We’ve done some solid road trips since moving to Australia. We’ve driven as far south as Mudgee and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales (both trips about 10 hours drive from Brisbane), and as far north as Yeppoon in Queensland (about eight hours drive). Not a bad effort for New Zealanders, considering that we would never have considered driving such distances back home. Australia is big; 7.692 million square kilometres big, and I’m still amazed by the distances people are prepared to drive for the sake of a holiday, to get to work each day or just to get to the beach. At a mere 268, 021 square kilometres, New Zealand can fit into Australia 28.7 times. In the 35 years that I lived there I was never more than 20 minutes away from the sea. I never once drove the 8 hour trip to our capital city – if I needed to go to Wellington, I flew.
It’s all a matter of perception. Back in NZ the four hour drive to get home seemed to drag, but we were always impatient to get to our destination. Faced with the vast expanse of Australia (and vast it feels) we have comfortably pushed our boundaries. At first it was tiring, but I’ve come to love these long road trips: conversations have time to get intense and there is time for silent reflection too. We’ll pit-stop in small towns to fill up the car, buy more chewing gum and get coffee from the local McCafe (usually the most reliable source of decent coffee in small-town Australia). Stereo blaring, we sing our lungs out to rock anthems and power ballads as the sun glints off the windscreen and the kilometres melt away.
The key to maximising your road trip experience is to prepare. I bake muffins the night before (usually these ones) and ensure we’ve got plenty of fruit and water within easy reach. Colin loads USB sticks with music. We discuss and plan the route we’re going to take, picking out lunch stops or maybe pre-booking an overnight stay. We get up early to pack the car, hit the road, beat the traffic.
If we have time we always take the long way around. This means tolerating bumpy country roads but there’s more to see than travelling via smoother, busier highways. We’ll stop in tiny towns to visit quaint shops and use the dodgy public loos. I spend much of my time drinking up the landscapes, and sometimes I’ll convince Colin to pull over on an isolated stretch of road so I can take photos of the view. It’s nice to take our time as we journey, to breathe and transition, constructing a sense of distance that is as much psychological as physical. Space, time, a change from the ordinary – it only takes me a few hours on the road to feel like I’m already on holiday.
Note: most of these photos were taken last summer on our trip from Brisbane to the Mudgee wine region in rural New South Wales.