Melbourne we set off driving west through Geelong onto the famous Great Ocean Road, which has some of the most amazing beaches and surf I've ever seen. The Twelve Apostles, which are spectacular limestone stacks along the shoreline, were a welcome excuse to stop and admire; although the best way to see these is probably by helicopter but our budget wasn't that rich. We also stopped at Port Fairy, with its historic buildings dating back to the 1840s, and took a very pleasant boat tour round the bay.
Having heard about The Grampians National Park and its awesome scenery including Mackenzie Falls, The Balconies, and various other lookouts we decided to leave the coast and head due north. There were dozens of them just eating away at the roadside grass. Insects are everywhere but that's expected and not so much a problem once you figure out what prevention measures best suit you; for me it's plenty vitamin B and copious amounts of Aero guard spray.
After a few essential camping equipment purchases we drove north through the Clare Valley stopping at four or five vineyards on the way. Our hilltop camp in Mount Remarkable National Park afforded us one of the finest sunsets I had ever seen, with the moon up before the sun was fully set.
We then loaded up with water and fuel at Port Augusta before following the Stuart Highway north to Coober Pedy, famous for its opal mining and eccentric characters that have been digging holes in the desert for as long as they can remember. We stayed the night in an underground campsite, completely equipped, even down to the red back spider in the TV room/cave. We took a tour of an old opal mine and learnt quite a bit, any thoughts of striking it rich overnight being rather deflated in the process.
We also enjoyed the next day's sunrise at Uluru, then climbed it, then walked 8km around the Olgas - quite an exhausting day under the Red Centre sun! Focusing as I am on the stops does not really convey the experience of a campervan road trip such as this. We drove literally thousands of kilometers, experienced wind that reminded me of an oven door being opened, paid nearly double the usual petrol prices, stopping at the highway's occasional roadhouses it is hard to convey the sense of freedom and exhilaration that is found on the open road in 'The Outback"
Retracing our steps back down the Stuart Highway, we set off again from Port Augusta heading west this time across the Null arbor Plain, surely one of the bleakest straight roads in the continent. We cut across the top of the Eyre Peninsula and camped in dunes by Streaky Bay. I went wading and collected shellfish bait for the people with fishing rods, one of whom promptly caught a two-foot fish, which we then cooked over the open fire. We also stopped off for lunch at Point Sinclair where the desert meets the sea. I enjoyed some great snorkeling off the pier, although I must admit I did find myself checking over my shoulder frequently, having been told by a local of the number of great white shark attacks that occurred the previous summer.
Once we reached the other side of the Null arbor, we followed the coast to Esperance, Albany, Margaret River all the way round to Perth. Some highlights of Western Australia include; a Tree Top Walk through the forest, a 61m vertical climb into a fire lookout tower, snorkeling with a stingray, a cave walk and several wine tasting tours.
My impression of Perth is all positive; it has very chilled out, spacious, unpolluted, sunny, and is close to some awesome beaches. The plan is to continue 'over the top' of Australia once the coffers have been replenished and before the wet arrives.
The best way to experience The Outback is to hire a campervan or even buy a motor home as you can then resell once your road trip of a lifetime is completed.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013