We bid our farewells to Adelaide after a wonderful few months there. May, Antonio, Alex, Steph Denise and I. 2 Brits, 2 Canadians, a German and a Dane. What a multi cultural group we were.
We had our big camper ready and we hit the road for our epic road trip to Alice Springs. We had rented the van for 4 days and knew we had a fair amount of driving ahead of us, but we had planned it all out. The first day we would drive to Coober Peady, the next we would drive on to Ularu and spend 2 days there before heading to Alice Springs where we would drop off the Van and look for work.
We had also arranged to meet Sean, another Canadian, at Ularu so we needed to get there. They say that the best time to see the rock is at sunrise and sunset so we wanted to see both. This meant we needed to stick rigorously to the plan.
Well you know what they say, the best laid plans of mice and men.
Our plan hinged on leaving early and getting to Coober Peady for the night. Disaster struck before we even left, the van was 6 hours late. It wasn’t ready for us until mid afternoon. The company were good and gave us an extra day for free, however as we were meeting Sean we still needed to get to Uluru as planned.
What to do! Well we decided to do the only rational thing, driving straight from Adelaide to Ularu of course, stopping only for petrol. I mean the van had beds, the drivers Antonio, Alex and I could sleep in-between shifts. It was only 1000 miles. The sat nav said 16 hours, we could certainly manage that no sweat.
For those unfamiliar with Australian geography Ularu is more commonly known as Ayres Rock. Is is a huge rock in the centre of Australia greatly revered within Aboriginal folk law. Now between Adelaide and Ayres Rock is absolutely fuck all. The centre of Australia is almost exclusively barren desert. Its filled with huge ranches that span hundreds of square kilometres. Its one straight road from Adelaide to Ayres rock.
So off we went. 1000 miles to go. We started off well and got to Coober Peady without any incidents. It was there we debated stopping for a bit but decided against it, we filled up and off we went again, driving through the night. Now unlike the UK the service stations are not open 24 hours, we didn’t know this. So with a quarter of a tank and the readout showing 100km left we pulled into one, it was closed.
We checked the satnav and discovered another service station 120km away. Now a sensible group would stop and wait for the service station that we were at to open for business in the morning. But we were on a tight schedule and we were anything but sensible. So off we went. Into the wilderness, driving down a road where you could easily go 3 hours without seeing another car.
3 and a bit years later in still in absolute awe of Antonio for his driving at this point. We had a long empty straight road ahead of us, but he managed to drive in such a fuel conservative way that we pulled those extra KMs out of the tank and made it. It did involve going about 30kmh for the final hour and a bit but by heck we made it! When we arrived at the service station the readout had been flashing 0km left for at least 25 minutes.
God knows what we would have done if we had run out of fuel on that road, but I don’t think it would have been pretty. Having seen the Inbetweeners movie 2 i like to think we would have been almost exactly like them when they broke down.
So after filling up we were off again, it was my turn to drive from here and I was ready for the challenge!
I had read in so many places to be aware of driving in Australia at night. That many animals were attracted to the heat of the tarmac at night and accidents would hang around feeding off the residual heat in the colder nights. So I spent my drive in a paranoid, almost fugue state. Seeing eyes by the side of the road where there were none. Heading in a straight line with total darkness either side of the headlights.
I think I did a pretty damn good job during my stint, we that was until I encountered my suicidal sheep. I’m cruising along in a van that must have weighed well in excess of a tonne at 120kmh and out walks a sheep with a death wish. In the split second I had to react I remember thinking I could swerve to avoid the sheep, which would have flipped the van and killed us all, or I could keep going and grant that sheep his death wish. SPLAT. The sheep went flying over the top of the van.
I slowed down shaking with adrenaline and we surveyed the damage to the van, dreading the worst. Well in the battle of sheep VS van, Van certainly won, apart from some blood along the windscreen and on the front of the overhang, there was a slight crack in the number plate which was filled with Wool.
Now I joke a lot about this whole incident but I was really shaken up after it. I was physically shaking and felt awful for the poor animal. Thankfully Alex stepped up and did the rest of my driving stint while I calmed down.
We finally made it into Ularu in time for Sunrise and were treated to some magnificent views of the red rock in all its glory. The 16 hour drive had taken closer to 24 hours but seeing the rock at sunrise was well worth it.
We met up with Sean and settled in for the day, due to the epic drive and the extra free day of the van we decided to spend an extra day exploring the area.
We got up early the next morning to head back to the rock to see the sunrise, however due to some awful directions from an unnamed Canadian who “could guarantee it was this way” we missed it. We had a walk around the rock and got some nice photos before heading over to Kata Tjuta. Its another series of rocks near Uluru which isn’t anywhere near as well known.
However this ended up being one of the best things we did the whole trip, it wasn’t as busy as the rock and the formations were way way more diverse. We had some much fun that day exploring, taking naked swims, posing for Sumo thong photos and just generally arsing around. I would thoroughly recommend the extra few hours it took to go around Kata Tjuta to anyone heading to central Australia.
From there we went to Kings Canyon. Australia’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Similarly to Kata Tjuta I had no expectations for this but was treated to another great day out. If that was Kings Canyon itself or the company I was in I couldn’t say, but we again had so much fun, like small children being aloud out to play, climbing rocks, taking funny photos etc.
I remember Denise getting uncontrollable giggles when we kept pointing out the two smokers lagging at the back of the group. Especially during the initial climb to the top of the canyon, a mad scramble up an incredibly steep “path” Of course the views from the top were well worth it but my god It was a struggle getting there!
We got to Alice and got rid of the Van and began planning what to do next. Now I really deeply disliked Alice. The level of poverty I saw there in a 1st world country was disgraceful. People drunk in the streets at midday, people passed out on the grass, literally having to step over people in the streets who were so far away on drugs and booze they didn’t notice. It didn’t feel like a very safe place. I felt it shone a light on the plight of many of the aboriginal people in Australia and the struggle they have.
It was clear none of us fancied staying very long in Alice. Steph decided to head back to Adelaide and Sean was off back home. Leaving Alex, Antonio, May, Denise and I wondering what to do next.
The obvious answer of course was to recreate the last road trip, we decided to hire another van and head on up to Darwin on the north coast.
So we booked the van and off we went again. Road trip part 2.