Sunday, 5:02 a.m. Nullarbor Campsite
It’s about an hour before daybreak. I’m at a campsite deep in the Australian Outback in a region called the Nullarbor Plain. I’m having my 1st cup of coffee made on the camp stove that I purchased in Fremantle. As soon as it turns light I’ll continue my drive eastward along the Eyre Highway towards Port Augusta, South Australia, where I will head north along the Stuart Highway towards my current destination- Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Today will be my 3rd full day of hard driving, having left Fremantle on Friday morning at 6 a.m. Port Augusta is about 700 kilometers from this camp, and I expect to reach her by late afternoon. From there it will be a short 6-hour drive north to Coober Pedy, and then another 7-hour drive on Tuesday to Alice Springs. “Alice” is right in the middle of the Outback, so when I get there I’ll be about half-way across Australia. This is a big country.
Driving at night is out of the question because of: a) fatigue, and b) kangaroos, camels & emus crossing the road. I’ve already seen several hundred kangaroos along this road, but no live ones yet- all road kill. There’s also a C)- my vision has gotten so bad that for night driving I’m as big a hazard as the roos. (all the more reason for me to undertake this trip now, rather than later)
Descriptions of the Outback as being desolate and unforgiving do not do justice to the awesome danger of this place. Just like the ocean, this place wants to kill you, only instead of wild storms with 30-foot waves and sharks, here in the Outback it is the intense sun and the lack of shade or water, and poisonous snakes and deadly spiders. At each remote roadhouse along the way you can find photos of the snakes that have recently been spotted (and survived) posted as heartfelt warnings that you would do well to heed. The blow flies won’t kill you, but they will come close to convincing you to kill yourself. God damned blow flies.
You can drive along the endless Eyre Highway, or the equally endless Stuart Highway at mid-day without passing another vehicle for more than an hour- that’s how many of us are out here. Further, you can drive down the highway all day long without passing any sign of humans, save for the road you are on and the sparsely spaced roadhouses. The roadhouses can overcharge for fuel because just before you reach the roadhouse there will be a sign informing you that the next roadhouse is 250 kilometers further on. There are no cross roads, because to the left and right there is nothing to drive to, certainly no towns, no remote ranch houses, only thousands of miles of desert. There are, according to the books I’ve been reading, hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of the Australian Outback that are still uncharted, in the 21st Century!
OK, sun’s up- let’s get moving.