I recently drove from Sydney to Perth. It was hot and dusty and the distances are intimidating. There were wildlife hazards, plagues of flies and sections of road reminiscent of Kazakhstan.
Here are some observations, and tips; for those planning this epic drive.
I left Sydney at 5am, and made good time, tag-free; on the toll roads. I needed to take out a personal loan for the unpaid tolls and speeding fines, but it was worth it.
The Blue Mountains are pretty, but slow going.
Orange is the nicest rural town in NSW. It is also the only town that is a colour and a fruit.
Tip 1: Do not drive with a coffee until you are certain there are no mice in the car.
George, my Sydney mouse companion, ran across my feet just outside Dubbo. I shrieked like a cheerleader and poured coffee down my shorts. It was a near thing, but we both survived, and George now lives in a wine carton, in a garage in Fremantle.
I met this Irishman at a sun-blasted stop on the Barrier Highway. He filled the jeep with fuel for me, like back in South Africa, so I tipped him. He cackled and showed his yellow fangs. ‘We don’t do that out here!’ he said. ‘Oh, ok...’ I replied, and we had one of those awkward, silence-filled conversations unique to back-country places.
Tip 2: Unless you are bored or drunk, don’t ask yellow-toothed locals ‘So, how long have you been here?’
‘Sooo, how long have you been here?’
I asked. ‘Came out from Ireland 40 years ago’ he began. A furnace-hot wind blew, and the dust swirled as I flapped at the flies. I know not how long we stood there, but I was about to slip into a coma when he finally spread his arms and declared, ‘Best move I ever made!’
Wow, I thought, things must have been rough in Ireland 40 years ago!
Still, somebody has to man the pumps out there.
That afternoon of driving lasted three days, but eventually I limped into Broken Hill. It felt broken. I was exhausted and ready for bed, so of course I hit the town.
Tip 3: When drinking in Broken Hill, never say, ‘Can I get a Vodka, lime and soda? In a tall glass...No, no, not lime cordial, fresh lime please!’ Just have a beer.
After an eventful evening, involving an impromptu dance with a well-rounded, elderly local lady in leopard-print tights, an in-depth discussion on the pronunciation of ‘Weber’, and a brief scuffle; I returned to my camp site. My own mini-Weber was quite the attraction, especially when the flames caught on the bone-dry eucalypt overhead.
Some of the abuse I copped from my fellow campers was really uncalled for, but then I was quite, quite drunk.
Tip 4: When driving from Sydney to Perth, don’t get drunk in Broken Hill.
I left early the next morning, despite feeling like I had a 9-inch nail driven through each eyeball. By PortAugusta, I was feeling better, although somewhat drowsy.
I giggled as I drove past that town called ‘Iron Knob’. I had a restful sleep just outside Ceduna. Which was naughty of me - I was doing 100kmh at the time.
Tip 5:Don’t listen to Leonard Cohen whilst driving across the Eyre Peninsula.
I joined some locals for a drink at the revamped Ceduna foreshore hotel. They seemed intimidated by their trendy new bar and confused by my designer clothes, and the fact that I had all my own teeth.
To reassure them, I ordered a Bundy and talked of burnouts and road kill. It developed into a knees-up, but I do recall the whiting being delicious, and that the barman’s name was ‘Robbo’.
Tip 6:When driving from Sydney to Perth, don’t get drunk in Ceduna.
I manfully hit the road early again, this time feeling like I had taken a bullet between the eyes.
The remainder of the trip was excruciatingly long and tiring, so there are really no more tips, you just have to get through it.
Oh, hang on...
Tip 7:When feeling drowsy, sticking your head out the window helps wake you up.
That reminds me, a bug hit me in the eye near Norseman. Our combined speed at the time was 115kmh.
Actually, it may have been a bird, so...
Keep your sunglasses on for Tip 7.
In summary, it is an adventure worth doing - once. The drive takes from 2.5 to 6 days, depending on your regard for speed limits, drinking habits, and if you can get some of the gear the truckies use.