We left Laverton on the second day at 6.45 am. The sealed road turned to dirt about ten kilometres in and from there on, it was a matter of picking your line and driving fast enough to skim over the corrugations. When it comes to driving over rough roads actions can be counter-intuitive: the road gets very rough so you slow down. You should really speed up so that your vehicle doesn’t crash down into the down area of the corrugation. It feels a little bit scary going faster when conditions make you want to take it easy but the wear and tear on your vehicle (and your nerves) is so much lessened by adopting this approach.
Of course, this only works if the corrugations are regular and even; once other bed surfaces of the track appear, all bets are off. Other surfaces can include stony outcroppings, thick dust or slidey mud, just to name a few. You are constantly looking for changes in front of you, and nerve trigger ready to react defensively; all this pre-planning concentration tends to drain you.
We stopped at every roadhouse along the way to replenish our fuel. In this sort of remote country you can go hundreds of kilometres without seeing any other person: every official guide emphasizes the importance of carrying your own food, water and fuel so that you can be self-sufficient and hopefully survive long enough to be rescued if there is a problem. I’ve lived in, and grown up at, some really remote towns and I learned these basics before I was even into double figures. I also know a lot about remote living and making do.
The husband has sort of done the same thing but in an opposite way: his dire situation survival scenarios involve being stuck in extreme cold situations for long periods of time. He has lived in Australia for a long time now and I think he might be able to survive in the reverse situation because a lot of factors of cold/hot extreme situations have a common denominator.
We carried a small extra fuel container (only fuelled up at the fuel stops that sold OPAL fuel; this is a reduced aromatic unleaded that is subsidised by the government in order to reduce the serious health risks of petrol sniffing in remote communities) for unexpected detours and a very large filled water container. We had some basic food items but I mostly didn’t bother with things to eat: it takes three weeks to starve and I was fairly confident we would be rescued before that. People knew where we were going and when we were supposed to turn up. Short of carrying an EPIRB, we provided for ourselves. Even if something dire happened, help would come along within the first 48 hours.
The most important common denominator is having your transport in a workable condition. Our car had been serviced just a week before. New tires had been put on. We (Wayne) installed a new battery. We carried a jumpstart battery kit and a tire re-compression tool.
Second most important thing is to know where you are going. Once you drive off tarmac, there are a myriad of offroad tracks to beguile you. Most often the one with the biggest indentations is where you want to go but you can’t be sure because there are limited signposts. You bring along a heap of maps. You also work out, pre-trip, approximately how many hours it would take you to get to a particular spot. You have the shotgun seat person constantly checking your map against road distinguishing parts and ticking off points that you are sure you have passed. Unfortunately, distance travelled according to speedometer, and the frantically calculating map reading sidekick, almost always differs from the map claim AND the actual signs on the road.
A lot of people driving in Australia underestimate the huge distances between points of interest and are then surprised and aggrieved when they are faced with the reality. We knew how far and how many hours driving and how to change our end of day expectations to a more realistic outcome.
For example, day two of end-of-day driving was supposed to take us to Drover River campsite, five kms inside the NT border. The road guide gave it an Aces Up! review for beauty and remote camping ability. We drove in there after a thirteen hour day and the notice on the unmanned campsite board said that some lowlives had stolen the solar panels that worked to pump the water to the (usually flushing) toilets and showers. The note then asked us not to use the toilets unless we had water to spare or already had travelled to the community to obtain said water. Otherwise, the alternative was digging a hole and reducing TP impact.
End result of this situation was toilet sheds full of excrement and toilet paper all around the site. Needless to say, we pushed on to Yulara, which is the fancy resort at uluru. Cheapest room in the place was $304: luckily, i mentioned I was working as a guide out of Alice and they gave me a sizeable discount. It should all be tax deductable, anyway.
(Incidentally, excuse the on the road typing. I am trying to catch up with a tiny bit of signal at Yulara).