Planning that drive across Australia

It sounds pretty simple, really.  Hop in the car and drive across Australia, in our case from West to East and back again.

The problem is that a drive across the southern part of Australia is quite a formidable trip.  Not quite as formidable as a drive across the northern part of Australia, which is far more remote than the south, but it does take some planning before setting out on the drive.

One reason for the need to plan is that the distances involved are quite long.  About 9,000 kilometres or so, give or take a couple of hundred of kilometres depending on which routes we want to take.

Another reason is that from Perth to Adelaide, which is two thirds of the distance, you don’t go through too many towns and between Norseman in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia, which are at both ends of the Nullabor Plain, you pass some very small settlements and truck stops but no towns of any consequence; with the exception of Eucla which is little more than a slightly large truck stop.  The distance between Norseman and Ceduna is 1200 kilometres – which is roughly the equivalent of driving between New York and Chicago, or Penzance to Inverness.

You need to plan fuel stops and travel times because out on the Nullabor you can get fuel every few hundred kilometres or so, but the fuel stops aren’t open for 24 hours a day, so you need to plan when you travel to account for the fact that you can’t fill up in the early hours of the morning.

Of course, driving at night in remote locations in Australia is not always recommended because kangaroos are nocturnal, and can be attracted to bright lights.  They are also very unpredictable, because a kangaroo can jump alongside you for a short distance (yes, they can be very fast), and can often suddenly swerve in front of you.  No one likes to run into kangaroos.  You don’t really want to kill them, but the main reason is that you don’t really want to kill yourself.    

Kangaroos can be very big, as tall as a reasonably sized man, and very solid.  Hit a kangaroo at speed and not only is your car severely damaged but so, usually, are you.  Hit a kangaroo in the middle of the Nullabor and help is a long time coming.

To plan the drive across Australia you need to take into account the condition of your car, the cost of fuel (it is very expensive in those remote areas), the spare parts you will need, plan your accommodation, what food and drink to take.  Food is expensive on the Nullabor and you can cut costs by taking your own food, but don’t take too many fruit and vegetables as there is a quarantine station at the Western Australia/South Australia border.  This is particularly true when entering Western Australia.  Western Australia is free from many of the insect or animal pests, plant or animal diseases and weeds which are present elsewhere in Australia, but there is a high risk of them arriving on goods carried or used by travellers. Plan your journey so you use up fresh fruit and vegetables before crossing the border.

You must also consider the time of year you intend crossing the country.  Summers tend to be very hot, which is why you should always carry plenty of water.  The heat can affect your vehicles performance, so make sure that you carry coolant and spare radiator hoses in case of overheating.

Fortunately, you do get a lot of traffic crossing the Nullabor these days, so, providing you have stayed on the main highway, if you do have a problem flag down a motorist who can inform authorities in the next town about your situation.  Help will come, but you could be in for a long wait.  Whatever you do, don’t move away from the vicinity of your vehicle.

Driving across Australia is an adventure that is usually quite safe.  The golden rule is that if you plan for misadventure it probably won’t occur.

2 comments to Planning that drive across Australia

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  • One way to overcome the quarantine problem is to cook all of your fruit and vegetables. They allow cooked food through quarantine.

    I pull up on the side of the road before I reach the quarantine station. After firing up the generator, I put the microwave to good use. Even oranges and mandarins taste good after they are cooked. The quarantine station for entering SA, when travelling east, is at Ceduna.

    If you have a troop carrier with long range tanks you can just whistle past all of the fuel stops which means you can travel at any hour. Alternatively, carry jerry cans full of fuel, but keep them somewhere safe.

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