Outback Roadtrip 101
Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Ah, the Australian outback. A vast stretch of amazing landscape, desert, lakes, structures and hundreds of isolated villages. Unreal, like nothing you will ever see or experience, a completely different world and lifestyle and probably one of the most naively interpreted area's of Australia. Forget about the
big, scary, poisonous snakes and spiders that you'll find out here (being honest I didn't see much in my 4 months of work), the heat alone can kill you. The outback is an awesome place, and with a little bit of brain power and some small adjustments to fellow backpacker's daily routines, it can be a sweet and safe roadtrip.
I am no genius or 'outback expert', but living in Marree for 4 months opened my eyes to little things I would never have considered a real danger. So sit back and let me tell you just a few tips and tricks I'd adopt before heading off on your outback roadtrip.
When to do your trip
Avoid the summer months at all costs, the outback is f***ing toastie! During February it was hitting 45-49 degrees consistantly. With that kind of strong heat you can't do much but sit in an air-conditioned room and melt. The sun heat takes it out of you. March - April is normally a nice heat, after that it starts getting cold. Depending on what you find comfortable I'd recommend travelling between the months of March and October. Be mindful that when I say cold, I mean single digits, if not below freezing at night! Get your car checked out before hand
It is super important to get your vehicle checked out before embarking on your trip. If your car hasn't been serviced in a while, I'd highly recommend getting this done. Nobody wants to find out their engines conked in the middle of the Simpson Desert. Let your mechanic know your plans and make sure you're all safe to head off.
Keep in touch with someone and let them know where you're going Okay guys I can't stress this one enough. Think 127 hours. That's a very extreme version obviously, but seriously this one could save your life. Whether it's your family, a friend or even a shop owners in the last town you stopped in, let them know where you're going and where you'll be. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, you can't always rely on passers by and mobile phone reception. Unless you have a SAT phone, mobiles are as good as useless throughout most of the remote areas of Australia. Passers by are just about as likely as a pig flying. Yep, ok that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but they are rare. So text all your friend and family and give them your itinerary, that way if they don't hear from you they know your movements.
Bring plenty of water
An obvious one? Maybe, but you'd be surprised how little water people choose to carry on their adventure. My advice would be to get a few large (5-10L) tanks to fill with fresh water. A lot of outback communities don't provide drinking water for free, as it's a precious resource (at the hotel we collect rain water due to the tap water being unsuitable for consumption). On hot days your water will disappear quicker than you think. Never leave your car if you break down
Unless you can physically see a town a couple of hundred yards away, never leave your vehicle. People are 10x more likely to see a big blue 4WD than a tiny little human. If you do break , try and stay shaded and cool, drink plenty water and stay by your vehicle!
Stop and help your fellow travellers, Wolf Creek is a fucking movie! The amount of young travellers who came through and informed us of a broken down vehicle, 'they didn't stop because they've been told it's dangerous'...I mean oh my god, CMON PEOPLE! Wolf Creek was a movie! Please, if you see a car in need of assistance, stop and offer it. Maybe you won't be able to help, maybe you will. Think of it this way, you could be the only people to see them, so make it your duty to try and help.
You MUST have a 4WD Don't try and do your trip in a Fiat 500, it won't work. Pick a sturdy 4WD vehicle that's reliable and actually works. It'll make your trip a lot smoother (literally). Adjust your driving
Driving on a dirt track isn't like driving on a sealed road. Adjust your driving and be sensible. Take corners slowly, and generally drive at a slower pace. Avoid driving at night, the Roos, emus and cattle will make your journey VERY slow. Be prepared.
Speak to the locals
They have most likely lived in the area for a long time, or at least know a fair bit about it. Speak to the locals and get a feel for the area you are in, and where you will be travelling. You may even learn about some cool pit-stops that aren't on the map. Ask questions and get advice, you will find they are happy to help!
Keep an eye on road conditions
Be mindful that even the tiniest bit of water can close an outback road. It doesn't take much to make a long drive out there dangerous, so be sure to respect the road signs. If you're struggling to find if your route is open, check online or in your local pub/roadhouse where they will more than likely be pinned up.
Last but not least, Do your research!
Before heading off, do some research on the track you're doing and the area you're heading. Do not go for a difficult off-road route if you've never done any off-roading before - thats just dumb! Keep to your skill set and learn about the area. Be respectful of the locals and sacred land, this isn't a playground. Keep to the track and stay safe.
All in all, be prepared. Venturing into the outback is fun and exciting, but don't forget the dangers of it too. Take it easy and enjoy yourself!
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