The Australian outback is one of the world’s most desolate yet beautiful wonder’s and has become the traditional backdrop to life in Australia through the eyes of the rest of the world.
Taking time to travel through the outback when visiting Australia is a must, but its magnificent views and landmarks hide a treacherous world that can be fraught with danger for the unknowing and unprepared traveller. So here I’ve listed the top 5 things to keep in mind the next time you pack your car and tackle the Australian outback.
1. It is big. And I mean REALLY big.
A large portion of Australia’s landmass is classed as rural outback and whilst a lot of the land is used for farming and mining, there is also a whole lot of nothing. There are many ways a traveller can tackle the outback but perhaps the two most popular are the Adelaide to Darwin and Adelaide to Perth route. The first is a vertical route straight through the dusty heart of the country and in its entirety stretches for over 3000km. The second is across the completely barren Nullabor plain and is slightly shorter at 2,550km. Both routes have their own scenic advantages but their immense distance cannot be underestimated, even by Australian standards, a road trip through the outback is a big endeavour.
2. Allow enough time Due to the distance
Many tourists are unaware of exactly how long it can take to do either of the main outback routes. Having taken two weeks return to do that Adelaide to Darwin route myself, I can vouch for how much of a feat it is. Even if you are stretched for time try not to commit yourself to more than 5 or 6 hours of driving each day. Any more and you will get tired which could impend on your driving skills and you will end up missing most of the scenery that you drove into the outback to see in the first place. If you are wanting to stop at the tourist sites along the way (and you will need at least a full day at Ayres Rock) allow for at least 4 days to get to Darwin. Keep in mind that a lot of the top tourist spots are also quite a bit off the main highway, and these apparent “short” detours can eat into your travelling time and put you behind if you find yourself on a deadline. Moral is: try to have a flexible schedule if possible.
3. Watch out for wildlife
Because 90% of the outback is so sparsely populated, a large amount of native wildlife roam around after being pushed out of the more heavily populated coastal regions. It is not uncommon to come across a gathering of kangaroos, camels, emus or dingoes on the side of the road – or in fact on the road itself. Luckily, due to the lack of roadside trees or buildings it is fairly easy to spot one coming along the flat horizon. If you come across an animal, or animals, blocking the road don’t panic. The best thing to do is wait for them to move, or try to go off the road a little to avoid them (be careful if you are not in a 4WD enabled car as this could cause some bogging issues!). If you must, a short beep of the horn will normally be enough to move them on, but you will see how nonchalant they are about being in the way; remember you are invading on their territory.
4. Pack spare everything
If you forget something on your outback road trip there is no supermarket that you can just pop down to so it is very important to pack smart. There will be a petrol station in every major (and minor) town along the way but if you take a little detour off the main highway you may find that when you get back on it again, you will run out of petrol before you reach the next town. So always carry a spare petrol tank and keep it full. Same goes for water and oil and anything else you might need for your vehicle. It is also a good idea to pack a cooler bag to keep any food items cool, as even in the winter it can reach mid 30′s during the day, which could very quickly spoil your milk and your trip if you are not careful. Despite the often hot temperatures during the day, the nights in the desert are freezing so pack a range of clothes and be prepared to be constantly changing!
5. Appreciate the outback for what it is
The outback is not supposed to be a luxury road trip. There is nowhere you can stop to have a mud spa or your nails done, in fact there are barely any places to stop to buy bread and water. There is not a lot of phone or television reception but it is the perfect chance to escape the rat race and just be one with the landscape. You could go a whole day without meeting a single soul and hours and hours without passing any other cars. But it is the isolation of the outback that has thousands of international tourists spellbound every single year. The scenery is so untouched and with the native flora and fauna right outside your tent, there is no need to go hunting for the best outback experience: it will come to you.
For more information on planning your next Australian outback adventure visit http://www.outbacknow.com.au/