3,000 miles of wine, road and memories.
The longest straight road in Australia, 90 miles, lay in front of me. Hundreds of miles of blacktop already stretched behind. The man made cuts of the highway stood in stark contrast to the otherwise undisturbed red dusty earth. Normally the air would be impossibly hot, but this was winter down under. The temperature was agreeable during the day, the night was downright cold. On this, my first visit to Australia, I had already dove the Great Barrier Reef and explored the Gold Coast south of Brisbane. The last and biggest adventure was the 3,000 miles from coast to coast.
My family, Dan a good friend and I all flew in to Perth from Brisbane to get the journey started. Looking out of the window of the plane at the vast expanse of the empty interior was sobering. I’d be down there in the middle of this alone in a few days. What fun. We rented an RV that was big enough for five people but not so big as to be unwieldy as we navigated the few towns we would hit along the way. Before we got started back east, we decided to take an unplanned detour and spend a half day driving north to see and photograph the Pinnacles. A vast area of rock formations jutting straight up out of the earth. This area, set along the coast, was something to behold. With enough pictures of rocks for one lifetime we turned south and headed to wine country.
Heading to Australia’s western wine country is not the most direct route back to Sydney but think about it. After hours of driving across vast expanses of emptiness don’t you think a couple of great bottles of Australian wine would be a great treat? Of course it would. That’s why we stocked up with a few cases. Room got tight but we found nooks in the RV where we could stash a bottle or two. It’s possible a few bottles are still hidden that we forgot about.
With the fun of wine tasting behind us and the RV full of food, beer and wine we finally headed east. To put the drive into perspective our drive was the same as driving from San Francisco to New York City. About 3,000 miles. The difference is the number of hotels, restaurants and gas station between the two points. In the outback there is nothing. When you run across a gas station, you stop. You never pass the chance to top off your fuel.
Crossing the Nullarbor area was a highlight. As the name intimates there are no (Null) trees (Arbor) out here. Or at least very few. The roads are all but straight and you can go hours without seeing another car. While we were in this stretch of the drive, Dan my son and I jumped out and went for a run. We ran the road leaving the RV behind for my wife to drive. You should have seen the eyes of the driver of the two cars that passed us heading west. They didn’t know what to think. As they didn’t see any supporting vehicles they were perplexed at what the hell we were doing. Interestingly, however, nobody every stopped to ask if we need help. Strange.
Although the drive across this vast expanse of wild country may seem boring, I was let down when we finished it. I didn’t want the alone in the wilderness feeling to end. Just as you leave the Nullarbor region you come across the Head of the Bight. This area is one of the finest whale watching areas July to October. Though it is still very remote when we reached it we felt as if we had returned to civilization. The cliffs are spectacular, reminding me of the Cliffs of Dover without the white chalk.
Our continueing journey took us south towards Adelaide as we took a few day detour to visit Kangaroo Island. With that stop behind us we cut directly across New South Wales skirting Canberra and making our way to Sydney. This drive can be done in around 3 days if we put your mind to it. We took our time and did it in just under two and half weeks. A much more civilized pace.
We were happy to drive into Sydney and see the harbor but we also knew that this was not just the end of our drive but the end of our trip to Australia. If you have the chance to visit Australia, I implore upon you not to just stick to the cities. Get out into the countryside and then strike out even deeper into the Outback. It is unlike anything you will ever experience.