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…
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.
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!