Intermezzo : Australian driving experience

The most important thing about driving in Australia… Drive left.
In most cases that goes quite easy, but some things ask some more attention. Turning around a corner is not always that easy, however they place mostly signs ‘keep left’ at the lane, so that helps.

By driving on a parking you can easily fail and in situations without marks failure also exists.
The hardest part with the steering at the other side are the marker lights and wipers… These are easily switched. Quite a funny feeling! You want to turn and suddenly your wipers start.

There are three types of main roads through the country
– the standard sealed roads; these are suited for all vehicles
– the unsealed roads; here is a 4WD recommended – they are often in a good condition, but this changes rapidly, especially after the rain
– the tracks; here is a 4WD necessary

We really like the unsealed roads, because there is much more to see than at the sealed variants. They often cross the bush or a forest. But you never know when you’ll arrive at the other side. Sometimes the road conditions are horrible, you just feels shaken well. At other times technical hazards – like flat tyres (we recommend to deflate till 35 psi) or loose parts can happen.
We really liked the Savannah Highway for that part. It is a stunning road, with lots of postcard like pictures to take. Straight trough the bush and cattle stations.

The road conditions of the sealed roads are mostly excellent, but some exceptions exist.
On other parts there are numerous road works, even at the extremely remote areas. Mostly someone with a sign order the people to stop or go forward at the beginning of a work area. Quite funny to see these people sometimes sitting in a chair along the road, under an umbrella with an esky near them.

Tracks are nice to drive, but there is not that much to tell about it. You have often to cross some creeks or rivers, try some challenging parts or something else. Road conditions vary with the weather and many of these tracks are seldom maintained. It depends on your 4WD skills how you cross them.

We also liked the road signals a lot. There are just a few, but at every changing part you can find them. They tell when you enter a crossing, when a turnoff comes, a dangerous turn, gravel roads or a floodway. The roads here are often extremely long and straight, so you can easily miss a turnoff or something. However with the signals this is easily covered.
Another important part of the roads are the floodways. During the wet, entire parts of the terrain – including the roads – can be flooded. Therefore these locations are marked along the roads, mostly with an indicator to show the depths of the crossing.

Almost as important as the speed limits and the road changes are the warnings for wildlife and cattle.
Before 8 am and after 4 pm the kangaroos and other wildlife enters the roads. So it is discouraged to drive during dusk and dawn. Kangaroos, emus, cassowaries, camels, koalas, dingoes, … You find them all along the roads. Hitting them can cause serious damage to the car or create a grave accident.
By driving near the cattle stations, all kind of cattle can cross their unfenced graze grounds over the streets. Sheep’s, cows, horses, goats,… We crossed them all numerous times along our trip at all times of the day.

Most of the roads only have 2 lanes, one for each direction. The traffic is mostly that quiet so that’s enough. When you arrive at more busy parts, overtaking lanes are made at frequent times and near the big cities two or more lanes are present.

Because so many lanes are straight and boring, fatigue is a thing to account for. They warn you often along the road to take a rest at one of the numerous rest areas. Some of them offer a toilet and free coffee.
In many parts of the country the heat asks some precautions. Never drive without plenty of water and some food in your car. If something happens here, it can take a while before help arrives. Especially in remote areas of the country.

Road trains are part of the traffic, especially in Western Australia and the Northern Territories you often meet these huge trucks with 3 or 4 trailers behind them.
They carry and transport all goods between the different parts. Some of them are by moments oversized loaded, mostly with mining or harvesting equipment. When you cross these a leading car warns you and sometimes the police drives in front of them to order you to give way.

But after all it is a relaxing way to drive here. The road conditions are excellent, well signed and well maintained. There are seldom traffic jams.
But the distances are huge… 100 km is ‘my neighbour’, 500 km is ‘some further’ and 1000 km is a common trip. You cannot imagine that before you’ve driven it. We knew we had to cover some distance, but now we just know it is inevitably. The distance between 2 points is more often 500 or 1000 km’s and if you want to visit the neighbourhood of a city, 60 and 100 km’s further are common.
Nonetheless this is not so amazing, when you count that Australia is almost twice the size of Europe.