A road trip in any country can be a great adventure, and Australia is no exception. For starters, we have a heck of a lot of road for the number of people here, and the distances are really quite substantial. For example, in my recent trip to Canberra I covered over 1400km, around Canberra (only around 20-30km) and back to my home in the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. At that’s about the closest city to Melbourne not in Victoria.
So. How does one go about preparing for a road trip in Australia? What do you need to take? What do you need to be prepared for?
Think about the weather.
Firstly, the weather could well be the most important factor. If you are driving in the Australian summer well, you needs heaps of water, and if possible an air conditioner. If it’s 40 degrees or more no air conditioning is going to be a major bummer pretty quickly. You’ll actually want to think about covering your arms as I have been badly sunburnt before because my arm was in direct sunlight in summer. And that was just driving around Melbourne.
You are going to need sunglasses as well, and lots and lots of water for your car in case of emergency. Make sure the car is running well because they don’t do so well in heat (again, from experience). Keep your eye on that temperature dial and if it starts to go up, pull over, let it cool down and then check the water in the radiator. I once did a trip where I needed to do this every twenty minutes as the thing was about to explode! Saved myself from having to replace the head gasket for a second time though.
Also, summer means wet season in northern Australia, which can mean storms, cyclones and flash floods. Always keep abreast of the weather and what’s happening from your departure point to your destination.
In summer especially, spiders and snakes and all many of creepy crawlies come out. This is particularly relevant in those roadside rest stops that you’ll need to use from time to time. Don’t just go off into the bush (‘forest’) for a pee without being extra careful. Making a lot of noise can actually be a good idea, snakes don’t like noise.
Also, whatever time of year you are on the roads, be ready for something to run out onto the road or indeed hop in front of your car. Didn’t happen to me this time (touchwood) but I passed so many dead animals in New South Wales it was so sad, especially kangaroos. If you hit a big kangaroo, well, let’s say the kangaroo might end up in better condition than your car.
Have at Least Two Drivers if you can.
Can’t say that we did, as my wife doesn’t drive, but it would have been nice. All along highways in Australia you will see signs warning about falling asleep at the wheel, and ‘micronaps’, that’s when you close your eyes for a second or a few, without intending to. It’s a very real killer on Australian roads, because unwittingly falling asleep obviously can lead to accidents. I felt myself heading that way at one point, and it scared the life out of me. Rest stops are so important, and if you have two or more drivers, one can get a bit of rest as the other drives.
Work out where your next Petrol (Gas) stop is.
A hugely important thing in Australia, because distances can be so great between stops, you need to keep this in my mind. In the journey between Canberra and Melbourne, it’s not such a big deal, however, I had decided to get some petrol at one point before the tank started getting really low, at our lunch stop. It was in a town after all. Well, no petrol station there! Crikey! Not to worry, we found one 20-30 kilometres down the road. But if you’re heading to the ‘outback’, petrol stations are much less frequent!
Take a GPS device
This was my first travel really using GPS, I bought a TomTom the week before. It was brilliant. It also warned me about traffic cameras (lots of them in Australia) and also had petrol stations marked on the thing too. Considering Canberra was an unfamiliar and complicated town with lots of looping roads, it was invaluable there. Also, not having to really think about the route was a great weight off my mind, and when I misread the thing it could correct me really quickly too.
It goes without saying you need music to get you through a long drive. I had my ipod with 2000+ tracks. Perfect!
Have I forgotten anything? Anything that’s essential for a road trip in Australia? Please comment below!
Oh, and May the Journey Never End!