Being an Aussie in a foreign country is hard. When introducing myself to any non-Aussies I meet along my adventures, 9 times out of 10 and the (naturally) well-travelled German will ask what I think of Australia’s list of natural wonders. Alongside the other 9 out of 10 Australians – my standard reply is, “I haven’t had a chance to go (insert famous landmark here) yet”. To a foreigner this doesn’t make us look too good – especially given the way Australia is marketed – the unknown outback, boxing kangaroos, endless dessert, snakes, spiders and crocodiles.
Being an Aussie in Australia is on the other hand, is easy – most of us haven’t seen much past our back fence, except for the mandatory school trips to Canberra and perhaps a trip or two to Melbourne/Sydney, the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. Not having travelled across Australia is more ‘Aussie’ than we think.
We all know that Germans are travellers. For years they have claimed pole position as the world’s traveller’s – not only outside of Germany, but across their 16 states. On the many trips I have made within Germany so far, I have always come across German tourists, travelling to parts of Germany that they haven’t been to before.
Living with a very well-travelled German hasn’t made this any easier – Alex has shared many stories of his adventures across Australia including crocodile feeding in Darwin, diving in the Great Barrier Reef, side-stepping scorpians and watching the sun set on the west coast of Australia – making it ever so clear how little I have seen.
The fact is, Australia is just big*. As a child I was never deprived of the family adventure; school holidays were always filled with road-trips to towns (mainly in NSW), which as children were seemingly pointless – but in total put together quite a catalogue. And I am grateful for the patience of my parents – putting up with three loud kids lying in the back of the car as we drove for hours to only reach Broken Hill, although it felt like the other side of the country – requires respect. These places however – although full of rural Aussie bogan “charm”– didn’t really tick off the big-ticket items Australia is known for.
It was for this reason that we decided that our annual pilgrimage across the seas would include a little more than a tour of Sydney’s northern beaches (albeit beautiful beaches I must say). I wanted to see some more.
4,500km later and I have seen A LOT more. I have seen one of the most beautiful coast lines in Australia (go to Esperance, NOW), driven across the Nullabor without breaking down (thank you Wicked campers!), walked along the tree tops and have been greeted by kangaroos on the beach.
We did it a little different to what I was used to. No hotels or even road-side motels (OK, only one night due to a scary storm), no hair dryer and no gourmet restaurants (they didn’t exist). Just us, a van, a tube of Vegemite just in case (peanuts for Alex), some surprisingly clean caravan parks and a very reliable esky. Forget 5 stars or cute b&b’s – this is the only way the trip was worth doing. For once, I even packed light, that being a feat in itself.
We began in Perth, Western Australia and toured our little van down south, across the southern coast line of Australia through to Adelaide.
It was a big journey, an eye opener of sorts. With some extra stops and detours we managed the 4,500km in 10 days. This was a big effort given the less-than-perfect road conditions and slightly annoying rain clouds that decided to tag along on our trip.
Just to fathom how large this was, here’s a little map courtesy of Google…
Before we left we hadn’t planned too much – we had a rough outline of our main stops, 8 in total. I found an awesome travel guide whilst still in München, with top tips and a hilarious list of Aussie slang translated into German. In the end we managed 25 stops (Google Maps couldn’t manage all our stops above) – some just short drives through the town to grab a quick bite or a crappy coffee – the others overnight. Looking back, there’s no way we could have planned the trip exactly, we played it by ear depending on weather, the town (most were quite spartan) and how motivated we were to get behind the wheel.
4,500 meant A LOT of driving and for most of it, the same highway (Highway 1 – Eyre Highway). You’d think it would get boring, but the constantly changing landscape between locations was truly magnificent.
There were times however where the road seemed to go on forever – and for those times we relied upon our road trip playlist:
- Mumford & Sons – Hopeless wanderer
- Dire Straits – Sultans of swing
- Boy & Bear – Rabbit song
- Sparkadia – Mary
- The Eagles – Hotel California
- Macklemore – And we danced
- and some house to mix it up – About Berlin vol 4
In total what we saw over these days was personally overwhelming – the landscape, the forests, the coast line, the animals, the native flora(!!), the sunsets…
We were lucky to have little traffic – having the open road ahead was extremely freeing for the mind. This also meant that we could easily keep an eye out for potential animals that may cross our path.
As we had set off for our trip we had expected to see a lot more animals, kangaroos especially. To our disappointment we saw many, unfortunately lying in stillness on the side of the road, being eaten by the many black vultures that enjoyed flying at van-level across the road. To avoid such a fate we avoided driving in the early morning or late at night, when animals search for water or food on the side of the road. We were lucky however to still see quite a few kangaroos and other animals including emus, sheep, cows, cockatoos, galahs and eagles.
Over my next few posts I’d love to share a bit more about some of the special places we visited – keep your eyes peeled!
P.S We are safely back in Munich and despite the fantastic time I had, I was excited to come “home” and am loving the sunny weather we have been having. Just to remind us of the animals that crossed our path, a cheeky golden squirrel decided to make a dash across the street yesterday as we approached. Lucky for him Alex’s reaction time was quick enough to break!
*Better said – after a 4,500km road trip covering one quarter of the continent – Australia is bloody big.