Magnificent Desolation

Buzz Aldrin described the surface of the moon by saying it was “Magnificent Desolation”. That phrase could probably be used to describe the part of Western Australia I’ve been driving through the last three days.

Since I’ve left Darwin, by my trip odometer, I’ve put on about 2,200km (about 1,400 miles). Western Australia is EMPTY. I can’t really stress just how devoid of anything it is. For hours and hours I saw nothing but scrawny eucalyptus trees, termite mounds, red dirt, and occasional rock outcrops. There are no radio stations to listen to and nothing really resembling a town. Between Kunnurra and Broome, there were some outposts and roadhouses. Most of the time you could look out and see no evidence of human beings other than the road itself. No fences, no cattle, no buildings, no power lines…..nothing. I resorted to listening to my iPod while driving. While having an ear bud in your ear while driving isn’t probably the safest thing (I only used one), I wasn’t too worried because I would only see another vehicle every 20 min or so.

I found the maximum length of a road train in Australia is 153.5m or 500 feet. That’s a lot of truck. I asked a drive what his average speed was and he said 80 kph (48 mph). In the wet season, it much be a real bitch to get those trucks through some of the stream beds and flood plains which are everywhere.

I spent two nights at the Turkey Creek Roadhouse, where I was picked up by a tour group to go and visit Purnululu National Park, which I have to say, really surpassed by expectations. I have close to 300 photos from there I have to go through and will right a longer post about it later. (The list of articles I have to write it getting pretty long.) I usually can’t even use my computer at night because I have no electricity.

I’m currently in Broome, on the west coast. When I got in to town I was relieved, but ultimately got depressed when I realized that, as the crow flies, I’m still only about 1/3 the way to Perth. It should be more of a straight shot from here on out, however.

Broome seems to be like some of the towns in Arizona where people flock to during the winter. The campground I’m staying at looks more like a cross between a refugee camp and a permanent party. My plans for Broome are to get through as many photos as possible, sit on the beach and not drive.

Gas in the outback is expensive. I was paying the equivalent of US$6.80 per gallon ($1.87 Australian per liter). One place was US$7 per gallon, but I didn’t fill up there. I risked it and drove 160km to to next gas station.

I can’t even tell you how much my camper sucks. I’m going to write up more about, but the short version is, if you are going to make a drive like this you are better off spending a bit more per day on the car if you can get significant improvements in mileage. You are going to spend more on fuel than on the car.

The weather out here is nice. Temperature never gets above he low to mid 80’sF (30C) and it is very dry. No humidity. It is the beginning of the dry season and you can see bush fires, or the evidence of them, all over. Burning is natural and part of the ecosystem. There is a bird up here which will pick up burning sticks and drop them to spread a fire to flush out animals.

I have another day in Broome, so expect to see some more updates tomorrow at least. From Broome I’ll probably travel to Port Headland and then to Exmouth, each of which are probably 6 hour stretches in my camper. Port Headland is the approximate half way point.

I have also determined that there is no way in hell I’m driving to Uluru…..

5 thoughts on “Magnificent Desolation”

  1. I took the bus to Uluru from Sydney and it sucked. If you can afford to fly, I would say it is probably worth it.

  2. Interesting that you mention the moon, now that really does look desolate! I once had a fabulous holiday on Gran Canaria, and the interior of that was described as having an “almost lunar” landscape. However, we spent most of our time around the glorious coast.

    Anyway, Western Australia sounds fantastic. Here in the UK, it never gets quite that desolate.

    Keep the great stories coming!

  3. You may not need to fill up to the top every time you stop, but fill enough to guarantee you’ll make it to the next station.

  4. Gary,

    We once stayed in a Zambian game park with an Aussie couple from Broome. They had videos of a world famous “whip artist” from there. If you ask around and find out anything, that might be interesting. Can’t be that many people in Broome who perform stunts with whips, I’d bet.

    Funny, we’re just looking at a trip involving Darwin for early in 2009 and what a great co-incidence to find your post dated this very day!

    We’re linking to you from our travel blog Common Sense and Whiskey. We’re with you the rest of the way to Perth.

    Cheers, mate!


  5. do not skip coral bay when you are in Exmouth. It is the highlight of W.A.’s coast. The reef is right off the beach and you can snorkel right out to it. I ended up swimming with some turtles. I also believe this is whale shark season so you can go dive with them.

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