After a small nap, I headed out to a nearby pub for another ordinary pub dinner.
Saturday’s drive was a lot more sensible, just 4 ½ hours to Port Augusta in South Australia. I decided to leave reasonably early so that I could do some shopping and looking around when I got there. But first, I needed to get fuel. My Hilux has a long-range tank fitted, and I was able to get from Sydney to Broken Hill on just one tank, but I wasn’t going
to get too much further. I checked my fuel price app on Friday night and found a service station near the motel that was just 5c per litre more than I paid in Sydney. Unfortunately, however, by Saturday morning the price had gone up another 4c. Worse still, when I got there, I discovered they didn’t actually have any diesel! So I ended up paying another 6c per litre somewhere else. Nearly $200 later, I was on my way.
At first, the drive was similar to Friday’s – flat and sandy, the real outback. But as I neared Peterborough, the first patches of green became visible. I was tempted to stop in Peterborough as it looked like a really nice and interesting town, but instead I resolved to come back on a future trip. This trip was about the Nullabor and Western Australia.
I have been trying to film some of this trip in order to make a video, and as part of this I have a GoPro set up inside the cab to talk to as I drive. I was doing this as I made my way through Peterborough and completely missed a turn-off I was supposed
to make. I didn’t realise for about 5km and had to turn around and head back into town to get back on track.
Another nice town I passed through was Wilmington, but the real highlight was just past there when the road took me over a pass near Mount Remarkable. And remarkable it was! Unlike most of the drive so far, it was lusciously green and a beautiful section of winding road. Definitely somewhere to come back and visit.
About 2pm I arrived in Port Augusta. I headed straight to the motel and checked in so I could go and do a bit of shopping. Even though my motel was on the other side of the river, I decided to walk because I had done very little exercise over the last few days. It was a pleasant walk, but I forgot to take my camera. This proved to be a good thing. Often, when I travel, I am lazy about going back to good locations when the light is better just before sunset. This time, having not taken my camera with me earlier forced me to go out at sunset and the pictures are a hundred times better
than they would have been in the middle of the day.
After doing some shopping and eating my last pre-packed sandwiches beside the river, I headed back to the motel and relaxed. I headed out to take photos just before sunset and then headed back to the motel to process them. As I had eaten so late, I decided to just eat one of my frozen meals for dinner and write up this blog.
Tomorrow, I head to my first real destination for the trip. Someone today described Port Augusta as the Crossroads of Australia, and it really is true. East, from where I came, is Broken Hill and NSW. south is Adelaide, north is Alice Spings and west is the Nullarbor and onto Western Australia. But south-west is the Eyre Peninsula where I am headed next. I am going to the Lincoln National Park to camp for two nights. While there I plan to do some four-wheel driving and hopefully some bushwalking. I am really looking forward to it. I will then be back in a bed in Ceduna before tackling the Nullarbor and heading to Western Australia.
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