During April, I went on a journey that was not long in time nor distance but was monumental on the adventure scale. Some of the best journeys that I have done have been short and shattering; it is a rare feeling, fleeting, reflective, a synthesis of rival life narratives.
Broken Hill is not that far from Melbourne in terms of distance, about 1000 kms as the cockatoo flies. However, in terms of head-space distance, you might as well be riding the fucking moon! The first day of my adventure, I felt chock-full of ennui, so I pushed my trip back a day, which wasn’t a good idea because I was compelled to ride to Broken Hill in one day.
The ride there was hellish, I was so damn tired. I stopped to nap at half a dozen towns, sprawled out in the local park in leathers trying to get a 20-minute power nap between the uptight rose gardens. At Mildura, on the Murry River, the last stop of Victorian civilisation, I filled up with petrol and coffee and crossed the state border.
After Mildura, you enter the outback and the 300 kms road to Broken Hill. Before the trip, I talked to my friend Stuart, and he advised me to ride fast (apart from the other things he recommended, this is all I remembered). The outback is like an Australian autobahn (fun fun) with Kangaroos, meaning (in theory) that you can ride as fast as you want. As it was getting dark and Broken Hill was still more than a three-hour ride away, I thought this was sound advice.
I opened the throttle and rode on the magnificent stead on my sovereign road into the dusk. After about an hour and a half, anxious of the outback at night and concerned its great void may form a friendship with my own, I plucked my eyes off the horizon and glanced down as the fuel gauge in existential horror. It was almost empty WTF!
I had forgotten (or perhaps had never known) that bikes have crap fuel economy at high speed. The fuel was nearly drunk, and there was still more than 150 Kms to Broken Hill. I thought about all those shit British backpackers that run out of petrol in the outback and decide to walk to the next town, 200 kms away, in the summer heat and get burned-up about half an hour later. I did not want to spend the night sleeping in the void, cooked like a Wolf Creek backpacker in the morning.
I slowed right down, like seriously slow, I did not know I could ride so slow. Then it started to get cold, Tasmania cold, and the outback put on a vast and eternal extraterrestrial display that, for a moment, distracted me from my temporal predicament. I rode like this for an hour, then another hour, then another with the nagging fuel gauge threatening only a few kilometres more of modern life.
I arrived at Broken Hill at 1130PM, at the Palace Hotel, where Priscilla Queen of the Desert had cut a path into the jungle a generation ago. I spend a few days in Broken Hill, having a bit of a look around this great outback city, micro-dosing its many delights.
Hackneyed I know, but like all great adventures, regardless of their scope or cost, it is the journey that counts.
I often get asked what is the best part of Tasmania to visit, especially when riding a moto. The answer is that it is all good, and you can’t go wrong. I grew up in Tasmania and spent the first 18 years of my life on the northwest coast, and I have been there too many times to count. But it always seems fresh, and I find a new place and a new angle to see this wonderful island each time I go.
This time, I took my adventure bike, started on the northwest coast, and headed south via the west coast. This is the first time I have taken a decent bike to the island, and it made all the difference on the relentless roads. It was in the middle of summer, but it was still icy, about 5 degrees, so I needed layer upon layer of clothing. Plus, it rained. It always rains on the west coast, part of its lush, misty appeal (and it keeps the hedonists at bay).
Queenstown is a small mining town with a fearsome reputation. The hills around Queenstown were once denuded due to the pollution from mining, but as mining has receded, the trees have returned. It has some pretty impressive pubs on the main street that have seen better days.
From Queenstown to the south is a crazy road. It goes on and on through a lush rain forest with zero human habitation. There was also no cars and no tourists, so the riding was super fun. I stopped at the Frenchman’s Cap hike trailhead and walked about 1 Kilometre to the world-famous Franklin River. The fight to protect this river spurred the Australian conservation movement and sent (brown) ripples worldwide. Once, it was about saving a muddy old river in Tasmania, now it about halting the mindless excess of industrial modernity.
I avoided Hobart as it is overrated and full of blow-ins and went to Cockle Creek on the far southern tip of Tasmania instead.
Cockle Creek is a special place. It has numerous bays and beaches and is nestled on the edge of the southwest wilderness world heritage area. I walked the southwest track for a couple of hours and made it to the furthest tip of Tasmania.
From Cockle Creek, I went to Bruny Island and stayed there the night. I got a fantastic ploughman’s lunch at the local cheese factory along with some beers and oysters and ate them on a deserted beach. There are many things to like about Australia, and indeed, beer on your own deserted beach is one of them.
A fantastic trip, and I hope to do it again and again. Tasmania is small and compact, but the riding effort between places is pretty tiresome, given the crazy mountain roads. This is especially the case on the west coast, best to take your time.
One of the few fun things permitted during the virus-restrictions in Australia was fat-motorcycling for exercise. Sure, you could not go far at first, but after a while, you could ride a lot further than your local supermarket or bottle shop.
This is a long, day-ride I did from Melbourne to the high-country, past Lake Mountain and Woods Point. It was a terrific ride; twelve hours of slow reflective, staccato riding, as no overnight rest-stays were permitted. During lock-down I am sure that my brain shrunk due to lack of stimulation, so getting out into the spacious mountains with tight-cornered, dirt roads lined with huge shedding eucalyptus trees, and lakes and rivers, and devoid of tin-cars was expansive (to say the least). It was freezing cold and the moody dirt road was all-consuming, but I developed a fresh perspective on this fabulous state beyond the deep, reductive ruts of the inner-city.
Riding up the Black Spur
This is one of the most popular motorcycle routes in Victoria; from Melbourne to Marysville through the Black Spur. There are usually lots of tin-cars, but today there were few.
Marysville to Woods Point Road
This road is pretty special, remote, mountainous, and again no cars. After the turnoff to Lake Mountain is gets pretty wild, and it is only sealed until the Warburton turn off
Marysville to Woods Point Road (dirt!)
This part of the journey was the most difficult, up over the top of a mountain on a narrow dirt road, through a dense forest. And I didn’t see anyone, apart from a couple of 4WDs from the hunters and fishers crew.
Woods Point is a pretty amazing place; remote, only accessible by dirt roads, and with a large pub called the Commercial Hotel.
The road to Jamieson passes next to the river and goes past the salubrious Kevington Hotel
Jamieson to Eildon road
The road from Jameson to Eildon traverses the Eildon national park; about one hundred kms of windy, meditational road free of the heady-clutter of Modern life (except for the moto, I like its clutter). This road was sealed all the way with slow, meandering, but disciplined corners. A very big day in a very big world where people are getting smaller and smaller.
The Christmas period in Australia is the traditional road trip time. Straight after fat Christmas dinner, millions of Australians pack up there car, campervan, boat, and 400-litre Eskys and herd-off to a beach or river or forest somewhere to empty the Eskys and fill their bellies. This is a predictable Australian pilgrimage, worshipping the mercurial god of hedonism; thus, it is not hard to guess where they are going and go somewhere else.
Pub 1: Narrandera, Star Hotel
The first stop of my journey was Narrandera, a place that no one visits. This was a five-hour ride from Melbourne, which always ends up being eight or nine hours as I tend to stop all the time looking at nothing in particular. The ride was straightforward, not too long in distance and the A39 through Nagambie and Shepparton was free of Eskys. But the challenge of the day was the heat; the temperature climbed to 40 degrees, which was new territory for me. I stopped and took the lining out of my jacket, opened all the vents, and drank a litre of water. But the water didn’t seem to help as an hour later I needed another litre. This was the theme of the day, stop to drink some water.
I arrived at the Narrandera, Star Hotel early evening. The building
was spectacular, as large and more critical than Old Parliament House. It had 22 rooms, but only 4 were habitable as
it was in the timeless process of being converted into a lodge (I was saddened
to hear that it hadn’t been licenced since 1972). I settled into my regal room connected
to the colossal balcony and watched the latest episode of The Crown on Netflix
Pub 2: Coonabarabran, Imperial Hotel
I woke early the next day, well-rested in the stately room and continued my journey down the A39, Newell Highway. The day was again hot; I was almost drinking as much water per hour as my bike was petrol. I arrived at the Coonabarabran, Imperial Hotel early in the stinking-hot evening and had a couple of frenzied beers in the bar before checking in.
The hotel room was small, the tap in the pissy-sink leaked, and the huge creaked fan didn’t do what it was supposed to do. The pub had seen better days, but at a similar price to what I was paying for pub accommodation many years ago, who is complaining. I went to the local supermarket, bought some dinner, and sat under a tree.
It was here that I felt very alone and existential,
realising it was just me and my little lunch-pack and the road-narrative of the
next pub. Still, it could be worse; it could be the narrative of the same pub and
the same lunch pack day after day. I was glad to have an exit strategy.
Pub 3: Bingara Imperial Hotel
Today I rode through the magnificent Pilliga Forest and the town of Narrabri on the way to the Imperial Hotel Bingara. Bilgara is an extraordinary place, protected by B and C roads; it is a town where only curious travellers go (as opposed to the industrial-hedonists pasted to the coast).
I went straight to the bar and ordered a pint of Guinness from a young German backpacker, obviously in the know. The town is home to the Roxy Theatre and café, one of the most magnificent examples of art deco architecture that I have seen.
In Lismore, I camped and partied at a festival called Tropical Fruits, an LGBTIQ festival for Suzuki V-Strom 1000 riders. It was a lot of fun, I stated for five days, but I prefer the freedom of the open road.
Pub 4: Dubbo, Castlereagh Hotel
I left Lismore at 7AM, and I didn’t arrive at Dubbo until 7 PM. This was the toughest ride of the whole trip, and I am not sure why I planned such a long ride on my itinerary (and even booked the hotels in advance). I went on the B91 (Armadale Road), that traversed a number of national parks, including one called ‘Guy Falks National Park’. This perhaps wasn’t the wisest idea given the temperature reached 40 degrees by 1130AM and this was during a state fire emergency.
Still, I checked the apps and asked other bikers on forums, and the road was okay (but I checked today as I write this, and it is closed). I went along many isolated roads today where the traffic was light and the towns few. The Black Stump Way, the Premer Hotel and Barmedan were the places that I recall. These are places that I am unlikely to visit again.
The Castlereagh Hotel was a tough, working man’s hotel and the lady at the bar told-me-off for booking my room online. I ordered beer and the roast of the day (beef) and checked into my room. The room was small, but pleasant enough, complete with pissy-sink and fan.
In the evening, I heard a ruckus downstairs
and went out on the balcony and saw the local cops put some of the drinkers into
the back of a paddy wagon. A local
ritual I presume.
Pub 5: Beechworth: Tanswell Commercial Hotel
Today’s ride from Dubbo started out very hot, about 40 degrees by 10 AM. I regretted not leaving earlier, but then just after Parkes, the temperature dropped significantly, which was welcome. But what was not welcome, was the bushfire smoke, so thick that visibility dropped to 150 meters. This was a spooky, reflective day of riding, I could hardly see a thing, and I was on some serious B and C roads. At a town called The Rock, visibility was down to about 100 meters, which made the journey slow and torturous.
I arrived at the last pub of my journey,
the magnificent Tanswell Commercial Hotel in Beechworth late afternoon and
settled into the front bar. Beechworth was thick with smoke and no one was about,
the only activity was at the Tanswell Hotel. There was a hillbilly band playing
and the crowd was friendly, in an almost desperate, apocalyptic way. I drank too many beers this evening, thinking
they would be the last.
I woke well-rested and rode home on the
instrumentalist Hume Freeway for three hours in the rain.
During the year, I bought a sparkling new moto, a 2019 Suzuki Vstrom 1000, which is a major step-up from the bullet-proof 2008 Suzuki GS 500 that I had been rinding too many places that it wasn’t meant to go. I have been itching to take it on an adventure ride since I bought it and I thought that riding 1600 kms to go to a party for NYE seems like a good start. It’s a long way for a party, but half the fun is getting there through the windy B and C roads in the south-east of Australia. It will be hotter than hell on the road (and maybe a few bush fires), but there are some beautiful towns along the way where the beer is bottomless and that narratives boundless.
I have a bit of time on my hands and I will be in the slow lane staying at grand county pubs along the way, many with long bars and huge balconies adjoined by tiny rooms. These pubs are such a special part of Australian rural life; the centre of their communities. Many have seen better days and their accommodation is under-utilised, but there are a bunch of ways to book them now (even Air BB), and they are much better than the soulless modern alternatives.
Here is my itinerary. I will blog along the way. If anyone has any tips or suggestions, I would love to hear from you. Have a great Xmas and NYE
27 December, Narrandera, Victoria, Star Hotel
28 December, Coonabarabran, NSW, Imperial Hotel
29 December, Bingara, NSW, Imperial Hotel
30 December, Tropical Fruits Party, Lismore, NSW
31 December, Tropical Fruits, Party, Lismore, NSW
1 January, Tropical Fruits, Party, Lismore, NSW
2 January, Tropical Fruits, Party, Lismore, NSW
3 January, Tropical Fruits, Party, Lismore, NSW
4 January, Dubbo, Castlereagh Hotel, NSW
5 January, Beechworth, Tanswell Commercial Hotel, Victoria
6 January, Walhalla, Victoria (camping, no pubs damn!)
Fraser Island is a considerably sized sand Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Some say it is the biggest sand island in the world (and some find meaning and significance in hierarchising anything and everything).
I set off for my six-day, 90 Kms, hiking adventure on Fraser Island from mid-winter Melbourne. Queensland is warm all year round, which is disastrous for human perspicacity but is ripe for hiking. Hiking on Fraser island is best in the winter as 1) there are fewer tourists, 2) the snakes are asleep, and 3) your brain doesn’t boil in the heat (it is a mild 24 degrees Celsius). I flew into Brisbane, then hopped on a small aircraft with two propellers to go to Hervey Bay.
Hervey Bay is geographically bright, but culturally grey. A go-to climate-fantasy for captive Modernists escaping from Modernity by creating an even worse version. I checked into my Air BB in a laconic ‘Queenslander’ (a type of wooden house on stilts), then went for a walk along the boulevard of mistaken dreams. I had dinner in an obese fish-and-chip shop, a pint of Guinness in a grim gambling den masquerading as a sports-bar, then walked back to the ‘Queenslander’ for a laconic night’s sleep.
At the crack of dawn, I was on the ferry to Kingfisher Bay, a quick 40-minute ride across to the Island. The ferry master discussed the European history of the island through a tedious frontier narrative; the stuffed dingo toys for sale at the bar were a lot more intrepid.
As soon as I disembarked, I started walking, eager to escape from the 4-wheel drives full of families with babies inviting to be devoured by the dingos. It is illegal to feed the dingos on Fraser Island, there is a $10,000 fine, however it isn’t illegal for the dingos to eat the babies as dingos aren’t legal persons under Australian law.
Day 1: The first day I walked from Kingfisher Bay to Lake McKenzie. This was an easy walk along wide, sandy paths through scrubby bushland. There is a beautiful wooden pier on the way, and thankfully, I didn’t meet any other people. I really wanted to do this walk by myself, to experience solitude and refection, to read in the evening, and listen to the birds. Admittedly I was feeling a bit dark before I left, but the life in the Fraser Island rainforests buoyed a starved Modern soul.
Lake McKenzie is special; a large fresh-water lake in the middle of the forest. I pitched my tent in the well-equipped campsite surrounded by a hysterical dingo fence, then went for a swim in the beautiful lake. In the evening I watched Netflix on my phone (pre-downloaded) and listed to ABC Radio. It was pitch-black dark by about 5.30 PM, so luckily I bought an excellent re-charge battery for long, lonely evenings in the tent.
Day 2: From Lake McKenzie to the utilitarian named ‘Central Station’ was an easy stroll. I stopped and had lunch at the deep Basin Lake, fringed by reeds and home to frogs and freshwater turtles. I walked through the rainforest with towering trees, banksia woodlands, melaleuca wetlands, and eucalyptus. Just before Central Station, there is a spectacular sandy creek traversed by the meandering wooden walking trail. The walkers camp was in the middle of a rain forest that rained. I set up camp, hydrated my dinner, and settled in for the night.
Day 3: From Central Station to Lake Wabby was a very long way, and I welcomed the physical challenge as the past could of days had been pedestrian. I walked through the vast rainforest with mammoth trees, and I still hadn’t met anyone on the path, which suited me fine. I set up near Lake Wabby, then walked to the lookout. Lake Wabby is beneath a giant ‘sand blow’; the sand island fights the trees, attempting to reclaim the island.
Day 4: Lake Wabby to the Valley of the Giants was again a very long day, but I wasn’t weary. It is amazing what you can achieve when you are a little bit scared. I walked through the central high dunes, cloaked with open eucalypt forests and woodlands. Most of the day was through the cool, dense rainforest with a cacophony of birds, and the odd ray of sunlight shining through the canopy.
The Valley of the Giants walking camp was deserted like all the other places I had camped; just me and my post-apocalyptic fantasies. The camp is within a forest of giant satinay and tallowwood trees. I set up camp, and walked about, too scared to stop in case the existentialist catch me.
Day 5: After deep sleep, I made some strong coffee, then walked through inspiring stands of brush box, satinay trees and never-ended cool rainforest of piccabeen palms, and kauri pines. Lake Garawonga was a handsome lake, big, bold and fresh, like Lake McKenzie. I set up camp but was starting to feel a bit Kurtz, the horror, the horror.
Day 6: The last days’ walk was the easiest of the hike, and I was in the village of “Happy Valley” (which was neither), by noon. I found the local bar, bought some deep-fried, salty fat chips and beer, and waited for my 2.45 PM ‘taxi’ back to Kingfisher Bay to catch the ferry. The taxi (a 4-weel drive) cost me a reluctant $160 but was worth the expense. It took about an hour to drive back to Kingfisher with a number of embarrassing piss-stops. The driver told me stories of nubile attracted dingos and that there were only 200 on the island (there must be at least eight warning signs for every dingo).
I arrived back at Hervey Bay at dusk and rested before my flight back to Melbourne the next day. A great winter hike and Queensland has a whole series of ‘great walks’ similar to this. I am looking forward to discovering the others.
Uluru is a massive rock in Central Australia. Some say it is
the biggest rock in the world; some say many things. I was a bit sceptical to
see Uluru at first as it reeked of ‘’ínstrumental tourism’’, a place defined by
the outcome rather than the journey (in teaching we call this “constructive
So, I started the ‘’unaligned’’ journey in Fitz-Roy (the illegitimate centre of Australia), rented a car in Coburg, strapped in my wonderful co-pilot Paul Sebastian Garate Peralta from Cuenca in Ecuador, and set off for The Rock. I had done some superficial research before I left, so I knew it was a very long way, and that it was hot, but both these things are comfortably intangible until you actually live them.
Day one: Port Fairy
The first day we drove along the coast to Port Fairy, a bucolic,
old village a few hours from Melbourne. We didn’t want to overdo it on the
first drive; to ease our way into the dawn-to-dusk driving essential in the
never-ending Outback. The Victorian
coast along the Great Ocean Road is gorgeous; long white beaches, sandstone
cliffs, and roads languidly winding through the forest. The problem is that the
Great Ocean Road attracts many ‘’urban modernists’’ that find anything other
than straight-lines confusing; 60 KMH becomes 20 KMH, break lights gleam
through corners, and turn-out bays for slow-drivers are ignored in favour of a robotic
industrial rigidity that holds everyone back.
Thus, a 300 KM journey took most of the day, and we didn’t arrive in Port Fairy until early in the evening. We pitched a tent in a well-serviced caravan park (caravan parks n Australia are usually pretty high standard with lush grass and free bar-b-ques) and took-off to the local pub for beers and pool.
Day two: Adelaide.
We perhaps drank a little too much on the first night, and I had a restless sleep, so I was tired, grumpy, and thus worried about how well-equipped I was for a full day driving. Still, after a bucket of espresso and some breakfast, I felt a lot better, and the stretch of road from Port Fairy to Adelaide was again gob-smacking with a lot less timorous urban modernists attempting to drive so we covered a lot more kilometres.
The highlights of the day were the township of Robe, and Coorong National Park, a thin strip of coastline with untouched beaches and an abundance of sea-life including Pelicans and giant fibreglass lobsters. We stayed in an Air BB this evening, in a rambling, dilapidated house in a no-where suburb of Adelaide and had a good nights sleep, but I was a little nervous about the long drive ahead to Coober Pedy, the start of the Australian Outback.
Day Three: Coober Pedy
From Adelaide to Coober Pedy is a very long way and fortuitously our eccentric Air BB host gave us a large flask of black coffee, which was effortlessly drunk by the first stop in Port Germein. The road out of Adelaide hugging St Vincent and the Spencer Gulf is pretty grim, a sort of battle between provisional Australian modernity and arid desert flatland. Still, Port Germain had a dignified sense of decline, and the longest pier I have ever seen. And it was beginning to get hot, very hot, a harbinger of the apocalyptic Christmas heat-wave we were driving into.
We arrived in Coober Pedy early in the evening to witness the sun-set over the hotch-potch Opal mining town with the ant hill landscape beyond. Like many hotels and houses in Coober Pedy, our accommodation for the evening was under the ground to escape the Martian heat. Our motel keeper was straight out of Wolf Creek (a reference lost on my Ecuadorian companion). We had to wander around a few dark mine shafts before we found our room, which was literally a hole in the ground. But still, we had a wonderful nights sleep, and I would recommend sleeping in holes to anyone.
Day four: Uluru (Xmas Day)
This was the toughest day of driving as it was the longest distance across the somnambulant plains of the Australian Outback. The highlight of the day was nothing, thousands of kilometres of nothing, the happiest place on earth as there is no need to compare yourself to anyone else (except that Wolf Creek bloke in Coober Pedy, he was a bit scary).
We stopped at a rustic, deserted truck stop for Xmas dinner of ham and salad wrap and a bottle of red. It was apocalyptically hot, around 42 degrees Celsius, but this didn’t seem to matter as our first Outback Xmas was pretty special, a long way from Santa Claus.
We arrived at the Uluru resort early in the evening, pitched a tent, and drove the twenty kilometres to The Rock. Seeing Uluru for the first time is dreamlike; most world icons are pretty banal once packaged by consumers, but not Uluru, there is awe-room for the instrumental tourists as well as everyone else. We got as close as we could and had a picnic of supermarket roast chicken and red wine and met a cute young couple from France and Ireland and watched The Rock change colour at sunset (from bright orange to ochre to brown).
Day five: Uluru
This day was a rest day, at least in terms of driving. We had found ourselves in the middle of an extreme temperature heat-wave in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Thus we were up at 6AM as the temperature was in the 40s Celsius by 11AM (and the park rangers close many of the walking tracks because of the heat). We did the four-hour walk around the rock which was pretty special as there are lots of informative signs about the importance of certain aspects of The Rock to various aboriginal peoples. I particularly liked the way in which climbing The Rock hasn’t been completely banned by the Aboriginal owners, even though it would be easily achieved. It is left to the individual to decide; thus it becomes a reflective choice and ‘virtue ethic’ which is a much more powerful learning experience than merely banning Modernity.
Day six: The Olgas
The Olgas are another weird rock formation close to Uluru. Today was hotter than hell, so we were up early morning to do the Valléy of the Winds walk (or the Valley of heat with no wind walk). I liked the Olgas even more than Uluru, there were fewer people, it was more scruffy, and the few tourists that were there mysteriously knew where to stop on the track; their leash only stretches so far I suppose. We sauntered past them and did the complete Olga circuit with my broken hiking shoe flapping, aggressive blow-flies buzzing, and the big-heat sucking at my body. It was one of the best short walks I have ever done.
In the afternoon when the Venus temperature reached 462 Degrees Celcius, we went to a unimaginative
bar called The Outback and drank beer, played pool and chess, and sat in front
of a giant fan that didn’t help in the slightest.
Day seven: King’s Canyon
The drive to King’s Canyon from Uluru is a long one, about four hours of arid, shrubby land. The Outback is not really a desert, it is dry and scorching, but there are many forests and shrubs and waterholes for animals to quench their thirst. The moving sand-dune type of desert in South America and Africa is quite rare in Australia, with most of the vast interior of Australia covered in sparsely wooded and grassed planes.
We pitched our tent at the King’s Canyon campground that was
virtually deserted; the Outback is too hot for most people this time of
year. We spent the afternoon in the one
and only pub for about 500 KMS and escaped the heat with chess, pool and beer
into the early evening. During the night some Dingos decided to have a
howling-match, metres from our tent (and I wondered if Dingos only take
Day eight: King’s Canyon
Today we woke at the crack of dawn and made our way to King’s Canyon. The circuit walk was challenging in the heat, but spectacular; the track has an initial steep climb and then meanders its way around the canyon edge with rich ochre outcrops of rocks and desperate plants clinging for their life. When it rains, waterfalls cascade into the gorge, which seemed hard to believe in the height of Summer. Deep in the gorge is a long, dissident waterhole that attracts all sorts of in-the-know bird-life whose calls echo on the steep walls of the canyon.
Day nine: Alice Springs
The next day we went to Alice Springs. There was a shorter route to Alice Springs from King’s Canyon, but like many roads in the Northern Territory, it required a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle and our city car may have fallen into a pothole and disappeared. So six hours later we arrived in Alice Springs, to a cute 1970s caravan in the desert about 14 KMS outside of the Alice. The caravan was a welcome reprieve from camping for the past 5 nights (thanks Air BB). In the evening we explored Alice Springs which is an ugly Modern town wrestling with the environment (it is no Palm Springs). Still, it has some pretty good supermarkets and air-conditioned malls where most of the population congregate to escape the heat. We purchased some steak and beer and went back to the caravan and settled in for the evening.
Day ten: Alice Springs (New Year’s Eve)
Today was one of the few days on the trip that didn’t involve driving (or so we thought). Our Air BB host had suggested a water hole for swimming, the fabulous Ellery Creek Big Hole, which ended up being 80 KMs away (a short distance in these parts). The drive to the hole and swimming in it took most of the day, which didn’t seem to matter as the hole was worth the drive and a welcome reprieve from the relentless heat.
In the evening (N.Y.E.) we went to the nasty Lasseters
Casino (only because I had seen it in the movie, Priscilla Queen of the
Desert), and then a cheesy Western Style bar, which was the only two options in
town it seemed. But as we were staying
14 KMS outside of town, we didn’t drink much alcohol, and instead got some
takeaway beer and went back to the caravan which seemed the sensible thing to
do given the hostile appearance of the local constabulary.
Day eleven: Coober Pedy (again)
The drive back home seemed daunting, and for the first two days, we were covering the same territory. But 10 KMS effortlessly turned into 100, and 100 turned into 1000, and before we knew it, we were in the same underground room in the same motel. The same Wolf Creek bloke greeted us, and in the evening, we explored the Mad Max town relishing in the post-apocalyptic future.
Day twelve: Laura
The road from Coober Pedy to somewhere else is tough; it is
flat, dull, with few distractions except for moments of lucid self-reflection (and
But if there was one thing that made the long-drive home worth it, it was the pleasant town of Laura in South Australia. It has a grand, broad, and laconic main street straddled by shops in various degrees of decline. We stayed in a stately old stone house with tastefully decorated rooms (and air-conditioning). We bought a bottle of wine from the local pub, some fish from the supermarket, and cooked up a feast. This was the first genuinely comfortable place we had stayed in the whole journey (again, thanks Air BB).
Day thirteen: Dimboola
The drive from Laura to Dimboola was a leisurely one, the B-roads along the Clare Valley are winding and uneven, passing through many towns with slow speed limits (and places to buy coffee and cakes). It took most of the day to get to an A road and back into Victoria.
We arrived into Dimboola in the Wimmera region of Victoria early evening and pitched a tent under a tree and a noisy flock of cockatoos near the Wimmera River. We then sauntered to the legendary Victoria Hotel. This vast expanse of Victorian splendor has an overly friendly front bar and a dining room in the rear along with a warren of rooms bursting with Victorian bling. It has a huge veranda overlooking the town claiming its place as the most essential institution for miles around.
We had a shepherds pie with chips and salad and a beer or
two or three before we made it back to the cockatoos.
Day fourteen: Fitzroy
The last three or four hours back to Fitzroy were tough as I was tired and the driving had lost its adventure. It was an A to B sort of a drive, instrumentalism again wasting my time. We arrived back home to Fitzroy (the centre of Australia) in mid-afternoon.
Overall, it was a great introductory adventure to the Outback, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes litres of coffee, and I am looking forward to driving the Oonadatta Track or Birdsville tracks one day soon.