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Miles & Smiles Away – A Road Trip Across Australia

Event Managers get asked all sorts of random questions you know? And being a bit quirky myself, I’m rarely fazed, you want a giant igloo in the middle of your wedding reception, ‘no problem’, you want life sized elephant cut-outs at each table, ‘of course’, you want fireworks, African drumming circles and a smoking ceremony to bless the building, ‘ALL over that!’ But even I was a little dazed when the boss asked if I’d take a week away from the desk to drive some precious cargo to the other side of Australia and then fly back home from Perth. “Are you up for a road trip across Australia?” he asked. “Is the Pope Catholic?” I answered. Dah, of course I was!!!

A fave colleague was assigned to make the journey with me, together we poured over Google maps and attempted to make our Thelma & Louise adventure (without any of that cliff business at the end) as fun and memorable as could be.

Australia is big, like really big! My numb butt from the hours logged in the car can attest to this fact, and it’s hard to wrap up this awesome road trip across Australia with just one post. Being born and bred Aussie, I really hadn’t put too much thought into just how massive, exotic and brilliant my country is until now.

I grew up in the outback and to me, Indigenous culture, art and unusual contemporary forms were easily accessible. Uluru was just another bloody big rock in the middle of nowhere and dingo’s, kangaroos and wombats were normal.

But after crossing 2 of Australia’s monster states, 3 time zones and checking out the world’s largest limestone coastal shelf that covers 200 nautical miles, this road trip across Australia turned into a rite of passage and my very own quintessential experience in the Australian Outback.

Driving away from Canberra, we slowly faded from suburban civilization to nothingness.

It was crazy how the road was soon surrounded by nothing but grasslands and trees and hundreds of kilometers with very few turns or bends. Vast featureless plains, a repetitive landscape with grey spinifex grass as far as the eye can see, and towns every other hour with a bright splash of colour from the canola fields to jazz things up a bit.

Wow, it left me feeling like a kid in a candy shop, so crazy blessed to live in “the lucky country”.

They say things seem to slow down outback and it’s true, but we hadn’t quiet adjusted from our fast paced lives when we finally arrived at the South Australia-Western Australia border where guess what? They’ve got a town called Border Village!

Be prepared for a slow, outback kind of welcome when stopping at Border Village, checking in was a painfully slow, yet rather a hilarious experience too.

When asked ‘do you have a car?’ I mean seriously, how else does one get there, but replied ‘yes I do have a car’, which added a solid 20 minutes of confusion. I thought I’d purchase a bottle of water, but that sent the system into overdrive resulting in 4 staff members fumbling about, and a broken scanner.

30 minutes later, I was in possession of a key to my rickety accommodation and finally sipping my liquid gold, $16.00 for a 1lt bottle of water is a bit rich, but I wanted to catch the sunset and checking in turned out to be thirsty business, so I wore that one.

We took photos of big “Rooey II” – a kangaroo statue of course, and caught a glimpse of one of the holes on “The World’s Longest Golf Course”. Yep, 18 holes scattered across various towns along the Nullarbor. I got my travel bucket list tick on big time on this road trip.

Crossing through the mandatory state border quarantine stations where your car is sifted through with a fine tooth comb is a highlight (no fruits, seeds or vegetables can pass the state lines, honey isn’t allowed either).

Pretty much all this travel across Australia meant jumping through crazy time zones. We drove back a half hour into SA, then back an hour through the first part of WA, to finally arriving on standard WA time, 2 hours behind Canberra. Confused? Me too.

Australia’s longest straight road, the 90 Mile Straight (146.6km) is much more memorable once you’ve driven it, or so it feels at the time, but The Nullarbor is way more than just a long dusty drive from A to B. It’s uniquely Australian and sits quietly amidst a magnificent and sometimes rugged coastline, to remote roadhouses and an amazingly big sky, but mostly it’s an opportunity to be truly alone. I say everyone should experience the treeless (Null = none, arbor = tree) plain at least once in their life.

Like most of the trip, I felt it went faster and easier than expected. Everyone who heard I was doing this epic driving adventure across Australia thought I’d die of boredom, but it was a lot less isolated and desolate feeling than I’d anticipated. There are “towns” every hour or two along the road (though these generally are the kind that are a population of 10 and consist of a combination petrol station, restaurant/take away, small shop, motel/camping all in one sort of enterprise, and of course another hole on “that golf course”) and you don’t tend to go too long without passing another car or road train to mix things up a bit. But, I’m still a bit confused by the number of cyclists. #crazierthanacoconut those cyclists!

I’d love to know, when was the last time you were miles & smiles away from home? And can you tick ‘road trip across Australia’ off your travel bucket list?

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