Australia has a characteristic not shared by just about any other country in the world – long distances between major population centres with little or nothing in between. That means anyone contemplating travel around Australia has to take into consideration long distance driving. Anything from say a drive down the freeway between Sydney and Melbourne to the Sturt Highway in the Northern Territory. Each comes with it’s own particular hazards, one of them being boredom and another being the risk of everyone, including the driver falling asleep. An extra problem for families is making sure the junior members don’t drive everyone else crazy by not having anything interesting to keep them occupied. In addition to all of that, in a country full of not much at all, there is the fear of breaking down in the middle of nowhere and not being able to get mechanical assistance. So here are a few clues.
TOW VEHICLES AND RECREATIONAL VEHICLE CONDITION
It almost goes without saying that it’s vital particularly when venturing in remote areas to ensure you tow vehicle/caravan/motorhome are in tip top condition mechanically. That is to make sure that any vehicle is fully serviced and any items like tyres are checked carefully before starting any long journey. In days gone by doing a daily check on items like oil, water and tyre pressures were almost mandatory but these days, given a high mechanical reliability we all tend to be a bit careless about those items. Tyres in particular though should not be ignored and a daily check preferably when the tyres are cold is a useful thing to remember.
Driving a towing combination where the tow vehicle and caravan are loaded to the max is going to be much more hard work, particularly with the larger vans, than when there’s a couple of hundred spare kilos somewhere. In addition if the vehicle’s engine is just cruising, rather than working overtime, there is far less stress for the driver. On the open road with minimal traffic it might be less obvious but when driving in heavy traffic lightening the load can make all the difference.
TRAVELLERS – COUPLE
Just like your vehicle, making sure you are in good condition too can make for a much more pleasant trip. Not being ambitious about anticipated travel distances is both a relaxing way to travel and a great safety item. It’s a bit of a cliché but aiming to be stopped in time for Happy Hour each day isn’t a bad idea. It also gets around the problem in country areas of avoiding wildlife that tend to get on the roads late afternoon/early evening. Pre trip research should cover this nicely but it’s good to build plenty of time for unexpected diversions.
On the road, long distances can be very tiring. I know there are many a couple for whom the male half is the only driver but there are some good reasons why both should be driving. Not only does it share the driving load but it also means that in any emergency, both parties are capable of driving.
Keeping awake for long distances can be a challenge and frequent stops are certainly one answer, another is listening to music or talking books. The latter item which can easily be loaded onto something like an iPod or a similar MP3 player is a great way of passing the time and it’s possible to load 10 books or more for a long trip.
TRAVELLERS – A FAMILY
Travelling with a family requires a bit more thinking when contemplating long distance travel. The first item is undoubtedly keeping the troops entertained. There are of course a number of options here, certainly made easier by 21st century technology. Rear seat video screens, iPods, iPads and android tablets can all be utilised very effectively for personal entertainment. Another little dodge is to involve everyone in trip planning, keeping the junior navigators in route checking. Frequent stops should certainly be included in any travel agenda to break the monotony of long distances.
ON THE ROAD INTERESTS
Like junior family members, it’s good to develop interests that suit the travelling lifestyle. Photography is the most obvious example but there are other like geology, bird watching, Australian history and even for some, astronomy. Even when not actually doing said activities, it’s a good way to pass the time.
CHAT TO THE LOCALS
Travel information can be gleaned from any number of sources these days but sometimes the old fashioned method of talking to local people can be of help on a long journey. Not only can insights be gained into nearby attractions but also information on road conditions and any possible problems. This sort of information can often be time saving, as well as useful.
TIME TO HIT THE ROAD
Long distance driving is certainly a fact of life in Australia but with a bit of careful preparation and planning, it should be an enjoyable time on the road.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Malcolm Street began caravanning in the early 1970s, first in a Viscount and later in a York, the former towed by a Holden Kingswood. Malcolm has RV’d extensively across Australia, New Zealand and Britain. He became an RV journalist in 1999. Each year, he reviews around 40 caravans and motorhomes in Oz and NZ. Yes, he’s a well-travelled bloke with no shortage of campfire opinions about how a given caravan could be better put together.