With just over a week since we returned from our three month trip, I now have a chance to look back on our adventure and to share some of my reflections with you. It is a strange feeling being back to a normal routine (well, as normal as Covid permits) and certainly not easy to settle down.
The main tasks during the week were cleaning the car and trailer of the red dust that seems to have penetrated the deepest corners of everything – I guess it will take some time to find it all and probably never be able to get things 100% clean.
The most obvious change that has happened in my absence is that the great view I had of Mount Macedon has now been obstructed by the construction of two two-storey houses. While away, I had grown used to the wide open spaces and clear views of the sky and landscape, so this loss is doubly difficult.
However, it is great to catch up with everyone and to start thinking about the next trip!
The first two weeks of our trip really did not seem like we were on holiday – we spent most of the time planning and changing our route, applying for border permits and driving more kilometres than we intended. It was only after we came out of isolation in Kununurra that we started to relax and settle into holiday mode.
We were very fortunate with our timing. Knowing that we had to have been out of Victoria for fourteen days to get into WA, we crossed the NT/WA border within a very short window of opportunity. One day earlier and we would not have able to cross due to the isolation requirements and two days later, the border was closed.
Of course, the timing of the whole trip was perfect as we avoided the worst of the cold Victorian winter and the un-anticipated lockdowns.
Coming home we delayed our return by five days in anticipation that the Victorian regional lockdown would be lifted. As it happened it was extended by a week, but this did not impact us greatly as we had much to do. Having returned to Victoria, the big unknown is now when we will be able to travel inter-state again.
With the number of kilometres we covered (see below), we inevitably experienced a wide variety of road surfaces and conditions. As a guess, I reckon about 50% of the roads were gravel.
The worst gravel road was, not unexpectedly, the Kalumburu Road that leads to the Mitchell Plateau. It was so bad that we turned round after 20km and missed out on the Mitchell Falls. We decided that driving the road was not worth the stress on us, the wagon and the trailer.
The Gibb River Road was mixed, with a very smooth 20km section to the east of Imintji. However, the access roads to the gorges were in a shocking condition. Considering that the gorges are major tourist attractions, there didn’t appear to be much happening to maintain them. The worst of these was the track into Adcock Gorge – it was as ‘off-road’ as you can get (and we were towing the trailer!).
The very best of the gravel roads were the back roads throughout the WA Wheat Belt – they were wide and as smooth as the best freeway with little to no traffic. They were a pleasure to drive on.
Some of the bitumen roads were in very poor condition, particularly the road from Adelaide across the border and others excellent, such as the newly sealed road to Cape Leveque.
Even in the more populated towns down the west coast, mobile phone and internet services were very poor. There were many occasions that I had four bars of 4G, but the internet speed was dead slow. This made forward planning and selection of campgrounds rather challenging. WikiCamps is great, but only if you have access to the internet. So, our copy of Camps 11 was our bible for planning campgrounds and route planning.
The poor mobile services also made it difficult to take on even the simplest of work related tasks which both of us had to do occasionally – when we were able to do this was dictated by service availability rather than frame of mind.
I know I regularly complained about the wind as we progressed down the west coast, but, on reflection, we were blessed with the weather. We only had three days with rain showers. Yes, the wind caused us problems, but not to the extent that we were totally inconvenienced.
Had we known earlier about delaying our return, we would have stayed in the slightly warmer climate further north – some of the nights along the Nullarbor were very cold!
The GPS served us reasonably well for finding campgrounds, although it had a tendency to take us on routes with more left and right hand turns than was necessary. When we had internet access we always cross referred the routes with the Maps app on my phone. This worked fine until the very last campground at Mt Remarkable. The GPS took us on a route that ended at a track that prohibited trailers and caravans and did not even connect with the campground. This cost us one and a half hours and an extra 120 km of driving.
It was also useless at estimating journey times (nearly 9 hours to drive 122 km – really??)
Here are some of the trip statistics:
91 Nights away
85 Nights spent under canvas
44 Camper trailer set ups
19,421 Kilometres driven
2,794 Fuel used (lt)
734 Longest one day drive (km) (Barkly Homestead to Mataranka)
3180 Photographs and videos taken (Martin)
8 My weight lost (Kg)
There were quite a few occasions when we felt we needed more time to explore the places we visited. We had a quite a few one night stop overs and a small number of four to five night stays. On reflection, these longer stays gave us the time to explore and relax. In view of this, the trip would have been more comfortable spread over six months. However, we have ended up with a long list of amazing places we would like to return to and spend time at. Inspiration for planning our next trip!