Drop bears, hoop snakes and crazy people who like hunting backpackers in the Outback: Australia’s got a reputation for having them all. Fresh from 4 months travelling our wide brown land (albeit sticking to the blue and green bits at the edges), I present to you 5 hard-learned tidbits of advice to help you negotiate your next adventure…
New England moral support.
1. Even scary people can be nice. On my very first night in the wild, out at New England, I pulled in to a very basic campsite and drove past a middle-aged guy. We were the only two people for miles. I went over to say hi. Said “Hi mate.” Nothing. Zip. He just stared grimly into his fire. Thoroughly creeped out, I returned to my swag and went to sleep listening for telltale footsteps or the sounds of an axe being sharpened. Having survived the night, I was approached by the guy the next morning. He was holding a bag of ice. He offered me the ice. I politely declined. He left. See? Nice.
Nicer than possums.
2. Possum Attack. Forget snakes and spiders, possum attack is the single leading animal-related cause of distress while camping. There’s nothing like seeing your unopened block of chocolate being dragged off into the bushes by a furry menace to ruin your evening. There’s even a video about it (not for the faint hearted…)
3. Headlamps are great, most of the time. Rather than needing an area light or a hand-held torch, a headlamp gives you free hands to set up a tent, cook or chase away possums. The light conveniently and automatically shines wherever you look. There’s only one catch: heavy rain. When trying to run around setting things up during a downpour at Washpool National Park, I was practically given an epileptic fit by the brightly-lip drops flashing past immediately in front of my eyes. It was like having a wet disco ball reflecting in my face. Score one, torch.
4. Sneaky Service Stations. Don’t go to the first or last petrol station in a town. They’re always more expensive, because they know people who are low on fuel are likely to pull into the first servo they see.
5. Jilted Lovers. If you’re on a long drive, there’s a good chance you’ll develop a highway relationship. These form when two vehicles going a similar speed drive for a long distance together. Both benefit; if the distance between cars changes, chances are you’ve lost concentration and have sped up or slowed down. Plus, there’s the added bonus of familiarity in a foreign land. I’ve had relationships last for hours, spanning hundreds of kilometres. Here’s the catch: they never end well. One recent 40-minute fling with a red Barina (with me setting the pace) ended when it latched on to a faster-moving, shiny new Hilux and cruised off past me. I’ve never felt so inadequate.
So there you have it! Five tips, tricks or warnings to help you on your way – feel free to contribute your own, no matter how silly or unhelpful!