Blog written by Drive Against Depression Director and road route master, David James.
Anyone that knows me well will know that I’m a sucker for a road trip. Be it a trip to Winton to watch cars circulating, a thousand kilometres in a day as a birthday giggle, or a drag to Brisbane to deliver/collect a car, or to visit mates.
So when I was asked if I could help drive a few Toyota Prados from Alice Springs to Perth to help a mate with a particular project, you know that I’m on a jet to Central Australia before the word ‘yes’ has been uttered!
Five Prados had been driven from Perth to Alice Springs by a team of 15 Japanese engineers. The object of the exercise was for these engineers to see for themselves the conditions in remote Australia, and to bear these in mind when developing cars at a test facility in Japan. Then of course, the cars needed to be returned, which is where I stepped in, along with five other people with a few days on their hands.
The nature of the drive, with six of us spread over five cars, meant that we’d mostly be driving solo. For me that’s no issue, as I’ll happily drive solo for days! It provides me with some great thinking time. Time to process thoughts, generate thoughts, and to have some quiet time. Driving for me is relaxing and fun; driving long distances is relaxing, fun and therapeutic.
Without giving a blow by blow, bend by bend account, a few of the highlights are worth reporting.
First up, the rooms at the Curtin Springs and Warburton Road Houses. I’ll never forget my mate GT just laughing and sending pictures to his wife of his ‘jail cell’ (his words) at Curtin Springs. It was no Hyatt Regency! A bed, an airconditioner, and a light – what more do you need? The facilities were a short walk away, and there was hot water. Perfect.
He laughed harder still when he saw his room at Warburton. It was luxury – it had a desk!
Of course, any time that you visit Uluru is special. To celebrate my first time there since 1981, I packed a special outfit. Three Australian icons – Uluru and me and an Australian flag mankini – in one photo is a rare treat. I hope the evidence gets posted here, because it’s worth seeing (if you really want to see what he’s on about, please donate and we’ll make sure you are sent the proof!- AD). I’m not sure the tourists in the bus that passed as the pic was taken thought it was a treat, but they saw something they’d never forget. I like to think I’m still a topic of discussion somewhere in the world, today.
When you drive in the outback, it is remote, hot (in December, when we were there), and potentially very dangerous. Going hours and hours without seeing another car isn’t unusual, and reminders of trips gone wrong in the form of rusted out wrecks, left where they stopped, litter the verge.
We were able to assist a couple of groups of travellers who’d struck car troubles. The first was a Land Cruiser that had stopped – most likely out of fuel, about 30km from Warakurna Roadhouse. Whilst the Cruiser was towed, I had a bunch of local kids to entertain me as I drove them home. Funny, noisy and happy, when I asked what their favourite subject at school was, unanimously it came back “Maths!!!”. There is hope for the world!
The second was a Commodore with a broken head gasket that we topped up with water, and escorted to within a few kilometres of their settlement, where they turned off with big smiles and waves.
Something else that struck me while driving was the sky. Amazing cloud forms, intense blues, and in the outback, the skies are huge. Until you get there, you can’t understand it. The geology is pretty amazing too. It’s not flat as you might imagine, but continually undulates, interrupted with fierce escarpments on ranges that could be 5 kilometres away – or 50 – you just don’t know. And the flora goes from low scrub, to vivid yellow wattles, to barren plains.
The wildlife during the day is mainly reptilian – snakes and lizards – and birds… enormous wedge tailed eagles, falcons and hawks seeking a feed. By night, large, bouncy marsupials, and herds of camels, that pace along guided by the lights of the cars, until a gap in the scrub opens for them to disappear into.
The last night stop was in Kalgoorlie. It’s a tough, hard place. While repairs to a couple of the cars were made, we visited the world famous Kalgoorlie Super Pit. Until you see it, like the outback skies, you cant understand how big it is! It plumbs amazing depths, and the enormous mining trucks look like tiny insects on a museum diorama. Incredible!
The last 600 or so kilometres from Kalgoorlie to Perth are a drag. Knowing the fun parts were behind us, we coasted into Perth, stopping only to wash over 3,000 kilometres of mud, dust and grime from the cars, before returning them to the rental depot.
And despite being weary from the drive, the mind is sharp, as a lot of stuff has been dealt with, and planning for further adventures takes place on the QANTAS Airbus heading east towards home.